Category Archives: Environment

Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya

Screenshot_2020-01-09 Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya
Workers wash millet to prepare it for popping in Embu, Kenya, September 9, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Wesley Langat

EMBU, Kenya,  Two years ago, Michael Gichangi launched a business he hopes will help his rural community better cope with climate change stresses: making puffed cereal from climate-hardy traditional grains.

Using a $1,000 machine he bought, he pops millet – a drought-tolerant grain, but one not as widely eaten as staple maize – and turns it into a popular snack.

Over the last two years he has sold about $1,500 worth of the popped grain, and is the first in the district to have one of the machines, he said.

“I started popping millet to produce very delicious snacks, by mixing it with groundnuts, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon powder and simsim (sesame) oil”, he said.

The combination has won particular approval from students looking for an after-school snack, he said, and is now sold at the local Embu market.

As many households in sub-Saharan Afria struggle with poverty and food insecurity, climate change is hitting harvests and making life even harder.

But finding new markets for hardy grains that can better stand up to extreme weather and changing pests, and produce a reliable harvest, can help, agricultural scientists say.

Gichangi’s effort began when he joined a women-led agribusiness group in his village and started buying and selling traditional cereals such as millet, sorghum and green gram, all more drought-resilient alternatives to maize.

Previously, maize dominated farming in the area – but that dominance is gradually declining as weather extremes linked to climate change make getting a harvest more difficult, he and others said.

Patrick Maundu, an ethnobotanist at the National Museums of Kenya and an honorary fellow with Bioversity International, an organisation that promotes agricultural biodiversity, said millet is a traditional Kenyan crop – just one that, over the years, lost ground to maize.

The change came as a result of the intense promotion of maize production by governments, research groups and multinational companies selling products in Africa, he said.

“Millet is well adapted to dry parts of Africa but has been neglected because of … key policies focused on maize, taking over indigenous cereals,” he said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But in the recent years, wilder weather linked to climate change and the high cost of farm inputs – which farmers can struggle to pay if harvests fail – has made maize farming less reliable, particularly for small-scale farmers like those in Embu, Maundu said.

That has pushed many farmers to diversify back into drought-resistant traditional crops.

The amount of farm acreage planted with maize in Kenya has fallen by about a quarter in recent years, according to data from Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Still, finding a ready market for crops like millet – and getting people to resume eating them – can be a challenge.

Gichangi, an entrepreneur and millet farmer, said he realised that the key to making the new crops pay was adding value to what was harvested – hence the popping machine.

MORE JOBS, MORE RESILIENCE?

The puffed millet, besides being tasty, has boosted employment opportunities in Embu and helped reduce food waste because it can be stored longer, he said.

Stella Gathaka 30, who formerly worked as a food vendor, is now one of four workers at Gichangi’s small factory.

She said that, besides earning a salary, her new job allows her children to eat the millet snacks, which are more nutritious than their previous snack of sweet wheat biscuits.

These days, “I’m very knowledgeable on the importance of millet as a nutritious crop,” she said.

Daniel Kirori, operations director at DK Engineering Ltd., which assembles the popping machines, said his company had sold about 15 of them so far to women’s groups and other entrepreneurs around Kenya.

According to a 2017 United Nations report on the state of food security and nutrition, climate change pressures, from worsening droughts to floods, heatwaves and storms, are a key reason about 800 million people still lack access to enough food.

Liz Young, a senior researcher with the International Food Policy Research Institute noted in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Africa’s farmers urgently need help to adapt to the threats and grow enough to feed the continent’s rising population.

Producing more millet and other traditional hardy crops, and finding ways to process them to produce more income, is one way of doing that, Young said.

Emily Wawira, a small-scale millet farmer in Embu who sells her produce to Gichangi, said she sells 10 to 20 sacks of grain each year, each weighing 90 kilos, and earns $25 to $30 per sack.

That income “is enough to pay school fees,” she said – and an improvement on her former loss-making maize farming.

Gichangi’s millet snacks are slowly gaining ground on traditional favourites such as sugary wheat biscuits, his sales team said.

“It wasn’t easy popularising the products,” admitted Lucy Njeru, one of Gichangi’s saleswomen – though free samples helped.

Now, however, Gichangi has partnered with four local schools and an agricultural show to offer his healthier snacks.

Anthony Sawaya, Embu County’s director of trade and chief executive of the county Investment and Development Corporation, said his office is keen to help innovators like Gichangi access markets.

