Inter Press ServiceSustainability – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:39:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Investors Turn Kenya’s Troublesome Invasive Water Hyacinth into Cheap Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/investors-turn-troublesome-invasive-water-hyacinth-cheap-fuel/#respond Wed, 19 Dec 2018 06:34:12 +0000 Benson Rioba http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159315 Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area. But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it. The presence […]

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Water hyacinth is a weed and if not controlled on Lake Victoria, experts are concerned that the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent. Courtesy: CC by 2.0/Madeira Botanic Garden

By Benson Rioba
KISUMU, Kenya, Dec 19 2018 (IPS)

Currently 30 square kilometres of Lake Victoria, which stretches to approximately 375 kilometres and links Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, is covered with the evasive water hyacinth that has paralysed transport in the area.

But scientists are harvesting and fermenting the weed, and one intrepid chemistry teacher has built a business out of it.

The presence of water hyacinth on the lake is concerning. Late last year, Margaret Kidany, one of the people involved in conserving Lake Victoria’s beaches, said the lake’s water levels might drop by 60 percent if the weed is not controlled. If it is not eliminated, it will kill the livelihoods of thousands of households that rely on the lake for an income.

However, the Centre for Innovation Science and Technology in Africa, founded by former chemistry teacher Richard Arwa, is making the best out of the invasive water hyacinth.

Funded in its start-up stages by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the innovation company, which employs six people and serves 560 households, manufactures ethanol from the weed. This is proving a cheaper source of clean fuel for many of the locals while at the same time preserving the lake.

The process they use is a simple one.

The centre hires locals to harvest the hyacinth from Lake Victoria before transporting it to their workshop for processing. Once at the workshop, the hyacinth is pretreated to remove microorganisms that might compete with the enzymes during processing.

The hyacinth is then dried and chopped into smaller pieces to reduce the surface area for efficient processing. The dried hyacinth is then mixed with water, acids and enzymes in tight closed tanks for fermentation.

After fermentation the mixture is subjected to high temperatures (80 degrees Celsius), producing ethanol and carbon dioxide and methane as final products.

“This was part of a science congress project for secondary schools and it won accolades throughout the country and we, together with my students, decided to actualise the project,” says Arwa.

Arwa is still a chemistry teacher even though he started the institution in 2016.

He adds that they initially tried to produce beverage alcohol from the hyacinth but the project was not viable. According to Arwa, alcohol requires numerous purification processes to make it consumable. In addition the taxes on the product are high.

So it is less costly to make ethanol. Arwa says the company produces 100 litres daily.

The amount is considerable for their factory, and it is sold to 560 households in Yala in Kisumu city. Arwa tells IPS that they always run out of stock.

Lyne Ondula, a mother from Yala, in Kisumu county, is a happy customer.

“Hyacinth fuel burns slower than the usual kerosene I use and doesn’t produce smoke and soot while cooking like firewood or kerosene. To me it’s much cheaper and cleaner to use, no more coughing in my kitchen when preparing food,” she tells IPS.

Ondula says a litre of ethanol retails at 70 Kenyan shillings and lasts four days. That is in marked contrast to the higher cost of kerosene, which currently retails at a national average of 100 Kenyan shillings, and lasts only two days. She says she also used to buy charcoal which was quite expensive, retailing at 100 Kenyan shilling per a 15-kilogram tin, which only lasted hours. So now she only uses ethanol, which she pre-orders.

It is a cleaner option for this East African nation that is still heavily reliant on charcoal, kerosene and firewood as a source of energy. According to a market and policy analysis by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, while “LPG has penetrated Nairobi and higher-income households; bio-ethanol can be an attractive clean fuel for lower income households.”

Ondula’s sentiments were echoed by Sylvester Oduor, another resident from Yala in Kisumu County. He adds that ethanol fuel also produces more heat compared to charcoal when cooking.

Philip Odhiambo, energy and climate change coordinator at the WWF, says such innovations are key in harnessing the untapped opportunities of water bodies.

“There is a need to turn environmental challenges to create wealth and opportunities especially in creating jobs for our many unemployed youth,” says Odhiambo. He adds that the ethanol processing project is a viable way of managing green waste that has been a challenge in the country for a long time.

Odhiambo adds that the world is shifting towards clean, cheap energy and says there is a need to embrace creativity and tap into the energy potential of water bodies, besides the traditional sources of energy.

In addition, unlike other clean fuels, bio-ethanol can be produced domestically over time and could spur industrial growth in the sector “while delivering positive social and economic benefits,” says the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety report.

However, Arwa says accessing the initial capital of 50,000 dollars was a challenge as many financial institutions turned him away for lack of collateral. In the end he had to rely on donors like WWF to finance the project. The chemistry teacher adds that financial institutions did not have faith in the venture and were not ready to invest in the idea.

The immediate goal for the company is to expand production to 600 litres per day.

But Arwa has a five-year expansion plan that includes moving the small factory, which is about 40 kilometres away from Lake Victoria, closer to the lake to reduce costs. He hopes that once relocated, and with the support of partners, they will eventually be able to produce 10,000- 25,000 litres per day.

Arwa adds that he is looking for strategic investment partners to help in scaling up the ethanol project, reiterating that there is a huge untapped market for the product. “I usually feel bad when customers come to purchase ethanol but we turn them away. At the moment we cannot satisfy the demand,” he says.

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African Media Poorly Represented at the United Nations Climate Change Negotiationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/african-media-poorly-represented-united-nations-climate-change-negotiations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-media-poorly-represented-united-nations-climate-change-negotiations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/african-media-poorly-represented-united-nations-climate-change-negotiations/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 15:14:55 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159256 As negotiations at the United Nations conference on climate change come to a close, the highest expectation is that finally, there will be a rulebook to guide countries on what should be done to slow down greenhouse gas emissions that make the earth warmer than necessary, and how countries can adapt to the impacts of […]

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Kenyan cameraman John Ngaruiya (right) and reporter Zeynab Wandati (centre) interview Mohammed Adow (left) of Christian Aid. There were less than 30 African reporters present at COP24. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

As negotiations at the United Nations conference on climate change come to a close, the highest expectation is that finally, there will be a rulebook to guide countries on what should be done to slow down greenhouse gas emissions that make the earth warmer than necessary, and how countries can adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Africa is arguably the continent that is most impacted by climate change, experiencing storms, droughts, and floods; the emergence of new human and plant diseases as well as increased incidents of infectious diseases; unpredictable weather; and rising sea levels, among others. 

However, the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) raises one big question: Who is going to tell the African narrative of climate change?

The UNFCCC secretariat has always allocated humble working space for the media, fixed with sufficient state-of-the-art computers, free high-speed internet and printing services, and an information desk to make lives of journalists easier in covering the conference.

But African media has never been truly present at the conference to tell the real African story of the climate change discourse right from the negotiating room.

“It is a shame for the media houses all over Africa to be relying on wire stories when addressing an issue that is of great importance to the African continent. It is totally unacceptable,” said Mohammed Adow, who heads climate policy and advocacy at Christian Aid.

According to Tim Davis, the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) manager for UNFCCC:

  • 1,749 journalists from across the globe were accredited to cover the conference;
  • but only 1,068 turned up.

However, out of these journalists some individual media houses brought in as many as 40 journalists. But looking at the represented media houses on the list, less than 30 journalists are present from African media houses.

IPS contacted some of the African journalists who had registered and not attended. They said they had been prepared and eager to cover the event, but could not make it because of a lack of funding.

“I was really prepared to cover the COP, but I couldn’t make it because I did not get a sponsor,” said Elias Ngalame, a Cameroonian journalist who won the very first Africa Climate Change and Environment Reporting (ACCER) Award in 2013, and has since been reporting about the COP processes.

The same was said by Friday Phiri, an Inter Press Service award-winning environment journalist from Zambia, Michael Simire, a veteran environment journalist from Nigeria, and Agatha Ngotho from Kenya, among many others.

From the entire East African region, including Ethiopia, only four journalists were available to tell the African narrative from COP24 for the African population.

However, sometimes freelance journalists—as opposed to reporters permanently employed at media houses—are more likely to obtain funding to cover global conferences such as this because their stories have wider reach both locally and internationally. But they are oftentimes only sponsored to cover the events of their donors and only present for a short time.

And on the other hand, African media organisations are still either unable to afford the costs of sending journalists to such events, or would prefer to cover local issues.

Mithika Mwenda, the Executive Director for the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), believes that African delegations must take responsibility and support at least one environmental journalist to accompany them.

“Most of the people, especially in the villages who are affected by climate change, do not have time and sometimes capacity to read and understand content from scientific reports, specialised websites, the IPCC reports and so on. Instead, they listen to radio, they watch television and they read daily newspapers,” said Mwenda, whose organisation supported four African journalists to cover COP24.

“So when delegates are coming here, they should think about how the messages they are passing across will be digested, simplified and given a human angle for that 90 year old woman in a rural African village to understand why things are not happening the way they used to when she was a teenager,” Mwenda told IPS.

His sentiments were echoed by Ishaku Huzi Mshelia, an Energy Legal Expert from Nigeria who told IPS that the media is indeed indispensable when it comes to climate change negotiations.

“Decision makers need to learn from the media. When we talk about something like the Talanoa Dialogue, we must have someone who will explain to the masses including policy makers what the term means, and why it is important,” said Mshelia.

He observed that the Africa Union should take responsibility to support African journalists. “Journalists require training on the negotiation process, and resources must be made available if at all we are keen on passing the message from the discussion table to the people who desperately need to adapt to climate change,” he said.

According to Mwenda, Africa has a significant number of journalists who understand issues around climate change, and they have constantly reported about the same from their various countries.

“All we need is to fully involve them in such negotiation processes so that our narrative is not told by people who know less or nothing about the continent,” he said.

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Decoding Article 6 of the COP24 Climate Negotiationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/decoding-article-6-cop-24-climate-negotiations/#respond Fri, 14 Dec 2018 07:11:02 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159242 It is close to curtain call for the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, with ministers from around the world negotiating the text for a “rulebook” to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement for climate action. Amidst the various issues being debated, one of the most technical and complicated is Article 6 of the […]

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The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) side event at COP24 that discussed transparency and NDC implementation. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 14 2018 (IPS)

It is close to curtain call for the United Nations’ Climate Conference in Katowice, Poland, with ministers from around the world negotiating the text for a “rulebook” to implement the historic 2015 Paris Agreement for climate action. Amidst the various issues being debated, one of the most technical and complicated is Article 6 of the agreement, which focuses on the country plans for climate action.

While the world has been having climate conferences since 1992, the tide turned with the Paris Agreement when all countries agreed to play their part to undertake climate action.

“Developing countries now have a strong political will to contribute to the greenhouse gas reduction,” said Hyoeun Jenny Kim, Deputy Director General at the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an international organisation that promotes balancing economic growth without harming the environment. This political will was manifested in Paris with countries voluntarily submitting their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for reducing carbon emissions and building climate resilience, taking into account their respective circumstances.

“But at the same time, they need support to affectively implement their NDCs,” Kim said, at a side event at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), which was organised by GGGI and focused on transparency and NDC implementation.

In order to get support from outside, Measuring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) of a country’s carbon emissions reduction is almost a precondition as many donor agencies and even private sector organisations want to know how much greenhouse gases a developing country is emitting before they make a decision to support it.

“MRV is key for developing countries to get access to financial, technical and capacity building support, and that’s why we are supporting developing countries to set up more proper and internationally acceptable MRV scheme,” Kim said.

GGGI’s interventions in this area include preparing a low emissions development strategy for Fiji, Colombia’s national green growth strategy and Mongolia’s national energy efficiency plan. The organisation is also working on building capacity to implement MRVs in various countries around the globe, including, Mozambique, Senegal, Nepal and Laos.

“We will continue to support our members and partners in their efforts of effectively implementing NDCs with robust MRVs, so they can access more finance,” Kim said.

“We are committed to reminding countries that green growth can happen.”

One of the speakers at the panel was Ariyaratne Hewage, Special Envoy of the President on Climate Change, Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, in Sri Lanka, which is on track to become a member of the GGGI. He said Sri Lanka anticipates extensive support from GGGI in the years to come for its preparation of various project proposals to fight climate change.

“The present situation in Sri Lanka is severe droughts in one part of the country and heavy floods in another,” Hewage said. During a 2016 survey conducted by the Bonn-based NGO Germanwatch, Sri Lanka was awarded the fourth place in terms of climate vulnerability.

“We are severely affected by climate change, so we are very keen in developing climate change programs to ensure these problems are properly addressed,” Hewage said.

The proposed emission reduction i.e. mitigation targets of Sri Lanka’s NDCs include 30 percent reduction in the energy sector and 10 percent reduction in transport, industry and waste by 2030.

“For energy and transport sector we already have developed MRV systems, but for the other sectors – industry, waste, agriculture, livestock, forestry – we need help,” he added.

The need for support was also stressed by Ziaul Haque who leads the Bangladesh delegation’s COP24 negotiations on Article 6.

“Our main issue is lack of capacity to address this enhanced transparency framework under the Paris Agreement at both the institutional level and the individual level,” said Haque, highlighting the need for accurate data.

“We need to bring data on green house gas emissions from different institutions and whether they are collecting and archiving the data in the right manner is an issue that needs to be looked at. In this regard our institutional arrangement is not very strong at the national level,” he said, stating that strengthening the capacity of institutions and individuals who will be dealing with the transparency issue is crucial.

Rajani Ranjan Rashmi, a Distinguished Fellow at The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and former Special Secretary of India’s Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, said at the side event that one of the fundamental issues to deciding a transparency framework is that of flexibility.

“Developing countries should be able to make gradual progression on the quality of data,” he said. “We have so far not been able to agree in the discussions on this level of flexibility.”

