Inter Press Service » CLIMATE SOUTH: Developing Countries Coping With Climate Change News and Views from the Global South Mon, 29 May 2017 00:46:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kenya’s Climate Change Bill Aims to Promote Low Carbon Growth Mon, 27 Jul 2015 16:33:27 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu A geothermal drilling rig at the Menengai site in Kenya's Rift Valley to exploit energy which is more sustainable than that produced from fossil fuels. A Climate Change Bill now before the Kenyan parliament seeks to provide the legal and institutional framework for mitigation and adaption to the effects of climate change.  Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

A geothermal drilling rig at the Menengai site in Kenya's Rift Valley to exploit energy which is more sustainable than that produced from fossil fuels. A Climate Change Bill now before the Kenyan parliament seeks to provide the legal and institutional framework for mitigation and adaption to the effects of climate change. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
NAIROBI, Jul 27 2015 (IPS)

Alexander Muyekhi, a construction worker from Ebubayi village in the heart of Vihiga County in Western Kenya, and his school-going children can now enjoy a tiny solar kit supplied by the British-based Azuri Technologies to light their house and play their small FM radio.

This has saved the family from use of kerosene tin-lamps, which are dim and produce unfriendly smoke, but many other residents in the village – and elsewhere in the country – are not so lucky because they cannot afford the 1000 shillings (10 dollars) deposit for the kit, and 80 weekly instalments of 120 shillings (1.2 dollars).

“Such climate-friendly kits are very important, particularly for the rural poor,” said Philip Kilonzo, Technical Advisor for Natural Resources & Livelihoods at ActionAid International Kenya. “But for families who survive on less than a dollar per day, it becomes a tall order for them to pay the required deposit, as well as the weekly instalments.”“Once it [Climate Change Bill] becomes law, we will deliberately use it as a legal instrument to reduce or exempt taxes on such climate-friendly gadgets and on projects that are geared towards low carbon growth” - Dr Wilbur Ottichilo, Kenyan MP

It was due to such bottlenecks that Dr Wilbur Ottichilo, a member of parliament for Emuhaya constituency in Western Kenya, and chair of the Parliamentary Network on Renewable Energy and Climate Change, moved a motion in parliament to enact a Climate Change Bill, which has already been discussed, and is now being subjected to public scrutiny before becoming law.

“Once it becomes law, we will deliberately use it as a legal instrument to reduce or exempt taxes on such climate-friendly gadgets and on projects that are geared towards low carbon growth,” said Ottichilo.

While Kenya makes a low net contribution to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the country’s Draft National Climate Change Framework Policy notes that a significant number of priority development initiatives will impact on the country’s levels of emissions.

In collaboration with development partners, the country is already investing in increased geothermal electricity in the energy sector to counter this situation, switching movement of freight from road to rail in the transport sector, reforestation in the forestry sector, and agroforestry in the agricultural sector.

“With a legal framework in place, it will be possible to increase such projects that are geared towards mitigating and adapting to the impacts of climate change,” said Ottichilo.

The Climate Change Bill seeks to provide the legal and institutional framework for mitigation and adaption to the effects of climate change, to facilitate and enhance response to climate change and to provide guidance and measures for achieving low carbon climate-resilient development.

“We received the Bill from the National Assembly towards the end of March, we studied it for possible amendments, and we subjected it to public scrutiny as required by the constitution before it was read in the senate for the second time on Jul. 22, 2015,” Ekwee Ethuro, Speaker of the Senate, told IPS.

“After this, we are going to return it to the National Assembly so that it can be forwarded to the president for signing it into law.”

The same bill was first rejected by former President Mwai Kibaki on the grounds that there had been a lack of public involvement in its creation. “We are very careful this time not to repeat the same mistake,” said Ethuro.

Under the law, a National Climate Change Council is to be set up which, among others, will coordinate the formulation of national and county climate change action plans, strategies and policies, and make them available to the public.

“This law is a very important tool for civil society and all other players because it will give us an opportunity to manage and even fund-raise for climate change adaptation and mitigation projects,” said, John Kioli, chair of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG).

Evidence of climate change in Kenya is based on statistical analysis of trends in historical records of temperature, rainfall, sea level rise, mountain glacier coverage, and climate extremes.

Temperature and rainfall records from the Kenya Meteorological Department over the last 50 years provide clear evidence of climate change in Kenya, with temperatures generally showing increasing trends in many parts of the country starting from the early 1960s. This has also been confirmed by data in the State of the Environment reports published by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).

As a result, the country now experiences prolonged droughts, unreliable rainfall patterns, floods, landslides and many more effects of climate change, which experts say will worsen with time.

Furthermore, 83 percent of Kenya’s landmass is either arid or semi-arid, making the country even more vulnerable to climate change, whose impacts cut across diverse aspects of society, economy, health and the environment.

“We seek to embrace climate-friendly food production systems such as use of greenhouses, we need to minimise post-harvest losses and food wastages, and we need to adapt to new climate friendly technologies,” said Ottichilo. “All these will work very well for us once we have a supporting legal environment.”

Edited by Phil Harris

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Renewable Energy: The Untold Story of an African Revolution Sat, 13 Dec 2014 09:32:55 +0000 Wambi Michael By Wambi Michael
LIMA, Dec 13 2014 (IPS)

Africa is experiencing a revolution towards cleaner energy through renewable energy but the story has hardly been told to the world, says Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Steiner, who had been advocating for renewable energy at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, said Africa is on the right path toward a low carbon footprint by tapping into its plentiful renewable resources – hydro, geothermal, solar and wind.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

“There is a revolution going on in the continent of Africa and the world is not noticing it. You can go to Egypt, Ethiopia Kenya, Namibia, and Mozambique. I think we will see renewable energy being the answer to Africa’s energy problems in the next fifteen years,” Steiner said in an interview with IPS.

Sharing the example of the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, Steiner told IPS that the decision was taken that “if UNEP is going to be centred with its offices in the African continent on the Equator, there can be reason why we are not using renewable energy. So we installed photovoltaic panels on our roof which we share with UN Habitat, 1200 people, and we produce 750,000 kilowatt hours of electricity every year, that is enough for the entire building to operate.”

He noted that although it will take UNEP between eight and 10 years to pay off the installation, UNEP will have over 13 years of electricity without paying monthly or annual power bills. “It is the best business proposition that a U.N. body has ever made in terms of paying for electricity for a building,” he said.

According to Steiner, the “revolution” is already happening in East Africa, especially in Kenya and Ethiopia which are both targeting renewable energy, especially geothermal energy.

“Kenya plans to triple its electricity generation up to about 6000 megawatts in the next five years. More than 90 percent of the planned power is to come from geothermal, solar and wind power,” he said. “If you are in Africa and decide to exploit your wind, solar and geothermal resources, you will get yourself freedom from the global energy markets, and you will connect the majority of your people without waiting for thirty years until the power lines cross every corner of the country” – Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director

Kenya currently runs a geothermal power development corporation which invites tenders from private investors bid and is establishing a wind power firm likely to be the largest in Africa with a capacity of 350 megawatts of power under a public-private partnership.

In Ethiopia, expansion of the Aluto-Langano geothermal power plant will increase geothermal generation capacity from the current 7 MW to 70 MW. The expansion project is being financed by the Ethiopian government (10 million dollars), a 12 million dollar grant from the Government of Japan, and a 13 million dollar loan from the World Bank.

Renewable energy has costs but also benefits

Phillip Hauser, Vice President of GDF Suez Energy Latin America, told IPS that geothermal power is a good option for countries in Africa with that potential, but it comes with risks.

“It is very site-dependent. There can be geothermal projects that are relatively cost efficient and there are others that are relatively expensive. It is a bit like the oil and gas industry. You have to find the resource and you have to develop the resource. Sometimes you might drill and you don’t find anything – that is lost investment,” Hauser told IPS.

Steiner admitted that like any other investment, renewable energy has some limitations, including the need for upfront initial capital and the cost of technology, but he said that countries with good renewable energy policies would attract the necessary private investments.

“We are moving in a direction where Africa will not have to live in a global fuel market in which one day you have to pay 120 dollars for a barrel of crude oil, then the next day you get it at 80 dollars and before you know it, it is doubled,” he said.

“So if you are in Africa and decide to exploit your wind, solar and geothermal resources, you will get yourself freedom from the global energy markets, and you will connect the majority of your people without waiting for thirty years until the power lines cross every corner of the country,”Steiner added.

A recent assessment by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) of Africa’s renewable energy future found that solar and wind power potential existed in at least 21 countries, and biomass power potential in at least 14 countries.

The agency, which supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, has yet to provide a list of countries with geothermal power potential but almost all the countries around the Great Rift Valley in south-eastern Africa – Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania among others – have already identified geothermal sites, with Kenya being the first to use a geothermal site to add power to its grid.

Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin told IPS that the agency’s studies shows that not only can renewable energy meet the world’s rising demand, but it can do so more cheaply, while contributing to limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius – the widely-cited tipping point in the climate change debate.

He said the good news in Africa is that apart from the resources that exist, there is a growing body of knowledge across African expert institutions that would help the continent to exploit its virgin renewable energy potential.

What is needed now, he explained, is for countries in Africa to develop the economic case for those resources supported by targeted government policies to help developers and financiers get projects off the ground.

The IRENA assessment found that in 2010, African countries imported 18 billion dollars’ worth of oil – more than the entire amount they received in foreign aid – while oil subsidies in Africa cost an estimated 50 billion dollars every year.

New financing models for renewable energy

According to Amin, renewable energy technologies are now the most economical solution for off-grid and mini-grid electrification in remote areas, as well as for grid extension in some cases of centralised grid supply.

He argued that rapid technological progress, combined with falling costs, a better understanding of financial risk and a growing appreciation of wider benefits mean that renewable energy would increasingly be the solution to Africa’s energy problem.

In this context, Africa could take on new financing models that “de-risk” investments in order to lower the cost of capital, which has historically been a major barrier to investment in renewable energy, and one such model would include encouragement for green bonds.

“Green bonds are the recent innovation for renewable energy investments,” said Amin. “Last year we reached about 14 billion dollars, this year there is an estimate of about 40 billion, and next year there is an estimate of about 100 billion dollars in green finance through green bonds. Why doesn’t Africa take advantage of those?” he asked.

During the conference in Lima, activist groups have been urging an end to dependence on fossil fuel- and nuclear-powered energy systems, calling for investment and policies geared toward building clean, sustainable, community-based energy solutions.

“We urgently need to decrease our energy consumption and push for a just transition to community-controlled renewable energy if we are to avoid devastating climate change,” said Susann Scherbarth, a climate justice and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe.

Godwin Ojo, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, told IPS that “we urgently need a transition to clean energy in developing countries and one of the best incentives is globally funded feed-in tariffs for renewable energy.”

He said policies that support feed-in tariffs and decentralized power sources should be embraced by both the most- and the least-developed nations.

Backed by a new discussion paper on a ‘global renewable energy support programme’ from the What Next Forum, activists called for decentralised energy systems – including small-scale wind, solar, biomass mini-grids communities that are not necessarily connected to a national electricity transmission grid.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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Q&A: Why Kyoto’s Clean Development Mechanism is at a Crossroads Thu, 04 Dec 2014 20:09:49 +0000 Wambi Michael “The big picture is that the CDM is at a crossroads. The markets have collapsed” – Hugh Sealy, CDM Executive Board Chair. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

“The big picture is that the CDM is at a crossroads. The markets have collapsed” – Hugh Sealy, CDM Executive Board Chair. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

By Wambi Michael
LIMA, Dec 4 2014 (IPS)

The U.N. mechanism for supporting carbon emissions projects in developing countries – the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – is in crisis as a result of a dramatic slump in the prices being paid for carbon credits.