The county government, for instance, is promoting local foods at nearby and international trade fair exhibitions, he said.

 

Plastic: The Largest Predator in Our Oceans

Environment
Plastics are increasingly polluting the seas and oceans and threatening marine ecosystems. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

LONDON, (IPS) – Plastic pollution is currently the largest global threat to marine life. Each year, 10-20 million tonnes of plastic ends up in our oceans, killing approximately 100,000 marine mammals and over a million seabirds.

Whilst the media has certainly helped raise awareness and inspire a change of attitude towards plastics, the amount of plastic in our oceans is still rising. As a result, vast numbers of sea species are now critically endangered, and the need for urgent action has never been stronger.

Marine Debris

So, where does all this plastic come from? Well, around 80% of all marine debris, derives from from land-based sources. This includes littering, illegal waste dumping, and the improper disposal of products such as wet wipes, sanitary products and cotton buds.

And although more parts of the world are now turning their attention towards the issue, the amount of rubbish entering the ocean is rising, with one truckload of plastic entering the ocean every single minute.

The remaining 20% of marine debris is the result of ocean based activity. This is mainly from the fishing industry, but also caused by boats that collect trash and dump it out at sea.

Dwindling Populations

Currently, there are more than 5 trillion plastic particles floating around the world’s oceans and this number is continuing to rise fast. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the World Economic Forum, there could be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050 if we don’t act now.

But what exactly would this mean for marine life?

The WWF states as many as 700 marine species are currently threatened by plastics. But whilst large numbers die from choking on shards of plastic, the chemicals in plastic such as petroleum and bisphenol, are proving just as deadly.

Recent studies have revealed that 50% of the world’s coral reefs have already been destroyed, and another 40% could be lost over the next 30 years.

When plastic is ingested, these toxic chemicals are released and absorbed into the body tissue. Overtime, this can impact fertility and weaken the immune system. As a result, those feeding on plastic are breeding less and becoming increasingly vulnerable to diseases and infections, resulting in population decline.

This is particularly concerning for top marine predators such as dolphins, polar bears and whales, with studies revealing higher contamination levels among predators at the top of the food chain. Yet this isn’t caused by ingesting plastic directly.

Instead, pollutants are accumulating in their bodies through a process called trophic transfer. This is where toxins consumed by smaller creatures such as plankton and krill are stored into their body tissue. Over time, these toxins are passed up through the food chain. In most cases, these toxins come from microplastics.

The Rise of Microplastics

Microplastic are small plastic particles (less than 5mm) and it’s estimated there are between 15-51 trillion of these individual individual plastic pieces floating in our oceans.

In a recent UK study, scientists examined 50 stranded sea creatures including porpoises, dolphins, grey seals and a pygmy sperm whale, and microplastics were found in the gut of every single animal.

And it’s not just ocean creatures that are at risk. Microplastics have also been discovered in seafood, with research suggesting that each seafood consumer in Europe ingests an average of 11,000 plastic particles each year.

How Can We Beat It?

Plastic pollution is a man-made disaster, and it won’t go away by itself. To end plastic pollution, we must start by reducing our plastic consumption, particularly single-use plastics.

Much of the power lies with the large corporations and manufacturers, and they desperately need to realise their responsibility, and find other alternatives to plastic.

But you can still make an impact on a smaller scale, by reducing your own plastic consumption and encouraging others around you.

It won’t be easy, since almost everything we buy is packaged in plastic. In fact, UK supermarkets alone produce 800,000 tonnes of plastic every year. But start by making small changes wherever possible.

Look for zero waste products like shampoo bars and deoderant sticks, or products made from plastic alternatives such as bamboo toothbrushes and glass milk bottles. Participate in a beach clean every time you visit a body of water.

There are also plenty of great charities working to help combat plastic pollution. Plastic Oceans, Project Aware and Changing Tides Foundation are just a few examples but there are many more out there to choose from!

*SLO active are an exciting new social enterprise dedicated to cleaning up and protecting our ocean. They are cause-led, focusing on oceanwear and activism. For every piece bought, SLO active will donate to one of their ocean charity partners of your choice. They call it ‘Earth to Ocean’. Learn more at https://sloactive.com/

 

 

 

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/12/plastic-largest-predator-oceans/

Haiti’s Cry for Help as Climate Change is Compared to an Act of Violence against the Island Nation

Joseph-Jouthe
Haiti’s Environment Minister Joseph Jouthe says that “climate change is a very big terror in Haiti”, and without funds the Caribbean island nation is unable to adapt and mitigate against it. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

 

MADRID, Dec 13 2019 (IPS) – Haiti’s Environment Minister Joseph Jouthe has compared the climate emergency to a violent act and appealed to the international community for help to fight climate change.

