COP24 Approves Paris Climate Accord Guidelines

Participants in a civil society action organized by Corporate Accountability International call for ambition and equity at COP24, presenting the "People's Demands for Climate Justice." Dec. 4, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

Participants in a civil society action organized by Corporate Accountability International call for ambition and equity at COP24, presenting the “People’s Demands for Climate Justice.” Dec. 4, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

By Sunny Lewis

KATOWICE, Poland, December 18, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Glaciers are still melting, sea levels are still rising, extreme weather is still causing floods and droughts, but the planet may be better able to withstand these consequences of climate change now that delegates at the UN’s COP24 climate change summit in Poland have adopted implementing guidelines for the 2015 Paris Accord.

The nearly 200 governments gathered in Katowice early Sunday adopted the guidelines that will breathe life into the Paris Agreement, which is aimed at keeping global warming below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

As the Katowice Climate Package is adopted, delegates cheer and Michal Kurtyka, COP 24 President, jumps for joy. December 16, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

As the Katowice Climate Package is adopted, delegates cheer and Michal Kurtyka, COP 24 President, jumps for joy. December 16, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

He thanked the hundreds of delegates in the room for their “patience,” noting that the last night “was a long night.” Laughter rippled through the hall as the big screens showed a delegate yawning profoundly.

The meeting had been scheduled to wrap on Friday, December 14. But the conference continued Saturday, as delegates consulted throughout the day to finalize the decisions for the Paris Agreement Work Programme. The final plenary session was gaveled to a close early Sunday morning.

Agreement was not unanimous. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia are not onboard with the views of the majority of governments at COP24.

Judith Garber, principal deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, delivered the U.S. National Statement, saying, “As President Trump announced last year, the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, absent the identification of terms that are more favorable to the American people. He also made clear that the United States will continue to be a leader in clean energy, innovation, and emissions reduction.”

But many delegates at COP24 did not believe that the Trump administration’s championship of “clean coal” is the way to avert climate change.

On December 10 in Katowice, as the United States hosted a side event focused on the role of “clean coal,” carbon capture and storage technologies, delegates stormed out of the event and flooded the hallways, calling on the United States to “keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

That action followed a split last week among delegates over the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the disastrous consequences if average global temperatures rise by 1.5°Celsius, and how to ensure they don’t go higher.

The IPCC report was widely regarded as a wake-up call for policy makers when it was released in October. Almost all the nearly 200 countries present in Katowice had wanted to “welcome” the IPCC report, making it a benchmark for future action.

But the United States sided with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in blocking endorsement of the study, calling for it to be “noted” but not “welcomed.”

“The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”

The objections of the four governments to the IPCC report was based on its suggestion that fossil-fuel use must be phased out by 2050 to avoid the worst catastrophes of climate change. Coal, oil and gas are major sources of carbon dioxide, which traps heat in the atmosphere close to the planet.

Blasting the efforts of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia to undermine climate science as a “suicide mission” and “criminal enterprise,” California Governor Jerry Brown sent a video message imploring the world’s leaders to “wake up” and “take action now.”

In addition, several other alarming climate studies have been released during the past two months, including the

Global Carbon Budget 2018” published in this month’s issue of the journal “Earth System Science Data.” In this study, an international team of scientists shows that the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased from roughly 277 parts per million in 1750, the beginning of the industrial era, to 405 ppm in 2017.

“Over the last decade we have seen unprecedented changes in the human and biophysical environments (e.g. changes in the growth of fossil fuel emissions, Earth’s temperatures, and strength of the carbon sinks), which call for frequent assessments of the state of the planet and a growing understanding of and improved capacity to anticipate the evolution of the carbon cycle in the future.”

This means that a continuous stream of accurate data is necessary to allow scientists to understand and governments to have some control over climate warming.

What Is the Paris Agreement Work Programme?

One of the key components of the Katowice agreement approved by delegates is a detailed transparency framework, meant to promote trust among nations. It sets out how countries will provide information about their national climate action plans, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as mitigation and adaptation measures.

In Katowice, agreement was reached on how to uniformly count greenhouse gas emissions and that, too, is part of the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

On the difficult question of financing from developed countries in support of climate action in developing countries, the Katowice guidelines set a way to decide on new, more ambitious targets from 2025 onwards, from the current commitment to mobilize US$100 billion a year as of 2020.

Nations also agreed on how to collectively assess the effectiveness of climate action in 2023 and how to monitor and report progress on the development and transfer of technology.

“The guidelines that delegations have been working on day and night are balanced and clearly reflect how responsibilities are distributed amongst the world’s nations,” said Patricia Espinosa, who heads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, secretariat.

“They incorporate the fact that countries have different capabilities and economic and social realities at home, while providing the foundation for ever increasing ambition,” said Espinosa.

There was one key issue upon which delegates could not agree – the matter known as “Article 6,” about carbon markets or carbon trading, which enable countries to buy and sell their emissions allowances to meet a part of their domestic mitigation goals.

The Paris Agreement recognizes the need for global rules on this matter to safeguard the integrity of all countries’ efforts and ensure that each tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere is accounted for.

But agreement was not reached in Katowice, and the issue will be back on the table at the next UN climate change conference, COP25, set to take place next December in Chile.

Commenting on the adoption of the Paris Agreement Work Programme, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, Gebru Jember Endalew of Ethiopia, said, “While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start implementing the Agreement. The next step, of course, is for countries to take urgent, ambitious action to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments.”

“This year, it has been made very clear that no country is immune to the impacts of climate change, but it is the nearly one billion people living in the 47 least developed countries that are often hit the hardest, suffer the most, and have the least capacity to cope,” said Endalew.

“Parties need to revise and enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions before 2020 in line with their fair share,” he said. “It is well known that current pledges will not be nearly enough to limit warming to 1.5°C. To achieve the visions and the goals of the Paris Agreement, countries must commit to greater levels of climate action and support, and follow through on those commitments.”

Ambition Cruicial, But Achievement Relies on Funding

“From now on, my five priorities will be: ambition, ambition, ambition, ambition and ambition,” said UN chief António Guterres told delegates at the closing planery through spokeswoman Espinosa. “Ambition in mitigation. Ambition in adaptation. Ambition in finance. Ambition in technical cooperation and capacity building. Ambition in technological innovation.”

To achieve this, the UN Secretary-General is convening a Climate Summit on 23 September, at UN Headquarters in New York, to engage governments at the highest levels.

Some financial engagement is already underway. The Green Climate Fund has to date funded 93 climate-calming projects and the Fund’s first replenishment drive received top-level support from both developing and developed nations during COP24.

In October, the Green Climate Fund Board approved over US$1 billion of new projects and programs to support climate action in developing countries.

The most costly of the newly approved projects is US$280 million for Transforming financial systems for climate in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda with the Agence Française de Développement.

Another high-dollar project approved in this round is US$100 million for the Indonesia Geothermal Resource Risk Mitigation Project with the World Bank. See the entire list here.

The two-week climate conference began on a positive note for the Green Climate Fund with an announcement by the German Government it will double its pledge to GCF to €1.5 billion. This was followed by Norway’s announcement that it will double its contribution to GCF’s replenishment. Ireland also indicated that it will commit additional financing to the Fund by the end of this year.

Other encouraging financial commitments for climate action were made. The World Bank announced it would increase its commitment to climate action after 2021 to $200 billion; and the Climate Adaptation Fund received a total of $129 million.

The private sector showed strong engagement with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Among the highlights of this COP, two major industries – the sports and the fashion worlds – joined the movement to align their business practices with the goals of the Paris Agreement, through the launch of the Sports for Climate Action Framework, and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.

The COP24 Presidency announced the Driving Change Together – Katowice Partnership for Electromobility and the associated partnership between Poland and the United Kingdom.

The Driving Change Together Partnership will establish a platform for cities, regional and national governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations to develop and exchange their knowledge and experiences of e-mobility and foster establishing new practical initiatives at local and international levels.

Civil Society Critical of Progress in Katowice

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Dec. 14, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Dec. 14, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

In addition to the political negotiations among UNFCCC Member States on the Paris guidelines over the past two weeks, the halls of COP24 were packed with 28,000 participants exchanging views, sharing innovative ideas, attending cultural events, and building partnerships for cross-sectoral and collaborative efforts.

Fossil Free, a worldwide campaign to end the age of fossil fuels, says country delegates “failed to deliver a strong enough set of guidelines.”

“Our movement has shown that we’re ready to fill the ambition gap – from the growing wave of kids’ school strikes to the way we’ve blown through a major milestone with over 1,024 divestment commitments” from institutions announced at COP24.

On Thursday in Katowice, a press conference celebrated the divestment commitments spanning 37 countries since 2012: cities like New York, Berlin and Cape Town; medical institutions like the American Public Health Association; faith groups like the Diocese of Assisi; insurance giants and investment funds like Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and the country of Ireland.

“To keep warming below 1.5°C we demand an immediate freeze on all new fossil fuel projects and a rapid and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy for all,” says Fossil Free.

Answering Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg’s call for school strikes, youth in Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, and Australia skipped school for the climate. And the #climatestrike continues to spread.

And back in the United States, more than 1,000 young people flooded the halls of Congress to demand action on a Green New Deal before the end of the year, resulting in over 100 arrests. And the call for a Green New Deal has spread to Canada.

A day before the start of COP24, 75,000 people marched in Brussels, Belgium and 35,000 came out in Berlin and Cologne, Germany. On December 8, activists staged a peaceful march in Katowice and took actions to sound the climate alarm around France and Europe.

The Paris Agreement, unanimously agreed by world leaders in 2015, has already produced positive results. According to the United Nations, notable achievements include:

  • At least 57 countries have managed to bring their greenhouse gas emissions down to the levels required to curb global warming.
  • There are at least 51 “carbon pricing” initiatives in the works; charging those who emit carbon dioxide per tonne emitted.
  • In 2015, 18 high-income countries committed to donating US$100 billion a year for climate action in developing countries. So far, over $70 billion has been mobilized.
  • The Paris Agreement, which provides the world with the only viable option for addressing climate change, has been ratified by 184 parties, and entered into force in November 2016.

The commitments contained in it are:

– Limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.

– Ramp up financing for climate action, including the annual $100 billion goal from donor nations for lower-income countries.

– Develop national climate plans by 2020, including their self-determined goals and targets.

– Protect beneficial ecosystems that absorb greenhouse gases, including forests.

– Strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

– Finalize a work program to implement the agreement in 2018.

That last point, the Paris Agreement Work Programme, was indeed finalized by delegates at COP24 in Katowice, despite some disagreements.

Chile will host the next UN climate summit, working with Costa Rica and other Latin American nations.

Brazil withdrew its candidacy to host the COP25 conference citing budget limitations, but environmental groups believe the move is a favor to the incoming government led by the far-right Jair Bolsonaro, who has threatened to pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement.

The next summit was expected to take place between November 11 and 22, 2019, but Chilean President Sebastian Piñera now says COP25 will be held in January 2020.


Maxtraining

Fashionably Cool

Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada's show at Madrid Fashion Week, June 7, 2018 (Photo by España Global) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada’s show at Madrid Fashion Week, June 7, 2018 (Photo by España Global) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

KATOWICE, Poland, December 11, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Keeping the planet cool is now seriously stylish in the exclusive world of fashion. To demonstrate commitment, the global fashion sector Monday launched the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action at the annual UN climate conference now underway in Katowice.

Fashion brands such as Burberry, Esprit, Levi Strauss and Stella McCartney; retailers such as Target and Gap; supplier organizations, and the giant shipping company Maersk, plus dozens of others, have agreed to collectively address the climate impact of the fashion sector by implementing or supporting the 16 principles and targets that underpin the Fashion Climate Charter.

Aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement to keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius and try to limit the warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the Charter is open for more companies and organizations to join.

It recognizes the crucial role that fashion plays on both sides of the climate equation – as a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and as a sector of the economy with multiple opportunities to reduce emissions while contributing to sustainable development.

“Climate change is undoubtedly one of, if not, the biggest challenge of our lifetime. It is and will affect everyone on this planet and our future,” said fashion designer Stella McCartney, daughter of former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney, whose latest album “Egypt Station” features a song about the dangers of climate change.

Stella McCartney said, “I want to call on my peers in the business, from other brands to retailers and suppliers, to sign up to this charter now and take the necessary actions to address the reality of the issue of climate change in their business and value chains. Collectively we have a voice and the capacity to make a difference.”

The Fashion Climate Charter contains the vision for the industry to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and defines issues to be addressed by the signatories. Six working groups in which signatories will work to define steps for implementation of the Charter will be convened by the UN Climate Change in early 2019.

The issues range from decarbonization of garment production, selection of climate friendly and sustainable materials, low-carbon transport, improved consumer dialogue and awareness, work with the financing community and policymakers to catalyze scalable solutions, and exploration of circular business models.

The signatories are not waiting for these issues to be fully elaborated and have set an initial target to reduce their aggregate greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030.

They have agreed to phase out coal-fired boilers and other sources of coal-fired heat and power generation in their own companies and direct suppliers from 2025.

“The fashion industry is always two steps ahead when it comes to defining world culture, so I am pleased to see it now also leading the way in terms of climate action,” said UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa. “The Charter, like the renowned fashion runways of the world, sets an example that I hope others will follow.”

The fashion industry, which encompasses textiles, clothing, leather, and footwear industries, from the production of raw materials and manufacturing of garments, accessories and footwear to their distribution and consumption, has long supply chains and energy intensive production.

In October British MPs on Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee said the fashion industry is a major source of the greenhouse gases that are overheating the planet. This conclusion is one outcome of the Committee’s ongoing Inquiry into the Sustainability of the Fashion Industry.

Men's fashions from around the world at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. From left, Rasmus Valanko, World Business Council on Sustainable Development; Yeom Tae-young, Mayor of Suwon, Republic of Korea, on behalf of ICLEI’s Ecomobility Alliance; Anirban Ghosh, Mahindra; and Nicola Tagliafierro, Head of Sustainable Product Development, Enel; Dec. 10, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used With Permission

Men’s fashions from around the world at COP24 in Katowice, Poland. From left, Rasmus Valanko, World Business Council on Sustainable Development; Yeom Tae-young, Mayor of Suwon, Republic of Korea, on behalf of ICLEI’s Ecomobility Alliance; Anirban Ghosh, Mahindra; and Nicola Tagliafierro, Head of Sustainable Product Development, Enel; Dec. 10, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used With Permission

As chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, MP Mary Creagh told BBC News that swift action is essential, because if current clothes consumption continues, it “…will account for more than a quarter of our total impact on climate change by 2050.”

Now it appears that the industry is moving quickly.

It was in early 2018 that fashion leaders volunteered to shape a climate movement through discussions in working groups chaired by PUMA SE and H&M Group.

The launch Monday, during the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice, known as COP24, reflects genuine sectoral support and is a call to the fashion industry everywhere to take climate action.

The founding signatories to the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action are: Adidas, Aquitex, Arcteryx, Burberry Limited, Esprit, Guess, Gap Inc., H&M Group, Hakro Gmbh., Hugo Boss, Inditex, Kering Group, Lenzing AG, Levi Strauss & Co., Mammut Sports Group AG, Mantis World, Maersk, Otto Group, Pidigi S.P.A, PUMA SE, re:newcell, Schoeller Textiles AG, Peak Performance, PVH Corp., Salomon, Skunkfunk, SLN Textil, Stella McCartney, Sympatex Technologies, Target and Tropic Knits Group.

Supporting organizations include: Business for Social Responsibility, China National Textile and Apparel Council, China Textile Information Center, Global Fashion Agenda, Global Organic Textile Standard, International Finance Corporation, Outdoor Industry Association, Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Sustainable Fashion Academy, Textile Exchange, WWF International and Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals Foundation.

It’s going to take all of the players working together to achieve real and lasting climate protection.

Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti said, “While we have committed to becoming carbon neutral in our own operations, achieving a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the entire global fashion industry by 2030 will require innovation and collaboration. By working together with other signatories of the Charter, we believe that we can achieve systemic change and build a more sustainable future.”

Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of the H&M group, said, “This charter is about getting the fashion industry united in important climate work. Our industry has a global reach and only together can we create the change that is urgently needed.”

“We are aware that more than 90 percent of PUMA’s Carbon Footprint is being generated in shared supply chains. If we want to reduce carbon emissions in our supply chains, we need to work together with our industry peers,” said Bjørn Gulden, CEO of PUMA.

“The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action provides a collective industry effort to support the goals of the Paris Agreement,” said Gulden. “We appreciate that UN Climate Change has set up a global platform and call upon our industry peers to join the initiative.”

Featured Image: Brazilian super model Lais Ribeiro attends the Elie Saab show during Paris Fashion Week, Sept. 29, 2018. (Photo by Angel Dust) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Maxtraining

Wallets Open for Climate at Poland’s COP24

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, State Secretary in Poland's Ministry of Energy, welcomes the delegates during the conference's opening plenary session, December 2, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, State Secretary in Poland’s Ministry of Energy, welcomes the delegates during the conference’s opening plenary session, December 2, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

By Sunny Lewis

KATOWICE, Poland, December 4, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Heads of state and government, diplomats and climate scientists, economists and bankers have gathered in Katowice for the UN’s annual climate conference, and this one is anything but routine. Known as COP24, it has a daunting task.

Over the next 12 days, negotiators are expected to finalize the rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, unanimously agreed by 196 world leaders three years ago.

The Paris Agreement requests that each country outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions.

The goal is to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

COP24, formally the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, opened today under extreme pressure. A blizzard of dire climate science reports from the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even the U.S. government, have all come out within the past two months warning that time is running out quickly to do anything about the climate crisis.

Extreme weather, droughts, wildfires, floods, sea level rise, wildlife displacement, melting glaciers, tropical disease spread, hunger, water scarcity, and climate migrants desperate to escape these disasters – all are being forecast for the near future – to appear in a decade or two at most.

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, Poland’s Energy Secretary, said, “The 2015 Paris Agreement entered into force faster than any other agreement of its kind. I now call on all countries to come together, to build upon this success and to make the agreement fully functional.”

“We are ready to work with all nations to ensure that we leave Katowice with a full set of implementation guidelines and with the knowledge that we have served the world and its people,” Kurtyka said.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary, no country is forced to do anything, countries do only what they agree to do.

U.S. President Donald Trump, for instance, has decided to pull the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases out of the Paris Agreement altogether.

World Bank Pledges $200 Billion

Most countries want to participate, but for many the barriers are financial. The World Bank Group is stepping up to help them.

In 2018, the World Bank Group provided a record-breaking $20.5 billion in finance for climate action, doubling delivery from the year before the Paris Agreement and meeting its 2020 target two years ahead of schedule. Now the Bank has set a new target.

The World Bank Monday announced the doubling of its current five-year investments for 2021-2025 to around $200 billion in support of ambitious climate action to boost adaptation and resilience in the world’s poorest countries.

Entering the plenary hall, (from left) María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President, UN General Assembly; UN Secretary-General António Guterres; Poland's President Andrzej Duda, December 3, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

Entering the plenary hall, (from left) María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President, UN General Assembly; UN Secretary-General António Guterres; Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, December 3, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

“Climate change is an existential threat to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. These new targets demonstrate how seriously we are taking this issue, investing and mobilizing $200 billion over five years to combat climate change,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said.

“We are pushing ourselves to do more and to go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same,” urged Kim. “This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future.”

The $200 billion across the Group is made up of $100 billion in direct finance from the World Bank, and $100 billion of combined direct finance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and private capital mobilized by the World Bank Group.

“There are literally trillions of dollars of opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects that will help save the planet,” said IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou. “Our job is to go out and proactively find those opportunities, use our de-risking tools, and crowd in private sector investment. We will do much more in helping finance renewable energy, green buildings, climate-smart agribusiness, urban transportation, water, and urban waste management.”

Multilateral Banks Join Forces

In a joint declaration issued on opening day, the nine multilateral development banks (MDBs) committed to working together in key areas considered central to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“The global development agenda is at a pivotal point,” the banks declared. “There is international consensus on the urgent need to ensure that policy engagements and financial flows are consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

“To realize this vision, we are working together to develop a dedicated approach,” the banks said.

The MDBs plan to break their joint approach down into practical work on: aligning their operations against mitigation and climate-resilience goals; ramping up climate finance; capacity building support for countries and other clients; plus an emphasis on climate reporting.

This approach builds on the ongoing MDB contribution to climate finance, which, in 2017, amounted to $35 billion to tackle climate change in developing and emerging economies, while mobilizing an additional $52 billion from private and public sector sources.

The MDBs will report back to next year’s COP25 gathering on their progress.

The nine MDBs are: the African Development Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the Islamic Development Bank, the New Development Bank, and the World Bank Group.

Africa in the Spotlight

Today, the opening day of COP24, was devoted to Africa Day, a joint initiative of the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

They estimate that Africa would need US$3 trillion to implement the adaptation and mitigation targets in their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2030.

But in reality Africa is receiving much less. Sub-Saharan Africa received an average of US$12 billion a year in 2015 and 2016.

The Africa Day meetings were focused on enhancing Africa’s access to funding, capacity-building, technology development and transfer.

As of November 2018, 49 African countries out of 54 – 90 percent – had ratified their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), demonstrating the continent’s level of awareness of and commitment to fight climate change.

“The People’s Seat” Initiative

British broadcaster Sir David Attenborough used his opening day speech to launch a new UN campaign – “The People’s Seat” initiative. Working through ActNow.bot, the campaign is designed to give people the power and knowledge to take personal action against climate change directly on the Facebook Messenger Platform.

The speech was preceded by a video produced with social media content posted in advance of COP24 using the hashtag #TakeYourSeat.

Attenborough called “The People’s Seat” initiative the result of new activism shaped by people from around the world. The initiative allows people from around the world to send direct messages to decision makers by posting contributions on social media.

“In the last two weeks,” Attenborough said of ActNow.bot, “the world’s people have taken part in creating this address, answering polls, creating videos and voicing their opinions.”

“The world’s people have spoken and their message is clear – time is running out. They want you, the decision makers to act now,” Attenborough declared.

“The people are behind you, supporting you in making tough decisions, but they are also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives,” Attenborough said. “To make this even easier, the UN is launching the Act Now bot. Helping people to discover simple everyday actions that they can take, because they recognise that they too must play their part.”

What’s Next?

During COP24 action events will be held on human settlements, industry, transport, water, oceans and coastal zones, energy, forests, agriculture and land use. A high-level event on education will take place.

Roundtables will be held on:

Finance and climate action;

Resilience and climate action;

Land use, water and energy;

Oceans and coastal zones and transport; and

Three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:

SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and climate;

SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and climate.

SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and climate;

Other groups will meet on: intergenerational inquiry; the fashion industry charter for climate action; sports for climate action; and tourism for climate action

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s Climate Chief, told the opening day audience, “This year is likely to be one of the four hottest years on record. Greenhouses gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at record levels and emissions continue to rise. Climate change impacts have never been worse. This reality is telling us that we need to do much more – COP24 needs to make that happen.”

The outcome – a finalized set of implementation guidelines – is expected to unleash practical climate actions with respect to all the targets and goals of the Paris Agreement – adapting to climate change impacts, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing financial and other support to developing countries.

Featured image source: Sir David Attenborough delivers “The People’s Seat” address to delegates at COP24, December 3, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission


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Trump Dismisses U.S. Government’s Climate Warnings

Soldiers from the California Army National Guard conduct search and debris clearing operations in Paradise, California, a town leveled by wildfire in November 2018. (Photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman / U.S. Air National Guard) Public domain.

Soldiers from the California Army National Guard conduct search and debris clearing operations in Paradise, California, a town leveled by wildfire in November 2018. (Photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman / U.S. Air National Guard) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 27, 2018 (Maximpact.com ) – “Earth’s climate is changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities,” warns a bombshell report from the U.S. government, released Friday. Produced by 300 scientists from 13 federal agencies, it finds that global warming is creating new risks and aggravating current vulnerabilities across the United States.

“The impacts of climate change are already being felt in communities across the country. More frequent and intense extreme weather and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities,” states the Fourth National Climate Assessment, developed by the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP).

The report concludes that the United States will warm at least three more degrees by 2100 unless the burning of fossil fuels is limited immediately.

“Regional economies and industries that depend on natural resources and favorable climate conditions, such as agriculture, tourism, and fisheries, are vulnerable to the growing impacts of climate change,” states the report. “Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs.”

Yet this congressionally mandated report is being shrugged off by the Trump administration and Republicans although it warns of “growing challenges to human health and safety, quality of life, and the rate of economic growth.”

Although the congressionally mandated report is intended to be an authoritative assessment of the impacts of climate change on the United States, it was released over the Thanksgiving weekend, as if the Trump administration, led by a president who views climate change as a “hoax,” wants to deflect public attention from it.

This state-of-the-science synthesis of climate knowledge, impacts, and trends across U.S. regions and sectors is intended to inform decision making and resilience-building activities across the country.

But President Donald Trump told reporters that although he has read parts of the Fourth National Climate Assessment, he doesn’t believe it. “No, I don’t believe it,” the president said.

In 2017 Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, which, through voluntary measures taken by governments, seeks to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and aims to limit warming to just 1.5°C above those levels.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Lindsay Walters dismissed the assessment, saying it was “…largely based on the most extreme scenario, which contradicts long-established trends by assuming that, despite strong economic growth that would increase greenhouse gas emissions, there would be limited technology and innovation, and a rapidly expanding population.”

Regardless, the Trump administration has rescinded Obama-era environmental regulations put in place to limit the burning of fossil fuels and the release of potent greenhouse gases such as methane, and has promoted the production of coal and other fossil fuels as part of Trump’s deregulatory agenda.

The report connects climate change to increasing water scarcity, worsening storms, deadly wildfires and greater exposure to tropical diseases across the United States.

And it warns that future climate change will aggravate existing challenges to prosperity posed by aging and deteriorating infrastructure, stressed ecosystems, and economic inequality.

Former Vice President (1993-2001) and environmental activist Al Gore said Friday, “Unbelievably deadly and tragic wildfires rage in the west, hurricanes batter our coasts – and the Trump administration chooses the Friday after Thanksgiving to try and bury this critical U.S. assessment of the climate crisis. The President may try to hide the truth, but his own scientists and experts have made it as stark and clear as possible.”

“The rest of us are listening to the scientists – and to Mother Nature. The impacts of the Climate Crisis are being felt in all regions across our country – extreme weather, heat waves, deeper and longer droughts, crop failures, strengthening wildfires, sea level rise – and they are disproportionately borne by the most vulnerable among us.

“Mr. President,” said Gore, “the majority of Americans are deeply concerned about the climate crisis and demand action. Even as local leaders are responding in the wake of fires and storms, national leaders must summon the will to respond urgently to the dire warnings of this report with bold solutions.”

One of the sternest warnings in the report relates to water scarcity. The report states, “Groundwater depletion is exacerbating drought risk in many parts of the United States, particularly in the Southwest and Southern Great Plains. Dependable and safe water supplies for U.S. Caribbean, Hawaii, and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Island communities are threatened by drought, flooding, and saltwater contamination due to sea level rise.”

U.S. Senator Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate Climate Change Task Force and is a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement Friday, “We can see, feel, hear and experience the impacts of climate change when our communities suffer sea level rise, forest fires, and super-charged hurricanes.”

“The Trump administration may want to bury this report so that it doesn’t get attention, but we can’t bury our heads in the sand to the threat of climate change. We need to take action now to reduce carbon pollution and implement the clean energy solutions that will help save our planet,” Senator Markey said.

“Climate change remains the most critical challenge that human civilization faces, and today’s report affirms that conclusion,” said Markey. “In this National Climate Assessment, our best scientists are sending up an emergency flare – we need to take action now to mitigate carbon emissions or ignore the risks posed by climate change at our peril.”

And the risks are many, the report finds.

“Rising temperatures are projected to reduce the efficiency of power generation while increasing energy demands, resulting in higher electricity costs,” the report warns.

Rising temperatures, extreme heat, drought, wildfire on rangelands, and heavy downpours are expected to increasingly disrupt agricultural productivity in the United States, the report finds. Increases in challenges to livestock health, declines in crop yields and quality, and changes in extreme events in the United States and abroad threaten rural livelihoods, sustainable food security, and price stability.”

Business will also feel the effects. “The impacts of climate change beyond our borders are expected to increasingly affect our trade and economy, including import and export prices and U.S. businesses with overseas operations and supply chains.”

The report acknowledges that, “Some aspects of our economy may see slight near-term improvements in a modestly warmer world. However, the continued warming that is projected to occur, without substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, is expected to cause substantial net damage to the U.S. economy throughout this century, especially in the absence of increased adaptation efforts.”

While Democrats are taking the report’s findings seriously, Republicans are nonchalant.

U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, Sunday called for “balance” in responding to heightened concerns that the U.S. may face large-scale disasters, an economic downturn and a loss of jobs due to climate change.

“Any time we are putting regulation out, we need to consider impact to American industry and jobs,” Ernst said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We want to make sure that it makes sense going forward. There is a balance that can be struck there.”

Hurricane Michael storm response from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement. With winds of 155 mph, Hurricane Michael was one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes to make landfall in U.S. history, 43 people lost their lives, October 17, 2018. (Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife) Public domain.

Hurricane Michael storm response from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Division of Law Enforcement. With winds of 155 mph, Hurricane Michael was one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes to make landfall in U.S. history, 43 people lost their lives, October 17, 2018. (Photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife) Public domain.

The USGCRP report warns that those likely to be worst affected by climate change include older adults, children, low-income communities, some communities of color and many Indigenous peoples, who rely on natural resources for their economic, cultural, and physical well-being.

Throughout the United States, climate-related impacts are causing some Indigenous peoples to consider or actively pursue community relocation as an adaptation strategy.

Many Indigenous peoples are taking steps to adapt to climate change impacts structured around self-determination and traditional knowledge, and some tribes are pursuing mitigation actions through development of renewable energy on tribal lands.

The report urges governments at every level to help cushion the blow, advising, “Adaptation and mitigation policies and programs that help individuals, communities, and states prepare for the risks of a changing climate reduce the number of injuries, illnesses, and deaths from climate-related health outcomes.”

While the efforts of communities, governments, and businesses to reduce risks and costs associated with climate change by lowering greenhouse gas emissions and implementing adaptation strategies have expanded in the four years since the last report, “…they do not yet approach the scale considered necessary to avoid substantial damages to the economy, environment, and human health over the coming decades,” the 2018 report warns.

“With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century – more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states,” finds the report.

There are a few hopeful signs. For instance, transformations in the energy sector – including the displacement of coal by natural gas and increased deployment of renewable energy – along with policy actions at the national, regional, state, and local levels are reducing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

But this assessment shows that more immediate and substantial global greenhouse gas emissions reductions, as well as regional adaptation efforts, will be needed to avoid the most severe consequences of climate change in the long term.

Featured Image: Fire consumes Florida’s Merritt Island in a prescribed burn to control vegetation. Feb. 12, 2013 (Photo: Michael Good / US Fish & Wildlife Service) Public domain


Investing to Save Earth’s Vanishing Biodiversity

Executive Secretary of the Conference on Biological Diversity addresses the High-Level Segment of the conference taking place in Egypt this month. November 14, 2018, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt (Photo courtesy Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity)

Executive Secretary of the Conference on Biological Diversity addresses the High-Level Segment of the conference taking place in Egypt this month. November 14, 2018, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt (Photo courtesy Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity)

By Sunny Lewis

SHARM El SHEIKH, Egypt, November 15, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “Investing in Biodiversity for People and Planet,” is the theme of the UN Biodiversity Conference taking place in Egypt from now through the end of November. Officials from 190 countries have gathered to halt the loss of animals and plants and protect the ecosystems that support the livelihoods of billions.

Voluntary public and private commitments, with a review mechanism to ensure accountability, are encouraged, to step up the implementation of biodiversity targets.

This year, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), will be the last opportunity to assess progress towards the achievement of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020.

It allows two years to identify effective actions and tools for implementation of the Plan before its final evaluation in 2020, when a new global biodiversity framework will be adopted.

Back in 2010, in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity adopted a Strategic Plan for Biodiversity for the 2011-2020 period, including the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

This revised and updated Plan provides an overarching framework on biodiversity, not only for the biodiversity-related conventions, but for the entire United Nations system and all other partners engaged in biodiversity management and policy development.

The first of the Aichi targets is simple: By 2020, at the latest, people are aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably.

The second Aichi target is more complex: By 2020, at the latest, biodiversity values have been integrated into national and local development and poverty reduction strategies and planning processes and are being incorporated into national accounting, as appropriate, and reporting systems.

The 20th and last Aichi target is the most important for accomplishment of all the rest: By 2020, at the latest, the mobilization of financial resources for effectively implementing the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. Mobilization should increase substantially from 2010 levels.

Today at the Biodiversity Conference in Egypt, CBD Executive Director Cristiana Pașca Palmer opened the High-level Segment. “More than 80 ministers attended and I invited them to collaborate and be bold and visionary when it comes to the execution of our common vision: Living in Harmony with Nature by 2050.”

“I underscored that we need to save the planet to save ourselves, and for that we need to place biodiversity at the core of all economic and political decisions,” said Palmer.

Representing the European Union at the High-Level Segment, Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said, “Biodiversity – nature – is our life-support system. The current rate at which we are losing our wildlife and ecosystems is an existential threat as worrying as climate change.”

“I am encouraged by the growing awareness of the links between the two, also at high-level international events such as this one and the upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Poland. Protecting biodiversity on land as in the ocean is important for future generations, but also for our current wellbeing,” said Vella.

Contributing more than €350 million per year on biodiversity in developing countries, the EU is the world’s biggest donor for the protection of biodiversity.

The European delegation, headed by Commissioner Vella, will aim to bring biodiversity policy to the political forefront to prepare for an ambitious and united outcome at the Conference of the Parties (COP15) in China in 2020.

The EU will call for integrating nature objectives in the sectors of industry, mining, energy and infrastructure.

All the parties are expected to adopt a joint Declaration to that end.

Commissioner Vella also will sign the EU’s joining of the Coalition of the Willing for Pollinators, as foreseen in the recent EU Initiative on Pollinators, to support a strong, coordinated international response to the decline of pollinators.

There are many signs that the diversity of life on Earth is being pushed to the brink of extinction by human activities.

Since 1964, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has maintained the Red List of Threatened Species, the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biological species.

Currently there are more than 96,500 species on The IUCN Red List, and more than 26,500 are threatened with extinction – 40 percent of amphibians, 34 percent of conifers, 33 percent of reef building corals, 25 percent of mammals and 14 percent of birds.

In its review of the Aichi targets, the IUCN said in a position paper for the CBD conference, “Despite many positive actions, most of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets are not on track to be achieved by 2020.”

“Less than two years before the 2020 deadline, IUCN emphasizes that focused, concerted and strategic action is urgently needed,” the organization warns.

But there are hopeful signs that conservation efforts can have positive outcomes.

Conservation action has brought renewed hope for the Fin Whale and the Mountain Gorilla, according to a November 14 update of The IUCN Red List. The Fin Whale has improved in status from Endangered to Vulnerable following bans on whaling, while the Mountain Gorilla subspecies has moved from Critically Endangered to Endangered thanks to collaborative conservation efforts.

Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General said, “These conservation successes are proof that the ambitious, collaborative efforts of governments, business and civil society could turn back the tide of species loss.”

“Unfortunately,” said Andersen, “the latest update also underlines how threats to biodiversity continue to undermine some of society’s most important goals, including food security. We urgently need to see effective conservation action strengthened and sustained. The ongoing UN biodiversity summit in Egypt provides a valuable opportunity for decisive action to protect the diversity of life on our planet.”

In another sign of the continuing decline of biodiversity, the global conservation group WWF issued its biannual “Living Planet Report – 2018: Aiming Higher,” compiled with the Zoological Society of London, on October 29.

It shows that populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians have, on average, declined in size by 60 percent in just over 40 years.

The WWF report shows that the biggest drivers of the current biodiversity loss are overexploitation and agriculture, both linked to continually increasing human consumption.

The global population of giraffes is decreasing. Native to East Africa, the Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchii), also called Kilimanjaro giraffe, is the largest subspecies of giraffe. October 22, 2018, Naivasha Lake, Kenya. (Photo by Linda De Volder) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

The global population of giraffes is decreasing. Native to East Africa, the Masai giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis tippelskirchii), also called Kilimanjaro giraffe, is the largest subspecies of giraffe. October 22, 2018, Naivasha Lake, Kenya. (Photo by Linda De Volder) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Marco Lambertini, director general WWF International, writes in his foreword to the report, “We have known for many years that we are driving the planet to the brink. The astonishing decline in wildlife populations shown by the latest Living Planet Index – a 60 percent fall in just over 40 years – is a grim reminder and perhaps the ultimate indicator of the pressure we exert on the planet.”

“The nature conservation agenda is not only about securing the future of tigers, pandas, whales and all the amazing diversity of life we love and cherish on Earth. It’s bigger than that. There cannot be a healthy, happy and prosperous future for people on a planet with a destabilized climate, depleted oceans and rivers, degraded land and empty forests, all stripped of biodiversity, the web of life that sustains us all.”

“In the next years, we need to urgently transition to a net carbon neutral society and halt and reverse nature loss – through green finance, clean energy and environmentally friendly food production. We must also preserve and restore enough land and ocean in a natural state,” wrote Lambertini. “Few people have the chance to be a part of truly historic transformations. This is ours.”

Featured image source: Mountain Gorilla, Virunga National Park, Rwanda, December 2, 2009 (Photo by Bradford Duplisea) Creative Commons license via Flickr.


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Winners Change the Course of Climate Change

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into "biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – From a mobile app that fights food waste and hunger to a government that is taking 100 percent responsibility for its greenhouse gas emissions, 15 projects from around the world are demonstrating how fresh ideas, large and small, can change the course of climate change.

“These activities shine a light on scalable climate action around the world,” said Patricia Espinosa of Brazil, executive secretary of UN Climate Change . “They are proof that climate action isn’t only possible, it’s innovative, it’s exciting and it makes a difference.”

Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, have triggered a change in the Earth’s climate system that could leave the planet uninhabitable before the end of this century, warns the latest scientific evaluation from hundreds of scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And only human activities that protect the climate can reverse that calamitous course.

“Climate action leaders, including those recognized by the Momentum for Change initiative, are stepping up to meet the global climate challenge by delivering on the Paris Agreement,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“These inspirational leaders, from communities, governments, businesses and organizations, come from all corners of the globe and all levels of society,” Guterres said. “Their winning projects range from transformative financial investments to women-led solutions to protect people and the planet.”

“Through their leadership and creativity, we see essential change,” said the UN chief.

The Momentum for Change initiative, advanced by the UN Climate Change secretariat, illuminates some of the most practical examples of what people are doing to combat climate change.

“There is an enormous groundswell of activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future. Momentum for Change recognizes innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges,” UN Climate Change said in a statement.

The 2018 Lighthouse Activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which is implemented with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum, Masdar’s Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy Forum (WiSER) initiative, and Climate Neutral Now.

The 15 projects were chosen from more than 560 applications from businesses and governments, communities and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world.

Each of the 15 winning projects, called Lighthouse Activities, falls within one of Momentum for Change’s four focus areas: Planetary Health, Climate Neutral Now, Women for Results and Financing for Climate Friendly Investment.

