Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Warning over Cuba emergence

Cayman among countries most impacted, report says

The emergence of Cuba as a rival for tourists and investment dollars will change the travel landscape in the Caribbean forever, industry leaders have warned.

“The likelihood that cruise lines will drop some existing ports to accommodate Cuba port visits is real and the proximity of Cuba to the U.S. mainland can allow for Cuba to be easily added to a schedule that can impact itineraries to near markets such as the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, and Jamaica,” the report says.

Caribbean tourism officials are pushing for a new partnership with the U.S. amid growing concern that the thawing of relations with Cuba will have drastic consequences for neighboring islands.

“The biggest and most disruptive pebble to be dropped into the Caribbean pool in fifty years will arrive with the opening of travel to Cuba for United States citizens,” the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association warns in a position paper.

The association says islands closest to Cuba, including the Cayman Islands, are likely to suffer the “greatest ripple effects.”

The association is looking to create a Caribbean Basin Tourism Initiative to help boost investment and travel across the region with help from the U.S. The initiative calls for technical and policy support from the U.S. to ensure the stability of tourism-based economies in the region if U.S. tourists are, as expected, allowed to visit Cuba after a 50-year embargo.

“While U.S. tour, airline and cruise executives are eyeing the tourism potential of the long-forbidden paradise 90 miles south of Key West, Florida, conflicted stakeholders throughout the wider Caribbean have legitimate concerns [over] whether there will be a level playing field and whether the rest of the region will grow tourism arrivals or lose tourism investments and arrivals as they divert to Cuba,” said Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association President Emil Lee. More

If the Cayman Islands builds a new cruise dock, destroying many dive sites in the vicinity of George Town in the process, and the islands then see some cruise lines deserting the Cayman Islands for Cuban ports where will we be then? Should these islands be developing stay-over tourism and extending the existing runway to direct accomodate long-haul flights from Europe, the Midle East and East Asia?



Monday, June 29, 2015

On The Legal Front: Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions (CSAS)

The only way to win the carbon war soon enough to avert unacceptable casualties of young people and other life on the planet is to carry out the battle on several fronts simultaneously.

Dr. James Hansen

(That’s the reason for the expansive name of our organization, Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions (CSAS), and also the reason that we support disparate organizations, including Citizens Climate Lobby, Our Children’s Trust, 350.org…).

We sometimes ask if we are using our time right, spending too much time on the legal front?[1] After all, the end game begins only when we achieve an across-the-board transparent (thank you, Pope Francis, for recognizing that!) carbon fee. Focus on a carbon fee is high priority because of the danger that Paris agreements may amount to little more than national “goals” and, what’s worse, more effete ineffectual “cap-and-trade” shenanigans. A focus on science is also needed, as there is still no widespread recognition of the urgency of emission reductions, and better understanding of the science is required to achieve a good strategy to restore energy balance.

The legal approach complements recognition of the moral dimensions of climate change. Can you imagine civil rights advancing without help of the courts? Yet courts will not likely move, and they did not move in the case of civil rights, until the public recognizes the moral dimension and begins to demand action. So it is also essential to get the public more widely involved.

When a judge issues a ruling it has certain gravity. It seems that courts retain more respect with the public than legislatures do. So it is wonderful to report two important legal victories this week. Both are due to remarkably capable, determined individuals, who simply will not give up.

First, the Dutch case. The Netherlands, which will cease to exist within a century or so if the world stays on its present carbon path, is an appropriate place for the first European case in which citizens attempt to hold a state responsible for its inaction in the face of clear danger. The Dutch district court in the Hague ruled for the plaintiff, Urgenda, an environmental organization. The court ordered the Dutch government to reduce emissions 25% by 2020, a stiff order. The hero behind the scenes was lawyer, legal scholar, and author Roger Cox, who has relentlessly pursued this action for the past several years on behalf of young people and future generations.