“Climate change is a very big terror in Haiti. It’s very hard for us to deal with climate change,” Jouthe told IPS on the margins of the United Nations climate summit, the 25th Conference Of The Parties (COP25), in Madrid, Spain.

“Haiti is not responsible for what’s going on with climate change but we are suffering from it. We want better treatment from the international community.”

Jouthe said Haiti remains committed to strengthening its resilience to climate shocks and to contributing to the global effort to mitigate the phenomenon.

Haiti is pursuing a four-fold objective in relation to climate change:

  • promoting, at the level of all sectors and other ministries, a climate-smart national development;
  • creating a coherent response framework for country directions and actions to address the impacts of climate change;
  • promoting education on the environment and climate change as a real strategic lever to promote the emergence of environmental and climatic citizenship; and
  • putting in place a reliable measurement, reporting and verification system that can feed into the iterative planning processes of national climate change initiatives.

But Jouthe said the country simply cannot achieve these targets without financial help.

“In Haiti all the indicators are red. We have many projects but as you may know [The Caribbean Community] CARICOM doesn’t have enough funding to build projects,” he said.

Patrice Cineus, a young Haitian living in Quebec, said access to funding has been a perennial problem for Haiti.

But he believes Haiti is partly to blame for the seeming lack of inability to quickly receive financial help.

“Haiti, my country needs to build evidence-based policies, and this will make it easier to attract help from the international community,” Cineus told IPS.

“If we don’t have strong policies, it’s not possible. We need research within the country. We need innovative programmes within the country and then we can look for financial support and technical support.

“We cannot have access to funding because the projects we are submitting are not well done. We don’t use scientific data to build them. They are not done professionally,” Cineus added.

Cineus’ theory appears to be substantiated by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which helps CARICOM member states address the issue of adaptation and climate change.

The centre’s Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie said since 2016, under an Italian programme, it is required to develop projects that would help countries adapt to different areas of climate change.

“One of the areas that we have been considering, and we spoke with Haiti, is to build resilience in terms of schools and shelters that can be used in the case of a disaster.

“Funds have been approved but, unfortunately, unlike the other member states where we have already implemented at least one, and some cases two, projects, we have not been able to get the projects in Haiti off the ground,” Leslie told IPS.

“Each time they have identified an area, when we go there the site is not a suitable site and then we have to start the process again.”

While Haiti waits for funding, Dr. Kénel Délusca, current head of mission of a technical assistance project, AP3C, of the Ministry of Environment and Environment and the European Union, said the country remains one of the world’s most vulnerable to climate change.

Scientists say extreme weather events like hurricanes, floods and droughts will become worse as the planet warms, and Island nations like Haiti are expected to be among the hardest hit by those and other impacts of a changing climate, like shoreline erosion.

“The marine environment is extremely important to the Haitian people. There are more than 8 million people living in coastal communities in Haiti,” Délusca told IPS.

“There are more or less 50,000 families whose activities are based on these specific ecosystems. In other words, this is a very important ecosystem for Haiti and different levels – at the economic level, at the cultural level, at the social level.”

Haiti is divided into 10 départements, and Délusca said nine of them are coastal. Additionally, he said the big cities of Haiti are all located within the coastal zone.

“These ecosystems are very strategic to the development of Haiti. The Haitians have a lot of activities that are based on the marine resources. We also develop some cultural and social activities that are based on these environments,” Délusca said.

For poor island countries like Haiti, studies show, the economic costs, infrastructural damage and loss of human life as a result of climate change is already overwhelming. And scientists expect it will only get worse.

Though Haiti’s greenhouse gas emissions amount cumulatively to less than 0.03 per cent of global carbon emissions, it is a full participant in the 2015 Paris climate agreement and has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by five percent by 2030.

 

 

 

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/12/haitis-cry-help-climate-change-compared-act-violence-island-nation/

Madrid COP25: What does Africa want from the UN climate summit?

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Young activists on the continent have been calling for bolder action to deal with climate change

Africa accounts for less than 4% of the global total of carbon emissions but the continent is the most vulnerable in terms of the impact of climate change, the UN says.

While most of the world works to significantly reduce their carbon footprint, in Africa the debate is different.

