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World Habitat Day message from UN chief António Guterres NEW YORK, United States of America: October 5, 2021: 11.25am (UN NEWS CENTRE): For the UN Secretary-General, the benefits of making cities more environmentally friendly are “enormous”, and include reduced climate risk, more jobs, and better health and well-being. “City leadership in using green materials and constructing energy-efficient, resilient buildings powered by renewable energy, is essential to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050,” said António Guterres in his message for World Habitat Day, marked on Monday. The theme for this year’s celebration of cities and towns worldwide is Accelerating urban action for a carbon-free world. Cities are responsible for about 75 per cent of the world’s energy consumption and over 70 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Two crises Urban areas across the globe are facing the dual crises of COVID-19 and climate change, said the UN chief. Around 4.5 billion people live in cities today, but that population is projected to grow by almost 50 percent, by 2050. By mid-century, over 1.6 billion urban residents may have to survive through average summertime highs of 35 degrees Celsius. For Guterres, cities and towns are at the core of climate action to keep the 1.5 degrees goal within reach. “Three-quarters of the infrastructure that will exist in 2050 has yet to be built,” he said. “Economic recovery plans offer a generational opportunity to put climate action, renewable energy, and sustainable development at the heart of cities’ strategies and policies.” As populations grow in emerging economies, demand for transport, which accounts for nearly 20 per cent of global carbon emissions, is also multiplying. The UN Chief said cities are already working on this, trying to ensure that this demand is met by zero-emission vehicles and public transit. Guterres concluded asking for a global moratorium on internal combustion engines to underpin these efforts, saying it should happen by 2040 at the latest. Opportunity In a message for the day, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, said that, unless the world takes urgent action, “the greenhouse gases produced by ever expanding urban centres, will continue to push global air temperatures higher.” Sharif remembered that, this year, the day is celebrated only weeks before the UN climate change summit, COP26, happening in early November in Glasgow. For the UN-Habitat Chief, the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity for the world’s cities to put climate action on top of their agenda. “This is a chance to change how we generate our power, construct our buildings, heat, cool and light up our offices and homes, and travel around from home to work,” she said. Sharif asked for “well planned and well managed compact cities”, that allow for non-motorized transport and that reduce energy consumption from cooling and heating. “Cities are the incubators of innovation and new technology,” she said. “We must harness this strength for better climate change solutions.” For Sharif, “action will differ from city to city”, but “the green transition must benefit everyone, especially the most vulnerable, and create new jobs.” ....PACNEWS
APIA, Samoa - October 5, 2021: 10.22am (SAMOA OBSERVER): Young entrepreneurs from Savai’i have met to explore means of promoting business ethics and establishing controls to fight corruption and ensure their businesses' compliance with the law. The workshop was part of a series of integrity-strengthening efforts led by the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Samoa Multi-Country Office (MCO). A statement issued by the UNDP, said the project was a joint initiative by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. The Assistant Resident Representative (Governance) of the UNDP Samoa MCO, Christina Mualia, said corruption can have a devastating impact on local businesses and the training gives businesses the tools to protect themselves from corrupt practices that new and old entrepreneurs reported encountering. The project is also supported by the New Zealand Government. According to UNDP Anti-Corruption Adviser Sonja Stefanovska-Trajanoska, corruption hinders entrepreneurship and innovation. “In this training, we are opening an important dialogue with existing and potential young entrepreneurs in Samoa on how they can do business with integrity,” she said. “Opting for clear values and strong ethics can only raise the impact of their businesses in the market and bring more investors.” Samoa’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry; the county’s UNDP office; Samoa MCO and UN-PRAC have already worked together to produce a Business Integrity Toolkit for Young Entrepreneurs. The toolkit was developed after consultations with local young entrepreneurs on safeguarding their businesses against corruption risks. The UNODC Anti-Corruption Adviser Marie Pegie Cauchois said the workshop’s practical effects were highly important. “This youth entrepreneurs workshop offers practical guidance on what constitutes corruption in Samoa, what laws and institutions are used to prevent and fight corruption, and who you can ask for help,” she said. The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lemauga Hobart Vaai, said they were happy to be collaborating with the United Nations. “Young entrepreneurs already contribute positively to the community, but they can play a key role in tackling corruption and building business integrity as the country strengthens its economy and tackles COVID-19," Lemauga said in a statement. “[The Samoa Chamber of Commerce and Industry] is delighted to be collaborating with UN-PRAC and the UNDP Samoa MCO to create awareness on early detection and prevention of toxic conditions like corruption.” The workshop was held last week in Savai’i. It will be held in Upolu during the second week of October....PACNEWS
INCHEON, South Korea - October 4, 2021: 10.17am (CLIMATE HOME): The Green Climate Fund(GCF) board has been advised to re-accredit the UN development agency, despite unresolved corruption claims against projects in Samoa and Armenia. The UN Development Programme is seeking to renew its partnership with the UN’s flagship climate fund under the shadow of unresolved corruption allegations at two of its projects. The Green Climate Fund was created to help poor countries curb their emissions and cope with climate impacts. It depends on agencies like UNDP to deliver projects in poor nations. The GCF accreditation panel is recommending the fund renew ties with the UN development agency, its largest implementing partner, at a virtual board meeting this week, despite claims of corruption and concerns over weak implementation of UNDP policies at its regional bureau. Documents for the meeting state that allegations of corruption have been raised against UNDP-led projects in Armenia and Samoa, approved by the fund. The GCF is awaiting the outcome of an UNDP investigation into the claims. And donor countries are still pressing UNDP to show evidence that remedial action has been taken over a long-running corruption scandal at one of its programmes in Russia. Allegations of misappropriation of millions of dollars in the programme designed to promote energy efficiency in Russia, funded by the Global Environment Facility, seriously damaged the agency’s reputation. A source with knowledge of the dossier told Climate Home News that UNDP’s bid to renew its accreditation with the GCF was “cynical” and the UN