In Seattle, the King County Superior Court Judge ordered the State to reconsider the petition of eight youth, who brought their case with the help of Our Children’s Trust, requesting that the state reduce emissions consistent with dictates of the best available science. The latter was provided in testimony to the court by Pushker Kharecha, Deputy Director of CSAS, based on our paper in PLOS One, which was not disputed by Washington State, and which calls for a reduction of emissions by 6% per year. The relentless behind-the-scenes champions in this case are Julia Olson (director of Our Children’s Trust) and legal scholar Mary Woods.

Government lawyers, in the Netherlands and Washington State, scurried off after the verdicts to prepare appeals. If they win their appeals, it will not deter the youth or their supporters, who must be relentless in advancing the essential legal front. More on other legal plans soon. More

[1] At present I am involved in 11 legal cases. It could be more – it hurts to turn down requests, but there is only so much time. It would be fewer cases, if I didn’t have the help of a brilliant young lawyer, Dan Galpern.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Time Bombs Under The Surface

Crusade to eliminate ‘ticking time bombs’ sitting beneath world’s waters

We all have our own battles to fight and this is mine.” These are the fighting words of Terrance Long, founder and director of the International Dialogue on Underwater Munitions (IDUM).

Based in The Hague, Long’s organisation is on a mission to rid the world of “millions” of tonnes of weapons rotting in seas and oceans across the globe.
The world’s waters, says Long, have become a dangerous “garbage dump” for these unwanted military munitions, ranging from highly explosive conventional ordnances to chemical weapons.

It’s a stark warning that Long doesn’t attempt to sugar coat. “If the underwater munitions aren’t neutralized or recovered from our waters in the near term then the ocean will die and we will cease to exist on this planet.”

A retired Canadian military engineer and an expert in explosive ordnance disposal, Long spent 20 years, both in the army and later for various NGOs, clearing land mines.
It was this experience that led Long to believe the same work could and should be done for the same weapons sitting at the bottom of the water.

“Because I’m a weapons expert, in my own mind I’m obligated to address this issue. There is something I can do about it, so I will.”

It’s a problem that has been ticking away for over 70 years. As Long explains, weapons, like most things, have an expiration date and need to be disposed of. By the end of the Second World War a solution was needed and during the Potsdam Conference of 1945 an agreement was made to rid stockpiled weapons by dumping them into the water, most notably the Baltic Sea.

According to Long, “That’s when a number of countries from around the globe started dumping their munitions, dating back from the First World World and continued doing so up until the 1970s.”

One of the biggest issues now facing Long and the IDUM is locating exactly where all the world’s munition dumping sites are located and exactly how many weapons there are.

“What we do know is that there are 400,000 tonnes of chemical munitions in the Baltic Sea alone. On a global scale, we estimate there are more than 10,000 dumping sites of chemical and conventional weapons.”

According to Long, these corroding weapons are posing an ever increasing danger to the environment and to us.

“They’re full of contaminates like lead, mercury, picric acid and TNT. Most are known carcinogens that we now have in our marine environment, that will persist there for 10,000 years. Our oceans cannot sustain that.”

He continued: “This really is a ticking time bomb. My greatest fear is that our international community will allow them to corrode to where we no longer have a means to detect the contaminates when the metals are gone.”

Despite the dire warnings, Long stresses there is hope: “This is absolutely a problem we can fix…in most cases if we remove the source contaminant, we remove the problem.

“But this issue needs to be addressed on a global scale, with a collective response, right now, with an urgent United Nations conference on all underwater weapons.”
In order to do this, Long and the IDUM continue to work for the creation of an internationally binding treaty on all classes of underwater munitions. The end game, says Long, is all about “protecting our oceans and saving them for our children.” More


Friday, June 19, 2015

Heaven / Paradise Belongs To Us All – The New Papal Encyclical

With his encyclical “Laudato Si” the Pope has written more than a moral appeal without obligation.

He has presented a pioneering political analysis with great explosive power, which will probably determine the public debate on climate change, poverty and inequality for years to come. Thus, the encyclical is also highly relevant to me as a non-Catholic and non-believer; the implications of the encyclical are very apparent through the eyes of a secular person.

The climate is a common good, belonging to all and meant for all.