The CDM, which deals in Certified Emission Reductions (CERs), is faced with possible collapse because demand in recent years from the principal buyers – countries tasked with emission reduction obligations under the Kyoto Protocol – has dropped, because emission reduction targets have not risen significantly and because economic growth has slowed. “The mechanism [Clean Development Mechanism] has so far led to the registration of 7,800 projects and programmes across 107 developing countries with hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, resulting in 1.5 billion fewer tonnes of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere” – Hugh Sealy, CDM Executive Board Chair

The CDM Executive Board and its members at the ongoing (Dec. 1-12) U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, have been trying to convince negotiators there to renew their commitment to the mechanism, which has existed for the last ten years. Hugh Sealy, Chair of the CDM, answered questions from IPS on what has gone wrong and what needs to be done.

Q:  Can you give us the big picture of the Clean Development Mechanism today?

A:  The big picture is that the CDM is at a crossroads. The markets have collapsed. The price of CERs has fallen to about 0.30 a dollar compared with over 30 dollars five years ago.

Q:  What has been achieved so far?

A:  The mechanism has so far led to the registration of 7,800 projects and programmes across 107 developing countries with hundreds of billions of dollars in investment, resulting in 1.5 billion fewer tonnes of greenhouse  gases entering the atmosphere.

Q:  Where was the problem for the CDM?

A:  The beginning of the trouble for the CDM – and this is my personal feeling – was the European Union’s 2009 directive [to strictly limit the permissibility of international credits and ban them altogether from 2020] which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2013. You have a situation where you have one buyer – the European Union. Japan has decided to create its own system, the JCR, Australia has gone its own way, Canada has gone its own way, and the United States has never bothered either. So if you have system where the European Union as our major buyer is going to exclude all other units, then the market is not going to take a lot of them. And that is when the prices begin to drop.

Q:  So you think you should have had a regulated market for CERs?

A:  A market for CERs, which are not like any other commodity, should have had a floor. While others had a floor for theirs, we never had a floor on ours.  Yet now the World Bank is saying that we should create some sort of market reserve fund that can suck all this excess credit. They say about three billion dollars may be required to suck up this excess. And I don’t see it as a problem of excess CERs. I see it as lack of demand for CERs. I mean, look at all the CERs that we have generated. We have 1.5 gigatonnes of emission reductions. The emissions gap is 10 gigatonnes per year. So to me, the essential and radical demand remains for a market system.

Q:  The CDM Executive board has been fronting voluntary cancelling as a possible option for creating demand for CERS. What is the idea behind that?

A:  The idea is that anyone. Even you as the media, me as an individual, a company, a government can purchase and cancel CERs immediatelyBut we have no idea what demand we will have for voluntary cancellation. So I cannot tell you that as a result of voluntary cancellation we will see an immediate upsurge in the price of CERs. But we as a board think this is the right thing to do. To make CERs available to anyone who wants to reduce their carbon footprint.

The other thing that we are looking at is what services we provide. And we believe we have a very robust Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system for determining actual emission reductions.

And what we see is that a number of financial institutions like the World Bank, the Global Environmental Facility and the Green Climate Fund are allocating quite a bit of their portfolios to what they call performance-based finance or result-based finance. And we are in dialogue with these institutions asking them to use the CDM, use the MRV that we provide, to ensure that the CERs that you put your loans out for are actually achieved.

Q:  That may not take off and possibly is not sustainable. What would be the lasting solution?

A:  We need a clear decision here in Lima, and Paris [in 2015] in particular, as to what the role of an international offset mechanism will be in a new climate regime. We need parties, particularly the developed countries, to raise their level of ambition and to create more demand for CERs. And outside that, we are searching for non-traditional markets through voluntary cancellation.

Q:  What are the implications of this development for least developing countries and least developed small island states?

A:  If I was a developer, and I’m from one of those countries, I would hold on to my CERs. I would not seek to enter a purchase agreement at this time. Not at thirty cents. I’m an optimist. I believe the price of CERs must go up.

There is a fundamental arithmetic that I’m working with and that is that the emissions gap is about ten gigatonnes per year and is only getting wider at this point.  So if countries decide that markets will be vital component of the Paris agreement, then I cannot see how the price of CERs can remain at thirty cents. It can only go up. It is absolutely frustrating for small island states like Jamaica that already have registered CER projects. It is extremely frustrating for countries in Africa.

Q:  If the CDM was to collapse today, what would we lose?

A:  We would lose ten years of experience, ten years of learning by doing. Those who think that they can abandon the CDM and create a new market mechanism in the interim are not facing reality.

It took a very long time to create the CDM and to get it to the stage we are at now.  So my answer to your question is that we will lose quite a lot. I cannot give you a monetary number or a dollar value of what we will all lose in investment. There are over 4,500 organisations in the world that deal with the CDM.

Q:  What can be done by countries at the negotiations going on here in Peru if, in the past, such negotiations have produced a pioneering model like CDM that has to some extent worked as you seem to indicate?

A: They can increase their demand for CERs before 2020, recognise the value that the CDM can add to emerging emissions trading systems, and recognise the mechanism’s obvious value to the international response to climate change after the new agreement takes force in 2020.

This is one of the most effective instruments governments have created under the U.N. Climate Change Convention. It drives and encourages emission reductions, climate finance, technology transfer, capacity-building, sustainable development, and adaptation – everything that countries themselves are asking for from the new Paris agreement.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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OPINION: Renewable Energies – a Double-Edged Sword Sat, 25 Oct 2014 06:16:24 +0000 Dr. Bradnee Chambers Over a dozen huge windmills line the roadside of the town of Jhimpir, close to Karachi, in the Sindh province. Credit: Farooq Ahmed/IPS

Over a dozen huge windmills line the roadside of the town of Jhimpir, close to Karachi, in the Sindh province. Credit: Farooq Ahmed/IPS

By Bradnee Chambers
BONN, Oct 25 2014 (IPS)

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has set a target of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2. One way countries can meet their obligations is to switch energy production from the burning of fossil fuels to “renewables”, generally understood to include wind, wave, tidal, hydro, solar and geothermal power and biomass. 

They have a dual advantage: first, they do not create by-products responsible for global warming and climate change; and secondly, they are non-consumptive, drawing on primary energy sources that are to all intents and purposes inexhaustible.

Why then is the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), which is holding its triennial policy conference next month in Quito, Ecuador, rocking the boat by publishing a review highlighting the serious environmental threats posed by the new technologies? Renewables provide many of the answers but they need to be deployed sensitively and not indiscriminately, so that our efforts to keep the atmosphere clean and planet cool do not come at a price that our wildlife cannot afford to pay.

First and foremost, CMS is not joining the climate sceptics’ camp. There is ample evidence of the effects climate change is having on migratory animals.

The Convention has long been grappling with this issue. The Convention and the vulnerable species it protects need climate change to be halted or at least slowed down so that adaptation measures can be developed.

Climate change just adds to the threats migratory species currently face. This includes threats posed by the fishing gear responsible for by-catch of seabirds, turtles and dolphins; and the demand for luxury products that result in the wasteful practice of shark finning and the fuelling of the massacre of elephants and rhinos for ivory and horn. And then there is marine debris, bird poisoning and illegal trapping – the list goes on.

Climate change is opening several new fronts in the conservation war by causing habitat change and loss; by affecting gender ratios in species such as marine turtles; and by altering species’ behaviour with some not migrating at all, others leaving their breeding grounds later and returning earlier, while some are extending their range displacing other species less capable of adapting.

So why is CMS not rejoicing at the news that wave energy installations, tidal barrages, solar panels and wind farms on land and at sea are being developed at unprecedented rates? CMS would give a hearty cheer if these new technologies reduce as promised the human-induced drivers of climate change.

However, the report commissioned by the Convention, together with the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, the International Renewable Energy Agency and BirdLife International, explains the prudent reaction from conservationists, as it illustrates how renewable energies are a double-edged sword – a cure for some ills afflicting the world but with potentially severe side-effects for wildlife.

Hydro-power relies on dams – technological wonders in many cases – but essentially barriers across rivers preventing migratory species such as salmon from reaching their spawning grounds. The changes to water flow and levels both up and downstream of the dams can drastically transform habitats. The human inhabitants displaced when their homes were flooded were given ample warning and compensation; not so the wildlife.

Wind power is harnessed through turbines, which take a huge toll of wildlife through collisions. The rotor blades of wind turbines are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of bats and birds a year, to the detriment of the ecological services these useful insectivores provide by devouring as many as 1,000 mosquitoes a night, reducing the need to use chemical pesticides.

The construction, operation and maintenance of turbines are also negative factors, especially in marine wind farms – noise whirring of the rotors can all disturb whale and dolphin species which are particularly sensitive to sound.

Biomass production leads to habitat loss and degradation affecting birds and terrestrial mammals. Large plantations lead to monocultures and a loss of habitat diversity and thus reduce the number of species that a given area can support.

Solar, wave and tidal power similarly have their drawbacks, but the guidelines accompanying the report point the way to constructing renewable energy installations in ways that eliminate or at least reduce their impacts on migrating mammals such as birds, dolphins, porpoises and fish and their habitats.

There is no silver bullet to deliver a perfect solution to the problems of our growing demand for energy and of producing it in ways that do not damage the environment in one form or another. Renewables provide many of the answers but they need to be deployed sensitively and not indiscriminately, so that our efforts to keep the atmosphere clean and planet cool do not come at a price that our wildlife cannot afford to pay.

Edited by: Nalisha Adams

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Warmer Days a Catastrophe in the Making for Kenya’s Pastoralists Mon, 20 Oct 2014 08:54:53 +0000 Miriam Gathigah Arid and semi-arid lands account for about 80 percent of Kenya’s land. Most pastoralists live in these areas and keep over 60 percent of the country’s livestock population. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Arid and semi-arid lands account for about 80 percent of Kenya’s land. Most pastoralists live in these areas and keep over 60 percent of the country’s livestock population. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Oct 20 2014 (IPS)

Seif Hassan is a pastoralist from Garissa, Northern Kenya, some 380 kilometres outside of the capital, Nairobi. He sells his animals at the Garissa livestock market where, during a good season, pastoralists can sell up to 5,000 animals per week and “it is a cash-making business.” 

“In a good season, an ox can go for as much as 1,000 dollars, a heifer for 560 dollars while a camel can be sold for as much as 3,400 dollars,” he tells IPS.

But as weather patterns become extreme with more frequent and prolonged dry spells, “life has become difficult for the pastoralist community,” he says.

Michael ole Tiampati, the national coordinator for the Pastoralist Development Network of Kenya, a network of organisations that support pastoralist development in this East African nation, tells IPS that during dry spells “an ox is sold for between 200 and 300 dollars, a heifer at 50 to 170 dollars, while a camel is sold at between 1,000 and 1,700 dollars.”

When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report was released last month, it emerged that temperatures on the African continent, particularly in the more arid regions, are likely to rise more quickly than in other land areas.

Experts like Dr George Keya, assistant director for Range and Arid Lands Research, tells IPS that if the expected short rains in October fail, “we will be facing a catastrophe in arid and semi-arid areas where pastoralists live.”

Keya says that pastoralists are an extremely vulnerable group “because their capacity to cope with extreme and unpredictable weather changes is significantly low.”

This, he says, compounded with their few livelihood options, makes the community extremely vulnerable.

As arid and semi-arid rangelands face warmer days, with frequent heat waves as predicted by the IPCC report, it poses an increased risk to the livelihoods of the pastoralist community.

“Climate change will amplify existing stress on water availability….particularly in semi-arid environments,” the report states.

Tiampati says that while in the past droughts would occur every 12 years, “we are now experiencing droughts every two to three years.”

As a result, “lands have insufficient time to recover. Pastoralists are also no longer able to practice herd splitting to protect their herds from climate change.”

Herd splitting is where pastoralists divide their herds into groups and take them to different areas with less-severe weather changes.

“But now climate change is affecting arid lands in a uniform manner, and there is no place to shelter the herds,” Tiampati says.

Keya says that extreme weather changes are also resulting in the occurrence of livestock diseases that easily wipe out entire herds. Pastoralist Hassan says that if the disease does not kill them, they die from the extreme weather changes.

