A section of Jabberwock beach, located on the northeastern coast of Antigua, that is being eroded by the sea. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown

ST. JOHN'S, Antigua, Apr 15 (IPS) - Jabberwock beach, located on the northeastern coast of Antigua, features a mile-long white sand beach and is a favourite with locals and visitors alike.

But Freeston Williams, a resident who frequents the area for exercise and other recreational activities, is worried that the beach is quickly disappearing.

"I travel around the Jabberwock area on the northern side of the island and I notice the shoreline is coming in closer to the road which means that it's minimising the area we use for exercise," Williams told IPS."I am not sure what exactly is causing all this but sooner or later we will not have any beach left."

Antigua and Barbuda's chief environment officer Diann Black-Layne said the sea level is in fact rising and she is mobilising legislators and residents of the small island-nation to become "climate ready" by implementing national activities on climate change.

"In the past 10 years we have experienced three droughts in Antigua. The temperature of the Caribbean Sea will have summer temperatures all the time. This means hurricane season will be all year round," Black-Layne told IPS.

Pointing to the consequences of a two-degree C increase in global temperatures as outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), Black-Layne said there would be disruption of livelihoods in low-lying coastal zones and small island developing states and other small islands, due to storm surges, coastal flooding, and sea-level rise.

"For persons living in the tropics it will just be too hot, every building will have to be air-conditioned - schools, churches, clinics, prisons," she said.

"There would also be failure of infrastructure such as roads, seaports, airports and buildings; plants and animals, including humans, would die during periods of extreme heat; there will be a breakdown of agricultural systems resulting in food prices increasing; there will be insufficient access to drinking and irrigation water and reduced agricultural productivity; and tropical species of fish will move to cooler waters resulting in a reduction of fishing in the Caribbean."

Tourism is the mainstay of the economy of Antigua and Barbuda and is the leading sector in terms of providing employment and creating foreign exchange. But the outlook for reefs in this tourism-dependent nation is also grim.

At around 1.5 degrees C, about 89 percent of coral reefs are projected to experience severe bleaching; at two degrees C, up to 100 percent of coral reefs are projected to experience severe bleaching by the 2050s; and around four degrees C, virtually all coral reefs would be subjected to severe bleaching events annually.

Signing the Copenhagen Accord in 2009, world leaders agreed to keep temperature increases resulting from heat-trapping emissions to less than two degrees C, a target aimed at limiting dangerously disruptive climate impacts.

A policy target informed by science, two degrees C is the formally codified benchmark, the line in the sand by which nations have agreed to measure collective success in providing generations to come with a secure climate future.

The IPCC said global average surface temperatures have risen about 0.85 degrees C since 1900 and cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. It finds that having a greater than 66 percent probability of keeping warming caused by CO2 emissions alone to below two degrees C requires limiting total further emissions to between 370-540 gigatonnes of carbon (GtC).

At current rates of CO2 emissions (about 9.5 GtC per year), the world will hurtle past the two C carbon budget in less than 50 years. And this conservatively assumes that emissions rates don't continue on their current upward trajectory of 3 percent per year.

In a bid to increase awareness of climate change here, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) is spearheading a two-day workshop Apr. 14-15 under its Rallying the Region to Action on Climate Change (RRACC) project, an initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

An OECS official said participants are being updated on the current awareness levels on the island and will brainstorm to determine ways to increase the nation's consciousness. Participants are drawn from the sectors most affected by climate change.

"It will specifically seek to discuss the climate ready campaign which is currently ongoing, including results of a Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP) survey on climate change awareness in the OECS," OECS Communication Specialist Tecla Fontenard told IPS.

"We have data that shows what levels of awareness people already have and where the gaps are and we also have data from Antigua. The workshop will also determine priorities for a communication action plan for Antigua that considers critical climate change issues in four major sectors – agriculture, tourism, marine and coastal as well as the water sector."

Antigua and other countries in the OECS have a heightened vulnerability to many of the economic and environmental pressures that are emerging globally. This vulnerability, coupled with fragile natural and cultural assets and inherent social challenges, presents a special urgency to the sustainable development goals of the region.

Climate change, one of the most significant ongoing challenges to countries in the OECS, is forecast to have devastating environmental, social and economic consequences on OECS countries and Black-Layne said the administration of Prime Minister Gaston Browne will have to develop adaptation strategies, during the next two terms, in order to address several issues including sea level rise and salt water intruding below the island to affect all wells.