The core of the encyclical makes clear that global warming is a “global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods” (25 – where the numbers refer to the numbering in the encyclical). The reasons identified are mainly the current models of production and consumption (26). The encyclical emphasizes that the gravest effects of climate change and the increasing inequality are suffered by the poorest (48). Since we face a complex socio-ecological crisis, strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to combating poverty (139). So far, however, governments have not found a solution for the over-exploitation of the global commons, such as atmosphere, oceans, and forests (169). Therefore, the encyclical focusses on actors, such as non-governmental organizations, cooperatives and intermediate groups (179) and calls for a dialogue between politics, science, business and religion. More


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pope Francis, in Sweeping Encyclical, Calls for Swift Action on Climate Change

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Thursday called for a radical transformation of politics, economics and individual lifestyles to confront environmental degradation and climate change, as his much-awaited papal encyclical blended a biting critique of consumerism and irresponsible development with a plea for swift and unified global action.

The vision that Francis outlined in the 184-page encyclical is sweeping in ambition and scope: He described a relentless exploitation and destruction of the environment, which he blamed on apathy, the reckless pursuit of profits, excessive faith in technology, and political shortsightedness. The most vulnerable victims are the world’s poorest people, he declared, who are being dislocated and disregarded.

"Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods," he wrote. "It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day."

The first pope from the developing world, Francis, an Argentine, used the encyclical — titled "Laudato Si’," or "Praise Be to You" — to highlight the crisis posed by climate change. He placed most of the blame on fossil fuels and human activity while warning of an "unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequence for all of us" if swift action is not taken. Developed, industrialized countries were mostly responsible, he said, and were obligated to help poorer nations confront the crisis.

"Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods," he wrote. "It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day." More




Wednesday, June 17, 2015

To fight desertification, let's manage our land better

Every year, we lose 24 billion tons of fertile soil to erosion and 12 million hectares of land to desertification and drought. This threatens the lives and livelihoods of 1.5 billion people now.

In the future, desertification could displace up to 135 million people by 2045. Land degradation could also reduce global food production by up to 12% and push world food prices up by 30%. In Egypt, Ghana, Central African Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Paraguay, land degradation could cause an annual GDP loss of up to 7%.

Pressure on land resources is expected to increase as populations grow, socio-economic development happens and the climate changes. A growing population will demand more food, which means that unsuitable or especially biodiverse land will be claimed for farming and be more vulnerable to degradation. Increased fertilizer and pesticide use related to agriculture will increase nutrient loading in soils, causing eutrophication and declines in fertility over time. Climate change will also aggravate land degradation—especially in drylands, which occupy 40% of global land area, and are inhabited by some 2 billion people. Urban areas, which are located in the world’s highly fertile areas, could grow to account for more than 5% of global land by mid-century.

Unless we manage our land better, every person will rely on just .11 hectares of land for their food; down from .45 hectares in 1960.

So how do we manage land better?

It will all come down to what we do with our soil, which is the most significant natural capital for ensuring food, water, and energy security while adapting and building resilience to climate change and shocks. The soil’s nutrient cycling provides the largest contribution (51%) of the total value (USD33 trillion) of all ‘ecosystem services’ provided each year. But soil’s important function is often forgotten as the missing link in our pursuit of sustainable development.

We must invest in applicable solutions that are transformative, and can be scaled up. Climate-smart agriculture is an alternative approach to managing land sustainably whilst increasing agricultural productivity. It includes land management options that sequester carbon and enhance resilience to climate change. Proven climate-smart practices such as agroforestry, integrated soil fertility management, conservation agriculture, and improved irrigation can ensure that land is used optimally, restored and managed in a manner that maximizes ecological, economic and social benefits.

But climate-smart agriculture requires conducive policy frameworks, increased investment, and judicious policy management. Rural poverty is often a product of policies that discriminate against small landholders, forcing them off the land, creating sub-optimal land use outcomes, and long term degradation. Secure land rights are necessary for climate-smart agriculture, providing incentives for local communities to manage land more sustainably. In Rwanda, for instance, land tenure reform rapidly doubled investment in soil conservation, with even larger increases for plots managed by female farmers.

