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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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Disaster Risk Reduction: Wetlands Keep Us Safe

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One of Ukraine’s two new Ramsar sites, Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire. (Photo by Oksana Golovko, 2011 courtesy Ramsar Convention) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

GLAND, Switzerland, February 2, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The frequency of natural disasters worldwide has more than doubled in just 35 years and their frequency is expected to increase due to climate change. Experts estimate that 90 percent of natural hazards are water related, so wetland conservation is essential for reducing risks.

By 2050, loss of wetlands, increasing populations, the changing climate and rising sea levels are forecast to increase the number of people vulnerable to floods to two billion.

Today, more than 1,000 events have been organized around the world to mark World Wetlands Day, the annual recognition of the eco-services wetlands provide. This year’s theme is apt in this time of increasing natural hazards, “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction.”

These events are being held to raise global awareness of the importance of wetlands and the need for their conservation and sustainable use.

Healthy, well-managed wetlands function as a natural infrastructure defending human civilization from the catastrophic effects of natural hazards.

Coastal wetlands such as mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass and tidal marshes protect against flooding and storm surges.

Inland wetlands, such as floodplains, lakes and peatlands, act as natural sponges, storing excess rainfall and reducing flooding, then releasing stored water during dry seasons to delay the onset of droughts.

But wetlands are being destroyed or degraded faster than any other type of ecosystem, according to officials of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. This treaty uniting 169 countries is named for the Iranian city on the coast of the Caspian Sea where the treaty was signed in 1971.

The latest figures show that 64 percent of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last century. Every year one percent of those remaining disappear as wetlands are drained or degraded to meet demands for water and land for agriculture, industry and growing urban populations.

Wetlands are vital because they provide food for more than three billion people worldwide and are a source of freshwater and livelihoods for over one billion.

Martha Rojas Urrego, secretary general of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, is encouraging more action to preserve these bulwarks against natural disasters.

It is crucial that more voices speak up for wetlands, more people become informed of their value and more decisive actions are taken to conserve and restore this valuable ecosystem. We seek to mobilize global actions that will lead to the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of all wetlands,” Rojas said.

We encourage policy-makers, experts and community leaders to consider wetlands as an extremely cost-effective and win-win solution for disaster risk reduction,” she said. “Decision-makers should therefore make significant efforts to integrate wetlands in cross-sectoral disaster risk reduction policies and strategies.

Wetlands are crucial for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, water experts explain. Sustainable development cannot be achieved without a decisive action for wetland conservation.

Parties to the Ramsar Convention have designated over 2,250 Wetlands of International Importance, known as Ramsar sites, covering over 2.15 million square kilometres, which are protected for the benefits they provide.

Ten new Ramsar sites, known as Wetlands of International Importance, have been designated for World Wetlands Day 2017.

Madagascar has designated five large Ramsar sites. The country now has 15 sites, which support the protection of over 1.5 million hectares of habitats critical to the island’s unique biodiversity, achieved with the support of WWF Madagascar.

These sites host unique, rich ecosystems, and are of great economic, social and cultural importance in their regions of Madagascar, an island country in the Indian Ocean, off the coast of southeast Africa.

In southeast Asia, Myanmar has designated Meinmahla Kyun Wildlife Sanctuary, a coastal wetland in the southern part of the Irrawaddy Delta, which is also an ASEAN Heritage Park. There are around 30 imperiled Irrawaddy dolphins in the rivers and creeks around the sanctuary. It supports one of the largest remaining mangrove areas in the delta, where mangroves have declined due to logging, fishing and development of shipping lanes.

France has designated Marais Breton, Baie de Bourgneuf, Ile de Noirmoutier et Forêt de Monts as a new Ramsar site. This 56,000 hectare site of coastal marshes and tidal bays on the French Atlantic coast is France’s 45th Ramsar site.

Italy has designated Trappola Marshland – Ombrone River Mouth as its 53rd Ramsar site. Located on the Tyrrhenian coast of Tuscany, this is one of the last remnants of a partly salty and partly freshwater complex of wetlands and sandy dunes.