"A significant 100 percent of potable water will have to come from desalination, the conch industry will be damaged because of ocean acidification and fisher folk will have to adapt and move into other areas of work," she said.

But Black-Layne said all is not lost.

"From the Environment Division perspective, when you hear the pronouncements and the predicted impacts of climate change on our country it's not very encouraging. In fact it's very depressing and the temptation would be to say what's the point of doing what we're doing," she said.

"But we believe that there is always a point of redemption and I don't think we've gone beyond that point."

Edited by Kitty Stapp

All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2015)

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Nepal’s Chitwan National Park has become one of Asia's success stories in wildlife conservation. Credit: Naresh Newar/IPS

By Naresh Newar

CHITWAN, Nepal, Apr 11 (IPS) - At dusk, when the early evening sun casts its rays over the lush landscape, the Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 200 km south of Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, is a place of the utmost tranquility.

As a flock of the endangered lesser adjutant stork flies over the historic Narayani River, a left bank tributary of the Ganges in India, this correspondent's 65-year-old forest guide Jiyana Mahato asks for complete silence: this is the time of day when wild animals gather near the water. Not far away, a swamp deer takes its bath at the river's edge.

"The site of humans drives them away," explains Mahato, a member of the Tharu indigenous ethnic group who play a key role in supporting the government's wildlife conservation efforts here.

"We need to return now," he tells IPS. The evening is not a safe time for humans to be wandering around these parts, especially now that the country's once-dwindling tiger and rhinoceros populations are on the rise.

Mahato is the ideal guide. He has been around to witness the progress that has been made since the national park was first established in 1963, providing safe haven to 56 species of mammals.

Today, Chitwan is at the forefront of Nepal's efforts to conserve its unique biodiversity. Earlier this year, it became the first country in the world to implement a new conservation tool, created by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), known as the Conservation Assured | Tiger Standard (CA|TS).

Established to encourage effective management and monitoring of critically endangered species and their habitats, CA|TS has received endorsement from the likes of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Global Tiger Forum, who intend to deploy the tool worldwide as a means of achieving global conservation targets set out in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Experts say that the other 12 Tiger Range Countries (TRCs) should follow Nepal's example. This South Asian nation of 27 million people had a declining tiger population – just 121 creatures – in 2009, but intense conservation efforts have yielded an increase to 198 wild tigers in 2013, according to the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2014-2020.

Indeed, Nepal is leading the way on numerous conservation fronts, both in the region and worldwide. With 20 protected zones covering over 34,000 square km – or 23 percent of Nepal's total landmass – it now ranks second in Asia for the percentage of protected surface area relative to land size. Globally it ranks among the world's top 20 nations with the highest percentage of protected land.

In just eight years, between 2002 and 2010, Nepal added over 6,000 square km to its portfolio of protected territories, which include 10 national parks, three wildlife reserves, one hunting reserve, six conservation areas and over 5,600 hectares of ‘buffer zone' areas that surround nine of its national parks.

These steps are crucial to maintaining Nepal's 118 unique ecosystems, as well as endangered species like the one-horned rhinoceros whose numbers have risen from 354 in 2006 to 534 in 2011 according to the CBD.

Collaboration key to conservation

Sher Singh Thagunna, development officer for the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), tells IPS, "A lot of our success was due to our close collaboration with local communities who depend on biodiversity conservation for their livelihoods."

Those like Mahato, for whom conservation is not an option but a way of life, have partnered with the government on a range of initiatives including efforts to prevent poaching. Some 3,500 youths from local communities have been enlisted in anti-poaching activities throughout the national parks, tasked with patrolling tens of thousands of square km.

Collaborative conservation has taken major strides in the last decade. In 2006, the government passed over management of the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area in eastern Nepal to a local management council, marking the first time a protected area has been placed in the hands of a local committee.

According to Nepal's latest national biodiversity strategy, by 2012 all of the country's declared buffer zones, which cover 27 districts and 83 village development committees (VDCs), were being collectively managed by about 700,000 local people organised into 143 ‘buffer zone user committees' and 4,088 ‘buffer zone user groups'.