They will be showcased in a series of special events during this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) taking place December 2-14 in Katowice, Poland.

The 2018 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities are:

Planetary Health

* Climate-Efficient School Kitchens and Plant-Powered Pupils | Germany: ProVeg International is providing healthy, climate-friendly meals in German schools. ProVeg International wants animal agriculture placed on the agenda for COP24, saying, “Animal agriculture is one of the world’s largest contributors to climate change. This issue must be prioritized at COP24.”

  • Santiago Biofactory | Chile: Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company together with its main shareholder SUEZ, is transforming Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge, a wastewater treatment by-product, into clean energy.
  • Composting Waste Treatment: An Ecological Solution to Poverty and Climate Change | Haiti: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is building composting toilets in Haiti, reducing the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid, creating jobs, and restoring local environments.
  • Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project | Sri Lanka: Seacology, a nonprofit environmental conservation organization, is helping Sri Lanka become the first nation in history to preserve and replant all of its mangrove forests.

Climate Neutral Now

  • Creating the Greenest Football Club in the World – Forest Green Rovers | United Kingdom: The Forest Green Rovers is bringing eco-thinking and technology to a new and large audience: football fans. In 2010, the team began its journey to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral football club. In 2017 FGR became the world’s first vegan football club because of the huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming, as well as to improve player performance and give fans healthier, tastier food on matchdays. The club has since been described by FIFA, as “the world’s greenest football club.”
  • Monash’s Net Zero Initiative | Australia: Monash University, Australia’s largest university, has committed to reach net zero emissions by 2030 for all four of its Australian campuses.
  • Klimanjaro – Climate Neutral Supply Chain | Norway: Fjordkraft, the second largest electricity retailer in Norway, is using its purchasing power to inspire all its suppliers to be climate neutral by 2019.
  • Carbon Neutral Government Program | Canada: In 2010, the province of British Columbiabecame the first government at the provincial, territorial, or state level in North America to take 100 percent responsibility for the greenhouse gas pollution from all 128 of its public-sector organizations. B.C. is committed to reaching its 2050 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2007 levels.

Women for Results

  • Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative | Syria: With the Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative women are defying traditional gender roles and combatting overcrowded streets by promoting bicycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation in the war-torn city of Damascus.
  • Women Leading a Food Sharing Revolution! | UK, Sweden, USA: Women are leading a food revolution with OLIO, the world’s only neighbor-to-neighbor food sharing app. OLIO is co-founded and led by women and two-thirds of the app’s users are women.
A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

Between 33-50 percent of all food produced globally is never eaten, and the value of this wasted food is worth over US$1 trillion annually.

OLIO points out that it takes a land mass larger than China to grow the food each year that is never eaten – land deforested, species driven to extinction, indigenous populations moved, soil degraded – all to produce food that we throw away. Food that is never eaten accounts for 25 percent of all fresh water consumption globally. Meanwhile 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.

  • HelpUsGreen | India: Women are creating compost from ceremonial flowers and simultaneously cleaning up the River Ganges. Through HelpUsGreen women collect 8.4 tons of floral-waste from temples in Uttar Pradesh on a daily basis. These sacred flowers are handcrafted into charcoal-free incense, organic vermicompost and biodegradable packaging material through the organization’s ‘Flowercycling®’ technology.

“Today,” says HelpUsGreen, “orthodox temples and religious authorities want to be a part of our mission -pointing to a change against a century old harmful religious practice of dumping temple-waste in the Indian rivers.”

  • Feminist Electrification: Ensuring Pro-Women Outcomes in Rural Energy Access | Haiti: Energy poverty, a lack of access to modern energy services, is disproportionally affecting women in rural areas. So, EarthSpark International, a women-run enterprise, is approaching all its energy access projects with a gender lens, referring to this as “feminist electrification.”

In 2012, EarthSpark turned on a first-of-its-kind privately operated, pre-pay microgrid in Les Anglais, Haiti, a small town that had never before had grid electricity. EarthSpark aims to build 80 microgrids in Haiti by the end of 2022.

Financing for Climate Friendly Investment

  • Rwanda Green Fund – FONERWA | Rwanda: The Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) is investing in public and private projects that drive transformative change. It is one of the first national environment and climate change investment funds in Africa.

The fund invests in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change and that align with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy.

  • The MAIS Program | Brazil: The MAIS Program (Modulo Agroclimático Inteligente e Sustentável) is helping family agricultural operations adapt to climate change in the Jacuípe Basin, Brazil’s semi-arid region. It is one of the first ever climate-smart agricultural programs to mainstream climate disruptive technologies among farmers in Brazil.
  • Catalytic Finance Initiative | Global: Bank of America Merrill Lynch is working with partners to mobilize US$10 billion for innovative and high-impact climate mitigation and sustainability-focused investments.

Projects announced to date by Bank of America under the Catalytic Finance Initiative include new energy efficiency financing in partnership with the New York State Green Bank totaling $800 million, arranging a $204 million green project bond for wind developer Energia Eolica S.A. in Peru, and helping to structure a new $100 million facility with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

“A central way in which we are helping to build sustainable economies is through our financing of clean energy,” said Anne Finucane, vice chairman, Bank of America. “The Catalytic Finance Initiative demonstrates how all partners working together will achieve a greater collective impact.”

The UN’s Momentum for Change initiative is part of a broader effort to mobilize action and ambition as national governments work toward implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Featured Image: Tessa Cook, left, and Saasha Celestial-One, Co-founders of OLIO, the food sharing app. 2018 (Photo courtesy OLIO) Posted for media use.


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Bolstered by EU Billions, Greece Recovers

Flamingoes have returned to Lake Karla. (Photo by Ecotourism Greece) Posted for media use

Flamingoes have returned to Lake Karla. (Photo by Ecotourism Greece) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, October 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – In the face of massive external and internal imbalances that resulted in loss of market access, in April 2010 Greece was forced to request financial assistance from its European and international partners. Unprecedented billions were provided, and now Greece is well along the road to recovery.

European Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy Corina Crețu of Romania, who also serves as Vice-president, European Parliament (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

European Commissioner for Regional and Urban Policy Corina Crețu of Romania, who also serves as Vice-president, European Parliament (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

This week, European Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu is in Greece to visit or inaugurate three major transport and environment projects underwritten by €1.3 billion in financial support from the European Union.

In addition, the Commission has adopted a decision to invest €121 million in a motorway connecting the Aktio peninsula to the Ionia highway, to link northwestern Greece to the south.

The successful preparation, implementation or completion of these projects was made possible by the New Start for Jobs and Growth in Greece plan. The Commission launched this plan in 2015 to complement the stability support program which successfully concluded on August 20.

The plan provided for exceptional measures to facilitate maximizing the use of EU funds in Greece, in order to stabilize its economy and boost growth, jobs and investments.

In his State of the Union speech this year, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker paid tribute to how far Greece has come since 2010.

“Then there is Greece,” President Juncker said. “After what can only be described as some very painful years, marked by unprecedented social hardship – though also by unprecedented solidarity – Greece successfully exited its programme and is now back on its own two feet. I applaud the people of Greece for their Herculean efforts.”

Lake Karla Celebrated After 20-Year Restoration

On October 5, Commissioner Crețu will participate in the inauguration of the Lake Karla project, 300 km (190 miles) north of Athens on the plain of Thessaly, in which the EU has invested €125 million over the past 20 years.

In the 1960s, to increase farmland, the authorities emptied Lake Karla, one of the largest and most

important lakes in Greece. By draining the lake they damaged an ecosystem many thousands of years old. Birds and animals perished as wetlands disappeared, taking with them a unique fishing culture, with fishermen spending months in reed huts they built on the lake.

But today the story of Lake Karla is one of what the Ecotourism Greece calls “ecological progress, hope and sustainability that can stand as a model for many areas of the world.”

Restoration efforts started in the 1980s, addressing the re-establishment of a functional reservoir and wetland.

Lake Karla’s big restoration project was launched in 2000. The rehabilitation of the former lake has been funded by the Operational Program Environment, approved by the European Commission for the period of 2000-2006.

The reconstructed lake will offer many local benefits: Flood protection of the surrounding plain area, environmental restoration and wetland conservation; meeting of irrigation needs for 92 km2 of surrounding farmland; meeting of water needs for the 75,000 inhabitants of the nearby city of Volos; and the emergence of sustainable tourism.

With the support of the lake’s management body, European efforts to bring back the lake have recreated a wetland for birds: flamingo, egret, grey heron, wigeon, teal, cormorant, coot and mallard duck. Of special note is the delicate small-sized falcon known as the Lesser Kestrel, Falco naumanni, or ‘Kirkinezi’ in Greek.

Otters have returned to the shoreline, a species considered as Endangered in Greece and Near Threatened globally. Otters are protected in most European countries.

Recovering Greece a Top Absorber of EU Funds

In total, €288.7 billion in loans have been provided to Greece since 2010. This includes €256.6 billion from its European partners and €32.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund.

Amidst political, economic and financial turmoil and the imposition of capital controls in July 2015, the Hellenic Republic concluded an agreement for stability support in the form of a loan from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) in August 2015.

In parallel to the stability support program, the Commission launched the “New Start for Jobs and Growth in Greece” plan in July 2015 to help maximize the use of EU funds in the country.

Supported by the launch of the ESM program, the Greek economy demonstrated greater resilience than initially expected. Real GDP started to recover on a quarter-on-quarter basis in mid-2016.

Yet, the European Commission warned in an Institutional Paper of July 2017, that “the recovery remains fragile and strongly dependent on the progress of the reviews of the ESM stability support programme.”

Making progress environmentally and fincially, Greece successfully concluded the requirements of its stability support program on August 20.

Among the top absorbers of EU funds, for the period 2014-2020 Greece has already received almost €16 billion from different EU funding sources, an amount equivalent to over nine percent of the country’s 2017 GDP.

Greece is also the top beneficiary of the Juncker Plan’s European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI). The EFSI is now set to trigger almost €11 billion in investments and support more than 20,000 small and medium-sized businesses in Greece.

On May 29, 2018, for the next long-term EU budget 2021-2027, the Commission proposed a Cohesion Policy budget worth €21.7 billion for Greece, an increased envelope in an overall reduction of the Cohesion budget, in order to support a lasting economic recovery in the country.

Commissioner Creţu said, “Greece is already one of the main beneficiaries of EU funds and for the next decade, the Commission proposes even more Cohesion Policy resources for lasting growth in the country, jobs and an ever better quality of life for the Greek people.”

Modern Mobility Key to Greek Recovery

Two major railway projects and a motorway are poised to create a paradigm shift in Greece’s transportation network.

On October 4, Commissioner Crețu visited the state-of-the-art high speed Tithorea-Lianokladi-Domokos railway line, currently in its final development phase.

This high speed rail line will reduce travel time between Athens and Thessaloniki. As soon as additional signalling and telecommunications works are completed, it will take a record 3.5 hours to travel by train between Greece’s two major cities.

Extreme rocky slopes, numerous gorges, long tunnels, waterfalls, stone bridges and structural steel viaducts make for one of the most scenic railway routes in Europe.

Designed for passenger trains running at up to 200 km/h and 160 km/h freight trains, the construction of the line would not have been possible without the EU’s financial support, amounting to €1 billion from different EU funds.

Once operational in 2019, this railway line will promote clean mobility in the country, making rail travel an attractive option compared to air, car and bus transport.

Commissioner Crețu also will visit the Thriassio Pedio Freight Complex in the Attika region, the first integrated intermodal freight center in Greece, which benefitted from €200 million of EU funds.

This complex will be a key hub on the Athens-Thessaloniki rail route. It is expected to boost trade and the competitiveness of the Greek economy. The operation of the freight complex and the construction of a new logistics center are expected to create over 3,000 jobs.

Freight trains from Thriassio will be able to reach the Northern Greek border at Eidomeni in 6.5 hours. With its rail access to the port of Piraeus, the complex can help Greece become a transport gateway for international freight traffic towards Central and Eastern Europe, along the Orient–East Mediterranean Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) corridor.

Finally, the European Commission is investing €121 million in the Ionia motorway linking the Aktio peninsula, in northwestern Greece, to the south.

This motorway, which will run from Aktio to the Lake Amvrakia area and connect to the newly opened Ionia motorway, will ensure smoother travels in western Greece, to and from the Rio-Antirrio bridge, to the island of Lefkada and to the Aktio aiport.

The EU has already invested €83 million in the first phase of the project, in the 2007-2013 budget period.

Once work is completed in 2022, the travel time on this TEN-T section will be 30 minutes shorter, and road safety is expected to improve.

Commissioner Creţu said, “Greece is now back on its own two feet. And these four projects will, each in their own way, help Greece write a new chapter in its history.”

Featured Image: A train navigates the scenic Tithorea-Lianokladi-Domokos railway line (Screengrab from video by Chris Mavropoulos) Creative Commons license via YouTube


Refugees_Mirgrants

The World’s Greenest Countries Revealed

Does your country make the cut?


Source: eCO2 Greetings

With ice caps melting at an alarming rate and worldwide coral reefs at risk of dying, we are becoming more aware of the role we play in combating global warming and saving the environment. But have you ever wondered if you’re living in a green country? This interactive map reveals all.

Using Yale data that measures the Environmental Performance Index, the interactive map reveals the World’s Greenest Countries. The environmental performance index (EPI) ranks performance of countries based on issues in two environmental areas: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems.

Finland is the greenest country of us all, with an EPI rating of 90.68, leading the way with their commitment to achieve a carbon-neutral society by 2050. Followed closely by Iceland and Sweden who bagged 2nd and 3rd spots.

There are 196 countries in the world, and the map also reports the UK and USA are lagging behind the environmental evolution. The UK were just shy of landing a place in the world’s top 10 greenest countries, and instead took 12th place with an EPI score of 87.38. In 2016 the UK’s wind power made history and overtook coal for electricity generation for the first time.

With an EPI score of 84.72, the USA have Obama’s historic conservation to thank for their Top 30 spot. 22 new parks were added to the US National Park system during his eight years in office, and he created the two largest marine reserves on Earth!

Those lucky enough to call their country a pioneer in the World’s Greenest Countries Top 10 include:

  1. Finland. With an EPI score of 90.68.
  2. Iceland. With an EPI score of 90.51.
  3. Sweden. With an EPI score of 90.43.
  4. Denmark. With an EPI score of 89.21.
  5. Slovenia. With an EPI score of 88.98.
  6. Spain. With an EPI score of 88.91.
  7. Portugal. With an EPI score of 88.63.
  8. Estonia. With an EPI score of 88.59.
  9. Malta. With an EPI score of 88.48.
  10. France. With an EPI score of 88.20.

It may, or may not come as a surprise to some that all of the Top 10 Greenest Countries are European. Projects including the world’s first solar panel road in Normandy, France, and plans to get rooftop gardens on buses and bus stops in Madrid, Spain, to combat CO2 emissions are original, important and revolutionary. The rest of the world needs to take note!

By: Roxanne Bracknell

Nations Step Up Climate Action Ambitions

Participants in the Talanoa Dialogue share their stories and insights regarding climate change in one of seven dialogue rooms in Bonn, Germany. May 6, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Participants in the Talanoa Dialogue share their stories and insights regarding climate change in one of seven dialogue rooms in Bonn, Germany. May 6, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, May 8, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “We need to dramatically increase our ambitions. We are witnessing the severe impacts of climate change throughout the world,” said Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change Patricia Espinosa of Brazil, at a news conference in Bonn.

“Every credible scientific source is telling us that these impacts will only get worse if we do not address climate change, and it also tells us that our window of time for addressing it is closing very soon,” she warned.

Espinosa was speaking at the latest round of United Nations climate change negotiations taking place in Bonn. Talks, which opened April 30 and run through May 10, are focused on developing the operating manual for implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

The accord aims to keep temperature rises this century well below 2 degrees Celsius as compared with pre-industrial levels.

The UNFCCC chief outlined three priorities:

First, all stakeholders, including governments, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, investors and citizens, must accelerate climate action by 2020.

Second, she said, the international community must complete the Paris Agreement guidelines, or operating manual, to unleash the potential of the accord.

Third, conditions must be improved to enable countries to be more ambitious in determining their own national policies to slow down global warming.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) held last November under the leadership of Fiji, nations agreed to accelerate and complete their work to put in place the guidelines, officially known as the Paris Agreement Work Programme, at COP24 in Katowice, Poland this coming December.

At this Bonn meeting, governments are drafting texts to be finalized at COP24.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and COP 23 President, Fiji, and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa speak in a hallway at the Bonn Climate Conference, May 7, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and COP 23 President, Fiji, and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa speak in a hallway at the Bonn Climate Conference, May 7, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Espinosa said, “To reach success at COP24, it is essential that nations begin working towards draft negotiating texts at the May meeting. This will provide a solid foundation for work in the second half of 2018 and help them to deliver a strong result.”

Finishing the operating manual is necessary to assess whether the world is on track to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting greenhouse gas emissions, while pursuing efforts to keep the temperature rise to less than 1.5°C.

Throughout this year, countries will focus on how they can scale up their climate ambition and implementation in the pre-2020 period. All countries share the view that climate action is essential prior to 2020 when implementation of the Paris Accord begins.

Talks focused on the financial support needed to make the Paris Agreement work. By one estimate, the annual un-avoided damages of climate change will cost $50 billion by 2020, growing to $300 billion in 2030.

Bloomberg Covers USA’s Paris Agreement Obligations

Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire philanthropist, former Mayor of New York City, and UN Special Envoy for Climate Action, pledged last June to make up the funding shortfall of the Climate Change Secretariat, the UNFCCC. The shortfall was caused by U.S. President Donald Trump’s announced withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

In late March, the United States Congress announced that it was cutting funding to the UNFCCC for this year by $4.5 million; from $7.5 million, down to $3 million.

Bloomberg’s $4.5 million contribution will go towards general operations, including assisting countries to meet targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Accord, agreed by 193 States in the French capital.

Bloomberg announced his contribution on the CBS television program “Face the Nation,” saying that, “America made a commitment and as an American, if the government’s not going to do it, we all have a responsibility.”

Bloomberg said he will make additional funds available to the UN Climate Change Secretariat should the U.S. government continue to fail to pay its share of the UN climate budget in 2019.

Bloomberg also provided the majority of funding for the U.S. Climate Action pavilion in Bonn, Germany at COP23 when the federal government failed to provide the traditional exhibition space for American climate leadership.

At COP 23, Bloomberg and California Governor Jerry Brown launched the phase 1 America’s Pledge report – a footprint analysis of greehouse gas emissions in the United States – and formally submitted it to the UN in place of the federal Nationally Determined Contribution. They plan to release the phase 2 later this year and formally submit it, as well.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Twitter that he was “very grateful to Michael Bloomberg, not only for his generous support to the United Nations, but also for his global leadership on climate action.”

The Talanoa Dialogue for Climate Ambition

An important objective of the May session in Bonn is holding the Talanoa Dialogue. The Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue is facilitated by the UNFCCC Secretariat and will enjoy the presence of high-level officials from Fiji, including Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who is the President of COP23.

The Pacific island concept of Talanoa was introduced by Fiji, which held the Presidency of the COP23 UN Climate Change Conference. It aims at an inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue.

Traditional in the Pacific region, the purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good. The Talanoa method purposely avoids blame and criticism to create a safe space for the exchange of ideas and collective decision-making.

The consultative dialogue will check progress, reaffirm the goals of the Paris Agreement and aim to help countries increase their ambition now and in the next round of their voluntary national climate action plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions.

The Talanoa Dialogue made history when countries and non-party stakeholders, including cities, businesses, youth, indigenous peoples, workers, investors and regions, engaged in interactive story-telling around current and future ambitions for the first time.

Hilda Heine, president of the low-lying Marshall Islands, tweeted, “The #Talanoa4ambition is not some bureacratic box-ticking exercise for my country. It’s the first step for giving us the pathway to survival the #ParisAgreement promised us.”

Alberto Saldamando, speaking for the Indigenous Environmental Network, US/Canada, said, “It is well understood that Indigenous Peoples are most directly and severely affected by climate change. Catastrophic weather events affect us worldwide – the Amazon forest, the Himalayan Mountains, the Arctic, North America, the Pacific and

Caribbean, Latin America, Africa and Asia.”

“Rising oceans cause a loss of our habitat, territory and food sovereignty and security. Our indigenous peoples in all regions experience severe storms, droughts and flooding. These events detrimentally affect not only our food sovereignty and security but our very existence, our cultures and identity as indigenous peoples,” said Saldamando.

“Defenders of our food security, our ecosystems, territories and cultures, and Sacred Water are criminalized, facing intimidation, imprisonment and assassination. Negotiations have yet to fairly address human rights and the rights of indigenous peoples,” he said.

“The Talanoa Dialogue must result in substantially increased pre-2020 ambitions in the mitigation of greenhouse gases. The Dialogue must also provide political momentum for substantially increased ambition for NDCs to be communicated by parties in 2020,” he said.

The content of these story-telling conversations will feed into the Talanoa Dialogue’s political phase at COP24. The political phase will bring together government ministers and high-level officials for conversations with a view to generating political momentum to check the warming climate.

Climate Change as a Public Health Emergency

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that records for extreme weather events are being broken at an unprecedented rate, and that there is a real risk that the planet could lose its capacity to sustain human life if the climate is further altered by adding ever more heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

WHO officials expressed the warning while presenting new data at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn that shows that nine out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants and that around seven million people every year die from exposure to fine particles in polluted air.

The figure could be surpassed by deaths caused by rising global temperatures and extreme weather if emissions, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, are allowed to rise at their present rate.

Dr. Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, WHO Team Lead on Climate Change and Health, said, “We see the Paris Agreement as a fundamental public health agreement, potentially the most important public health agreement of the century.”

“If we don’t meet the climate challenge, if we don’t bring down greenhouse gas emissions, then we are undermining the environmental determinates of health on which we depend,” said Dr. Campbell-Lendrum. “We undermine water supplies, we undermine our air, we undermine food security.”

Featured image: Tomasz Chruszczow, COP 24 Presidency, Poland (left), and Incoming COP 24 President Michal Kurtyka, Poland at the climate talks in Bonn, May 5, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth 


UN Defends Rights of Environmental Defenders

Thousands gathered in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for an Indigenous-led "Protect the Inlet" mass mobilization against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, dozens were arrested. March 10, 2018. (Photo by Zack Embree) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Thousands gathered in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada for an Indigenous-led “Protect the Inlet” mass mobilization against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline, dozens were arrested. March 10, 2018. (Photo by Zack Embree) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, April 12, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – UN Environment is making a stand against the ongoing threats, intimidation, harassment, and murder of environmental defenders around the world, with the establishment of the new UN Environmental Rights Initiative .

In 2017, four people every week were killed defending their right to a clean and healthy environment. Many more  are harassed, intimidated and forced from their lands. Around 40-50 percent of the 197 environmental defenders killed in 2017 came from indigenous and local communities.

In the years between 2002 and 2013, some 908 people were killed defending the environment and land in 35 countries, although environmental rights are enshrined in the constitutions of more than 100 countries.

In January 2018 the nonprofit Global Witness, based in Washington and London, documented these figures, warning that the true total is likely far higher.

Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim of Norway, September 28, 2017 (Photo courteswy UN Geneva)

Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim of Norway, September 28, 2017 (Photo courteswy UN Geneva)

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said, “Those who struggle to protect planet and people should be celebrated as heroes, but the sad fact is that many are paying a heavy price with their safety and sometimes their lives. It’s our duty to stand on the side of those who are on the right side of history. It means standing for the most fundamental and universal of human rights.”

By helping people to better understand their rights and how to defend them, and by assisting governments to better safeguard environmental rights, the Initiative will bring environmental protection nearer to the people, the UN agency said in a statement last month.

Since the 1970s, environmental rights have grown more rapidly than any other human right, and increasingly, these rights are being invoked and upheld.

Courts in at least 44 nations have issued decisions enforcing the constitutional right to a healthy environment.

“Violations of environmental rights have a profound impact on a wide variety of human rights, including the rights to life, self-determination, food, water, health, sanitation, housing, cultural, civil and political rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“During my recent visits to Papua New Guinea and Fiji, I was made keenly aware of the impact of extractive industries and climate change on individual rights,” said Ra’ad Al Hussein. “It is crucial that those most affected are able to meaningfully participate in decisions relating to land and the environment.”

“States have a responsibility to prevent and punish rights abuses committed by private corporations within their territory, and businesses have an obligation to avoid infringing on the human rights of othersm,” said the high commissioner who expressed the hope that the new Initiative will be able to encourage states and businesses to comply with these obligations.

It’s not just governments that have a responsibility to protect environmental defenders. UN Environment is calling on the private sector “to move beyond a culture of basic compliance to one where the business community champions the rights of everyone to a clean and healthy environment.”

Two disturbing counter-trends are undermining both the environmental rule of law and human rights to participate and assemble.

The first is the escalating harassment, intimidation, and murder of environmental defenders.

The second is the attempts by some countries to limit the activities of nongovernmental organizations.

Between 1993 and 2016, 48 countries enacted laws that restricted the activities of local nongovernmental organizations receiving foreign funding, and 63 countries adopted laws restricting activities of foreign NGOs.

The new UN Environmental Rights Initiative:

  • Commits to denounce attacks against activists and push for accountability for those responsible, while advocating with governments and business for better protection;
  • Establishes a Rapid Response Mechanism through which environmental activists can communicate cases of threats or attacks, so that UN Environment can speak out or take other supportive or protective action;
  • Promises to provide legal and technical support, as well as resources, to civil society, governments, judges and businessmen in regards to defender support and protection;
  • Launches a global campaign to raise awareness and spur action on environmental protection, with environmental defenders at its center;
  • Announces a scaling up of partnerships with a wide range of actors from civil society, the United Nations, governments and the private sector.

This new initiative is part of the ongoing work of the United Nations agency responsible for environmental issues.

For almost 20 years, UN Environment, formerly the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), has worked to identify good practices on human rights and the environment; sensitize the judiciary on constitutional environmental rights, and provide support to regional negotiations on a Principle 10 instrument for the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Principle 10 sets out three fundamental rights: access to information, access to public participation and access to justice, as key pillars of sound environmental governance. It was adopted in 1992 as a part of the Rio Declaration, at the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Now the work to provide the legal foundation for this effort in Latin America is complete. The Latin American and Caribbean Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental was adopted in San Jose, Costa Rica on March 4.

“This is not just renewed commitment to environmental protection,” said Leo Heileman, director of UN Environment’s office in Latin America and the Caribbean. “It can be an opportunity to give environmental rights the same legal standing as human rights at the global level.”

The Environmental Rights Initiative was officially launched March 6 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva during an event that included: John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment; Patrick Alley, Global Witness Co-Founder; Bianca Jagger, President and Chief Executive of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation; Jon Watts, Global Environment Editor at “The Guardian” newspaper; Kate Gilmore, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; and Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the UN’s leading expert on environmental law.

Jagger said, “UN Environment’s Environmental Rights Initiative is critical to address the escalating epidemic of murders of environmental defenders across the world.”

“For many years I have supported indigenous people and communities all over the world who are murdered for protecting their forests and lands from illegal exploitation,” she said. “The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation calls on governments to stop assassinations and the culture of impunity, to put in place enforceable legal protections and bring perpetrators to justice.”

Featured image: These men in hoods attacked and beat ecologists in Russia’s Khimki Forest near the Klyzma River who were trying to prevent the unpermitted clearcutting of a birch forest. May 4, 2011 (Photo by Daniel Beilinson) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Training M

Permafrost Not So Permanent Any More

Oregon State University and University of Michigan researchers discovered that a key combination of sunlight and microbes can convert permafrost organic matter in the Arctic to carbon dioxide. May 28, 2016 (Photo courtesy Rose Cory, University of Michigan) creative Commons license via Flickr

Oregon State University and University of Michigan researchers discovered that a key combination of sunlight and microbes can convert permafrost organic matter in the Arctic to carbon dioxide. May 28, 2016 (Photo courtesy Rose Cory, University of Michigan) creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, January 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Global warming will thaw about 20 percent more permafrost than previously thought, scientists are warning, potentially releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Scientists estimate that there is more carbon contained in the frozen permafrost than now exists in the atmosphere.

The extent of permafrost regions makes them a global issue. A quarter of the landmass in the Northern Hemisphere consists of permafrost soils, which have been frozen solid for thousands of years. A third of the world’s coastlines are permafrost and span Canada, Greenland, Norway and Siberia and the U.S. state of Alaska.

Permafrost, which covers 15 million square kilometers of the land surface, is extremely sensitive to climate warming. Researchers warn that loss of permafrost would radically change high-latitude hydrology and biogeochemical cycling.

Permafrost soils contain ancient, frozen organic matter. If permafrost begins to thaw, bacteria breaks down the organic matter, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. This leads to greater warming of the Earth’s climate.

How much warming is unclear, because many of the processes associated with permafrost thaw are not yet understood. But in the past year or two, more and more scientists are pursuing this knowledge.

An international research study, written by climate change experts from Norway’s University of Oslo, Sweden’s Stockholm University, and the UK’s National Meteorological Service, the University of Leeds and University of Exeter, reveals that permafrost is more sensitive to the effects of global warming than previously thought.

The study, published last April in the journal “Nature Climate Change,” indicates that nearly four million square kilometers of frozen soil – an area larger than India – could be lost for every additional degree of global warming experienced.

Permafrost is frozen soil that has been at a temperature of below 0ºC for at least two years. Large quantities of carbon are stored in organic matter trapped in the icy permafrost soils. When permafrost thaws, the organic matter starts to decompose, releasing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which increase global temperatures.

Thawing permafrost has potentially damaging consequences, not just for greenhouse gas emissions, but also the stability of buildings located in high-latitude cities.

Roughly 35 million people live in the permafrost zone, with three cities built on continuous permafrost along with many smaller communities. A widespread thaw could cause the ground to become unstable, putting roads and buildings at risk of collapse.

Recent studies have shown that the Arctic is warming at around twice the rate as the rest of the world, with permafrost already starting to thaw across large areas.

The researchers, from Sweden and Norway as well as the UK, suggest that the huge permafrost losses could be averted if ambitious global climate targets are met.

Lead-author Dr. Sarah Chadburn of the University of Leeds said, “A lower stabilization target of 1.5ºC would save approximately two million square kilometres of permafrost.

Achieving the ambitious Paris Agreement climate targets could limit permafrost loss. For the first time we have calculated how much could be saved.”

In the study, researchers used a novel combination of global climate models and observed data to deliver a robust estimate of the global loss of permafrost under climate change.

The team looked at the way that permafrost changes across the landscape, and how this is related to the air temperature.

They then considered possible increases in air temperature in the future, and converted these to a permafrost distribution map using their observation-based relationship. This allowed them to calculate the amount of permafrost that would be lost under proposed climate stabilisation targets.

As co-author Professor Peter Cox of the University of Exeter explained, “We found that the current pattern of permafrost reveals the sensitivity of permafrost to global warming.”

The study suggests that permafrost is more susceptible to global warming that previously thought, as stabilizing the climate at 2ºC above pre-industrial levels would lead to thawing of more than 40 percent of today’s permafrost areas.

Co-author Dr. Eleanor Burke, from the Met Office Hadley Centre, said, “The advantage of our approach is that permafrost loss can be estimated for any policy-relevant global warming scenario. The ability to more accurately assess permafrost loss can hopefully feed into a greater understanding of the impact of global warming and potentially inform global warming policy.”

In October, American researchers sounded their own permafrost alarm.

In a research study published in the journal “Nature Communications” and supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, scientists found that both sunlight and the right community of microbes are keys to the conversion of permafrost carbon to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Oregon State University say the stakes are high because there is more carbon stored in the frozen permafrost than in the atmosphere. This carbon has accumulated over millions of years by plants growing and dying, with a very slow decaying process because of the freezing weather.

“We’ve long known that microbes convert the carbon into CO2, but previous attempts to replicate the Arctic system in laboratory settings have failed,” said Byron Crump, an Oregon State University (OSU) biogeochemist and co-author on the study. “As it turns out, that is because the laboratory experiments did not include a very important element – sunlight.”

“When the permafrost melts and stored carbon is released into streams and lakes in the Arctic, it gets exposed to sunlight, which enhances decay by some microbial communities, and destroys the activity for other communities,” Crump explained.

“Different microbes react differently, but there are hundreds, even thousands of different microbes out there, and it turns out that the microbes in soils are well-equipped to eat sunlight-exposed permafrost carbon,” he said.

As the climate continues to warm, there will be consequenses for the Arctic, says Crump, who is a faculty member in OSU’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences.

“The long-term forecast for the Arctic tundra ecosystem is for the warming to lead to shrubs and bigger plants replacing the tundra, which will provide shade from the sunlight,” Crump said. “That is considered a negative feedback. But there also is a positive feedback, in that seasons are projected to expand.”

“Spring will arrive earlier, and fall will be later, and more water and carbon will enter lakes and streams with more rapid degradation of carbon,” said Crump.

“Which feedback will be stronger? No one can say for sure.”

Indigenous Coastal Peoples Losing Homes Built on Permafrost

In November, a team of European scientists, coordinated by the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, concluded that retreating permafrost coasts threaten the fragile Arctic environment.

Now they are exploring the consequences for the global climate and for the people living in the Arctic.

Working together with residents of the Arctic region, the researchers will co-design strategies for the future that will help them cope with ongoing climate change.

Researchers have known for years that the permafrost is thawing ever more rapidly due to climate change. Yet they still don’t know exactly what consequences this will have for the global climate, or for the people living there.

Experts from 27 research institutions will spend the next five years answering this research question and determining the role of permafrost coastlines in the Earth’s climate system.

The EU project is named Nunataryuk, which translates as “land to sea” in Inuvialuit, a traditional language spoken on the west coast of Canada, will investigate coasts – the interface between land and sea.

Nunataryuk is unique because the scientists collaborate closely with local communities to determine how they can best adapt to thawing permafrost.

“What makes the project stand out is the fact that we’ll study both the global and the local impacts of this thawing, with co-designed projects in local communities,” says Alfred Wegener Institute geoscientist Hugues Lantuit, the project’s coordinator.

“The models view the permafrost as a uniform field, thawing from the top down, but that’s too simple,” Lantuit explains. “For example, on coastlines, permafrost is increasingly crumbling due to the effects of waves. The Arctic coastline is now receding by more than half a meter every year. The models don’t take this into account.”

The thawed soil, together with all of its carbon and nutrients, is now increasingly being transported to the Arctic Ocean by rivers and streams. This factor isn’t reflected in the computer models either, says Lantuit.

The Arctic also has large amounts of permafrost beneath the ocean floor. And scientists have no idea how rapidly these areas will thaw as the climate changes.

In the Nunataryuk project, scientists will for the first time feed a comprehensive map of coastal areas into climate models.

To gauge how much greenhouse gas is being released by coastal areas and the seafloor, airplane and helicopter flights will carry instruments used to measure the carbon dioxide and methane levels in the air.

Lantuit said, “Only then will the climate models be able to better estimate the thawing’s effects on the Earth’s climate.”

One of the Nunataryuk project teams will be tasked with determining the future environmental costs that we can expect to see in the future – in other words, the costs of permafrost thaw to the global economy.”

People living on the coasts of permafrost regions are already at risk: if the ground becomes too soft and fails, they lose their homes. Water pipes can break. Some oil and gas lines have already started to leak, contaminating soils.

The increased load of organic material coming from eroding permafrost soils at the coast is changing the marine habitat.

In the best case, this could increase the amount of nutrients available to marine organisms, especially fish.

On the other hand, it might harm the ecosystem. Contaminants and pathogens that have remained frozen in the soil for millennia could migrate into coastal waters.

“All of these aspects are of course very important to local populations, which is why we’ll work together with them over the next five years to devise new strategies and solutions,” Lantuit explains.

To make that happen, the soils will be precisely surveyed and mapped to identify areas that are thawing only slowly, or are solid and firm, providing locations where new houses can be safely built.

Says Lantuit, “We’re especially happy that the indigenous populations, which have lived in these regions for thousands of years, are also actively involved.”

Birds, Animals Suffer From Melting Permafrost

Two young ecologists from Germany’s University of Münster are studying the serious consequences fires on permafrost can have for vegetation, soils and endangered bird species. Even decades after the last fire, impacts on plant communities are clearly visible.

They presented their results at the Ecology Across Borders conference in Ghent, Belgium in December.

PhD student Ramona Heim from Professor Norbert Hölzel’s working group at the Institute of Landscape Ecology, University of Münster, compared two study sites in northeastern Russia, where the last fires occurred 11 and more than 30 years ago.

At the younger site, soil temperature and permafrost depth were higher and lichen cover was much reduced. Moss, grass and herb species were more abundant compared to control sites nearby.

The change in vegetation structure has important long-term consequences for plant communities, microclimates and animals depending on certain plants or structures. For instance, reindeer need specific lichens in their diet, These are less abundant even decades after a fire.

The surveys were conducted in cooperation with Andrey Yurtaev of the University of Tyumen and nine students from Russia and Germany.

Wieland Heim, another member of Hölzel’s working group, investigated the effects of the ever-increasing fires on breeding birds and plant communities in wetlands at Russia’s Muravioka Park.

While many plant species benefitted from the fires and the resulting niches and nutrients available, the diversity of bird species declined. Birds, such as ground and reed breeders that rely on special microhabitats were among the losers.

“Since fires usually break out in spring during the breeding season and many birds do not produce a second brood, the expanding and more frequent fires can have serious consequences for their reproduction,” reports Wieland Heim.


Featured image: Darker shades of purple indicate higher percentages of permanently frozen ground. (Map courtesy Philippe Rekacewicz UNEP/GRID Arendal) Posted for media use 

Grant_Writing

Environmental Risks Haunt World Economic Forum

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (Photo by Michael Buholzer courtesy World Economic Forum)

Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum (Photo by Michael Buholzer courtesy World Economic Forum)

By Sunny Lewis

DAVOS, Switzerland, January 23, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Climate change, terrorism and the backlash against globalization pose the greatest threats to the survival of human civilization, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the opening session of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos today.

“The challenges we face are as numerous as they are daunting,” said Modi, leader of the 1.3 billion people in world’s most populous democracy and fastest growing major economy.

“In a world that is full of fault lines and rifts, we need to build a shared future,” Modi said, emphasizing the theme of this year’s meeting, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World.”

“With new forces arising, the balance between economic capabilities and political power is changing at great speed,” cautioned Modi. “Because of this, we can foresee far-reaching changes in the nature of this world with respect to peace, stability and security.”

“Glaciers are receding, ice caps are melting in the Arctic, many islands are sinking. … There can be floods, or there can be drought, we are seeing the impact of extreme weather conditions,” he said.

Countries have failed to work together and to live up to their environmental pledges, said the Indian Prime Minister. “Everyone talks about reducing carbon emissions but there are very few people or countries who back their words with their resources to help developing countries to adopt appropriate technology,” he said. “Very few of them come forward to help.”

Modi said his government is aiming for a major move to cleaner forms of energy. In the last three years, India has brought some 60 gigawatts of renewable energy online, roughly a third of Modi’s target.

“To save the environment and to fight climate change, my government has planned a very big campaign and given itself very tough objective,” he said. “By the year 2022, in India we want to produce 175 gigawatts of renewable energy. This is a very big target for a country like India.”