Moreover, whether the same guidelines regarding MRV of greenhouse gases should be applied to all countries is also an issue of contention at COP24, he added.

Jae Jung, Deputy Director of the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Research Center (GIR), another panelist at the side event, said having common metrics and structured summary is crucial.

“At this moment we don’t have the final text of the Paris rulebook, but we do have a very clean text of the common metric with no bracket, so there might be agreement on that,” Jung said.

“In terms of global stock take of emissions we don’t have to have a common metric in our inventory. But when we do the global stock take every five years there has to be someone doing the conversion applying the same common metric to all countries’ inventories,” he added.

He also stressed the importance of “structured summary” – a form of presentation of aggregated presentation of data that makes it possible to see the level of carbon emissions of one country – stating that helps to avoid double counting issue.

“There is opposition to structured summary because some parties want to use qualitative indicators and narrative descriptions of their NDCs,” he said, “But how does it make sense logically to have qualitative results when you have a quantitative target?”

One way to address the multifaceted challenges to NDC implementation would be through engagement of the private sector, according to experts.

“Many people think Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is about the market itself, but it is about increasing cooperation,” said Dr. Suh-Young Chung, Director of Center for Climate and Sustainable Development Law and Policy (CSDLAP).

“If you look at the Paris landscape to meet the 2-degree Celsius temperature target, you realise it is not enough and you need to bring in private sector investment. And countries need to work together on this,” he said, adding that Article 6 eventually needs to promote cooperation with the private sector, via incentive mechanism to engage businesses and addressing the risks they face.

“Article 6 is about bringing more opportunities for developing countries, but to do so, you need MRVs first,” he said.

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Q&A: Making Green Growth a Success Across the Globehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-making-green-growth-success-across-globe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-making-green-growth-success-across-globe http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-making-green-growth-success-across-globe/#respond Thu, 13 Dec 2018 09:08:01 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159218 IPS Correspondent Sohara Mehroze Shachi interviews DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, Director General of the Global Green Growth Institute at COP24

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Global Green Growth Institute’s Director General Frank Rijsberman at COP24. GGGI is organising over 15 events at the conference focused on low carbon development, green finance, transparency, capacity development of countries to address climate change etc. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 13 2018 (IPS)

When the Global Green Growth Institute’s (GGGI) Director General Frank Rijsberman’s son was looking for a job following graduation, he saw that oil companies were paying the highest salaries. But Rijsberman, who has been working in the sustainable development sector for decades, knew better. He told his son that those very same oil companies would soon go broke. And instead advised him to seek employment with renewable energy companies as they would soon be the ones making money.

As head of GGGI, it is undoubtable that Rijsberman has expert insight into the future of the renewable energy sector. GGGI supports governments around the world transition to environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth by helping them mobilise finance for climate action and implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) i.e. country commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to climate change.

With a career spanning over 30 years, Rijsberman is one of the strongest advocates of green growth attending the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland. His organisation is organising over 15 events at the conference that are focused on, among other things, how low carbon development, green finance, transparency and capacity development of countries can address climate change.

Amidst his packed COP24 schedule, Rijsberman sat down with IPS for a brief interview on the state of global climate action, COP24 and the work of GGGI in attaining green growth.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Climate finance has been one of the sticking points at COP24 so far. Developing countries are concerned that the developed world is shifting the role of financial contributions to the private sector. What are your thoughts on this?

Dr. Frank Rijsberman (FR): Firstly, there needs to be a clean definition of the 100 billion dollars climate finance pledged to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). This 100 billion shouldn’t be diluted. We need this 100 billion to be clean and green. But at the same time, this is only a small part of what we need to fight climate change. We need trillions, and for that public finance is not enough. This will only come about if we get the institutional investors off the sideline and get the pension funds, the private sector to engage.

IPS: What are some of the challenges that now exist with regards to engaging the private sector in funding green growth and how can they be engaged more effectively?

FR: It starts with many of the governments not even realising that renewable energy has become commercially viable. They still think green growth is nice but it is expensive and [they] can’t afford it. It is already commercially viable to use solar-based batteries for instance, so there is a business case there. So convincing people that these are commercially attractive investments is the first thing that needs to be done. If structured well enough, [as in the case of] Bangladesh offering 20-year power purchase agreement at a reasonable price, then we can attract private investors.

Governments also must create an enabling environment for the private sector to engage and have a level playing field for renewables to attract those investments. If there are barriers, such as fossil fuel subsidies, it becomes very hard for private businesses to make a living out of renewables. In Fiji, for instance, the government subsidises dirty electricity for poor households. Stopping that subsidy and turning it into a subsidy for solar power on the roofs of low income houses is one of our projects.

IPS: Two months ago, the IPCC released a report that confirmed that accepting increased global warming of 2 degrees Celsius will impact severely lives, livelihoods and natural ecosystems. This means drastic changes are needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Is it achievable here?

FR: It has to be finance first. Then we need to agree on transparency. We also need to ramp up ambition and rather than to waver from their NDCs countries need to step up their commitments, but that is for next year. We need to agree on the rulebook and get over the hurdle of finance at this COP then everybody’s attention will focus on more ambition, which is what we need. If we get stuck on the Paris rulebook or finance then we also don’t get to the 1.5 degrees, so it is like a house of cards.

IPS: Transparency is one of the key issues being debated at COP24. What are your thoughts on it?

FR: Transparency is the code word for Article 6. Part of it means developed countries reporting in a credible way. And for developing countries it also means to save their rainforests, to restore their mangrove areas – can they get money to pay for that? There are countries like Korea or Australia that can’t reduce their emissions fast enough, but they are willing to buy carbon credits. But then we need to agree on a rulebook for transparency – how are we going to report, what kind of Monitoring Reporting and Verification Systems (MRVS) are necessary, and those MRVS shouldn’t overly burden countries like Myanmar.

We can’t have the same kind of rulebook for Myanmar and Germany [and] shouldn’t make the barriers to access very high. Small Island Developing States (SIDS) felt they were excluded because [these processes] were too complicated. So, this time around transparency needs to allow the Least Developed Countries and SIDS to really access that. That is the critical sticking point.

IPS: Your organisation assists member states, which include developing nations, access funding from the GCF. It has also assisted member countries in developing green growth models to great success. Are you seeing an increased commitment from governments, in both developing and developed nations, to embrace green growth? What is your vision for GGGI going ahead from COP24?

FR: We are very proud that we supported Fiji in developing one of the first low emission development scenarios, which they are presenting here at COP. Last year we worked with Fiji to have their NDC roadmap. This is just an example of the kind of things we do. We also work with many developing countries in getting more concrete action plan for NDCs. We are growing very rapidly.

We only started six years ago with 12 countries and now 30 countries have ratified our treaty and another 30 are in the queue to become members. When our President Ban Ki-moon meets ministers he encourages them to take green growth more seriously, then those ministers contact us about how they can do so.

We also see a lot of good opportunities from the SIDS.

In South East Asia – Vietnam, Indonesia – there is a large portfolio of planned new coal fired power plants. So, these are the hotspots and we need to convince those governments that green growth is commercially attractive and feasible. We are very happy with Indonesia’s commitment for green growth and we are strongly supporting Vietnam’s government to convert their intent to climate action.

I have worked on sustainable development forever, and for the longest time Ministries of Finance had no time for us, saying ‘Sorry we are poor, we need to grow and we will worry about the environment later’. Even INDCs were owned by the Ministries of Environment and the Ministries of Finance didn’t know about them.

Now the Finance Ministers who want growth are interested in green growth, integrating these ideas into mainstream national development planning. For instance, we helped Uganda develop the green growth development strategy which the ministry of finance is leading. That is what I am most excited about. We have finally convinced ministries of finance to take green growth seriously.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Sohara Mehroze Shachi interviews DR. FRANK RIJSBERMAN, Director General of the Global Green Growth Institute at COP24

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Bamboo — the Magic Bullet to Rapid Carbon Sequestration?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bamboo-magic-bullet-rapid-carbon-sequestration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bamboo-magic-bullet-rapid-carbon-sequestration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/bamboo-magic-bullet-rapid-carbon-sequestration/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 06:58:20 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159177 As thousands of environmental technocrats, policy makers and academics work round the clock to come up with strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change at the United Nations’ conference in Katowice, Poland, one scientist is asking Parties to consider massive bamboo farming as a simple but rapid way of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. […]

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Dr. Hans Friederich, the Director General of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR) is calling on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiators to acknowledge bamboo as an important crop that can rapidly sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

As thousands of environmental technocrats, policy makers and academics work round the clock to come up with strategies for mitigation and adaptation to climate change at the United Nations’ conference in Katowice, Poland, one scientist is asking Parties to consider massive bamboo farming as a simple but rapid way of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.

“According to the Guinness Book of Records, bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world,” said Dr. Hans Friederich, the Director General of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR).

Bamboo is actually a giant grass plant in the family of Poaceae. Some species grow tall and many people refer to them as bamboo trees.

And because it is a grass, if you cut it, it grows back so quickly, making it one of the most the ideal crop for rapid actions in terms of sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, according to Friederich, who has a PhD in groundwater hydrochemistry.

Depending on the species, bamboo can reach full maturity in one to five years, making it perhaps the only tree-like plant that can keep up with the rate of human consumption in terms of fuel, timber and deforestation, according to experts. This is unlike hardwood trees, which can take up to 40 years to grow to maturity.

The latest International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report points out that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.

That calls for mitigation measures. And currently many countries prefer investment in forestry and reforestation mitigation.

Under normal circumstances, trees absorb carbon, and therefore it forms part of the weight of its biomass, but they take several years to do so. But when they are cut down and burned for fuel, the carbon escapes back into the atmosphere.

But now, Friederich believes that with bamboos in place people will not need to cut down trees for charcoal production because despite of it being a grass, it produces excellent charcoal that has been equated to charcoal from trees such as the acacia, eucalyptus and Chinese Fir.

“Apart from charcoal, there are many other long-lasting products that can be made from bamboo, and while they remain intact, they hold onto carbon the giant grass sequestered while still on the farm,” he told IPS in an interview at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24). Today on Dec. 12 INBAR hosted a side event at COP24 titled “Bamboo and Rattan for Greening the Belt and Road where the organisation shared its successful experiences and Xie Zhenhua, China’s Special Representative on Climate Change, said that bamboo could become part of China’s new Emissions Trading Scheme.

At the event, Director of Policy and Programme at United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Martin Frick, said that bamboo and the Sustainable Development Goals and climate change agenda went hand in hand. He also emphasised the importance of bamboo as a source of income: 10 million people in China alone are employed in the bamboo sector. 

In China, bamboo is used for making drainage pipes, shells for transport vehicles, wind turbine blades, and shipping containers, among other things. It can also be used for making long-lasting furniture, parquet tiles, door and window frames and can even be used in the textile industry, among many other things.

Already, bamboo is slowly gaining popularity in some parts of the world due to its fast growth, and ability to produce long-lasting products.

Victor Mwanga retired from Kenya’s capital city of Nairobi in 2007 where he was a transport manager for a private company. He decided to start a bamboo seed production business which he called Tiriki Tropical Farms and Gardens. He is currently based in Tiriki, Vihiga County in Kenya’s Western Province.

“I receive customers from different parts of the county,” he told IPS in a telephone interview. “This thing [bamboo] has really gained popularity to a point that we are not able to satisfy the market,” said the farmer who sells each bamboo seedling for two to three dollars, depending on the size.

Wilbur Ottichilo, the Governor of Vihiga County, told IPS that his government is already investing in bamboo production. “We have started by training communities in various parts of the county on the importance of growing bamboo, and how they can make easy money from the crop,” he said.

And now, because of its fast growth and ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, Friederich is calling on theUNFCCC negotiators to acknowledge bamboo as an important crop that can rapidly sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

“We are already discussing with the secretariat of the UNFCCC and the IPCC to include bamboo into the language,” he said. In some cases, he added, countries such as Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana have included bamboo in their environment, climate change and renewable energy strategies.

However, said the scientist, this calls for governments to develop policy frameworks that will allow things to happen, looking at incentives to support the private sector, build capacity – train people so they know better how to make bamboo products and roll out small and medium enterprises.

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Time to Follow EU’s Lead & Step Up Climate Action with 2050 Planshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/time-follow-eus-lead-step-climate-action-2050-plans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-follow-eus-lead-step-climate-action-2050-plans http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/time-follow-eus-lead-step-climate-action-2050-plans/#respond Wed, 12 Dec 2018 06:53:27 +0000 Manish Bapna and Stephen Gold http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159191 Manish Bapna is Executive Vice President and Managing Director at the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Stephen Gold is the Global Lead, Climate Change, at UN Development Programme (UNDP)

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Since 2009, the Ministry of Railways has partnered with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to adopt a range of energy efficient technologies that can support the vision of an environment-friendly rail network for India. The partnership is supported by the Global Environment Facility. Credit: Dhiraj Singh/UNDP India

By Manish Bapna and Stephen Gold
NEW YORK, Dec 12 2018 (IPS)

As climate negotiators, experts and activists are gathering in Katowice, Poland, for the international climate talks, much of the focus will be on immediate issues. Laying down the ground rules of the 2015 Paris Agreement and wrapping up the first global review of countries’ progress to date are high on the agenda.

But increasingly countries are also looking to set long-term climate goals to achieve the deep emissions reductions needed by mid-century to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Last week, the European Commission unveiled an ambitious plan to achieve carbon neutrality in 2050. The European Commission set a target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, while putting forward a detailed vision to achieve a prosperous, modern and competitive economy.

Given the EU’s leading role in the global economy and the fact that it’s the world’s third-largest emitter—this represents one of the most important long-term climate strategies released thus far.