“Drought brings Peste des Petits Ruminants (PPR) — a contagious disease that affects goats and sheep. The disease is also trans boundary and can move easily from Northern to Southern Kenya and beyond,” he says.

He adds that it is not just rising temperatures that pastoralists have to contend with, but torrential rains and consequent flooding.

Keya says that East Coast Fever, a disease that infects cattle, sheep and goats and which is caused by ticks, occurs during floods and is just as threatening as PPR.

“These diseases add to the vulnerability of the pastoralist community.”

Keya says that pastoral systems as they are cannot withstand climate change. He says that Vision 2030 — Kenya’s economic blueprint to move from a low- to a middle-income country — lays out a strategy to establish livestock disease free zones. But this is yet to be implemented.

“Pastoralists believe in keeping large herds and disposing of them when they are convinced that the situation is too dire for the animals to survive. We have seen them sell emancipated mature animals for a mere five dollars,” he says.

Tiampati says that pastoralists must begin to see that livestock keeping “as more than a way of life, they need to begin being more commercially oriented.”

He says that heifers raised on ranches are ready for the market in 18 months, but pastoralists take four to five years to get a similar cow ready for the market.

“Losing an animal that they have reared for years is usually a hard blow,” he says.

Statistics by the Range and Arid Lands Research show that arid and semi-arid lands account for about 80 percent of the country’s land. Most pastoralists live in these areas and keep over 60 percent of the country’s livestock population.

“There is sufficient land for investors to set aside large areas where animals can be bought from pastoralists and fattened within three months and either consumed locally or exported,” Keya says.

He says that Kenya has a beef deficiency with “about 40 percent of our beef com[ing] from neighbouring countries.”  He says that it can easily be met by assisting pastoralists better manage their livestock.

Tiampati says that pastoralists need assistance in diversifying their livelihoods. He says that in some arid areas, such as in Laikipia in Rift Valley region, women are making good use of the aloe vera plant, which grows in arid areas, to make soap.

Keya says that also in the Rift Valley region, in Narok, pastoralists are making good use of the highlands and lowlands.

“During the rainy seasons, pastoralists are farming in highlands and keeping their animals in lowlands. While in dry spells, they take the animals to the highlands to feed on fodder from the harvest as the lowlands recover,” he says.

While the IPCC report predicts very tough times ahead for the pastoralist community, experts are convinced that with the right interventions, the Kenyan pastoralist will survive the vagaries of nature.

“Without these [interventions], we are watching a catastrophe in the making,” Keya says.

Edited by: Nalisha Adams

This is part of a series sponsored by the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN).


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Human Rights and Gender Equality Vague in Post-2015 Agenda Thu, 04 Sep 2014 14:49:41 +0000 Ida Karlsson By Ida Karlsson
BRUSSELS, Sep 4 2014 (IPS)

With the United Nations’ post-2015 development agenda currently under discussion, civil society actors in Europe are calling for a firmer stance on human rights and gender equality, including control of assets by women.

“The SDGs are a unique opportunity for us. The eradication of extreme poverty is within our grasp. But we still face very major challenges. Business as usual is not an option,” Seamus Jeffreson, Director of Concord, the European platform for non-governmental development organisations, told at a meeting in Brussels with the European Parliament Committee on Development on September 3.

An Open Working Group has been set up by the United Nations to come up with a set of new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to replace the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education by the target date of 2015.“We need to address women's control over assets. The majority of farmers in the world are women but they do not own the land. There is legislation that prevents women from inheriting property" – Seamus Jeffreson, Director, Concord

Development organisations in Europe say a rights-based approach need to be strengthened in the proposed new SDGs or there is a risk these could be traded off in negotiations with major powers that are less committed to human rights.

“We do not see the spirit of a human rights-based approach infusing the other goals. It should underpin the SDGs. The connection is not made that people have rights to resources. We cannot have a development agenda without people’s rights being respected,” Jeffreson said.

Jeffreson’s complaint was echoed by Thomas Mayr-Harting, European Union Ambassador to the United Nations. “From our point of view, a rights-based approach and governance and rule of law need to be better represented in the SDGs.”

While Concord welcomes a specific goal on gender equality within the SDGs, “more details are needed for this to be a goal and not just a slogan,” Jeffreson told IPS. “We need to address women’s control over assets. The majority of farmers in the world are women but they do not own the land. There is legislation that prevents women from inheriting property.”

The European Union will produce a common position before inter-governmental negotiations start. Further input will come from a High-level Panel set up in July 2012 by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to advise on the global development framework beyond 2015.

“We now look to Ban Ki-moon to play a core role in bringing this process together,” said Mayr-Harting, adding that Sam Kutesa, Ugandan foreign minister, who will chair the UN General Assembly from mid-September, will play also an important role.

Ajay Kumar Bramdeo, ambassador of the African Union to the European Union, who also attended the meeting in Brussels, said that more than 90 percent of the priorities in the common African position have been included in the proposed new set of development goals, including its position on climate change.

“The negative impact of climate change is already being felt in countries in Africa. The European Union has been an important historical, political, economic and social partner for Africa and would also feel the impact of climate change on Africa,” he added.

Kumar Bramdeo emphasised the need to mobilise financing from the developed countries through the Green Climate Fund of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), transfer new clean technologies, and enhance disaster risk management and climate adaptation initiatives.

Ole Lund Hansen, representing the UN Global Compact at the meeting, stressed that the SDGs would not be achieved without the active participation of the world’s business sector. “Some figures say we need 2.5 billion dollars per year in additional investments to achieve the SDGs. We clearly need to tap into the vast resources of the private sector.”

The proposed new SDGs, which will make amends for the shortcomings of the MDGs, will be an integral part of the United Nations’ post-2015 development agenda which, among others, seeks to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger from the face of the earth by 2030.

There are currently 17 new goals on the drafting board, including proposals to end poverty, eliminate hunger, attain healthy lives, provide quality education, attain gender equality and reduce inequalities.

The list also includes the sustainable use of water and sanitation, energy for all, productive employment, industrialisation, protection of terrestrial ecosystems and strengthening the global partnership for sustainable development.

The final set of goals is to be approved by world leaders in September 2015.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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If You Cut One, Plant Two Tue, 15 Jul 2014 10:18:44 +0000 Amy Fallon Students from Kisule Primary School in Kampala at the International Children’s Climate Change Conference (ICCCC), July 2014, Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Students from Kisule Primary School in Kampala at the International Children’s Climate Change Conference (ICCCC), July 2014, Uganda. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPALA, Jul 15 2014 (IPS)

Olga Mugisa, 11-years-old, takes to the microphone in front of her peers, the Ugandan flag proudly draped behind her and green plants framing the stage. She has an important message to share with her fellow students: “If you cut one, plant two.”

“I tell all of you here you to plant trees at school, at home, everywhere,” she says in a loud and confident voice to participants at Africa’s first International Children’s Climate Change Conference held in the Ugandan capital at the weekend.

“If you plant those trees you will get air that you breathe in and (you) will breathe in oxygen as you produce carbon dioxide,” adds the Primary 5 student at Mirembe Junior, an international school in Namuwongo, traditionally a slum area of Kampala.“Children are the future generation, but at the moment we are in this climate change quagmire because adults cut trees with impunity. We do not think twice … we didn’t plant them” – Joseph Masembe, founder of Uganda’s Little Green Hands

Joining forces with Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), Uganda’s Little Green Hands NGO organised the International Children’s Climate Change Conference, which brought together about 280 “child delegates”, aged between five and 12, from 23 schools in four Ugandan districts, at Kampala’s GEMS Cambridge International School. There were also students representing 35 countries including Spain, France and the United States.

Students performed skits, sang and recited poems, as well as posing questions and giving PowerPoint presentations in their own style. Everything revolved around the causes and effects of, and solutions for, climate change.

Children can bring hope, especially when it comes to climate change, says lawyer turned social entrepreneur, environmentalist and founder of Little Green Hands, Joseph Masembe. He is showcasing a “new form of environmental stewardship” in Uganda involving young people.

According to The State of Uganda’s Population Report, released in February 2013, the east African nation has the world’s youngest population, with over 78 percent aged under 30.

“A wise man once told me a child’s mind is like wet cement -when you write on it, it’s permanent,” Masembe tells IPS. “So involving children at such a tender age in environment conservation means the future is ensured and it’s guaranteed.

“Children are the future generation, but at the moment we are in this climate change quagmire because adults cut trees with impunity. We do not think twice … we didn’t plant them.

“But if we get these children to start planting trees at a tender age, by the time they grow up they will have sentimental value attached to these trees, so they won’t chop them down,” Masembe explains.

It’s getting thumbs green that was the focus of the Little Hands Go Green Festival, an annual eventcreated by Masembe in 2012. In December that year, more than 16,000 children flocked to Kampala’s Kololo Airstrip, where they were given seedlings to take home and plant fruit trees. Masembe says “Africa’s only green festival” was even “gate-crashed” by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, after he heard about the large gathering of children. Out of it, sprang the ICCCC.

As highlighted in the The State of Uganda’s Population Report2013, Uganda has been identified as one of the world’s least prepared and most vulnerable countries when it comes to the climate change. The study stressed that Global Climate Change models project the nation will experience an increase in average temperatures up by up to 1.5 oC in the next 20 years.

Hot days are increasing, cold days decreasing; glaciers on the Rwenzori Mountains are continuing to melt and almost all regions of the country are experiencing “intense, frequent and prolonged droughts,” the report said.

“You find that now the rains do not come as they used to come, the seasons are changing and it’s a lot hotter,” Masembe tells IPS. “The dry season takes a lot longer. Farmers are telling you their crops are being affected a lot. You have mudslides in Bududa (eastern Uganda) almost every other year.”

Despite her age, Olga is all too aware of the impact of climate change on her country, which she notes is called the “Pearl of Africa” but which, because of climate change, “will no longer be the Pearl of Africa. Lake Victoria and (Lake) Albert will dry up… climate (change) is something that can destroy a country.”

“The ozone layer is the layer that protects from the direct sunshine, so when it’s spoilt we shall get the direct sunshine and the plants will dry up, drought will be there,” she adds.

As she plants a tree at the end of the ICCCC, Olga says that she will encourage her mother, father and two siblings to do the same. “I’ll keep encouraging people to plant trees … They have a responsibility.”

Olga is fortunate that she attends an international school where the study of climate change is on the curriculum. “In the international schools they teach it, in the local schools, which is the majority, they don’t,” says Masembe. “So we have to find other ways to sneak it in, through extracurricular activities for instance.”

“The Green Festival (to be held on August 24) is one opportunity. And this conference, which will become annual, will become part of the way whereby children can use their voices and hopefully adults can start to listen.”

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El Niño Triggers Drought, Food Crisis in Nicaragua Thu, 10 Jul 2014 17:10:35 +0000 Jose Adan Silva The Las Canoas lake in Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time Nicaragua is visited by the El Niño phenomenon, leaving local people without fish or water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

The Las Canoas lake in Tipitapa, near Managua, dries up every time Nicaragua is visited by the El Niño phenomenon, leaving local people without fish or water for their crops. Credit: Guillermo Flores/IPS

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Jul 10 2014 (IPS)

The spectre of famine is haunting Nicaragua. The second poorest country in Latin America, and one of the 10 most vulnerable to climate change in the world, is facing a meteorological phenomenon that threatens its food security.

Scientists at the Nicaraguan Institute for Territorial Studies (INETER) say the situation is correlated with the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a weather cycle that periodically causes drought on the western Pacific seaboard and the centre of the country, in contrast with seasonal flooding in the north and the eastern Caribbean coast.

Crescencio Polanco, a veteran farmer in the rural municipality of Tipitapa, north of Managua, is one of thousands of victims of the climate episode. He waited in vain for the normally abundant rains in May and June to plant maize and beans.

Polanco lost his bean crop due to lack of rain, but he remains hopeful. He borrowed 400 dollars to plant again in September, to try to recoup the investment lost by the failed harvest in May.