Around the world, aspirations are rising as the economies heal from the severe recession of the past decade, and opportunities are opening to deal with the grave risks facing humanity, World Economic Forum organizers believe.

Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, World Economic Forum, said, “A widening economic recovery presents us with an opportunity that we cannot afford to squander, to tackle the fractures that we have allowed to weaken the world’s institutions, societies and environment.”

“The big concern,” Schwab said in his message to attendees, “is that our optimism lets us forget that economic growth without restoring the social contract will not be sustainable.”

“We must take seriously the risk of a global systems breakdown,” warned Schwab. “Together we have the resources and the new scientific and technological knowledge to prevent this. Above all, the challenge is to find the will and momentum to work together for a shared future.”

Environment Tops Global Risks Report 2018

“We have been pushing our planet to the brink and the damage is becoming increasingly clear,” the World Economic Forum warned in its “Global Risks Report 2018” published just ahead of this week’s meeting at Davos.

The prospect of strong economic growth in 2018 presents leaders with a golden opportunity to address signs of severe weakness in many of the complex systems that underpin our world, such as societies, economies, international relations and the environment. That is the message of “The Global Risks Report 2018,” said the World Economic Forum in a statement January 19, launching the report.

WEF’s annual risks reports are based on annual Global Risks Perception surveys. Nearly 1,000 expert respondents from business, academia, civil society and the public sector, including many areas of expertise, geographies and age groups rate 30 global risks for likelihood and impact.

As in 2017, this year the environment was by far the greatest concern. Extreme weather events were seen as the single most prominent risk.

All five of the environmental risks on the survey list: extreme weather; biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; major natural disasters; man-made environmental disasters; and failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation – were ranked highly on both dimensions – likelihood and impact.

“In our annual Global Risks Perception Survey, environmental risks have grown in prominence in recent years,” said WEF. “This trend has continued this year, with all five risks in the environmental category being ranked higher than average for both likelihood and impact over a 10-year horizon.”

Environmental risks affected millions in 2017, a year characterized by high-impact hurricanes, extreme temperatures, devastating wildfires and the first rise in CO2 emissions for four years.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents said risks are intensifying, while seven percent said they’re declining.

“A deteriorating geopolitical landscape is partly to blame for the pessimistic outlook in 2018, with 93 percent of respondents saying they expect political or economic confrontations between major powers to worsen and nearly 80 percent expecting an increase in risks associated with war involving major powers,” according to the WEF report.

“A trend towards nation-state unilateralism” may make it tough to sustain the long-term, multilateral responses required to counter global warming and the degradation of the global environment, warned WEF.

John Drzik, is president of Global Risk and Digital at the UK’s Marsh & McLennan Companies, which handles insurance, risk management, reinsurance, investment advice and management consulting.

Commenting on the risk report, Drzik said, “Business and government need to invest far more in resilience efforts if we are to prevent the same bulging ‘protection’ gap between economic and insured losses that we see for natural catastrophes.”

Alison Martin, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance Group, commented, “Extreme weather events were ranked again as a top global risk by likelihood and impact. Environmental risks, together with a growing vulnerability to other risks, are now seriously threatening the foundation of most of our commons.”

“Unfortunately we currently observe a too-little-too-late response by governments and organizations to key trends such as climate change,” warned Martin. “It’s not yet too late to shape a more resilient tomorrow, but we need to act with a stronger sense of urgency in order to avoid potential system collapse.”

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for the Earth

To build resilience and prevent collapse, in September, the World Economic Forum announced a new initiative to harness innovations and technologies to transform they way environmental issues are addressed.

The initiative came in response to warnings from scientists in an article published by the journal “Science” that human activity has pushed the Earth beyond four of nine “planetary boundaries.”

At the rate things are going, the Earth in the coming decades could cease to be a “safe operating space” for human beings, warned researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Center trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world.

Technology holds great potential to unlock new solutions but also poses new risks to the environment, people and societies.

The initiative was announced in New York City at the Forum’s first Sustainable Development Impact Summit.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) for the Earth initiative is developing in partnership with Stanford University and PwC and with funding from the Mava Foundation.

In an op-ed article, Schwab characterized 4IR this way: “Ubiquitous, mobile supercomputing. Intelligent robots. Self-driving cars. Neuro-technological brain enhancements. Genetic editing. The evidence of dramatic change is all around us and it’s happening at exponential speed.”

Now, technology entrepreneurs, environmental experts, policymakers and industry leaders are identifying investment opportunities for commercial, impact and blended finance; supporting governments to develop policies; and assisting entrepreneurs to implement innovative solutions at scale.

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution provides an opportunity to fix the world’s burgeoning environmental challenges – but they need to be tackled by design,” said Dominic Waughray, head of Public-Private Partnerships and member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum.

“It is possible,” said Waughray, “that a tipping point of widespread innovation to tackle some of the Earth’s most urgent challenges is within humanity’s grasp.”

“There is great potential, and increasing interest, in exploring how innovations could also be applied to improve our environmental and natural resource security, including through technology and system innovations that we might not yet be able to even imagine,” Waughray envisioned.

The need for that security is expanding every day. Although humanity has already pushed the planet to its limits, a growing population means that even more people will need secure supplies of food, energy and transportation.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that global demand for food will increase 60 percent between 2006 to 2050.

The International Energy Agency says energy consumption will increase by at least 48 percent between 2012 to 2040.

And the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s International Transport Forum forecasts there will be 2.5 billion cars on the road by 2050, up from about one billion today.

Even in the face of all these risks, Jim Yong Kim, President, The World Bank, is looking on the bright side.

“For the first time since the financial crisis, the World Bank is forecasting that the global economy will be operating at or near full capacity. We anticipate growth in advanced economies to moderate slightly, but growth in emerging markets and developing countries should strengthen to 4.5% this year,” wrote Kim in an op-ed piece for the World Economic Forum.

In addition to financial good news, the first day at Davos featured wisdom from Pope Francis.

In a prepared speech read at Davos by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, the Pope said, “If we want a more secure future, one that encourages the prosperity of all, then it is necessary to keep the compass continually oriented towards ‘true North,’ represented by authentic values. Now is the time to take courageous and bold steps for our beloved planet. This is the right moment to put into action our responsibility to contribute to the development of humanity.”


Featured Image: India’s Prime Minister Narandra Modi addresses the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. (Photo by Valeriano Di Domenico courtesy World Economic Forum) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Grant_Writing

World Leaders Pledge Pollution-free Planet

Assembly participants have fun with the #BeatPollution sculpture in front of the conference venue. December 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

Assembly participants have fun with the #BeatPollution sculpture in front of the conference venue. December 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, December 7, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – “With the promises made here, we are sending a powerful message that we will listen to the science, change the way we consume and produce, and tackle pollution in all its forms across the globe,” said Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez-Espeleta, Costa Rica’s minister of environment and energy and the president of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly.

“The science we have seen at this assembly shows we have been so bad at looking after our planet that we have very little room to make more mistakes,” said Gutiérrez.

More than 4,000 heads of state and government, ministers, business leaders, UN officials, civil society representatives, activists and celebrities gathered at the summit in Nairobi, which ran for three days, through December 6.

They committed to a pollution-free planet, with resolutions and pledges promising to improve the lives of billions by cleaning up air, land and water.

Government ministers called for “rapid, large-scale and co-ordinated action against pollution” on Wednesday, capping the UN Environment Assembly with a strong commitment to protect human health and our common environment from an existential threat.

For the first time at a UN Environment Assembly, environment ministers issued a declaration. This declaration said nations would honor efforts to prevent, mitigate and manage the pollution of air, land and soil, freshwater, and oceans, which harms our health, societies, ecosystems, economies, and security.

“We the world’s ministers of the environment, believe that every one of us should be able to live in a clean environment. Any threat to our environment is a threat to our health, our society, our ecosystems, our economy, our security, our well-being and our very survival,” they said in a declaration after the three-day meeting in Nairobi, Kenya.

The declaration committed to increasing research and development, targeting pollution through tailored actions, moving societies towards sustainable lifestyles based on a circular economy, promoting fiscal incentives to move markets and promote positive change, as well as strengthening and enforcing laws on pollution.

Environmental leaders, from left: Erik Solheim, executive director, United Nations Environment Programme, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, and UNEA President Edgar Gutiérrez-Espeleta, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, take a selfie for the #BeatPollution campaign. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

Environmental leaders, from left: Erik Solheim, executive director, United Nations Environment Programme, Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya, and UNEA President Edgar Gutiérrez-Espeleta, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica, take a selfie for the #BeatPollution campaign. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

A large part of the impact from the assembly comes from global support. UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign hit almost 2.5 million pledges during the event, with 88,000 personal commitments to act.

If every promise made in and around the summit comes is fulfilled, 1.49 billion more people will breathe clean air, 480,000 kilometers, or around 30 percent, of the world’s coastlines will be clean, and US$18.6 billion for research and development and innovative programs to combat pollution will come online.

The assembly also passed 13 non-binding resolutions and three decisions. Among them were moves to address marine litter and microplastics, prevent and reduce air pollution, cut out lead poisoning from paint and batteries, protect water-based ecosystems from pollution, deal with soil pollution, and manage pollution in areas hit by conflict and terrorism.

“Today we have put the fight against pollution high on the global political agenda,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We have a long struggle ahead of us, but the summit showed there is a real appetite for significant positive change.”

“It isn’t just about the UN and governments, though,” said Solheim. “The massive support we have seen from civil society, businesses and individuals – with millions of pledges to end pollution – show that this is a global challenge with a global desire to win this battle together.”

Chile, Oman, South Africa and Sri Lanka all joined the #CleanSeas campaign during the Nairobi summit. Sri Lanka, an island nation south of India, promised to implement a ban on single-use plastic products from January 1, 2018, step up the separation and recycling of waste, and set the goal of freeing its ocean and coasts of pollution by 2030.

There are now 39 countries in the #CleanSeas campaign.

Colombia, Singapore, Bulgaria, Hungary and Mongolia joined 100 cities that were already in the #BreatheLife campaign, which aims to tackle air pollution. Every signatory has committed to reduce air pollution to safe levels by 2030, with Singapore promising to tighten fuel and emissions standards for vehicles, and emissions standards for industry.

The global momentum comes not a moment too soon, as the UN Environment report, “The Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet,” sets forth.

Overall, environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and the widespread destruction of key ecosystems. Air pollution is the single biggest environmental killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year.

Exposure to lead in paint causes brain damage to 600,000 children annually.

The seas already contain 500 dead zones with too little oxygen to support marine life. Over 80 percent of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment without treatment, poisoning the fields where food is grown and the lakes and rivers that provide drinking water to 300 million people.

There is also a huge economic cost of pollution. A recent report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health says that welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at over US$4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2 percent of global economic output.

Curbing pollution is vital to protecting the natural systems that not only underpin the livelihoods of billions of people, but also sustain all life on Earth, wrote Executive Director Solheim in his report. “Biodiversity is under threat as never before.”

“Animals and plants, including species vital to many poorer communities, are suffering from the effects of pollution, including from the vast amounts of untreated waste emanating from households and industry. The excessive use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture is having severe unintended effects, decimating the populations of beneficial insects such as bees and destroying the ecosystems of rivers and lakes and creating hundreds of coastal ‘dead zones’ devoid of fish,” wrote Solheim.

Pollution is not a new phenomenon nor is action to counter it, wrote Solheim. But now, he points out, “there is a need – and an opportunity – to dramatically step up our ambition.”

Science is delivering great advances in our understanding of pollution and its impacts on people, economies and the environment. Citizens are more aware than ever before of how pollution developing the technology to tackle these problems at all scales, from local to global. Financiers are increasingly ready to support them, while international bodies and forums, including the United Nations, stand ready to help channel this momentum and turn it into firm action.”

And firm action is built on a firm foundation of funding.

Solheim advocates “system-wide action to transform the economy,” building circularity and resource efficiency into production processes and supply chains.

The market for environmental goods and servicesm including pollution control, is expected to grow to more than US$2.2 trillion by 2020, Solheim said.

“Opening markets for these goods and services will allow international trade and investment, stimulate innovation, reduce costs and make pollution technologies more accessible to developing countries. Ecosystems can be harnessed to provide

many pollution control and management services.

“As consumption rises and populations grow, pollution increases,” wrote Solheim. “We need to find a way to live well and live lightly. All parts of society have a role to play.”

As the assembly closed on Wednesday, Solheim said the event was an “astonishing success.”

The challenge now is “how do we translate that into real changes in people’s lives. That is what matters,” Solheim said at the closing news conference. He identified plastic pollution, air quality and chemicals as priority areas for immediate action.

Download the Ministerial Declaration here  and the final resolutions here.

The next UN Environment Assembly is expected in two years’ time.


Featured Image: Participant in the UN Environment Assembly carries her message with her, December 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy UN Environment) posted for media use

Maximpact_co

High-Powered California Governor Leads on Climate

California Governor Jerry Brown, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (left) and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard (center) sign agreement to expand cap-and-trade partnership, September 22, 2017. (Photo by Sonia Cacoilo, Office of the Premier of Ontario.) Public domain

California Governor Jerry Brown, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (left) and Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard (center) sign agreement to expand cap-and-trade partnership, September 22, 2017. (Photo by Sonia Cacoilo, Office of the Premier of Ontario.) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

SACRAMENTO, California, September 28, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – As President Donald Trump has abdicated his leadership on climate change by denying the legitimacy of the results produced by 99 percent of the world’s climate scientists, by defunding low-carbon efforts and embracing fossil fuels, and by declaring he will pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement, someone else has stepped in to lead on this crucial issue – California Governor Jerry Brown.

California and Quebec Friday expanded their three-year carbon cap-and-trade partnership to include Ontario, Canada’s most populous province and leading industrial region. The agreement (Linkage) to officially integrate their carbon markets takes effect January 1, 2018.

The agreement was signed in Quebec City during the 7th joint meeting of Cabinet Ministers of the governments of Ontario and Quebec.

“Climate change, if left unchecked, will profoundly disrupt the economies of the world and cause untold human suffering,” said California Governor Jerry Brown. “That’s the reason why California and Quebec are joining with Ontario to create an expanded and dynamic carbon market, which will drive down greenhouse gas emissions.”

California’s cap-and-trade program, which launched in 2012 and linked with Quebec’s program in 2014, sets a declining limit on carbon pollution and creates a market to achieve the emission reduction targets in the most cost effective manner.

Expanding the partnership to include Ontario will further strengthen this market-based system and drive additional investment in clean energy and innovation, says Brown.

A strong cap-and-trade program, together with California’s full suite of climate programs and actions, will help ensure the state can cut carbon within its borders to meet its ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

While California, Quebec and Ontario developed their cap-and-trade programs through separate legislative and regulatory processes, the three jurisdictions have worked together to ensure that their programs complement each other and provide participants in all three jurisdictions with the benefits of an expanded program.

Under the linked program, carbon allowances and offset credits can be exchanged among participants in all three jurisdictions’ cap-and-trade programs.

The expanded market leverages additional greenhouse gas reductions at reduced cost and enhances the ability of jurisdictions to effectively work together to develop and implement cost-effective regional greenhouse gas emission reduction programs.

The linkage agreement reflects California, Quebec and Ontario’s shared commitment to operate an efficient, linked market and supports coordinated information sharing and continued consultation.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said, “Climate change is a global problem that requires global solutions. Now more than ever, we need to work together with our partners around the world and at home to show how our collaboration can lead to results in this international fight.”

“Today’s carbon market linking agreement will add to the success we have already seen in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario, California and Quebec. We are stronger together and by linking our three carbon markets we will achieve even greater reductions at the lowest cost.

The agreement sets forth a process for other jurisdictions to join the linked program and establishes a working model for other states and provinces that are seeking cost-effective approaches to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Governor Brown and Premier Couillard on our common goals, including advocating for the adoption of carbon markets and emissions cap programs across North America and around the world,” said Wynne.

“Quebec has been active for many years in the fight against climate change,” said Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard. “We believe in concerted and coherent actions with our partners as well as in cooperation to face the challenges posed by this global challenge.”

Assuring Ontario and California of Quebec’s full cooperation, Couillard said, “We should rejoice in the progress made so far and the new milestones made today in strengthening our relations, which contribute to a more prosperous, more responsible and low carbon society.”

Known universally as Jerry Brown, Edmund G. Brown Jr. is approaching 80 years old. He was born in San Francisco on April 7, 1938. He graduated from St. Ignatius High School in 1955 and entered Sacred Heart Novitiate, a Jesuit seminary. He later attended the University of California, Berkeley, graduating in 1961 before earning a J.D. at Yale Law School in 1964.

California elected Brown Governor in 1974 and again in 1978. As Governor, he strengthened environmental protections and promoted renewable energy.

After his governorship, Brown lectured and traveled widely, practiced law, served as chairman of the state Democratic Party and ran for president.

Brown was elected to a third gubernatorial term in 2010 and to a historic fourth term in 2014. During his latest stint as governor, California has established nation-leading targets to protect the environment and fight climate change.

By 2030 the state will: reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels, generate half of its electricity from renewable sources, double the rate of energy efficiency savings in its buildings and reduce today’s petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent.

Governor Brown Advances Climate Efforts

California Governor Jerry Brown 2017 (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor) Public domain

California Governor Jerry Brown 2017 (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor) Public domain

Last week Governor Brown advanced his leadership of the fight against climate change at the subnational level at events and meetings tied to Climate Week NYC, the Yale Climate Conference and the UN General Assembly.

Over the course of the week, Governor Brown met with the UN Secretary-General, opened Climate Week NYC 2017 and discussed subnational climate action from governments and the business community at events with other global leaders.

At Climate Week NYC, the Climate Group launched a groundbreaking new campaign on electric vehicles. EV100 aims to fast track the drive towards electric vehicles. By signing up, companies can use their collective buying power and influence to build demand, cut costs and remove barriers to adoption.

Governor Brown announced co-chairs for the Global Climate Action Summit , which will be held September 12-14, 2018 in San Francisco.

He highlighted state, city and business-led climate initiatives at the Yale Climate Conference and joined fellow U.S. Climate Alliance co-chairs to release a report on the progress by member states to meet their portion of the U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement.

In response to President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington State, and Jerry Brown created the United States Climate Alliance. This bi-partisan coalition of states is committed to the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

In addition, the Governor participated in a wide-ranging discussion organized by the Skoll Foundation and the UN Foundation on the need to mobilize all levels of society to decarbonize the economy, signed an agreement with Denmark on water and climate issues and welcomed the Republic of the Marshall Islands and other new members to the Under2 Coalition .

A total of 187 jurisdictions representing 38 countries and six continents have signed or endorsed the Under2 Memorandum of Understanding. Collectively, they form the Under2 Coalition, which represents more than 1.2 billion people and $28.8 trillion in GDP – equivalent to 16 percent of the global population and 39 percent of the global economy as of August 2017.

California’s Climate Leadership

Governor Brown continues to build strong coalitions of partners committed to curbing carbon pollution in both the United States through the U.S. Climate Alliance and around the globe with the Under2 Coalition.

The Governor has also launched America’s Pledge on climate change with Michael Bloomberg to help compile and quantify the actions of states, cities and businesses in the U.S. to drive down emissions.

In September 2018, the State of California will convene the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, where representatives from subnational governments, businesses and civil society will gather with the direct goal of supporting the Paris Agreement.

This November, Governor Brown is expected to take part in a climate symposium organized by the Vatican and in this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, ahead of which he was named Special Advisor for States and Regions.

Earlier this month, Governor Brown called for deeper Trans-Pacific collaboration on climate change at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia.

This followed meetings in June with China’s President Xi Jinping during the Governor’s week-long trip to China and with Germany’s top environmental official, Barbara Hendricks, in San Francisco.

The Governor’s efforts to broaden subnational collaboration on climate in recent years also include international agreements signed with leaders from the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Mexico, China, North America, Japan, Israel, Peru, Chile, Australia, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, Fiji, Norway and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Reaffirming California’s pioneering climate leadership, Governor Brown signed landmark legislation in July that extends and improves the state’s world-leading cap-and-trade program and establishes a groundbreaking program to measure and combat air pollution at the neighborhood level.

In recent years, Governor Brown has signed legislation establishing the most ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in North America; setting the nation’s toughest restrictions on destructive super pollutants; directing cap-and-trade funds to greenhouse gas reducing programs which benefit disadvantaged communities, support clean transportation and protect natural ecosystems; and requiring the state to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and double the rate of energy efficiency savings in buildings.


CapacityBuilding

Is Climate Change to Blame?

Houston, Texas resident up to his knees in floodwaters dumped by Hurricane Harvey, August 28, 2017 (Photo by Jill Carlson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Houston, Texas resident up to his knees in floodwaters dumped by Hurricane Harvey, August 28, 2017 (Photo by Jill Carlson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

MIAMI, Florida, September 20, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Contemplating the destruction and suffering that four ferocious hurricanes have brought to the Caribbean over the past three weeks, UN Secretary-General António Guterres blames it on climate change.

This year’s hurricane season “fits a pattern,” he said at a high-level event at the UN to secure help for Hurricane Irma survivors. “Changes to our climate are making extreme weather events more severe and frequent, pushing communities into a vicious cycle of shock and recovery.”

“Extreme weather linked to climate change has an impact all over the world, including floods in southern Asia and landslides and droughts in Africa,” said Guterres. He also noted the impact of rising ocean surface temperature on weather patterns.

In the past month alone, four major hurricanes have ripped through the islands in the western Atlantic Ocean the Caribbean and lands lining the Gulf of Mexico. First Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston, Texas; then hurricanes Irma and Jose tore through, and now Hurricane Maria blasted in with Category 5 winds on Wednesday.

AT little less intense as a Category 4 hurricane, Maria made landfall as dawn broke in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico on September 20 with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (250 km/h).

“Maria is an extremely dangerous category 4 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, and it should maintain this intensity until landfall,” said forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. The last category 4 storm to hit Puerto Rico was in 1932.

Maria is following a similar track as Hurricane Irma blew down in the first two weeks of September, again striking small island developing states that were already reeling from Irma.

It is exceptionally rare to have two category 5 hurricanes in such a short space of time and on a similar track.

On September 18, Maria intensified rapidly from a category 1 to a category 5 hurricane. It hit the island of Dominica with maximum winds of 159 mph (257 km/h), the first Category 5 hurricane ever to hit the island. The entire island was under the influence of peak eyewall surface winds and it took more than 150 mm of rainfall.

Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico with 155 mph winds, the first Category 4 hurricane to make landfall on the island since 1932. Now all of Puerto Rico is without electricity.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center is warning of a life-threatening storm surge for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin islands.

Puerto Rico could get an additional 12 to 18 inches (300 to 460 mms) of rainfall, with 25 inches (640 mm) in some locations.

Earlier today, Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, asked President Donald Trump to declare the region a disaster zone. The White House gave the territory an emergency declaration, one designation below “disaster.”

And there’s more…

Dominca, a small mountainous island with about 70,000 residents, lost all communications during the storm.

As Hurricane Maria struck, Dominican Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit posted a message on Facebook, saying, “Initial reports are of widespread devastation. So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace. My greatest fear for the morning is that we will wake to news of serious physical injury and possible deaths as a result of likely landslides triggered by persistent rains.”

“So far,” wrote Skerrit, “the winds have swept away the roofs of almost every person I have spoken to or otherwise made contact with. The roof to my own official residence was among the first to go and this apparently triggered an avalanche of torn away roofs in the city and the countryside.

“Come tomorrow morning,” he wrote, “we will hit the road, as soon as the all clear is given, in search of the injured and those trapped in the rubble. I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating…indeed, mind-boggling,”

“My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured. We will need help, my friend, we will need help of all kinds. It is too early to speak of the condition of the air and seaports, but I suspect both will be inoperable for a few days,” wrote Skerrit.

Skerrit is seeking help from friendly nations and organizations with helicopter services, because he is “eager to get up and get around the country to see and determine what’s needed.”

What many people believe is needed is a concerted decision to limit the greenhouse gas emissions they fear are driving climate change and causing these hurricanes to become even more devastating.

Most scientists say that changes in Earth’s atmosphere did not cause Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose or Maria to form.

But most agree that the effects of climate change, such as warmer oceans and rising sea levels, made these storms more destructive than they would have been in earlier decades.

“The short version is, climate change makes these very bad storms worse,” said Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with Climate Central, a nonprofit organization of scientists who conduct scientific research on climate change and journalists who inform the public of key findings.

“It’s not the proximate cause of the storm, but it makes these bad storms worse,” said Sublette. “And in the case of a really bad storm, climate change can make it totally disastrous or catastrophic.”

The question of how climate and extreme weather interact will be central to the upcoming Science Summit, organized by the World Meteorological Organization’s <public.wmo.int> Commission for Atmospheric Sciences in Bali, Indonesia from October 20 to 22.

The Summit is an opportunity to shape the WMO’s research agenda, building toward a closer collaboration between weather, climate, water and environment research.

Scientists have been hard at work analyzing the relationship between climate change and extreme storms for years.

Back in May 2016, Australian scientists published a study in the journal “Geophysical Research Letters” showing that cities face harsher, more concentrated rainfall as climate change intensifies storms and draws them into narrower bands of more intense downpours.

Engineers at the University of New South Wales found that this has major implications for existing stormwater infrastructure, particularly in large cities, which face high risks of flash flooding.

“As warming proceeds, storms are shrinking in space and in time,” said doctoral student Conrad Wasko, lead author of the paper. “They are becoming more concentrated over a smaller area, and the rainfall is coming down more plentifully and with more intensity over a shorter period of time. When the storm shrinks to that extent, you have a huge amount of rain coming down over a smaller area.”

That analysis will sound familiar to the residents of Houston, Texas who were flooded with record-breaking amounts of rainfall – at least 30 inches (76 cm) of rain, with a maximum of 51.88 inches – in late August.

Hurricane Harvey brought record multi-day rainfall to the Houston area, after it stalled in the region following landfall.  Harvey had intensified before landfall after travelling over unusually warm waters (~2°C) in the western Gulf of Mexico.

“There is no clear evidence that climate change is making the occurrence of slowly moving land-falling hurricanes in the Houston region, such as Hurricane Harvey, more or less likely. However, some aspects or “ingredients” of the Harvey event may have linkages to climate change,” said the WMO’s Expert Team on Climate Impacts on Tropical Cyclones, led by Tom Knutson of NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

Because the tropical atmosphere now holds about seven percent more water vapor than it used to due to climate warming, Knutson and the Expert Team say the rainfall rates associated with Harvey “were likely made more intense by anthropogenic climate change.”


Maximpact+WASTE

Drier Than Dry, Dry to the Bone

Aerial View of Auwahi Dryland Forest Restoration Project, Maui. Restoration of drylands is possible, as shown in this replanted forest on Maui, Hawaii, USA. Thanks to the volunteerism of the Maui community and contributions of landowner Ulupalakua Ranch, restored forest patches at Auwahi. These small forests on the leeward flanks of the Haleakala volcano, despite their size, now provide sanctuaries for native Hawaiian species found nowhere else in the world. June 17, 2010 (Photo by Arthur Medeiros, USGS) -Public domain

Aerial View of Auwahi Dryland Forest Restoration Project, Maui. Restoration of drylands is possible, as shown in this replanted forest on Maui, Hawaii, USA. Thanks to the volunteerism of the Maui community and contributions of landowner Ulupalakua Ranch, restored forest patches at Auwahi. These small forests on the leeward flanks of the Haleakala volcano, despite their size, now provide sanctuaries for native Hawaiian species found nowhere else in the world. June 17, 2010 (Photo by Arthur Medeiros, USGS) -Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

ORDOS, Inner Mongolia, China, September 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com News)  – Conflict, drought, displacement and disease are driving vast humanitarian crises in dryland areas of Africa and the Middle East, just as governments that are Parties to the UN Conference to Combat Desertification meet this week and next in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.

Land degradation in drylands, known as desertification, could result in a 12 percent fall in global food production in the next 25 years. And it contributes to global carbon dioxide emissions, with about 60 percent of carbon in soils lost through land degradation, warns conference participant IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as the 10-day conference gets underway in Ordos, a city of more than two million.

“Failure to increase investment in protecting and restoring drylands, soils in particular, could put future food supplies at risk and hamper efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change,” said IUCN Director General Inger Andersen.

“Drylands secure food and water supplies for local people, mitigate climate change and reduce the impacts of disasters. Their soils, however, form slowly and are easily damaged,” says Andersen.

Scientists estimate that between 25 and 35 percent of drylands are being degraded right now, suffering diminished productivity. Over 250 million people are directly affected, and a further one billion in over 100 countries are at risk, statistics show.

Ordos itself must cope with desert conditions. The city is surrounded by a hilly area in the east, high plateaus in the west and center, sandy deserts in the north and south, and plains at the southern bank of the Yellow River.

During the 20th century, dryland habitats expanded by four to eight percent and now cover 40 percent of the globe’s terrestrial surface. As the global climate warms, this expansion of drylands will likely continue, say climate scientists.

Often, it is the children who suffer – and die.

Under current conditions, “nearly 20 million people are at risk of famine across Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and northeast Nigeria, including some 1.4 million severely malnourished children at imminent risk of death,” calculates the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF.

In Somalia, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating because of a severe drought that started in the north in 2016 and is now affecting most of the country, reports the UK Mission to the United Nations.

Other countries in the Horn of Africa have also been affected, especially Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya. In South Sudan, seasonal dry weather has reinforced competition for water among people and animals, causing already scarce water sources to be overused.

West Africa’s Lake Chad has lost some 90 percent of its water mass since 1963 due to climatic variability and population pressure, with devastating consequences on food security in the region.

And these crises now are spreading to surrounding countries.

With severe drought parching the Horn of Africa; more than one million South Sudanese refugees fleeing conflict are stretching capacity and resources in Uganda.

Displacement throughout the Lake Chad Basin resulting from conflict, climate change, environmental degradation and poverty is affecting millions of people and animals.

And this is happening in one of the most fragile and important of the world’s priceless areas.

In July 2000, Lake Chad was declared a Transboundary Ramsar Site of International Importance. Conservationists hope to create a network of national and regional conservation areas in the Chad Basin and set up institutions to manage them sustainably. To that end, the Chad Wetlands Initiative (CHADWET) was launched in June 2003, organized by The Ramsar Wetland Convention Bureau and its Mediterranean Coordination Unit.

But meanwhile, the human beings in the Lake Chad Basin are in crisis – not only a crisis of food insecurity but also of clean water, sanitation, disease prevention and treatment.

Water and sanitation are just as important as food for children and families facing famine and food insecurity, says UNICEF, which is fighting famine in these areas by providing safe water to more than 2.5 million people.

UNICEF is keeping children alive by trucking thousands liters of water to displacement camps daily, supporting hospitals and cholera treatment centres, repairing large water and sanitation systems in cities and much more.

In Yemen, UNICEF has reached over five million people since the start of the year through support in operating water supply networks and waste water treatment plans; supplying fuel and electricity supply to keep water treatment and pumping stations working; chlorinating water sources, water trucking and distributing hygiene kits.

As the waterborne disease cholera spreads through South Sudan, UNICEF has dug 22 boreholes to reach over 210,000 people with safe water. Across the country, around 207,000 people have gained access to sanitation and 610,000 gained access to safe water.

At the Risk of Their Lives

In conflict-affected areas of north-east Nigeria, UNICEF has worked with partners to reach around 845,000 people with safe water. Some of the most dedicated workers are in the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) offices.

“Staffers in many WASH offices are risking their lives to provide these essential services to people in need,” UNICEF says.

In Somalia, UNICEF says at least 1.66 million people have been given temporary access to safe water, and more than 890,000 have been given hygiene kits, critical to disease prevention.

It’s easy for diseases to spread in the drylands.

Drylands, including savannahs, mist forests and oases, cover 41 percent of all land on Earth. They are home to one-third of the world’s population and store 36 percent of all global terrestrial carbon.

They sustain 44 percent of the world’s cultivated systems and 50 percent of the world’s livestock.

Most of dryland biodiversity is found in the soil, which determines the overall fertility and productivity of the land.

“Species and ecosystems below and above ground are the engines of life in drylands, whose importance in sustaining billions of lives around the world is often underestimated,” says IUCN’s Andersen.

IUCN is urging countries to invest in conserving these ecosystems for the vital services they provide, and for the crucial role they play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, unanimously agreed by world governments.

Contributing to the Carbon Cycle Dryland ecosystems, from deserts to dry shrublands, play a more important role in the global carbon cycle than previously thought, says Montana State University faculty member Ben Poulter.

Carbon dioxide moves constantly between land, oceans, vegetation and the atmosphere. When one of those absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases, it’s considered a carbon sink, Poulter explains.

“La Nina-driven rainfall during 2010 and 2011, as well as the 30-year greening up of its deserts and other drylands contributed to significant changes across the globe,” he said.

Poulter and his collaborators have discovered surprising interactions between climate extremes and desert greening that increased in importance over the past 30 years. In this phase, dryland systems in the Southern Hemisphere, specifically Australia, had particularly high productivity in response to increased La Nina-phase rainfall.

But the large 2011 land carbon uptake is not expected to lead to long-term increases in ecosystem carbon dioxide (CO2) accumulation, the researchers warn. As the heat-trappiing blanket of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases thickens, drylands will become more degraded than ever.

IUCN calls for urgent investment in restoring and sustainably managing drylands as a high priority for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including the goals of combating climate change, reducing poverty, increasing food and water security, and boosting health and economic growth.

“Sustainable land management practices can prevent the degradation, and improve the productivity and resilience of drylands,” says Jonathan Davies, coordinator of IUCN’s Global Drylands Initiative.

Some traditional crop farming and livestock production practices developed by dryland communities are helpful, such as minimizing tillage and planting trees alongside crops to maintain soil organic matter and moisture.

“These practices involve protecting biodiversity, including the bacteria, fungi and insects that live in the soil and which maintain nutrient and hydrological cycles,” said Davies. “Biodiversity is also vital for pollination which is a major factor in overall agricultural production.”

“Sustainable land management is a viable policy option for countries to address development and environmental challenges,” said Davies, hopefully.

The IUCN estimates that by sustainably managing soils, food production could increase by up to 58 percent. Improved livestock production and rangeland management could sequester up to 2,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, which is more than the 2015 CO2 emissions of Russia.

IUCN urges countries to sustainably manage land by strengthening the rights of local communities and by facilitating finance opportunities for small and medium agribusinesses that engage in sustainable land management.

Countries are also encouraged to restore large-scale degraded dryland landscapes.

But now, climate change is coming on strong, with devastating effects, making landscape restoration even more challenging.

Projected global warming will likely decrease the extent of temperate drylands by a third over the rest of the 21st century, a situation made worse by an increase in dry deep soil conditions during the agricultural growing season, an international scientific collaboration led by the U.S. Geological Survey with members from seven countries has found.

Their study is presented in the journal “Nature Communications.”

These researchers predict a loss of 15 to 30 percent of temperate grasslands by the end of the century with a “substantial increase in deep soil drought conditions.”

Their results suggest that changes in precipitation and soil moisture associated with climate change will convert much of the area currently occupied by temperate grasslands and deserts to subtropical vegetation.

“The impacts can have large consequences for humanity,” they warn.

Until recently, uncertainty existed about the fate of temperate drylands. But this uncertainty is now disappearing because of improved supercomputer modelling of the movement of water through ecosystems, based on 20,000 locations around the world.

“I was impressed by the scope of the computer model, with many components of the water cycle calculated daily for 30 years, at 20,000 sites. All of this to simulate the current climate as well as 16 possible future climates. The variety of possible future climates gave pretty consistent outcomes, lending credibility to the results,” said Professor Scott Wilson, CIRC researcher and visiting researcher at Umeå University in Sweden.

Wilson explains that with the expansion of subtropical drylands as temperate drylands warm, cool season crops such as wheat and potato would no longer be economically viable.”

Wilson also warns of diseases driven to spread by the changing climate. “These subtropical drylands are home to aggressive diseases such as dengue and schistosomiasis. Given the predicted changes to dryland habitats globally, the outcome of this research is essential for developing strategies for adaptation by policy makers,” Wilson said.

All these issues and more will be on the table at the UN Conference to Combat Desertification, which runs from September 4 through September 15 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.

The high-level segment of the conference is scheduled on September 11 and 12.

Just last month, UNCCD joined the group of international observer organizations to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

As a major source of climate finance, GCF offers many opportunities for UNCCD member countries to finance preparation and implementation of large scale transformative land-based climate action projects.

The observer status enables UNCCD representatives to attend GCF board meetings and to contribute better to the orientation of climate finance to achieve land degradation neutrality.

At COP 13, UNCCD and the Green Climate Fund are partnering to organize a training session on “How to access Green Climate Fund financing for land-based projects?” Staffers at UNCCD national focal points and land use practitioners will learn the key messages and methodologies that can increase the volume of financing for dryland restoration.


Featured Image: Displaced Lake Chad Basin Women in a meeting with representatives of the UN Security Council in the Teachers’ Village IDP Camp in Nigeria. Dec. 13, 2014. (Photo by Lorey Campese courtesy UK Mission to the UN) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

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Brutal Weather Hits Extremes

SmokeBCfires

Smoke from fires burning in British Columbia, Canada. Colin Seftor, an atmospheric scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has published data maps collected by the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite that show the smoke reaching as far as the U.S. Midwest and northern Quebec. July 18, 2017 (Image courtesy NASA) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 25, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – France today activated the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism as forest fires ravage southern regions of the country, threatening the resort of St. Tropez and the island of Corsica. French authorities have requested firefighting aircraft, and EU support is already on its way.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “The EU stands in full solidarity with France. In an immediate response, the European Commission has helped mobilize a Canadair aircraft from Italy through our Civil Protection Mechanism.”

“Earlier this month, France helped Italy fighting forest fires and now Italy is showing its support to France. This is EU solidarity at its best,” said Stylianides. “Our thoughts are with all those affected and the brave first responders working in difficult conditions.”

Conditions are difficult around the world, with fires, floods and drought coming in waves of trouble.

June 2017 extended the spell of “exceptional global warmth” that has lasted since mid-2015. Average surface air temperatures were the second hottest on record, after June 2016, finds the latest analysis from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

In addition to high temperatures, extreme weather affected many parts of the world in June and July.

Rescue services and troops in New Zealand’s South Island worked around the clock over the weekend to help those affected by a severe storm that released floods and forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

A state of emergency was declared in the South Island cities of Christchurch, Otago, Timaru and Dunedin after some areas were hit with more than 200 millimetres of rain in 24 hours.

The New Zealand Meteorological Service says all of July has been marked by severe weather events, caused by low pressure systems from the Tasman Sea.

Australia had the second driest June on record, with rainfall 62 percent below average for Australia as a whole, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. June was the driest on record for large areas of southern Australia because of persistent high pressure and a lack of cold fronts.

Chinese weather authorities report that the annual monsoon season was accompanied by torrential rainfall in many parts of China for extended periods in June and early July, causing considerable economic losses and transport disruption.

For instance, more than 600 flights were cancelled at Beijing airport alone on July 6 as a result of rainfall.

The rainfall was one of the contributing factors to a deadly landslide with many casualties on June 24 in  Maoxian County, Sichuan. In north and northeast China, the National Meteorological Center said that from June 21 to June 24, the maximum hourly rainfall was between 20-40 mm.

