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Climate Crisis Cannot be Tackled Without Shift Away from Damaging Land Use

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The way we currently use land is both a major contributor to climate change and placing unsustainable demands on the land systems on which humans and nature depend, according to an authoritative new report presented in Geneva today.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land, explores the relationship between climate, people and land in a warming world. It warns that climate change is placing additional stress on land, increasing degradation, biodiversity loss and food insecurity.

“Tackling climate change will take bold actions that go beyond addressing usual suspect issues of energy, transportation and tightening up emissions from a company’s own operations. We must address food production and supply chains in a world with growing demand. Agriculture is a major driver for land conversion and degradation, and must be part of the solution if we’re going to keep our climate stable and our planet viable,” said Melissa D. Ho, Senior Vice President, Food & Freshwater at World Wildlife Fund. “How we approach the next decade will not only affect future climate scenarios, but will also impact the fate of food production itself — and our ability to feed the future billions — as there are inextricable links between global warming and agricultural productivity. We ignore the limits of nature at our peril.”

Humans use approximately 72% of the global ice-free land surface, with land use contributing around 23% of total human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through deforestation and habitat conversion for agriculture. The removal of forests, conversion of peatlands, freshwater ecosystems, and other natural habitats releases carbon, while at the same time contributing to unprecedented biodiversity loss and land degradation. The food sector alone is responsible for 75% of deforestation worldwide, with the greatest pressure on forests taking place in the tropics. It is also a major driver of savannah and grassland conversion.

Climate change is already affecting the four pillars of food security — availability, access, utilization and stability — through increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and greater frequency of some extreme events.

The report highlights the synergies and trade-offs inherent in our land choices. WWF considers an integrated suite of sustainable land management tools necessary to secure a climate safe future, while supporting food security and nature. Nature-based climate solutions should play a key role. For instance, mangroves help increase climate resilience, while providing a range of ecosystem services to local communities and supporting fish nurseries.

The science presented in the report further underlines that climate, people and nature are fundamentally linked. Efforts to mitigate climate change and halt nature loss must go hand in hand, and be fully integrated with climate adaptation and food security considerations.

Land-based mitigation options make up to a quarter of total mitigation proposed by countries in their country climate plans, submitted to the UN under the Paris Agreement.

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Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund to Support ADB’s Green Projects

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) recently formed a partnership to support green project financing through investments in ADB’s green bonds.

“We are pleased to collaborate with GPIF on this important initiative that promotes environment-related investments in Asia and the Pacific and is closely aligned with ADB’s development mandate,” ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao said.

ADB issues green bonds to finance projects in the Asia and Pacific region that help its developing member countries mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the consequences of climate change. ADB issued its first green bond in 2015. It has since issued more than $6 billion equivalent green bonds in various currencies. ADB green bonds provide opportunities for institutional investors, including pension funds and asset managers, to achieve their green mandate.

The green bond investment will help GPIF fulfill its stewardship responsibilities for environment, social, and governance (ESG) investments. GPIF, the largest pension fund in the world in terms of assets under management, can support ADB’s green bond program in a substantial way.

“GPIF requires all asset managers to integrate ESG into their investment analysis and decision-making. We regard the purchase of Green, Social, and Sustainability Bonds as one of the direct methods of ESG integration in the fixed income investment. GPIF is committed to promote ESG integration through our investment chain in order to ensure the sustainable performance of the pension reserve fund for all generations,” GPIF Executive Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer Mr. Hiro Mizuno said.

Global CO2 emissions have been increasing since 2018; and Asia produces about 40% of global emissions. “Driven by continuous economic growth, accelerating urbanization, and expanding middle classes, Asia accounts for the majority of rising energy needs worldwide. It is, therefore, essential that the region plays a proactive part in global efforts to reduce emissions from houses and offices, industry, and transport,” ADB Vice-President for Finance and Risk Management Ms. Ingrid van Wees said.

ADB will scale up its support for climate change adaptation and maintain its assistance for mitigation through clean energy and energy efficiency projects and sustainable transport. Under Strategy 2030, ADB will ensure that 75% of the number of its committed operations will be supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2030. Climate finance from ADB’s own resources will reach $80 billion for 2019–2030.