ENSO brings drought

The warm phase of ENSO happens when surface water temperatures increase in the eastern and central equatorial areas of the Pacific Ocean, altering weather patterns worldwide.

Experts at the Humboldt Centre told IPS that in Nicaragua, the main effect is “a sharp reduction in available atmospheric humidity”, leading to “significant rainfall deficits” and an irregular, sporadic rainy season from May to October.

Over the last 27 years there have been seven El Niño episodes, and each of them has been associated with drought, they said.

If the rains fail again, it will spell economic catastrophe for him and the seven members of his family.

“In May we spent the money we got from last year’s harvest, but with this new loan we are wagering on recovering what we lost or losing it all. I don’t know what we’ll do if the rains don’t come,” he told IPS.

His predicament is shared by thousands of small producers who depend on rainfall for their crops. Some 45 kilometres south of Tipitapa, southwest of Managua, campesino (small farmer) Luis Leiva regrets the total loss of three hectares of maize and squash to the drought.

Leiva sells his produce in the capital city’s Mercado Oriental market, and uses the profits to buy seeds and food for his family. Now he has lost everything and cannot obtain financing to rent the plot of land and plant another crop.

“The last three rains have been miserable, not enough to really even wet the earth. It’s all lost and now I just have to see if I can plant in late August or September,” he told IPS with resignation.

Rainfall in May was on average 75 percent lower than normal in Nicaragua. According to INETER, there was “a record reduction in rainfall”, up to 88 percent in some central Pacific areas, the largest deficit since records began.

Based on data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), INETER has warned that the drought could last until September.

The nightmare is affecting all farmers on the Pacific coast and in the centre of the country. Sinforiano Cáceres, president of the National Federation of Cooperatives, a group of 300 large farming associations, expounded the sector’s fears to the inter-institutional National Board for Risk Management.

“We have already lost the early planting (in May), and if we lose the late planting (in August and September) there will be famine in the land and a rising spiral of prices for all basic food products,” he told IPS at a forum of producers and experts seeking solutions to the crisis. There is a third crop cycle, in December, known as “apante”.

The country’s main dairy and beef producers raised their concerns directly with the government. Members of the Federation of Livestock Associations and the National Livestock Commission told the government that meat and milk production have fallen by around 30 percent, and could drop by 50 percent by September if the ENSO lasts until then, as INETER has forecast.

Moreover, the National Union of Farmers and Livestock Owners said that over a thousand head of cattle belonging to its members have perished from starvation.

It also warned that the price of meat and dairy products will rise because some livestock owners are investing in special feeds, vitamins and vaccines against diseases to prevent losing more cattle on their ranches.

The agriculture and livestock sector generates more than 60 percent of the country’s exports and earns 18 percent of its GDP, which totalled 11 billion dollars in 2013, according to the Central Bank of Nicaragua.

In the view of sociologist Cirilo Otero, head of the non-governmental Centre for Environmental Policy Initiatives, a food crisis would have a particularly severe economic impact on a country that has still not recovered from a plague of coffee rust that hit plantations in Nicaragua and the rest of Central America over the last two years.

“Thousands of small coffee farmers and thousands of families who depended on the crop have still not been able to recover their employment and income, and now El Niño is descending on them. I don’t know how the country will be able to recover,” he told IPS.

According to Otero, if ENSO continues its ravages for the rest of the rainy season, thousands of families will suffer from under-nutrition in a country where, in 2012, 20 percent of its six million people were undernourished, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

“Producers do not know how to mitigate the effects of climate change, nor the mechanisms for adapting to soil changes. Unless the government implements policies for adaptation to climate change, there will be a severe food crisis in 2014 and 2015,” he told IPS.

The government has set up commissions to monitor the phenomenon, as well as information meetings with farmers and livestock producers.

The authorities have also expanded a programme of free food packages for thousands of poor families, and are providing school meals for over one million children in the school system, as well as a number of small programmes for financing family agriculture.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega ordered urgent imports in June of 20.5 million kilograms of beans and 73.5 million kilograms of white maize to supply local markets, where shortages were already being felt. The government’s intention is to lower the high prices of these products while hoping for a decent harvest in the second half of this year.

The price of red beans has doubled since May to two dollars a kilogram, in a country where over 2.5 million people subsist on less than two dollars a day, according to a 2013 survey by the International Foundation for Global Economic Challenge.

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How Climate Legislation Can Help to Enable a Global Climate Deal in 2015 Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:02:40 +0000 Terry Townshend

In this column, Terry Townshend, Director of Policy at the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE), argues that progress on climate change now being made worldwide depends on legislators putting in place a credible set of policies and measures to ensure effective implementation.

By Terry Townshend
BEIJING, Jun 4 2014 (IPS)

With leading politicians meeting next month for the World Summit of Legislators in Mexico City, it is clear that a new global climate deal is needed.  Each year, the world is seeing signs of climate change’s accelerating impacts, from longer, more intense droughts to stronger storms and rising seas.  

In contrast to the slow pace of international negotiations to combat climate change, national legislation is advancing at a startling rate.  This is a major surprise to many of those who ascribe to the conventional wisdom that progress has waned.

Remarkably, since 1997, almost 450 climate-related laws have been passed in 66 countries covering around 88 percent of global greenhouse gases released by human activities.  And, this surprising legislative momentum is happening across all continents.

Terry Townshend

Terry Townshend

Encouragingly, this progress is being led by big developing countries, such as China and Mexico.  Together, these emerging markets will represent some 8 billion of the projected 9 billion people on Earth in 2050.

These are the key findings of the 4th edition of the GLOBE Climate Legislation Study released in February.  This is the only compendium of climate legislative action created by legislators from around the world, and the most comprehensive audit yet of the extent and breadth of the emerging legislative response to climate change.

Our message is that we believe national legislation should be at the heart of a new international agreement to tackle climate change.  And this study is proof that it can be achieved in every country.

While optimistic, we must also be honest. These laws are not yet enough to limit global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, the level scientists say we must not breach if we are to avoid the worst risks of climate change.

Yet these actions are putting into place the legal frameworks necessary to measure, report, verify and manage greenhouse gas emissions – the cause of man-made climate change.“Legislators must be at the centre of international negotiations and policy processes, not just on climate change, but also on the full range of sustainable development issues” – Terry Townshend

As the formal U.N. negotiations move towards Paris in 2015, the scheduled conclusion of negotiations on a post-2020 framework, this legislation is creating a strong foundation on which a post-2020 global agreement can be built.  And, at the World Summit of Legislators we will discuss precisely how best to make this happen in practice.

It is increasingly clear that not only is agreement in Paris dependent on national legislation in place in advance, implementation of the Paris agreement will only be effective through national laws, overseen by well-informed legislators from all sides of the political spectrum.

A national “commitment” or “contribution” put forward at the United Nations will only be credible – and durable beyond the next election – if it is backed up by national legislation.  And this must ideally be supported by cross-party legislators who put in place a credible set of policies and measures to ensure effective implementation.

That is why legislators must be at the centre of international negotiations and policy processes, not just on climate change, but also on the full range of sustainable development issues. And it is why, on climate change, governments must prioritise supporting implementation of national legislation between now and 2015.

GLOBE members recognise this and have been at the forefront of developing the legislative response to climate change. In 2008, in the United Kingdom, for example, members shaped and strengthened the Climate Change Act. In 2009, South Korean members saw “Green Growth” legislation passed.

In 2013, members in Micronesia were instrumental in the passage of climate-related legislation showing the power of island voices, and in Costa Rica a draft General Law on Climate Change was introduced.  Meanwhile, members in China, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Peru, among others, are developing legislation now.

However, we need to do much more. And that is why, in collaboration with the World Bank and the United Nations, GLOBE has launched the Partnership for Climate Legislation to promote the advance of climate-related laws.

Of course, the role of legislators does not end when legislation is passed. It is one thing to pass legislation and another to implement it. That is why GLOBE is equipping legislators to be as effective as possible in holding their governments to account. This is crucial if the agreement made in Paris in 2015 is to deliver.

Legislators – with their formal responsibilities on legislation and oversight – are a fundamental part of an effective strategy to tackle the world’s environmental and sustainable development challenges. To maximise the chances of success, they must be at the centre of all international processes and negotiations.

Success in Paris to create a climate agreement, the follow-through to implement the accord, and the fate of our planet depend on our actions. (END/IPS COLUMNIST SERVICE)

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Mexico Underlines Transformation in Global Climate Change Debate Mon, 02 Jun 2014 07:35:23 +0000 Alejandro Encinas

In this column, Alejandro Encinas, Senator in the Mexican Congress and International Vice President for the Americas of the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE), looks at the progress on climate change now being made worldwide.

By Alejandro Encinas
Jun 2 2014 (IPS)

It is now two years since Mexico passed the General Law on Climate Change, a landmark piece of national environmental legislation.

This was a truly significant move and came at a time when the country had also just approved a far-reaching REDD+ law that has set the benchmark for international best practice on tackling deforestation and forest degradation.

Alejandro Encinas

Alejandro Encinas

Passage of Mexico’s far-reaching climate law (which was supported, significantly, on a cross-party basis) highlights the progress on climate change now being made globally. Numerous national economies have passed landmark climate and energy-related legislation over the last few years.

These countries are advancing laws at a pace that contrasts sharply with the U.N.-brokered climate change talks that formally convene again in Peru in November.

This trend comes at a time of pivotal change in international relations with a period of economic downturn in recent years in the West being counterpoised with the increasingly rapid shift of power to some emerging economies.

Mirroring this is a fundamental repositioning of the centre of gravity of the global climate change debate towards domestic climate change legislation. This is nothing less than game changing.“Until now, it [the political debate on climate change] has been largely framed by the narrative of sharing a global burden – with governments, naturally, trying to minimise their share” – Alejandro Encinas

In the last two years, there has been substantive legislative progress right across the developing world.

In the Americas, for instance, Bolivia passed its Framework Law on Mother Earth and Integral Development to Live Well; El Salvador adopted its National Climate Change Strategy; In Ecuador, Decree 1815 established the Intersectoral National Strategy for Climate Change; and in Costa Rica a draft General Law on Climate Change was introduced, and subsequently approved this year.

In the Asia-Pacific region, China published its National Adaptation Plan and made progress in drafting its national climate change law; Indonesia extended its forest moratorium; Kazakhstan introduced a pilot emissions trading scheme; and Micronesia passed its Climate Change Act in late 2013

In the Middle East and North Africa, Jordan passed its National Climate Change Policy; and the United Arab Emirates launched a mandatory Energy Efficiency Standardisation and Labelling Scheme.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Kenya adopted the 2013-2017 Climate Change Action Plan; Mozambique adopted the 2013-2025 National Strategy for Climate Change; Tanzania passed its National Strategy on REDD+; Nigeria’s Legislative Council approved the adoption of a National Climate Change Policy and Response Strategy.

As in Mexico, adoption of such initiatives is – with a few notable exceptions­ – largely cross-party.

One key reason for this encouraging move towards political consensus is that many legislators increasingly recognise the positive co-benefits of climate change legislation. These range from greater resource efficiency and increased energy security to the reduction of air pollution.

All this, in turn, mirrors a crucial shift in the political debate on climate change. Until now, it has been largely framed by the narrative of sharing a global burden – with governments, naturally, trying to minimise their share.

Now, legislators increasingly view the issue as one of national self-interest, with each nation trying to maximise the benefits of climate change legislation.

Indeed, those countries with strong national legislation are in a better position to promote inward investment on low-carbon technologies because there is greater business certainty rather than high regulatory risk.

Encouraging as this shift is, it is as yet insufficient to avoid dangerous climate change of greater than 2 degrees Celsius.

Nonetheless, the national legal and policy frameworks to measure, report, verify and manage carbon that are now being created have the potential of significant tightening.

This will be the more likely as governments experience the benefits of lower energy use, reduced costs, improved competitiveness and greater energy security.

As this happens, the goal must be to translate such progress into a comprehensive, global deal in 2015 in Paris. And, this will be a key focus of the June 6-8 World Summit of Legislators that the Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE)is hosting in Mexico City.