Authorities issued warnings about water levels along key tributaries of the Yangtzee River basin. There was a red alert on July 2 along the whole course of the Xiangjiang River that was near or above record levels. The water level in the section of the river in Changsha, capital of Hunan, reached a record 39.21 meters on July 2.

Since June 22, floodwaters have inundated parts of several cities in Hunan, forcing more than 311,000 people to evacuate, damaging crops and destroying more than 6,300 houses, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

In Japan, tropical storm Nanmadol brought torrential rainfall to the southern part of the country. The city of Hamada in Shimane, which faces the Sea of Japan, saw hourly precipitation of over 80 mm on July 6, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Local governments issued evacuation orders to nearly 60,000 residents in affected areas.

Tropical cyclone Mora caused Bangladesh authorities to evacuate nearly one million people from low-lying areas, At least 10 people died. Heavy monsoon rainfall in June caused severe flooding and deadly mudslides. Nearly 900,000 people were affected by floods as of July 5, authorities said.

In Myanmar, heavy monsoon rains have prevailed across the southeast Asian country since early July. Today, riverbank erosion washed away a Buddhist pagoda. Rising floodwaters across large parts of the country have claimed two lives, washed away entire villages and displaced tens of thousands of residents.

In Indonesia, drought is drying the crops as they stand in the fields.

Much of South America and Africa were warmer than average during this two month period, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports the Middle East is broiling. The Iranian city of Ahwaz recorded a temperature of 53.7°Celsius (128.66° Fahrenheit) on June 29 as part of a heatwave with temperatures in excess of 50°C across the region, including Iraq and Kuwait.

An even higher temperature of about 54°C (129.2°F) scorched the city of Turbat, southwestern Pakistan, in late May.

But this week in Turkey, it’s too much water, not too much heat. Istanbul traffic came to a standstill as severe storms inundated the city, flooding the streets.

Temperatures were much above average, and high in absolute terms, over Morocco and northern Algeria in June and July. Forest fires are burning across northern Algeria. An estimated 1,000 hectares have been consumed.

Southern and central Europe was very much warmer than the 1981-2010 average in June, especially over the Iberian Peninsula, where Portugal experienced devastating wildfires.

The heatwave shifted from the Iberian Peninsula to southeastern Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean towards the end of June, with temperatures well over 40°C ((104°F) in many countries. The high temperatures were sometimes accompanied by damaging summer storms, hailstorms, torrential rainfall and flash floods.

Fires this month in Croatia and Montenegro sparked requests for help in fighting the flames. Still, on July 18, the Adriatic coast was engulfed in wildfires.

The Deutscher Wetterdienst said July 7, “A period with significantly above-normal temperatures and heat waves, at least for the next week, is expected for most parts of the eastern Mediterranean – from Italy, Balkans to Caucasus and Middle East.”

Conversely, says the WMO, temperatures have been well below average over the northeast of Europe. The contrast between southwest and northeast continues a pattern that was present in April and May.

In Russia, June 2017 was widely called Junabre, meaning June plus November, because of the cold weather in the European parts of the country. June was the coldest month in the past 14 years for Moscow.

FloodingLondon

Caption: Flooded streets in London, UK, June 2, 2017 (Photo by Dmitry Dzhus) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The UK should be bracing for record rainfall, says Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The UK’s two wettest winters on record occurred in 2013-14 and 2015-16, leading to flooding in many parts of the country. As a result, the National Flood Resilience Review was begun, but it needs expansion to include surface water flooding, says Ward.

Commenting on the publication Monday of the paper, High risk of unprecedented UK rainfall in the current climate in the journal “Nature Communications,” Ward said, “I hope that the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, will carefully read this important Met Office analysis because it highlights the risk of extreme rainfall that could cause flooding.”

“We know that the risk of record rainfall is increasing due to climate change. From 2000 onwards, the UK has experienced 6 of the 7 wettest years since records began in 1910, and its 8 warmest years. The period between January and June 2017 was the third warmest such period on record. As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water, increasing the risk of heavy rainfall.”

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that starting around June 18 and continuing for over a week, scorching temperatures hit the western United States of America from Arizona to the Pacific Northwest.

June 20 was a particularly hot day for the southwestern United States. Las Vegas, Nevada (47.2°C or 117°F), and Needles, California (51.7°C or 125°F), both tied their all-time records.

Forest fires have been devouring forests across the U.S. West.

For instance, the Detwiler Fire in California began on July 15. It covers 79,400 acres and is 65 percent contained.

The Snowstorm Fire in Nevada began on July 13. It has burned 60,000 acres and is just 13 percent contained.

In Arizona, from June 17-27, Phoenix International Airport has had 11 straight days with temperatures of at least 110°F (43°C), with one day hitting 48.3°C (119°F). The heat caused multiple canceled flights. The hotter the air, the less dense it is, which means less lift for airplanes as they take off. In order to take off, the planes would have needed a longer runway, which is not available in Phoenix.

As the heat wave continued, the hot air spread west and north. On June 25, Portland Oregon, reach 38°C (101°F) and Seattle, Washington, hit 35.6°C (96°F), tying its hottest June day on record.

In July, the forests of south-central British Columbia were primed to burn. Abnormally hot, dry weather had dried out vegetation and soil, and many forests were full of dead trees left by mountain pine beetles. When lightning storms passed over the region on July 7, more than 100 fires were sparked. Some of these fires are still raging.

As of July 19, 2017, the British Columbia Wildfire Service reported 50 wildfires burning in the Cariboo region and another 21 in the Kamloops region. The fires have charred roughly 300,000 hectares (1,000 square miles) and have forced nearly 50,000 people to flee their homes.

To far south, June temperatures were way above average offshore of parts of Antarctica, where sea-ice cover was unusually low, the WMO reports. But the agency also says temperatures were well below average over East Antarctica.

So, investors can no longer count on business as usual. The climate is changing – tending toward extremes of heat, cold, drought and rainfall, and the physical impacts of climate change will affect assets and investments.

Climate change and extreme weather events will affect agriculture and food supply, infrastructure, precipitation and the water supply in ways that are only partly understood.

Yet, decisions made by private sector investors and financial institutions will have a major influence on how society responds to climate change.

There will be significant demand for capital, with governments looking to the private sector to provide much of it.


Featured Images: Wildfires send thousands fleeing the Provence resport of St. Tropez, France. July 25, 2017 (Photo by CCI Riviera & Monaco) Posted on Twitter

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Precious Sites Awarded World Heritage Status

Part of the newly inscribed World Heritage natural site Qinghai Hoh Xil on the Tibetan Plateau (Photo by Mark Meng) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Part of the newly inscribed World Heritage natural site Qinghai Hoh Xil on the Tibetan Plateau (Photo by Mark Meng) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

KRAKOW, Poland, July 13, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The world has three new sites of outstanding natural value designated for protection by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which just concluded a 10-day meeting in Krakow.

During the session, the Committee inscribed a total of 21 new sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List – the three natural sites as well as 18 cultural sites. The new inscriptions bring to 1,073 the total number of sites on the World Heritage List.

The new World Heritage natural sites are on the Tibetan Plateau; in an Argentinian national park; and landscapes shared by Mongolia and Russia.

The Committee also extended or modified the boundaries of two natural sites already on the World Heritage List. The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe, spanning 12 countries, were expanded; and so was the W-Arly-Pendjari Complex in West Africa.

The W-Arly-Pendjari ecological complex is an expanse of intact Sudano-sahelian savanna, important for its wetlands and its bird habitat. The two core areas of the complex are the W Regional Park straddling the borders of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger, and the Arly Total Faunal Reserve and Pendjari National Park in Benin and Burkina Faso.

During its 10-day session, the World Heritage Committee also approved the withdrawal two African sites from the List of World Heritage in Danger – the Simien National Park in Ethiopia, and Comoé National Park in Côte d’Ivoire.

One of the largest protected areas in West Africa, Comoé National Park, was inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2003 due to farming, illegal gold mining, poaching and political instability.

Comoé National Park is the first World Heritage site to be removed from the Danger List in more than 10 years in West and Central Africa, a region where half the 20 natural World Heritage sites are considered to be in danger.

Now, species populations in Comoé National Park are on the rise for the first time in nearly 15 years, due to effective management of the park following stabilization of the political situation in 2012.

A field mission by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) earlier this year confirmed encouraging numbers of chimpanzees and elephants, which were thought to have disappeared from the park. Around 300 chimps and 120 elephants are believed to live in Comoé National Park today.

“Comoé National Park serves as an inspiration, and shows that the recovery of World Heritage sites impacted by civil unrest is possible,” said Badman.

Water buffalo in West Africa's newly expanded W-Arly-Pendjari Complex (Photo by Gray Tappan courtesy U.S. Geological Survey) Public domain

Water buffalo in West Africa’s newly expanded W-Arly-Pendjari Complex (Photo by Gray Tappan courtesy U.S. Geological Survey) Public domain

The three new natural World Heritage sites are:

Qinghai Hoh Xil on the Tibetan Plateau

In China, the committee inscribed Qinghai Hoh Xil, located in the far northeast of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, the largest and highest plateau in the world.

This extensive area of alpine mountains and steppe systems is situated more than 4,500 meters (14,763 feet) above sea level, where average temperatures never rise above zero.

More than one third of the plant species, and all the herbivorous mammals are endemic to the plateau, found nowhere else in on Earth.

The World Heritage designation secures the complete migratory route of the Tibetan antelope, one of the endangered large mammals endemic to the plateau.

Landscapes Of Dauria, Shared by Mongolia and Russia 

This site is an outstanding example of the Daurian Steppe eco-region, which extends from eastern Mongolia into Russian Siberia and north-eastern China.

Cyclical climate changes, with distinct dry and wet periods lead to a wide diversity of species and ecosystems of global significance.

The different types of steppe represented, such as grassland and forest, as well as lakes and wetlands serve as habitats for rare species of fauna, such as the White-Naped crane and the Great bustard, as well as millions of vulnerable, endangered or threatened migratory birds.

It is also a critical site on the migration path for the Mongolian gazelle.

Argentina’s Los Alerces National Park

The Los Alerces National Park is located in the Andes of northern Patagonia; its western boundary is at the Chilean border.

Successive glaciations have moulded the landscape in the region creating spectacular features such as moraines, glacial cirques and clear water lakes.

The vegetation is dominated by dense temperate forests, which give way to alpine meadows higher up under the rocky Andean peaks.

This new World Heritage Site is vital for the protection of some of the last portions of continuous Patagonian Forest in an almost pristine state. It is the habitat for many endemic and threatened species of plants and animals.

Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Ukraine.

This transboundary extension of the World Heritage site of the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany stretches over 12 countries.

Since the end of the last Ice Age, European beech spread from a few isolated refuges in the Alps, Carpathians, Mediterranean and Pyrenees over a short period of a few thousand years in a process that is still ongoing.

This successful expansion of beech forest is related to the tree’s flexibility and tolerance of different climatic, geographical and physical conditions.

Yet another European forest is at great risk, the World Heritage Committee warned.

One of the few remaining primeval forests on the European continent, Bialowieza Forest was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 as one of the first World Heritage sites. The site was extended twice, in 1992 and 2014 until today it covers 141,885 hectares across the Polish-Belarusian boarder.

During its 2017 session, the committee adopted a decision urging Poland to immediately halt all logging in the old-growth forests of Bialowieza. These forests are inhabited by the European bison, more than 250 bird species and over 12,000 invertebrate species.

The committee’s warning follows the advice of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, the official advisory body on nature to the World Heritage Committee.

“The old-growth forests of Bialowieza are one of the main reasons why it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list,” said Tim Badman, director of IUCN’s World Heritage Programme. “It is critically important – and a global responsibility – that the Outstanding Universal Value of this ancient forest be preserved for future generations.”

Poland has been logging in Bialowieza Forest although the site is protected under the European Union’s Natura 2000 initiative. The forest was the subject of European Commission’s announcement of an infringement procedure against Poland, which declared that increased logging in Bialowieza is likely to cause irreparable biodiversity loss.

“IUCN remains concerned with the activity in Bialowieza and will work with Poland to find the right management solutions to preserve this unique European site,” said Luc Bas, director of IUCN’s European Regional Office.

IUCN plans to engage with Poland to carry out a monitoring mission to Bialowieza to assess the situation and identify and agree on adequate measures to conserve the site.

Should danger to the site’s Outstanding Universal Value be confirmed, the Bialowieza Forest will be considered for inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger in 2018.

UNESCO regards World Heritage sites as being important to the collective interests of humanity.

The sites are legally protected by an international treaty, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Adopted by the General Conference of UNESCO on November 16, 1972, it came into force on December 17, 1975 and now includes nearly all countries in the world.

What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.

But the IUCN warns that illegal fishing, logging and poaching are affecting two-thirds of the 57 natural World Heritage sites monitored by the organization this year, putting some of the world’s most precious and unique ecosystems and species at risk.

“It is alarming that even our planet’s greatest natural treasures are under pressure from illegal activities,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “World Heritage sites are recognized as the planet’s most unique and valuable places, for nature and for people. If destroyed, they are lost forever.

“World Heritage status is designed to grant these places the highest level of protection, and we as the international community are responsible for the effectiveness of this protection,” said Andersen. “Only through strong international cooperation can we eliminate the illegal and unsustainable practices that are having such a devastating impact on these extraordinary places.”


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Featured Image: Lake Rivadavia is a lake of glacial origin located in Argentina’s Los Alerces National Park, a newly inscribed Worth Heritage site. Nov. 2016 (Photo by Linda De Volder) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Europe Finds Funds for Rewilding

Europe Finds Funds for Rewilding

At the signing ceremony in Brussels, from left: Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Frans Schepers, Managing Director of Rewilding Europe, Christopher Knowles, European Investment Bank, Head of Climate Finance and Jyrki Katainen, European Commission Vice-President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness. April 11, 2017 (Photo courtesy European Commission) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 25, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Catching on in Europe, rewilding is large-scale conservation to restore and protect natural processes and core wilderness areas, provide connectivity between such areas, and protect or reintroduce apex predators and keystone species.

The Dutch nonprofit Rewilding Europe says rewilding ensures that natural processes and wild species will play a much greater role in both landscapes and seascapes. Rewilding helps landscapes become wilder, while providing opportunities for people to reconnect with such wilder places for the benefit of all life.

Now the concept of rewilding Europe has attracted substantial investment to turn these goals into reality.

Earlier this month, the European Commission and the European Investment Bank announced the first loan agreement backed by the Natural Capital Financing Facility.

The €6 million loan agreement with Rewilding Europe Capital is expected to provide support for more than 30 nature-focused businesses across Europe.

Rewilding Europe Capital (REC) is Europe’s first conservation and rewilding enterprise financing facility. With this first project, an ambitious new initiative to protect biodiversity and support climate adaptation in Europe has been realized.

The REC investment capital available is €6.5 million. This loan finance contract represents the first project of the Bank on Nature Initiative, set up by the European Commission. The signing ceremony took place April 11 in the Berlaymont Building, headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels.

The Bank on Nature Initiative builds on the Natural Capital Financing Facility, an established financing partnership between the European Commission and the European Investment Bank supporting nature and climate adaptation projects through tailored loans and investments, backed by an EU guarantee.

It recognizes and fosters the business case for investing in natural capital for biodiversity and climate change adaptation purposes.

Nature is essential for our lives, well-being and also underpins our economy,” said Karmenu Vella, European Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, at the signing ceremony.

The recent evaluation of the EU Nature Directives has shown that creating new means to attract investment in nature protection and its sustainable use is more important today than ever before. I am particularly pleased that the first project signed under the Natural Capital Financing Facility will directly contribute to the implementation of our EU Nature Directives and also boost our rural economies and create jobs,” Vella said.

Since its formal launch in September 2013 and supported by the Adessium Foundation and Dutch Postcode Lottery, REC has demonstrated its potential through a pilot phase which Rewilding Europe has now extended in this new partnership with the European Investment Bank and their Natural Capital Financing Facility.

REC provides loans to small and medium-sized enterprises that catalyze, support or achieve positive environmental outcomes.

Loans may go to fund natural forest regeneration, natural water systems, natural grazing, safe corridors for wildlife, natural habitat extension, reduced hunting and fishing pressure, operational support of wildlife breeding areas including spawning sites, and direct natural comeback of wildlife.

“In places like Namibia and Costa Rica, significant nature-based economies have been developed by stimulating private sector involvement and investment,” says Frans Schepers, managing director of Rewilding Europe. “In Europe, where such economies are still in their infancy, we can learn a lot from these countries.”

“The Bank on Nature Initiative has the potential to stimulate the development of nature-based economies and I am excited that Rewilding Europe Capital can help facilitate it,” said Schepers. “Both nature and people will benefit.”

Since the launch of its pilot phase in 2013, REC has provided €445,000 in loans to 17 enterprises in five countries – Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Netherlands and Romania.

These are collectively leveraging the protection of 20,000 hectares of natural landscapes and will inject over €25,000 of direct cash funding per year towards protecting and sustaining these host natural environments and their wildlife.

Naturally, this investment also directly and indirectly stimulates local socio-economic growth and employment.

“Signed today, this contract with the EIB is a great step forward for Rewilding Europe Capital,” says Ilko Bosman, executive director of Rewilding Europe Capital B.V. “It will allow us to really scale up our efforts and beneficial outcomes. But more than this, it also throws a spotlight on the ability of commercial finance to contribute positively to nature conservation and rewilding.”

The long-term goal of Rewilding Europe Capital is to create 250 jobs through the businesses which it supports. Going forward, it will continue to stimulate and underpin wildlife and nature-based businesses in rural areas, thereby making an essential contribution to the comeback of wild nature and wildlife in European landscapes.

Rewilding Europe Capital was established and developed with business and financial expertise from Conservation Capital, an initiating partner of Rewilding Europe, and who will also support the investment management of the portfolio.

The entire effort is supported by the European Commission’s LIFE Programme, the EU’s financial instrument supporting environmental, nature conservation and climate action projects throughout the EU.

Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 4,306 projects. For the 2014-2020 funding period, LIFE will contribute roughly €3.4 billion to the protection of the environment and climate.


Featured Image: One of the resident Konik ponies on the UK’s Ashdown Forest. These wild horses originate from Poland, bred from the original, now extinct, wild horses of Europe known as Tarpan. Konik ponies show numerous primitive features, associated with their ancestors: adaptation to harsh climates, intelligence and resilient immune systems. February 13, 2017 (Photo by Tom Lee) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Ethical Travelers Shape World’s Largest Industry

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Giant trees are just one of the many unique sights on the Atlantic island chain of Cabo Verde. (Photo by Frans Neve) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BERKELEY, California, January 31, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Each year, Berkeley-based nonprofit Ethical Traveler searches the world to find the 10 most ethical destinations that beckon visitors with forward-thinking policies, excellent tourism infrastructure, outstanding natural beauty, and welcoming cultures.

A project of the nonprofit Earth Island Institute, Ethical Traveler hosted responsible travelers Sunday evening at a reception to honor the winners of the 2017 Ethical Destinations Awards.

The 2017 Ethical Destinations Award winners, in alphabetical order, not ranked, are:

•             Belize

•             Cabo Verde

•             Chile

•             Costa Rica

•             Dominica

•             Mongolia

•             Palau

•             Tonga

•             Uruguay

•             Vanuatu

By no means evenly distributed around the world, five of the destinations are in Latin America, and four of them are islands. There is only one located in Asia. None are in Europe or North America and none are on the African or Australian continents.

An article authored by Ethical Traveler’s Molly Blakemore, Karen Blansfield, Morgan Lance and Natalie Lefevre with Jeff Greenwald explaining the reasons behind the selection of this year’s 10 most ethical destinations also sketches the financial underpinnings of the travel industry.

Travel is more than an opening for good will,” the authors say. “It is one of the world’s most powerful economic engines, and can drive the way countries treat their citizens, indigenous peoples, wildlife and the environment.

They point out that travel is the world’s largest industry, with a trillion-dollar annual footprint.

This means that travelers have enormous power. Where we put our footprints has reverberations reaching far beyond our personal experience. By voting with our wings, choosing our destinations well and cultivating our roles as citizen diplomats, we can help to change the world for the better,” the Ethical Traveler authors say hopefully.

Every year, Ethical Traveler volunteers review the policies and practices of over 100 developing countries. The group then chooses the 10 that they believe are doing the best at promoting human rights, preserving the environment and supporting social welfare, while creating a lively, community-based tourism industry.

Ethical Traveler is an all-volunteer nonprofit organization. No money or donations of any kind are solicited or accepted from any nations, governments, travel bureaus or individuals in the creation of its annual list.

Now – let’s travel!

Costa Rica scored highest in environmental protection among the 2017 Ethical Destinations, a big improvement from last year, followed by Chile and Dominica.

The Central American country plans to go carbon neutral by 2021, and officials claim it has reached 81 percent of its goal. According to a report by its National Centre for Energy Control, Costa Rica ran on 100 percent renewable energy for 76 straight days between July and August of 2016.

The global refugee crisis continued in full force of need this year. In response, Costa Rica, along with eight other North and Central American countries, made a formal commitment to shelter and improve protections for refugees.

Costa Rica is also one of the few countries that are “actively and sincerely trying to combat the human trafficking epidemic by arresting and breaking up the criminal groups responsible,” write the Ethical Traveler volunteers.

Costa Rica did not make it to the Top 10 last year because no progress was made on preventing turtle egg poaching, and Costa Rica’s president had expressed his intent to weaken endangered shark protections.

While there are still indications of ongoing sales of sea turtle eggs in some markets and the nation is under scrutiny for inconsistent support of international conventions on shark protection, there has been some progress, the Ethical Traveler volunteers report.

Costa Rican delegates led international shark conservation measures at a crucial February 2016 shark meeting, and Costa Rica has reached an agreement with Ecuador and Colombia to increase the protection of the migratory routes used by sharks and sea turtles.

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis has committed to nearly quadrupling Cocos Island National Park, where fishing is restricted to protect sharks.

The island countries of Barbados and Palau attained perfect ratings in air quality, as did Chile and Uruguay, which also scored 100 percent in forests.

Palau’s President Thomas Remengesau, Jr., a known environmental champion, established the first no-take zone, setting aside 80 percent of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone as a national marine sanctuary. He created the Marine Sanctuary Act to protect the oceans and marine life, and he is encouraging other countries to follow that path.

Praising Palau, the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition said, “If all nations that purport to support urgent action to protect the biodiversity of the international waters of the world’s oceans from bottom trawl fishing were as consistent and persistent as the Republic of Palau, the deep sea habitats of the high seas would undoubtedly already be safe from high seas bottom trawling.

The island chain that is Cabo Verde juts up from the Atlantic, some 500 km west of Senegal, marked by mountains, beaches and peaceful seaside villages. Cabo Verde has committed to being free from oil-based energy by 2020, and is striving to be at the forefront of developing renewable energy technologies.

Cabo Verde continues progressing towards gender equality. Women now hold nine out of 17 national cabinet positions, and three out of seven seats on the Supreme Court.

Of all the countries on the initial list, Chile scored highest in social welfare, ranking 42nd out of the 187 countries, the Ethical Traveler reports.

Chile also enjoys modern medical care on par with that of the United States, is 28th in world rankings for life expectancy and has a literacy rate of 98 percent.

Uruguay ranks third of 146 countries for environmental sustainability.

So far, Dominica is the leader in renewable energy usage in the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, with its current renewable usage at 28 percent. Its goal is to become fully energy self-sufficient by 2020.

Although the Caribbean island nation of Dominica suffered damage from tropical storm Erika in 2015, the government’s response to the event has been to rebuild schools, shelter displaced citizens and create jobs through road and infrastructure repair.

Dominica has a very high number of people living to over 100 years, and consistently self-reports as one of the happiest nations in the world.

Mongolia, the sole Asian country on the Ethical Traveler’s Top 10 List, has established goals to reduce its carbon footprint by having 30 percent of all energy output be from renewables by 2030, a big increase from its current seven percent.

Mongolia’s Minister of Environment and Tourism has made it clear that the government intends to have reviews and oversight of mining explorations to increase the transparency of those operations.

Belize’s top tourist destination is the country’s barrier reef, popular for scuba diving and snorkeling and attracting almost half of its 260,000 visitors. Vital to the country’s fishing industry, the reef is a 300-kilometer (190 mile) long section of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System, the world’s second longest reef, after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Belize’s government recently endorsed the National Sustainable Tourism Master Plan 2012–2030, a strategic framework for sustainable tourism development.

Belize has several world-leading examples of sustainable tourism, and the Ethical Traveler’s volunteers praised the country’s efforts, saying they were “put forth as a true example of environmentally conscientious and sustainable tourism.

Belize has also committed to the 10-Island Challenge, which challenges nations in the Caribbean to become 100 percent reliant on renewable energy rather than utilizing fossil fuels.

Education is also a priority in Tonga and Dominica, with impressive literacy rates of 99 per cent and 94 per cent, respectively—well above the global average of 84 per cent—and

The Pacific island country of Vanuatu is extending free education through to the age of ten.

In the Freedom House yearly report on civil and political rights, Belize, Cabo Verde, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Palau, Uruguay, and Mongolia earned the highest possible score while Tonga, and Vanuatu follow with the second highest scores.

These countries are beacons that we hope other developing countries will follow,” writes the Ethical Traveler selection group.

Freedom House is a U.S. based and government funded nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights.

We’re especially hopeful to see Mongolia move up in the Freedom House rankings, as they made human rights and political freedom a cornerstone of 2016’s parliamentary elections,” the group writes.

Ecuador was included in the top rankings as a Destination of Interest, although it did not make it into the top 10.

While Ecuador does not qualify as a top ethical destination because of serious environmental and human rights issues, we are including it as a Destination of Interest because of the important role of tourism in the recovery of the country after a destructive earthquake in April 2016,” writes the Ethical Travelers volunteer selection group.

Before the earthquake, Ecuador attracted 1.5 million visitors and tourism brought in $1 billion in 2015, making it the fourth biggest source of income for the nation. Because of the high costs of rebuilding the affected areas, Ecuador might otherwise turn to other short-term income generating projects, such as the oil drilling under Yasuní National Park, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, which was begun in September 2016.

Ecuador has much to offer responsible travelers: the majestic Andean mountains, the Amazon rainforest, indigenous and colonial towns, beautiful beaches and the fascinating wildlife of the Galapagos Islands.

Ecuador won the World Travel Award for South America’s leading green destination and Tren Ecuador’s travel by rail won Best Responsible Tourism Project in the World and Best for Poverty Reduction and Inclusion at the 2016 World Responsible Tourism Awards.

So many wonderful places for responsible travelers to visit – so little time!


Featured image: Glorious golden sunrise on a beach in Cahuita, Costa Rica (Photo by Armando Maynez) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of eco tourism and environmental experts that can assist your organization. Create responsible tourism projects through Maximpact’s Advisory and discover project services for all types of business and organizations. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

COP22: Paris Climate Pact ‘Irreversible’

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Hundreds of delegates gather for the largest-ever UNFCCC family photo, Nov. 18, 2016, Marrakech, Morocco (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) [Note: ENB would like a link in return for the image, please link: www.iisd.ca]

By Sunny Lewis

MARRAKECH, Morocco, November 21, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – In the early hours of Saturday morning in Marrakech, more than 190 governments agreed to the Marrakech Action Proclamation , which sends a strong message of global unity towards taking effective action to limit climate change.

The document proclaims that was issued “to signal a shift towards a new era of implementation and action on climate and sustainable development.

Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” the Proclamation warns.

 The 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 22, hosted by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, saw nearly 500 heads of state or government and ministers in attendance.

By the end of the two-week climate summit, more than 100 countries, representing over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had formally joined the Paris Agreement on climate.

On November 15, Marrakech hosted CMA 1, the first official Meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement, its top governing body, following the accord’s early entry into force on November 4, less than a year after it was adopted.

 Watch a video of the CMA1 here

Agreed at COP21 last December in Paris, the Agreement sets the goal of keeping the global average temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). A further aim is to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The November 8 election of climate denier Donald Trump as president of the United States sent shock waves through the gathering, but it did not deter delegates from moving forward to tackle climate change with determination.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said, “The landmark Paris Agreement set the course and the destination for global climate action. Here in Marrakesh, governments underlined that this shift is now urgent, irreversible and unstoppable.

The governments proclaimed their support for the Paris Agreement, which is the first global climate accord that includes

all the large greenhouse gas emitters, whether they are developed or developing countries.

 “We welcome the Paris Agreement, adopted under the Convention, its rapid entry into force, with its ambitious goals, its inclusive nature and its reflection of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances, and we affirm our commitment to its full implementation,” the governments proclaimed.

Indeed, this year, we have seen extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide,” they proclaimed. “This momentum is irreversible, it is being driven not only by governments, but by science, business and global action of all types at all levels.

Our task now is to rapidly build on that momentum, together, moving forward purposefully to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to foster adaptation efforts,” they stated. “We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority.

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Participants in the ministerial dialogue, titled “A multi-stakeholder approach to mobilization and delivery of adaptation finance.” Nov. 15, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) please link as before.

During the high-level segment of the conference, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry underlined the commitment of the American people to climate action.

The United States, Canada, Germany and Mexico announced ambitious climate strategies out to 2050, reflecting the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement to achieve climate neutrality and a low-emission world in the second half of this century.

 The Kingdom of Morocco announced its Blue Belt Initiative aimed at building the resilience of coastal communities and promoting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

The financing to forestall the planet’s rising temperature is beginning to flow – from many different sources.

Multi-billion and multi-million dollar packages of support for clean technologies; building capacity to report on climate action plans; and initiatives for boosting water and food security in developing countries were among the many new initiatives launched in Marrakech.

The Global Environment Facility, GEF, a multilateral funding facility, announced the US$50 million Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency backed by 11 developed country donors.

Countries pledged more than $81 million to the Adaptation Fund, surpassing its target for the year.

Countries pledged over $23 million to the Climate Technology Centre and Network, CTCN, which supports developing countries with climate technology development and transfer.

The Green Climate Fund announced the approval of the first two proposals for the formulation of National Adaptation Plans – Liberia for $2.2 million and Nepal for $2.9 million.

Another 20 countries are expected to have their proposals approved soon with up to $3 million each. Overall, the Green Climate Fund is on track to approve $2.5 billion worth of projects.

During COP 22, governments learned that in 2016 more than 30 projects for cutting emissions with technology transfer objectives were approved by the Global Environment Facility, with $188.7 million in GEF funding and $5.9 billion in co-financing.

 Businesses, investors, cities and local governments issued new climate change commitments, adding to the thousands announced in the run-up to the Paris climate conference.

A club of subnational governments, the Under2 Coalition, who have committed to reduce their emissions by at least 80 percent by 2020, announced their membership has grown to 165 jurisdictions.

 The combined GDP of these 165 member governments is close to $26 trillion – a third of the global economy – and cover a population of around one billion people living in North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Bank and the African Development Bank announced the African Package for Climate-Resilient Ocean Economies, an ambitious package of technical and financial assistance to support ocean economies in Africa and build greater resilience to climate change in coastal areas.

All these funds and much more will be needed to avert climate change, said Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco’s environment minister, who presided over COP22.

 “It will be necessary to respect the commitment of $100 billion dollars from now until 2020,” he said, referring to developed countries’ pledge to contribute US$100 billion annually to help developing countries cope with the existing impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts and disease.

Faced with the magnitude of what is required for dealing with the impacts of climate change, turning billions into trillions is indispensable,” Mezouar said. “2017 must be the year of large-scale projects, of mobilizing finance, and accessing financial facilities that will be necessary for adaptation.

At the close, Fiji was announced as the incoming President of the 2017 UN climate conference, COP23, which will be hosted by the UNFCCC in Bonn, Germany.

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has attended all of the COP meetings held during his 10 year tenure. He told the COP22 delegates, “I leave you with the strong hope that we will have the courage, tenacity and wisdom to live up to our responsibility to future generations by protecting our only home: this beautiful planet Earth.


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Featured Image : UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and Morocco’s Environment Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, COP 22 president, sychronize their watches for climate action, Nov. 15, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) please link as before.

Climate Denier Trump Wins

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Informal consultations on gender and climate change at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, November 9, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 10, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The surprising election of Donald Trump, a Republican and climate denier, to the White House on Tuesday changes the global balance of power on climate change.

 The defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, comes just as delegates to COP22, this year’s annual Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Morocco, work to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate, which entered into force November 4.

 While Clinton supported the Obama administration in making the climate a priority, Trump has called global warming a Chinese hoax.

Trump has said he wants to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord. Under the agreement, the United States cannot withdraw for four years, but it is possible that the Trump administration could ignore that rule.

Trump has said he wants to repeal all federal spending on clean energy, including research and development for electric vehicles as well as for nuclear, solar and wind power.

With the Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress, this is doable.

President Trump could propose a bill preventing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide, CO2. A Republican Congress would almost surely pass such a bill.

These policies would mean the U.S. will burn more coal, oil and gas, resulting in more air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, the world is moving in the opposite direction. At the Morocco climate conference on Tuesday Japan ratified the Paris Agreement, pledging to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from 2013 levels by 2030.

 Many country leaders, ministers and top level CEOs are expected to make announcements at the conference’s High Level Event on November 17, including King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

On Wednesday, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sent a joint letter of congratulation to Trump that reminded him of the importance of limiting climate change.

Today, it is more important than ever to strengthen transatlantic relations,” the presidents wrote. “Only by cooperating closely can the EU and the US continue to make a difference when dealing with unprecedented challenges such as Da’esh, the threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, climate change and migration. Fortunately, the EU – US strategic partnership is broad and deep…

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UNFCCC Global Climate Action Champion and Morocco’s Environment Minister Hakima El Haité at COP22 in Marrakech, November 9, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

Also on Tuesday in Marrakech, UNFCCC Global Climate Action Champion Dr. Hakima El Haite, Morocco’s minister delegate in charge of environment, and French economist and diplomat Laurence Tubiana together launched Global Climate Action, a roadmap to help countries meet and exceed their national climate actions commitments.

At the launch the new NAZCA portal to track progress on climate action was unveiled. NAZCA captures the commitments to climate action by companies, cities, subnational entities, regions, investors, and civil society organizations.

Corporations are getting on board the climate action train. More than a third of the 2,000 largest companies with aggregate revenues total $32.5 trillion are taking action, according to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

More than a third of the 2,000 largest companies with aggregate revenues total $32.5 trillion are taking action.

Fifteen of the world’s 20 largest banks totaling close to $2 trillion in market value are taking climate action.

 The Royal Bank of Canada, for instance, has pledged to reduce operational CO2e emissions intensity of properties located in Canada, the United States, and the British Isles by 20 percent per square meter from 2012 to 2018 through increased energy efficiency and renewable energy purchases.

 In addition, 20 investors, representing $3.2 trillion, have committed to decarbonization of $600 billion in assets, while over 800 companies and regions have committed to put a price on carbon emissions.

Apple, Bank of America, General Motors and Wells Fargo have all joined the global RE100 initiative of influential businesses committed to obtaining 100 percent of the electricity they need for their operations from renewable sources like wind and solar.

 Still, civil society groups are very worried about what will happen to the climate when Trump moves into the White House.

Many nongovernmental organizations believe that a climate denier in the White House is a “death sentence” for grassroots movements and the Global South.

 World Resources Institute’s President and CEO Andrew Steer said, “As the new Trump administration comes into office, America must press forward with critical issues that are at the heart of people’s well-being and future prosperity. This includes holding off climate change, investing in clean energy, and revitalizing America with sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

Wilfred D’Costa from the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) said, “For communities in the global south, the U.S. citizens’ choice to elect Donald Trump seems like a death sentence. Already we are suffering the effects of climate change after years of inaction by rich countries like the U.S., and with an unhinged climate change denier now in the White House, the relatively small progress made is under threat.”

The international community must not allow itself to be dragged into a race to the bottom. Other developed countries like Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan must increase their pledges for pollution cuts and increase their financial support for our communities,” D’Costa urged.

Friends of the Earth International believes, “The election of Trump is a disaster for climate and especially for the African continent. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change.

Africa is already burning,” said Geoffrey Kamese from Friends of the Earth Africa . “The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new president’s rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action.

Jean Su with California-based Center for Biological Diversity said, “The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a president, but by the United States itself. One man alone, especially in the 21st century, should not strip the globe of the climate progress that it has made and should continue to make.

 Said Su, “As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the United States to its climate commitments.

 Ceres President Mindy Lubber held out some hope for climate action even under a President Trump.

The stunning U.S. election results are in, but we should refrain from thinking they will completely thwart climate action and the clean energy economy in the U.S. and around the world,” said Lubber.

Today’s reality is that the transition to the low-carbon economy is irreversible, inevitable and fully underway. There’s no turning back. More investors and businesses than at any time in history are working to seize the opportunities embedded in this emerging economy,” she said.

 Ceres is a non-profit organization that seeks to inspire a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.

The facts are on our side. Tackling climate change is one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century,” said Lubber. “The business case for climate action and sustainability is stronger than ever, and the climate science is incontrovertible.

Short-term political and economic changes will not slow our momentum,” Lubber declared. “We are committed to work with the new administration and our bipartisan allies in Washington. We want to make sure they fully understand what is at stake and to protect the gains that we have achieved in the face of climate change and other sustainability threats. Investors and businesses are now, more than ever, the best messengers to deliver our message.


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Featured image : U.S. President-elect Donald Trump makes a point at a campaign rally October 31, 2016 (Photo courtesy Donald J. Trump for President) Posted for media use.

Pristine Ross Sea Wilderness Protected

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Map of the newly protected marine area in the Ross Sea (Map by Pew Charitable Trusts courtesy New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

HOBART, Tasmania, Australia, November 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Union and 24 national governments have agreed to safeguard an expansive area in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica’s Southern Ocean, to take effect December 1, 2017.

At a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) in Hobart late last month, all members agreed to a joint proposal by the United States and New Zealand to establish a 1.55 million square kilometer (598,000 square mile) area of the Ross Sea that will be protected from human activities.

The new marine protected area is now the world’s largest. By comparison, Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which was previously the largest marine protected area, covers 1.508 million square kilometers (583,000 square miles).

 To the west of the new marine protected area (MPA) lies Ross Island and to the east Roosevelt Island, while the southernmost part is covered by the Ross Ice Shelf. It is located about 320 km (200 miles) from the South Pole.

This new MPA will limit, or prohibit, fishing and krill harvesting to meet conservation, habitat protection, ecosystem monitoring and fisheries management objectives.

Seventy-two percent of the MPA will be a no-take zone, which bans all fishing, while other sections will permit some harvesting of fish and krill for scientific research.

 The United States and New Zealand worked together on the MPA proposal, a logical development as they are next-door neighbors in Antarctica. McMurdo Station, a U.S. Antarctic research center on the south tip of Ross Island, is in the New Zealand-claimed Ross Dependency on the shore of McMurdo Sound. Just three kilometers (two miles) away by road is the Scott Base, New Zealand’s research facility also in the Ross Dependency.

CCAMLR Executive Secretary Andrew Wright says the decision was years in the making. “This has been an incredibly complex negotiation which has required a number of member countries bringing their hopes and concerns to the table at six annual CCAMLR meetings as well as at intersessional workshops.”