The focus is instead on finding ways to cope with the increasing numbers of climate-related disasters and also achieving economic development with minimum carbon emissions.

Both of these objectives need huge funds which African countries cannot afford.

Ahead of the ongoing UN climate meeting in Madrid (COP25) scientists had been warning that the world needs to reduce carbon emissions – five times more than what had been pledged – if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.

While that agenda is proving to be a tough nut to crack, different negotiating blocs at the UN meeting have their own priorities depending on their circumstances.

Africa’s agenda

A UN study has estimated that sub-Saharan Africa would alone need climate adaptation finance of around $50bn (£37bn) annually by 2050.

“Africa needs to receive means of implementation,” Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, a lead negotiator from the Africa Group, said at a COP25 press meeting in Madrid.

“We need to receive financial resources, technology transfer, and capacity building. And these are not outrageous asks.”

His comments came amid concern among many poor African countries – 33 are listed among the 47 least developed countries – that they had not received the climate finance promised by rich countries and whatever was made available through international bodies was very difficult to access.

The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – a body representing 36 of the world’s most developed countries – however said last year that public climate finance from developed countries to developing countries had increased from $37.9bn in 2013 to $54.5bn in 2017.

Bad governance and corruption in some poor countries have been cited as a reason for ineffective use of climate funds.

‘Africa already hit by climate’

Africa’s need for adapting to extreme weather events, many of them linked to climate change impacts, is becoming increasingly urgent, experts say.

They point at recent examples of cyclones, floods and severe droughts.

“The health, livelihoods and food security of people in Africa have been affected by climate change,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body on climate science, said in its fifth assessment report, some five years ago.

The report said production of wheat and maize in parts of Africa had already been impacted by climate change, as had the productivity of fisheries of the Great Lakes and Lake Kariba on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border and fruit-bearing trees in the Sahel.

More than half a decade since the report was published, climate experts say the effects have intensified and have become more frequent.

“No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa,” the United Nations Environment Programme said in a report.

“Given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the considerably limited adaptive capacity, and exacerbated by widespread poverty,” it said.

African negotiators at COP25 have been pressing for funds to adapt to the impact of climate change while demanding that major carbon emitters make significant cuts in their emissions to prevent dangerous warming.

“We from the Least Developed Countries bloc were very hopeful about adaptation financing in this meeting,” said Sonam Wangdi, from Bhutan, who heads the LDC bloc that has 33 African countries as members.

“But all of our member countries, including those from Africa, are quite disappointed because we see nothing concrete happening,” Mr Wangdi said.

Negotiators from the developing world have said climate adaptation and its financing were still not high enough on the main agenda.

An analysis by the OECD found that of the total climate finance mobilised by rich countries, less than 20% went for adaptation projects in 2017.

Another study by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development estimated that less than 10% of $17bn international climate finance was committed for local level activities between 2013 and 2016.

The share for least developed countries would be lower still, with some climate finance experts putting the figure at around 5%.

“The main reason for Africa not getting adequate climate adaptation finance is because most international financing organisations don’t see it bankable as there is no profit in the short-term,” said Colin McQuistan, head of climate resilience with Practical Action, an NGO helping several African countries with climate adaptation.

“Africa is still largely a farming economy and it is mainly about small scale farmers… which means international climate financing agencies will have to deal with these farmers individually and that will mean huge administrative costs,” added Mr McQuistan.

‘Loss and Damage’

This is another contentious issue developed and developing countries have locked horns over, and Africa is very much involved.

The Warsaw International Mechanism, a special forum established six years ago to deal with the loss and damage idea, is being reviewed at COP25 and developing countries want it to be properly funded within the UN climate set-up.

Some experts consider “loss” to apply to the complete destruction of something such as human lives, habitats and species. “Damage” refers to something that can be repaired, such as roads or buildings.

However, developed countries have not yet recognised the concept of compensating impacted countries in the developing world.

African negotiators are actively involved in this negotiation but one of them said there wasn’t any progress on this front either.

“Just like on adaptation finance, we thought we would be able to create a robust mechanism for loss and damage, but that has not happened so far,” said the negotiator who wanted to remain anonymous.

“If we don’t receive money, we will not only fail to adapt to climate impacts… we will also have no choice but to carry on with carbon-intensive economic development, like burning fossil fuels,” said the African negotiator.

The meeting in Madrid is halfway through and last week largely focussed on technical sessions. With ministers joining this week, all eyes are now on them.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50712486

 

 

Loss and damage from climate change: How much should rich countries pay?