Other initiatives, like the implementation of community forestry programmes – which as of 2013 "involved 18,133 forest user groups representing 2.2 million households managing 1.7 million hectares of forestland", according to the study – have helped turn the tide on deforestation and promote the sustainable use of forest resources by locals.

Since 2004 the department of forests has created 20 collaborative forests spread out over 56,000 hectares in 10 districts of the Terai, a rich belt of marshes and grasslands located on the outer foothills of the Himalayas.

In addition, a leasehold forestry programme rolled out in 39 districts has combined conservation with poverty alleviation, providing a livelihood to over 7,400 poor households by involving them in the sustainable management and harvesting of selected forest-related products, while simultaneously protecting over 42,000 hectares of forested land.

Forest loss and degradation is a major concern for the government, with a 2014 country report to the CBD noting that 55 species of mammals and 149 species of birds – as well as numerous plant varieties – are under threat.

Given that Nepal is home to 3.2 percent of the world's flora, these trends are worrying, but if the government keeps up its track record of looping locals into conservation efforts, it will soon be able to reverse any negative trends.

Of course, none of these efforts on the ground would be possible without the right attitude at the "top", experts say.

"There is a high [degree] of political commitment at the top government level," Ghanashyam Gurung, senior conservation programme director for WWF-Nepal, tells IPS. This, in turn, has created a strong mechanism to curb the menace of poaching.

With security forces now actively involved in the fight against poaching, Nepal is bucking the global trend, defying a powerful, 213-billion-dollar annual industry by going two years without a single reported incident of poaching, DPNWC officials say.

Although other threats remain – including burning issues like an increasing population that suggests an urgent need for better urban planning, as well as the country's vulnerability to natural disasters like glacial lake outburst floods and landslides that spell danger for its mountain ecosystems – Nepal is blazing a trail that other nations would do well to follow.

"Conservation is a long process and Nepal's efforts have shown that good planning works […]," Janita Gurung, biodiversity conservation and management specialist for the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) tells IPS.

Edited by Kanya D'Almeida

All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2015)

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WASHINGTON, DC— The 3rd annual meta-analysis by the Center for Responsible Travel (CREST) finds “sustained interest among consumers in tourism products and services that protect the environment and respect local cultures” and that “sustainability is becoming much more mainstream within the tourism industry.” CREST’s newly released 2015 report, The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends and Statistics, updates earlier editions based on surveys and studies of consumer and industry demand for responsible travel done in the past five years. 

According to a 2014 survey, for instance, “some 43% of respondents said they would be considering the ethical or environmental footprint of their main holiday” while, a 2012-2013 Trip Advisor survey finds “the majority of businesses” – 91% -- “agree that operating in an eco-friendly manner is important.” In addition, a 2012 United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) study states that “tourist choices are increasingly influenced by sustainability considerations” and that over the next two decades, “global spending on ecotourism is expected to increase at a higher rate than the tourism industry as a whole.”

Based on the data collected for this report, CREST concludes that today sustainability is not long a life style choice; it is a requirement for business success. “The social and environmental imperative for responsible tourism,” states the report, “is mounting as inequality between the worlds’s richest and poorest continues to widen and the realities of climate change become even more apparent.” In 2014, for instance, Oxfam research revealed that the world’s 85 richest people control US$ 1.7 trillion – the same amount as the bottom half (3.5 billion people) of the global population. At the same time, 2014 was, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the hottest year on record, a sign of the increasing impact of climate change. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon argues that tourism, as one of the world’s largest economic sectors, “is especially well-placed to promote environmental sustainability, ‘green’ growth, and our struggle against climate change.”

CREST’s findings coincide with continued growth of international tourism. In 2014, international tourism arrivals reached 1.138 billion, a 4.7% growth over 2013. And 2014 marked the tourism industry’s fifth consecutive year of above average growth since the 2009 economic crisis. 

“This CREST analysis documents the strength and resilience of responsible travel among consumers, businesses, and destinations,” says CREST Executive Director, Dr. Martha Honey. “But,” she notes, “it also demonstrates the critical necessity of adhering to sustainable environmental and social practices if tourism is going to help to address two of our most critical global problems, the wealth gap and climate change.” 

The CREST study is published and distributed in collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and ten other leading tourism organizations and institutions.