body should first “put its house in order”. A UNDP spokesperson told Climate Home the agency had gone through “an extensive and transparent due diligence process as part of the re-accreditation process” and insisted that the allegations made against its GEF-related programmes have been “significantly investigated”. He added the agency was “swiftly implementing recommendations” in response to the case and strengthening its oversight policies. UNDP is the biggest implementing partner of the GCF both in the number of funded projects and volume of finance secured. As the end of July, the GCF board had approved 35 UNDP projects around the world worth US$2.4bn. Liane Schalatek, a climate finance expert with the Heinrich Boell Foundation and a close GCF observer, described the re-accreditation of UNDP as “tricky” given its role as a “go-to international implementing partner for GCF projects for many developing countries”. At stake in this GCF board week’s meeting is whether UNDP has robust enough systems and oversight in place across the organisation to receive, investigate and appropriately act on allegations of corruption and mismanagement. Information shared by sources with Climate Home point to a culture of covering up fraud and failing to protect whistleblowers, which they say still hasn’t been fully addressed. Six UNDP projects were on the GCF’s watch list for close monitoring as of July, according to fund documents. A US$66 million flood management project in Samoa, which Climate Home previously reported raised concerns among technical experts, and a US$116m project to improve energy efficiency in Armenia through retrofitting building both had corruption allegations raised against them. UNDP did not respond to specific questions about allegations of corruption at these projects. A GCF spokesperson told Climate Home News the fund has “a zero-tolerance policy to integrity violations” and was “working closely with UNDP to ensure that our projects are correctly managed”. He added UNDP had been “fully transparent” during the review process and that the accreditation panel concluded that it was able to appropriately deal with misconduct allegations. Recommendations for re-accreditation were made on condition that the UN body rolls out anti-money laundering policy across the organisation and demonstrates in 2024, through an independent study, that corrective actions have been implemented. In July, UNDP head Achim Steiner, told the executive board, in an update seen by Climate Home, that “UNDP – and I personally – have zero tolerance for any fraud, misappropriation or irregularities”. Yet, nearly seven years after a whistleblower alleged that Russian officials were awarding lucrative contracts to friends and family in the GEF-funded project, no one has yet been held publicly accountable. The full story about the decade-long Russia programme, which closed in 2017, is yet to emerge. An independent review published earlier this year concluded that issues of weak governance were “systemic” and that “a number of individuals were able to game the relatively weak systems of governance and technical capacity”. The whistleblower case was handled unsatisfactorily, it found. Steiner told the board he had been provided “with a comprehensive view” of the issues and that individual responsibilities had been established. “Half a dozen” people still working for UNDP have been given formal reprimands, including administrative leave while steps towards disciplinary processes are being taken, he said. Among donors, some concerns over UNDP’s ability to handle corruption allegations remain. After first writing to Steiner in March 2020 to express concerns, the Netherlands froze €10m (US$11 million) of its voluntary €30m (US$34 million) annual contribution to UNDP, citing dissatisfaction with how UNDP responded to the allegations. A spokesperson for the country’s foreign ministry told Climate Home that “UNDP should restore confidence that the alleged malpractices have been adequately investigated and that lessons are broadly drawn to prevent similar problems in the future”. At a GEF council meeting in June, Konrad Specker, of Switzerland, said his government shared “fundamental concerns” over UNDP. He added that recommendations and policy changes “do not really address the questions related to management behaviour and organisation culture”. “We believe that unless these issues are addressed, it remains questionable to what extent the management actions being taken will produce the real change on the ground that has been advocated for,” he warned....PACNEWS
APIA, Samoa - October 4, 2021: 10.15am (SAMOA OBSERVER): A Samoan climate activist has praised the Vanuatu Government for campaigning for the International Court of Justice to issue a legal opinion on climate change and its causes. In response to forecast levels of rising climate change and sea levels, Vanuatu has argued that current action and support for vulnerable developing countries via multilateral bodies are not rising to the threat. Vanuatu has long championed the issue of paying compensation to countries facing the impacts of climate change from the world’s fossil fuel companies and the countries that continue to support them. Vanuatu’s campaign commenced at Pacific Island leaders’ meetings in recent years. The push for an official legal opinion from the international court comes before next month’s 26th United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow, Scotland. Vanuatu says it intends to use the forum to gather support from other Pacific Island states and other vulnerable nations around the world to support the initiative. Bringing the issues before the World Court is intended to clarify who should be held responsible for the rising emissions driving dangerous climate change. Professor Tolu Muliaina, a climate activist for the Pacific Island Students Fighting Climate Change (PISFCC) told the Samoa Observer that Vanuatu’s campaign has been the cause of optimism and hope. Earlier this year, the organisation launched a petition calling on leaders of Pacific Island nations, including Australia and New Zealand, to commence the process of bringing the issue of climate change and human rights before the International Court of Justice. “Leading by example, the Vanuatu government has been supportive of [the initiative] from the start [for] which we are extremely grateful,” he said. “[They are] standing by young people in their fight for greater accountability and visionary leadership from the international community.” Professor Muliaina said that hope remains that other leaders of the wider Blue Pacific will lend their support to the campaign. “With Samoa having [its] first female Prime Minister - who is not new to regional and global negotiations - time will tell [to what extent] Samoa will be a force in our collective fight,” he said....PACNEWS