“The wealthy countries must begin providing public climate finance at the scale necessary to support not only adaptation but loss and damage as well, and they must do so in accordance with their responsibility and capacity to act.” This is the main message of a technical report titled Can Climate Change-Fuelled Loss and Damage Ever Be Fair?, launched on the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) to be held in Madrid from 2 to 13 December.

The US and the EU owe more than half the cost of repairing future damage says the report, authored by Civil Society Review, an independent group that produces figures on what a “fair share” among countries of the global effort to tackle climate change should look like.

“The poorer countries are bearing the overwhelming majority of the human and social costs of climate change. Consider only one tragic incident – the Cyclones Idai and Kenneth – which caused more than $3 billion in economic damages in Mozambique alone, roughly 20 % of its GDP, with lasting implications, nadvot to mention the loss of lives and livelihoods” argues the report. “Given ongoing and deepening climate impacts, to ensure justice and fairness, COP25 must as an urgent matter operationalise loss and damage financing via a facility designed to receive and disburse resources at scale to developing countries.”

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has defined loss and damage to include harms resulting from sudden-onset events (climate disasters, such as cyclones) as well as slow-onset processes (such as sea level rise). Loss and damage can occur in human systems (such as livelihoods) as well as natural systems (such as biodiversity).

Eight weeks after Hurricane Dorian – the most intense tropical cyclone to ever strike the Bahamas – Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, spoke at the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit. She said: “For us, our best practice traditionally was to share the risk before disaster strikes, and just over a decade ago we established the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility. But, the devastation of Hurricane Dorian marks a new chapter for us. Because, as the international community will find out, the CCRIF will not meet the needs of climate refugees or, indeed, will it be sufficient to meet the needs of rebuilding. No longer can we, therefore, consider this as an appropriate mechanism…There will be a growing crisis of affordability of insurance.”

An April 2019 report from ActionAid revealed the insurance and other market based mechanisms fail to meet human rights criteria for responding to loss and damage associated with climate change. The impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to an annual global USD$520 billion loss, and forces approximately 26 million people into poverty each year.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently warned that the climate crisis is the greatest ever threat to human rights. It threatens the rights to life, health, housing and a clean and safe environment. The UN Human Rights Council has recognised that climate change “poses an immediate and far reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.” In the Paris Agreement, parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) acknowledged that they should – when taking action to address climate change – respect, promote and consider their
respective obligations with regard to human rights. This includes the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, the empowerment of women and intergenerational equity. Tackling loss and damage will require a human-rights centred approach that promotes justice and equity.

Across and within countries, the highest per capita carbon emissions are attributable to the wealthiest people, this because individual emissions generally parallel disparities of income and wealth. While the world’s richest 10 % cause 50 % of emissions, they also claim 52 % of the world’s wealth. The world’s poorest 50 % contribute approximately 10 % of global emissions and receive about 8 % of global income. Wealth increases adaptive capacity. All this means that those most responsible for climate change are relatively insulated from its impacts.

Between 1850 and 2002, countries in the Global North emitted three times as many
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as did the countries in the Global South, where approximately 85 % of the global population resides. The average CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) of citizens in countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts, for example, Mozambique (0.3), Malawi, (0.1), and Zimbabwe (0.9), pale in comparison to the average emissions of a person in the U.S. (15.5), Canada (15.3), Australia (15.8), or UK (6).

In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions, including the inundation of entire low-lying countries, the disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction, destructive floods, the inundation of low-lying farmland, and widespread water stress.

Nevertheless, the same companies and countries have pursued high reliance on GHG emissions, often at the expense of communities where fossil fuels are found (where oil spills, pollution, land grabs, and displacement is widespread) and certainly at the expense of public understanding, even as climate change harms and risks increased. Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell together are behind more than 10 % of the world’s carbon emissions since 1966. They originated in the Global North and its governments continue to provide them with financial subsidies and tax breaks.

Responsibility for, and capacity to act on, mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage varies tremendously across nations and among classes. It must also be recognised that the Nationally Determined Contributions (climate action plans or NDCs) that have thus far been proposed by the world’s nations are not even close to being sufficient, putting us on track for approximately 4 °C of warming. They are also altogether out of proportion to national capacity and responsibility, with the developing countries generally proposing to do their fair shares, and developed countries proposed far too little.

Unfortunately, as Kevin Anderson (Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester and a former Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) has said: “a 4°C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.”