The 28-nation European Union bloc joins Canada, France, Germany, Mexico, United Kingdom and United States among G20 governments which have unveiled long-term low-emission development strategies.

In addition, the Marshall Islands, Ukraine and Czech Republic recently committed to long-term decarbonization plans. Despite this progress, most countries have yet to develop long-term strategies, which are a critical step that should be taken by 2020 to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.

The case for shifting to a low-carbon economy is strong and growing stronger. Smart expenditures in low-carbon infrastructure, energy, urban development and land could generate economic gains in the range of $26 trillion through 2030, compared with business-as-usual, according to The New Climate Economy. And this is a conservative estimate.

The world is projected to invest $90 trillion in infrastructure between 2010 and 2030, so governments use-it-or-lose-it moment to capitalize on these low-carbon opportunities.

Why do long-term strategies matter?

First, long-term strategies can guide policymakers toward smarter short-term decisions—such as around energy subsidies, infrastructure spending and urban planning– and avoid locking-in investments in infrastructure and technologies that could become stranded assets.

Consider an example where a government invests in natural gas infrastructure as a bridge solution to reduce carbon emissions, only to find the plummeting costs of solar panels and battery storage make renewable energy a more cost-effective investment.

Second, long-term strategies provide a platform for governments to engage citizens on what a long term, low-emission and high-growth trajectory could look like and build public support to realize these goals.

Third, long-term strategies can help countries to set ambitious greenhouse gas mitigation targets that reflect the latest science. Just as every tenth of a degree of warming matters to human health, incremental warming will also have a tremendous impact on the planet’s health– leading to more severe wildfires, heat waves, crop failure and sea level rise, according to the recent special report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

The new Emissions Gap report, from the UN Environment Programme, assesses the current national mitigation efforts of the G20 countries, and finds they are far off-track from the temperature goals set out under the Paris Agreement. Clearly much more ambition is needed.

Responsible for 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the G20 countries have a special duty to show the world that the goals of the Paris Agreement can be achieved.

At this year’s G20 Summit led by Argentina, long term strategies were noted in the final communique. These should be taken forward by Japan, which will take on the leadership of the G20 next year.

The U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Change Summit in September will be another key moment when countries can signal their commitment to the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement.

The scientific case and the economic benefits of action are clear, yet the world is still looking for far more leaders to step forward on climate change. All countries, especially the largest emitters, should follow the EU’s example by establishing ambitious mid-century goals and a clear path to achieve them.

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Excerpt:

Manish Bapna is Executive Vice President and Managing Director at the World Resources Institute (WRI) and Stephen Gold is the Global Lead, Climate Change, at UN Development Programme (UNDP)

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Study Shows How African Countries are Preparing for Green Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/study-shows-african-countries-preparing-green-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=study-shows-african-countries-preparing-green-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/study-shows-african-countries-preparing-green-development/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 12:19:45 +0000 Isaiah Esipisu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159156 In order for African countries to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), they will require further human capacity building, and there must be involvement of the private sector from the start of the planning process. This is according to preliminary findings of a study on green growth trends and readiness […]

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A wind energy generation plant located in Loiyangalani in northwestern Kenya. The plant is set to be the biggest in Africa, generating 300 MW. Credit: Isaiah Esipisu/IPS

By Isaiah Esipisu
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

In order for African countries to implement their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), they will require further human capacity building, and there must be involvement of the private sector from the start of the planning process.

This is according to preliminary findings of a study on green growth trends and readiness across the continent jointly conducted by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) in collaboration with the African Development Bank (AfDB).

The NDCs spell out the actions countries intend to take to address climate change, both in terms of adaptation and mitigation, and the SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

The early findings of the report titled Green Growth Readiness Assessment in Africa was released on the sidelines of the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) in Katowice, Poland yesterday Dec. 10. Seven countries; Morocco, Tunisia Senegal Gabon, Rwanda Kenya and Mozambique, were selected for the pilot phase.

The scientists presented the findings as climate talks in Katowice entered the second week of negotiations, a stage where political leaders decide whether or not to adapt recommendations brought forth following the first week of technical engagements.

The report stated that high-level political commitment, appropriate policies and implementation of government strategic plans are the key drivers of green growth among African countries.

“Governments need to look at this [NDCs and SDGs] as commercial business opportunities,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, the Director General for GGGI. Surprisingly, he said, “I have asked a number of private investors as to why they do not invest in this sector, and the answer is not lack of finances, instead they say it is because of government policies.”

The need for sound policies was reiterated by Anthony Nyong, Director for Climate Change and Green Growth at the AfDB, who said that there must be an enabling environment for countries to achieve the much-desired green growth.

“After this assessment report, findings will be shared across the board so that countries can learn from each other,” said Nyong.

According to Dr. Pranab Baruah, one of the lead researchers from GGGI, some of the seven countries in the study have demonstrated high level leadership commitment that confirms their willingness to implement a green growth model.

In Kenya, for example, the researchers said that there is a National Climate Change Council that is chaired by the country’s President Uhuru Kenyatta. The council oversees the implementation of the National Climate Change Action Plan and also advises national and sub-national bodies on mainstreaming, legislative and implementation measures for climate change.

Kenya is currently producing the highest amount of geothermal energy in Africa with an output of 534 megawatts (MW), and 84 percent of all electricity installations consist of green energy.

The country is also in the process of constructing the largest wind firm in Africa with a potential capacity of 300 MW.

This is despite the government’s unpopular plan to construct the largest coal plant in sub-Saharan Africa. However, yesterday Kenya’s Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko told IPS  that the government is likely going to reconsider whether to proceed with construction of the coal plant.

But above all, said Baruah, the study found that Kenya’s recent introduction of a green growth curriculum in schools was key to the development of human capacity.

Rwanda is another country whose green growth is spearheaded from the highest political level. While most countries around the world wait for finances for mitigation projects to come from the Green Climate Fund, Rwanda is already mobilising and disbursing funds nationally.

The researchers said that Rwanda has created a 100-million-dollar National Fund for Climate and the Environment (FONERWA) as an instrument for financing the country’s needs on environment, climate change, and green growth.

In the same vein, Senegal is in the process of removing financial barriers for private sector participation through pilot projects. The country has a 200-million-dollar Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Fund (REEF), which provides financial incentives to private sector led pilot projects, such as lengthening the refinancing period for the small businesses.

The study also found that countries require urgent financing readiness, especially with the emergence of Green Climate Fund and that there is an urgent need for the strengthening of policy and planning frameworks for green growth. Countries studied also needed to address weak monitoring and reporting systems and work to enhance wider stakeholder buy-in to the green growth agenda.

 

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Indonesia Commits to Low Carbon Development and a Green Economy at COP24http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/indonesia-commits-low-carbon-development-green-economy-cop24/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indonesia-commits-low-carbon-development-green-economy-cop24 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/indonesia-commits-low-carbon-development-green-economy-cop24/#respond Tue, 11 Dec 2018 09:24:02 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159150 Although Indonesia has attained decent economic growth of over five percent in the last decade, in order to ensure sustainable growth in the future the switch to renewable energy (RE) will be critical, says the country’s government. “If we don’t focus on low carbon development, we cannot continue this growth,” Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s Minister of […]

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A traffic jam, in Indonesia's capital Jakarta. Air pollution in Jarkarta is triple the the maximum “safe” level recommended by the World Health Organisation. The country's government says it is committed to making the switch to renewables. Credit: Alexandra Di Stefano Pironti/IPS

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
KATOWICE, Poland, Dec 11 2018 (IPS)

Although Indonesia has attained decent economic growth of over five percent in the last decade, in order to ensure sustainable growth in the future the switch to renewable energy (RE) will be critical, says the country’s government.
“If we don’t focus on low carbon development, we cannot continue this growth,” Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s Minister of National Development Planning, said yesterday Dec. 10.

He spoke about Indonesia’s shift to a low carbon, climate-friendly development pathway at a high-level panel discussion at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), which is currently being held in Katowice, Poland. The panel discussion was organised by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), in partnership with the Ministry of National Development Planning of the Republic of Indonesia (BAPPENAS).

The latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns of catastrophic climatic impacts if global warming is not kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius. This will include severe impact on food production and increasing risks of climate-related disasters.

But according to Brodjonegoro, the Indonesian government is taking this issue seriously.
“We are fully committed to steer our economy for low carbon development. We will mainstream a low carbon framework in our medium-term development plan,” he said, adding that low carbon development in Indonesia would involve improving environmental quality, attaining energy efficiency, increasing agriculture productivity, improving reforestation and reducing deforestation simultaneously.

There is a large scope for RE development in Indonesia, as most of its potential is unrealised as of now. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) report on Indonesia’s RE prospects, the country has “an estimated 716 GW of theoretical potential for renewable energy-based power generation”. But of its bioenergy potential of 32.7 GW, it has developed a mere 1.8 GW.

“In order to provide the electricity for remote areas, this is a good time to promote renewable energy as this will increase the percentage of renewable energy in our energy mix,” Brodjonegoro said.

According to the minister, a key issue for scaling up RE in Indonesia lies with developing the capacity of stakeholders to meet the needs of different types of investors to access finance.

Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s Minister of National Development Planning, said the switch to renewable energy is critical for his country’s sustainable economic growth. He was speaking at a panel discussion held at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, Director General of GGGI, echoed these thoughts, stating that the critical factor for proliferating renewables in Indonesia is whether it can attract private sector investment.

“Both governments and the private sector have not fully incorporated the idea that green growth is not only nice but it is also affordable,” he said. “Businesses should be investing in renewable energy because there is a business opportunity.”
In this regard, he said that blended finance could be a critical path where every dollar investment from donors could catalyse other investments from private sources.

State Secretary for Climate and Environment in Norway Sveinung Rotevatn, was a panelist at the event. He stated that Norway is encouraged by the low carbon development in Indonesia, and is committing substantial funds to reduce deforestation there. According to Global Forest Watch, Indonesia experienced a drop in tree cover loss in 2017, including a 60 percent decline in primary forest loss. The organisaiton said that this could be in part to the 2016 government moratorium on the conversion of peatland.

“As a developed country we see [Norway] as having a responsibility to contribute,” he said. Norway has been working in partnership with Indonesia since 2010.

The future of oil is not bright, and Rotevatn believes the shift in production to gas from coal could be a useful bridge towards a shift to renewables in the long run. He added that resistance in this transition from fossil fuels to renewables is expected.

“In 1991 Norway introduced a carbon tax. Today we consider it a natural thing but implementing it is always hard,” he said. One estimate from the Norwegian environmental agency shows that since Norway reduced emissions in 1991 it continued healthy economic growth.

However, Indonesia has a long way to go in the transition process as over 90 percent of its energy still comes from fossil fuels. But the government is optimistic of its potential to scale up RE.

“We are focusing on incentivising renewable energy production and increasing infrastructure of renewable energy capacity. We have a lot of isolated islands and remote areas which can be utilised,” said Rida Mulyana, Director General of New, Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation (NREEC) at Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources.

However, he noted that several challenges remain. One of these is public acceptance, as there is still a need for systematic and sustainable socialisation and education to minimise community resistance to RE projects.

Moreover, affordability of the available clean energy remains an issue, and the cost needs to be reduced for renewables to be a viable option. This is exacerbated by the fact that liquified petroleum gas is still subsidised, which fosters Indonesia’s dependency on fossil fuels.

While Mulayana pointed out financing as a key issue, he also said the government will not provide any subsidy for renewables and it has to compete with other sources of energy.

David Kerins, Senior Energy Economist at the European Investment Bank and another panelist at the event, said although RE projects are becoming more commercially viable, the private sector is yet to jump in on these investment opportunities. So there is a need to promote investment while providing safeguards to investors on the expected benefits.

“The RE energy sector has moved far beyond the situation it was before. Once people see how possible and straight forward it is, private sector can start targeting projects of its own,” he said.

Glenn Pearce-Oroz, Director for Policy and Programmes, Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), one of the attendees of the event, said one of the important next steps will be how to bring along commercial financing for low carbon development.

“Part of what we are seeing is private sector being more and more interested to do business in the green economy. What they are looking for though is clarity of roles and consistency in terms of the markets they are getting into,” he said.

“So the challenge for developing countries is how do you demonstrate that type of consistency and clarity and how do you establish clear rules of the game, good regulatory frameworks, that gives private sector the confidence to come into these markets?” He said Indonesia has the size, dynamism of economy and a lot of favourable elements for attracting private sector investment.

“Green growth as a concept is beginning to take off in different countries,” said Dr. Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and a 24-time COP attendee.

“The most important element of any green growth strategy is to make sure it’s nationally determined and nationally owned,” he said, adding that modality of green growth is peculiar to the politics, socio economic conditions and culture of a country.

“Green growth is more of a political process than a technical process. There are vested interests and issues that have to be worked out at the national level,” he said. “The good news is it [green growth] has started to happen.”

 

  • This story has been published with support from Inter Press Service, the Stanley Foundation, Earth Journalism Network and Climate Change Media Partnership.

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Conserving Canada’s Diverse Marine Lifehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/conserving-canadas-diverse-marine-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=conserving-canadas-diverse-marine-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/conserving-canadas-diverse-marine-life/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 19:47:33 +0000 Stephen Leahy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159050 Despite the deep, cold waters, newly discovered undersea mountains off Canada’s west coast are home to a rich diversity of life. “When we reached a seamount (undersea mountain), it was often like we were entering a forest, only of red tree corals and vase-shaped glass sponges,” said Robert Rangeley, Science Director, Oceana Canada.  “These areas […]

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Seamounts are filled with a diversity of ocean life including anemones, feather stars, octopuses, lobsters and rockfishes. Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust, Northeast Pacific Seamount Expedition Partners

By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

Despite the deep, cold waters, newly discovered undersea mountains off Canada’s west coast are home to a rich diversity of life.