FUNAFUTI, Tuvalu - SEPTEMBER 9, 2021: 10.55am (IFRC): The small Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, has been experiencing low rainfall conditions, with mounting concerns of extreme water shortages for people across the tropical islands. Tuvalu has been facing drought conditions for the past three months and rainfall levels have been some of the lowest ever recorded. There are fears communities may face water shortages in the coming months if rainfall continues to be below normal, especially as the Red Cross Red Crescent Early Action Rainfall Watch places Tuvalu at ‘dry warning’ level, with high risk of severe dry conditions getting worse. Tuvalu Red Cross Secretary General Tagifoe Taomia said: “Record low rainfall levels leave our drinking water tanks empty and our crops withered. Climate extremes are hitting our country hard. Our communities rely on rainfall as the main source of fresh water as there are no rivers on the island." “Water harvesting systems are completely dependent on rainfall. No rain, no water to harvest and when it does rain, the amount we are able to collect is dependent on the intensity of the rainfall." “Early action is being ramped up to assist people in remote communities across the country, to take proactive steps to analyse these impacts and build their knowledge and capacity to prepare for periods of drought.” To support Tuvalu Red Cross with their drought early action, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released emergency relief funds of around 30,000 Swiss Francs (US$33,000). Tuvalu Red Cross will assist people with their household water tank monitoring and deliver drought awareness activities to help communities cope with the current dry period with rainfall levels at some of the lowest recorded and to be better prepared for periods of droughts. Disaster management teams from Tuvalu Red Cross are working alongside authorities to help Island Disasters Committees prepare their communities to survive these dry months. Katie Greenwood, IFRC’s Pacific Head of Delegation, said: “These seriously dry drought levels and forecasts of worse to come in a Pacific Island tropical country reveal how exposed we are to the ravages of extreme weather events which are being fuelled by a changing climate and warming oceans." “This IFRC funding is the first ever Disaster Relief Emergency Funds released at the early onset of a drought in the Pacific." “It’s critical to invest more in preparing early to enable Red Cross in the Pacific to support their communities to be safe ahead of disasters so they can reduce impacts and build resilience,” said Greenwood.....PACNEWS
Canberra, AUSTRALIA - September 7, 2021: 2.45pm (UN NEWS CENTRE): Climate change will “wreak havoc” across the Australian economy if coal is not rapidly phased out, a senior UN official warned on Monday. In a pre-recorded speech to an Australian National University forum, UN Special Adviser on Climate Change Selwin Hart joined calls for Australia's Government to adopt more ambitious emissions reduction goals. He reiterated the need for countries of the intergovernmental economic organisation (OECD) , including Australia, to stop using coal by 2030 and by 2040 for all others. Most developed countries have signed up to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050. Due to its reliance on coal-fired power, Australia is one of the world's largest carbon emitters per capita, but Prime Minister Scott Morrison has resisted committing to a timeline to set a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target for 2050. Morrison has also steadfastly backed fossil fuel industries, saying tougher action on emissions would cost jobs. Noting that national governments – responsible for 73 per cent of global emissions – have now committed to net-zero by mid-century, he urged Australia to join them “as a matter of urgency”. “While crucial, these long-term national net-zero commitments are only part of what is needed. It is essential they are backed by ambitious 2030 targets and clear plans to achieve them, otherwise, we will not see the changes in the real economy we urgently need”, he told the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum. Hart highlighted the extent to which this policy has isolated the Government and emphasized the importance of taking “greater action this decade. “We fully understand the role that coal and other fossil fuels have played in Australia's economy, even if mining accounts for a small fraction – around 2 per cent – of overall jobs”, Hart added, “but it's essential to have a broader, more honest and rational conversation about what is in Australia's interests”. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that Australia would update its 2030 emissions projections at UN climate talks in Glasgow in November. Hart urged Australia to “seize the moment” and switch to renewables. The UN official quoted a previous call by Secretary-General António Guterres that wealthy countries phase out coal by 2030 and other countries, which have had less opportunity to develop using fossil fuels, to stop its use by 2040. “If adopted, this timetable would leave nearly a decade for Australia to ensure a just transition for its coal workers and others affected”, he said. “We are at a critical juncture in the climate crisis”, he said, noting that if G20 industrialized nations choose business-as-usual, “climate change will soon send Australia’s high living standards up in flames”. By contrast however, if countries including Australia choose bold climate action, “a new wave of prosperity, jobs, fairness and sustained economic growth is there for the taking”, said Hart. The recent assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that human-induced climate change has already triggered weather and climate extremes throughout every region across the globe. Unless there are rapid and deep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades, achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement “will be beyond reach” warned the panel. But IPCC experts said there is still time to limit climate change. Strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases, could quickly make air quality better, and in 20 to 30 years global temperatures could stabilise. In Australia, average temperatures above land have increased by about 1.4C since 1910....PACNEWS One coal mine in Australia. Photo: nature.com
By Darryn McEvoy, Serene Ho, John Clemo, Lorraine Livia, and Josephine Teakeni Honiara, SOLOMONS - September 7, 2021: 2.40pm (POLICY FORUM): In Solomon Islands and throughout the Pacific, COVID-19 and the climate crisis have emphasised the need for home gardens as a way to bolster food security and community survival, In urban contexts, such as the fast-growing Solomon Islands capital city of Honiara, selling produce from sup sup (home) gardens at local markets can be an important source of cash income for many families. Women do most of this labour. At a time when many in the Pacific are concerned about food security, including regional organisations like the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, it is vital to identify and strengthen new avenues for community survival. To better understand how home gardens can empower women in the context of disaster preparedness and local food security, researchers from RMIT University partnered with Honiara women’s group Vois Blong Mere, and engaged with women from two informal settlements in the city: Wind Valley and Jabros. Whilst there is plenty of land available for gardening in home provinces, women living in Honiara’s peri-urban areas reported limited access to suitable land. Access to gardens is also worsening due to rapid urbanisation and the growing numbers of houses making up Honiara’s burgeoning informal settlements. Many of the women who were interviewed maintain bush gardens, which in some cases can be as far as 90-minutes’ walk away; often involving the navigation of steep terrain. With many of the gardens located on customary land outside the municipal boundaries, some have negotiated access to gardens with the customary landowners, in some cases helping out the landowner with gardening labour in exchange for the use of land. Others – recognising the importance of permission – are unsure who actually owns