Equity analysis

The report assess countries’ NDCs against the demands of a 1.5 °C pathway using two ‘fair share’ benchmarks, as in the previous reports of the Civil Society Equity Review coalition. These ‘fair share’ benchmarks are grounded in the principle-based claims that countries should act in accordance with their responsibility for causing the climate problem and their capacity to help solve it. These principles are both well-established within the climate negotiations and built into both the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.

To be consistent with the UNFCCC’s equity principles – the wealthier countries must urgently and dramatically deepen their own emissions reduction efforts, contribute to mitigation, adaptation and addressing loss and damage initiatives in developing countries; and support additional sustainable actions outside their own borders that enable climate-compatible sustainable development in developing countries.

For example, consider the European Union, whose fair share of the global emission reduction effort in 2030 is roughly about 22 % of the global total, or about 8 Gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2eq). Since its total emissions are less than 5 GtCO2eq, the EU would have to reduce its emissions by approximately 160 % per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 if it were to meet its fair share entirely through domestic reductions. It is not physically possible to reduce emissions by more than 100 % domestically. So, the only way in which the EU can meet its fair share is by funding mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage efforts in developing countries.

Today’s mitigation commitments are insufficient to prevent unmanageable climate change, and – coming on top of historic emissions – they are setting in motion devastating changes to our climate and natural environment. These impacts are already prevalent, even with our current global average surface temperature rise of about 1°C. Impacts include droughts, firestorms, shifting seasons, sea-level rise, salt-water intrusion, glacial retreat, the spread of vector borne diseases, and devastation from cyclones and other extreme weather events. Some of these impacts can be minimised through adaptation measures designed to increase resilience to inevitable impacts.

These measures include, for example, renewing mangroves to prevent erosion and reduce flooding caused by storms, regulating new construction so that buildings can withstand tomorrow’s severe weather, using scarce water resources efficiently, building flood defences, and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate. It is also crucial with such solutions that forest dwelling and indigenous peoples be given enforceable land rights, for not only are such rights matters of basic justice, they are also pragmatic recognitions of the fact that indigenous peoples have successfully protected key ecosystems.

Tackling underlying social injustices and inequalities – including through technological and financial transfers, as well as though capacity building – would also contribute to increasing resilience. Other climate impacts, however, are unavoidable, unmanageable or unpredictable, leading to a huge degree of loss and damage. Experts estimate the financial damage also will reach at least USD$300-700 billion by 2030, but the loss of locally sustained livelihoods, relationships and connections to ancestral lands are incalculable.

Failure to reduce GHG emissions now – through energy efficiency, waste reduction, renewable energy generation, reduced consumption, sustainable agriculture and transport – will only deepen impacts in the future. Avoidable impacts require urgent adaptation measures. At the same time, unavoidable and unmanageable change impacts – such as loss of homes, livelihoods, crops, heat and water stress, displacement, and infrastructure damage – need adequate responses through well-resourced disaster response plans and social protection policies.

For loss and damage financing, developed countries have a considerable responsibility and capacity to pay for harms that are already occurring. Of course, many harms will be irreparable in financial terms. However, where monetary contributions can help restore the livelihoods or homes of individuals exposed to climate change impacts, they must be paid. Just as the EU’s fair share of the global mitigation effort is approximately 22 % in 2030, it could be held accountable for that same share of the financial support for such incidents of loss and damage in that year.

The table below provides an illustrative quantification of this simple application of fair shares to loss and damage estimates, and how they change if we compute the contribution to global climate change from the start of the industrial revolution in 1850 or from 1950.

Table 1: Countries’ Share of Global Responsibility and Capacity in 2019, the time of Cyclones
Idai and Kenneth, as illustrative application of a fair share approach to Loss and Damage
funding requirements.

Country/                            Fair share (%) 1950                          Fair share (%) 1850
Group of countries         Medium benchmark                       High benchmark
USA                                           30.4 %                                                         40.7 %
European Union                    23.9 %                                                         23.2 %
Japan                                       6.8 %                                                            7.8 %
Rest of OECD                          7.4 %                                                            8.8 %
China                                       10.4 %                                                         7.2 %
India                                        0.5 %                                                           0.04 %
Rest of the World                  20.6 %                                                         12.3 %
Total                                        100 %                                                          100 %

The advantage of setting out responsibility and capacity to act in such numerical terms is to drive equitable and robust action today. Responsible and capable countries must – of course – ensure that those most able to pay towards loss and damage repairs are called upon to do so through domestic legislation that ensures correlated progressive responsibility. However, it should also motivate mitigation action to ensure that harms are not deepened in the future.