Ukraine has designated two new Wetlands of International Importance, Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire and Archipelago Velyki and Mali Kuchugury.

Byle Lake and Koza Berezyna Mire is located in southwestern Ukraine between the Stokhid, Prypiat and Styr rivers. It includes a bog, one of the biggest karst lakes in the region, swamp forests, pine woods and a small channelled river. More than 900 native plant species and 500 animal species have been seen there.

This wetland complex plays an important role in the maintenance of hydrological regimes of the region, in addition to carbon storage and climate regulation.

Archipelago Velyki and Mali Kuchugury is an archipelago of sandbank islands and shallows in the upper reaches of the Kakhovka Reservoir in the floodplain of the Lower Dnieper River in south-eastern Ukraine where fish breed and grow. The wetland is of great importance as a natural filter of fresh water in the reservoir.

The Sundarbans National Park in India, and the neighboring Sundarbans in Bangladesh together account for the world’s largest area of protected mangroves.


Featured Image: Delta de Casamance in Senegal, where coastal mangroves act as natural safeguards against disasters. (Photo courtesy  Ramsar Convention) Posted for media use

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Maximpact’s consultant network has a wide range of environmental experts that can help your organization with water related environmental protection and disaster risk reduction. Contact us at info(@)maximpact.com and tell us what you need.

 

Eco-Conscious Tourists Welcome, Destroyers Go Home

Bang Kachao

By Sunny Lewis

BANGKOK, Thailand, January 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Tourism can play a positive role in conservation by showcasing the value of existing natural and cultural heritage and focusing attention on the need for preservation. But tourists can be disruptive, and the amenities built to serve them can destroy wildlife habitat and disturb land needed as a bulwark against climate change.

Sustainable tourism is the key. It’s more than not littering and not buying souvenirs made from endangered species, but exactly what activities are sustainable and which are destructive? Groups around the globe are finding the answers.

The Pacific Asia Tourism Authority (PATA) is working with members from nine countries to cultivate a better understanding of how tourism affects the natural world.

At the PATA Academy, held in Bangkok in early December, a team from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its Mangroves for the Future initiative offered a seminar on Business Ecosystems Training, a product of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) that presents the basics of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

As part of the seminar, IUCN hosted a site visit to Bang Kachao, a 2,000-hectare riverine peninsula covered with wetlands and forests located across the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok.

As it is near Bangkok, Bang Kachao faces the degradation of natural resources, the reduction of green space, water pollution from households and industries, land-filling for flood prevention and riverbank encroachment.

Visiting Bang Kachao allowed participants to see how well-managed tourism and cooperation with local communities can help protect the peninsula’s habitats. They learned how sustainable tourism can help conserve wildlife habitat by providing income to the local people who do the work of preservation.

Talking with community conservation groups, participants learned that local wisdom and knowledge can contribute to the sustainable management of Bang Kachao through the restoration of its mangrove ecosystems.

In 2013, IUCN Thailand started working on biodiversity conservation in Bang Kachao. With Thailand’s Royal Forest Department, the Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management, community groups and academic institutions, IUCN supports efforts to conduct landscape and biodiversity surveys, to establish demonstration sites, and to promote ecotourism activities that benefit the local community.

That same year, IUCN and its Mangroves for the Future project partnered with the Marriott International hotel chain to protect the environment and support local communities in Bang Kachao and coastal areas of Thailand through mangrove restoration, the sustainable sourcing of seafood and local procurement practices.

All these practices are a part of daily life for conservationists in the world’s most magnificent, most fragile places. And they were not made up on the fly. Formal standards have been developed by an international body dedicated to sustainable tourism.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), a virtual organization that exists only online, establishes and manages global sustainable standards with the goal of increasing sustainable tourism knowledge and practices among public and private stakeholders.

At the heart of this work are the two sets of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Sustainability Criteria: Destination Criteria as well as Hotel and Tour Operator Criteria.

The guidelines are intended to apply to all forms of tourism accommodation, from large hotels and resorts to remote community guesthouses.