Such a deal will be made more likely when even more countries are committed to taking action on climate change because it is to their advantage rather than out of perceived altruism. In other words, such a deal will reflect domestic political conditions, not define them.

The U.N. negotiations should be used as the forum for countries to invest more in climate diplomacy and practical international cooperation.

This will help to expedite the creation of conditions within nations, both developed and developing, as well as its provincial regions, municipalities, specific cities and its metropolitan areas, that will enable them to agree a comprehensive global treaty in 2015.

It is ironic that countries that have found it hard to agree to international action are now outdoing their commitments in domestic legislation.

Having taken those steps at home they will find it much easier to commit to a global agreement which confirms the decisions they have already taken of their sovereign free will. (END/IPS COLUMNIST SERVICE)

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Fiji Leads Pacific Region on Climate Adaptation Efforts Sun, 25 May 2014 15:51:06 +0000 Catherine Wilson The new, relocated village of Vunidogoloa on Vanua Levu, the second largest island of Fiji. Credit: Government of Fiji

The new, relocated village of Vunidogoloa on Vanua Levu, the second largest island of Fiji. Credit: Government of Fiji

By Catherine Wilson
SYDNEY, May 25 2014 (IPS)

Still a long way off in many parts of the world, climate displacement is already a reality in the Pacific Islands, where rising seas are contaminating fresh water and agricultural land, and rendering some coastal areas uninhabitable.

In Fiji, where the survival of 676 communities is now precarious, the government is set to establish the region’s first national policy to address the challenges of internal migration as the last option in adaptation.

Home to over 870,000 people in the central South Pacific Ocean, the 300 volcanic islands that comprise this nation include low-lying atolls, and are highly susceptibility to cyclones, floods and earthquakes. Thus Fiji is no stranger to the devastation wrought by climate change, and its national policies hold valuable lessons for all governments bracing for climate-induced population movements.

During its recent chairmanship of the Group of 77 nations plus China (G77), Fiji brought the plight of Small Island Developing States to the international arena, highlighting the disproportionate nature of the climate crisis.

The Pacific Islands, for instance, are responsible for only 0.006 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet they are experiencing its worst impacts. According to the Pacific Climate Change Science Program, the sea level near Fiji rose by six millimetres per year over the past decade, double the global average. During this century, ocean acidification, temperatures and the intensity of rainfall are also predicted to increase.

When adaptation measures, such as building seawalls and planting mangroves, no longer stem the tide, survival depends on moving the affected population to new land and safer ground. The London School of Economics estimates that across the Pacific Islands, home to 10 million people, up to 1.7 million could be displaced due to climate change by 2050.

Mahendra Kumar, director of the climate change division at the ministry of foreign affairs and international co-operation in the capital, Suva, told IPS that “the Fiji government recognises it has a primary duty and responsibility to provide protection and assistance to people at risk of climate change.”

"[T]he Fiji government recognises it has a primary duty and responsibility to provide protection and assistance to people at risk of climate change.” -- Mahendra Kumar, director of the climate change division at the ministry of foreign affairs
The guidelines for internal population movements will become an addendum to the national climate change policy, introduced in 2012. They will be aligned with the broader policy’s principles of community ownership, involvement and consent, equitable benefits for all, including disadvantaged social groups, and the mainstreaming of climate change issues into national planning and budgeting.

The new “relocation procedure is to be followed in all cases when communities seek the assistance of the government,” Kumar clarified.

The preference of many Pacific Islanders is to relocate within their own country. More than 80 percent of land in Fiji is under customary ownership and has been for generations. Land is the main source of livelihoods, food, social security and ancestral identity for clans and extended families.

Melanesian society places great importance on community self-reliance with solutions to local challenges historically driven by traditional leaders. This has determined people’s survival for generations and is one reason why, today, many refute the term ‘climate refugee’.

But that doesn’t diminish the socioeconomic repercussions of, or financial resources needed, for physically moving large numbers of people, housing and infrastructure.

Vunidogoloa: An exercise in inclusive adaptation

Now in its final draft, the climate policy was first informed by the move and reconstruction of the Vunidogoloa village on Vanua Levu, one of Fiji’s two main islands, back in January.

Living by the edge of Natewa Bay, as the people of Vunidogoloa had for generations, became untenable when the encroaching sea breached seawall barriers, daily flooding homes, while saltwater degraded the soil and destroyed crops like taro and sweet potato.

While villagers had watched the gradual encroachment of the sea over a period of years, the ultimate loss of their traditional ancestral land and homes, they say, was distressing.

The move, which took a total of three years, began in 2010, before the relocation policy was conceived last year. However, since then the experiences of both the government and local residents have been incorporated.

“We are happy in our new village,” Suluwegi, a villager from Vunidogoloa, told IPS. “The houses are good and we are able to grow new crops for food.” The ministry of agriculture provided the new community with pineapple plants and technical support to promote new farming livelihoods.

The ministry of rural and maritime development and national disaster management led the multi-sector process of moving 150 people and building 30 new houses, with each costing approximately 5,400 dollars.

Suluwegi said that villagers actively participated in the decision about where the new settlement would be situated. Plans for relocation only went ahead after the community had given consent. Fortunately, customary land owned by the community was available about two kilometres away on higher ground, which was quickly identified as the preferred new site.

“There were no land issues or disputes, which made our work much easier,” George Dregaso of the national disaster management office told IPS, hinting that the acquisition of additional customary land could have involved long, complex negotiations and substantial compensation to host landowners.

Various ministries and authorities responsible for local government, agriculture, water, fisheries, forests and labour contributed funding and resources for the provision of basic services and new livelihoods.

New water tanks and a solar power system were installed in the community. Villagers received assistance in re-establishing agriculture, including plants, breeding livestock and farming materials, as well as new ponds for fish farming as an income-generating initiative.

Government funds covered 75 percent of costs associated with the relocation of Vunidogoloa, which totalled close to 535,000 dollars (about 978,000 Fijian dollars). The remainder represented the value of the timber that the community contributed to the project.

While the villagers of Vunidogoloa were fortunate enough to find refuge close to their old home, others who are impacted by climate change might not be so lucky.

Globally there is a critical lack of policies and laws to address the plight of climate migrants, either within states or across national borders. For instance, people internationally displaced due to climate extremes are not recognised under the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention.

But last year international lawyers, climate change experts and U.N. representatives devised the Peninsula Principles on climate displacement within states as an initial guiding framework for policy and lawmakers, based on current international law.

Many of those principles, such as community participation and consent, provision of affordable housing, land solutions, basic services and economic opportunities to those affected, have been observed in Vunidogoloa.

Kumar emphasised, however, that formal discussions about the legislative implications of Fiji’s relocation policy are yet to occur.

“We are taking this one step at a time,” he said. “The policy will need to be considered by all stakeholders, including relevant ministries, before it can be considered by cabinet. Cabinet’s decision and response to recommendations will be key to determining what the next steps will be.”

Fiji’s current climate change policy is supported by existing laws and a new constitution established last year, which recognises that all Fijians, irrespective of ethnicity or status, have equal rights to housing, public services, health and economic participation.

However, all Pacific Island states face challenges in fully implementing government policies due to limited technical, human resource and financial capacities. According to Kumar, further work on solutions to issues of land availability and sustainable funding ahead of future relocation projects will be needed as the policy draft enters its final stages.

The learning process for all concerned continues, with the government still to undertake post-relocation monitoring and evaluation at Vunidogoloa in order to address any long term or unforeseen impacts.


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OP-ED: The Ugly Truth about Garbage and Island Biodiversity Wed, 21 May 2014 11:35:37 +0000 Dr. Bradnee Chambers Photo courtesy of Greenpeace/Marine Photobank

Photo courtesy of Greenpeace/Marine Photobank

By Bradnee Chambers
BONN, May 21 2014 (IPS)

Some of the Earth’s most delicate tropical paradises are being disfigured by the by-products of the modern age – marine debris: plastic bottles, carrier bags and discarded fishing gear. 

Just a tiny fraction of this originates from the islands themselves – most is generated on land and enters the sea through the sewers and drains; the rest comes from passenger liners, freighters and fishing vessels, whose crews often use the oceans as a giant waste disposal unit.  While much of the garbage sinks, some of it joins the giant gyres where the currents carry it across the globe.

"Marine debris casts its ominous shadow and threatens to break the virtuous circle which would otherwise guarantee sustainable livelihoods and incentives to protect wildlife."
Small Island Developing States (SIDS), recognised as a distinct group of nations by the UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1992, lack the space to dedicate to landfill sites and do not have the resources to deal with the huge problem of marine debris that is being washed up on their doorstep – as the tides and currents wash the accumulated marine garbage onto their beaches.  Domestically, they can take steps to ensure that they do not add to the problem – American Samoa for instance has banned plastic bags – but the “polluter pays” principle would require that those responsible for producing the waste should be made responsible for disposing of it properly.

A litter-strewn beach is an eye-sore and with tourism playing a major role in the economies of many island states, marine debris can have substantial adverse financial implications threatening local businesses and employment prospects.

Palau has banned commercial fisheries in its huge territorial waters forsaking the lucrative licensing revenue and will develop ecotourism based on snorkelling and scuba diving as a sustainable alternative.  Alive, Palau’s sharks can bring in $1.9 million each over their life-time.  Dead, a shark is worth a few hundred dollars, most of it attributable to the fins used to make soup considered a delicacy in parts of East Asia.

In February, Indonesia became the world’s largest sanctuary for manta rays and banned the fishing and export of the species throughout the 2.2 million square miles surrounding the archipelago.  The numbers are about the same; as a tourist attraction, a manta ray is worth in excess of 1 million dollars; as meat or medicine no more than 500 dollars.

Whale-watching creates jobs while bird-watching boosts binocular and camera sales and both help hotel occupancy rates.  And the total number of international travellers broke the one billion mark for the first time in 2012 making tourism one of the main foreign exchange earners globally particularly for many developing countries, including SIDS.

But marine debris casts its ominous shadow and threatens to break the virtuous circle which would otherwise guarantee sustainable livelihoods and incentives to protect wildlife.

Sea birds inadvertently feed their young with plastic which then blocks the chicks’ intestines preventing them from eating properly and leading to a slow and painful death.  The staple prey of some marine turtles is jellyfish but the turtles often mistake plastic bags for their favourite food with same dire results.  For larger species such as whales, dolphins and seals, discarded fishing gear – ghost nets – are a problem as the animals become entangled in them.  This can impede the animals’ movement and ability to hunt as well as cause serious injury or even death through drowning.

Remote island habitats support a rich and diverse fauna often including unique endemic species and provide vital stop-over sites for migrants and breeding sites for marine birds. But long established bird colonies have fallen victim to another danger exacerbated by humans – that posed by invasive alien species.

The problem of rodent infestations is well documented.  Mice and rats have escaped from ships wreaking havoc on the local bird populations which had previously nested on the ground with impunity as there were no predators.  Eradication programmes have successfully rid 400 islands of their alien rodents.

Less well known is the phenomenon of “rafting” where the invaders also use marine debris as a vector – plastic bottles are harbouring a potentially devastating assortment of worms, insect larvae, barnacles and bacteria, and warmer waters arising from climate change increase the resilience of these unwanted stowaways making them an even more potent danger.

One of the fascinations of dealing with the animals covered by the Convention on Migratory Species is how they link different countries and even continents.  Many of the species are endangered and their conservation as well as the threats that they face require internationally coordinated measures.  This applies to marine debris, a singularly unwelcome “migratory species” whose continued presence CMS will be doing its utmost to eliminate.

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Putting Local Climate Know-How on the Map Tue, 05 Mar 2013 16:22:16 +0000 Peter Richards A three-dimensional mapping exercise in St. Vincent aims to enhance local awareness of climate change. Participants apply paint to the model. Credit: Asher Andall/IPS

A three-dimensional mapping exercise in St. Vincent aims to enhance local awareness of climate change. Participants apply paint to the model. Credit: Asher Andall/IPS

By Peter Richards
KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, Mar 5 2013 (IPS)

A new weapon in the arsenal against climate change is tapping local knowledge to bridge the policy gap and let communities make their own informed decisions about how to manage livelihoods, natural resources, culture and heritage.