“When we reached a seamount (undersea mountain), it was often like we were entering a forest, only of red tree corals and vase-shaped glass sponges,” said Robert Rangeley, Science Director, Oceana Canada.  “These areas were filled with a diversity of other animals including anemones, feather stars, octopuses, lobsters and rockfishes,” said Rangely who led the expedition in July.

Oceana, a marine conservation organisation, along with the Haida Nation, an indigenous people, the Federal government department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and Ocean Networks Canada were partners in the first in-depth investigation of the recently designated Offshore Pacific Area of Interest. This is a 140,000 square kilometre region 100 to 200 kilometres west of Vancouver Island in the province of British Columbia.

The waters in this region are also home to the vast majority of Canada’s known hydrothermal vents, deep-sea hot springs at the bottom of the sea floor.  As seawater meets the Earth’s molten magma it gets superheated and rises up through holes or vents in the sea floor carrying with it minerals leached from the crustal rock below forming bizarre chimney-like structures. These vents are home to strange forms of life that thrive in a toxic chemical soup where temperatures can reach 350 degrees C.

The expedition spent 16 days on the water and discovered six new seamounts with ancient and fragile coral forests and potentially new species. Even scientists who have visited seamounts on other parts of the world were blown away by the abundance and diversity of life found Rangely told IPS.

The expedition team also found lost fishing gear on some of the seamounts. This gear entangles marine life and destroys fragile and slow growing corals and sponges. Seamounts are often targeted by fishing vessels because they attract an abundance of fish. The damage wasn’t from bottom-trawling vessels that scrape along the seafloor but from long-line fishing. The Cobb seamount just outside of Canada’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) has been destroyed by fishing he said.

Canada is working to create a new marine protected area (MPA) for most of the 140,000 sq km Offshore Pacific Area of Interest. Credit: Ocean Exploration Trust, Northeast Pacific Seamount Expedition Partners

Seamounts need protection to provide refuge for marine life and Oceana wants to see all of Canada’s seamounts closed to bottom contact fishing Rangely said. Fishing can still continue away from seamounts, and will benefit from the closures. When seamounts are protected from fishing or resource extraction, it increases the quantities of fish outside the area in what’s known as a ‘spillover effect’.

Canada is working to create a new marine protected area (MPA) for most of the 140,000 sq km Offshore Pacific Area of Interest. Half the region would be closed to fishing to protect seamounts and hydrothermal vents. The new MPA may be officially in place in 2020 to help Canada get close to its United Nations Convention of Biodiversity commitment of protecting 10 percent of its marine and coastal areas by 2020. Canada had protected less than one percent by 2017. However, the current government is rapidly ramping up the number of protected areas but conservationists say these protections are too weak and allow fishing or resource extraction.

For example a near 50,000 square kilometre marine refuge east of Newfoundland on Canada’s Atlantic coast is off limits to fishing was just opened to allow drilling for oil and gas.

Canada is also scrambling to manage its fish stocks that have seen years of steady decline. Just a third of the nearly 200 stocks are considered healthy, according to a 2018 audit report by Oceana. Canada is a major fish and seafood exporter, with exports reaching C$6.9 billion in 2017.

After a decade of deep cutbacks by a previous government, Canada’s fisheries department under the Trudeau government is struggling to catch up. Most of the 26 critically endangered stocks do not have rebuilding plans in place the Oceana report found.

Last week the Canadian government announced $107.4 million over five years for rebuilding and assessments of fish stocks across Canada.

In a statement Oceana Canada’s Executive Director, Josh Laughren called this a critical investment addressing the urgent challenge of rebuilding depleted fisheries and rebuilding abundance.

  • The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference took place in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and was co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Participants from 150 countries around the world gathered to learn how to build a blue economy.

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Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’shttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/qa-creating-african-bamboo-industry-large-chinas/#respond Wed, 05 Dec 2018 09:57:24 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159042 IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

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Hans Friederich at a Chinese bamboo plantation. Photo Courtesy of INBAR

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA, Dec 5 2018 (IPS)

The bamboo industry in China currently comprises up to 10 million people who make a living out of production of the grass. But while the Asian nation has significant resources of bamboo — three million hectares of plantation and three million hectares of natural forests — the continent of Africa is recorded to have an estimated three and a half million hectares of plantations, excluding conservation areas.

This means that there is a possibility of creating a similar size industry in Africa, according to International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) director general Dr. Hans Friederich.

“In China, where the industry is developed, we have eight to 10 million people who make a living out of bamboo. They grow bamboo, manufacture things out of bamboo and sell bamboo poles. That has given them a livelihood and a way to build a local economy to create a future for themselves and their children,” he tells IPS.

INBAR is the only international organisation championing the development of environmentally sustainable bamboo and rattan. It has 44 member states — 43 of which are in the global south — with the secretariat headquarters based in China, and with regional offices in India, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Ecuador. Over the years, the multilateral development organisation has trained up to 25,000 people across the value chain – from farmers and foresters to entrepreneurs and policymakers.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Africa is estimated to have three and a half million hectares of bamboo. While China has about six million hectares of natural forests, almost double the size of Africa’s, experts say there is potential for developing the industry on the continent. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): What has been INBAR’s Role in the South-South Cooperation agenda?

Dr. Hans Friederich (DHF): In fact, a lot of our work over the last 21 years is to link our headquarters in China with our regional offices and our members around the world to help develop policies, put in place appropriate legislation and regulations to build capacity, train local people, provide information, and carry out real field research to test new approaches to manage resources in the most efficient way.

I think we [have been] able to help our members more effectively and do more in the way of training and capacity building. I also hope we can develop bamboo and rattan as vehicles for sustainable development with our member countries around the world, especially in the Global South.

IPS: What are the prospects for Africa’s bamboo and rattan industry?

DHF: The recorded statistics say that Africa has about three and half million hectares of bamboo, which excludes conservation [areas].

So, if I were to make a guess, Africa has as much bamboo as China [excluding China’s natural forests] and that means theoretically, we should have the possibility of creating an industry as large as China’s in Africa. That means an industry of 30 billion dollars per a year employing 10 million people.

IPS: How is INBAR helping to develop such a huge potential in Africa?

DHF: The returns we are seeing in China may not happen overnight in Africa, China has had 30 to 40 years to develop this industry.

But what we are doing is working with our members in Africa to kick off the bamboo value chain to start businesses and help members make the most out of these plants.

IPS: Working with countries from the global south means replication of best practices and knowledge sharing among member states. Are there any good examples worth mentioning?

DHF: China is the world’s leading country when it comes to the production and management of bamboo so we have a lot to learn from China. Fortunately China has the financial resources that makes it easy to share that information and knowledge with our members …Looking at land management activities in Ghana, as an example, I think bamboo can really help in restoring lands that have been damaged through illegal mining activities.

Maybe that is actually where we can learn from other African countries because we are already looking at how bamboo can help with the restoration of degraded lands in Ethiopia.

Also, when we had a training workshop in Cameroon last year and we looked at architecture, we brought an architect from Peru who shared his experience of working with bamboo in Latin America, which was quite applicable to Cameroon. So we are using experience from different parts of the world to help others develop what they think is important.

IPS: What is the most important thing in the development of the bamboo and rattan value chain for an African country like Ghana?

DHF: There are a number of things that we can do. One area that Ghana is already working on with regards to bamboo and rattan, is furniture production. I know that there is fantastic work being done with skills development.

The value chain of furniture production is an area where Ghana already has a lot to offer. But if we can improve quality, if we can make the furniture more interesting for consumers, through skills training [of artisans], then that is an area where we can really help.

IPS: Which other opportunity can Ghana look at exploring in the area of Bamboo and Rattan value chain?

DHF: Another area of opportunity is to use bamboo as a source of charcoal for household energy. People depend on charcoal, especially in rural areas in Ghana, but most of the charcoal comes from often illegally-cut trees.

Instead of cutting trees we can simply harvest bamboo and make charcoal from this, which is a legally produced source.

The great thing about Bamboo is that it re-grows the following growing season after harvesting, so it is a very sustainable source of charcoal production.

IPS: What does the future look like for INBAR?

DHF: Two months ago Beijing hosted the China Africa Forum and we were very, very pleased to have read that the draft programme of work actually includes the development of Africa’s bamboo industry. There is a paragraph that says China and Africa will work together to establish an African training centre.

We understand this will most likely be in Ethiopia and it will happen hopefully in the coming years.

Another thing is that China and Africa will work closely together to develop the bamboo and rattan industry. They will also develop specific activities on how to use bamboo for land restoration and climate change mitigation and to see how bamboo can help with livelihood development in Africa in partnership with China.

This is a very exciting development, a new window of opportunity has opened for us to work together to develop bamboo and rattan in Africa.

 

The post Q&A: Creating an African Bamboo Industry as Large as China’s appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Jamila Akweley Okertchiri interviews DR. HANS FRIEDERICH, Director General of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR)

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Fish Farming Takes on Crime in Papua New Guineahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/fish-farming-takes-crime-papua-new-guinea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fish-farming-takes-crime-papua-new-guinea http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/fish-farming-takes-crime-papua-new-guinea/#respond Mon, 03 Dec 2018 10:26:02 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158988 In the rugged mountainous highlands of Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands fish farming has transformed the lives of former prisoners and helped reduce notorious levels of crime along the highlands highway, the only main road which links the highly populated inland provinces with the east coast port of Lae. Moxy, who completed […]

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A fish farm in Central Province near Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Dec 3 2018 (IPS)

In the rugged mountainous highlands of Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands fish farming has transformed the lives of former prisoners and helped reduce notorious levels of crime along the highlands highway, the only main road which links the highly populated inland provinces with the east coast port of Lae.

Moxy, who completed his sentence at the Bihute Prison in Eastern Highlands Province ten years ago, has used skills learned during his time in gaol to set up a fish farming enterprise in his village, located 15 kilometres northwest of the Province’s main town of Goroka. Today he is proudly known as ‘Daddy Fish’ in his community where he has regained self-esteem, social status and is sought after for his wisdom and knowledge.

“Whenever I feel down or I am tempted to do wrong, I sit by my fish ponds and look at what I achieved,” he said.

Moxy is one of many inmates who have participated in the Fish for Prisons program, the result of a partnership between Papua New Guinea’s National Fisheries Authority and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR). The initiative, begun in 2008, aims to train and mentor prisoners in aquaculture practice so they are equipped for a new livelihood before they are released.  But the training has also made ex-prisoners more disciplined, self-motivated, emotionally resilient and less likely to reoffend.

Aquaculture, while still a relatively under-developed industry in the Pacific Islands, possesses huge potential to help meet future food and nutritional needs in the region, where fish is a major part of the daily diet.

The global average fish consumption rate of 20.2kg per person pales in comparison to the Pacific Islands where consumption is 53kg per person in Papua New Guinea, 85kg in Tonga and 118kg in the Solomon Islands.

Yet for people living in inland areas of Papua New Guinea, far from the sea, protein deficiency is common. It was high levels of malnutrition in the highlands which prompted the introduction of aquaculture into the country in the 1960s, although development of the sector was very slow until recently. A decade ago, there were an estimated 10,000 fish farms in the country, but today the number has jumped to about 60,000 aided by improved research, training programs and outreach support.

Fish farming is as important as ever to combating malnutrition, which remains pervasive among the Melanesian nation’s population of more than 8 million people. The child stunting rate is the fourth highest in the world and children living in the highlands are at greater risk than those living in coastal communities.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) claims that, with its multiple nutrients, fish is the optimum single food for addressing undernourishment.  It possesses high quality animal protein, omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, minerals, as well as fat and water soluble vitamins.

But aquaculture is also giving young people in rural areas, where unemployment is as high as 70 percent, the chance to acquire vocational skills, economic self-reliance and sense of achievement.

This has happened in the Eastern Highlands village of Hogu where a criminal band, locally known as a ‘raskol gang’, renowned for car jackings, extortion, robbery and an illegal marijuana racket, had turned the nearby section of highway into the infamously known ‘Barola Raskol Hotspot.’ It was a treacherous place for any motorist or traveller.

But that all changed when fish farmer training was conducted in the village three years ago, gaining the attention of the gang.

“They saw the training being held and came down to see what was going on in their territory. They became interested, were welcomed by the [training] team and eventually participated,” Associate Professor Jes Sammut of the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Ecosystem Science and the fisheries consultant in Papua New Guinea for the ACIAR told IPS.

The program covered all facets of practice, including husbandry, water quality management, building and maintaining fish ponds, producing low cost fish feed and the use of organic fertilisers with the aim of strengthening sustainable food security and household incomes.

After finishing the course, the raskols, aged from 25-47 years, established 100 fish ponds, which now produce tilapia and carp and help to feed the village’s population of more than 680 people. In so doing, they gained an honest livelihood and respect within the community, eventually destroying their marijuana crops and abandoning crime.

Micah Aranka, who works with fish farmers in Hogu, said that “they [the gang] worked hard on digging their ponds and digging canals to draw water to their ponds…..and by watching the fish in their ponds they have found peace.”

In the most populous Pacific Island nation, aquaculture has emerged as an unlikely agent of social change, as well as a more secure food future.

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Q&A: The Arrival of the African Blue Economy as a Real Prospecthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/qa-arrival-african-blue-economy-real-prospect/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-arrival-african-blue-economy-real-prospect http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/qa-arrival-african-blue-economy-real-prospect/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 20:19:28 +0000 Nalisha Adams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158886 IPS Correspondent Nalisha Adams interviews DR. CYRUS RUSTOMJEE, a former director of economic affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and a senior fellow with Global Economy Programme, Centre for International Governance Innovation.