Download the full report for free

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Illegal pseudomedicinal poached animal parts sold at an open market - Credit Avlxyz, Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/2372510597Illegal pseudomedicinal poached animal parts sold at an open market - Credit Avlxyz, Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/2372510597By Steven Broad, Executive Director of TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network

CAMBRIDGE, UK, Mar 23 (IPS) - On Feb. 13, 2014, heads of state and ministers from 41 countries met in London to inject a new level of political momentum into efforts to combat the growing global threat posed by illegal wildlife trade to species such as elephants, rhinos and tigers.

The UK government-hosted meeting adopted the 25-point London Declaration, with ambitious measures agreed to eradicate the market for illegal wildlife products; strengthen law enforcement efforts and ensure effective legal frameworks and deterrents are in place; and promote sustainable livelihoods through positive engagement with local communities.

More than a year on, representatives from these governments will gather again March 25 in Kasane, Botswana, to review progress on the implementation of that Declaration and, hopefully, commit to new and tangible actions to further strengthen their implementation.

The scale of the crisis governments in Kasane are facing is daunting: Africa-wide, almost 1,300 rhinos were lost to poaching in 2014, 1,215 of them in South Africa alone.

The situation with elephants remains dire—the most recent analysis of data from the TRAFFIC-managed Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) clearly indicates high levels of illegal ivory trade continuing.

Most worrying is the significant increase in the frequency of large-scale ivory seizures—those of over 500 kg—which are a strong indication of the involvement of organised criminal networks. The 18 seizures made in 2013 collectively constitute the greatest quantity of ivory derived from large-scale seizures since 1989, when records began.

The crisis is not confined to Africa: in Asia, TRAFFIC's tiger seizures database clearly indicates that illicit trafficking of tiger parts remains persistent. A minimum of 1,590 tigers were seized in tiger range countries between January 2000 and April 2014, an average of two per week and increasing numbers of seizures have been made by most range States.

With over 218,000 pangolins reported to have been seized by enforcement agencies between 2000 and 2012 world-wide, we must also remember that wildlife crime is an issue that goes well beyond elephants, rhinos and tigers.

While these figures paint a bleak picture of the illegal wildlife trade landscape, it would be wrong to conclude that countries will have little to report in terms of progress at Kasane. Although the ivory seizure figures do demonstrate high levels of trade, they also demonstrate higher levels of law enforcement action, especially in Africa, and we hope these countries remain vigilant.

High-level political attention to the issue continues to be significant, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier this month expressing concern over the environmental, economic and social consequences of wildlife crime and Premier Li Keqiang of China last May pledging financial support for African countries to combat poaching.

Some countries have made improvements to legislation, including Thailand, which probably had one of the largest unregulated ivory markets in the world but has recently taken steps to improve the legislation governing its domestic ivory market.

There is still a very long way to go for Thailand before its illegal ivory markets are shut down, but this was an important step in the right direction. China has recognised the importance of a more targeted approach to reducing demand for ivory and this January organised a workshop to discuss strategies for curbing illegal ivory trade—particularly targeted at the collection and art investment circles.

Countries in Africa are working together on a common African Strategy on combatting illegal wildlife trade that will be discussed at an African Union conference just a month after Kasane.

While these green shoots of progress are promising, there is little doubt that much more needs to be done and it is hoped that Kasane can be the turning point where the lofty declarations of London can be translated into tangible actions on the ground.

Wildlife criminals are responding to the actions of last year by changing their trade routes and methods, using new technologies and getting more organised. To keep up with these developments, new approaches need to be agreed at Kasane that make it significantly harder for criminals to operate, increasing the indirect and actual risks they face and reduce the rewards they reap.

New players will also need to be brought into the fray. For example, with traffickers typically using the same transportation means as legal importers, the transport sector is inadvertently becoming a critical link within illegal wildlife trade chains.

Much more outreach is needed to the private sector, to prevent criminals abusing other legitimate business services in the finance, insurance and retail sectors.

Meanwhile the power of local communities, who live with and adjacent to wildlife, needs to be harnessed for they are the eyes and ears, the very guardians of the wildlife within their realm.

Community-led approaches need to strengthen the role these communities can play in reducing illegal wildlife trade—while safeguarding their dependence on natural resources.