the land. Produce grown in sup sup gardens are typically introduced ‘leafy greens’ species grown for family subsistence purposes, though this makes them vulnerable to pests. Cassava, banana, and yams were common varieties grown in bush gardens, though yams are less popular as they are considered particularly susceptible to damage by the invasive pest, the Giant African Snail. Cassava is a popular crop with the women as it doesn’t need much water and grows well on the slopes that make up much of the Greater Honiara area. Despite the value of gardens in enhancing local food security, women from the two settlements talked about the many challenges they faced in maintaining their gardens. The main problem raised by all women was one of personal security and feeling unsafe. Consequently, many women do their gardening in groups, or with family members, as a precaution. One interviewee in the Jabros community stated: “In town, the gardens are a bit far away … it is not very safe. I don’t feel safe going to the garden, because of the long walk. So when I see some other gardeners walking up there, I can follow them. We can all walk together.” Theft of crops – such as bananas – can be a problem, particularly when gardens are located close to settled areas. Environmental conditions also play a role, with instances of bush gardens being lost to landslides following heavy rainfall. A common complaint was poor quality soil, which deteriorates further if not left fallow. There were also instances of others ‘taking over’ the land during periods of inactivity. In the case of home gardens, the cost of constructing raised garden beds was considered prohibitive by some. Despite these challenges, many of the women interviewed expressed pride in their gardens and organic produce, and the ability to provide food and income for their families. The critical importance of sup sup and bush gardens for local subsistence and reliable access to food was brought into sharp relief by the introduction of the Solomon Islands COVID-19 State of Emergency. This led to the closure of Honiara’s informal ‘satellite’ markets, significantly disrupting the local cash economy. The consequences of these restrictions resulted in renewed community interest in urban gardens as a local food security option. This was further stimulated by the restart of government initiatives to support sup sup organic gardening activities – primarily though the provision of seeds and tools. One woman who benefited directly from these initiatives ended up sharing food and seedlings with others in the community: “So I planted my backyard garden, and then I ended up feeding most of the valley [laughs].” Non-government organisations also have important roles to play in promoting urban organic gardens as a way of building community resilience. Women from both Wind Valley and Jabros not only highlighted the need for practical items such as seeds and tools, but also the knowledge and training needed to build raised gardens and then maintain them. Kastom Gaden Association, a local civil society organisation, has not only provided seeds during the current period of restrictions in Honiara, but has also acted as a training provider and information centre for local communities. As noted by one of the women participants in the study, COVID-19 restrictions have emphasised the importance of urban gardens and the need for them to be seen in the context of ‘survival’. Moving forward, as the city continues to develop rapidly, protection of land for these gardens will be paramount for continuing local food security in the face of multiple shocks and stressors, including the impacts of a changing climate....PACNEWS
Marseille, FRANCE - September 7, 2021: 2.30pm (THE GUARDIAN): A third of shark and ray species have been overfished to near extinction, according to an eight-year scientific study. “Sharks and rays are the canary in the coalmine of overfishing. If I tell you that three-quarters of tropical and subtropical coastal species are threatened, just imagine a David Attenborough series with 75 percent of its predators gone. If sharks are declining, there’s a serious problem with fishing,” said the paper’s lead author, Prof Nicholas Dulvy, of Canada’s Simon Fraser University. The health of “entire ocean ecosystems” and food security was in jeopardy, said Dulvy, a former co-chair of the shark specialist group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The number of species of sharks, rays and chimaeras, known together as chondrichthyan fishes, facing “a global extinction crisis” has more than doubled in less than a decade, according to the paper published in the journal Current Biology. Rays are the most threatened, with 41 percent of 611 species studied at risk; 36 percent of 536 sharks species are at risk; and nine percent of 52 chimaera species. Dulvy said: “Our study reveals an increasingly grim reality, with these species now making up one of the most threatened vertebrate lineages, second only to the amphibians in the risks they face. “The widespread depletion of these fishes, particularly sharks and rays, jeopardises the health of entire ocean ecosystems and food security for many nations around the globe,” he said. The assessment is the second to be carried out since 2014 and comes after a study in January found shark and ray populations had crashed by more than 70 percent in the past 50 years, with previously widespread species such as hammerhead sharks facing extinction. Sharks, rays and chimaeras are vulnerable to overfishing because they grow slowly and produce few young. It has been estimated that 100 million sharks are killed by humans every year, overwhelming their slow reproductive capacity. Industrial fishing was a “key threat” to chondrichthyans, either on its own or in combination with other fisheries, the authors said. Most of the sharks and rays are taken “unintentionally”, but may be the “unofficial target” in many fisheries, the report said, and are retained for food and animal feed. Habitat loss and degradation, the climate crisis and pollution compound overfishing, the authors said. The species are disproportionately threatened in tropical and subtropical waters, especially off countries such as Indonesia and India, the experts found, because of very high demand from large coastal populations combined with mostly unregulated fisheries, often driven by demand for higher value products such as fins. Chondrichthyes have survived at least five mass extinctions in their 420m year history, according to the report. But, at least three species are now critically endangered and possibly extinct. The Java stingaree has not been recorded since 1868, the Red Sea torpedo ray since 1898 and the South China Sea’s lost shark has not been seen since 1934. Their disappearance would be the first time in the world marine species had become extinct because of overfishing. Colin Simpfendorfer, adjunct professor at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, said: “The tropics host incredible shark and ray diversity, but too many of these inherently vulnerable species have been heavily fished for more than a century by a wide range of fisheries that remain poorly managed, despite countless commitments to improve. “As a result, we fear we will soon confirm that one or more of these species has been driven to extinction from overfishing – a deeply troubling first for marine fishes,” he said. “We will work to make this study a turning point in efforts to prevent any more irreversible losses and secure long-term sustainability.” The experts, mainly from the