“In the past, most climate change initiatives have been top-down, coming from the government level,” says Martin Barriteau, executive director of Sustainable Grenadines (Sus Gren), a trans-boundary non-governmental organisation committed to the conservation of the coastal and marine environment and sustainable livelihoods for the people between Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.Not only will climate change be costly, it could be the thing that cripples small island economies.

“[But] our communities, especially the ones on the coast, have been witnessing and adapting to the effects of climate changes over time,” he says.

Enter P3DM – participatory three-dimensional modelling, which merges conventional spatial information systems with local people’s own “mental maps” to produce scale relief models that can be used jointly with Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).

Participatory 3D models are manufactured at the village level using paper and layered cardboard. Based on their personal knowledge of the area, informants depict land use and cover and other features on the model by the use of pencils, pushpins (points), yarns (lines) and/or paint (polygons). Once the model is completed, a scaled grid is applied to transpose spatial and georeferenced data into GIS.

For example, the models can bring communities together around priority areas such as flood zones, drought concerns, fish populations and mangrove protection.

The maps are also an educational tool for youth and children. Abdon White, a geography teacher at Union Island Secondary School, told IPS, “One of the first tasks we had, we did the tracing of the contour lines and that enabled us to actually build the P3DM model of Union island.

“One part of the CX syllabus is the map reading section and that they work with contours and distances and it will help them to get a better understanding to working with maps, distances, scales because the whole part of the entire project had to deal with legend and building the key to mapping. The entire exercise will be good for them to improving their overall map skills,” he said, referring to his pupils’ involvement and how he sees it benefiting them in writing the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) exam.

In general, Barriteau says P3DM brings that “sense of awareness of climate change to these communities with the hope that they will be empowered in making decisions about climate which would [then] inform policy decisions”.

Last week, SusGren, in collaboration with the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC), brought together members of local communities and regional and international organisations on Union Island, one of the Grenadine Islands, for a one-week participatory three-dimensional mapping exercise.

It’s no secret that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and other Caribbean islands are especially susceptible to the impacts of climate change and extreme climatic events, such as hurricanes and floods.

“Impacts of climate change in the Caribbean are projected to include sea level rise, ocean warming, and changing rainfall patterns,” the organisers said in a document circulated at the workshop.

“These are expected to have a significant economic and social impact. Threats from climate change and extreme climatic events are exacerbated by the ongoing problems caused by human development, including inappropriate land use and poorly planned physical development, inappropriate agricultural practices on slopes, point and non-point source pollution including from improper disposal of solid wastes.”

TNC’s “At the Water’s Edge” project focuses on helping small island states enhance their resilience to climate change by restoring and effectively managing their marine and coastal ecosystems and strengthening local capacity for adaptation.

The new mapping technology will aid this project by building local, national and regional capacity to support eco-based adaptation, empowering communities within the pilot sites in Grenada and Union Island, and developing the communications capacity of community-based organisations and NGOs.

On completion of the workshop, participants are expected to be in a position to discuss the value of local spatial and traditional knowledge as well as describe how P3DM can be used to document, geo-reference and visualise local knowledge. The four- by eight-foot model will belong to the community.

“Anyone wanting to use it must first seek the permission from the community. Sustainable Grenadines, which is leading the initiative on Union Island, would be working with the local community to develop ecosystem based solutions to deal with the effects of climate changes,” Barriteau says.

He said a suite of concrete climate change adaptation strategies will emerge from the P3DM initiative, and hopes it will not be viewed as just another overly technical, jargon-laden “fix” that obscures more than it enlightens.

“We hope that P3DM will put communities in the forefront on climate change issues. Not only are they bombarded, most times they are not involved. According to a Caribsave Climate Change study, sea level rise scenario 2050 is estimated at 489 million dollars to the economy of Grenada. Not only will climate change be costly, it could be the thing that cripples small island economies,” he added.

Tyrone Hall, a communications consultant at the Belize-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Climate Change Center (CCCCC), told IPS that the three-dimensional mapping is being done across the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) region on a small-scale, “so sharing our experiences via new media tools such as social media allows us to make public in an accessible way our experience and the lessons learnt.

“We also see social media as a natural fit with this activity given its participatory nature. The CCCCC is in a position to use its broad online social media platforms to share this exercise with a wide audience, particularly given our strong relationship with the Small Island Developing States (SIDS DOCK) Secretariat that includes the Pacific islands,” he added.

Barriteau said that as part of the part of the Union Island P3DM process, a film will be developed that will be shown in other ACP countries while the CTA is “driving this methodology worldwide”.

Grenada will be the next Caribbean country in which the P3DM exercise will be held in April. Organisers says the core problem the project will tackle is that policies to address the impacts of climate change have been created largely without the effective engagement of local communities – from which useful traditional knowledge exists and among whom much of the adaptation action will need to be taken.

“The effect is that policy responses in the Caribbean have largely been at the general policy level, with few specific policies or plans developed to address priorities at the landscape or site level,” they say.

“Sectoral considerations or traditional knowledge have not been adequately considered, stakeholders are not effectively engaged and there has been little on the ground action to build resilience or to ‘climate proof’ key sectors such as tourism and agriculture.”

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Q&A: Climate Change Front and Centre in Cuban Development Model Wed, 27 Feb 2013 18:21:35 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez 0 Building Beaches Against the Sea Fri, 01 Feb 2013 16:34:04 +0000 Helda Martinez Buildings near the coast, like these on the Bocagrande promenade, will no longer be permitted in Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

Buildings near the coast, like these on the Bocagrande promenade, will no longer be permitted in Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Helda Martínez/IPS

By Helda Martínez
CARTAGENA DE INDIAS, Colombia, Feb 1 2013 (IPS)

The government of this historic walled city, a bastion of tourism on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, is widening beaches and building dual carriageways on its north side to protect against the ever-worsening impacts of climate change.

Construction projects close to the Rafael Núñez international airport were begun in August 2010 and are due to be completed by 2014, but they are already sparking complaints among the artisanal fisherfolk in the area, who perceive them as threatening their livelihood.

The projects include widening Santander Avenue, in order to improve mobility, create a cycle route and help protect the coast, according to an open document posted by the local government of Cartagena de Indias in December 2009.

The widening of the road and the beach will cause “minimal (environmental) effects, according to the findings of more than 100 professionals in different disciplines, including marine biologists,” engineer Jaime Silva, the general coordinator of the infrastructure works being carried out by the private Consorcio Vía Al Mar, told IPS.

The dual carriageway already extends for seven kilometres out of the city of Cartagena de Indias, named after Cartagena in Spain and home to one million people. It originates in the neighbourhood of Crespo, where there is a tunnel 600 metres long, with an additional 400 metres for the entry and exit ramps.

Cartagena has almost 49 kilometres of coastline on the Caribbean sea. To combat erosion, its beaches are to be made 60 metres wider and protected with a rock wall for a distance of 2.3 kilometres. Furthermore, nine new sea walls will be created along this coastal stretch adjacent to Santander and Primera de Bocagrande Avenues.

“In coastal cities like ours, when sand has been eroded and material has to be dredged up from the sea, authorisation is needed from public bodies” at the national level, marine biologist Francisco Castillo, adviser to the Cartagena de Indias Planning Secretariat, told IPS.

These permits allow dredging of the sea bed, and sand to be brought from dunes several kilometres inland, to be used for widening the beach.

The project is part of a plan called “Integrating climate change adaptation into city planning in Cartagena de Indias”, which is aimed at countering problems like the gradual rise in sea level, more intense rainfall, frequent swells, flooding and other climate alterations that have been experienced so far this century.

“Permits are based on technical studies of the dunes, and bathymetric studies to measure the depths of the sea bed. It’s something like taking out a loan from the sea bed, to put sand on the coastline, and create a soft protective layer that guarantees the width of the beach,” said Castillo.

The fisherfolk do not need special studies or reports to know that the project affects them. They know it from their daily experience of fishing for a living.

“The construction works are harming us, because previously we had beaches. The water used to come up to here,” fisherman Pedro Pineda told IPS, indicating a line now covered with sand and heavy machinery, at the edge of an old sea wall.

But the sea walls lost strength and utility over the years because of “lack of maintenance”, and need replacing, Castillo said.

Eduardo Jiménez, who has been a fisherman for 40 of his 50 years, also said that “the works do us an injury, because just think, even with the present sea walls, when there is a swell, we can’t fish. And the swells come up at any moment.

“We knew they were going to carry out engineering works but they didn’t consult us beforehand. Lately they have talked to us, over in La Boquilla (an adjoining village) where I live, but people are not content. In any case, now, we have to go farther away to fish,” Jiménez said.

Nowadays, “on a good day,” he earns the equivalent of 10 dollars, he said.

“The fisherfolk and beach vendors, as well as all the local residents, were informed in an efficient and timely manner,” engineer Silva affirmed.

“We remain ready to respond to any questions from any person,” he said, and stressed that Consorcio Vía Al Mar is hiring construction workers, cleaning crews and security guards from among fisherfolk and those who used to work giving massages or selling products on the beach.

But “sometimes the work is very hard, or boring for us who are accustomed to the sea and the open air. Many of those who were hired first have already quit,” Pineda said.

Silva, for his part, pointed out that fisherfolk and other local people were being offered stable jobs until the works are completed.

He also said that the project has responded positively to proposals by workers, including informal labourers, residents and traders, and that the area is one of the zones of greatest economic growth in Cartagena in the last decade.

“Opposition and uncertainty have arisen largely because of a lack of sufficient information. But this is being solved in an effective manner, by planning and correcting social aspects,” said Castillo.

The planning adviser underlined that only at the beginning of the 2000s did the city begin to turn its gaze — however timidly — to the sea and its coastal development in the comprehensive way that was needed, including taking account of global warming.

“In revising urban planning schemes for the next few years, we will be working hard on the issue of flood risks,” he said.

“On top of the construction works, clear and convincing guidelines will be established to prevent any building on land at risk of flooding, virtually on the beach, as goes on today,” he said.

“I hope they finish it, because it’s a good thing,” a passerby walking along the edge of the beach told IPS.

“It’s true that people are uneasy about the delay in different works, like the mass transport system and the underwater outfall pipeline (to carry urban wastewater out to sea), which has been delayed for over a year,” Castillo admitted.

“But it’s normal, with large projects involving the sea and rough conditions, that planning schedules are sometimes upset, although in this case the timetable is going well,” he said.

“Cartagena is a city surrounded by the sea and made up of islands, like Manga, Manzanillo and Barú, which makes its urban and social features more complex,” the marine biologist said.

But Castillo was confident that “when these projects are completed, they will convince the community that Cartagena de Indias is growing out of its parochialism and becoming (part of) real geopolitical strategy in the Caribbean.”

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Between Drought and Floods – A Year of Extremes in Sri Lanka Sun, 30 Dec 2012 14:26:32 +0000 Amantha Perera Water, too much and too little of it, will be the biggest climate-induced factor determining Sri Lanka’s future in an era of extreme weather. Credit: Amantha Perera

Water, too much and too little of it, will be the biggest climate-induced factor determining Sri Lanka’s future in an era of extreme weather. Credit: Amantha Perera

By Amantha Perera
UDAWALAWE, Sri Lanka, Dec 30 2012 (IPS)

Wild elephants are usually the primary attraction in the remote shrub jungles of Udawalawe, about 180 kilometres southeast of Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo. But this Christmas season, the massive Udawalawe dam stole the limelight from the lumbering beasts.

By the end of December, heavy rains had brought water levels in the Udawalawe reservoir close to spilling point, forcing irrigation engineers to open the sluice gates.

Despite these efforts, the massive tank continued to spill over, creating a gigantic flood downstream.