Second, there is need for increased national investment in climate smart agriculture. For technologies such as conservation agriculture that require substantial up-front investment in machinery and other inputs, schemes such as those involving payment for ecosystem services may be more effective in promoting CSA technology adoption. For technologies such as agroforestry systems, innovative finance mechanisms that help farmers bridge the period between when trees are planted, mature and generate income can be decisive.

Third, in some cases, direct public investment in landscape restoration and rehabilitation can bring about sizeable livelihood benefits and create better conditions for attracting further investments by farmers and communities. The China Loess Plateau is a well-documented success story of landscape restoration. Similar experiences are happening in Ethiopia, Kazakhstan and Senegal.

Fourth, a number of improved land management technologies are knowledge-intensive, and promoting their adoption will require training. Conservation agriculture for instance entails sophisticated combinations of no-tillage, residue management, use of cover crops, and other activities and practices that many farmers have limited experience with. The knowledge base of local land management practices can also be improved through targeted capacity development programs.

Many demand-side interventions can strategically break the adoption barriers associated with climate-smart practices. These include: providing farmers with improved weather forecasting, weather-indexed crop insurance, and measures to reduce production variability such as drought-tolerant crops, deep-rooted crops, and irrigation. These should be combined with supply-side measures such as lowering trade barriers to increase national and regional market size, improving road and rail infrastructure to lower transport costs, and improving market information systems to increase farmers’ access to markets.

Lastly, public support is as crucial as the amount of support to fully realize the productivity, adaptation, and mitigation benefits in agriculture. Public support that focuses on research, investments in improved land management, and land tenure rather than on input support is generally more effective, benefits more farmers, and is more sustainable in the long run.

Actions to reduce the negative impacts of land degradation and desertification must indeed go hand in hand with interventions that eradicate poverty and address inequality. Without them, we will not end poverty and boost shared prosperity. More


Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Road to Paris by Albert Bates

Newspaper reporting legend Ross Gelbspan once said, lifestyle change is essential, but lifestyle change won't get us out of this climate mess. We need change of the kind that only comes from governments, acting together.

In a larger sense, we need a change of the kind that defies the arc of social history extending back to at least the last Ice Age. Let's face it. Our civilizations are built on organized murder, slavery and rape of the natural world and of each other. We are a nasty bit of work, we naked apes.

"These talks are not just about streamlining a text; they are about realizing, at a deeper level, the scope of the problem and the required scale for any response."

Some of us work towards change at this very cellular level, exploring spiritual and social limitations, working on our group dynamics, getting under our skin with art, music and spoken word, encouraging the heathen masses to break free from our serpent nature and rise up.

There has always been a tension between "bottom up" grass roots organizing and "top-down" working for policy changes from the infrastructural brain centers. Most political activists do both, although some will not compromise, on principle, and so fail to even get inside the buildings where decisions are taken. Others, like the Green Party activists in Germany, Ireland and elsewhere, succeed in winning seats in government only to see their aspirations dashed in the reakpolitik of consensus governance. More




Thursday, June 4, 2015

Informal GLISPA Meeting in Bonn to Discuss COP21

GLISPA will be holding an informal face to face meeting for interested countries and organizations currently in Bonn at the UNFCCC inter-sessional meeting on either 10 or 11 June 2015. This meeting will be hosted by Ambassador Jumeau as Chair of the GLISPA Steering Committee. The meeting will focus on opportunities to showcase island leadership in adaptation and resilience as part of the upcoming UNFCCC COP21 in Paris, France in December 2015 and specifically the interest in GLISPA coordinating events to achieve this.

Seychelles Ambassador Ronny Jumeau

Anyone interested in showcasing island leadership in adaptation and resilience is welcomed to attend this meeting. Please email Susi Menazza at smenazza@tnc.org if you are interested in participating. She will confirm the date/time/venue with those that RSVP in the near future.

Please note, GLISPA will also host a global teleconference later in June along a similar lines. More information will be available shortly. Thank you to those of you that have reached out to indicate your interest in supporting such an event.

For the best newsfeed on island issues, check http://sids-l.iisd.org/>, http://www.sidsnet.org>, http://www.globalislands.net/>