IUCN shark specialist group, assessed 1,199 species and classified 391 in the IUCN threatened categories of critically endangered (90 species), endangered (121 species) or vulnerable (180 species). The most imperilled are sawfishes, giant guitarfishes, devil rays and pelagic eagle rays. More than three-quarters of species are threatened in the tropics and subtropical coasts – particularly in the northern Indian Ocean, western central and north-west Pacific Ocean – from Pakistan to Japan. The first global assessment in 2014 concluded that a quarter of chondrichthyan species were threatened. A third are now threatened with extinction. However, the authors added that for those species for which data was scarce, the figure rose to nearly two-fifths. Sonja Fordham, a co-author and president of Shark Advocates International, an Ocean Foundation project, said: “We were all aware that sharks were in trouble but there’s a lot more information now, as well as conservation measures and yet, compared to 2014, twice as many species are categorised as threatened. That’s alarming and shocking, even to experts.” While noting more conservation measures and commitments had been put in place, she called for urgent action by governments to limit fishing. “Time is running out for more and more shark and ray species,” Fordham said....PACNEWS
London, ENGLAND - September 7, 2021: 2.10pm (SPLASH247): As is customary when the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) gets ready to discuss green matters the battle lines between lobby groups and environmentalists harden. In a bid to set the agenda for November’s 77th gathering of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), the International Chamber of Shipping(ICS), backed by dry bulk association Intercargo, today revealed details of its proposal for a global carbon levy. However, the proposal’s lack of figures leaves it open to attack, especially with plenty of other competing proposals filling up the IMO secretariat’s inbox, including a more strict wishlist coming from the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands. MEPC 77 this year is taking place in the same month and same country as COP 26, the big annual global environmental debate, adding piquancy to the IMO gathering. It also comes as the European Union looks set to enact its own carbon trading rules on shipping. The ICS proposal for a global levy on carbon emissions from ships is claimed to be a first for any industrial sector. The levy would be based on mandatory, unspecified contributions by ships trading globally, exceeding 5,000 gt, for each tonne of CO2 emitted. The money would go into an IMO Climate Fund which, as well as closing the price gap between zero-carbon and conventional fuels, would be used to deploy the bunkering infrastructure required in ports throughout the world to supply fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia. “The carbon levy is intended to expedite the creation of a market that makes zero emission shipping viable,” ICS stated in a release. The fund would calculate the climate contributions to be made by ships, collect the contributions, and give evidence they have been made. ICS hopes that it would also support new bunkering infrastructure, so that new fuels, when developed, can be made available globally and from as many ports as possible. To minimise any burden on UN Member States and ensure the rapid establishment of the carbon levy, the framework proposed by industry would utilise the mechanism already proposed by the ICS for a separate US$5bn research and development fund to accelerate the development of zero-carbon technologies, which the IMO is scheduled to discuss again at MEPC. Guy Platten, secretary general of ICS, commented: “What shipping needs is a truly global market-based measure like this that will reduce the price gap between zero-carbon fuels and conventional fuels. The rapid development of such a mechanism is now a vital necessity if governments are to match actions with rhetoric and demonstrate continued leadership for the decarbonisation of shipping.” The ICS hit out once again at the EU plans to place shipping on the bloc’s emission trading scheme, suggesting that a “piecemeal approach” to market-based measures will ultimately fail to reduce global emissions from international shipping to the extent required by the Paris Agreement, whilst significantly complicating the conduct of maritime trade. With two months to go till MEPC, the volume of proposals flooding the IMO secretariat looks set to make for long, drawn out days of debate at IMO headquarters. One proposal that has drawn much discussion has come from the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands. The two nations, facing the threat of being wiped off the map by climate change, in March this year introduced the concept of a universal, mandatory greenhouse gas levy with an entry price of US$100 per tonne/CO2e with regular upward ratchets following review. Updating the proposal late last month, the two Pacific island states gave details of how they see this levy increasing going forward. The update suggests raising the US$100 CO2 levy annually or every five years by 30 percent or 100 percent. The proposal has been backed by eight Pacific island nations of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which met last week. In a communique, the CVF stated: “[I]n addition to being the only measure proposed that can drive a market transition to non-emitting fuels and technologies at the speed and scale needed for a 1.5°C agenda, the proposed entry price in 2025 of US$100/ton CO2e may raise revenues in the order of $90 billion per annum.” .... PACNEWS
NEW YORK/BONN – AUGUST 11, 2021: 12.05pm (UN NEWS CENTRE): Climate change is widespread, rapid, and intensifying, and some trends are now irreversible, at least during the present time frame, according to the latest much-anticipated Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released on Monday. Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Scientists are also observing changes across the whole of Earth’s climate system; in the atmosphere, in the oceans, ice floes, and on land. Many of these changes are unprecedented, and some of the shifts are in motion now, while some – such as continued sea level rise – are already ‘irreversible’ for centuries to millennia, ahead, the report warns. But there is still time to limit climate change, IPCC experts say. Strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases, could quickly make air quality better, and in 20 to 30 years global temperatures could stabilise. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the Working Group’s report was nothing less than “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable”. He noted that the internationally-agreed threshold of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels of global heating was “perilously close. We are at imminent risk of hitting 1.5 degrees in the near term. The only way to prevent exceeding this threshold, is by urgently stepping up our efforts, and persuing the most ambitious path. “We must act decisively now, to keep 1.5 alive.” The UN chief in a detailed reaction to the report, said that solutions were clear. “Inclusive and green economies, prosperity, cleaner air and better health are possible for all, if we respond to this crisis with solidarity and courage”, he said. He added that ahead of the crucial COP26 climate conference in Glasgow in November, all nations – especiall the advanced G20 economies – needed to join the net zero emissions coaltion, and reinforce their promises on slowing down and reversing global heating, “with credible, concrete, and enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)” that lay out detailed steps. The report, prepared by 234 scientists from 66 countries, highlights that human influence has warmed the climate at a rate that is unprecedented in at least the last 2,000 years. In 2019, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher than at any time in at least 2 million years, and concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide were higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years. Global surface temperature has increased faster since 1970 than in any other 50-year period over a least the last 2,000 years. For example, temperatures during the most recent decade (2011–2020) exceed those of the most recent multi-century warm period, around 6,500 years ago, the report indicates. Meanwhile, global mean sea level has risen faster since 1900, than over any preceding century in at least the last 3,000 years. The document shows that emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities are responsible for approximately 1.1°C of warming between 1850-1900, and finds that averaged over the next 20 years, global temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5°C of heating. The IPCC scientists warn global warming of 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century. Unless rapid and deep reductions in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades, achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement “will be beyond reach”. The assessment is based on improved data on historical warming, as well as progress in scientific understanding of the response of the climate system to human-caused emissions. “It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” said IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair, Valérie Masson-Delmotte. “Yet the new report also reflects major advances in the science of attribution – understanding the role of climate change in intensifying specific weather and climate events”. The experts reveal that human activities affect all major climate system components, with some responding over decades and others over centuries. Scientists also point out that evidence of observed changes in extremes such as heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, and their attribution to human influence, has strengthened. They add that many changes in the climate system become larger in direct relation to increasing global warming. This includes increases in the frequency and intensity of heat extremes, marine heatwaves, and heavy precipitation; agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions; the proportion of intense tropical cyclones; as well as reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost. The report makes clear that while natural drivers will modulate human-caused changes, especially at regional levels and in the near term, they will have little effect on long-term global warming. The IPCC experts project that in the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions. For 1.5°C of global warming, there will be increasing heat waves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons. At 2°C of global warming, heat extremes are more likely to reach critical tolerance thresholds for agriculture and health. But it won’t be just about temperature. For example, climate change is intensifying the natural production of water – the water cycle. This brings more intense rainfall and associated flooding, as well as more intense drought in many regions. It is also affecting rainfall patterns. In high latitudes, precipitation is likely to increase, while it is projected to decrease over large parts of the subtropics. Changes to monsoon rain patterns are expected, which will vary by region, the report warns. Moreover, coastal areas will see continued sea level rise throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century. The report also indicates that further warming will amplify permafrost thawing, and the loss of seasonal snow cover, melting of glaciers and ice sheets, and loss of summer Arctic sea ice. Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels, affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them, and they will continue throughout at least the rest of this century. Experts warn that for cities, some aspects of climate change may be magnified, including heat, flooding from heavy precipitation events and sea level rise in coastal cities. Furthermore, IPCC scientists caution that low-likelihood outcomes, such as ice sheet collapse or abrupt ocean circulation changes, cannot be ruled out. “Stabilising the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” highlights IPCC Working Group I Co-Chair Panmao Zhai. The report explains that from a physical science perspective, limiting human-induced global warming to a specific level requires limiting cumulative carbon dioxide emissions, reaching at least net zero CO2 emissions, along with strong reductions in other greenhouse gas emissions. “Strong, rapid and sustained reductions in methane emissions would also limit the warming effect resulting from declining aerosol pollution”, IPCC scientists underscore. Multiple, recent climate disasters including devastating flooding in central China and western Europe have focused public attention as never before, suggested Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “As citizens and as businesses and as governments, we are well aware of the drama,” she said “The drama exists, we have seen it and we heard about it in every news bulletin. And that’s what we need to understand, that the expression of what the science says is exhibited before our very eyes, and of course what this excellent report does is, it projects those scenarios outward, and tells us, if we do not take action, what could be the potential outcomes, or if we do take action, what will be a very good outcome.” Apart from the urgent need for climate mitigation, “it is essential to pay attention to climate adaptation”, said the WMO chief, Peteri Taalas, “since the negative trend in climate will continue for decades and in some cases for thousands of years. “One powerful way to adapt is to invest in early warning, climate and water services”, he said.”Only half of the 193 members of WMO have such services in place, which means more human and economic losses. We have also severe gaps in weather and hydrological observing networks in Africa, some parts of Latin America and in Pacific and Caribbean island states, which has a major negative impact on the accuracy of weather forecasts in those areas, but also worldwide. “The message of the IPCC report is crystal clear: we have to raise the ambition level of mitigation.” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in 1988 to provide political leaders with periodic scientific assessments concerning climate change, its implications and risks, as well as to put forward adaptation and mitigation strategies. In the same year the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by the WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC. It has 195 member states. Thousands of people from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC. For the assessment reports, IPCC scientists volunteer their time to assess the thousands of scientific papers published each year to provide a comprehensive summary of what is known about the drivers of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and how adaptation and mitigation can reduce those risks.