People drove in cars, vans, motorcycles, lorries and even bullock carts to witness the spectacle, which was but a minor footnote compared to the impact of the rains elsewhere in this South Asian island nation.

Between Dec. 17 and 26, cyclone-level rains left 34 dead, nine unaccounted for and 328,000 stranded. Over 8,000 homes were damaged and roughly 4,000 were completely destroyed.

“No one expected this much rain,” Lal Kumara, deputy director at the government’s Disaster Management Centre (DMC), the main public body tasked with early warnings and post-disaster relief efforts in Sri Lanka, told IPS.

But someone should have expected the rains, based on the extreme weather events that ripped through the country in 2012, forcing Sri Lankans to come face to face with the disastrous impact of changing climate patterns. The end-of-year torrential rains were not the first time the country experienced unexpected floods, nor will it be the last, experts say.

In the first week of November, sudden rains brought on by Cyclone Nisha left over 200,000 people stranded, 15,000 displaced and nine dead. Over 5,000 homes were also destroyed.

Just prior to the November rains, much of the country had been hit by a 10-month-long drought. Close to a million people were affected, according to the International Federation of Red Cross Societies (IFRC), which recently launched a million-dollar international appeal to assist over 125,000 drought-affected people in Sri Lanka.

The drought destroyed 23 percent of the secondary rice harvest, the Ministry of Agriculture said, putting thousands of farmers at risk of starvation.

“More and more people are being forced to think about climate change and evaluate the impact,” Bob McKerrow, head of the IFRC delegation in Sri Lanka, told IPS.

The Northwestern Puttalam District provides a salient example of the extent of weather fluctuations within a matter of months.

During the December floods, parts of the district were submerged under eight feet of water, forcing 36,000 displaced persons to take shelter in over 60 government camps.

Yet just three months prior to the floods, people in the district were walking miles to dig holes in dried-out tank beds and wait overnight to collect the water.

“Water, the lack of it and too much of it, will be the biggest climate induced (factor) determining the way Sri Lankans live in the future,” W L Sumathipala, former head of the climate change unit of the ministry of environment, told IPS.

And though the signs are evident for all to see, hardly any action is being taken to mitigate the likelihood of future intense weather events.

The Meteorological Department still lacks the capacity to provide detailed forecasts, leaving the public to decipher cryptic notices, like the one that appeared on Dec. 20 stating, “There will be showers or thundershowers at times in the Northern, Eastern, North Central and Uva provinces and in the eastern slopes of the central hills and in the Hambantota district. Fairly heavy falls are also expected in some places.

“Showers or thundershowers will develop (in) several places elsewhere, particularly during the afternoon or evening,” the bulletin concluded.

Even officials at the DMC bemoaned the fact that they were not given detailed accounts of how much rain to expect, which would have enabled them to issue more precise warnings.

S H Kariyawasam, director general of the Meteorological Department, told IPS that the department lacked the technical and personnel capacity to give out such forecasts.

Erratic weather also continues to plague the vital paddy sector. In 2011, the country lost close to 17 percent of the total harvest to floods, followed by a bumper harvest the year after. The 2012 drought ignited fears of another lost crop, but heavy rains this month are forcing experts to rethink their forecasts yet again.

Initial reports said the rains had caused substantial damages to paddy storage facilities.

Farmers have yet to change their practices to accommodate the volatile weather, and paddy cultivation continues to follow the traditional cycle of planting and harvesting according to the two monsoons.

“Maybe if this trend continues we will have to think of adjusting the crop cycles,” said L Rupasena, additional secretary at the government-run Hector Kobbekaduwa Agrarian Training Research Institute.

According to McKerrow, the nature of incremental climate change over decades, and sometimes generations, means people pay less attention to the patterns that they should. “Slow moving disasters are the hardest for people to understand,” he said.

But for those who gathered in close proximity to the gushing torrents under the Udawalawe dam, there was no doubt about the need for urgent action.

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Guyana Hits Paydirt on Low Carbon Development Path Wed, 26 Dec 2012 16:42:36 +0000 Desmond Brown About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
ROSEAU, Dominica, Dec 26 2012 (IPS)

Imagine Guyana and Dominica without forests and rivers, or Antigua, Barbados and St. Lucia without beaches.

Atherton Martin, a conservationist and former minister of agriculture in Dominica, says climate change should be forcing Caribbean countries to take a hard look at how they are managing their natural resources, lest they eventually disappear.

“What the climate change principles tell us is that basically when your natural resource systems are debilitated, weakened or destroyed by climate change, your economy is thereby destroyed,” he told IPS.

But all is not bleak. Martin believes climate change could potentially benefit the Caribbean in two ways – firstly, by forcing a change in mindset where countries take the lead instead of simply reacting; and secondly, by allowing governments to build stronger economies by accessing millions of dollars in climate change funding.

He pointed to Guyana’s push to become a low carbon economy, noting that it has already drawn down more than 70 million dollars from carbon credits on just 10 percent of its forest systems.

“They expect to draw down a total of over 250 million dollars over the next year and this is a deal made on carbon credits and sequestration valuation with just one country, Norway,” Martin said.

In July 2009, Guyana launched a low carbon strategy aimed at promoting economic development, while at the same time combating climate change.

At the launch, then President Bharrat Jagdeo called for a platform on which developing countries like Guyana are not seen as mere recipients of aid, but as equal partners in the search for climate solutions.

A low carbon economy is one where economic activities are geared to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that would otherwise go into the atmosphere, and where other activities and lifestyles seek to minimise the effects of climate change.

About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, or some 15 million hectares, has remained untouched over time. An expert study commissioned by Guyana estimates that the country would earn some 580 million dollars annually if it were to engage in economic activities that could lead to the destruction of the forests, but the economic value to the world, if these same forests were left standing, would be equivalent to 40 billion dollars.

Jagdeo has described Guyana’s forests as a global asset, home to at least 8,000 plant and animal species that make it one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. The forests also act as a sink to absorb carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

With the right low-deforestation economic incentives, Guyana would avoid emissions of 1.5 gigatonnes of CO2 a year.

Earlier this year, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) approved an institutional strengthening project for Guyana’s Low-Carbon Development Strategy. The approval means that nearly six million dollars will flow to Guyana for implementation, following an initial sum of 1.06 million dollars released to the country from Norway for preparatory work.

Guyana’s REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) Investment Fund, dubbed GRIF, was established in October 2010 in order to fund projects of the country’s low-carbon strategy.

The project will strengthen the technical and administrative capacity of those institutions responsible for implanting the strategy, and develop an MRV (Monitoring, Reporting and Verification) system on a national level.

The partnership between Norway and Guyana is the second-biggest REDD+ partnership in the world, according to the Guyanese government.

Martin pointed out that there are arrangements with the World Bank, the Organisation of American States (OAS), other financial institutions and the United Nations that could allow Caribbean countries to earn financing as a result of their climate change resilience activities.

“They could value their natural resources on the basis of their sequestration of CO2 and then convert that sequestration property into hard cash, as Guyana is doing, or convert it into expanded negotiating room on debt reduction and expanded negotiating room on getting more concessionary loans,” he said.

President and founder of the Dominica-based Waitkbuli Ecological Foundation, Bernard Wiltshire, an attorney, agrees that a new way of thinking is necessary.

He told IPS that Caribbean countries now need to build “appropriate industries” and get involved in “the right kind of tourism”, for example.

“Dominica could have a tourism industry that could far outstrip Antigua. Antigua has the sun, sand and sea and so on, but Dominica has the sea and in addition to that it has a lot more than Antigua,” Wiltshire said.

“Everybody is saying sun, sand and sea are what you need for tourism and are ignoring nature tourism, adventure tourism, heritage tourism and wellness tourism,” he said.

“These things are growing. Just slouching, drinking rum under a palm tree – that is going out of fashion. The tourism industry in the Caribbean is going downhill because we are competing with the larger countries. Tourists are going farther afield, they want more adventurous things,” Wilshire added.

He pointed to Southeast Asia and the jungles of Burma as new hotspots, adding that “Dominica has its own Caribbean jungle right here” and could attract thousands of people who are looking for a jungle adventure.

Martin lamented that a region like the Caribbean, with so many extraordinary opportunities, has such financially strapped economies.

“You have countries with national annual budgets of 600 million dollars. If you can draw down in a year or two years half of that or even more from converting the silent work of your natural systems into hard dollars from the international financial community, you are home free,” he told IPS.

He said that the Caribbean could very rapidly turn itself around purely on the basis of taking that climate-resilient look at its natural systems by understanding how vulnerable it is and hence how vital it is to reorganise the way in which it manages its natural resources.

“The expertise is available to you to do the calculations that would get the rest of the world to finally begin to reward you for conserving your forests, conserving your reefs, conserving your water systems and so on,” Martin said.

“That’s a no-brainer and climate change is just begging the question. It’s saying to us, ‘hey guys, you have an option, and guess what, for once this option is to the advantage of small islands like ours’,” he added.

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Forests, Fruit and Fish Could Save Coastal Communities Fri, 21 Dec 2012 05:17:51 +0000 Naimul Haq Mohammad Jamal Hossain shows off vegetables grown on his “dike” garden. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Mohammad Jamal Hossain shows off vegetables grown on his “dike” garden. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
BARGUNA, Bangladesh , Dec 21 2012 (IPS)

Scientists predict that in the coming years, Bangladesh will be battered by even more climate disasters than it has already endured. Global warming has caused devastating damage in this lower Himalayan delta country of 150 million people, where seawater intrusion, increasingly intense cyclones, dried up rivers and extreme weather events have become the norm.

Crop production is said to have declined by 30 percent and if seawater inundation continues at its current rate, 16 percent of the country’s coastal areas will be underwater by 2050.

It is also estimated that by 2050 some 18.5 million inhabitants of coastal Bangladesh will face hunger, homelessness and poverty as a result of climate change.

Despite the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, widely recognised as the leading cause of global warming, industrialised nations have been unmoved.

As the recent United Nations climate summit in Doha, Qatar, made clear, appeals and tragedies have not been sufficient to prompt binding agreements on emissions cuts.

But faced with the threat of a massive humanitarian and ecological crisis in the coming decades, the government of Bangladesh is no longer willing to remain silent.

Since 2009 it has poured 350 million dollars into projects to address climate change, including devising better adaptation and mitigation models.

Community-based adaptation to climate change through coastal afforestation is one such model that has attracted global attention for its unique approach to adaptation and sustainability and is now being practiced in Bangladesh.

What started off as a pilot project in 2009 has now provided some 80 landless families in the coastal Sonatola village in the southwestern Barguna district with state-owned fallow land on which to cultivate fruit and vegetables, grow timber trees and rear fish.

Located about 480 kilometres from the capital Dhaka, this district was chosen for its past experiences of being hit by both Aila and Sidr, two of this century’s deadliest cyclones.

A mangrove forest planted along the seashore to protect coastal communities from flooding, cyclones and storms. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Along with growing fruits and cultivating fish for livelihood purposes, the project also included planting wild mangrove forests, locally known as golpata and kewra, to protect the coastal communities from cyclones.

The government also erected an embankment along the coastline to prevent seawater intrusion and shelter inhabitants from storms, surges and wind.

Each of the beneficiaries received about 23 decimals of land (about 1o,000 square feet) for the purpose of excavating a deep ditch and constructing a dike alongside it to confine the water.

Locals call it the ‘ditch and dike project’, though its official name is ‘Forest, Fruit, Fish’ or the ‘Triple F’ model.

Peasants planted fruit and timber trees along the embankment and released fish, including several carp varieties, into the ditches that lie parallel to each other.

Benefits to the community

The Triple F model has been a godsend for the once impoverished community.

The soil in Naltola, an area comprising a cluster of small villages from which many of the project’s beneficiaries hailed, had become too salty for growing crops, with soil quality worsening at an alarming pace, according to numerous scientists.

Local coastal farmers told IPS that, until the project began, their main source of livelihood had been disappearing fast, as they had been forced to give up growing crops.