The GSTC Criteria are the minimum, not the maximum, that businesses, governments, and destinations should achieve to approach social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability.

Since tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs and laws, the criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions and configured for each specific location and activity.

And the guidelines have just become even more formal. In mid-December, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) published a new Technical Specification (TS 13811) “Tourism and related services – Guidelines on developing environmental specifications for accommodation establishments,” –  New guidelines help tourism accommodation go green.

As a member of the ISO’s Technical Committee on Tourism, the GSTC contributed to the development of the new standard.

GSTC Technical Director Guy Chester said, “Sustainable tourism is vital if we are to meet the recently adopted global Sustainable Development Goals. The Technical Specification focuses on environmental aspects and it is a tribute to the rigor and applicability of the GSTC Criteria that select criteria were adopted for this ISO document.”

Clare Naden of the ISO said, “The guidelines outline a number of things that accommodation establishments can do to reduce their impact, including conserving their use of resources, reducing pollution and better managing their waste, as well as ways they can make a positive contribution to the area. This includes things such as restoring natural areas of scenic beauty and educating staff, clients and the community of the important role they too can play.”

Tuba Ulu Yilmaz of Turkey, who led an ISO tourism technical specification working group, said the new guidelines are expected to be a technical reference for a wide range of stakeholders, not just accommodation providers who want to be more environmentally friendly.

“It is also aimed at countries with no regulations to constitute a framework; national and international bodies to assess and harmonize their existing schemes or certifications; and consumers who want the choice to choose establishments that have the environment in mind,” she said. “It will foster the ultimate goal of environmental sustainability and raise the overall standard of the tourism sector.”

But Geoffrey Lipman, president at International Coalition of Tourism Partners and chair of greenearth.travel, told a tourism workshop in San Jose, Costa Rica in November that “the travel industry is behind the curve in translating global policy into local level actions.”

The workshop, co-organized by The Long Run initiative of the Zeitz Foundation, the Costa Rican Tourism Board and the Chamber of Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism of Costa Rica, emphasized the recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals as amplifying the opportunity to realize the full potential of the tourism industry for the wellbeing of the people and the planet.

“Efforts need to be brought together to impact mainstream policy making,” said Lipman. “Everyone has a responsibility to link tourism to the Sustainable Development Goals and climate targets.”

Several United Nations agencies are involved in guiding and encouraging sustainable tourism. The UNESCO World Heritage Centre sets global standards for good management of the world’s most exceptional places.

Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti Plain, the Pyramids of Egypt and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are designated as World Heritage sites that belong to all the peoples of the world. This idea is embodied in an international treaty, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

The World Heritage Centre encourages the 191 States Parties to the treaty to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites.

Sustainable tourism guidelines set the standards, and awards motivate extra effort.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will recognize exceptional sustainable tourism projects on January 20 at an awards dinner in Madrid, Spain.

The diversity of these projects is shown in the category of Enterprises. Award nominees include:

  • Garuda Indonesia airline and its Bali beach clean-up initiative, which emphasizes the role of communities in preserving coastal areas;
  • Switzerland Explorer Tours, with a 100% electric bus tour and sustainable tour experiences;
  • Meliá Hotels International of Spain for promoting employment opportunities for young people at risk of exclusion;
  • The Treetop Walking Path in the Anykščiai Regional Park in Lithuania;
  • The Projeto Fartura of Brazil and its Plentifulness Project linking food, research and travel in 145 Brazilian cities.

The UNWTO Awards on Excellence and Innovation are held in collaboration with Madrid International Tourism Trade Fair and with the support of China’s Macao Government Tourist Office, Port Aventura, the Galicia Tourism Board of Spain, Hilton Worldwide, Etihad Airways, Mapfre Asistencia, Amadeus and the Paraguay Tourism Board.

 


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: Samutprakarn Bang Kachao under creative commons license via Wikimedia Commons
Header image: Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden or the lungs of Bangkok in Bang Kachao, Samut Prakan via 123rf