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Dr Cyrus Rustomjee, a former director of economic affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat, says there is clearly the will, the determination, the excitement, the collective endeavour at an African level to take the blue economy forward. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

By Nalisha Adams
NAIROBI, Nov 26 2018 (IPS)

The first every global conference to address the twin focuses on both conservation and economic growth of the oceans has fulfilled the broad range of expectations it set out to define.

It could also be starting point for spurring on a whole new range of global development co-ordination challenges harmonising terrestrial and ocean-related laws and treaties.

This is according to Dr. Cyrus Rustomjee, a former director of economic affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and a senior fellow with Global Economy Programme, Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Rustomjee was at the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, Kenya as some 18,000 participants gathered in the East African nation. The conference hosted by the Kenyan government and co-hosted by Canada and Japan, set out to discuss how to create economic growth that is inclusive and sustainable, how to ensure healthy and productive waters, and how to build safe and resilient communities.

Rustomjee has held various positions for his native South Africa with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. IPS was able to speak to the South African who holds a Ph.D. in Economics and a Masters in Development Economics.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Can you tell us in terms of this conference what were the expectations that you had coming here.

Cyrus Rustomjee (CR): I think I didn’t want to create expectations for myself about this because it is the inaugural Sustainable Blue Economy Conference. It hasn’t happened before in this way. We have had conferences on the Blue Economy in various parts of the world, we have had global United Nations-driven conferences. We haven’t had one which tries to bring together the conservation and the growth dimensions of the Blue Economy.

In the past they have really been seen as two contending perspectives of the Blue Economy, where as in fact what this conference is saying is that they are part and parcel of a sustainable blue economy. You have to have sustainability of the oceans if you want to harness the wealth or other opportunities from it. But at the same time you can’t continuously focus on conservation because there will be some who will exploit the ocean while others persist simply with conservation.

So the benefits that the ocean offers will be then inequitably shared.

No one wanted to confront this issue at a global level. And to try to discern practical ways to harmonise this and to bring these two strands, which is a common concept together. So I didn’t have any particular expectations. I had a whole lot of questions about the scope and the ambition of the conference. And that has been fully fulfilled. Because I think the scope is enormous, it’s covered a very very wide range of policy issues, a wide range of conceptual issues, it’s brought it science, it’s brought in legal frameworks and transboundary challenges which are part of the unique characteristics of this sustainable blue economy concept.

It really has brought many many countries to the table to discuss, in some sense without preconceived positions, which is very valuable. Which is really saying let us kind of take a step back and then take a collective step forward. And I think that is what is happening at this conference.

IPS: In light of what you have heard, what are your first impressions?

CR: It is only day one. First impressions are that I wasn’t sure to what extent an African voice would come forward. Because it is in this space that the fullest potential of the Blue Economy will reveal itself or not in the years ahead. So Africa has watched the oceans being utilised and has hesitated to utilise the resources of the oceans for a whole host of reasons, including insufficient technology, skills, human resources, legislative frameworks, co-ordination at an inter-continental level and many many other factors.

Whereas I would say many advanced economies particularly have gone surging ahead with the blue economy, whether sustainable or not, I don’t know.

Now Africa has an opportunity to take advantage of all of that. And build on continental momentum to do so in many other areas. For example, we just recently secured a continental free trade arrangement and there are already ingrained in African continent-wide policies and strategies the concept of the Blue Economy. It is the 2063 Agenda [of the African Union]. It is in the 2050 Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) framework. Not it is time to operationalise it in practical ways.

So a big take-away from me is there is clearly the will, the determination, the excitement, the collective endeavour at an African level to take this forward.

I think if there is anything we look back on in, say five years from now, we will look back at two things. One is, this is where the world got together to recognise this concept as a practical mechanism in some sense for operationalising sustainable development fully. Not only in terrestrial activity but across the whole spectrum of what the earth’s surface is.

We started also talking today about the interaction and the interplay between the terrestrial sustainable development framework and the ocean and realising it is actually a single framework…

The second big thing from today is the arrival of the African Blue Economy as a real prospect.

IPS: Kenya says it wants to lead the way in building a sustainable blue economy. With your background in finance and development, can you give us some key take-aways they need to look at?

CR: It’s a difficult one because we are very much in a pioneering state for a continent that has 38 coastal states, and has 31,000 km of coastline, and which also has 13 million square kilometres of exclusive economic zone. It’s a huge, huge environment. [The number of people living along the coast] is high and it’s rising. For a whole host of reasons.

We are at the dawn of the journey. We are at the dawn but in the context where there are many components that is encouraging many african countries have started developing their blue economy strategies and laws and concepts. And they have started to tackle some of the co-ordination issues that come with that, simply-explained ones, co-ordination between the coastal tourism and fisheries sectors, for example, jurisdictional issues between different portfolios, they’ve developed integrated coastal zone management strategies and many have developed marine protected areas and have started working on the challenges in sustaining those.

Many have been in the forefront, globally now, of innovative blue finance [for example the Seychelles issued a Blue Bond last month]. We are seeing a lot more activity at a regional level. We are starting actively to see discussion about how to integrate regional and continental initiatives. In a certain sense the Blue Economy in an African context is an African Blue Economy, not an African-specific national series of Blue Economies.

That is where the full potential of the Blue Economy will arise, rather than at a national level. We are starting to see this is part of the longer-term vision which we will end up realising as a continent.

So there are lots of promises, lots of opportunity and lots of action. But a lot of action is happening at a national level and some critical steps for the future now, in an African context is to build the institutional capacity to share knowledge, experience within the continent and to build the institutions what will quickly bring the inter-continental collaboration needed to realise the Blue Economy.

The post Q&A: The Arrival of the African Blue Economy as a Real Prospect appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Nalisha Adams interviews DR. CYRUS RUSTOMJEE, a former director of economic affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat, and a senior fellow with Global Economy Programme, Centre for International Governance Innovation.

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How Australia Sustainably Manages the World’s Last Wild Commercial Fishery of Pearl Oystershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/australia-sustainably-manages-worlds-last-wild-commercial-fishery-pearl-oysters/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=australia-sustainably-manages-worlds-last-wild-commercial-fishery-pearl-oysters http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/australia-sustainably-manages-worlds-last-wild-commercial-fishery-pearl-oysters/#respond Fri, 23 Nov 2018 10:35:24 +0000 Neena Bhandari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158813 Australia’s remote north-western Kimberley coast, where the Great Sandy Desert meets the sapphire waters of the Indian Ocean, is home to the giant Pinctada maxima or silver-lipped pearl oyster shells that produce the finest and highly-prized Australian South Sea Pearls. Australia is the only country in the world that uses wild oyster stocks. To ensure […]

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Terry Hunter is a cultural tour guide at Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm. Being an extractive and extensive form of farming, pearl oyster aquaculture is one of the most environmentally sustainable industries. Credit: Neena Bhandari/IPS

By Neena Bhandari
SYDNEY/BROOME/CYGNET BAY, Australia, Nov 23 2018 (IPS)

Australia’s remote north-western Kimberley coast, where the Great Sandy Desert meets the sapphire waters of the Indian Ocean, is home to the giant Pinctada maxima or silver-lipped pearl oyster shells that produce the finest and highly-prized Australian South Sea Pearls.

Australia is the only country in the world that uses wild oyster stocks. To ensure its sustainability, the pearling industry operates on a government-regulated quota system that sets a maximum number of wild stock pearl oysters that can be caught each year from the Eighty Mile Beach, south of Broome in the state of Western Australia. These wild pearl oyster beds represent the last wild commercial fishery for Pinctada maxima oysters in the world.

There are currently 15 wild stock pearl oyster licence holders, but the majority of licences are owned by Paspaley subsidiaries. As Paspaley Group of Companies’ Executive Director, Peter Bracher tells IPS, “Our wild pearl oyster quota is hand-collected by our divers. This is an environmentally friendly and sustainable form of commercial fishing that causes no damage to the seabed and produces no wasteful by-catch. Elsewhere in the natural habitat of Pinctada maxima, which includes much of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the wild oyster populations have been depleted by overfishing.”

In recent years, the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) has been set between 600,000 and 700,000 pearl oysters. The 2016 TAC was 612,510 pearl oysters and the total quota that could be seeded was approximately 907,670 (557,670 wild stock and 350,000 hatchery-produced), according to the Western Australia Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s 2016-17 Status Reports of the Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

Australian pearling companies have been conscious of the need to protect the oysters’ habitat as there is a strong co-relation between Kimberley’s pristine environment and the production of high-quality pearls.

“The nutrient-rich Kimberley waters, in which our pearls are farmed, are our most valuable asset and monitoring their condition forms an integral part of our operations and management. We have opened our infrastructure and expertise to the academic world and established the Kimberley Marine Research Station to encourage independent marine research and to help bridge the indigenous cultural knowledge with scientific knowledge, which we believe will help in our attempt to ensure our production practices are sustainable,” says James Brown, the third-generation owner and managing director of Cygnet Bay Pearls, the first all-Australian owned and operated cultured pearling company.

Being an extractive and extensive form of farming, pearl oyster aquaculture is one of the most environmentally sustainable industries. Oysters are voracious filter feeders drawing their nutrition from micro-organisms like algae from the water column and in so doing effectively clean the water.

Professor Dean Jerry, Deputy Director at James Cook University’s (JCU) Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture tells IPS, “Pearl farms also act as fish attraction devices (FAD). The oyster lines, buoys and panel nets hung in the ocean provide habitat and structure for larger and small fish. Often this is the only form of structure in the ocean where farms are providing habitat for marine life to live.”

But Pinctada maxima oysters are very sensitive to pollution and environmental changes. “Global warming and increased carbon dioxide levels in the ocean will make it harder for the pearl oysters to quickly and efficiently lay down calcium carbonate for the mother of pearl that makes the nacre for the pearl. This means that oysters will have to spend more energy for growth, leaving less for immune functioning thereby increasing their exposure risks of disease as rises in water temperatures speed up microbial and parasitic lifecycles,” Jerry adds.

Since 2006, Australian companies have battled Oyster Oedema disease and Juvenile Oyster Mortality Syndrome, which impacts oysters before they are seeded with a pearl and may result in 90-95 percent mortality. Scientists haven’t yet been able to find a causative agent for the two diseases, which have almost halved the worth of the industry.

To make the industry more sustainable, Jerry says, “We need to adopt technology to make oyster breeding programs more productive and disease tolerant. Pearl oysters will really benefit from selective breeding, which will help them grow faster and therefore get to a point where they can be seeded at a younger age and ultimately produce the pearl quicker.”

It takes two years for an oyster to grow where it can be seeded and another two years for when the pearl is harvested. During these four years, the oysters have to be regularly cleaned. “It can cost up to AUD1 an oyster each time, which is a huge financial cost to businesses. If we can get to a stage of harvesting the pearl from a younger oyster, say three years, it will not only increase financial sustainability, but also environmentally sustainability,” Jerry adds.

Mother of Pearl at Cygnet Bay. Australia is the only country in the world that uses wild oyster stocks. To ensure its sustainability, the pearling industry operates on a government-regulated quota system that sets a maximum number of wild stock pearl oysters that can be caught each year. Credit: Neena Bhandari/IPS

Hatchery-bred pearl oysters are now a major part of pearl production. Three oysters are required to create one pearl. A nucleus is inserted from one oyster into another healthy oyster with a small piece of mantle tissue selected from a donor oyster. With time, the mantle tissue that produces nacre (the secretion known as mother-of-pearl) grows completely around the nucleus, forming a pearl sac in which the pearl grows.

An oyster can be reseeded up to three times, and, when it reaches the end of its reproductive life, it is harvested for the mother of pearl shell used in jewellery and inlay for furniture, and pearl meat.

Last year, the Australian South Sea pearling industry of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, have been certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Chief Executive of Pearl Producers Association, Aaron Irving tells IPS, “The MSC Standard is an independent, internationally accredited science-based standard, against which the environmental sustainability management of a wild marine resource fishery is rigorously assessed. MSC ecolabel assists discerning customers in making an ethical choice.”

Australia is the world’s first pearl fishery to be certified against the MSC’s standard for sustainable fishing. MSC Oceania Program Director Anne Gabriel says, “It’s an exciting development and opens the door to engage a whole new world of consumers on the important issue of fisheries sustainability. We are looking forward to seeing the MSC ecolabel on wild pearls in the jewellery and fashion markets of the world, as well as on mother of pearl and pearl meat products. By buying sustainable pearl products, consumers can also play their part in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems and securing the future of our fish stocks.”

Paspaley, Australia’s leading pearling company, exports over 95 percent of its production to wholesalers and jewellery manufacturers around the world. Bracher tells IPS, “We sell to many of the world’s leading brands for which ethical supply chains are a high priority. Although we cannot communicate directly with their end-customers, our environmental credentials are an important differentiator as a supplier.”

Cygnet Bay Pearls uses tourism as a way of educating consumers about the making of the Australian South Sea Pearl and the environment it thrives on. Brown tells IPS, “Our new business model welcomes general public to the farm. Our Giant Tides tour shows visitors the unique Kimberley marine environment, which is now regarded as having the largest tropical tides by volume of water and also the fastest tidal currents in the world. This is what powers our pearl farm and allows Australians to grow the finest pearls in the world.”

Terry Hunter, a fourth generation Bardi man, is a cultural tour guide on the Cygnet Bay Pearl farm. He tells IPS, “Cygnet Bay has been my playground. My father and grandfather worked here. The Browns have always recognised, acknowledged and respected Indigenous knowledge. When I hold a mother of pearl oyster shell, I feel alive – connected through ceremony and ancestors.”