Beneficiaries of the “dike and ditch” project hold up their fish catch. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

“Local fish stocks were also depleting due to high salinity. So the ‘ditch and dike project’ has really come to our rescue,” Shajahan Mallik, a 53-year-old former fisherman, who heads a committee of the new landowners, told IPS.

Twenty-three-year-old Mohammad Jamal Hossain, another of the project’s beneficiaries, told IPS he recently earned about 125 dollars selling four types of carp species in Naltola bazaar, a small fishing and farming village just four kilometres from the Bay of Bengal.

“I had virtually no income before this project but now I earn a regular income selling vegetables like cabbage, gourd, peas, beans, spinach and radish. Fish is in high demand here, and the big varieties I catch fetch good prices,” said Jamal, who lives with his mother and sisters.

Jamal’s neighbours made similar fortunes growing vegetables and cultivating fish. The fruit trees are not yet matured so the beneficiaries may have to wait another two years before they can start selling fruits.

Masuda Begum (33), one of the poorest women in the village, said, “I earned about 150 dollars last summer from the sale of fish and vegetables.”

Masuda’s neighbour Rahima (35) told IPS, “When I need to buy something I don’t have to worry about cash. I ask my son to catch fish and trade them for necessary commodities in the market.”

In fact, many of the families have stopped shopping for daily essentials except for some spices and rice, since fresh vegetables and fish are now plentiful. The trees also provide enough dry leaves and twigs for fires.

Some families have even bought ducks and released them into the fresh water ditches, hoping that the birds’ eggs bring even more profitability. This innovation bodes well for the project’s sustainability.

Observing the project’s success from afar, thousands of landless farmers in the surrounding villages have appealed for similar allocations of land on which to cultivate sustainable livelihoods.

“We are preparing a proposal for expanding the programme,” Mohammad Abdul Wahhab Bhuiyan, deputy commissioner of the Barguna district, told IPS, adding that the only way to cope with the enourmous number of requests is to replicate the project in the most vulnerable communities across Bangladesh.

Aparup Chowdhury, additional secretary of the ministry of environment and forests, told IPS, “The project has already received international recognition thanks to our State Minister for Environment and Forests, Dr. Hasan Mahmud, who has been an enthusiastic supporter all the way through.”

“We are now planning to take the lessons from Barguna to other coastal districts like Noakhali, Cox’s Bazar, Bagerhat, Bhola and Khulna, which would greatly help thousands of farmers there,” Chowdhury added.

This past April, the Triple F model received the renowned international ‘Earth Care’ award in recognition of its mitigation and adaptation efforts.


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Tiny Barbuda Fears Increasingly Hostile Climate Fri, 30 Nov 2012 15:21:36 +0000 Desmond Brown A barge transports sand from Barbuda. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

A barge transports sand from Barbuda. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
CODRINGTON, Barbuda, Nov 30 2012 (IPS)

Local scientists are warning the tiny 62-square-mile island of Barbuda is becoming one of the most vulnerable spots on earth to the consequences of climate change.

“We are small, we are flat…and if the climate change predictions come true, especially with respect to sea level rise, you are looking at potentially a third of the island being not available for the sort of things we are using it for right now,” marine biologist John Mussington told IPS.

Worsening the problem is the long-time practice of sand removal from the island, he says.

“You have land, sand and water, and when you take sand out of the system, sand will move from somewhere else to replace that which is moved. So the amount of sand which has been taken out of Barbuda over the years has impacted our shoreline.

“We already have accelerated erosion taking place because of the sea level rise, and added to that you are taking sand out of the system so what you find happening, that beautiful beach that stretches all the way from the north come around to the south, most of those areas where 10 years ago you had grape trees and coconut trees, they are just not there anymore and you are actually seeing the collapse of the vegetation into the water,” he added.

In July 2011, Barbuda renamed a three-mile stretch of beach after the late Princess Diana of Wales, who was a frequent visitor. Mussington says the island could well lose that very beach, along with others that attract tourists and boost economic growth.

“You experience the sea level rise which is being predicted, and one of the ways in which the shoreline responds to that is that the shoreline will move so the beaches will recede closer to the solid land,” he told IPS.

“The low-lying area which is created by all that sand being excavated, that now potentially is an area that becomes flooded with every storm. The last serious ground swell we had three years ago was sufficient to flood the entire area for quite a few weeks.”

Dr. Brian Cooper, who heads the Antigua and Barbuda Environmental Awareness Group (EAG), said both islands have been experiencing their share of extreme weather conditions – one of the consequences predicted by climate change scientists.

Dr. Cooper told IPS extremes of weather inflict human trauma, cause economic damage and destabilise agriculture.

“We need first of all to look at our agriculture and our food supply, because the way the world is going, the way the population is increasing, and if these predictions about climate change come about, a lot of the world’s food-producing areas are probably going to be affected,” he said.

“I think we need to take our own food production very seriously and that to me means we ought to be looking very, very critically at the agricultural land we are putting into housing,” he said. “I think too much of that has happened already.”

Dr. Cooper also said the country needs look at the water supply for agriculture because if droughts are going to be serious and prolonged, this would affect food production.

“We have desalination but the cost of desalinated water is really not amenable to wide-scale use for agriculture and we’ve done very little to look at increasing our other sources of surface water or ground water, and ground water itself is likely to be affected by rising sea levels because all our well-fed areas are very close to the coast,” he said.

He pointed to recent floods in Russia and Pakistan, and weather extremes in the United States and Canada as clear evidence that climate change is real and happening now.

“It’s really falling in line very much with what was predicted…we get extremes of weather anyway, things go in cycles, you have various climatic cycles coming together and giving you exceptional weather conditions, but all those things are exacerbated by the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere, at least that is what the climate change scientists are more or less unanimously agreed on,” Cooper said.

Dale Destin, a climatologist at the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service, told IPS that over the past two years, the country saw a period of wet conditions that has now transitioned into what may become a mild drought.

“These things would generally happen in cycles but with climate change some of these observations become more extreme,” he said.

Mussington said despite the grim predictions, climate change need not be a death sentence, adding that Small Island Developing States like Antigua and Barbuda have to adapt.

However, he laments that the adaptation issue is not being taken seriously and is absent from policies governing certain critical areas.

“Do we have a policy on agriculture?” he asked. “Do we have a policy on tourism which takes into consideration what is predicted to happen?

“So, for example, tourism they say is where our economy benefits the most from, so if you know that climate change is happening, the common sense thing is that you should have a policy in place as of yesterday to say that ‘okay, we expect that our coastline is going to be most severely impacted so that any existing hotels we can’t do anything about but future development should be done away from the shoreline’,” he said.

“We are not hearing that yet. You look at the same thing in agriculture; you are going to have a lot more of your coastal areas being salinated.

“We need to apply crops that can withstand the higher temperate and higher salinity and so on – these are the things we need to put into our policies and start implementing them now and if we don’t we are basically just running to the cliff and jumping off blindly,” he warned.

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Some Caribbean Hotels Back Away from Battered Coastlines Wed, 17 Oct 2012 17:01:14 +0000 Desmond Brown Hotel in Antigua. Most hotels in the Caribbean are built on the beaches and coasts. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Hotel in Antigua. Most hotels in the Caribbean are built on the beaches and coasts. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Oct 17 2012 (IPS)

The postcards portray sand, sea and sun. But key players in the Caribbean tourism industry are warning that it’s time to shift gears away from the region’s threatened coastlines and instead promote inland attractions like biodiversity.

“Climate change is one of the things that is affecting the hotel industry, and the fact that most of our hotels are right on the beaches (means) they are subject to violent storms, the frequency of which has been projected to increase due to climate change issues,” hotelier and social entrepreneur Valmiki Kempadoo told IPS.

“Outside of Trinidad and maybe a large country like Jamaica, tourism is by far the largest economic driver of these smaller islands…and we have to seek new solutions, new business models that could take this thing into the 21st century,” he said.

Kempadoo is urging his regional counterparts to move their properties away from the beaches, noting that in light of the effects of climate change “having a hotel at 500 feet or 1,000 feet above sea level can help in that general direction”.

He said while the Caribbean is known best for its beaches, there are also lots of other experiences the different islands can offer.

“The climate away from the beaches is much better. It’s an incredibly fertile place where we can grow all these amazing exotic tropical fruits and vegetables that we have a world class collection of,” he said.

“We can offer beautiful hikes, we can offer beautiful views and a beautiful experience without the high humidity and the other things that come with having a hotel on the seaside,” Kempadoo added.

Dominica’s Tourism Minister Ian Douglas knows only too well the devastating effects of climate change on the tourism-dependent economies of the Caribbean.

In fact, he told IPS Dominica is probably one of the islands most affected by this global phenomenon.

“The islands are hit by hurricanes every year and that costs the islands millions (of dollars) to the point where governments have to look at some kind of disaster risk fund to mitigate against the damage,” he said.

“At least one of the islands gets hit every year and Dominica is no exception. In fact we are seeing a new phenomenon in Dominica right now where we are have massive flooding, something that was never before seen, and last year this caused considerable damage even to some of our tourism plants and equipment.”

Douglas noted that Dominica, with most of its hotels on the west coast on the Caribbean Sea, “takes a beating every year”.

And he said the island now has to grapple not only with sea surges and rising sea levels, but also severe flooding in its 365 waterways.

“We have about three of our rivers within the Canefield to Layou area experiencing massive flooding and villages had to be evacuated. Riverbanks were flooded out, bridges and homes were destroyed to the point where government had to actually give families grants for short-term replacements.

“I’ve said all of that to tell you how much climate change continues to affect Dominica. It’s an issue that we continue to grapple with. We actually have a department formulated specifically for dealing with the challenges posed by climate change,” he added.

Sam Raphael, the owner of Jungle Bay Hotel in Dominica, smiles at the suggestion from Valmiki Kempadoo.

He said when he established his jungle resort several years ago, “it was out of an acknowledgement that it is imperative that we make some radical changes and improvement to our tourism industry if it is to survive.

“A few years ago, our industry accepted a false choice between enterprise development and protecting our fragile natural environment. The empowerment and capacity building of our people to be the entrepreneur drivers of the primary industry of our region, our daily bread, was not a priority,” he said.

Nestled in the forests along Dominica’s east coast, the Jungle Bay Hotel focuses on nature-based activities and wellness of guests.

Grenada is also moving to diversify its sun, sand and sea tourism product. And as the island moves towards greater sustainability, Tourism Minister Dr. George Vincent points to the importance of the energy sector.

“We are working with the electricity company to produce alternative energy in the form of wind. We are encouraging the hotels to do solar energy to replace fuel costs. But the sustainable tourism thing is where we’re heading,” he said.

“I tell folks — long ago things like IT and languages were important. Now, they are only platforms to build on. So we are building a sustainable platform, and we will. Everything down the road is supposed to be sustainable, green, eco-friendly. So we have the energy, we have the preservation, we have the rainforest, and we have a number of marine parks that are well-preserved.

“So we’re doing fine in the area of preservation, and we are now going to convert that preservation to use, and make it work for us. So we feel that Grenada benefits greatly from preservation and conservation,” Dr. Vincent, who took over the tourism portfolio in May of this year, added.

A recent State of the Industry Conference, held here Oct. 10-12, was facilitated by the region’s tourism development agency, the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).

Secretary General Hugh Riley told delegates the Caribbean is experiencing the toughest economic conditions since the Great Depression. He urged hoteliers and other tourism stakeholders to assemble all the creativity, discipline and collective resources they have and use them wisely for the good of the region.

“We have to determine what it takes for small, vulnerable tourism economies to effectively compete in an arena that is populated by large industrialised countries with vastly superior budgets and the power to pass legislation that discriminates against us, impacts our competitive position and further shifts the balance of power in the direction of the already powerful,” he said.

“The good news is that we in the Caribbean have more than a few cards to play. We in this cluster of small populations are bold enough to assemble and decide that we can come together as One Caribbean, enlist some of this industry’s sharpest minds, elect leaders, thrash out ideas and mold them into actions that allow us to win in this environment,” he said.

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