By ILIESA TORA Nuku’alofa – August 11, 2021: 11.20am (PEJN): We are on the brink of a climate catastrophe, and the time to act is now, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna said on Monday. In a statement released from Suva, Mr Puna said our planet is in trouble and countries need to seriously act now before it is too late. He made the statement following the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC) Working Group 1 Report. Mr Puna said the report confirmed “what the Blue Pacific already knows to be true – our planet is in the throes of a human-induced climate crisis, and we have lost the luxury of time. On the current trajectory, we are on track to exceed the 1.5-degree limit on global warning by 2040”. “Of major concern for the Blue Pacific Continent and the future of our island homes, is the fact sea levels could rise by two metres by 2100 and a disastrous five metres by 2150. The report also found that extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century. To put this into perspective, this will result in the loss of millions of lives, homes and livelihoods across the Pacific and the world,” he said. “We are on the brink of a climate catastrophe, with a narrow window to act. Governments, big business, the major emitters of the world can no longer ignore the voices of those already enduring this unfolding existential crisis. They can no longer choose rhetoric over action. There are simply no more excuses to be had. Our actions today will have consequences now and into the future for all of us to bear.” He said the 2019 Kainaki Lua Declaration from our Pacific Island Forum Leaders continues as our clarion call for urgent climate action. “Not later. Not when we decide we are ready. But now,” Mr Pun said. “Collectively, humanity has a choice to make this a turning point to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius, or rather hit a tipping point and face irreversible and catastrophe climate change impacts. “We can turn this around. But only if we act now. Forum Leaders have upped the ante in 2021 with their recent issue of the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise – a strong and decisive step in efforts to secure our Blue Pacific home now and into perpetuity. “World leaders, like our Pacific leaders, must affirm climate change as the single greatest threat facing all humanity and act with urgency to implement the Paris Agreement at COP 26 this November. We know what needs to be done, how it will happen, and who must act. The 6th IPCC Assessment Report shows us that the science is clear. We know the scale of the climate crisis we are facing. We also have the solutions to avoid the worst of climate change impacts. What we need now is political leadership and momentum to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.” Mr Puna said the upcoming COP 26 must be a turning point to deliver major emissions reductions and the necessary financial support for vulnerable countries to build resilience and adapt to climate change impacts. “We have only one planet and one final opportunity to ensure its survival. We must leave a future for our children to inherit. The net-zero future of our one Blue Pacific Continent and this one Blue Planet is still -albeit barely–within reach. But only if the world takes ambitious and decisive climate action, now,” he added.
By ILIESA TORA Nuku’alofa – June 21, 2021: 5.05pm (PEJN): The United States of America is serious about playing its part in the work to achieve the Paris Agreement targets under the leadership of President Joe Biden. This was restated by Mr Jonathan Pershing, the Senior Advisor to the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change, John Kerry in a briefing to foreign journalists who were part of a Foreign Virtual Tour organized by the US State Department and the Washington Foreign Press Center on May 11. “The Biden team has been in for just over three months, almost four months now, and the framework had a couple of different pieces. The President announced early in his term, and certainly ran in part on this as a campaign platform, that he intended to really take seriously the climate agenda and to address it with a great deal of urgency,” Mr Pershing said. “Among other things, he put the United States back into the Paris agreement, we have begun to work on our own long-term strategy, and we held a summit of leaders from the world on the 22nd of April, on Earth Day, to really bring to the attention of the world our intent, and to help catalyze what we thought could be additional actions globally. “We announced our own new target at that meeting. We committed ourselves to a 50 to 52 percent reduction below 2005 levels by the year 2030. “That’s a significant increase from where we had been before. We are driving toward a commitment to get to net zero by 2050. We are driving towards actions that the President has put into executive orders that call for decarbonizing the U.S. electricity system by 2035 by installing significant numbers of charging stations or electric vehicles, by putting in place building efficiency programs, and by putting resources to rebuild the American economy post-COVID and rebuild our infrastructure in ways that are low or zero-carbon.” Mr Jonathan Pershing, the Senior Advisor to the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change Mr Pershing said that a lot of times people forget about the urgency of the problem and the seriousness of it. He said that was because of the lack of confidence and the certainty about the problem. “One of the things that I think that all of us are aware of but often gets lost in some of the conversation is the urgency of the problem and the confidence that we have about the seriousness of it. And the reason I use the word “confidence” is that people often say that we’re not certain, that perhaps it isn’t as bad as all that. Maybe there’s other information we haven’t looked at yet. Maybe it’s a natural set of events. And the answer is that it’s not, and that the science is explicit and clear,” he said. “We are currently on a trajectory, in the absence of people’s policies and technologies, on a trajectory to see several degrees of warming. That’s degrees centigrade. And that warming is a function of the kinds of things we do in our day-to-day living. It’s how we use energy. It’s how we grow our crops. It’s the normal course of industrialization, which has provided substantial benefits but at the same time has led to some real damages and some real costs and consequences. “That doesn’t sound like a very big temperature difference. For most of us, we live in places where that might be not even very much in terms of a day to nighttime change. And so you look at this temperature and you say, what’s a degree or two?” He told the journalists that the last time the world had that kind of a significant change in temperature, huge areas were either under ice when it was colder or were covered by water when it was slightly warmer. These are massive shifts when you look at global averages. And it’s happening at a rate that’s faster than anything we’ve ever seen in geological history. “It’s moving very, very quickly, much faster than communities and people can adapt. And if you look at the consequences, we’re seeing them today,” he said. “We’re seeing costs in terms of wildfires. The California wildfires are extraordinary. They are killing enormous numbers of people. They’re destroying communities. They’re destroying habitat and wildlife. And they are mirrored by wildfires in Australia, and those are mirrored by wildfires in the steppes of Russia, and those are mirrored by wildfires in the Amazon, which we’ve almost never seen before. “ The harsh reality of global