In the Equity analysis used here, capacity – a nation’s financial ability to contribute to solving the climate problem – can be captured by a quantitative benchmark defined in a more or less progressive way, making the definition of national capacity dependent on national income distribution. This means a country’s capacity is calculated in a manner that can explicitly account for the income of the wealthy more strongly than that of the poor, and can exclude the incomes of the poorest altogether. Similarly, responsibility – a nation’s contribution to the planetary GHG burden – can be based on cumulative GHG emissions since a range of historical start years, and can consider the emissions arising from luxury consumption more strongly than
emissions from the fulfilment of basic needs, and can altogether exclude the survival emissions of the poorest. Of course, the ‘right’ level of progressivity, like the ‘right’ start year, are matters for deliberation and debate.

The report acknowledges “the difficulties in estimating financial loss and damage and the limited data we currently have”, but it recommends nevertheless “a minimal goal of providing at least USD$300 billion per year by 2030 of financing for loss and damage through the UNFCCC’s Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM)”. Given that this corresponds to a conservative estimate of damage costs, the report further recommends “the formalization of a global obligation to revise this figure upward as observed and forecast damages increase”.

The new finance facility should provide “public climate financing and new and innovative sources of financing, in addition to budget contributions from rich countries, that can truly generate additional resources (such as air and maritime levies, Climate Damages Tax on oil, gas and coal extraction, a Financial Transaction Tax) at a progressive scale to reach at least USD$300 billion by 2030”. This means aiming for at least USD$150 billion by 2025 and ratcheting up commitments on an annual basis. Ambition targets should be revised based on the level of quantified and quantifiable harms experienced.

Further, developing countries who face climate emergencies should benefit from immediate debt relief – in the form of an interest-free moratorium on debt payments. This would open up resources currently earmarked for debt repayments to immediate emergency relief and reconstruction.

Finally, a financial architecture needs to be set up that ensures funding reaches the
marginalised communities in developing countries, and that such communities have decision making say over reconstruction plans. Funds should reach communities in an efficient and effective manner, taking into account existing institutions as appropriate.

Currently, the Paris Rulebook allows countries to count non-grant instruments as climate finance, including commercial loans, equity, guarantees and insurance. Under these rules, the United States could give a USD$50 million commercial loan to Malawi for a climate mitigation project. This loan would have to be repaid at market interest rates – a net profit for the US – so its grant-equivalence is $0. But under the Paris Rulebook, the US could report the loan’s face value ($50 million) as climate finance. This is not acceptable. COP25 must ensure that the WIM has robust outcomes and sufficient authority to deliver a fair and ambitious outcome for the
poorest and most vulnerable in relation to loss & damage.

 

 

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Climate-heating greenhouse gases hit new high, UN reports

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The greenhouse nitrous oxide is caused by forest fires and heavy fertilizer use. Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty 

The concentration of climate-heating greenhouse gases has hit a record high, according to a report from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization.

The jumps in the key gases measured in 2018 were all above the average for the last decade, showing action on the climate emergency to date is having no effect in the atmosphere. The WMO said the gap between targets and reality were both “glaring and growing”.

The rise in concentration of greenhouses gases follows inevitably from the continued surge in global emissions, which was described as “brutal news” for 2018. The world’s scientists calculate that emissions must fall by half by 2030 to give a good chance of limiting global heating to 1.5C, beyond which hundreds of millions of people will suffer more heatwaves, droughts, floods

But Petteri Taalas, the WMO secretary-general, said: “There is no sign of a slowdown, let alone a decline, despite all the commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change. We need to increase the level of ambition for the sake of the future welfare of mankind.

“It is worth recalling that the last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of carbon dioxide was 3-5m years ago. Back then, the temperature was 2-3C warmer and sea level was 10-20 metres higher than now.”

Three-quarters of the emissions cuts pledged by countries under the Paris agreement of 2015 are “totally inadequate”, according to a comprehensive expert analysis published earlier in November, putting the world on a path to climate disaster. Another report has found that nations are on track to produce more than double the fossil fuels in 2030 than could be burnedwhile keeping heating under 1.5C.

“The [CO2 concentration] number is the closest thing to a real-world Doomsday Clock, and it’s pushing us ever closer to midnight,” said John Sauven, head of Greenpeace UK. “Our ability to preserve civilisation as we know it, avert the mass extinction of species, and leave a healthy planet to our children depend on us urgently stopping the clock.”