A number of details regarding the MPA are yet to be finalized, but the establishment of the protected zone is in no doubt and we are incredibly proud to have reached this point,” said Wright.

Australia welcomes the establishment of the newly protected area. Australia’s CCAMLR Commissioner, Gillian Slocum, said the Ross Sea MPA is an important step towards achieving strong conservation outcomes.

We are heartened by the adoption of the Ross Sea MPA and we congratulate all members for taking decisive action towards meeting a 2009 commitment to establish a representative system of MPAs within the CCAMLR area,” Slocum said.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully hailed the breakthrough agreement that will safeguard what he called “one of the world’s few remaining pristine natural environments.

 “New Zealand has played a leading role in reaching this agreement which makes a significant contribution to global marine protection,” he said.

The proposal required some changes in order to gain the unanimous support of all 25 CCAMLR members and the final agreement balances marine protection, sustainable fishing and science interests,” McCully explained. “The boundaries of the MPA, however, remain unchanged.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said creation of the Ross Sea MPA is “…proof that the world is finally beginning to understand the urgency of the threats facing our planet.

The United States is grateful for the cooperation with our New Zealand co-sponsors of the proposal, and of all CCAMLR members, including Russia, to make this achievement possible,” Kerry said.

His nod to Russia for its agreement comes after previous CCAMLR meetings with a different outcome. In 2013, for instance, Russian delegates tried everything from delay and confusion tactics to challenging of the legality of CCAMLR’s right to establish MPAs to avoid an accord.

But Kerry says the lengthy and sometimes frustrating negotiations were worth it for this year’s outcome.

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U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine ecologist Lisa Ballance in the southern Ross Sea, Antarctica, at a site where NOAA satellite-tagged one of the local forms of killer whales, 2007. (Photo by NOAA) public domain.

The Ross Sea Region MPA will safeguard one of the last unspoiled ocean wilderness areas on the planet,” he said, “home to unparalleled marine biodiversity and thriving communities of penguins, seals, whales, seabirds, and fish.”

The Ross Sea is one of the last stretches of seas on Earth that remains relatively unaffected by human activities and almost totally free from pollution and the introduction of invasive species.

Marine biologists regard the Ross Sea as highly biodiverse, after a long history of human exploration and scientific research, with some datasets going back over 150 years.

The sea is inhabited by at least 10 mammal species, including the Antarctic minke whale, killer whale, Weddell seal, crabeater seal, and leopard seal.

There are 95 species of fish and and over 1,000 invertebrate species in the Ross Sea, including the Antarctic toothfish, Antarctic silverfish, Antarctic krill, and crystal krill.

In summer, the nutrient-rich water supports abundant plankton, tiny crustaceans that provide food for fish, seals, whales, seabirds and shore birds.

Numerous environmental groups have campaigned to make the area a world marine reserve, citing the rare opportunity to protect the Ross Sea from human degradation.

The nonprofit Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition (ASOC) based in Washington, DC, a coalition of over 30 nongovernmental organizations, has been advocating protection of the Ross Sea for years.

ASOC says conserving the MPA is critically important because of the rich array of species living there. “Although the Ross Sea encompasses less than 13 percent of the circumference of Antarctica, and just 3.3 percent of the area of the Southern Ocean, it provides habitat for significant populations of many animals, including 38 percent of the world’s Adélie penguins, 26 percent of Emperor penguins, more than 30 percent of Antarctic petrels, six percent of Antarctic minke whales, and perhaps more than 30 percent of Ross Sea killer whales,” the coalition says.

 The new MPA “…has the richest diversity of fishes in the high latitude Southern Ocean, including seven species found nowhere else, with an evolutionary radiation equivalent to the Galapagos, the African rift lakes, and Lake Baikal, all designated as World Heritage Sites for their exemplary fauna,” says ASOC.

Any alteration of the food web or degradation of habitat will have the same damaging effects that have been documented elsewhere on Earth, such as toxic algal blooms, oxygen-deprived dead zones and jellyfish invasions,” the NGO warns.

 Exploratory fisheries first appeared in the Southern Ocean in the early 1960s with full-scale commercial fisheries underway by the 1970s, targeting fish and krill. In a familiar pattern, fish populations were discovered, exploited, depleted and then the fisheries closed.

Willie Mackenzie, with Greenpeace UK’s biodiversity team, blogged in response to agreement on the new MPA, “Known as ‘the Last Ocean,’ the Ross Sea has been identified by scientists as the most pristine shallow ocean left on Earth. It’s stunning, but we were starting to wonder if it would ever be protected.

To finally reach agreement on the Ross Sea MPA, a time clause of 35 years was included in the accord, so in 35 years CCAMLR members will again have to decide on the future of the Ross Sea.

Mackenzie wrote, “Marine protection, to be truly effective, needs to be long lasting so we have all those years ahead of us to make sure when the Ross Sea sanctuary is up for renewal, there is no resistance to making it permanent. We’re pretty confident that by 2051 it will be a simple decision!


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Featured image:  Emperor penguins on sea ice near Ross Island, Antarctica, October 28, 2012 (Photo by Johannes Zielcke) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

CITES CoP17: Elephants Win, Lions Lose

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Male lion rests in Addo Elephant National Park, just outside Port Elisabeth, South Africa, August 8, 2013 (Photo by Miran Hojnik) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

 GENEVA, Switzerland, October 11, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – World governments have adopted landmark decisions on shutting down illegal trade while regulating legal, sustainable and traceable trade in wild animals and plants.

The decisions affecting a large number of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as an entire genus of trees including more than 300 species of rosewood, came at the 17th triennial Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

After two weeks of marathon negotiations, September 24 – October 4 in Johannesburg, South Africa, delegates to CoP17  increased protection for the African elephant, the pangolin and the saiga antelope, the African grey parrot, the critically endangered helmeted hornbill and the endangered Barbary macaque.

CITES Parties called for improved traceability of CITES-listed species such as sturgeon, prized for their caviar; luxury reptile skins; sharks, desired for their fins; and rosewood timber, used for furniture and musical instruments.

CITES regulates international trade in wildlife species with a licensing system of import and export permits.

Delegates of the 182 Parties vote to include species on one of three lists – Appendix I, II, or III – that divide the species according to the degree of protection governments agree that they need.

Commercial trade in Appendix I listed species is banned. Trade in species listed on Appendix II or III is legal as long as CITES procedures and domestic laws are followed.

The Johannesburg conference was the largest meeting of its kind, with 152 governments taking decisions on 62 species-listing proposals submitted by 64 countries.

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CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon addresses the opening session of CoP17, September 24, 2016 (Photo by Kiara Worth / Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

In sum, 51 proposals were accepted, five were rejected and six were withdrawn.

In total, over 3,500 people attended the meeting, which also recorded the highest number of side events and attracted media interest from every region of the world.

The most critical meeting in the 43-year history of CITES has delivered for the world’s wildlife. CoP17 is a game changer for the planet’s most vulnerable wild animals and plants,” said CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon.

Elephants

Several decisions were adopted that support ending all ivory trade, at both the domestic and the international levels. The most important was adoption of a resolution that requires countries to phase out their domestic ivory markets.

Domestic ivory markets are the perfect system for laundering illegal ivory from elephants killed in Africa and Asia, and this has now been formally recognized within CITES,” said the observer team from the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), based both in London and Washington, DC.

 “It is now time that the UK and the European Union follow up on this and join the U.S., China, Hong Kong and even France in making time-bound commitments to phase out and eventually close their ivory markets,” the EIA said.

After intense discussion and dramatic voting on three proposals, CoP17 delegates rejected the development of a “decision-making mechanism for a process of trade in ivory” that would have facilitated a legal international ivory trade.

The proposal to list the four elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe on CITES Appendix I was rejected.

The National Ivory Action Plan was adopted, which establishes a mechanism to independently assess progress made by source, transit and destination countries implicated in ivory trafficking.

 Lions

The proposal to up-list African lions to Appendix I was rejected. While several decisions were adopted to improve lion conservation, and a zero quota on the export of wild lion bones for commercial purposes was adopted, Parties agreed that South Africa could have an annual export of farmed lion bones for commercial purposes.

Experts say that when lion bones hit the Asian markets they are sold as tiger, increasing demand for tiger parts in a rapidly expanding, unchecked market for tiger bone wine.

The EIA called this decision “a devastating blow for wild tigers as well as for other big cats poached for their bones.

With lion populations declining due to habitat loss, retaliatory killing from human-lion conflict, and unsustainable trophy hunting, “there is no excuse for the CITES parties allowing the lion bone trade to continue and most likely grow over the next three years,” blogs Jeffrey Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

According to the 2015 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, African lion populations have experienced an overall decline of 43 percent between 1993 and 2014.

While lion populations increased in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe by 12 percent over the same period thanks to good wildlife management, other sub-populations in the rest of Africa have plummeted by 60 percent.

Tigers

Tiger farming must end. This clear message came when China asked for support to delete a critical and historic decision which states that tigers should not be bred or trade in their parts and derivatives.

Not one single Party supported it when asked. Instead, a suite of decisions was adopted which, if funded and implemented, will lead to more country-specific time-bound actions to tackle trade in captive tiger parts.

Everyone was encouraged to hear Laos declare its intention to invite experts to help it phase out its tiger farms.

Also agreed at CoP17 were actions to improve international cooperation to combat trade in tiger and other Asian big cat parts.

These include a proposal from India inviting countries that seize tiger skins to share photos that can be cross-referenced in databases of tigers photographed in camera traps to help determine the source of the dead tigers, poached for their parts.

Rhinos

Swaziland’s proposal to allow a legal trade in rhino horn was overwhelmingly rejected by the parties with near 70 percent opposition. The global trade ban on rhinos and their parts is maintained.

It was clear that a majority of the Parties did not wish to legalize trade in rhino horns to avoid repeating the tragedy experienced by elephants since CITES sanctioned the legal trade of ivory in 2007, masking the flourishing illegal trade.

 Pembient, a Seattle-based start-up company, proposes to flood the market with bioengineered rhino horn to the point where the poachers lose economic incentive and the product loses its luxury status.

Yet, the conservation community has many concerns about the introduction of synthetic rhino horn or powder into the world economy. Will it dramatically increase the demand for “wild” rhino horn and thus accelerate rhino extinction? Will the forensic challenge thwart law enforcement? Will it fuel illegal trade activities?

Those questions still remain to be answered.

Pangolins

In a rare example of global unity, all eight pangolin species were up-listed onto Appendix 1 and given the strongest possible protection under CITES.

Barbary Macaques

The Barbary Macaque is the only non-human primate living in Europe, where a small semi-wild population of about 200 animals inhabits the Rock of Gibraltar. An estimated 6,500 to 9,100 Barbary macaques survive in fragmented areas in Morocco and Algeria.

The species has been categorized as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 2008. The CoP17 delegates unanimously voted to transfer these monkeys from Appendix II to Appendix I.

Rosewoods

 The historic proposal to list an entire genus of timber – more than 300 individual trees, shrubs and vines in more than 100 countries – was championed by Latin American parties, agreed by consensus by the CoP17 delegates.

 This decision was accompanied by a new, innovative annotation to ensure prized rosewoods of the genus Dalbergia are no longer open to illegal trade. They are all now listed under Appendix II.

 By exercising the precautionary principle, the adoption of this proposal marks an emerging collaborative effort between countries to make decisions not in the interest of trade but in the best interest of timber species and ecosystems under threat.

 African Grey Parrot

 With tens of thousands of African grey parrots captured and exported for the pet trade every year, and tens of thousands more dying in the attempt, CoP17 delegates adopted a proposal to list African grey parrots under Appendix I. This appendix offers the highest level of protection that CITES can give, and means that nearly all trade in the species will be prohibited.

 Helmeted Hornbill

The Critically Endangered Helmeted hornbill is listed in CITES Appendix I. The massive and increasing demand for helmeted hornbill casques, so-called red ivory, in the international market has led to rampant poaching of this species.

 The CITES Parties agreed to adopt a strong resolution and decisions calling for urgent and integrated conservation and law enforcement measures, as well as coordinated efforts on the part of both consumer and range States to prevent the species from going extinct.

This is a great victory for the helmeted hornbill that has been ruthlessly hunted for its red ivory as the elephant has been killed off for its ivory,” said Noviar Andayani, director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Indonesia Program (WCS). “Many have heard about the elephant ivory crisis, and now it is time to hear more about the helmeted hornbill ivory crisis and take swift action to save it.

The Helmeted hornbill only occurs in intact tropical forests in Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand and Myanmar.

Helmeted hornbills mate for life, and each pair maintains a large territory, marked and defended by one of the most dramatic calls of any bird, a cackling laugh audible from a kilometer away through the forest.

Widespread clearance of much of the hornbills’ lowland forest habitat for oil palm plantations, is a major threat to the species. A dramatic rise in hunting has compounded the problem. The species is the only hornbill with a solid casque, also known as red ivory which is carved into artefacts, the demand for which drives the poaching pressure on the species.


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Paris Climate Pact ‘Unstoppable’

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Celebrating the adoption of the Paris Agreement, from left, then UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), President François Hollande of France, December 12, 2015. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis,

NEW YORK, New York, October 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The Paris Agreement on climate change is set to enter into force on November 4, less than a year after it was adopted by world leaders. With the ratifications deposited Wednesday, enough countries have approved the landmark accord to bring it to the emissions threshold that will trigger its implementation.

 “What once seemed unthinkable, is now unstoppable,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he accepted the latest instruments of ratification that pushed the agreement over the threshold.

Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is a testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation, grounded in national action, is essential to meet the climate challenge,” Ban said.

 Ban, who will step down as secretary-general on December 31, has made adoption of the world’s first global climate agreement a priority of his 10 years as UN leader.

 Over the past decade, Ban has labored to accelerate the global response to climate change. He has visited communities on the climate frontlines, from the Arctic to the Amazon, and has witnessed how climate impacts are already devastating lives, livelihoods and prospects for a better future.

On Wednesday, he reminded world leaders that the work of implementing the agreement still lies ahead, saying, “Now we must move from words to deeds and put Paris into action. We need all hands on deck – every part of society must be mobilized to reduce emissions and help communities adapt to inevitable climate impacts.

Adopted in Paris by the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as COP21 this past December, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, as well as to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It seeks to limit global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to well below two degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The pact was signed in New York on April 22, Earth Day, by 175 countries at the largest, single-day signing ceremony in history.

It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance or accession with the secretary-general.

The requirements for entry into force were satisfied today when Austria, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Nepal, Portugal and Slovakia, as well as the European Union, deposited their instruments of ratification with the Secretary-General.

Earlier this week, New Zealand and India signed onto the Agreement, following the 31 countries which joined at a special event at the United Nations on September 21 during the UN General Assembly’s general debate.

Early in September, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, China and the United States, joined the Paris Agreement.

Wednesday in the Rose Garden at the White House, President Barack Obama said, “Today, the world meets the moment. And if we follow through on the commitments that this agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.”

Now, the Paris Agreement alone will not solve the climate crisis. Even if we meet every target embodied in the agreement, we’ll only get to part of where we need to go,” said Obama. “But make no mistake, this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. It will help other nations ratchet down their dangerous carbon emissions over time, and set bolder targets as technology advances, all under a strong system of transparency that allows each nation to evaluate the progress of all other nations.

By sending a signal that this is going to be our future – a clean energy future – it opens up the floodgates for businesses, and scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation at a scale that we’ve never seen before,” Obama said. “So this gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.

Mindy Lubber, president of the non-profit Ceres, said, “The world must ratchet up global investment in clean energy by an additional $1 trillion a year to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. Global investment in clean energy is currently tracking at about $300 to $350 billion a year, which is far short of the Clean Trillion target we need to hit every year to avoid catastrophic climate warming.”

 Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Ceres mobilizes investor and business leadership to build a sustainable global economy.

We have much more to do to navigate the transition to a sustainable economy, but today represents a major step forward,” Lubber said.

The Paris Agreement will enter into force in time for the Climate Conference (COP 22) in Morocco in November, where countries will convene the first Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement. Countries that have not yet joined may participate as observers.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said, “Above all, entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

It also brings a renewed urgency to the many issues governments are advancing to ensure full implementation of the Agreement,” Espinosa said. “This includes development of a rule book to operationalize the agreement and how international cooperation and much bigger flows of finance can speed up and scale up national climate action plans.”

 In Strasbourg, France, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said, “Our collective task is to turn our commitments into action on the ground. And here Europe is ahead of the curve. We have the policies and tools to meet our targets, steer the global clean energy transition and modernise our economy. The world is moving and Europe is in a driver’s seat, confident and proud of leading the work to tackle climate change.

Congratulating all of the signatories of the Agreement, the Secretary-General encouraged all countries to accelerate their domestic processes to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible.

 Specifically, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, and to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. The Agreement calls for appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity-building framework to support action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries in line with their own national objectives.


Featured Image: Open water in the usually frozen Canadian Arctic, Labrador, February 18, 2015 (Photo by Sterling College) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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CO2 Level Hits 15 Million-Year High

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In 2016, 1.2 million people in the African country of Sudan have been affected by El Niño-induced drought as well as floods. August 24, 2016 (Photo by Anouk Delafortrie / EU/ECHO) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, October 4, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Record high global levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, were measured in September at over 400 parts per million for the first time in 15 million years, jolting leaders into awareness that Earth’s climate is changing quickly.

The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) urged world leaders to take note of the profound implications of record-high carbon dioxide readings this month and appealed for their increased commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It is deeply disturbing to learn that global levels of 400 parts per million have now been reached in September for the first time,” said Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The last time CO2 levels were this high was 15 to 20 million years ago,” Glasser exclaimed.

A 2009 study published in the journal “Science” found that the last time in Earth’s history when CO2 levels in the atmosphere were this high for a sustained period was between 15 and 20 million years ago.

Then, according to the study, temperatures were between three and six degrees Celsius warmer than today. Ice sheets, the study said, had melted to the point where sea levels rose between 25 and 40 metres.

The lowest levels of CO2 are traditionally recorded September. So, says Glasser, it is not likely that we will see CO2 levels below 400 parts per million anytime soon.

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A balloon over seven metres high outside UN Headquarters in New York represents one metric tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2). The balloon is part of a project co-sponsored by the Government of Chile and the United Nations to draw attention to the quantities of CO2 produced per person per year. January 27, 2012 (Photo by Mark Garten / UN) Posted for media use .

We know that the safe level is well below this,” he said. “It also means that we are systematically raising levels of disaster risk for future generations and we can expect more severe weather events in the years ahead.

UNISDR serves as the focal point for disaster reduction coordination between the UN and regional organizations. Its work is applied to climate change adaptation; building disaster-resilient cities, schools and hospitals; and strengthening the international system for disaster risk reduction.

Climate disasters already account for 90 percent of all devastations caused by natural hazards – potentially catastrophic, especially for low and middle-income countries that contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions but have huge populations exposed to drought, floods and storms.

Much more vigorous action is necessary for a reasonable chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees C while the Paris Agreement recognizes that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees C rather than 2 degrees C would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change,” Glasser concluded.

The year 2016 is on track to be the hottest year ever. August 2016 was the 16th straight warmest month on record, and there are no signs the warming is slowing down.

Global temperature peaked at 1.38°C above pre-industrial levels in February. In the Arctic, temperatures were 4°C above normal during the first quarter of the year.

Iraq and Kuwait experienced summer temperatures of 54°C (129.2°F) - the highest reliably measured temperature in the eastern hemisphere.

Certain parts of the Pacific Ocean are two degrees Celsius warmer than normal, which has helped spur massive cyclones, including super typhoons Winston and Nepartak.

Recently, Super Typhoon Merantiwould have been the equivalent of a Category 6 hurricane, if the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale extended beyond five.

Warm temperatures have led to record breaking mass coral bleaching around the world. An estimated 93 percent of the Great Barrier Reef has been affected by bleaching.

Drought and rising temperatures have left over 36 million people in eastern and southern Africa facing hunger. This is the worst drought in Ethiopia’s recent history.

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Disaster Response Team conducts search and rescue operations by boat in Ascension Parish, Gonzales, Louisiana, August 19, 2016 (Photo by J.T. Blatty / FEMA) Public domain.

Catastrophic floods have hit many places, especially China, Pakistan and the U.S. state of Louisiana.

Rainfall in June led to one of the costliest disasters in China’s recent history. Louisiana faced several cases of extreme flooding - during the most recent case “some spots picked up more than a foot of rain in 24 hours and two feet in 72 hours.

Scientists confirmed that five islands have disappeared in the Solomon Islands due to sea level rise. Six others have been partially submerged. Officials from the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu have said that the country has already lost four of its islands to rising seas.

The Isle de Jean Charles band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe were the first community in the United States to receive federal funding to relocate because of climate change. The indigenous village of Shishmaref in Alaska has voted to relocate due to rising sea levels.

On Monday a new report from the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) highlights increasing evidence that climate change is taking the largest toll on poor and vulnerable people. These impacts are caused by inequalities that increase the risks from climate hazards.

 “Sadly, the people at greater risk from climate hazards are the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalized who, in many cases, have been excluded from socioeconomic progress,” observed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the report, “World Economic and Social Survey 2016: Climate Change Resilience – an Opportunity for Reducing Inequalities.

 “We have no time to waste – and a great deal to gain – when it comes to addressing the socioeconomic inequalities that deepen poverty and leave people behind,” Ban urged.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development Lenni Montiel told reporters Monday at UN headquarters in New York, “Persistent inequalities in access to assets, opportunities, political voice and participation, and in some cases, outright discriminations leave large groups of people and communities disproportionally exposed and vulnerable to climate hazards.

While there is a large body of anecdotal evidence that the poor and the vulnerable suffer the greatest harm from climate-related disasters, the report determined that much of the harm is not by accident. It is due to the failure of governments to close the development gaps that leave large population groups at risk.

In the past 20 years, 4.2 billion people have been affected by weather-related disasters, and many have lost their lives.

Looking ahead, the report recommends improved access to climate projections, modern information and communications technologies, and geographical information systems to strengthen national capacity to assess the impacts of climate hazards and policy options to minimize them.


 

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Bionic Leaf Makes Liquid Fuel From Sunlight

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Harvard professor Daniel Nocera (Photo by Kris Krüg) Creative Commons license via Flickr

by Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, September 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Scientists at Harvard have developed a technology that mimics the way leaves produce energy from sunlight, water and air.

A device about the size of a credit card, the “bionic leaf” includes a solar panel. When placed in water, it uses energy from sunlight to split the water into hydrogen and oxygen, just like a real plant does during photosynthesis.

The device uses solar energy to split water molecules and hydrogen-eating bacteria to produce liquid fuels. It’s a kind of living battery, which the scientists call a bionic leaf for its melding of biology and technology.

The system can convert solar energy to biomass with 10 percent efficiency, far above the one percent seen in the fastest-growing plants.

Chemist Daniel Nocera, a professor of energy at Harvard University, and Pamela Silver, a professor of biochemistry and systems biology at Harvard Medical School, have co-created the new system.

This is a true artificial photosynthesis system,” Nocera said. “Before, people were using artificial photosynthesis for water-splitting, but this is a true A-to-Z system, and we’ve gone well over the efficiency of photosynthesis in nature.

While the study shows the system can be used to generate usable fuels, its potential does not end there, said Silver.

The beauty of biology is it’s the world’s greatest chemist – biology can do chemistry we can’t do easily,” she said. “In principle, we have a platform that can make any downstream carbon-based molecule. So this has the potential to be incredibly versatile.”

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Pamela Silver, a professor of biochemistry and systems biology at Harvard Medical School (Photo by Rose Lincoln, Harvard)

Nicknamed the “Bionic Leaf 2.0,” the new system builds on earlier work by Nocera, Silver, and others. Though capable of using solar energy to make isopropanol, that work was imperfect.

First, Nocera said, the catalyst used to produce hydrogen – a nickel-molybdenum-zinc alloy – also created reactive oxygen species, molecules that attacked and destroyed the bacteria’s DNA.

To avoid that, researchers were forced to run the system at abnormally high voltages, reducing its efficiency.

 “For this paper, we designed a new cobalt-phosphorous alloy catalyst, which we showed does not make reactive oxygen species,” Nocera said. “That allowed us to lower the voltage, and that led to a dramatic increase in efficiency.

I don’t know why yet,” said Nocera. “That will be fun to figure out.

With this new catalyst in the bionic leaf, the team boosted version 2.0’s efficiency at producing alcohol fuels like isopropanol and isobutanol to roughly 10 percent.

For every kilowatt-hour of electricity used the microbes could scrub 130 grams of carbon dioxide out of 230,000 liters of air to make 60 grams of isopropanol fuel. That is better than the efficiency of natural photosynthesis at converting water, sunlight and air into stored energy.

This is the genius of Dan,” Silver said. “These catalysts are totally biologically compatible.”

 Researchers also used the system to create PHB, a bio-plastic precursor, a process first demonstrated by Professor Anthony Sinskey of MIT.

There may yet be room for additional increases in efficiency, but Nocera said the system is already effective enough to consider potential commercial uses for the new technology.

It’s an important discovery – it says we can do better than photosynthesis,” Nocera said. “But I also want to bring this technology to the developing world as well.”

Working in conjunction with the First 100 Watts program at Harvard, which helped fund the research, Nocera hopes to continue developing the technology and its applications in nations like India, with the help of their scientists.

In many ways, Nocera said, the new system marks the fulfillment of the promise of his earlier “artificial leaf,” which used solar power to split water and make hydrogen fuel.

If you think about it, photosynthesis is amazing,” he said. “It takes sunlight, water, and air – and then look at a tree. That’s exactly what we did, but we do it significantly better, because we turn all that energy into a fuel.

This research was supported by the Office of Naval Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. The Harvard University Climate Change Solutions Fund  is supporting ongoing research into the bionic leaf platform.


Featured Image: The tiny bionic leaf can turn sunlight, water and air into liquid fuel. (Screengrab from video by Harvard University)

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IUCN Conservation Congress: Planet at the Crossroads

HumpbacksBy Sunny Lewis

HONOLULU, Hawaii, September 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “The IUCN Congress will set the course for using nature-based solutions to help move millions out of poverty, creating a more sustainable economy and restoring a healthier relationship with our planet,” said World Bank Group president Jim Kim, as the conference opened in Honolulu September 1.

 Based in Switzerland, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) holds a World Conservation Congress every four years. This year, over 8,300 delegates from 184 countries, including Heads of State of many Pacific Island nations, are in attendance at the Hawaii Convention Center.

 Key issues under discussion include: wildlife trafficking, ocean conservation, nature-based solutions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, and private investment in conservation.

To address an estimated US$200-300 billion annual funding gap in conservation, civil society organizations, private and public sector financial institutions and academia joined forces Friday to launch the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation during the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

The Coalition’s goal is to help preserve the world’s most important ecosystems by creating new opportunities for return-seeking private investment in conservation.

The Coalition includes Credit Suisse, The Nature Conservancy, Cornell University and the IUCN as the founding members. Participants plan to develop new investment models and funding pipelines that will help close the conservation funding gap and contribute to the global goals for biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.

We already bring a wealth of experience into this Coalition,” says Lynn Scarlett, managing director of public policy for The Nature Conservancy. “At the Conservancy, we have already facilitated six impact investment deals totaling $200 million dollars in marine conservation and agriculture, and this new coalition should help us bridge our largest challenge, which is a lack of investment projects in the pipeline. We’ll know we’ve reached success when the big banks have enough projects as options that they can pick and choose where conservation investment will have the most significant impact.

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Members of the Coalition for Private Investment in Conservation, launched at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, Honolulu, Hawaii, Sept. 2, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) posted for media use.

 This week, IUCN Congress delegates, meeting in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, will vote on a motion to increase marine protected area coverage for effective marine biodiversity conservation.

 Not far from where they are meeting, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument covering the Northwest Hawaiian Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was expanded last week by President Barack Obama to create the world’s largest marine reserve.

On Midway Atoll, scene of a WWII battle that was a turning point in the war, Obama designated the newly protected area, calling it, spectacular as an ecosystem.

 “And our ability to not just designate, but build on, this incredible natural beauty, which is home to 7,000 marine species that sees millions of birds, many of them endangered, sea turtles, the Hawaiian monk seal, black coral – all sorts of species that in many other places we no longer see – for us to be able to extend that 550,000 miles in the way that we’ve done ensures not only that the Midway Atoll is protected, but that the entire ecosystem will continue to generate this kind of biodiversity.”

Obama said it is “critically important for us to examine the effects that climate change are taking here in the Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest body of water.

He pointed out that some Pacific island countries are now at risk and may have to move as a consequence of climate change. “There are enormous effects of the human presence in the ocean that creatures are having to adapt to and, in some cases, cannot adapt to.

Anote Tong, former president of the Republic of Kiribati, the world’s lowest-lying island nation, confirmed that his people may become climate refugees, saying, “You worry about the polar bears; so do we. But nobody is worried about us, because we will lose our homes too with the melting ice and the rising sea level.

 From microorganisms to whales, ocean warming is affecting many species and its effects are cascading through ecosystems, as outlined in a new IUCN report released in Honolulu.

The report, “Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences,” reviews the effects of ocean warming on species, ecosystems and on the benefits oceans provide to humans. Compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries, it highlights detectable scientific evidence of impacts on marine life, from microorganisms to mammals, which are likely to increase even if greenhouse gas emissions are kept low.

From the poles to the tropics, plankton, jellyfish, turtle, fish and seabird species are on the move, shifting by up to 10 degrees of latitude to find cooler habitats, while some breeding grounds for turtles and seabirds disappear,” says the IUCN.

In response, the IUCN Congress passed a motion that recognizes the important role of marine and coastal ecosystems in climate change, as natural carbon sinks; recognizes the role that marine protected areas play in both climate change mitigation and adaptation, and preserves marine ecosystems from climate change “by promoting the establishment of a coherent, resilient and efficiently managed networks of protected marine areas…

 Another motion to be voted on this week at IUCN Congress deals with advancing conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity on the high seas, which account for two-thirds of the world’s oceans.

A motion to achieve representative systems of protected areas in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean also will come up for a vote.

The Congress is also expected to decide on motions dealing with regional approaches to tackling the global problem of marine litter, and on the protection of marine and coastal habitats from mining waste.

But as important as ocean conservation has become, Congress delegates are spending most of their time grappling with the toughest land-based conservation issues.

 A total of 85 motions  have been put to the electronic vote by the IUCN Membership, who adopted all 85 motions, some with amendments.

Delegates Sunday considered guidelines on climate change best practices, the place of the law in the future of conservation, how to manage transboundary ecosystems through experiences in “hydro-diplomacy” and governance of shared waters, and ways of transforming Africa’s development through Chinese investments.

Our planet is most certainly at a crossroads,” declared IUCN President Zhang Xinsheng at the opening ceremony on Thursday.

The path we take as a global community, and how we choose to walk down that path in the next few years, will define humanity’s opportunities for generations to come. These decisions will also affect the boundaries of those opportunities,” said Zhang. “As we all know, there are limits to what our Earth can provide, and it is up to us to make the decisions today that will ensure those resources are still here tomorrow.

The latest update of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, released at the conference, indicates that many of the world’s gorillas may not be here tomorrow.

The Eastern lowland gorilla, called Grauer’s gorilla, Gorilla beringei graueri, is newly listed as Critically Endangered due to illegal hunting for bushmeat, which is taking place around villages and mining camps established by armed groups deep in the forests in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Gorillas are divided into two species, Eastern and Western, each with two subspecies. Both species and all four subspecies of gorilla are now listed as Critically Endangered.

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Inger Andersen, Director General, IUCN, left, and Hawaii Governor David Ige, at the World Conservation Congress, Honolulu, September 1, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) posted for media use.

To see the Eastern gorilla, one of our closest cousins, slide towards extinction is truly distressing,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN director general.

We live in a time of tremendous change and each IUCN Red List update makes us realize just how quickly the global extinction crisis is escalating,” said Andersen. “Conservation action does work and we have increasing evidence of it. It is our responsibility to enhance our efforts to turn the tide and protect the future of our planet.

The IUCN’s Red List update also reports the decline of the Plains Zebra, Equus quagga, due to illegal hunting.

The once widespread and abundant Plains Zebra has moved from a listing of Least Concern to Near Threatened. The population has reduced by 24 percent in the past 14 years from around 660,000 to a current estimate of just over 500,000 animals.

Three species of duiker, a small African antelope, also have been moved from a listing of Least Concern to Near Threatened.

Illegal hunting and habitat loss are still major threats driving many mammal species towards extinction,” says Carlo Rondinini, coordinator of the mammal assessment at Sapienza University of Rome “We have now reassessed nearly half of all mammals. While there are some successes to celebrate, this new data must act as a beacon to guide the conservation of those species which continue to be under threat.

The IUCN Red List update holds some good news for the Giant Panda and the Tibetan Antelope, demonstrating that conservation action can deliver positive results.

Previously listed as Endangered, the Giant Panda is now listed as Vulnerable, as its population has grown due to effective forest protection and reforestation.

The improved status confirms that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective. Still, climate change is predicted to eliminate more than 35 percent of the panda’s bamboo habitat in the next 80 years and as a result, the panda population is projected to decline, reversing the gains made during the last two decades.

Due to successful conservation actions, the Tibetan Antelope has been moved from a listing as Endangered to Near Threatened.

The Tibetan Antelope population crashed from around one million to an estimated 65,000-72,500 in the 1980s and early ’90s as a result of commercial poaching for their underfur, called shahtoosh, used to make shawls. Rigorous protection has been enforced since then, and the population is now likely to be between 100,000 and 150,000.

The IUCN warns of the growing extinction threat to Hawaiian plants posed by invasive species.

Invasive species such as pigs, goats, rats, slugs, and non-native plants are destroying the native plants of Hawaii. The latest results show that of the 415 endemic Hawaiian plant species assessed so far for the IUCN Red List – out of about 1,093 plant species endemic to Hawaii – 87 percent are threatened with extinction.

Perhaps the biggest jolt to the Congress occurred late last week when the Great Elephant Census was released showing that numbers of African savanna elephants have dropped 30 percent – 144,000 elephants – between 2007 and 2014.

The census is the result of a two-year-long study, the centerpiece of which was an aerial survey, the first in 40 years, that covered nearly 345,000 square miles over 18 countries. Pilots and census crews followed strict protocols to ensure they gathered consistent data.

The census was a collaboration between billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, his organization, Vulcan, and Elephants Without Borders, African Parks, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Nature Conservancy, the IUCN African Elephant Specialist Group and Save the Elephants, as well as a long list of conservation officials in the countries surveyed.

Even with this new hoard of data and examples of effective conservation practices across Africa, saving the elephants remains a challenge of continental dimensions,” said Allen. “Poverty and corruption still remain very serious problems in countries that are home to the worst killing grounds, and these factors continue to drive a thriving international ivory market – along with similarly voracious demand for horns from endangered rhinos.

As you’ve been reading this, poachers likely killed another African elephant for its tusks – an atrocity that takes place, on average, every 15 minutes,” said Allen.

A few hopeful signs emerged from the Great Elephant Census. Relative success stories include Botswana, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya, and the complex of parks spanning the border of Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin.

Allen says that in countries where poaching is still rampant, such as Tanzania and Mozambique, “...the survey’s alarming results have spurred officials to strengthen protections for their surviving elephants, and to crack down on the criminal networks that are driving the slaughter. Only time will tell, though, if they can arrest both the poachers and ivory smugglers and reverse the sharp decline of their elephant populations.”


 Header image : Humpback whales in the Pacific Ocean, July 21, 2014 (Photo by Sylke Rohrlach) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Investing in Water for Life

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Water is returned to Australia’s Murray River through a Nature Conservancy Water Sharing Investment Partnership, 2016. (Photo by Brian Richter) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

 STOCKHOLM, Sweden, September 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – Water scarcity is a top risk to global prosperity and ecological integrity. But creative impact investment solutions, such as Water Sharing Investment Partnerships, can shift water back to the environment, while supporting irrigated agriculture and meeting urban needs, finds new research presented during World Water Week in Stockholm.

The new study  from nonprofit The Nature Conservancy, “Water Share: Using water markets and impact investing to drive sustainability,” shows that through new approaches to water markets, the planet-wide problem of water scarcity can be managed.

The WSIP concept was created by The Nature Conservancy’s water program and impact investment unit, NatureVest, to advance the strategic trading of water-use rights within river and lake basins.

The establishment of high-functioning and well-governed water markets – in which a cap on total use is set; rights to use water are legally defined, monitored, and enforced; and in which rights can be exchanged among water users – can provide a powerful integration of public and private efforts to alleviate water scarcity,” the report states.

This model takes advantage of the motivations and incentives for trading water,” says Brian Richter, the lead scientist for the water program at The Nature Conservancy, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia with offices in 30 countries.

As water assumes a value, it provides a huge incentive for water conservation and water savings,” he said.

The Nature Conservancy launched its first Water Sharing Investment Partnership in Australia in 2015 in the Murray-Darling river basin, which drains one-seventh of the continent. As of May 2016, about A$27 million had been invested in the Murray-Darling Basin Balanced Water Fund , with a target of A$100 million within the next four years.

NatureVest plans to replicate the success of this fund in other areas of the world and is now in the process of scoping various river basins across the western United States and Latin America, where a similar model of water reallocation through investor-funded solutions can be applied.

 The Nature Conservancy is now building off its track record of using philanthropic dollars to purchase water on behalf of the environment in North America, to craft Water Sharing Investment Partnerships (WSIPs) and other water transactions and investment mechanisms to help rebalance water use in stressed basins.

 A WSIP operates within an existing water market, using investor capital and other revenue sources to acquire water-use rights.

These rights can be reallocated to nature, or sold or leased to other water users seeking more supplies, generating financial returns for investors.

The report identifies investor funded solutions, some of which may serve as the basis for a future WSIP such as long-term water trades within farming communities by establishing a complex of water sharing agreements: “…farmers’ water markets, long-term trades between farmers and cities, short-term trades within farming communities and short-term exchanges between farmers and cities.

As water assumes a value, it provides a huge incentive for water conservation and water savings,” Richter says.

Freshwater ecosystems are the most imperiled on the planet, and their condition is getting worse. More than 30 percent of Earth’s water sources are being over-exploited, some to near exhaustion.

A sense of urgency pervades the conference hall as 3,000 people from 120 countries are gathered in Stockholm this week for the 26th annual World Water Week under the theme “Water for Sustainable Growth.”

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the organizer, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), said, “Without reliable access to water, almost no Sustainable Development Goal will be achieved. To make that happen, we must ensure water’s centrality to the entire Agenda 2030. This will show the power water has a connector.

Water connects not only sectors, but also nations, communities and different actors. Water can be the unifying power, the enabler for progress in both Agenda 2030 and the Paris Climate Agreement,” said Holmgren.

Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngård told delegates that cities struggle with some of the biggest problems, but also have access to powerful solutions.

We have the job growth, the universities, the creative ideas,” she said. “We also face the biggest emissions, the social problems, and housing shortage. Our participation in the struggle for sustainable solutions is key for global success. And that means a growing responsibility, a moral responsibility towards future generations and their ability to live in cities where it is possible to work, live in security, breathe the air and drink the water.

Addressing the opening session, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström reinforced the message that water is a connector and an enabler in realizing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 6 – clean, accessible water for all.