Traditionally, the indigenous Aboriginal Bardi and Jawi tribes collected the mother of pearl to make a riji, which boys wear as a pubic covering at the time of initiation or formal admission to adulthood. The engravings on the shell symbolise their connection to earth and water. Now, the riji is worn for ceremonial purposes.

Bart Pigram, an indigenous Yawuru man, worked as a pearl shell cleaner and now owns and operates Narlijia Cultural Tours and shares the unique pearling history of Broome with visitors. He tells IPS, “The environment’s health is integral to not only sustaining the pearling industry, but also the local indigenous communities.”

The pearling industry employs about 800 people. The value of the pearl aquaculture sector was about AUD78.4 million for the 2015-16 financial year, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) Australian fisheries and aquaculture statistics 2016 report.

  • The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and is being co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Over 13,000 participants from around the world are coming together to learn how to build a blue economy.

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Expectations High for First Global Blue Economy Conferencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/expectations-high-first-global-blue-economy-conference/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=expectations-high-first-global-blue-economy-conference http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/expectations-high-first-global-blue-economy-conference/#respond Thu, 22 Nov 2018 13:52:31 +0000 Miriam Gathigah and Robert Kibet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158794 In a matter of days the world’s blue economy actors and experts will converge in Nairobi, Kenya for the first ever global conference on sustainable blue economy. From Nov. 26 to 28, participants from around the globe will meet in Kenya’s capital to discuss how to develop a sustainable blue economy that is inclusive of […]

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Ready for a day's work at sea, a small fleet of boats hugs the shoreline of a fishing village in the district of Kilifi. Fishing is important to the local economy. Experts experts insist that there is still a lot more to be done towards developing a strong blue economy action plan for Kenya. Credit: UN Photo/Milton Grant

By Miriam Gathigah and Robert Kibet
NAIROBI, Nov 22 2018 (IPS)

In a matter of days the world’s blue economy actors and experts will converge in Nairobi, Kenya for the first ever global conference on sustainable blue economy.

From Nov. 26 to 28, participants from around the globe will meet in Kenya’s capital to discuss how to develop a sustainable blue economy that is inclusive of all.

Professor Micheni Ntiba, the Principal Secretary for Kenya’s Department of Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy, says partnership linkages with development agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme are key to progress, but synergies need to be directed towards integrating policy and strategy for implementation.

“This will be a conference like no other, with a research and scientific symposium. It requires knowledge and hence there is the need to integrate policy and strategy for implementation as well,” Ntiba told IPS in an interview.

Wilfred Subbo, an expert in natural resources and an associate professor at the University of Nairobi, told IPS that the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will significantly jumpstart the country’s blue economy by setting the agenda on the need to prioritise the exploitation of water-based natural resources.

He said that the stage is set for governments and private sector actors to transform the country into a robust commercially-oriented blue economy.

Just this week, on Nov. 19, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the country’s newly-formed Kenya Coast Guard Service in Mombasa, Coastal region.

With the Kenya Coast Guard Act 2018 already in place, the mandate of the new coast guard includes controlling illegal and unregulated fishing, border disputes, and piracy as well as the degradation of the marine ecosystem.

Also on the same day, Kenyatta launched the ‘Eat More Fish’ campaign, which has Ali Ahmed is elated. Ahmed is a Malindi-based fisherman whose main target markets are in Malindi, Mombasa and Nairobi.

Government statistics shows that the current per capita fish consumption is at 4.6 kilograms, and that the president’s campaign will drive consumption to rival Africa’s average of 10 kilograms, and later attain the global average of 20 kilograms. This is part of an agenda to encourage ordinary Kenyans to both invest and reap from the blue economy based on the untapped potential in fisheries.

“Kenyans have turned to other foods like traditional vegetables and ignored fish. They say it is too expensive but this is not true. Most of the fishermen are in the business to put food on the table and nothing else,” he tells IPS.

Nonetheless, experts insist that there is still a lot more to be done towards developing a strong blue economy action plan, just as countries in the Western Indian Ocean such as Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and the Union of Comoros have done.

Professor Peter Anyang Nyong’o, the Governor for Kisumu County where Lake Victoria is located, told IPS in a telephone conversation that despite huge funding towards solving environmental problems in Lake Victoria, the impact has been negligent.

The Lake Region Block is planning to host a conference early next year that seeks to discuss pollution in Lake Victoria, mainly caused by the hyacinth, the invasive plant that has paralysed commercial fishing and marine transport.

“Hyacinth has heavily affected fish life in the lake as it impedes oxygen level. We are going to discuss scientific research that seeks to bring a better solution to the hyacinth in the lake,” says Nyong’o.

And as counties from the Lake Region plan to attend the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, Nyong’o says his county is currently working on a plan to revive the fibreglass boat-making project to curb accidents and deaths caused by the use of soft wood in making boats, which he says causes roughly 5400 deaths a year.

Experts such as Nairobi-based economist Jason Rosario Braganza told IPS that the conference offers the public and private sector an opportunity “to reinforce the narrative on the importance of a holistic approach to sustainable development through the diversification of the economy.”

Braganza says that the high-level meeting will draw attention to the responsibility that citizens have in the ethical consumption and responsible use of natural resources.

According to the Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (Kippra), the estimated annual economic value of goods and services in the marine and coastal ecosystem in the Blue Economy in the Western Indian Ocean is currently slightly over 22 billion dollars. Kenya’s share is approximately 4.4 billion dollars, with the tourism sector accounting for about 4.1 billion dollars.

Dickson Khainga, from the Productive Sector Division, says that Kenya’s blue world is more than just tourism and includes “the extraction of non-living resources such as seabed mining, marine biotechnology and the generation of new resources such as energy and fresh water.”

The research and policy analyst says that despite the country having a maritime territory of 230,000 square kilometres and a distance of 200 nautical miles offshore, equivalent to 31 of the 47 counties, Kenya has only explored tourism and fisheries.

According to Kippra, fisheries are by far not its most productive sector, accounting for a paltry 0.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Against this backdrop, Braganza emphasises that in pursuit of the blue economy the country will need to seal its policy loopholes.

He says that the “exploitative nature of big corporations of natural resources is a threat to sustainable development.” Braganza cautions that governments “will need to be more robust and decisive in the development of institutions, and legislation to police the exploitation of natural resources.”

With shipping said to be responsible for about 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, an agreement reached to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping when nations met at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) in April this year marked a big milestone.

Feeding the globe’s projected 9.6 billion people by 2050, invigorating aquaculture estimated to supply 58 percent of fish to the global market has the potential to contribute to food security as well socioeconomic inclusion of some of the world’s poorest.

Ntoba says Africa is still blind to the rich diversity of water body resources, and that its nations should now seize the opportunity by using the upcoming global conference as a wake-up call to foment greater African partnership.

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, who chairs the Lake Region Economic Block, told IPS the region will seek to push for a focus to have more funding directed towards improving commercial fish farming in the counties.

So far, the government has already set aside some Ksh 10 billion to improve marine fishing in the coastal region and another Ksh 14 billion to harness commercial aquaculture in 14 counties.

“Water has been mainly used in conventional irrigation agriculture which has contributed to greenhouse gas emissions but there has to be a shift. Sustainable water use will help spur the economy and at the same time curb greenhouse gas emissions,” Oparanya told IPS.

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Women Must be at the Heart of Africa’s Blue Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/women-must-heart-africas-blue-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-must-heart-africas-blue-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/women-must-heart-africas-blue-economy/#respond Wed, 21 Nov 2018 17:36:41 +0000 Mahawa Kaba Wheeler http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158776 Mahawa Kaba Wheeler is Director for the Women, Gender and Development Directorate, Bureau of the Chairperson, at the African Union Commission

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Rita Francke and another fisherwoman at the jetty, in front of the old crayfish factory at Witsands, South Africa. Credit: Lee Middleton/IPS

By Mahawa Kaba Wheeler
ADDIS ABABA, Nov 21 2018 (IPS)

The blue economy has quite rightly been described as the ‘New Frontier of the African Renaissance’. Its potential for a continent on which almost two thirds of its states have a coastline, whose trade is 90 percent sea-borne and whose lakes constitute the largest proportion of surface freshwater in the world, is enormous.

Indeed, its potential runs into the many trillions of dollars and promises to combine enormous economic growth with environmental conservation, if stewarded properly.

The Africa Union’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS 2050) provides a robust roadmap to fully exploit the potential of its oceans and seas and the first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi next week offers African nations the opportunity to solidify this continental framework.

But one thing we can say with certainty now is that the full potential of Africa’s blue economy can only be reached if it is truly inclusive, allowing all people in society to reap the dividends on offer from the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers of the continent.

Women must be at the heart of this inclusivity. Gender equality and women’s empowerment is at the heart of all African Union (AU) policies and actions and the blue economy is fertile ground to further women’s role in this transformative field.

The AU at its 31st Ordinary Summit in Nouakchott adopted its first Continental Strategy for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (2017-2027) to accelerate translate Agenda 2063 into reality for the millions of women and girls across the continent.

The first pillar of this strategy is aimed at achieving economic autonomy for women through maximising outcomes and opportunities for them. The blue economy is one such target.

Women have not always been able to fully enjoy the rewards of the growth in Africa’s economies and the roles they have played in helping expand sectors across the continent are gaining greater recognition.

Mahawa Kaba Wheeler, Director for the Women, Gender and Development Directorate, at the African Union Commission, says that while the marine industry in Africa is male dominated, women are working collaboratively with men to find a voice within it. Courtesy: Mahawa Kaba Wheeler

The AU is committed to ensuring this is not the case with the blue economy and is advocating for women to be more involved in marine industries across Africa. The AU currently works with women’s networks in this field, including among others Women in Maritime Africa, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association and Women in the Maritime Sector in Eastern and Southern Africa, and welcomes new initiatives.

As delegates will hear at the Nairobi conference, we are pushing several initiatives for women in the blue economy, for instance to help them become sea cadets, lead port operations, increase the number of women in the industry, become captains of ships, celebrate their accomplishments and leaders in the industry, to expand their roles in shipping, fishing and other sectors of the marine industry.

We want to make sure that the blue economy is an inclusive one for women. Agenda 2063 calls for inclusive economic growth and we want to make sure that women are included in that growth and within the blue economy.

At present, the marine industry in Africa is male dominated, but women are working collaboratively with men to find a voice within it. This conference will ensure women’s voices are more fully heard.

This is especially important now as we have seen women deciding to come together to play their part in the blue economy and take their dividend from it – across Africa they are joining groups to promote and support the role played, and which could yet be played, in the marine industry.

The AU welcomes and fully supports these and any similar activities as they can only be good for women, for the promotion of inclusivity, and the blue economy as a whole.

But it must not stop there.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi offers an opportunity for all blue economy stakeholders, in Africa and from other countries, to not only hear about the key role women can play in the blue economy, but help suggest and support ways and means to expand those roles and to ensure that women are truly and fully included in Africa’s blue economy and able to reap its rewards. Several events will be held to promote women’s role in the blue economy and are anticipated to help leaders rally behind women’s initiatives in the industry.

Together, heads of state, ministers, policymakers, civil society groups and other stakeholders must come together to honour commitments we have all made to inclusivity in the blue economy and guarantee that women are not left behind as Africa’s ‘New Frontier’ is opened up. We must therefore create bold and transformative initiatives to accelerate women’s economic empowerment and leadership in this field.

It must also not be forgotten that this is not just about women’s roles in developing the potential of the oceans, seas, lakes and rivers around the world. It goes well beyond this.

By showing that women can succeed and thrive as entrepreneurs and independent active agents of change and growth in the blue economy, we can inspire women in all other sectors of society. If they can succeed in one economy, why not in another? If a woman can rise to the top in a sector of the marine industry, she can rise to the top in, for example, the finance or retail industry, to name just two.

The AU helps give women a voice in all industries, especially those which are non-traditional or male-dominated, and in Nairobi, we want to help them find their voice in the blue economy.

We say “women can sail Africa to the seas” and we believe the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will give us the chance to succeed.

The post Women Must be at the Heart of Africa’s Blue Economy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Mahawa Kaba Wheeler is Director for the Women, Gender and Development Directorate, Bureau of the Chairperson, at the African Union Commission

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The Blue Economy for the Blue Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/blue-economy-blue-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blue-economy-blue-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/blue-economy-blue-planet/#respond Tue, 20 Nov 2018 20:00:27 +0000 Cameron Diver http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158759 Cameron Diver is the Deputy Director-General of the Pacific Community (SPC).

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Sea level rise threatens Raolo island in the Solomon Islands. The ongoing negative effects of climate change, inadequate agricultural, industrial and household waste management, to name but a few, all threaten and undermine the promise of the Blue Economy. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS.

By Cameron Diver
NEW CALEDONIA, Nov 20 2018 (IPS)

We live on a “blue planet” where water covers around 75 percent of the Earth’s surface. Without water we would simply not survive as a species. As we strive to find pathways to and take action for inclusive sustainable development, we must ensure that our ocean, our seas, rivers, lakes, waterways and wetlands, together with their invaluable biodiversity, are preserved, sustainably used and integrated into development programming.

Above all, we should understand, value and harness these natural pillars of the Blue Economy as answers to many development challenges, as solutions to help us achieve the ambition of the Paris Agreement, deliver a new deal for nature and people, and reach the Sustainable Development Goals.

The Blue Economy has enormous potential as a driver of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection, but it is also faced with immense challenges.

The ongoing negative effects of climate change, inadequate agricultural, industrial and household waste management, plastic and chemical pollution, corruption and lack of robust water governance mechanisms, the alarming rate of biodiversity loss in global ecosystems and sometimes wilful ignorance of scientific evidence and advice, to name but a few, all threaten and undermine the promise of the Blue Economy.