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Ethiopia plants over 350 million trees in a day, setting new world record

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In a record-breaking day this week, at the Gulele Botanical Garden in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia launched an historic tree planting campaign. Over 350 million trees were planted in an ambitious move to counter the effects of deforestation and climate change.

The event is part of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s Green Legacy Initiative. It aimed at planting 200 million trees in a single day in 1,000 sites across the country.

Prime Minister Ahmed congratulated the country for not only meeting its collective Green Legacy goal but also exceeding it.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation and Technology Getahun Mekuria was quoted saying that more than 350 million trees were planted in 12 hours, breaking the world record held by India since 2016, for the most trees planted in one day and which stood at 50 million trees.

The tree planting event was attended by a representative of the UN Environment Programme’s Liaison Office to Africa Union Commission, UN Economic Commission for Africa and representative to Ethiopia, and whose support for this ambitious action was crucial, as well as other United Nations Agencies and various international organizations.

The initiative aims to tackle the effects of deforestation and climate change in the country. The United Nations estimates that Ethiopia’s forest coverage has declined drastically to a low of just 4 per cent in the 2000s from 35 per cent a century earlier.

“Afforestation is the most effective climate change solution to date and with the new record set by Ethiopia, other African nations should move with speed and challenge the status quo,” said Juliette Biao Koudenoukpo, Director of UN Environment’s Africa Office.  

“Africa has what it takes to spearhead this global push and as the most affected and vulnerable continent, climate change mitigation must be the topmost priority in the coming days. We at UN Environment are taking the lead in helping to build capacity for nations and people to apply themselves to afforestation and climate change mitigation strategies,” she added.

Trees provide many ecosystem services and environmental benefits for the planet as a whole. As they grow, they absorb and store carbon dioxide—a major driver of global heating. In a scientific paper published in the Science magazine, researchers estimate that a worldwide tree planting programme could remove two thirds of all the emissions that have been pumped into the atmosphere as a result of human activities.

Researchers found that tree restoration was among the most effective strategies for climate change mitigation. They show that the global potential tree coverage stands at 4.4 billion hectares of canopy under the current climate. Planting trees is therefore considered the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis.

Many African countries have recently engaged in massive tree planting campaigns including Kenya who has recently, with support from the UN Environment Programme, launched the “Greening Kenya Initiative” to reverse the declining forest cover.

UN Environment Programme is working with countries across the continent to replicate such initiatives to stop deforestation and increase forest cover. This is crucial in honoring African countries’ commitments to mitigate climate change and contribute to the achievement of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

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ADB Introduces Contingent Disaster Financing for Natural Disasters

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has introduced a new financing mechanism—contingent disaster financing (CDF)—to support its developing member countries in strengthening disaster preparedness and provide quick-disbursing budget support following natural disasters.

“CDF will provide a quick and flexible source of funds for developing member countries affected by disasters until funds from other sources become available,” said the Director General of ADB’s Strategy, Policy, and Partnerships Department Mr. Tomoyuki Kimura. “It will also help promote greater preparedness and risk management in developing member countries prone to disasters.”

Asia and the Pacific is the world’s most natural disaster-prone region. Between 2014 and 2017, countries in the region suffered 55 earthquakes, 217 storms and cyclones, and 236 cases of severe flooding, affecting 650 million people and causing about 33,000 deaths, according to the United Nations.

CDF—approved today by ADB’s Board of Directors—will cover disasters triggered by natural hazards such as typhoons, floods, earthquakes, droughts, and tsunamis. A key feature of CDF is that it supports essential policy reforms to strengthen disaster preparedness that are to be completed before a natural disaster occurs. Once a CDF is approved for a country, it remains active until a disaster occurs. The country can then quickly access the approved financing to help relieve fiscal constraints for urgent relief and recovery efforts and avoid disruptive reallocations from priority budget programs.

“Where necessary, CDF disbursements can be accompanied by follow-up assistance through ADB’s other emergency or regular lending instruments to support recovery and reconstruction,” said Mr. Kimura.

The new financing supports Strategy 2030’s operational priority of tackling climate change, building climate and disaster resilience, and enhancing environmental sustainability.

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