Successful realization of Goal 6 of the 2030 Agenda will underpin progress across many of the other goals, particularly on nutrition, child health, education, gender equality, healthy cities and healthy water ecosystems and oceans,” said Wallström.

 Angel Gurría, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said that water now has come to the front and center of international deliberations. “Water now has the place it needs to have in international priorities,” said Gurría.

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Professor Joan Rose is awarded the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize by H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, during a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall, August 31, 2016 (Photo courtesy Stockholm International Water Institute)

Professor Joan Rose from Michigan State University received the 2016 Stockholm Water Prize on Wednesday, for her tireless contributions to global public health; by assessing risks to human health in water and creating guidelines and tools for decision-makers and communities to improve global wellbeing.

The prize, worth $150,000, was presented to Professor Rose by H.M. Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, during a ceremony in Stockholm City Hall during World Water Week.

Professor Rose said, “As an individual it is an honor and I am overflowing with gratitude. But it means even more, because it is a prize that honors water, it honors the blue planet and it honors the human condition. Therefore, I am very proud.

Rose and her team, whom she calls “water detectives” investigate waterborne disease outbreaks globally, to determine how they can be stopped and prevented.

She is regarded as the world’s foremost authority on the microorganism Cryptosporidium, an intestinal parasite that in 1993 killed 69 people and sickened more than 400,000 others who drank contaminated water in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

More than two billion people still lack adequate sanitation, and over one billion lack access to safe drinking water. Hundreds of thousands of deaths from diarrhoeal diseases each year could be prevented by improved water, sanitation and hygiene,” said Holmgren.

Joan Rose, our water hero, is a beacon of light in the quest for securing a better, healthier life for this and future generations,” he said.

Speaking of what she views as the world’s greatest water challenge, Professor Rose said, “I think it is going to be the reversal of water quality problems around the world; the algal blooms in fresh water and coastal waters, and the pollution, not just associated with humans, but also with disease outbreaks among our wildlife, like amphibians and fish. I also think reconnecting water and food security will be a major challenge. We are starting to do it but it will definitely continue to be a challenge.”

Water Facts from the United Nations:

  • Some 2.6 billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, but 663 million people are still without.
  • At least 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water that is fecally contaminated.
  • Water scarcity affects more than 40 percent of the global population and is projected to rise. Over 1.7 billion people are currently living in river basins where water use exceeds recharge.
  • Of the world’s 7.5 billion people, 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines.
  • More than 80 percent of wastewater resulting from human activities is discharged into rivers or sea without any pollution removal.
  • Every day, nearly 1,000 children die due to preventable water and sanitation-related diseases.
  • Hydropower is the world’s most important and widely-used renewable source of energy and as of 2011, represented 16 percent of total electricity production worldwide.
  • Roughly 70 percent of all water drawn from rivers, lakes and aquifers is used for irrigation.
  • Floods and other water-related disasters account for 70 percent of all deaths related to natural disasters.

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Featured Image: The Jordan River runs along the border between the Kingdom of Jordan, Israel and Palestine. The 251-kilometre (156 mile)-long river flows through the Sea of Galilee and on to the Dead Sea. (Photo by Tracy Hunter) Creative commons license via Flickr

At Age 100, U.S. National Park System Grows By Donation

KatahdinFlagBy Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, August 25, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – To honor the anniversary of the National Park Service, 100 years old today, President Barack Obama has designated the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the first national monument to preserve the landscape and honor the history and culture of Maine’s North Woods.

The new National Monument takes in the East Branch of the Penobscot River and its tributaries, one of the most pristine watersheds in the entire Northeast.

The President’s use of the Antiquities Act to make this designation permanently protects 87,500 acres of land donated to the National Park Service earlier this week by the Elliottsville Plantation, Inc. (EPI), philanthropist Roxanne Quimby’s foundation.

EPI is the nonprofit foundation established by Quimby and run by her son Lucas St. Clair. Their gift of land is accompanied by an endowment of $20 million to supplement federal funds for initial park operational needs and infrastructure development at the new monument, and a pledge of another $20 million in future philanthropic support.

Quimby is an American artist and businesswoman who co-founded the Burt’s Bees personal care products company with beekeeper Burt Shavitz.

Quimby purchased the lands with her Burt’s Bees wealth and developed the idea of giving the lands to the American people as part of the National Park System.

The total acreage of the new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is nearly twice that of Maine’s formerly largest park, Acadia National Park.

Acadia attracted nearly three million visitors last year and brought in an estimated $247.9 million for communities in the area. Originally designated by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, Acadia was the ninth most visited park in America in 2015.

Quimby’s son Lucas St. Clair, raised in Maine and dedicated to preserving the landscape and access for recreational activities, and a small EPI staff, have been operating the lands as a recreation area for several years.

The new national monument, which will be managed by the National Park Service, is now the 413th park unit in the National Park System.

Naturally, U.S. environmental groups are delighted with the new National Monument.

This new designation is a phenomenal way to celebrate the National Park Service centennial,” said Collin O’Mara, president and chief executive officer of the National Wildlife Federation.

By setting aside nearly 87,500 acres of public lands, the President is ensuring that Maine’s magnificent forests, mountains, and waterways will continue to be rich in biodiversity and safeguard these ecosystems,” said O’Mara. “Wildlife in the region like moose, lynx, and loons are also big winners as they will now receive critical new protections that will ensure their long term survival.

Future generations of Americans will be very thankful to President Obama, the National Park Service, and philanthropist Roxanne Quimby’s foundation, Elliotsville Plantation, Inc., who generously donated the land.

NWF’s Maine affiliate, the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), also deserve big praise for their hard work towards making today’s announcement possible.

Lisa Pohlmann, NRCM executive director, is grateful for the newly protected lands and waters.

The new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument is a fabulous gift to the people of Maine and to the nation,” she said. “This area of northern Maine contains a stunningly beautiful collection of mountains, forests, waters and wildlife. The Natural Resources Council of Maine is proud to have been part of this effort.”

National parks bring dollars into the hands of local communities, helping to create prosperity, and the new monument is expected to bring many new jobs to the Katahdin region, now suffering the collapse of the paper industry.

Nevertheless, monument critic Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, said in a statement, “That’s one way to get out of paying taxes to the state of Maine. It’s also an ego play for Roxanne Quimby and [U.S. Senator for Maine] Angus King.

It’s sad that rich, out-of-state liberals can team up with President Obama to force a national monument on rural Mainers who do not want it,” LePage told the “Bangor Daily News.”

National Park Service staff will hold a series of public listening sessions throughout the Katahdin region starting the week of September 12 to begin work on the management plan that will be developed during the first three years.

Details of the listening sessions, including dates and locations, will be shared with local newspapers and posted to the monument’s website.

The approximately $100 million total gift to the American people from the EPI, was facilitated by the National Park Foundation as part of its Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.

“This extraordinary gift sets the stage for a strong and vibrant second century for America’s national parks,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation. “Through their vision and generosity, Ms. Quimby and her family are carrying on the philanthropic tradition from which the national parks were born 100 years ago, and which helped create Grand Teton, Acadia and Virgin Islands National Parks.

With today’s designation, President Obama has used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 25 national monuments. He has permanently protected more than 265 million acres of America’s public lands and waters – more than any other president in history.

President Obama is deliberately protecting U.S. public lands from the consequences of rising planetary temperatures.

In his weekly address to the nation last Friday, he said, “…the threat of climate change means that protecting our public lands and waters is more important than ever. Rising temperatures could mean no more glaciers in Glacier National Park. No more Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park. Rising seas could destroy vital ecosystems in the Everglades, even threaten Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

So in the coming years and decades, we have to have the foresight, and the faith in our future, to do what it takes to protect our parks and protect our planet for generations to come,” said the President. “Because these parks belong to all of us. And they’re worth celebrating – not just this year, but every year.

Obama quoted his presidential predecessor President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a Democrat, who said, “There is nothing so American as our national parks … the fundamental idea behind the parks … is that the country belongs to the people.”

So that, “...you and your family can experience these sacred places, too,” Obama encouraged everyone to take part in a new campaign he supports called Find Your Park.

National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis called the idea of national parks “revolutionary.”

National parks reflect the innovative spirit of America, because after all, they embody one of our nation’s most revolutionary ideas – that some of the most beautiful landscapes, iconic historic sites and culturally significant places should belong to every American,” said Jarvis.

This weekend, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell will visit the national monument lands in Penobscot County, to celebrate the designation with state and local officials and members of the public. National Park Service staff will be on site to assist with the first steps to open the park.

As the National Park Service begins a second century of conservation this week, the President’s designation of Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument serves as an inspiration to reflect on America’s iconic landscapes and historical and cultural treasures,” said Jewell.

Through this incredibly generous private gift for conservation,” Jewell rejoiced, “these lands will remain accessible to current and future generations of Americans, ensuring the rich history of Mainers’ hunting, fishing and recreation heritage will forever be preserved.


Featured Image: Looking out toward Deasey Mountain in the newly designated Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, Maine (Photo by Bill Duffy courtesy U.S. National Park Service) public domain

Main Image: Atop Mount Katahdin (Photo by Abigail Asilin) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Children Sue for Climate Justice

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The 21 young plaintiffs backed by Our Children’s Trust and climate expert Dr. James Hansen, back row with hat. (Photo courtesy Our Children’s Trust) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

EUGENE, Oregon, August 18, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – A pioneering constitutional climate change lawsuit  is being brought by children, ages 8-19, against the federal government in the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon in Eugene.

The children argue that in causing climate change, the U.S. government has violated the youngest generation’s constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and has failed to protect essential public trust resources. 

Acting as one of the plaintiffs is world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James E. Hansen, former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (NASA), and currently adjunct professor, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, both in New York City. Dr. Hansen is serving as guardian for future generations and his granddaughter, Sophie, a teenaged plaintiff in this lawsuit.

The plaintiffs are suing the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their right to essential public trust resources, by permitting, encouraging, and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels.

The case is one of multiple related legal actions brought by youth in several states and countries, all supported by Our Children’s Trust , seeking science-based action by governments to stabilize the climate system.

Our Children’s Trust is a nonprofit organization, elevating the voice of youth, those with most to lose, to secure the legal right to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate on behalf of present and future generations.

 The nonprofit leads a coordinated global human rights and environmental justice campaign to implement enforceable science-based Climate Recovery Plans that will return atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration to below 350 parts per millions by the year 2100.

Julia Olson, lead counsel for the plaintiffs and executive director of Our Children’s Trust, told a magistrate judge in March, “Defendants in essence ask this court to ignore the undisputed scientific evidence, presented in our complaint and in opposing this motion, that the federal government has, and continues to, damage plaintiffs’ personal security and other fundamental rights. But these young plaintiffs have the right to prove the government’s role in harming them has been knowing and deliberate.

In April, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the U.S. District Court in Eugene ruled in favor of the 21 young plaintiffs.

This ruling is now under review by U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken, with oral arguments scheduled for September 13, after which the case will either proceed to trial or to appeal.

I am excited that Judge Aiken is interested in hearing our oral argument this September,” said plaintiff Kiran Oommen, a 19-year-old from Eugene, Oregon. “The U.S. government’s continued support of the fossil fuel industry, despite the obvious high risks, is hurting people all the time and it’s getting worse. … The longer this case lasts, the greater the evidence will be condemning their actions.

Olson said, “The more these brave young climate advocates appear in court, with the tremendous public support we anticipate for this September 13 hearing, the better. This is another chance to tell the egregious story of this case: that for more than 50 years our government has exploited fossil fuels, hand in hand with industry, knowing it would destroy our climate system and the healthy futures for these young people. We are eager to show the court how these youth’s fundamental constitutional rights are being infringed.

 Now, three groups representing the fossil fuel industry have joined the federal case as intervenors: the American Petroleum Institute, which includes BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell; the National Association of Manufacturers; and the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers, which includes DuPont and Koch Industries.

The intervors argue that the lawsuit is “extraordinary” and “a direct threat to [their] businesses” and that, if the kids win, “massive societal changes” and an “unprecedented restructuring of the economy” could result.

They will try to persuade the judge that the young plaintiffs in this case do not have standing, because climate change is mostly a prediction of harm, and that, even if they are being harmed, climate change is a question for Congress, not the courts, to decide.

Recently, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the King County Superior Court in Seattle, Washington, also ruled in favor of youth plaintiffs in related actions.

Pakistan is feeling the influence of Oregon in its own children’s climate case. It takes the form of legal coaching and counseling from the nongovernmental organization Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW), based in Eugene.

ELAW Executive Director Bern Johnson said “ELAW is pleased to collaborate with Our Children’s Trust on this case to raise the voices of youth around the world calling for climate justice. It’s one of many U.S. and international cases in Our Children’s Trust’s global youth-led climate campaign. “We owe it to children and future generations to leave them a healthy climate.”

 Last month, the Pakistan Supreme Court heard arguments from ELAW partner Qazi Ali Athar and ruled in favor of seven-year-old youth petitioner Rabab Ali – Ali’s daughter, overturning an initial ruling from the Court’s Registrar that her lawsuit was inadmissible.

In an interview with Third Pole Net, Rabab said, “I want the government to give me and my friends a safe environment to grow up in. I want it to help me conserve it for future generations.

Rabab’s suit asserts that coal and other polluting fossil fuels violate the Public Trust Doctrine and the youngest generation’s fundamental rights to life, liberty, property, human dignity, information, and equal protection under the law.

 The Court allowed Rabab’s climate case to proceed on behalf of present and future generations.

Our Children’s Trust attorneys worked with Ali to prepare the petition as part of the coordinated youth-led legal climate campaign, with the support of ELAW staff. In particular, ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik submitted an affidavit to the court in support of Rabab’s case.

Ali has said, “I am invoking the ancient Public Trust Doctrine passed from the Romans into English common law. It’s very simple and states that things like water, air and the seas, which belong to every citizen, have to be protected. The government, as the custodian of our natural resources, cannot exploit it.


Featured image: Steam rising from the Chesterfield electricity-generating facility of Dominion Virginia Power in Dutch Gap, Chesterfield Virginia, July 12, 2015 (Photo by Bill Dickinson)  Creative Commons license via Flickr

Turning CO2 Into an Asset

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 11, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – As the climate heats up, scientists and engineers are finding new ways to lessen the impact of fossil fuel combustion on the climate – both by sequestering the carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted and also by producing electricity with this most prevalent greenhouse gas.

The most familiar carbon capture and storage technologies enable the capture of CO2 from fuel combustion or industrial processes, transport the gas via ships or pipelines, and store it underground or undersea in depleted oil and gas fields and deep saline formations.

The world’s first large-scale carbon capture and storage project, launched in November 2015, will reduce emissions from oil sands processing in Alberta, Canada.

The world’s first CCS project started in Norway in 1996 and continues to operate today, storing nearly a million tonnes of CO2 ever year beneath the North Sea.

CCS projects are entering operation, are under construction or are in advanced stages of planning in Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States.

But energy losses and large capital costs are associated with this type of CO2 capture, transport, and sequestration, so scientists are seeking newer and better ways to keep CO2 from acting as a greenhouse gas, raising the planetary temperature.

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Carl Pendragon, Co-Founder of Carbon Wealth – image courtesy of COP21 www.cop21paris.org

Carl Pendragon, co-founder of the Swedish cleantech firm Carbon Wealth , has developed a new patented process for converting atmospheric carbon dioxide, CO2, into a cheap, clean-burning copy of coal and charcoal – a process he calls “SkyMining.”

SkyMining was designed to be a profitable source of carbon negative energy, that can operate and grow organically in the global markets without any kind of subsidy or legislation.

In a May 2016 interview with the global media platform Climate Action, Pendragon explained how the process works.

 “Businesses are invited to invest in a SkyMining contract to offset their carbon emissions. For each tonne of CO2 that is offset, a company gets a return taken from our fuel sale profits.

We use their investment to plant specialized grass on marginal land; atmospheric carbon is extracted through hyper-efficient CO2-pumps found in the grass,” Pendragon explained.

A large proportion of the CO2 pulled down by our grass is sequestered in the soil on which it is grown. The grass can grow four meters (13 feet) in 100 days, exclusively on marginal land that can’t be used for any other kind of agriculture,” he said.

Our own patented process of thermal carbonization turns harvested grass, saturated with carbon, into a clean copy of coal,” said Pendragon. “Thermal carbonization effectively replicates a 30 million-year natural process in under 30 minutes.”

Pendragon calls his process “the world’s first scalable and profitable carbon-negative energy solution.”  SkyMining safely sequesters large amounts of CO2 as fuel that can be burned instead of fossil fuels in industry, heating and electricity generation. The next step is a commercial SkyMining installation in Senegal.

 Pendragon said, “Our fuel costs less than fossil fuels and charcoal in all chosen target markets. The energy density per tonne of SkyMining fuel is similar to fossil fuels. And, SkyMining fuel does not emit any CO2 in the context of climate change.

 Pendragon says SkyMining brings new advantages to the renewable energy sector.

 “SkyMining produces a burnable fuel that can replace coal,” he said. “This fuel not only directly offsets fossil fuels when it takes their place in an oven, but it also allows us to capitalize on the world-spanning fossil fuel infrastructure built up since the industrial revolution, vastly reducing our costs.

SkyMining is carbon negative,” said Pendragon, “meaning that our fuel’s production and combustion results in a net-reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Finally,” he said, “SkyMining avoids the problem of intermittency, since it does not rely on an irregular source of energy such as wind or sunlight. This makes SkyMining a viable source of backup power for modern renewables like wind and solar. Our carbon-negative energy can ensure that wind and solar power is always beneficial for the environment, unlike when their backup power comes from dirty coal.”

SkyMining involves clean fuel production, electricity generation, carbon sequestration, and sustainable agriculture — all key factors for reaching zero-carbon future, Pendragon said.

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This graphic explains Dr. Lynden Archer’s novel method for capturing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and converting it to a useful product, while producing electrical energy. (Image courtesy Cornell University)

In a completely different approach, Cornell University scientists have developed a power cell that uses electrochemical reactions to both sequester CO2 and produce electricity.

Cornell engineering professor Dr. Lynden Archer and doctoral student Wajdi Al Sadat have developed an oxygen-assisted aluminum/carbon dioxide power cell.

The group’s proposed cell would use aluminum as the anode and mixed streams of carbon dioxide and oxygen as the active ingredients of the cathode.

The electrochemical reactions between the anode and the cathode would sequester the CO2 into carbon-rich compounds while also producing electricity and a valuable oxalate as a byproduct.

Their paper, “The O2-assisted Al/CO2 electrochemical cell: A system for CO2 capture/conversion and electric power generation,” was published July 20 in the journal “Science Advances.”

The fact that we’ve designed a carbon capture technology that also generates electricity is, in and of itself, important,” Archer said.

The Cornell group reports that the energy produced by their cell is comparable to that produced by the highest energy-density battery systems.

Archer explained that their process generates superoxide intermediates, which are formed when the dioxide is reduced at the cathode. “The superoxide reacts with the normally inert carbon dioxide, forming a carbon-carbon oxalate that is widely used in many industries, including pharmaceutical, fiber and metal smelting,” he said.

A process able to convert carbon dioxide into a more reactive molecule such as an oxalate that contains two carbons opens up a cascade of reaction processes that can be used to synthesize a variety of products,” Archer said.

Al Sadat, who worked on onboard carbon capture vehicles at Saudi Aramco, said this technology in not limited to power-plant applications.

It fits really well with onboard capture in vehicles,” he said, “especially if you think of an internal combustion engine and an auxiliary system that relies on electrical power.

He said aluminum is the perfect anode for this cell, as it is plentiful, safer than other high-energy density metals and lower in cost than other potential materials, such as lithium or sodium, while having energy density comparable to lithium.

A current drawback of this technology is that the electrolyte – the liquid connecting the anode to the cathode – is extremely sensitive to water. The group is working to find electrolytes that are less water-sensitive.

This work made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research, which is supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). Funding came also from a grant from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology Global Research Partnership program.


Today Is Earth Overshoot Day 2016

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Fishing for herring off the southern coast of British Columbia, Canada, March 2011 (Photo by Terra Canadensis) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

 GENEVA, Switzerland, August 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Earth Overshoot Day this year falls on August 8.  Today, humanity’s demands on nature this year exceed what the Earth can regenerate before year’s end calculates the international sustainability think tank Global Footprint Network , the international conservation group WWF and more than 30 other partners.

In 1961, the first year for which consistent data sets are available, the planet was able to supply 37 percent more resources and services than humanity demanded. Since then, the global ecological deficit has widened each year.

The 2016 edition of the National Footprint Accounts, compiled by the Global Footprint Network, shows that the world population demands 64 percent more ecological resources and services than nature can renew this year, through overfishing, deforestation and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester and oceans can absorb.

When the first Earth Overshoot Day was calculated in 1987, it fell on December 19. In the year 2000, it was October 21 and every year the date comes earlier. In 2014 it was August 19, in 2015 it fell on August 13.

We are ever deepening our understanding of how crucial nature’s services are to our own well-being, prosperity and happiness, and to our very survival,” said WWF International Director General Marco Lambertini on Earth Overshoot Day 2015.

We must continue to shift from being irresponsible exploiters to being careful stewards of nature’s values and good managers of her essential, finite resources,” he said.

The consequences of overshoot include shrinking biodiversity, collapsed fisheries, eroded topsoil and climate change.

Overshoot also contributes to resource conflicts and wars, mass migrations, famine and disease. It tends to have a disproportionate impact on the poor, who cannot buy their way out of the problem by getting resources from somewhere else.

Carbon emissions, produced by deforestation and the burning of coal, oil and gas, are the fastest growing contributor to ecological overshoot, with the carbon footprint now making up 60 percent of humanity’s demand on nature.

If we adhere to the goals set by the Paris climate Agreement adopted by 195 countries in December 2015, the carbon footprint must gradually fall to zero by 2050.

British economist and author Andrew Simms originated the concept of Earth Overshoot Day while working at the UK think tank New Economics Foundation. NEF’s policy director for over a decade, today, Simms is the chief analyst on the environment at the nonprofit environmental investigative organization Global Witness.

 Simms has defined Earth Overshoot Day as, “...an estimate of the moment in the year when humanity has consumed more natural resources and created more waste than our biosphere can replace and safely absorb over a 12-month period,” he wrote in an opinion piece published by “The Guardian” in August 2013.

We have chosen to ignore the idea of living within our means in the one arena, the ecological, where it is critical for our survival,” wrote Simms. “Conversely, politicians obsess about the idea of living within our means in the economic arena, where it is debilitating to society in practical terms, and theoretically flawed. Obliviousness to ecological debt is characteristic of an economic system in which the interests of finance come first and which fails to recognize the environmental foundations of prosperity.

As a result,” Simms wrote, “money flows into things that maximize short-term financial returns, rather than optimizing overall value for the economy and society.”

The Global Footprint Network is working to change how the world manages its natural resources and responds to climate change by providing information about each country’s demand for resources and the supply of these resources.

Its annual National Footprint Accounts add together a country’s annual demand for the natural resources and ecological services the planet provides – fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing, timber and carbon dioxide absorption. This demand, the Ecological Footprint, then can be compared to the supply of these goods and services provided by that country’s ecosystems, called biocapacity.

Mathis Wackernagel, co-founder and CEO of the Global Footprint Network, gave a speech at the TEDx conference in San Francisco in December 2015, in which he said, “The problem now is that the higher the development of a country, the higher its ecological footprint is. At any rate, we also observe that at any level of development there is an overuse of Earth’s resources.

The National Footprint Accounts and biocapacity calculations are based on United Nations data sets, and use about 15,000 data points per country and year.

But the Global Footprint Network acknowledges, “...it is not possible to verify the precision and reliability of all of the underlying data, which may vary from country to country.” GFN estimates that absolute precision may be within 10 to 20 percent. The relative position of a country for one year compared to previous years within one edition is typically more robust.

Still, the data indicates that humanity’s demand on nature is at an unsustainable level. One year is no longer enough to regenerate humanity’s annual demand on the planet, even using conservative data sets that underestimate the gap between how much humans use compared to what nature can renew.

Canada, for instance, has the fourth highest ecological footprint per person, after only Luxembourg, Australia and the United States, and the 12th highest total ecological footprint.

If everyone on Earth lived as Canadians do, it would take 4.7 Earths to sustain global consumption. The carbon footprint makes up 61 percent of Canada’s overall ecological footprint. But Canada is so rich in resources that it takes only half the country’s resources to sustain the national population of 36.2 million.

David Miller, president and CEO of WWF-Canada, said, “Canada is fortunate to still have an abundance of renewable natural riches, when much of the world no longer does. It’s vital that we take care of these resources now so they can continue to take care of us in the future.”

In Europe, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain have been registering a steady decline of their Ecological Footprint per capita since the mid-2000s.

By contrast, strong European economies like Germany and France have seen an increase of their Ecological Footprint per capita since the 2008 financial crisis.

Asian countries with rapid economic expansion, such as India, China, South Korea and Vietnam, are displaying a strong increase of their Ecological Footprint per capita in line with their rising standards of living.

Vietnam and Cambodia stand out among Asian countries for their successful efforts building up their biocapacity per person to support their growing Ecological Footprint, says the Global Footprint Network in its 2016 edition of the National Footprint Accounts.

The 2016 edition of the National Footprint Accounts includes 21 improvements over the 2015 edition, including some better data points.

The most influential improvement is the new calculation of the world’s Average Forest Carbon Sequestration, which is the long-term capacity for one hectare of world-average forest ecosystem to sequester the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

Including new data sources and accounting for multiple forest categories, global wildfires, and forest ecosystem emissions from soil and harvested wood products, forests were found to provide less net sequestration of carbon than previously calculated.

The updated calculation has revealed that the global carbon footprint is 16 percent higher than previously calculated, with a consequent eight percent increase in the Global Ecological Footprint.


Featured image : Clearcut forest in Dave Busenbark County Park, Douglas County, Oregon. All old growth stumps between 300 and 500 years old. Oct. 24, 2015 (Photo by Francis Eatherington) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The Power of Reforestation in China

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Before the Chairman Mao regime came into power, China was a heavily forested country. In fact, the Forbidden City was made entirely out of wood. When Mao took over, he wanted to make China a steel country, during the Great Leap Forward (1958–62). He forced every farmer to use backyard steel furnaces for steelmaking, which required vast amounts of wood to maintain the intense level of heat required for their furnaces. A massive deforestation effort took place to support Mao’s wishes. As a result, China tore down millions of acres of forests, which has had an enormous impact on the environment.

Take air pollution in Beijing, for example. According to data gathered by the US Embassy in the nation’s capital, Beijing experienced 200 days in 2014 in which the air pollution was considered “unhealthy”. Only 10 days of that year were deemed “good”.

People are starting to stand up and take notice. Today, China has the world’s largest reforestation program. During a recent visit, I drove four hours straight along one of its reforestation programs. Because of my work as an architect and my consequential plane travel, I wanted to personally offset my carbon footprint by planting trees there. That’s why I started a reforestation initiative in China in 2014, which has since planted over 6,000 trees. Within 17 years, the forest will grow so thick as to bring down the area’s temperature by 2.5 degrees Celsius. The cooling effect will lead to more rain, which will lead to more trees and so the cycle continues.

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Wolfgang Frey at Chinese reforestation program site.

The purpose for our reforestation project is to try to minimize our CO2 emissions by offsetting our carbon footprint. In general, we build passive houses, which are a low carbon alternative to traditional construction that requires very little heating or cooling. At the same time, even passive houses emit some level of CO2. However, not building is not an alternative.

One alternative is, however, to build with wood. Our Woodhouse project, which was showcased at the Expo in Shanghai 2010, was built with the amount of wood it would have taken to heat the building for 20 years. We had a double CO2 savings effect: first, it is a house built according to the passive house standard and does not use much oil or wood to heat (CO2 savings #1). Second, we substituted materials with a large carbon footprint such as concrete or materials that need to be burned by wood (CO2 savings #2).

Wood pellets as a heat source are more than troublesome because the emission stemming from burning wood in private ovens is a) not regulated and b) is catastrophic for the environment.

I grew up in the Black Forest in Germany. My father would chop down a tree and leave the roots, crown and branches to regenerate the soil through composting. Today, the entire tree is taken, which is an environmental disaster. This low-grade wood is especially used for pellets. 50% of minerals are in the roots and crown of the tree. Removing them from the forest floor leaves the soil barren. Deforestation and desertification are inevitable outcomes.

The good news is we architects have developed a few solutions to the world’s environmental problems. Through smart buildings, smog prevention and reforestation, we can make a difference. In my view, everyone should live more sustainably, whether they are architects or not.

While there are many ways to build in a sustainable and mindful fashion, our environment is always impacted in some way by construction. The goal is to minimize our negative impact by offsetting our carbon footprint, becoming more aware of the ultimate outcome of our building decisions. Plastic window casings, for instance, have a much higher recyclability than wooden framed windows. At first glance, wood may seem like the more ecological choice. Over the long term, it is not.

There are two major challenges to creating environmentally sustainable buildings: technology and psychology. How do we technologically solve our challenge to build sustainably? We have many ways to do that, starting with passive houses. Second, how do we improve people’s mindsets so they live more sustainably? That is the larger challenge, I think. Nonetheless, both issues have to be kept in mind in order to create environmentally sustainable buildings.

Sustainability needs to be trendy so people will catch on. The trend then needs to move toward durability, much like seat belt laws. What was once optional is now mandatory and most people abide by it without even thinking. A sustainable lifestyle should be as automatic. That is at least the goal.


portrait-wolfgang-freyWolfgang Frey, a dynamic, sought-after public speaker and architectural visionary, has headed Frey Architekten since 1991. Founded in 1959 by Friedrich Frey, the architectural office is located in the German eco-city of Freiburg im Breisgau. As one of the pioneers in sustainable architecture, Frey Architekten has been using solar panels since 1972. In addition, the office has an international presence in China, Russia and other parts of Europe. www.freyarchitekten.com

EU Emissions Deal Founders on Flexibilities

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Smog in Warsaw, Poland, November 4, 2015 (Photo by Radek Kołakowski) Creative Commons license via Flickr

by Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 19, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Commission and Parliament (EUROPA) are trying to enact ambitious targets to cut air pollution, but Europe’s largest federation of environmental groups warns that EU Member States have agreed on a weak directive that puts industry interests before people’s health.

On June 30, the EU Council and the European Parliament reached a first reading agreement on a new National Emissions Ceiling Directive (NEC) to reduce emissions of air pollutants.

The revision of the current National Emissions Ceiling Directive aims to slash the large number of premature deaths caused by air pollution across the European Union. Each year 400,000 premature deaths in the EU are linked to poor air quality, according to the European Environment Agency.

The new directive sets stricter national limits from 2020 to 2029 and from 2030 onwards.

The EU’s Environment Commissioner is in favor of the new law.

Commissioner Karmenu Vella of Malta, who has charge of Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said, “I very much welcome the provisional agreement between the Council and European Parliament on the Commission’s proposal for a revision of the National Emissions Ceiling Directive – an important instrument to improve air quality and reduce cross-border pollution.

Air pollution is the number-one environmental cause of death in the EU, leading to over 400,000 premature deaths each year. The agreement reached today will cut those impacts by half over the coming years,” said Vella. “It will also deliver direct savings to the economy from fewer lost working days and lower health-care costs and stimulate investments in new technologies and green growth.

 “The negotiations were difficult and complex, but the institutions came together in a spirit of compromise,” the commissioner said. “With this agreement, the EU has acted decisively on an issue of crucial importance to our citizens.

But the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), a federation of more than 150 groups in 30 countries, points out what it considers to be serious flaws in the directive.

The Commission included three flexibilities in the original proposal, to which the Council has added five more. Together, these flexibilities will delay action to tackle air pollution while making the Directive a complex, incomprehensible and unenforceable instrument,” the EEB says.

 The flexibilities are drafted in such a way that “compliance is likely to become the exception rather than the rule,” says the EEB, which says the law will not be effective in achieving the targeted air pollution reductions by 2025 and 2030.

The Commission proposed a flexibility that allows a change from the absolute emission ceilings in the 2001 NEC Directive to percentage reduction commitments based on 2005 emissions. EEB says this change increases uncertainty about the extent to which the targeted environmental objectives will actually be achieved.

 Another flexibility enables EU Member States to adjust their emissions inventories in cases where improved emission inventory methods would lead to non-compliance with a reduction commitment.

 A third flexibility proposed by the Commission provides that while in 2025, Member States should be on a linear trajectory towards the achievement of their 2030 Emission Reduction Credits (ERCs), this obligation does not apply to the extent that the necessary measures would entail “disproportionate costs.

Yet, no definition of “disproportionate costs” is provided, so Member States could ignore their 2025 commitments entirely if they think that the cost of any additional measures is disproportionate.

A clear and binding obligation for 2025 would be much more effective in ensuring timely emission reductions, providing clarity to the public and certainty to business,” declares the EEB.

The Council proposes to introduce further flexibility around the 2025 ERC. First, Member States would be under no obligation to achieve a linear trajectory by 2025; this would merely be an “indicative level.” Member States may set themselves a non-linear trajectory if this is economically or technically more efficient. Without any definition, the term “economically or technically more efficient” is practically meaningless, says the EEB. This amendment “essentially allows Member States to set their own ERC for 2025.

 Second, Member States are not even under a clear obligation to achieve this self-determined target, as their obligation is only to “endeavour” to limit their emissions by 2025 rather than the Commission’s wording of “take all appropriate measures (not entailing disproportionate cost)”. In the event that they breach their self-determined target, they need only explain the reasons for this to the Commission.

Taken together, these further flexibilities render the Commission’s already very weak obligations for 2025 almost worthless,” warns the EEB.

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Air pollution near Amsterdam, The Netherlands, April 13, 2013 (Photo by Gisela Gerson Lohman-Braun) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 In addition, the Council proposes to allow Member States to calculate their emissions based on a three-year average in the event of a particularly cold winter or dry summer or unforeseen variations in economic activities.

But the EEB worries that dry summers and cold winters exacerbate air quality problems as they are dominated by high pressure weather systems and low wind speeds, which prevent dispersion of pollutants.

A three-year average would allow Member States to pollute more at the very time it is most important that they reduce pollution. Member States need to anticipate such weather conditions and include specific measures in their national programmes to deal with them,” the EEB says, among other objections.

The Council also proposes a new flexibility that would excuse breaches of an ERC for a maximum of five years where the Member State cannot comply after having implemented all cost-effective measures.

The EEB explains that whether measures are cost-effective or not has been a point of disagreement between Member States and the Commission throughout the course of negotiations. “Without an agreed common basis for determining whether measures are cost-effective, Member States will inevitably claim that they have taken all cost-effective measures. The Commission will have to take this information on trust. These ERCs will therefore be practically unenforceable.

 In addition to adding new flexibilities, the Council position weakens the actual level of ambition of ERCs by changing the percentages in Annex II, the environmental groups warn, saying, “ERCs have been weakened for the large majority of Member States and for all pollutants, with some drastically lowered ambition for PM2.5 and ammonia – by as much as 10 percentage points in some cases.

In his speech at the Environment Council’s debate on December 16, 2015, Commissioner Vella estimated that every percentage change from the 52 percent health improvement target proposed by the Commission would result in around 4,000 additional premature deaths in the year 2030.

The four percentage cut proposed by the Council is therefore estimated to cause around 16,000 additional premature deaths in the year 2030.

This combination of lower and more flexible targets is the worst outcome for human health and the environment,” the environmental federation warns. “The cumulative death toll for the 10-year period 2021-2030 will be far higher. We therefore call upon the three institutions to minimize the use of flexibilities in the directive.


Rio Summer Olympics ‘Embrace’ Sustainability

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The Estádio do Maracanã is a 78,838 seat open-air stadium in the city of Rio owned by the Rio de Janeiro state government. South America’s largest stadium, it will be the venue for the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies on August 5 and closing ceremonies on August 21. (Photo by Luciano Silva) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil, July 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A new set of sustainability measures to support the greening of the Rio Summer Olympic Games were agreed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee as far back as 2013.

Expressing its commitment to achieving sustainability, the “Embrace” Rio 2016 plan is based on three pillars: Planet, People and Prosperity, and has been established with the input of the federal, state and municipal governments.

The slogan “Embrace” Rio 2016 is being used in all Games communications related to the Sustainability Plan. The idea behind the name is to engage people, inviting them to be part of the transformation promoted by the event, which opens on Friday, August 5 and ends on Sunday, August 21.

A technical cooperation agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was signed at the launch of the sustainability program in August 2013. It expected to provide an evaluation plan and mediation around the subject of sustainability between Rio 2016 and the people of Brazil.

Denise Hamú, UNEP’s representative in Brazil, said, “Our goal is to integrate sustainability in all organizational processes, reducing the impact of the Games and setting an example of good practice for society as a whole. Together, sports and environment are powerful tools for sustainable development. For this reason, the UNEP has worked in partnership with the Olympic Movement over the last two decades.

Sustainability round tables originated during dialogue between the Organizing Committee and civil society groups in 2013. They began in 2014 and examined six topics in depth: urban mobility, climate change, sustainability education, protection of children and teenagers, diversity and inclusion, and transparency.

The Games will inevitably generate environmental impacts,” says the Organizing Committee. “We are talking about high consumption of water, energy, raw materials, food and so on. Rio 2016 undertakes to use all resources conscientiously and rationally, prioritizing certified, reusable and recyclable materials.”

 Discussions led to awareness, and the Organizing Committee has acted responsibly in many ways during planning and preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

  • 100 percent certified wood: Rio 2016 undertook to buy all the timber items required for the Games from sources with chain of custody certification. That means that the timber is logged sustainably and traceability is guaranteed from the time the timber leaves the forest through to the end user.
  • Sustainable headquarters: Rio 2016 has its headquarters in a temporary building. After the Olympics are over, it will be taken down, and 80 percent of the material will be reused in future structures. While in use, the building consumes 70 percent less energy than ordinary buildings. Timers on bathroom wash basins, intelligent flushes and a rainwater collection system enables the Organizing Committee to cut water consumption.
  • Material life-cycle analysis: The Organizing Committee has analyzed the life-cycles of 106 materials being used by the Games visual identity team to ensure conscientious and sustainable choices and minimize their environmental impact.

With the intention of delivering low-impact Games, the Organizing Committee has completed a study of the carbon footprint of the Rio Games and defined an emissions management strategy, based on impact measurement, cutting emissions, mitigation where possible and offsetting what cannot be mitigated.

To avert some of the consequences of energy use at the Games, Rio 2016 and Worldwide TOP Partner Dow announced the most comprehensive carbon dioxide (CO2) offset program in Olympic Games history. As the Official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016, Dow will mitigate 500,000 tons of CO2 equivalents through third party-verified emissions reductions somewhere else.

  • Technology-based carbon mitigation plan: This plan aims to mitigate 100 percent of the emissions generated by the Rio 2016 Games, which will amount to 500,000 tonnes of co2eq direct emissions from operation of the Games and 1.5 million tonnes of co2eq from spectators. Mitigation projects involve the agriculture, manufacturing and civil engineering sectors, and they will reap short, medium and long-term benefits.
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One of Rio’s new state-of-the-art trams makes its way through the new-look waterfront district (Photo by Bruno Bartholini / Porto Maravilha) Posted for media use

Known as the VLT, Rio’s new light rail system started running in June. The high-tech trams have transformed public transport in the city center and given a futuristic look to the business district. The trams connect Santos Dumont domestic airport to the long-distance bus station, running through the waterfront district and stopping along the way at new museums and the busy cruise ship terminal. More than 200,000 people have already used the service.