There are inspiring examples worldwide of action to clean up waterways, restore habitat and create clean environments for economic and recreational activities. But you don’t have to be a wealthy developed country to share the same ambition or achieve similar outcomes.

Here are just a few examples from the Pacific region, whose large ocean/small island states are taking up the challenge, all the while dealing with the immediate impact of climate change, natural disasters and the very real tyranny of distance.

The Pacific Islands are uniquely vulnerable to the environmental impacts of maritime transport due to their reliance on shipping and the fact that many ports in island contexts are located both in the main urban area and in fragile coastal ecosystems like lagoons.

Through programmes like our Green Pacific Port initiative my organisation, the Pacific Community, is helping its Member States address these issues through improved efforts to increase port energy efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint, and enhanced environmental management including marine pollution and waste management.

In the tiny archipelago of Wallis and Futuna, the issue of used oils, batteries and saturated landfill was prioritised by local authorities due to its potential repercussions on the quality of the aquifer, lagoon and coastal water, and of course marine biodiversity.

Working alongside local communities and decision makers, our teams contributed to developing multiple measures to remove hazardous waste from the islands. A viable export business was set up to process this type of waste and, on the island of Futuna, the landfill was closed and underwent site remediation.

In the agriculture sector Pacific Island countries are also tackling threats to soil quality, plant life and water resources. In Fiji, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Samoa we are helping develop and implement innovative approaches using soft chemicals and biocides to target specific pests and diseases without affecting other forms of biodiversity and significantly lessening the environmental impact.

Alongside other partners, the Pacific Community contributed to the 2018 Pacific Marine Climate Change Report Card. The Report Card provides an easy to access summary of climate change impacts on coasts and seas in the Pacific region.

It also highlights the critical nexus between the ocean and climate change and underscores the significant threat that deteriorating marine and coastal biodiversity would present for livelihoods, health, culture, wellbeing and infrastructure.

It also proposes are range of responses Pacific Islands can adopt such as: building resilience to unavoidable climate change impacts on coral reefs, mangroves and seas grass by reducing non-climate threats and introducing protected areas; working with communities to diversify fisheries livelihoods and restore and preserve fish habitats; optimising the sustainable economic benefits from tuna through regional management.

For the large ocean/small island States of the Pacific region the ocean is at the heart of their identity: “We are the sea, we are the ocean, we must wake up to this ancient truth”. Through the Blue Pacific narrative, Oceania’s Leaders seek to harness the potential of Pacific peoples’ shared stewardship of the Pacific Ocean based on an explicit recognition of their shared ocean identity, ocean geography, and ocean resources.

The Blue Economy must therefore contribute to the Blue Pacific identity and help fulfil a higher ambition for regionalism and sustainable development based first and foremost on the deep-rooted bond between the peoples of the Pacific, the land, the ocean and biodiversity.

In this context, the Pacific Community and our partners provide scientific and technical expertise and advice for evidence-based policy making and sustainable solutions tailored to the needs of the 22 Pacific Island countries and territories. Globally, as in the Pacific, we must ensure that the Blue Economy is more than a slogan, more than a concept encouraging sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth.

It must become a concrete reality where decisions are informed by science and the best available evidence. We must use the Blue Economy so that nature and the environment are not sacrificed for short-term political or economic gain but leveraged for long-term sustainable growth and development.

We must truly transform the promise of the Blue Economy from the page and the conference hall to tangible and integrated climate action, ocean action and biodiversity action to guarantee a sustainable future for our planet and, as a consequence, ourselves.

The post The Blue Economy for the Blue Planet appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Cameron Diver is the Deputy Director-General of the Pacific Community (SPC).

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Africa Set for a Massive Free Trade Areahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/africa-set-massive-free-trade-area/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-set-massive-free-trade-area http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/africa-set-massive-free-trade-area/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 16:20:34 +0000 Kingsley Ighobor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158690 Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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(From left) African Union chairperson and president of Rwanda Paul Kagame, president of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou and African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat at the launch of AfCFTA in Kigali in March 2018. Credit: Office of President Paul Kagame

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 15 2018 (IPS)

Following the unveiling of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2018, Africa is about to become the world’s largest free trade area: 55 countries merging into a single market of 1.2 billion people with a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion.

The shelves of Choithrams Supermarket in Freetown, Sierra Leone, boast a plethora of imported products, including toothpicks from China, toilet paper and milk from Holland, sugar from France, chocolates from Switzerland and matchboxes from Sweden.

Yet many of these products are produced much closer—in Ghana, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, and other African countries with an industrial base.

So why do retailers source them halfway around the world? The answer: a patchwork of trade regulations and tariffs that make intra-African commerce costly, time wasting and cumbersome.

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), signed by 44 African countries in Kigali, Rwanda, in March 2018, is meant to create a tariff-free continent that can grow local businesses, boost intra-African trade, rev up industrialization and create jobs.

The agreement creates a single continental market for goods and services as well as a customs union with free movement of capital and business travellers. Countries joining AfCFTA must commit to removing tariffs on at least 90% of the goods they produce.

If all 55 African countries join a free trade area, it will be the world’s largest by number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people and a combined GDP of $2.5 trillion, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).

The ECA adds that intra-African trade is likely to increase by 52.3% by 2020 under the AfCFTA.

Five more countries signed the AfCFTA at the African Union (AU) summit in Mauritania in June, bringing the total number of countries committing to the agreement to 49 by July’s end. But a free trade area has to wait until at least 22 countries submit instruments of ratification.

By July 2018, only six countries—Chad, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Ghana, Kenya, Niger and Rwanda—had submitted ratification instruments, although many more countries are expected to do so before the end of the year.

Economists believe that tariff-free access to a huge and unified market will encourage manufacturers and service providers to leverage economies of scale; an increase in demand will instigate an increase in production, which in turn will lower unit costs.
Consumers will pay less for products and services as businesses expand operations and hire additional employees.

“We look to gain more industrial and value-added jobs in Africa because of intra-African trade,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development, a body that deals with trade, investment and development, in an interview with Africa Renewal.

“The types of exports that would gain most are those that are labour intensive, like manufacturing and agro-processing, rather than the capital-intensive fuels and minerals, which Africa tends to export,” concurred Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the ECA, in an interview with Africa Renewal, emphasizing that the youth will mostly benefit from such job creation.

In addition, African women, who account for 70% of informal cross-border trading, will benefit from simplified trading regimes and reduced import duties, which will provide much-needed help to small-scale traders.

If the agreement is successfully implemented, a free trade area could inch Africa toward its age-long economic integration ambition, possibly leading to the establishment of pan-African institutions such as the African Economic Community, African Monetary Union, African Customs Union and so on.

A piece of good news

Many traders and service providers are cautiously optimistic about AfCFTA’s potential benefits. “I am dreaming of the day I can travel across borders, from Accra to Lomé [in Togo] or Abidjan [in Côte d’Ivoire] and buy locally manufactured goods and bring them into Accra without all the hassles at the borders,” Iso Paelay, who manages The Place Entertainment Complex in Community 18 in Accra, Ghana, told Africa Renewal.

“Right now, I find it easier to import the materials we use in our business—toiletries, cooking utensils, food items—from China or somewhere in Europe than from South Africa, Nigeria or Morocco,” Paelay added.

African leaders and other development experts received a piece of good news at the AU summit in Mauritania in June when South Africa, Africa’s most industrialised economy, along with four other countries, became the latest to sign the AfCFTA.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and another huge economy, has been one of the holdouts, with the government saying it needs to have further consultations with indigenous manufacturers and trade unions. Nigerian unions have warned that free trade may open a floodgate for cheap imported goods that could atrophy Nigeria’s nascent industrial base.

The Nigeria Labour Congress, an umbrella workers’ union, described AfCFTA as a “radioactive neoliberal policy initiative” that could lead to “unbridled foreign interference never before witnessed in the history of the country.”

However, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo expressed the view that the agreement is “where our [economic] salvation lies.”

At a July symposium in Lagos organised in honour of the late Adebayo Adedeji, a onetime executive secretary of the ECA, Yakubu Gowon, another former Nigerian leader, also weighed in, saying, “I hope Nigeria joins.”

Speaking at the same event, Songwe urged Nigeria to get on board after consultations, and offered her organisation’s support.

Last April, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari signalled a protectionist stance on trade matters while defending his country’s refusal to sign the Economic Community of West African States-EU Economic Partnership Agreement. He said then, “Our industries cannot compete with the more efficient and highly technologically driven industries in Europe.”

In some countries, including Nigeria and South Africa, the government would like to have control over industrial policy, reports the Economist, a UK-based publication, adding, “They also worry about losing tariff revenues, because they find other taxes hard to collect.”

While experts believe that Africa’s big and industrialising economies will reap the most from a free trade area, the ECA counters that smaller countries also have a lot to gain because factories in the big countries will source inputs from smaller countries to add value to products.

The AfCFTA has also been designed to address many countries’ multiple and overlapping memberships in Regional Economic Communities (RECs), which complicate integration efforts. Kenya, for example, belongs to five RECs. The RECs will now help achieve the continental goal of a free trade area.

Many traders complain about RECs’ inability to execute infrastructure projects that would support trading across borders. Ibrahim Mayaki, head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the project-implementing wing of the AU, says that many RECs do not have the capacity to implement big projects.

For Mr. Mayaki, infrastructure development is crucial to intra-African trade. NEPAD’s Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) is an ambitious list of regional projects. Its 20 priority projects have been completed or are under construction, including the Algiers-Lagos trans-Saharan highway, the Lagos-Abidjan transport corridor, the Zambia-Tanzania-Kenya power transmission line and the Brazzaville-Kinshasa bridge.

The AfCFTA could change Africa’s economic fortunes, but concerns remain that implementation could be the agreement’s weakest link.

Meanwhile African leaders and development experts see a free trade area as an inevitable reality. “We need to summon the required political will for the African Continental Free Trade Area to finally become a reality,” said AU Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, at the launch in Kigali.

*This article first appeared in Africa Renewal which is published by the United Nations.

The post Africa Set for a Massive Free Trade Area appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Kenya Looks to Lead the Way in Developing the Blue Economy’s Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/kenya-looks-lead-way-developing-blue-economys-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-looks-lead-way-developing-blue-economys-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/kenya-looks-lead-way-developing-blue-economys-potential/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 11:15:22 +0000 Ambassador Macharia Kamau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158679 Ambassador Macharia Kamau is Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Kenya, also the coordinating Ministry of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, 2018.

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While Africa is bordered by two oceans and two seas, African-owned ships account for a tiny fraction – just over 1 percent - of the world’s shipping. Much of Sierra Leone’s indigenous fishing continues to be carried out by traditional methods and, aside from boats’ engines, remains unmechanised and labour intensive. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Ambassador Macharia Kamau
NAIROBI, Nov 15 2018 (IPS)

For many years now, the economic potential of the African continent has been discussed, promoted and hailed by everyone from economists to policymakers to world leaders – and with very good reason. After all, Africa is a vast, populous, developing continent with enormous natural and human resource riches and a raft of rapidly developing economies which are helping create prosperity and raise living standards and social opportunities through economic growth.

But those discussions and promotions have often focused heavily, if not exclusively, on the land-based economies of the continent, and little has been said about the equally vast potential of Africa’s blue economy.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi from 26 to 28 Nov., is helping to bring this potential into focus – and not just for Africa, but for the entire global community – by highlighting the economic opportunities the world’s oceans, seas and rivers offer.

The global blue economy, by some estimates, generates up to USD 6 trillion for the global economy and, if it were a country, would be the seventh-largest economy is the world. It helps drive economic growth and provides jobs for hundreds of millions around the world, often to those in the poorest communities, in industries as diverse as fishing, transport, tourism, off-shore mining and others.

Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Principal Secretary, at Kenya’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the coordinating Ministry of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, says more could be done by African nations to develop the continent’s blue economies.

But its potential is, so far, being underexploited in the countries which it could help most. This is no better exemplified than in Africa where almost three quarters of countries have a coastline or are islands, where the continent’s total coastline is over 47,000 km and with 13 million km2 of collective exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

Yet despite this, maritime trade among African countries makes up only just over 10 percent of total trade by volume. And while Africa is bordered by two oceans and two seas, African-owned ships account for a tiny fraction – just over 1 percent – of the world’s shipping. The International Energy Agency says ocean renewable energy can potentially supply more than four times current global energy demand. Africa could provide a significant share of that, but many renewable energy projects on the continent have so far focused on wind and solar or other renewable energy sources.

By any standards, Africa is at least underusing, possibly even drastically wasting, its blue economy potential. This must be rectified. By some estimates, the African maritime industry is already worth USD 1 trillion annually. But, with the right economic policies implemented, it could triple in just two years.

The good news is that Kenya, and other countries in Africa, are on the way to taking advantage of the blue economy’s potential and diversifying their economies to include a greater ‘blue’ share.

For instance, the Seychelles has established a Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy while the African Union has put the blue economy at the heart of its 2063 development agenda. In South Africa, a national development plan includes a key focus on the blue economy which is projected to add USD 13 billion to the nation’s economy and create a million new jobs by 2030.

This is all very encouraging, but more could, and should, be done by African nations to develop the continent’s blue economies.

Kenya, as co-host of this conference, is looking to lead the way in developing the blue economy’s potential, not just for itself, but for the rest of Africa and the entire global community.

But we can only do this with other countries. Thankfully, the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference provides an excellent opportunity for other countries, such as co-hosts Canada and Japan. Canada are further along with their integration of the blue economy into their wider economies – from the breadth and size of their shipping and fishing industry to innovative recycling projects that help clean the ocean as well as providing work in coastal communities – to exchange ideas and experiences, as well as technical advances, with states who are just beginning the expansion of their blue economy activities.