The world's governments in London last year declared they were up to the challenge and committed to end the scourge of illegal wildlife trade. A year later, Kasane provides the venue for those governments, and others, to show that they are able and willing to turn those words into action.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2015)

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By Roberto Savio

ROME, Mar 16 2015 (IPS) - It is now clear that we are not going to reach the goal of controlling climate change. It is worth recalling that the goal of not exceeding a 2 degree centigrade rise in global warming before 2020 was adopted at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009 as a formula for consensus. Many in the scientific community had been clamouring for immediate action – and at most for a 1 degree rise – but bowed to political realism, and accepted an easier target.

The agreement was to block the rise in global temperature before 2020, and start a process for gradually reverting the climate to safe levels, to be concluded before 2050.

Well, in the last four years, we have already witnessed an increase in temperature by 1 degree, and there is only another 1 degree left before 2020.

The European Environment Agency (EEA), which publishes a report every five years, states that Europe needs “much more ambitious goals” if it wants to reach its declared targets and for 2050, European Union leaders have endorsed the objective of reducing Europe’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80-95 percent compared with 1990 levels.

However, Germany increased its carbon emissions by 20 million tons in 2012-13, instead of reducing them. This means that, in order to reach its targets, Germany should now reduce emissions by 3.5 percent a year over the next six years, which is a difficult, if not impossible, target to achieve.

It will increase energy costs and probably lead to a reaction to block measures which can hurt the economy. By the way, this is the official position of the Republicans in the U.S. Congress, who will fight any climate proposal.

By now, the effects of climate change have become visible, and not just to the climatologists. Last year the total number of people displaced by climatic disasters (such as hurricanes, landslides, drought, floods and forest fires) reached the staggering figure of 11 million people.

Last month, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), a think-tank based in New Delhi, issued a study report citing data compiled by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, which maintains a global database of natural disasters dating back over 100 years.

The study found a 10-fold increase to 525 natural disasters in 2002 from around 50 in 1975.

By 2011, the cost of natural disasters had ballooned to 350 billion dollars. In the 110 years between 1900 and 2009, hydro-meteorological disasters increased from 25 to 3,526. Together, extreme hydro-meteorological, geological and biological events increased from 72 to 11,571 during that same period.

There is no doubt that the activities of man are having a dramatic impact on the climate and the planet, affecting people’s lives, but – as usual – the world is moving on two levels, which are unrelated and opposed.

One of the main issues among countries at climate negotiations has been how much to invest in combating climate change but here the signs are very discouraging, to say the least. Take the Green Climate Fund, for example, which was intended to be the centrepiece of efforts to raise  100 billion dollars a year by 2020 but, as of December last year, only 10 billion dollars had been pledged to the fund.

This is the track for reducing fossil emissions. Let us now look to the other track: what the rich countries are spending to keep them.

According to a report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Oil Change International (OCI), G20 governments are actually subsidising fossil fuel exploration with 88 billion dollars every year.

The report notes that “with rising costs for hard-to-reach reserves, and falling coal and oil prices, generous public subsidies are propping up fossil fuel exploration which would otherwise be deemed uneconomic.” In fact, G20 governments spend more than twice what the top 20 private companies are spending on finding new reserves of oil, gas and coal, and are doing so with public money.

So, on one hand, the system makes the right declarations of principle and, on the other, does the very opposite.

Meanwhile, there are some signs that the campaign against the need for doing something about climate change is losing credibility.

It is known that some members of the Republican Party in the United States are financed by energy giants, and it goes without saying that they will do whatever they can to boycott any deal on climate change that U.S. President Barack Obama may try to agree to at the next climate conference in Paris in December.

It is also known that a number of scientists dissent from the thinking of the more than 2,000 scientists whose work has contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in presenting the link between human activity and deterioration of the climate. Of course, the dissenting voices have received a disproportionate echo in conservative media.

However, last month, the Washington Post reported that one of the leading dissenters and guru of climate change deniers, Dr. Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, had been receiving funds from the fossil fuel industry.

The report cited documents that Greenpeace obtained through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act showing that Soon had been receiving funding from Exxon Mobil, Southern Company and the American Petroleum Institute, among others.

Climate change dissenters are clearly unconcerned that the very future of our planet is at stake or, like the governmental system, have fallen prey to the ‘ostrich syndrome’.

Edited by Phil Harris

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS - Inter Press Service.

All rights reserved, IPS – Inter Press Service (2015)

 

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