The WMO report, published on Monday, found the global average concentration of CO2 reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5ppm in 2017. It is now 50% higher than in 1750, before the industrial revolution sparked the widespread burning of coal, oil and gas.

Since 1990, the increase in greenhouse gas levels has made the heating effect of the atmosphere 43% stronger. Most of that – four-fifths – is caused by CO2. But the concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide, the two other key greenhouse gases, also surged in 2018 by a higher amount than the annual average over the past decade.

Methane, which is produced by cattle, rice paddies and fossil fuel exploitation, is responsible for 17% of the heating effect. Its concentration is now more than double pre-industrial levels.

Nitrous oxide, which comes from heavy fertiliser use and forest burning, is now 23% higher than in 1750. The observations are made by the Global Atmosphere Watch network, which includes stations in the Arctic, high mountains and tropical islands.

“The record rise in greenhouse gas concentrations is a cruel reminder that for all the real progress in clean technology, we have yet to even stop global emissions increases,” said Nick Mabey, chief executive of think tank E3G. “The climate system cannot be negotiated with. Until we stop new investment in fossil fuels and massively scale up green power the risks from catastrophic climate change will continue to rise.”

When the world’s nations agreed the Paris deal in 2015, they pledged to ramp up their promised emissions cuts by the annual UN climate summit in 2020, which will be hosted by the UK in Glasgow. This year’s summit needs to do vital preparatory work and begins on 2 December in Madrid, Spain. Chile had been due to host but cancelled because of civil unrest.

Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit in the UK, said: “This record level of greenhouse gases should act as a sobering reminder to governments that so far they are collectively reneging on the pledge they made at the Paris summit, of attempting to keep global warming to 1.5C. That window is closing, and Chile, Italy and the UK [must] use all the diplomatic tools they have to put emissions on a trajectory closer to what science recommends and the public want.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/25/climate-heating-greenhouse-gases-hit-new-high-un-reports

 

Venice hit by another ferocious high tide, flooding city

Screenshot_2019-11-15 Venice hit by another ferocious high tide, flooding city

VENICE (Reuters) – Venice was inundated by exceptionally high water levels on Friday just days after the lagoon city suffered the worst flood in more than 50 years.

The central St. Mark’s Square was submerged and closed to tourists, while shops and hotels were once more invaded by rising waters bringing fresh misery to the fragile city.

Local authorities said the high tide peaked at 154 cm (5.05 ft), slightly below expectations and significantly lower than the 187 cm level reached on Tuesday — the second highest tide ever recorded in Venice.

But it was still enough to leave 70% of the city under water, fraying the nerves of locals who faced yet another large-scale clean-up operation.

“We have been in this emergency for days and we just can’t put up with any more,” said Venetian resident Nava Naccara.

The Italian government declared a state of emergency for Venice on Thursday, allocating 20 million euros ($22 million) to address the immediate damage. Mayor Luigi Brugnaro predicted on Friday the costs would be vastly higher.

“Venice was destroyed the other day. We are talking about damage totaling a billion euros,” Brugnaro said in a video posted on Twitter. “This is a state of emergency, but we are managing it.”

Sirens wailed across Venice from the early morning hours, warning of the impending high tide, and the crypt beneath St. Mark’s Basilica was swiftly inundated.

After Friday’s high waters, forecasters predicted tides of up to 110-120 cm during the weekend. In normal conditions, tides of 80-90cm are generally seen as high but manageable.

The mayor has blamed climate change for the ever-increasing flood waters that the city has had to deal with in recent years, with the mean sea level estimated to be more than 20 cm higher than it was a century ago, and set to raise much further.

Groups of volunteers and students arrived in the city center to help businesses mop up, while schools remained closed, as they have been most of the week.

At the city’s internationally renowned bookshop Acqua Alta — the Italian for high water — staff were trying to dry out thousands of water-damaged books and prints, usually kept in boats, bath tubs and plastic bins.

“The only thing we were able to do was to raise the books as much as possible but unfortunately even that wasn’t enough … about half of the bookshop was completely flooded,” said Oriana, who works in the store.

A flood barrier designed to protect Venice from high tides is not expected to start working until the end of 2021, with the project plagued by the sort of problems that have come to characterize major Italian infrastructure programs — corruption, cost overruns and prolonged delays.

 

 

 

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-italy-weather-venice/venice-hit-by-another-ferocious-high-tide-flooding-city-idUSKBN1XP0T5