warming. Vanuatu veachfront. Photo: Islands Magazine These are consequences of climate changing along with increasing intensity of storms, typhoons of category 5 that used to never really exist which are much more frequent. These change shave also affected things like zoonotic diseases that come as people encroach on those wild areas and also as the disease vectors move because the temperature has changed and the precipitation has changed. These are things that are leading to increase not only in things like malaria and the Zika virus. He said that there is a high possibility that in some parts of the world – a number of countries in the Middle East, as an example – become too hot and humid, where human life is not sustainable out of doors without protection. This is because the combination of temperature and humidity is predicted to be too hot for a person to cool him or herself without an air conditioner. “That’s extraordinary. We don’t have places in the world that are like that. And by 2030 or 2050, to expect that to be a number of days per year means you cannot live outside in those places, and that’s a remarkable shift,” he said. “And if we look at the amount of global built infrastructure within a meter – three feet – of sea level and look at sea level rise, it’s an untenable thing to imagine a meter or two or three meters of sea level rise, and yet that’s in some of the projections and scenarios. So the rationale for action is incredibly powerful, and I think that’s got to be framed.” Mr Pershing said that the second thing people often think that it is not doable. But he said the world knows what to do and how it can be done now. “We do know how to do this. We do know how to make the shifts and what’s required. In some sense, the direction of travel is known – you have to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that come from energy primarily, but also from land use and forestry and from industrial activities. That’s pretty clear. We know what we have to do,” he said. “We’re increasingly also able to point to ways you can deliver those outcomes at relatively marginal costs, and certainly if you look at the damages from climate and weigh those against the costs of action, the costs of actions, they’re quite modest, but damages are very, very large. So in net, in balance, the world is much, much better served by taking those actions. But even on a specific level, we’re seeing real progress. “So, for example, if we think about this as partly an energy problem and partly as a carbon-intensive energy problem, that’s a combination of coal, oil, and gas used for power, for transportation, for industrial heat, and we have solutions for all of those. “If we look at the power sector, in much of the world today the price of a zero-emitting renewable energy alternative is cheaper than almost any fossil alternative. That’s true in almost all cases for new construction and it’s increasingly true for existing infrastructure, where, in fact, it would cost you less to build something new and operate it – a solar plant, a wind turbine, maybe sometimes run a river hydro, maybe geothermal – it would cost you less to build and run that new plant than to keep the old one running. “That’s a real shift. These are things that have happened because of a tenfold or greater decrease in price of solar and wind just in the last decade or two. “That’s changing the economic dynamics. We’re also seeing in the transport sector some real alternatives. We’ve always known that things like mass transit really work well, particularly in high, dense city environments, and those are things that we need to do more of and we’re seeing cities around the world build that out. But we’re increasingly finding ways to look at alternatives to gasoline vehicles, and where we haven’t got an alternative, to radically improve efficiency.” Mr Pershing said that these are things that can save consumers a great deal of money as well as being opportunities to reduce environmental damages. And the damages are not just about climate. “They’re about air quality. They’re about toxics. They’re about the life cycle of maintaining systems and leading to better qualities of lives. “If we look at countries in Asia, which have among the worst air quality in the world, some of the shifts that will benefit climate will also improve local air quality, will include local water quality. Those kinds of opportunities are ones that we now see. And we’ve got a series of analyses that give us pathways to this future and talk about where we have to go and how we succeed.” Mr Pershing said that the new Biden Administration is serious about these issues and wants to work with all major partners around the globe in ensuring that the agreed framework works. He said the United Kingdom has been working on this aggressively and have moved forward, announcing more than 75 percent reduction by 2030. Some countries are looking at 2045 for zero. “These are incredible numbers that we’re seeing. We’re seeing major new commitments that had been announced at the summit coming from around the world, some places that you’d anticipate, places that have been leaders in this agenda for a long time – some of the leaders in Latin America, a Costa Rica, a Colombia really pushing forward – but we also saw from Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil a statement around his intent to work at zero and to reduce deforestation,” Mr Pershing said. “We’ve seen commitments from Russia, which historically has not been very forward-leading, really making some new announcements by President Putin. We’ve seen some statements from China about – at our summit – their intent to look at more stringent controls on coal and a phasedown after 2025. These kinds of things are directionally correct. “Can we implement them? How do we think about the rest of the world and where does it go? And part of what we have to do is think: What are the discrete tasks? Are we seeing that forthcoming? How do we finance it? Where is the technology capacity going to be built? What are the domestic policies that have to be developed in order to make that work? And how do we pull those pieces together?” Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 Mr Pershing believes the world is able to deliver. “I’m not aware of any prior circumstance where a year after a pandemic there is a vaccine, not yet adequately or widely enough available, but we actually created a vaccine from nothing in the span of a year and are beginning to get it out there, and countries have put literally trillions of dollars of assets into rebuilding their economies. “We know how to do things at scale, and we’ve just demonstrated it. We have to apply that vision and that capacity to this problem, which is perhaps as existential, if not more so, for the global community. “So our agenda – ours in the U.S. as we work domestically, ours as we work as part of a global community, ours in the global context – is to try to solve that problem and do so with as much speed and efficacy as we can and not leave people behind. “Because we should be clear, there is a transition here. And the transition can’t afford to leave people out. It’s a transition that can’t leave people out in our country, who are underserved and more vulnerable. It can’t leave out those same communities around the world who did very little to contribute to the emissions surplus but are going to be the – reap the difficulties of the change in climate and who we need to be assisting and facilitating as they make their own transition to a low-climate-, low-carbon-impact world.” The author was selected as one of the foreign journalists to be part of the 2021 US State Department Foreign Press Center Virtual Tour.