The conference will also provide a timely and much-needed opportunity for countries to look together at how both the private and public sector can help finance initiatives and projects in various blue economy sectors to achieve the best effect.

Indeed, the private sector’s contribution to the development of the blue economy, especially in poorer nations with more limited means to diversify their economies, is crucial. In some states, the public sector would be unable to shoulder such a financial burden on its own and innovative methods of finance will be necessary.

This, of course, is not to play down the importance of the kind of bold initiatives like the ‘blue bonds’ issued by the Seychelles to support its efforts in the blue economy.

The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will provide an excellent opportunity to hear about and discuss projects around the world which are both exploiting the economic potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, but at the same time helping protect and conserve them. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

But while the economic potential of the blue economy is clear, and the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will help underline it, we must not forget the most important part of this economy – that it is sustainable. And it must remain so.

For all the economic opportunity it offers, the blue economy will deliver nothing if it is seen simply as an economic resource to be plundered for monetary gain.

Yes, like any economy, it can help to drive greater prosperity and raise living standards, creating jobs and wealth. But those jobs and the industries that support them, must be fostered and developed on the basis of long-term environmental sustainability.

This conference will provide an excellent opportunity to hear about and discuss projects around the world which are both exploiting the economic potential of oceans, seas, lakes and rivers, but at the same time helping protect and conserve them and discuss the best ways to put similar projects into practice, and to provide guidelines and draw up regulations to help ensure that economic growth, jobs and wealth are not being created at the expense of the environment.

This first Sustainable Blue Economy Conference  is a chance to set a course for an environmentally sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future for Kenya, other African states and nations around the world. Kenya is proud that it will be at the helm as this journey starts in Nairobi.

The post Kenya Looks to Lead the Way in Developing the Blue Economy’s Potential appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Ambassador Macharia Kamau is Principal Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Kenya, also the coordinating Ministry of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, 2018.

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Q&A: All Sustainable Development Goals Relate in Some Way to the Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/qa-sustainable-development-goals-relate-way-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-sustainable-development-goals-relate-way-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/qa-sustainable-development-goals-relate-way-oceans/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 19:27:56 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158669 IPS correspondent Carmen Arroyo interviews PETER THOMSON, United Nation’s Special Envoy for the Ocean.

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Peter Thomson, the United Nation’s Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. Credit: UNDP / Freya Morales

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14 2018 (IPS)

When Peter Thomson, the United Nation’s Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, heard in 2010 there was going to be a 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, he knew he had to include the ocean question.

Thomson had just been appointed Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. that year. He had a long career as a civil servant for the Republic of Fiji, and was a diplomatic personality. So the work at the U.N. suited him.

At that time, the health of the ocean was becoming a priority among representatives from islands worldwide. So when the opportunity to impress this issue to the world came his way, Thomson did not miss it.

Thomson, along other representatives from the Pacific Islands, started to push for the inclusion of an ocean goal within the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Soon enough, other countries joined them. In 2015, they succeeded.

Now SDG14 reads: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.”

In September 2016, Thomson became President of the 71st session of the U.N. General Assembly. The ocean was still a top concern of his. While other SDGs had supporting mechanisms in place (like the World Health Organisation for health or the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the U.N. for food,) the ocean lacked a supporting mechanism.

So in June 2017, the U.N. Ocean Conference to implement SDG14 was held, with representatives from NGOs, firms, governments, and civil society.

Later that year, the Secretary General appointed Thomson as the Special Envoy for the Ocean, a task he was happy to take on.

Now, Thomson is working towards the implementation of some of the targets of SDG14 that mature in 2020. They include ending overfishing and protecting marine ecosystems. The Sustainable Blue Economy Conference that will take place in Nairobi by the end of the month will address these issues.

Thomson travels constantly for his job, and by the end of the week he is inevitably tired. However, his passion over ocean conservancy does not waiver. So when IPS asks him what his biggest concern is, he quickly replies: “At 3AM when I stare at the ceiling and worry about my grandchildren, I worry most about climate change. Because that is the course which we are now set upon.”

The Blue Economy presents a challenge of how to ensure economic development that is both inclusive and environmentally sound. Credit: Nalisha Adams/IPS

Excerpts of the interview below:

Inter Press Service (IPS): What is your goal for the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi?

Peter Thomson (PT): The Nairobi conference is hosted by the governments of Kenya and Canada, and some other governments have given their support, including Japan. It’s not a U.N. conference, but it’s a very important conference. It’s the first time an Ocean Conference is being held on the African continent.

This is about the balance between protection and production of the ocean. In the case of the Nairobi conference, it’s not just the ocean, it’s lakes and rivers as well. It’s about SDG14’s goal to conserve but also to sustainably use the ocean’s resources. It’s about that balance.

IPS: In recent years, the U.N. has held a number of conferences and talks on the ocean. Do you think public opinion has changed?

PT: Yes, hugely. I compliment the media on that. Now, there are programmes on television and radio. Five years ago this was not the case, three years ago this was not the case. Today, ocean’s problems and solutions are on everybody’s lips. So I definitely think that this is much larger in the public perception as it used to be. As it should be, because the climate and the ocean are the two fundamentals on which life on this planet exists. Every breath that we take comes from oxygen created by the ocean.

IPS: How exactly are people more aware?

PT: Everyone is aware that there has to be a component of ocean action in their work for it to be regarded as complete. I can give no better example than marine plastic pollution. Everybody is now engaged in this battle against single use plastic. That has raised global consciousness, no doubt. But it doesn’t stop there. We have all the SDG 14 targets to attend to.

That is my job, to make people aware that is not just one or two issues on the ocean, it’s a gamut of issues for which we have targets. The other important part of our message is that we are continuing to see a decline in ocean’s health. Now our primary attention is in the implementation of that plan.

IPS: SDG14 is closely intertwined with the other SDGs. How do you work with them?

PT: When we do our ocean work, we think about the other SDGs. For example, SDG12, changing consumption and production patterns, is the core of 2030 agenda. If humanity doesn’t move away from unsustainable consumption and production patterns, we are stealing from our grandchildren.

Everything we are doing in SDG14 is about harmony with SDG12. But all SDGs relate in some way to the ocean. We are doing our bit and helping them, and everything they are doing is helping us. I don’t feel any artificial barriers at all.

IPS: You work with governments, the private sector, NGOs… As of now, are there countries that are doing nothing?

PT: Even landlocked countries have skin in the game, because they eat fish and breath oxygen. This is something that every human being should find relevant. This is work for the future, not the present.

IPS: And the private sector? How do you work with them towards SDG14?

PT: The co-presidents of the U.N. Ocean Conference of 2017 were Fiji and Sweden. I was then the Fiji ambassador to the U.N., and the Swedish Minister who was active was Isabella Lövin. She and I went to Davos in January in the wake of the Ocean conference, and we asked the World Economic Forum to serve as secretariat to a group called Friends of Ocean Action. The group was formed by leaders from firms, intergovernmental organisations, and academic institutions. This has proved a very good way of maintaining the involvement of the private sector in the implementation of SDG14.

IPS: What about NGOs?

PT: They’ve played a huge role in raising awareness of the need to put in place measures to assure that humanity doesn’t destroy the place where we live. If left unchecked we probably would.

IPS: And then there’s individuals. How can we contribute to the solution in our daily lives?

PT: Every human being has skin in the game here. Every breath we take comes from the ocean. I am no angel. I have been part of the problem. But for example I haven’t owned an internal combustion engine car in this century.

I love a hamburger as much as the next guy. But two years ago, my wife and I looked at our grandchildren and at what the beef industry was doing in the world. We love our grandchildren more than we love beef. So we gave up beef. It is a personal choice.

The same goes for single-use plastic. I am old enough to know a time when there was none of that nonsense of plastic covering everything. Who asked for it? We didn’t ask for it as consumers. Who is putting this on us?

IPS: What can we do as consumers?

PT: Consumers have the responsibility of speaking up. When I walk into a supermarket, I demand they keep the plastic they put around the product I wanna buy. Sometimes it has a plastic film around it, so it lasts for three months. But I don’t want it for three months! I want it for today. I rip it off, I give it to the cashier and say ‘that’s yours not mine’. If all consumers acted like that, you’d have a quick reaction in board rooms.

The post Q&A: All Sustainable Development Goals Relate in Some Way to the Oceans appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Carmen Arroyo interviews PETER THOMSON, United Nation’s Special Envoy for the Ocean.

The post Q&A: All Sustainable Development Goals Relate in Some Way to the Oceans appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Caribbean Looks to Protect its Seafood From Mercuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/caribbean-looks-protect-seafood-mercury/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-looks-protect-seafood-mercury http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/caribbean-looks-protect-seafood-mercury/#respond Mon, 05 Nov 2018 13:07:39 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158299 Four Caribbean countries have done an inventory of the major sources of mercury contamination in their islands, but a great deal of work still needs to be done to determine where and what impact this mercury is having on the region’s seafood chain. Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica and St. Lucia recently […]

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The Fisheries Sector in the Caribbean Community is an important source of income. Four Caribbean countries have done an inventory of the major sources of mercury contamination in their islands. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Nov 5 2018 (IPS)

Four Caribbean countries have done an inventory of the major sources of mercury contamination in their islands, but a great deal of work still needs to be done to determine where and what impact this mercury is having on the region’s seafood chain.

Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica and St. Lucia recently concluded a Minamata Initial Assessment project, funded by the Global Environment Facility, that enabled them to identify their top mercury polluters. The assessment represents a major step for the countries, all of which share the global concern over mercury contamination of the seafood chain that led to the ratification in August 2017 of the United Nation’s Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Public education on the issue is vital, said Tahlia Ali Shah, the assessment’s project execution officer. “When mercury is released it eventually enters the land or soil or waterways. It becomes a problem when it enters the waterways and it moves up the food chain. Mercury tends to bioaccumulate up the food chain,” she said.

“So if people continue to eat larger predatory fish over a period of time” the levels of mercury in their body could increase. Mercury poisoning can lead to physical and mental disability.

Ali Shah works for the regional project’s implementing agency, the Basel Convention Regional Centre for the Caribbean (BCRC), which held a seminar in Trinidad in early October to apprise members of the public about the dangers posed by mercury. The seminar also shared with participants some of the results of the initial assessment and what citizens can do to help reduce mercury in the environment. The four countries plan to roll out public awareness campaigns on the issue, Ali Shah said.

Meanwhile, Jewel Batchasingh, the centre’s acting director, is concerned that the public not overreact to the fear of mercury contamination. She pointed out that fishing and tourism are important industries for the region, “and people tend to panic when they hear about mercury in fish.”

For now, no fish species commonly eaten in the Caribbean has been flagged as a danger,  Ali Shah told IPS. “It is only after years of testing the fish and narrowing down the species that we will be able to better inform consumers in the Caribbean about which fish are safest to eat and give fish guidelines.”

She said the current fish matrix developed by the Biodiversity Research Institute to provide guidance regarding safe consumption levels for various species does not readily apply to the Caribbean. A similar matrix is used by the United States Food and Drug Administration to provide guidance to U.S. consumers.

The main source of mercury contamination for Trinidad and Tobago is its oil and gas industry, which is responsible for over 70 percent of the mercury released into that country’s environment. For Jamaica, the important bauxite industry is the main source of mercury pollution, whereas for St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia, the main source of contamination is consumer products.

Though St. Kitts and Nevis and Jamaica are parties to the Minamata Convention, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia are exploring what steps need to be taken to become signatories.

St. Lucia wanted to take part in the MIA as a preliminary step. It recognised “that the problem of mercury pollution is a global problem that cannot be addressed adequately without the cooperation of all countries and that our population and environment was not immune to the negative impacts of mercury, [so] we wanted to be a part of the solution by ratifying the Convention,” said Yasmin Jude, sustainable development and environment officer and the national project coordinator for St. Lucia’s assessment.

“However, it was important to us that the decision to do so was from an informed position regarding our national situation and in particular, capability to implement the obligations articulated in the Convention.”

The MIA helped Saint Lucia “to get information on the primary sources of Hg [mercury] releases and emissions in the country, as well as an appreciation of the gaps in the existing regulatory and institutional frameworks as it relates to the implementation of the country’s legal obligations under the Minamata Convention on Mercury”, on its way to becoming a signatory, Jude explained to IPS via e-mail.

She added that at this stage “it is premature” for St. Lucia to state what its goals are with regard to controlling mercury contamination or to give a timeline for reduction of mercury in the environment, but the government’s chief concern is to ensure “a safe and healthy environment for our people.”

On the other hand, St. Kitts and Nevis, as a signatory to the Convention, “will adhere to the timelines for certain actions as laid out in the Minamata Convention,” Dr. Marcus Natta, research manager and the national project coordinator for St. Kitts and Nevis, told IPS. He said, “We will endeavour to meet the obligations of the Convention through legislative means, awareness and education activities, and other innovative and feasible actions.”

Keima Gardiner, waste management specialist and national project coordinator for the Trinidad and Tobago project, said one of the biggest challenges her country will face in becoming a signatory to the convention “is to phase out the list of mercury-added products” that signatories are required to eliminate by 2020. “This is very close for us. We are a high importer of CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs and these bulbs are actually on that list of products to be phased out.”

As for the energy sector, which the recently concluded assessment shows is the country’s main mercury polluter, “the idea is to try and meet with them directly to try and encourage them to change their practices and use more environmentally friendly techniques…and monitor their emissions,” Gardiner said.

  • The first global Sustainable Blue Economy Conference will be held in Nairobi, Kenya from Nov. 26 to 28 and is being co-hosted with Canada and Japan. Over 4,000 participants from around the world are coming together to learn how to build a blue economy.

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