Fleets of buses and trucks will be fueled by diesel containing 20 percent recycled cooking oil. Biodiesel emits less carbon and sulphur than petroleum diesel. It is estimated that 20,000 oil collectors will be involved, boosting the development of this production chain.

  • Logistics efficiency program: Logistics are a major factor in boosting the Games’ CO2 emissions. Rio 2016 is designing an intelligent route model to cut transportation time, fuel consumption and carbon emissions for the more than 30 million items to be brought in for the Games.

Allowing for public involvement has been an key part of the Organizing Committee’s work. Initial dialogue with civil society took place in 2013 and brought together 34 representatives of 24 organizations to assess the content of the Sustainability Management Plan. These meetings were held annually until this year. Organizers hope they will encourage a strong and effective post-Games transformation network.

  • Rio Alimentação Sustentável: Since 2013, Rio 2016 has been working in partnership with this voluntary organization focusing on healthy, sustainable foods. It is proposed that the Games act as a driving force to improve this sector in Brazil.

Rio 2016 has entered into partnerships with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council so that suppliers can obtain sustainability certification for fish and seafood to be eaten during the Games.

For Rio 2016, one of the key points is waste management, since large volumes of waste will be generated daily during the Games. The great challenge is to minimize waste and raise awareness among spectators, athletes, volunteers about the best way to dispose of and recycle waste.

  • Rio 2016 headquarters waste management: The Organizing Committee has been operating without buying plastic cups, reducing the number of printers available and not providing individual waste bins.
  • Guide to sustainability for packaging: One of the critical points in the generation of waste is packaging. With this in mind, in April 2013, Rio 2016 published a guide to sustainable packaging, in which the committee laid down sustainability options and mandatory requirements for this category of items, including labeling, eco-design, accessibility of information and packaging materials.
  • Games waste management strategies: The strategy began during the preparatory phase and will end when the venues are dismantled. Recycling cooperatives will be involved, and the strategy is based on this sequence: waste generation avoidance → minimizing volume → managing inevitable waste → promoting behavioral change. The strategy also includes treatment of organic waste through composting, in order to reduce the amount that is sent to landfills.
  • Olympic Games Impact (OGI) study: In 2014, the Organizing Committee published its first OGI study, carried out by the Rio de Janeiro Federal University School of Engineering and containing an analysis of 22 environmental, 76 socio-cultural and 25 economic indicators. The first edition relates to the period 2007-2013. A further three reports are to be published, covering impacts up to 2019.

After successfully hosting 44 test events, the Rio 2016 team and the venues are ready for action, with all the facilities receiving their final Olympic touches before the athletes start to arrive. The velodrome and equestrian venues, which were being monitored closely by the organizers, are in the final stage of preparation, and will be ready for the Games.

Golf as an Olympic sport was added just this year, and Rio created a golf course in the previously degraded area of Marapendi, west of Rio to host the new sport. Before the start of work, about 80 percent of the golf course land was degraded by sand extraction, and by the manufacturing and storage of pre-cast concrete.

Over at the Olympic Golf Course, Rio 2016 Sustainability Coordinator Carina Flores says the fresh vegetation has led to “a positive spiral for the development of wildlife.”

 Records indicate the presence of 263 animal species in the region today, as compared with 118 mapped before construction.

 An inspection of the golf course was conducted in December 2015, after a public civil action was filed by state prosecutors who questioned the environmental impact of the golf course construction work. Prosecutors, legal advisors and technicians environmentalists were among the inspectors.

 The forensic report from Brazil’s Court of Justice concluded, “The environmental gain in the region with the construction of the golf course is visible. In addition to the flora, which increased extensively, we can observe the different animal species that have returned to the area.

Rio 2016 is ready to welcome the world,” said International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission Chair Nawal el Moutawakel.

The Olympians of 2016 can look forward to living in an outstanding Olympic Village and competing in absolutely stunning venues,” she said. “From views of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain to the new state-of-the-art facilities in Barra or Deodoro and the iconic Maracanã Stadium and Copacabana Beach, I cannot imagine more spectacular backdrops for the world’s top sportsmen and women to showcase their talents to a watching world.


World Environment Day Goes Wild for Life

WorldEnvironmentDayPosterBy Sunny Lewis,

NEW YORK, New York, June 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The environmental concerns of the 1970s – industrial pollution of air and water, oil spills, toxic dumps, pesticides, loss of wilderness and biodiversity – inspired people to set aside two distinct days each year for activities aimed at saving the planet.

In 1970, environmental activists in the United States celebrated Planet Earth on April 22 and dubbed it Earth Day. Now, Earth Day motivates millions to take action in countries throughout the world, not just on April 22 but for weeks both before and after that date.

 Then, in 1972, the United Nations General Assembly adopted June 5 as World Environment Day with the goal of encouraging everyone to prevent the growing strain on the planet’s natural systems from reaching the breaking point.

On June 5, 1974 the UN held the first World Environment Day in the city of Spokane, in the U.S. state of Washington at Expo ’74, the first environmentally themed world’s fair.

Forty-two years later, the two separate days of environmental action reached harmony this year on April 22, Earth Day, at UN Headquarters in New York as the leaders of 175 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement negotiated in December.

The event broke the record for number of countries to sign a UN pact in a single day. The Paris agreement moves the world toward what EU Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič told fellow signatories is “a fundamental and ground-breaking transition to a low-carbon economy and society.”

World Environment Day 2016 also has been dramatic. Hosted by the West African country of Angola, this year’s theme “Go Wild for Life,” is dedicated to conserving wildlife and stamping out the illicit wildlife trade.

The 2016 theme highlights the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife, which erodes precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers, as well as many other species.

Angola is seeking to restore its elephant herds, conserve Africa’s biodiverse wildlife, and safeguard the environment as it rebuilds after more than a quarter-century of a civil war that ended just 14 years ago.

“Angola is delighted to host World Environment Day, which will focus on an issue close to our hearts,” said Angolan Environment Minister Maria de Fatima Jardim.

“The illegal wildlife trade, particularly the trade in ivory and rhino horn, is a major problem across our continent,” she said. “By hosting this day of celebration and awareness-raising, we aim to send a clear message that such practices will soon be eradicated.”

The government of Angola recently launched several initiatives to enhance conservation and strengthen environmental law enforcement

To demonstrate its commitment to curb elephant poaching, Angola last year submitted a National Ivory Action Plan as part of its membership of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This international agreement is designed to prevent trade in wild animals and plants from threatening their survival.

Angola’s plan includes stiff penalties for poaching and ivory trafficking and stronger policing, including more training for wildlife rangers and the posting of a wildlife crime unit to the international airport in the capital, Luanda.

In March, Angolan officials presented a draft law banning the sale of ivory, a move that would end the open sale of ivory artefacts at Luanda’s bustling Benfica market.

It is unclear how many elephants remain in Angola, but those that do are facing pressure from poachers seeking to profit from ivory sales and poor communities who rely on bushmeat to survive.

The nation is also a transit country for ivory, with carved goods coming over the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo for re-sale, largely to Asian nations.

The troubles facing Angola are part of a wider global problem. A new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-INTERPOL report, released on June 4, found that transnational criminal networks are making up to $258 billion per year from environmental crimes, including the illegal trade in wildlife – a 26 percent increase over previous estimates.

In response to its problem, Angola is introducing tougher penalties for poaching, shutting down its domestic illegal markets, and looking to provide alternative livelihoods for those at the bottom of the illegal wildlife trade chain. They are also training former combatants to become wildlife rangers.

“We have a big push to manage protected areas and create others for the benefit of our people,” said Abias Huongo, director of Angola’s National Institute of Biodiversity. “For us to survive, other species need to survive. Together with the tourism ministry, we are exploring the potential of ecotourism to address the economic deficit with biodiversity.”

In Cuando-Cubango, a key region for biodiversity, new lodges are opening. A collection of comfortable huts ranged along the leafy banks of a lazy river near Menongue, the Rio Cuebe lodge has been open for three years.

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UN Environment Programme head Achim Steiner argues the case for wildlife conservation on World Environment Day 2016. (Screengrab from video by UNEP) Posted for media use www.unep.org

Regional ministers and biodiversity experts packed the Rio Cuebe for a conference as part of World Environment Day celebrations, but most of the time it sits half empty. When guests come, they are usually expats working in the country.

But UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner believes this situation is about to begin changing.

 “Angola has, over many years, relied on its fossil-fuel economy, whereas the last year has shown that kind of dependence can be a risk,” he said. “So, as Angola is managing the fall-out from the drop in oil prices it is looking at diversifying. This is where the notion of the green economy becomes relevant.

Cuando-Cubango is a region that could provide an enormous opportunity for investment in terms of tourism,” said Steiner, “a unique area where in 20 years’ time the world will be paying thousands of dollars for an overnight stay.”

Angolans are also discussing the establishment of several vast trans-frontier conservation areas. One would cover the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta in Botswana, and another incorporates Namibia’s wild Skeleton Coast.

Whatever can be done to conserve biodiversity everywhere in the world, it must be done quickly, says Bradnee Chambers, the executive secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

“Vulture populations in Africa are collapsing. One reason is that farmers lace carcasses with poison bait with the intention of killing predators such as lions or hyenas that take their livestock; vultures are the unintended victims. But more recently poachers have been trying to kill vultures by contaminating dead elephants slaughtered for their ivory, because by circling over the scene of the crime the birds reveal where the poachers are,” explains Chambers.

“There is a real risk that Africa will lose not only its iconic elephants but also some of its most important birds of prey, which play a critical role in human health as nature’s garbage disposers,” he said.

Wildlife crime also occurs at sea. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is tackling pirate fisheries through the new Port State Measures Agreement, which entered into force on June 5 on World Environment Day.

The new agreement among 29 countries and the European Union prevents vessels from selling their illicit catch and facilitates inspections by port authorities.

 Illegal fisheries not only take millions of tonnes of fish each year but are also responsible for by-catch, a driver in the decline of species such as the vaquita, a Critically Endangered marine mammal in the Gulf of California, and the harbor porpoise in the Baltic Sea.

Each UN agency has a different way of marking World Environment Day. UNESCO and Wiki Loves Earth have partnered to create Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves, a competition to create photographs free for everyone to use and to enrich Wikipedia. 10 winning images will be shared on the UNESCO website and social media and will be entered into the Wiki Loves Earth international competition. Wiki Loves Earth competitions around the world have created over 180,000 images of protected natural sites.

“On this World Environment Day,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “I urge people and governments everywhere to overcome indifference, combat greed and act to preserve our natural heritage for the benefit of this and future generations.”


Main Image: Kingsley Mamabolo, an official with the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, plants a tree during World Environment Day ceremonies held at the Mission’s headquarters in El Fasher, North Darfur, June 5, 2016. (Photo by Mohamad Almahady, UNAMID) Posted for media use

Featured Image: Elaborately dressed, with faces painted white, Angolan girls dance to celebrate World Environment Day, June 5, 2016 (Photo courtesy UNEP) Posted for media use www.unep.org

Extinction Stalks Meat-Eating Carnivores

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Polar bears on thin ice near the North Pole, June 30, 2015 (Photo by Christopher Michel) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

HELSINKI, Finland, June 7, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The African lion faces extinction by the year 2050, wildlife experts project, at risk due to indiscriminate killing in defense of human life and livestock, habitat loss, and prey base depletion from poaching and illicit trade.

While the number of tigers living in the wild this year increased by a few hundred to 3,890 animals, the first uptick in the global wild tiger population in 100 years, there are still more tigers in captivity in the USA alone than tigers surviving in the wild. Tigers face the same threats as lions, with the added threat of poaching for the Asian medicinal trade.

The most carnivorous species of bear, polar bears are newly threatened by pollutants and by the increase in resource exploration and development, ice-breaking and shipping in the Arctic, along with loss of sea ice brought on by the warming climate.

Other carnivores – jaguars, leopards, lynx, cheetahs, foxes, wolves, wolverines, civets, hyenas, mongooses, weasels – are also vanishing.

“It is well documented that we are facing the world’s sixth great extinction. And there is no doubt that this extinction event is caused by human activity across the globe,” says Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace, and IUCN Patron of Nature. “For many endangered species, the impacts of climate change, such as increases in extreme weather patterns and irregular seasonal changes, conversion of habitat, pollution, disease and trafficking, are just a few of the threats that impact their survival.”

While the decline of all animal species is of concern to Dr. Goodall, a new study confirms that the global conservation of carnivores is at greatest risk.

Published in the journal “Scientific Reports – Global priorities for national carnivore conservation under land use change,” the study models future global land conversion and estimates this will lead to range loss and conflict with local people in regions critical for the survival of these threatened apex predators.

The study, organized by researchers from the University of Helsinki in collaboration with an international team of conservation and land use change scientists, concludes that immediate action is needed.

Lead author Dr. Enrico Di Minin of University of Helsinki explains, “We assessed how expected land use change will affect priority areas for carnivore conservation in the future. The analysis revealed that carnivores will suffer considerable range losses in the future. Worryingly, it seems that the most important areas for carnivore conservation are located in areas where human-carnivore conflicts are likely to be most severe.”

Di Minin said, “Presently, South American, African, and South East Asian countries, as well as India, were found to contribute mostly to carnivore conservation. While some of the most charismatic species, such as the tiger and giant panda were found to be at high risk under future land use change, smaller, less charismatic species, with small ranges were found to be equally threatened by habitat loss.”

Lions once ranged from Northern Africa through Southwest Asia, where it disappeared from most countries within the last 150 years, west into Europe, where it became extinct almost 2,000 years ago, and east into India.

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Wild tiger and photographers in India’s Ranthambore National Park (Photo courtesy Girish Arora)

Tigers once lived across Asia, from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia. Over the past 100 years tigers have disappeared from southwest and central Asia, from two Indonesian islands, Java and Bali, and from large areas of Southeast and Eastern Asia. Tigers inhabit less than six percent of their historic range, with a 42 percent decline since 2006.

Dr. Luke Hunter, president and chief conservation officer of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and a co-author of the paper, said, “Carnivores like big cats have been squeezed out of their ranges at alarming rates for decades now, and we can now see that habitat loss and its shock waves on wildlife are only on the rise.”

Hunter says part of the answer to the carnivore extinction crisis is money. “In order to protect our planet’s landscape guardians, a far greater financial investment from the international community is needed for range-wide conservation approaches, both within and outside of protected areas where carnivores roam,” he said.

Co-author Professor Rob Slotow from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa says another crucial part of the equation is reducing conflict with humans outside of protected areas.

“Most priorities for carnivore conservation are in areas in the global south where human populations are increasing in size, agriculture is intensifying, and human development needs are the highest,” Slotow said. “There is need to implement conservation strategies that promote tolerance for carnivores outside protected areas and focus on the benefits that people derive from these species.”

Carnivores include some of the most iconic species that help generate funding for biodiversity conservation and deliver important benefits to humans. Conservationists argue that protecting carnivores will conserve many other bird, amphibian, reptile and mammal species that live in priority areas for carnivore conservation.

To prevent the sixth mass extinction, humans need to understand the threats to biodiversity, where they occur and how quickly change is happening. We need reliable and accessible data, but a separate study published in the journal “Science” shows we are lacking key information on important threats to biodiversity, such as invasive species, logging, bush meat harvesting, and illegal wildlife trade.

Over the past two years a consortium of 18 organizations, including: the University of Helsinki, UNEP-WCMC, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Luc Hoffmann Institute, a research hub at WWF International, and BirdLife International, compiled global data on biodiversity threats.

They reviewed nearly 300 data sets and marked them on five attributes required for conservation assessments. Datasets should be freely available, up to date, repeated, at appropriate spatial resolution, and validated for accuracy. Only five percent of the datasets satisfied all five attributes.

“We were surprised that so few datasets met all of the five attributes we believe are required for a gold standard of data,” says Lucas Joppa, who leads environmental research at Microsoft and was lead author on the data study. “We live in the age of Big Data, but are effectively flying blind when it comes to understanding what is threatening biodiversity around the world.”

One thing is for certain, the value of environmental crime today is 26 percent larger than previous estimates, having grown to US$91-258 billion today compared to US$70-213 billion in 2014, according to a rapid response report published June 4 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the international police force INTERPOL.

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Lionskin rug covers a floor at Werribee Mansion near Melbourne, Australia, 2010 (Photo by Rexness) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The Rise of Environmental Crime,” released ahead of World Environment Day, June 5, finds that weak laws and poorly funded security forces have been unable to prevent international criminal networks and armed rebels from profiting from a trade that fuels conflicts, devastates ecosystems and is threatening carnivores and other species with extinction.

“Environmental crime is growing at an alarming pace,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock. “The complexity of this type of criminality requires a multi-sector response underpinned by collaboration across borders. Through its global policing capabilities, INTERPOL is resolutely committed to working with its [190] member countries to combat the organized crime networks active in environmental crime.”

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner is grateful for the police support, saying, “The rise of environmental crime across the world is deeply troubling. The vast sums of money generated from these despicable crimes are fueling insecurity and keeping highly sophisticated international criminal gangs in business. It is essential the world acts now to combat this growing menace before it is too late.”


 

 

 

Dirtiest Air in World’s Poorest Cities

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By Sunny Lewis                                                                                           Follow us at: @Maximpactdotcom

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 12, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The poorest cities on Earth have the worst air pollution, data revealed today by the World Health Organization shows.

More than 80 percent of the people living in cities that monitor pollutants in their air are exposed to levels up to 10 times higher than limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO), that UN-affiliated global health agency said today, releasing the latest figures.

The highest urban air pollution levels were found in low-and middle-income countries in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia regions, where annual mean levels often measured as much as 10 times WHO limits.

While all regions of the world are affected, residents of low-income cities are the most impacted.

WHO’s latest urban air quality data shows that 98 percent of cities in low-income and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines.

In high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56 percent.

“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it they have a benchmark,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant-director general, Family, Women and Children’s Health.

“When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations – the youngest, oldest and poorest – are the most impacted,” Dr. Bustreo said.

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At sunset, hazy air lingers over Dakar, Senegal, one the world’s 10 poorest cities. (Photo by Jeff Attaway) Creative Commons licence via Flickr

WHO researchers compared a total of 795 cities in 67 countries for levels of small and fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) during the five-year period, 2008-2013.

PM10 and PM2.5 include pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon. They penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health.

In the past two years, the database – now covering 3,000 cities in 103 countries – has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.

As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.

Ambient air pollution, made of high concentrations of small and fine particulate matter, is the greatest environmental risk to health, say WHO executives. It causes more than three million premature deaths worldwide each year.

“Urban air pollution continues to  rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health,” says Dr. Maria Neira, WHO director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “At the same time, awareness is rising and more cities are monitoring their air quality. When air quality improves, global respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses decrease.”

 Most sources of urban outdoor air pollution are beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers to promote cleaner transport, more efficient energy production and waste management.

Yet it is possible for cities to clear the air. More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third in low  and middle income countries reduced their air pollution levels by more than five percent in five years.

The successful cities reduced industrial smokestack emissions, increased their use of renewables, like solar and wind, and prioritized rapid transit, walking and cycling networks.

“It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” says WHO’s Dr. Carlos Dora. “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution-related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”

Analysis of the data reveals that during the 2008-2013 period:

  • Global urban air pollution levels increased by eight percent, although there were improvements in some regions.
  • Urban air pollution levels were lowest in high-income countries, with lower levels most prevalent in Europe, the Americas, and the Western Pacific Region.
  •  In the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions and low-income countries in the Western Pacific Region, levels of urban air pollution has increased by more than 5 percent in more than two-thirds of the cities.
  • In the African Region urban air pollution data remains very sparse, however available data revealed particulate matter (PM) levels above the median.

The world’s 10 poorest cities, by UN ranking, are the capitals of sub-Saharan African nations. They are lacking in the most rudimentary of supplies, and clean water, public transportation and overcrowding are major issues. While the UN categorizes these cities as being among the poorest in the world, they are still expanding rapidly.

During the World Health Assembly, May 24-30, Member States will try to map out a better global response to the health effects of air pollution.


 Main Image: An aerial view of Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia, one the world’s 10 poorest cities. (Photo by Christopher Herwig / United Nations) Creative Commons licence via Flickr

Featured Image: 123rf stock photos 

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION TIPS FOR EARTH DAY AND BEYOND

Act Local, Think Global: Three Ways to Ignite Positive Environmental Change

 Arlington, VA – Friday, April 22, 2016 – In observance of Earth Day, the international conservation organization Rare is offering up three easy ways you can be a catalyst for global change.

The strain on the Earth’s natural resources poses an increasing threat to the well-being of both people and nature. Though people are often the source of these pressures, they also hold the solutions – and it all starts with behavior.

Salmon_for_sale1.  Ensure your seafood is sourced sustainably.

42% of people worldwide rely on fish as an important source of protein.

Most of the world’s fisheries are unmanaged and overexploited, and are in serious decline. This puts our food supply in jeopardy and makes ecosystems less healthy and more vulnerable to climate and other changes. A compelling action a single consumer can take is purchasing local, sustainably caught seafood. Check packaging labels, diversify your selection, and seek out seafood guides that list which fish that are caught and sourced sustainably.

Helpful articles on Sustainable Seafood:

2.  Organize or join a community-led clean up near waterways to prevent contamination to rivers, lakes and other fresh water sources.

 Freshwater ecosystems cover less than 1% of the Earth’s surface, but are home to 35% of all vertebrate species.

A healthy watershed, with its forests and unique biodiversity, provides water storage, regulates and filters fresh water and is critical to flood management to surrounding areas. By removing plastics bottles, bags, and other debris along the waterway, you ensure the watershed ecosystem remains healthy and productive.

Helpful Waterways Cleanup resources: 

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3.    Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and get to know your local farmer, what they grow, and how they grow it.Agriculture is one of the leading sources of water pollution worldwide.

Small-scale farmers often overuse fertilizer, pesticides and other harmful chemicals. This pollution leaches into streams and aquifers with dangerous effects, finding ways into wetland and river ecosystems. Community Supported Agriculture Networks are an easy and delicious way to engage in your community, and encourage others to adopt more sustainable behaviors. Ensuring that your food is grown locally and pesticide-free benefits the health of both people and nature alike.

Helpful Community Supported Agriculture resources: 

“We believe that conservation’s greatest challenges are the result of human behaviors. And, so too are the solutions,” said Brett Jenks, CEO of Rare. “Rare’s signature Pride campaigns inspire pride around unique natural assets and create a clear path for local change.  By empowering communities to seek their own solutions, the change tends to stick.”

Rare has been implementing proven conservation solutions and training local leaders in communities worldwide for more than 25 years.  Rare’s hope is to inspire people to take pride in their community, not just on Earth Day but all year, and suggests these practical alternatives to environmentally destructive practices.


 

Rare-Logo-FullColorABOUT RARE

Rare is an innovative conservation organization that implements proven conservation solutions and trains local leaders in communities worldwide.  Through its signature Pride campaigns, Rare inspires people to take pride in the species and habitats that make their community unique, while also introducing practical alternatives to environmentally destructive practices. Employees of local governments or non-profit organizations receive extensive training on fisheries management, campaign planning and social marketing to communities.  They are equipped to deliver community-based solutions based on natural and social science, while leveraging policy and market forces to accelerate change through programs such as Fish Forever.  To learn more about Rare.

 

Images: Creative commons license via Wikipedia and free stock photos 

One Billion Take Part in Earth Day 2016

HarvestingCashewEastDarfur

Earth-Day-2016-Poster-Earth-Day-NetworkWASHINGTON, DC, April 20, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – As Earth Day approaches its 50th anniversary in 2020, the Earth Day Network has set five major goals. Planting trees is the first; this year volunteers throughout the world plan to plant 7.8 billion trees.

The Earth Day Network’s 2016 Trees for the Earth campaign will focus on regions of the world most affected by deforestation. To achieve its goal of 7.8 billion trees planted, the Earth Day Network will work with partners from all levels of society, integrate trees into all of its existing campaigns, and create coalitions with national and subnational governments, mayors, faith leaders, businesses, and civil society across the globe.

Trees reverse the impacts of land degradation and provide food, energy, and income. They work as a natural, resilient, and long-lasting safety buffer to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and blizzards, helping to avert the worst effects of climate change.

The Earth Day Network has already planted millions of trees on six different continents, and the longer the trees and forests grow undisturbed, the more powerful these protections become. Using sapling and seed distribution, urban forestry, agroforestry, and tree care training, the Earth Day Network has empowered both rural and urban people to conserve, repair, and restore trees to cover their lands.

“Earth Day is the largest, most recognizable face of the environmental movement,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network.

“Millions of people in dozens of different countries will become lifelong environmentalists this and every Earth Day. Hundreds of thousands will be children – our planet’s future,” said Rogers. “They will join the more than one billion people who already use Earth Day to focus on the urgent need to stabilize and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, fight climate change, act locally, become climate voters, and protect their children’s futures.”

Valuable as it is, tree planting is by no means the only global push planned for Earth Day.

This year, Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at UN Headquarters in New York. The Agreement was adopted by all 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP21 in Paris on December 12, 2015.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomes the statement of China, this year’s President of the Group of 20, affirming the G20’s full support for the April 22 signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and calling for the accord’s entry into force as early as possible.

“The Secretary-General thanks China for its continued strong leadership in promoting global cooperation, grounded in ambitious national action, on climate change,” said Ban’s office in a statement.

More than 130 countries have confirmed their intention to sign the accord on April 22, and Ban is urging all other countries to join them in the signing ceremony.

Earth Day Network’s Rogers said, “We have no higher priority this year than to make sure the United States, China, India, the EU, and all the largest CO2 emitters sign the Paris Agreement.”

An Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders from 270 religious leaders supporting the Paris Agreement while also urging “much more ambitious action” was handed to the President of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Mogens Lykketoft, at a high-level event on April 18.

Eminent signatories include: Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences of the Holy See; Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu; and Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches.

The Interfaith Statement is supported by 86 groups of all faiths from around the world who have shown their support online by using the hashtag #Faiths4ParisAgreement.

Earth Day Network has launched a petition calling on world leaders, especially U.S. President Barack Obama, to show leadership by signing the Paris Agreement.

“We need to prove that what happened in Paris last December was not all talk. We need to take action. Signing the Paris Agreement this Earth Day at the United Nations is just the beginning,” Rogers said.

“That, coupled with our global activities, will make this the largest, most significant Earth Day in years,” she said. “And it’s the perfect start in our countdown to Earth Day 2020, our 50th!”

This Earth Day, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is inviting people around the world to share on social media what they are doing to celebrate and improve planet Earth, while the space agency shares aspects of a “day in the life” of NASA’s Earth science research.

In the brick and mortar world, NASA will feature Earth Day exhibits, hands-on activities, demonstrations and talks from NASA scientists, April 21 and 22 at Union Station in Washington, DC.

At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA activities will showcase sustainability, energy saving solutions and renewable energy. More than a dozen electric cars will be on display with test drives available. Master gardeners and pollinator specialists will answer questions and offer tips. And wildlife and natural conservation specialists will discuss methods to safeguard wildlife, preserve natural resources, and protect Florida waters

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Earth Day at the Young SouthEast Asian Leaders Initiative Generation: EARTH workshop, Siem Reap, Cambodia, April 22, 2015 (U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh photo by Un Yarat) Public domain.

In South Korea, the Daegu Civilian Eco Festival features a race that pits teams against the clock navigating through a strip of downtown Daegu lined with Earth Day booths to complete 100 eco-missions in 90 minutes. Teams will go to assigned locations, complete an assigned task, take a cellphone picture of that task and send it to the organizers. The grand prize is the equivalent of US$525.

More than 120,000 people are expected gather in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park for Earth Day Tokyo, Japan’s largest global festival organized by citizens. Festivities began last Sunday and continue for the entire week. On April 23, at the Earth Day Concert, a wide variety of musicians and speakers will commit to peace and a positive future for the Earth this year.

Some Japanese are pledging to plant trees; others will work to make life better for the survivors of a series of earthquakes in the southern Japanese city of Kumamoto on April 14 and 16 that claimed at least a dozen lives.

In India, Earth Day Network sees the mandate of grassroots women leaders, or Panchayati Raj, as an opportunity to solve the most pressing environmental issues through a series of hands on educational workshops. Sample workshops include: the importance of growing more trees; spearheading movements against deforestation; advocating for clean alternative energies over fossil fuels; and conserving and building up natural resources.

Environmental groups large and small are making special efforts to celebrate Earth Day 2016.

Conservation International is releasing a new short film “Sky,” voiced by Chinese-American actress, director, screenwriter, and producer Joan Chen, the newest addition to its award-winning series “Nature Is Speaking.”

“We are pushing the Earth’s climate to its limits,” Chen said. “Climate change is drastically altering our planet, threatening not only the nature people rely on, but also people themselves.”

Earth Day may get people thinking about recycling, cutting back on driving or getting out into nature, but the Center for Biological Diversity is also asking them to think about saving the planet through safe sex.

The Center is distributing 25,000 free Endangered Species Condoms nationwide for Earth Day to highlight the connection between reproductive rights and the wildlife extinction crisis. The condoms will be given away by 300 volunteers at Earth Day events, rallies, and on college campuses in 46 states.

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.

More than one billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.


Featured image: Freshly planting pine seedling in a U.S. forest. (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service) Public domain.

Main image: United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) sector leader Landing Badjie harvests the first cashew tree planted in war-torn Darfur in 2014. Since then, the UNAMID has distributed more than 15,000 seedlings to be planted in all schools in the state. (Photo by Abdulrasheed Yakubu, UNAMID) Creative Commons License via Flickr

Bird Feathers Inspire ‘Structural’ Colors

PeacockFanTail

By Sunny Lewis

SAN DIEGO, California, April 18, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Imagine a colorful T-shirt that never fades with washing, or a car that never needs a new coat of paint. Biomimicry already translated into nanomaterials in the lab could bring such marvels to market in the future.

Inspired by iridescent bird feathers that play with light, scientists at two American universities have created thin films of nanomaterials in a wide range of pure colors determined by physical structure rather than pigments or dyes.

Color determined by structure would never diminish in hue and could potentially be altered to satisfy anyone’s preference.

This research is among the first steps into the fledgling field of biomimicry, where scientists look for ways to improve human life by imitating the success of natural designs, processes and methods.

Here, researchers from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Akron in Ohio sought to recreate structural color patterns found in bird feathers to generate color without the use of pigments and dyes.

They identified melanosomes, tiny packets of melanin in the feathers, skin and fur of many animals, that can produce structural color when packed into solid layers, as they are in the feathers of some birds.

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Melanin is a broad term for a group of natural pigments found in most organisms. In humans, melanin is the primary determinant of skin color. It is also found in hair and the pigmented tissue underlying the iris of the eye.

Melanins have diverse roles and functions in various organisms. The black feathers of birds owe their color to melanin; they are less readily degraded by bacteria than white feathers, or those containing other pigments.

A form of melanin makes up the ink used by many cephalopods, such as the ink that squids expel as a defense against predators.

Melanins also protect microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, against stresses that involve cell damage such as UV radiation from the sun.

Melanin protects against damage from high temperatures, chemical stresses, such as heavy metals and oxidizing agents, and biochemical threats, such as host defenses against invading microbes.

Structural color occurs through the interaction of light with materials that have patterns on a tiny scale reflecting light to make some wavelengths brighter and others darker.

In their laboratories these researchers get tiny packets of synthetic melanin to produce structural color, as in a bird’s feather, when they are packed into layers.

“We synthesized and assembled nanoparticles of a synthetic version of melanin to mimic the natural structures found in bird feathers,” said Nathan Gianneschi, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego.

Gianneschi’s work focuses on nanoparticles that can sense and respond to the environment.

“We want to understand how nature uses materials like this, then to develop function that goes beyond what is possible in nature,” he said.

Gianneschi proposed the research project after hearing Dr. Matthew Shawkey, a biology professor at the University of Akron, describe his work on the structural color in bird feathers at a conference.

Shawkey details the benefits of structural color, saying, “Pigments are both financially and environmentally costly, and can only change color by fading. Structural colors can, in theory, be produced from more common, environmentally friendly materials and could potentially be changed depending on the environment or your whims.”

As for practical uses of this biomimetic discovery, the scientists are thinking about applications of these nanomaterials as sensors, photo-protectors, and the creation of a wide range of colors without using pigments.


Featured Image: The iridescent black feathers of birds such as this African starling are leading scientists to make nanomaterials of structural colors. (Photo by Steve Slater) Creative commons license via Flickr

Main image: The iridescent colors of peacock feathers hold clues to the creation of structural colors. (Photo by Mike Leary) Creative commons license via Flickr

Image 01: Male wood duck with iridescent feathers of many colors. (Photo by Cliffords Photography) Creative commons license via Flickr

 

Jury Still Out on Carbon Capture & Storage

SaskPower's Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan

SaskPower’s Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan, Saskatchewan

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, April 5, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Since the Paris Climate Agreement was reached in December, preventing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from entering the atmosphere has become a top priority for many governments, utilities and private individuals who believe climate change to be the major problem of this generation.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) enables a power station or factory that burns coal, oil or gas to remove the CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere and store it permanently in an old oilfield or a deep saline aquifer formation.

Some attempts at capturing and storing CO2 have been more successful than others.

First, capture technologies allow the separation of CO2 from other gases produced by power generation and factories by one of three methods: pre-combustion capture, post-combustion capture and oxyfuel combustion.

The captured CO2 is then transported by pipeline or ship to the storage location. Millions of tonnes of CO2 are now transported for commercial purposes each year by road tankers, ships and pipelines.

Once at its destination, the captured CO2 is stored in geological rock formations typically located several kilometers below the surface.

At every point in the CCS chain, from production to storage, industry can use a number of process technologies that are well understood and have excellent health and safety records, says the London-based Carbon Capture and Storage Association (CCSA).

Alberta Minister of Energy Diana McQueen and Conservative MP Mike Lake tour the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility at Shell's Scotford plant near Fort Saskatchewan on April 17, 2014. The project is retrofitting the Scotford bitumen upgrader for carbon capture, designed for up to 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 captured per year, piped 80 kilometers north and injected more than two kilometers below the Earth's surface. (Photo by Chris Schwarz courtesy Government of Alberta) Public Domain

Alberta Minister of Energy Diana McQueen and Conservative MP Mike Lake tour the Quest Carbon Capture and Storage facility at Shell’s Scotford plant near Fort Saskatchewan on April 17, 2014. The project is retrofitting the Scotford bitumen upgrader for carbon capture, designed for up to 1.2 million tonnes of CO2 captured per year, piped 80 kilometers north and injected more than two kilometers below the Earth’s surface. (Photo by Chris Schwarz courtesy Government of Alberta) Public Domain

The Canadian province of Quebec is excited enough about this possibility that it just bet Cdn$15 million on a new enzyme-based technology.

Quebec has established a goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 37.5 percent below this same level by 2030.

In its 2016-2017 Budget, released March 17, the Quebec provincial government announced that it has allocated $15 million over the next three years to create a consortium that will promote adoption of CO2 Solutions’ patented enzyme-enabled carbon capture technology.

The process is now ready for commercialization.

In the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, the Boundary Dam Integrated Carbon Capture and Storage Project is SaskPower’s flagship CCS initiative.

This project transformed the aging Unit #3 at Boundary Dam Power Station near Estevan into a long-term producer of up to 115 megawatts of base-load electricity, capable of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by up to one million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) a year, the equivalent of taking more than 250,000 cars off Saskatchewan roads annually.

The captured CO2 is sold and transported by pipeline to nearby oil fields in southern Saskatchewan to be used for enhanced oil recovery. CO2 not used for enhanced oil recovery will be stored in the Aquistore Project.

Aquistore is a research and monitoring project to demonstrate that storing liquid CO2 deep underground in a brine and sandstone water formation is a safe, workable solution to reduce greenhouse gases.

Through the development of the world’s first and largest commercial-scale CCS project of its kind, SaskPower hopes to make a viable technical, environmental and economic case for the continued use of coal.

In Norway last December, Aker Solutions signed a contract with the city of Oslo for a five-month test CCS project to capture CO2 emissions from the city-operated waste-to-energy Klemetsrud plant.

The project is funded by Gassnova, the state enterprise that supports the development and demonstration of technologies to capture CO2.

“This is pioneering work with significant potential as the world focuses on finding ways to limit carbon emissions,” commented Valborg Lundegaard, head of Aker Solutions’ engineering business. “This pilot project is of international importance.”

The test will be key to qualifying Aker Solutions’ amine-based CO2 capture technology for commercial application at the world’s waste-to-energy plants. There are about 450 such plants operating in Europe and about 700 globally.

Japan is preparing to test its biggest project yet for capturing and storing CO2 under the ocean floor despite concerns about cost and the safety of pursuing the technology in a region prone to earthquakes.

Starting this month, engineers plan to inject CO2 into deep saline aquifers off the coast of Hokkaido at the northern tip of Japan. The gas will be captured from a refinery operated by Idemitsu Kosan Co. under the government-backed project.

Some Japanese companies are already lending their expertise to and investing in CCS projects overseas.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. designed and built a project in the U.S. state of Alabama with the utility Southern Company.

Three of the six companies building the world’s largest CCS project on Barrow Island off the northwest coast of Western Australia are Japanese. Although a Class A Nature Reserve, Barrow Island is said to be a location where industry and the environment co-exist.

All 51 modules required for the three LNG trains have been delivered to Chevron's Gorgon CCS project on Australia's Barrow Island. (Photo courtesy Chevron)

All 51 modules required for the three LNG trains have been delivered to Chevron’s Gorgon CCS project on Australia’s Barrow Island. (Photo courtesy Chevron)

The Gorgon Project is a liquefied natural gas (LNG) and domestic gas joint venture supplied by the Greater Gorgon Area gas fields.

The Chevron-operated Gorgon Project is a joint venture of the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3 percent), ExxonMobil (25 percent), Shell (25 percent), Osaka Gas (1.25 percent), Tokyo Gas (1 percent) and Chubu Electric Power (0.417 percent).

On March 20, Chevron announced that its first shipment of LNG from the Gorgon Project had left Barrow Island. The cargo goes to Chubu Electric Power, for delivery into Japan.

“Departure of the first cargo from the Gorgon Project is a key milestone in our commitment to be a reliable LNG provider for customers across the Asia-Pacific region,” said Mike Wirth, executive vice president, Chevron Midstream and Development. “This is also important for our investors as we begin to generate revenue from a project we expect will operate for decades to come.”

But bad news appears to dog the CCS industry.

On Friday, the Gorgon project had to temporarily halt production due to technical difficulties with a propane refrigerant circuit at the Gorgon plant site.

Chevron and its Gorgon partners are facing a repair bill that could amount to “hundreds of millions of dollars” after “a major mechanical problem flared as soon as the maiden LNG cargo was sent,” reported the “West Australian” newspaper on Friday.

There are many skeptics, given that it can cost billions of dollars for a CCS facility and none have a long record of successful operation at an industrial scale. Some investors initially put their money into carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies only to see their CCS plans fail or get tossed out by governments.

“It is our view that CCS is unlikely to play a significant role in mitigating emissions from coal-fired power stations,” authors including Ben Caldecott, director of the sustainable finance program at the University of Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, wrote in a report published in January.

“Deployment of CCS has already been too slow to match” scenarios presented by the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, they warned.

Another concern is whether stored CO2 will leak from storage sites, releasing the gas back into the atmosphere.

“There is no guarantee that carbon dioxide can be stored in a stable way in Japan where there are many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions,” Kimiko Hirata, a researcher for Kiko Network, a Kyoto-based environmental group, told Bloomberg News.

In 2015, the FutureGen Alliance, a U.S. industrial group with a high-profile carbon capture project in Illinois, lost its Department of Energy financing.

FutureGen, a partnership between the U.S. government and an alliance of coal-related corporations, was retrofitting a coal-fired power plant with oxy-combustion generators. The excess CO2 would be piped 30 miles (48 km) to be stored in underground saline formations. Costs were estimated at US$1.65 billion, with $1 billion provided by the U.S. government.

But the U.S. Department of Energy ordered suspension of FutureGen 2.0 in February 2015, citing the alliance’s inability to raise much private funding. At the time of suspension the power plant part of the project had spent $116.5 million and the CCS part had spent $86 million.

In the UK, the British National Audit Office (NAO) has announced plans to investigate then-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s 2015 decision to scrap a £1bn prototype carbon capture scheme that has already cost the taxpayers at least £60 million.

The spending watchdog said that this summer it will examine the expenses incurred in running, and then prematurely halting, a CCS competition for financing.

In the competition, the Department of Energy and Climate shortlisted two projects. Shell was developing a trial scheme at Peterhead in Scotland alongside one of the big six energy suppliers and power station owner SSE. A separate White Rose project was being developed by Drax at its coal-fired plant in Selby, North Yorkshire.

They were awarded multi-million pound contracts to finalize these proposals before a final investment decision could be taken.

But in November 2015 the agency withdrew funding for the program, suspending the competition.

The NAO will review the government decision, what impacts it will have on the department’s objectives of decarbonization and security of supply, and the costs incurred by government in running the competition.

Dr. Luke Warren, chief executive of the CCSA, called the funding cut “devastating.”

“Only six months ago the government’s manifesto committed £1 billion of funding for CCS,” said Warren. “Moving the goalposts just at the time when a four year competition is about to conclude is an appalling way to do business.”

In February, the UK Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee reported on the future of CCS in the country in view of the funding cut.

The government’s decision to pull funding for carbon capture and storage at the last minute will delay the development of the technology in the UK and could make it challenging for the UK to meet its climate change commitments agreed at the Paris COP21 summit, the Energy and Climate Change Committee report warned.

Said Angus MacNeil MP, Energy and Climate Change Committee Chair, “If we don’t invest in the infrastructure needed for carbon capture and storage technology now, it could be much more expensive to meet our climate change targets in the future. Gas-fired power stations pump out less carbon dioxide than ones burning coal, but they are still too polluting.”

“If the government is committed to the climate change pledges made in Paris, it cannot afford to sit back and simply wait and see if CCS will be deployed when it is needed,” said MacNeil. “Getting the infrastructure in place takes time and the government needs to ensure that we can start fitting gas fired power stations with carbon capture and storage technology in the 2020s.”


Featured image Coal Pile courtesy of 123R

Paris Climate Pact Supports REDD+ Forest Credits

ColombiaForestCIATBy Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 29, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – When forests are cleared, climate warming is accelerated as the trees that were cut can no longer store carbon dioxide (CO2). Support for financial incentives that encourage the conservation of forested lands, known as REDD+, is included in the Paris Climate Agreement that 195 governments reached in December.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an international effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests through a market in carbon credits.

The UN-REDD Programme donors are Denmark, the European Union, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. To date, donor contributions total US$215.2 million. For an overview of current funds and budget allocations, see the Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Gateway

The UN-backed program encourages results-based payments for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation to include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

REDD+ was developed by Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to create an incentive for developing countries to protect, better manage and wisely use their forest resources, conserving biodiversity and assisting the global fight against climate change.

In addition to the environmental benefits, REDD+ offers social and economic benefits and is being integrated into green economy strategies. REDD+ projects have been opened in at least 47 developing countries.

The role of REDD+ in reducing climate change is recognized in the Paris Climate Agreement that 195 governments reached in December. The agreement will be opened for signature at UN Headquarters in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016.

The pact will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification.

Article 5.2 of the Paris Agreement is devoted to REDD+, capping a decade of negotiations. It cements REDD+ as a core element of the global climate regime.

The Warsaw Framework for REDD+, agreed in March 2014, outlines key UNFCCC requirements that must be met by developing countries in order to realize results-based payments for REDD+ actions.

“REDD+ can be put in place as an incentive system through which sustainable development can take place without having to cut down the forests,” said Mario Boccucci, who heads the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat.

In an interview with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, he gave examples that include: increasing agricultural productivity; shifting toward agroforestry practices; and finding, financing, investing in and rewarding land-use management practices that do not reduce the forest cover.

Boccucci called the Paris Agreement “a turning point for humanity and for climate change” because “it sends a very strong and powerful signal that a global transformation towards a low-emission economy is not only needed, but it’s possible and it’s underway.”

The agreement brings together in a very powerful way the climate change agenda with the sustainable development agenda, said Boccucci. “It says: You have to do these two things together to reach the level of emissions reductions needed to meet the climate change mitigation target of keeping this planet at a less-than-2°C temperature increase, or as close as possible to 1.5°C.”

The inclusion of REDD+ in the agreement, “really signals that there is both political and financial confidence in REDD+ as a climate change mitigation solution that can work at scale in the near future,” Boccucci declared.

“This signal will energize, catalyze and scale up actions that so far we have seen delivered on a more opportunistic or smaller scale, as the level of investment that will be required will start to flow,” he said.

“Countries are now able to implement forest management policy changes with the confidence that they will be rewarded through a climate change regime that recognizes the value of emissions reduction produced through the forest system.”

The UN-REDD Programme donors are Denmark, the European Union, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. To date, donor contributions total US$215.2 million. For an overview of current funds and budget allocations, consult the Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Gateway .

At an official COP21 side event on December 8 in Paris, Helen Clark, UNDP administrator and UN Development Group chair said, “The UN-REDD Programme can make a strong contribution to strengthening delivery of REDD+ support post-2015.”

“The new UN-REDD Strategic Framework for 2016-2020  will be important in this regard,” said Clark. “It prioritizes national-level actions, helping governments to craft and implement policies and measures for REDD+, supported by multi-stakeholder dialogues and partnerships to address key drivers of deforestation.”

One example is a REDD+ project that has been operating since 2014.

The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project is reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation on 38,781 hectares of privately-owned land in Zambia’s Rufunsa District.

Known as the Rufunsa Conservancy, this is one of the last intact areas of forest within Lusaka Province. It provides a 60-kilometer buffer to Lower Zambezi National Park, a strategic protected area in Zambia in a globally significant trans-frontier conservation area.

Lower Zambezi National Park is adjacent to Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some 8,300 people live in 28 villages in the project area. The project proponent is BioCarbon Partners.

Carbon credits are authenticated by the Verified Carbon Standard Project Database, a global benchmark for carbon.

Every Verified Carbon Unit in the program can be tracked from issuance to retirement in the database, allowing buyers to ensure every credit is real, additional, permanent, independently verified, uniquely numbered and fully traceable online.

NoREDDProtestBut critics say financing reduction of deforestation through the trade of carbon credits is unworkable.

While the Paris agreement permits such trading in principle, it requires that the sale of carbon credits needthe consent of the country in which a project is located, dampening the enthusiasm of the private sector for this international trade mechanism, writes Jutta Kill in “German Climate Finance” of February 23.

“Even after almost ten years of ‘REDD+ Readiness,’ there is no evidence that REDD+ is an effective instrument against large-scale forest destruction,” writes Kill.

Problems in the implementation of REDD+ are increasingly apparent, according to the case book “REDD+ on the Ground” by the Center for International Forestry Research, which states, “Following the Bali COP in 2007, international funding for REDD+ quickly ramped up, with large pledges from governments and the development of voluntary markets. Since 2010, however, the flow of funds has been smaller…”

Also critical is the World Rainforest Movement, an international NGO and Indigenous Peoples’ Groups network. In 2014, this group published “REDD: A Collection of Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies,” an account of 24 controversial REDD+ initiatives.

“As offset projects, they all fail to address the climate crisis because by definition, offset projects do not reduce overall emissions: emission reductions claimed in one place justify extra emissions elsewhere,” claims the World Rainforest Movement.

Winnie Overbeek, international coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement, said in an August 2015 interview  “REDD is not only a false solution to climate change, REDD also represents a severe threat for communities that depend on forests. This is what we have learned from communities affected by REDD+ projects that we could visit and/or whom we have talked with over the years.”

Even so, UN officials still see the REDD+ mechanism as a sharp tool in the fight against climate change.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said, “REDD+ and the significant investments we are seeing can act as a catalyst for a green economy transformation. This is more true as we increasingly engage the private sector in our efforts. Like a rising tide that lifts all ships, investments into REDD+ readiness and implementation can also trigger broader policy changes.”

Boccucci said, “The Paris Agreement demonstrates an unprecedented level of ambition and commitment by global leaders to address climate change issues. The UN-REDD Programme stands ready and prepared in this post-Paris ‘era of implementation’ to continue to support developing countries to realize their reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation goals and harness the long-term social, environmental and economic benefits of REDD+.”


Featured image: An elephant in Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia, a REDD+ project, October 2014 (Photo by Naiyaru) Creative Commons license via Flickr
Header image: Measuring carbon in Reserva Natural El Hatico, familia Molina Durán, near Palmira, Colombia, as part of a workshop on REDD+ hosted by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), May 2011. (Photo by Neil Palmer / CIAT)
image 01: Friends of the Earth International, Alliance against REDD, Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice, No REDD+ in Africa Network and Global protest in solidarity with the communities threatened by REDD+, December 8, 2015 at the COP21 climate conference, Le Bourget, Paris, France. (Photo by Friends of the Earth International) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Earth Hour: Going Dark to ‘Change Climate Change’

EarthHour2015Karachi

Engro Green Office Program personnel celebrate Earth Hour 2015 with a candlelight vigil in Karachi, Pakistan. March 27, 2015. (Photo by Green Office Engro) creative commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

SINGAPORE, March 17, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – On Saturday evening, March 19 at exactly 20:30 local time, millions of people around the world will switch off their non-essential lights for one hour to show their commitment to cooling the over-heated planet. This is Earth Hour, a WWF initiative to inspire climate change action.

DasSid

Earth Hour Global Executive Director Sid Das joined Earth Hour from Google in 2009, when he lived in Sydney, Australia. He moved to Singapore with the Earth Hour organizing team in 2012. (Photo courtesy Earth Hour)

“The world is at a climate crossroads,” said Siddarth Das, executive director, Earth Hour Global, based in Singapore. “While we are experiencing the impacts of climate change more than ever, we are also witnessing a new momentum in climate action transcending borders and generations.”

“From living rooms to classrooms and conference rooms, people are demanding climate action,” said Das. “This 10th edition of Earth Hour is our time to ensure people are empowered to be a part of climate solutions.”

In 2007, WWF-Australia inspired Sydney residents to show their support for climate change action in the first Earth Hour event. More than 2,000 businesses and 2.2 million individuals turned their lights out for an hour to take a stand against runaway climate change.

Over Earth Hour’s 10-year history, an increasing number of businesses, individuals, institutions and landmarks have participated.

Last year, 7,000 cities in more than 170 countries and territories got involved.

This year, WWF Earth Hour organizers believe their campaign has helped persuade people to cool their demand for electricity generated by fossil fuels after 195 nations agreed in December to limit their greenhouse gas emissions under the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement.

LeonardLou

As Vice President of the WWF Climate Change Program, Lou Leonard is the organization’s strategic leader on fighting climate change. (Photo courtesy WWF-US)

Based in Washington, DC, Lou Leonard is vice president, climate and energy, World Wildlife Fund, which is WWF in the United States. “Earth Hour arrives at a pivotal moment. The threat has never been clearer but the momentum has never been so clearly on our side,” he said. “Last year was the warmest year on record and the first year the entire world agreed to act together to turn back the climate threat.”

“But we can’t stop here,” warned Leonard. “As the lights go out from New Zealand to New York, it’s time to do the work needed to make the Paris Agreement come alive. From the Clean Power Plan in America to a national cap-and-trade law in China, to a global system to tackle international aviation pollution, 2016 is the year where we can prove that a zero-carbon future is within our grasp. It’s up to all of us to do our part.”

In the United States alone, many landmarks and businesses have pledged to go dark for Earth Hour. They include: the Empire State Building and many Broadway theatres in New York City, the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle in Seattle, and dozens of the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip and in other cities across the country. See a complete list here.

Around the world, more than 350 of the world’s most iconic landmarks will be turning out the lights on Saturday evening, including the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge is mobilizing action and support from cities throughout the world in the global transition towards a climate-friendly future by offering recognition as a reward.

Cities are invited to report inspiring and credible commitments and actions that build climate resilient communities based on renewable energy and low carbon development.

One city will be crowned as the 2016 global Earth Hour Capital, selected by an international jury of experts from among 124 participating cities across 21 countries.

The Earth Hour City Challenge began in 2012, when WWF invited cities from six countries – Canada, India, Italy, Norway, Sweden and the United States – to participate. A total of 66 cities accepted WWF’s challenge – the winner, announced in 2013, was Vancouver, Canada.

Last year, Seoul, South Korea was the global winner of WWF’s Earth Hour City Challenge out of 166 participating cities in 17 countries. An ambitious initiative by the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 million tons and to achieve 20 percent electricity self-reliance by 2020 was acclaimed by the international jury of experts.

As part of the 2015 Earth Hour City Challenge, the city of Balikpapan, Indonesia was recognized as the Most Loveable City. Balikpapan was one of 47 green city finalists selected through the social media platform We Love Cities . The We Love Cities site enables visitors to vote for the city they love the most this year. The most loveable city will be announced April 9.

WWF explains, “The Earth Hour City Challenge is not about rewarding cities for the most impressive, hi-tech plans, but about commitment and innovative thinking that promotes attractive, one-planet lifestyles, and provides solutions to the challenges of food, water and energy security.”

To date, Earth Hour has powered more than 530,000 individual actions taken “to help change climate change.”

WWF and Earth Hour teams across six continents are working right now to mobilize public action on climate change in the lead-up to the hour and throughout the year.

They are rallying individuals to participate in reforestation efforts in Georgia and Indonesia, promoting a switch to renewables in Uganda and India, spreading awareness on sustainable food in Italy and Australia and encouraging sustainable lifestyles in Chile and China.

For the first time this year, supporters have been invited to share their commitment to the planet by donating their own personal landmarks – their Facebook feeds and social media profile pictures – to Earth Hour to inspire their friends and communities to join the movement. Click here to donate.

Follow Earth Hour and/or comment on Twitter at #ChangeClimateChange.

Das said, “Whether it is the flick of a switch or the click of a mouse, Earth Hour’s enduring appeal lies in its ability to connect people and show them that we all stand united in our ambition to change climate change.”EarthHourWebBanner


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

 

Food Supplies At Risk as Pollinators Vanish

ButterfliesThistlesBy Sunny Lewis

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, March 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Apples, mangoes and almonds are delicious, pollinator-dependent foods, but these dietary staples are at risk because bees and other pollinators worldwide are disappearing, driven toward extinction by the pressures of living with humans.

The holes they are leaving in the fabric of life threaten millions of human livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of human food supplies, finds the first global assessment of pollinators, published Friday.

Conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the two-year study highlights ways to effectively safeguard pollinator populations.

Based in Germany, IPBES was founded four years ago with 124 member nations to develop the intersection between international scientific understanding and public policymaking.

The organization’s first biodiversity assessment, “Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production” was compiled by a team of 77 experts from all over the world. It underwent two rounds of peer review involving experts and governments.

The final assessment was presented at IPBES’ 4th Plenary meeting, which took place February 22-28 in Kuala Lumpur, hosted by the government of Malaysia.

With citations from some 3,000 scientific papers, it is the first such assessment based not only on scientific knowledge but also on indigenous and local knowledge. Information about indigenous and local practices comes from more than 60 locations around the world.

“Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security. Their health is directly linked to our own well-being,” said Vera Lucia Imperatriz Fonseca, PhD, co-chair of the IPBES assessment and a senior professor at University of São Paulo in Brazil.

The study finds that more than three-quarters of the world’s food crops are pollinated by insects and other animals. Nearly 90 percent of all wild flowering plants depend on animal pollination, the study notes.

Each year, at least US$235 billion and up to US$577 billion worth of global food production relies on the actions of these pollinators.

BeeAppleTree

Honey bee in the apple tree, Ontario, Canada, 2007 (Photo by Mike Bowler) creative commons license via Flickr

There are more than 20,000 species of wild bees, plus other species: butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other animals, that pollinate the foods we love best.

Crop yields depend on both wild and managed species, the researchers found.

Pollinated crops are fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and oils – important sources of vitamins and minerals for human health and well being.

Chocolate, for example, comes from the seeds of the cacao tree. Two distinct kinds of midges are essential for the pollination of cacao trees, the study notes. No midges, no money. The annual value of the world’s cocoa bean crop is roughly US$5.7 billion.

“Without pollinators, many of us would no longer be able to enjoy coffee, chocolate and apples, among many other foods that are part of our daily lives,” said Simon Potts, PhD, the other assessment co-chair and professor of biodiversity and ecosystem services in the School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, UK.

Historically, bees have inspired art, music, religion and technology. Sacred passages about bees occur in all major world religions.

Food crops are not the only kind that need pollinators – there are the biofuels, such as canola and palm oils; fibers like cotton; medicines, livestock forage and construction materials. Some bee species make prime quality beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts.

But pollinators are disappearing. The study team estimated that 16 percent of vertebrate pollinators are threatened with global extinction, a number that increases to 30 percent for island species, with a trend toward more extinctions.

Global assessments are still lacking, but regional and national assessments show high levels of threat, especially for bees and butterflies. Often more than 40 percent of invertebrate species are threatened locally.

“Wild pollinators in certain regions, especially bees and butterflies, are being threatened by a variety of factors,” said IPBES Vice Chair Sir Robert Watson.

“Their decline is primarily due to changes in land use, intensive agricultural practices and pesticide use, alien invasive species, diseases and pests, and climate change,” said Watson, a British atmospheric chemist who has served as a chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The IPBES study confirms declines in regional wild pollinators for North Western Europe and North America.

Local cases of decline have been documented in other parts of the world, but data are too sparse to draw broad conclusions.

José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said, “Enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as for helping family farmers’ adaptation to climate change.”

The assessment found that pesticides, including the notorious neonicotinoid insecticides outlawed in some countries, threaten pollinators worldwide, although the long-term effects are still unknown.

Pests and diseases pose a special threat to managed bees, but the risk can be reduced through better disease detection and management, and regulations on the trade and movement of bees.

The effects of genetically modified crops on pollinators are poorly understood and not usually accounted for in risk assessments.

The decline of practices based on indigenous and local knowledge is a factor too. The traditional farming systems; maintenance of diverse landscapes and gardens; kinship relationships that protect specific pollinators; and cultures and languages that are connected to pollinators are all important in safeguarding the tiny creatures.

“The good news is that a number of steps can be taken to reduce the risks to pollinators, including practices based on indigenous and local knowledge,” said Zakri Abdul Hamid, elected founding chair of IPBES at its first plenary meeting in 2012.

So, one solution is supporting traditional practices that manage habitat patchiness, crop rotation, and coproduction between science and indigenous local knowledge, the study finds.

Safeguards include the promotion of sustainable agriculture, which helps diversify the agricultural landscape and makes use of ecological processes as part of food production.

Achim Steiner, executive director, UN Environmental Programme, thinks humans have to take this situation seriously, saying, “The growing threat to pollinators, which play an important role in food security, provides another compelling example of how connected people are to our environment, and how deeply entwined our fate is with that of the natural world.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main Image: In Lorton, Virginia, the Meadowood Special Recreation Management Area’s pollinator garden attracts butterfly species like these Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Papilio Glaucus. (Photo by Jennifer Stratton, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, BLM Eastern States) public domain
Featured Image: Red-belted Bumble Bee, Bombus rufocinctus, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 2014 (Photo by Dan Mullen) creative commons license via Flickr

What is Circular Economy

what-is-circular-economy

(Maximpact.com News)

Citizens of the world have realized that people do not have infinite resources. Demand on raw materials has escalated, with no management of waste and the limited supply we have of those materials. Environmental repercussions of climate change and sustainability are now at the top of the global agenda and are mission-critical.

This article focuses on the circular economy and its benefits to help combat our global problems. European countries, particularly the Nordic ones, have embraced the circular theory years ago and are reaping the benefits of zero waste economies while setting good examples for their neighbors.

What Is Circular Economy?

The concept of circular economy calls for the reuse of materials for as long as this is feasible. These materials should be used to their greatest extent and, when a person is done using said materials, should be able to renew or restore the power of these materials for further use down the line. Besides materials, circular economy may also apply to components and products.

Circular economy is in direct opposition to what is known as a linear economy. With this concept, much less thought is put into the long-term ramifications of use of a material, component, or product. Instead, this material is made, a person uses it, and then they throw away what’s left. This creates a productivity dead-end. Over the years we have become a throwaway society.

What Is the History of Circular Economy?

If any one person created the concept of circular economy, they didn’t promote themselves, because research doesn’t attribute this to anybody specifically. Instead, the move towards a circular economy is estimated to have started in the 1970s and gained momentum as the years went by.

There are numerous models that have led to the development of circular economy as it’s understood today. These are as follows:

  • Regenerative design — Credited to John T. Lyle, the concept of regenerative design is similar to what we know as circular economy.
  • Blue economy — Gunter Pauli of Belgium, who worked as the CEO at Ecover, developed the blue economy, which tells us what is left over from a product could become the basis for a new product and revenue stream.
  • Industrial ecology — Focusing specifically on the industrial field, industrial ecology deals with energy flow and material usage in this area.
  • Biomimicry — Popularized by Janine Benyus, biomimicry involves borrowing successful concepts that have already been used and redesigning them for your own purposes.
  • Performance economy — An early pillar in circular economy, industrial analyst and architect Walter Stahel developed this concept back in 1976. He believed that a circular economy could prevent waste, produce more resources, create competition, and make more jobs.
  • Cradle to cradle — Bill McDonough (an architect from the US) and Michael Braungart (a chemist from Germany) developed the cradle to cradle concept. Simply put, this model seeks to cut back on product waste and embrace more production.

How Can Businesses Use This Concept?

As you’ve seen, while circular economy can indeed apply to the universe itself and preserving finite resources, it can also be used as a business model. Business owners big and small can benefit from the school of thought associated with circular economy. Research has found that tens of thousands of jobs can be made to positively stimulate the economy just by following the circular economy model.

Are You Looking for a Circular Expert / Consultant?

At Maximpact, we can help you find the right circular expert consultant. Maximpact consulting network is a select global network of certified consultants in over 200 sectors and sub-sectors, experience in over 680 projects. All consultants are verified through a certification screening process, so that Maximpact can assist clients in making the best decision in finding the exact skill set they need.

Maximpact offers access to a network of circular, impact and sustainability consultants and experts. No matter the scope of your project or the size of your company, you can receive assistance through all stages of the project development process. Maximpact Ecosystems offers advisory, marketing, consulting, and financial services for sectors like environment, water, clean technology, renewable energy, agriculture, and more. With offices in Hong Kong, California, Abu Dhabi, and Monaco, Maximpact can help you move towards a circular economy.

Green Economies Arising Across Europe

GermanyWindfarm By Sunny Lewis

HELSINKI, Finland, February 4, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A broad political will and the involvement of many different economic and social actors are essential for successful transition to a green economy, conclude researchers from five institutes of the Partnership for European Environmental Research (PEER).

For their newly published report, “Implementing the Green Economy in a European Context: Lessons Learned from Theories, Concepts and Case Studies,” the researchers studied 10 innovative cases from Denmark, Finland, France, Germany and the Netherlands.

They found that successful projects include a broad range of stakeholders, have strong and consistent political support, and integrate research activities into the implementation of the initiatives.

In his forward to the report, PEER Chairman Prof. Dr. Georg Teutsch wrote, “These case studies were utilized to reveal opportunities, but also barriers and challenges for the transformation into a zero waste, renewable bio- and ecosystem-services-based production system.”

“The project aimed at producing increased understanding about the concepts and foundations for future circular and green economy securing the maintenance of a full range of ecosystem services on which society relies,” he wrote.

Transitions to a green economy are never purely based on win-win solutions, but require trade-offs among multiple goals across many sectors, the report finds.

Reaching a win-win proposition becomes more laborious the more stakeholders and competing interests there are, the researchers explained. “Sometimes win-win solutions were not enough if the alternatives remained more profitable, market structures did not encourage change or stakeholders were not committed.”

Driven to meet growing demands for food, drinking water, timber, fiber, and fuel as well as minerals, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively over the past 100 years than at any time in human history, according to the report.

“These changes are a result of traditional one-way linear economic models: resource – product – waste and may lead to depletion of natural resources and irreversible changes in the environment,” the report states.

Today, civil society, industrial and political leaders are acknowledging the urgent need for reconsideration and revision of this type of thinking.

Greening an economy is being promoted as a new strategy for enhancing human well-being and reducing environmental risk, defined as “low-carbon and climate proof, resource-efficient and socially inclusive,” according to the report.

The PEER report contains conceptual analysis and empirical case studies that indicate the need for far-sighted planning, multi-source financing and wide stakeholder participation in green economy initiatives.

Jyväskylä

Jyväskylä is the largest city in the region of central Finland on the Finnish Lakeland. It was the subject of one of the 10 cases analyzed in the PEER report.

 

 

 

 

The 10 case studies spanned national, regional and local activities.

The two on the national level are:

  • Germany’s energy transition, since the 1980s
  • Increasing the construction of large-scale buildings from wood in Finland, since the 1990s

 

The five regional cases are from France, Finland and Germany. They are:

  • A project to support the implementation of biogas plants in the area of Brittany, France (2007-11)
  • A project to minimize organic waste in the Rennes Metropole region of France (2010-2012)
  •  A project to develop the city of Jyväskylä, Finland into a resource-wise region (2013-2015)
  •  A project to form a network of Finnish municipalities that creates and carries out solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, since 2008
  • An initiative to sell certificates on emission reductions to support peat land restoration, since 2010

 

The three local case studies are:

  • An industrial symbiosis initiative in the harbor area of Dunkirk, France, since the 1960s
  • Cooperation between farmers and the water company to improve soil in the Duurzaam region of The Netherlands, since 2013
  • A project on off-shore macroalgae cultivation to promote circular resource management and bio-based production in Denmark, since 2012

 

Lea Kauppi, Director General of the Finnish Environment Institute and a former PEER chairperson.

“As illustrated by the study, the complexity and multi-sectoral nature of the green economy calls for a broad integration of sectors connected to environment, innovation, transport, housing, energy, agriculture and spatial planning,” said Lea Kauppi, director general of the Finnish Environment Institute, one of the five institutes responsible for the report, and a former PEER chairperson.

“The case studies also illustrate the need for comprehensive analysis of the effects of regulation and legislation, as well as the importance of stakeholder commitment, good leadership and coordination,” she said.

The report concludes that transforming the economy requires innovation in terms of technology, organizational support, market and broader societal conditions, and an overarching governance framework, but most of all, a consistent and cross-sectoral political will.

All the PEER partners supported the preparation of the project, and finally five institutes were the active research members: the Finnish Environment Institute, which handled coordination of the project; Alterra Wageningen UR in the Netherlands; IRSTEA – the National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture in France; the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ in Germany; and the (DCE) Danish Centre for Environment and Energy at Aarhus University.

A biogas plant in the Brittany region of France developed by Hera Cleantech, the environmental engineering division of the Spanish international group Hera Holding.

A biogas plant in the Brittany region of France developed by Hera Cleantech, the environmental engineering division of the Spanish international group Hera Holding.

Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Main and Featured image: This windfarm in Gemeinde Driedorf, Hesse, Germany is part of the German transition from energy generated from fossil fuels and nuclear power stations to renewable energy. June 2013 (Photo by Neuwieser) under creative commons license via Flickr
Image 01: Lea Kauppi is director general of the Finnish Environment Institute and a former PEER chairperson. (Photo courtesy Linkedin)
Image 02: A biogas plant in the Brittany (Photo courtesy Hera Cleantech)

Global Climate Consensus Forged in Paris

COP21VictoryHandsUp

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, December 15, 2015 (Maximpact News) – “The Paris Agreement on climate change is a monumental triumph for people and planet,” declared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as delegates from 195 countries approved the world’s first universal pact to take common climate action.

“We have solid results on all key points,” said Ban. “The agreement demonstrates solidarity. It is ambitious, flexible, credible and durable.”

The Paris Climate Agreement is not a formal treaty. It doesn’t contain legally-binding carbon targets. Instead, each country has put forth its own voluntary proposals for ambitious carbon reductions.

The Paris agreement is built on these Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by 187 countries in advance of COP21. The remaining countries are encouraged to issue their INDCs.

The proposals made to date will, at best, take the world about halfway to the target of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial temperatures.

World leaders agreed on the 2 degree goal at the UN climate conference in 2009, confirmed it in 2010, and enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement on December 12.

But although commitments made under the Paris Agreement don’t meet the target goal, most stakeholders view the document as an effective instrument that will at least begin to limit the greenhouse gases responsible for planetary warming.

For one thing, the Parties put in language that requires them to work toward holding the increase to 1.5 degrees C, or 2.7 degrees F.

Scientists agree that we must hold total warming below 2 degrees to avoid dangerous climate change. Yet even at that level, island and coastal communities would be at risk of inundation by rising seas.

To date, average global temperatures have risen by about one degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees F higher than 150 years ago. Most of the warming has happened in the past 50 years.

Keeping total warming 1.5 degrees is crucially important, countries agreed in Paris.

To approach the lower 1.5 degree target, the agreement calls on nations to assess their progress every two years. They agreed to come back together five years from now to build on those gains by setting even lower goals going forward.

Gaveling the agreement in with a green hammer Saturday evening, Laurent Fabius, COP21 president and the French foreign minister, announced the historic news – a moment greeted with loud applause and cheers, as the delegates rose in a standing ovation.

The jubilation followed two weeks of round-the-clock negotiations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) and years of preliminary talks that finally bore fruit.

“I have been attending many difficult multilateral negotiations, but by any standard, by far, this negotiation … is the most important for humanity,” Ban said in the tense hours before agreement was reached.

The toughest outstanding issues – the target temperature limit, climate financing, and the differing roles for developed and developing countries – were resolved at last, if only with agreement to do more in the future.

For the first time, countries must take inventory of their major sources of greenhouse gas pollution and share that information with the rest of the world.

Countries must monitor carbon emissions, using standard measuring practices subject to expert international review, and report regularly on their progress in reducing those emissions.

Ban said that enforcement of the agreement will depend on the will power of the Parties to adhere to it.

“Governments have agreed to binding, robust, transparent rules of the road to ensure that all countries do what they have agreed across a range of issues,” he explained.

Highlighting the role of the private sector, the UN chief said business leaders came to Paris in unprecedented numbers and that “powerful” clean energy solutions are already available, while many more are to come.

“With these elements in place, markets now have the clear signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity and scale up investments that will generate low-emissions, resilient growth,” said Ban.

The agreement supports the global transition to a low-carbon economy.

The fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – that are driving global climate change account for roughly 80 percent of world energy use.

But that is changing quickly.

Financial experts estimate that $50 trillion will be invested in the global energy system over the next 20 years, much of it in clean, renewable energy like wind and solar and to systems to distribute and store the electricity generated.

In the United States, General Motors, Apple computers, Google, Walmart and 150 other major American companies have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint, invest in clean energy and otherwise work toward sustainable practices in a private effort to fight climate change.

The Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have said they would invest a minimum of $325 billion in clean energy technologies over the next 10 years.

The United States, France and 17 other countries that together account for 80 percent of global research and development in clean energy technologies have promised to double that investment over the next five years.

And Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com and 25 other billionaire investors are creating a private-public initiative to help bring clean energy ideas to market.

Still, World Coal Association Chief Executive Benjamin Sporton is confident that coal will be burned for many decades to come and that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will help keep climate change under control.

“The foundation of this Paris Agreement are the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by countries in the lead-up to COP21,” said Sporton. “Countries must be supported in the implementation of their INDCs, which for many include a role for low emission coal technologies, such as high efficiency low emissions coal and carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Taking all the INDCs into account, the International Energy Agency projects that electricity generation from coal would grow by 24 percent by 2040.

Sporton sees carbon capture and storage as the way of the future. “The increased ambition of this agreement underscores the need to speed up efforts to deploy carbon capture and storage. We call on governments to move quickly to support increased investment in CCS and through providing policy parity for CCS alongside other low emission technologies.”

The Paris Climate Agreement will take effect in 2020. The document will be deposited at the UN in New York and be opened for one year for signature on April 22, 2016 Earth Day.

The agreement will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of global emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, a standard UN percentage.

Historically, the international political response to climate change began with the adoption of the UNFCCC on May 9, 1992.

The UNFCCC sets out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the climate system. The UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994, and now has 196 parties.

Now the Paris Climate Agreement will take its place in history.

“When historians look back on this day, they will say that global cooperation to secure a future safe from climate change took a dramatic new turn here in Paris,” Ban said Saturday. “Today, we can look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren, and we can finally say, tell them that we have joined hands to bequeath a more habitable world to them and to future generations.”

“For today, congratulations again on a job well done,” Ban smiled. “Let us work together, with renewed commitment, to make this a better world.”


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured Image: Laurence Tubiana, COP21 Presidency; UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; COP21 President Laurent Fabius, foreign minister, France; and President François Hollande, France, celebrate the adoption of the Paris Agreement
Slide Show: 01. Applause rings through the Paris-Le Bourget conference center as delegates celebrate their approval of the Paris Climate Agreement, Dec. 12, 2015 (Photo courtesy United Nations) 02. US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures to emphasize a point, while UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner, green tie, listens. Paris, Dec. 8, 2015 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) 03. Members of the Like-Minded Developing Countries negotiating group huddle during the final negotiations at COP21 Paris, Dec. 12, 2015

 

COP21: One Day to Deadline, All Eyes on the Bottom Line

COP21draftdistributed

PARIS, France, December 10, 2015 (ENS) – Finance remains the most contentious issue as climate negotiators from around the world approach agreement on an historic pact to control climate change that will apply to all nations.

Underlying the tension is “differentiation” between developed and developing countries. Who will be responsible for paying? Will the pool of contributors expand? Who will be the recipients of finance?

All these matters remain unresolved in the current text, issued today by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is presiding over the talks, known formally as the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

Fabius explained that the latest version of the outcome document, a 29-page text, contains three-fourths fewer brackets than the previous draft. It aims to provide an overview of progress made and identify clear options on three cross-cutting issues still to be settled at the political level.

As in all previous climate negotiations, the difference between rich countries and poor ones is the divide that makes agreement difficult.

The deal being hammered out in Paris would take effect in 2020. It will be legally-binding on all nations, but the form of the agreement is one issue still undecided.

If it takes the form of a treaty, the United States would not be able to implement it due to the opposition of the Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. Since the United States is the world’s second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, this could be an important sticking point.

Small island states and coastal developing countries have demanded that the agreement must restrict global warming to just 1.5°Celsius above the planet’s pre-industrial temperature.

The previous temperature target, agreed at the 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, was a 2°Celsius limit.

The global mean temperature today is 0.74°C (1.33 °Fahrenheit) higher than it was 150 years ago.

In Paris, the United States and the European Union have joined with over 100 other countries, both rich and poor, in a “high ambition coalition” to work for an “ambitious, durable and legally binding” agreement that would be reviewed every five years.

They envision an agreement that would recognize the below 1.5-degree temperature goal, map out a clear pathway for a low-carbon future, and include a strong package of support for developing countries, including delivery of US$100 billion annually as previously agreed.

The lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern, agrees that the 1.5-degree target should be recognized in the final pact.

“We need beyond the below 2-degree target; we need to have a recognition of 1.5 degrees in the agreement, and we need a very strong and balanced transparency article so everybody knows what we are all doing,” Stern said.

“This is our moment and we need to make it count,” said Stern.

 

On progress made to date, Fabius said compromise or significant progress has been made on capacity building, adaptation, transparency, and technology development and transfer.

He said that “initial progress” has been made on forests, cooperative approaches and mechanisms, and the preamble, and that progress on adaptation would enable parties to focus on loss and damage.

As for the remaining political issues, Fabius identified differentiation between developed and developing countries, financing and the level of ambition of the agreement.

He identified loss and damage, response measures, cooperative approaches and mechanisms, and the preamble as areas still requiring work.

On the crucial issue of financial support to help developing countries cope with both mitigation and adaptation, the G-77/China delegates, who represent the largest group of developing countries, lamented a lack of adequate reassurances on the means of implementation.

Angola, speaking for the Least Developed Countries group, stressed the need to ensure access to finance.

The EU emphasized that after 2020, countries “in a position to do so” should join in increasing financial flows to countries in need.

Saudi Arabia, speaking for the Arab Group, expressed concern about the phrase, “those in a position to do so.”

The developed countries appear to want to dilute their financial obligations by pushing for inclusion of the phrase “countries in a position to do so.”

This phrase invites even those developing countries that are currently financially stable to contribute to countries with fewer financial resources to help them meet their climate commitments under the new agreement.

The Arab Group warned that any goal that threatens their sustainable development, or their ability to eradicate poverty and ensure food security will not be acceptable.

China welcomed the latest version of the text as open and balanced, and indicated willingness to work towards an outcome that reflects fairness and ambition.

But the poorer countries are still not reassured. Delegates with the African Group noted their concern on the reflection of individual commitments without references to financial support.

Bangladesh asked for special consideration of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States to be reintroduced in Article 6, the section on finance.

Many of the climate commitments, known in UN-speak as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, submitted by developing countries are conditioned on financial support from the developed countries.

The poorer countries are not willing to discuss other issues until there is a clear pathway to and assurance of the financial provisions post-2020.

The developing countries have expected that whatever financing is available to them would be in the form of no-strings attached grants from public finance. But developed countries want to include a basket of grants, credit, investments from both public and private sources.

The multi-lateral development banks have announced a US$100 billion annual pool of money for developing countries to work with in dealing with the impact of climate change.

In addition, the developed countries have pledged US$100 billion a year for the same purpose. They will channel much of that funding through the new Green Climate Fund.

That grant-making has already begun. In Paris, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the South American country of Guyana each signed a readiness grant agreement with the Green Climate Fund. These grants provide US$300,000 for capacity building to help the recipients prepare to access investment funding from the Green Climate Fund for mitigation and adaptation projects.


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured/ Header image: The revised draft Paris outcome is distributed to delegates at COP21, December 10, 2015 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
Slide Show: 01. Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, Saudi Arabia, addresses the delegates at COP21, December 7, 2015.  02. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, is President of COP21, known formally as the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC. 03. Miguel Arias Cañete, Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, European Commission, addresses the delegates at COP21, December 7, 2015. 04. Edna Molewa, Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs, South Africa, speaks on behalf of the G-77/China, December 9, 2015 (All photos courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)