Near Omar Gona’s house in Djibouti’s Tadjourah city stands a wall three metres high and five metres thick. What might be an eyesore for some is a godsend for the city because the wall holds back the monsoon rains that have decimated people’s lives here for decades.
“In 1994, my family home was washed away by a big flood,” says Gona. “Since then, my family have always lived in fear of flooding and in the rainy seasons, we sometimes flee to the mountains leaving all our property here for days.”
Climate change is leading to unpredictable rainfall in Djibouti, with devastating droughts and floods both on the rise. For Tadjourah, a city on the Indian Ocean, the floods are wreaking havoc on infrastructure and farming, perpetuating widespread poverty and food insecurity.
With funding from the Global Environment Facility, the government is taking action to adapt. Supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the authorities built an almost 2km-long wall – technically referred to as a dike – to defend Gona’s Marsaki neighbourhood from the floods.
Such efforts were put to the test during the unprecedented monsoon of 2019 when, according to government sources, 150,000 of Djibouti’s 950,000 people needed immediate humanitarian assistance.
And yet for Gona’s Marsaki neighbourhood, which had been protected by the wall, every one of the 1,500 households were unscathed when the monsoon hit. In stark contrast, Palmaré, another Tadjourah neighbourhood without a wall, suffered severe damage.
“During the flood of 2019, I climbed onto the flood wall to see the other side. The water was rushing furiously with unbelievable power. It was scary. I saw then what my family had avoided.”
The success of the initiative has now led to the approval of a much larger, almost $10 million project in Djibouti’s Tadjourah and Dikhil regions. Supported by UNEP and based on a government climate adaptation plan, it aims to further expand flood defence infrastructure.
As with the ongoing project, the new initiative will complement so-called grey infrastructure, such as flood walls, with its oft-forgotten cousin, green infrastructure. Green infrastructure uses natural or semi-natural systems to provide similar benefits, but with positive long-term environmental consequences.
For example, the project will continue government efforts to restore mangrove forests on Tadjourah’s coastline, which reduce the height and strength of waves before they hit the shore, tackling the dangerous impacts of flooding and shoreline erosion caused by rising sea levels.
Experts say the practice of combining grey and green infrastructure to adapt to climate change is now rapidly spreading across the world. It helps to protect the environment and is more cost-effective than relying on grey projects alone.
This was highlighted in UNEP’s recent Adaptation Gap Report. It found that in Vietnam, for example, the restoration of 12,000 ha of mangroves has saved an estimated $7.3 million a year in dike maintenance. That figure is more than six times the costs of planting the mangroves.
Tadjourah residents say the new mangroves have also boosted the local economy.
“The newly restored mangroves are bringing back the fish that used to live here,” says Gona. “We’re now seeing tourists coming to see the forests, which makes us happy because the local community can sell them tea and coffee to earn extra income.”
Thirty local community members are receiving training on mangrove planting to ensure the long-term sustainability of the project.
The use of nature-based solutions for adapting to climate change is known as ecosystem-based adaptation. UNEP is currently supporting over 45 such projects around the world, which are aiming to restore around 113,000 hectares while benefitting 2.5 million people.
To accelerate the expansion of ecosystem-based adaptation (EbA), the Global EbA Fund was launched by UNEP and the International Union for Conservation of Nature last month to provide seed capital to innovative approaches.
A new era for adaptation
The new $10 million project in Djibouti comes as the planet prepares for World Environment Day on 5 June. This celebration of the Earth also marks the official launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a 10-year, world-wide effort to halt and reverse the destruction of the natural world.
The Djibouti initiative is also part of a much larger global push towards adaptation as a core approach for tackling climate change. As shown in the Adaptation Gap Report, the number of global adaptation initiatives is growing at a considerable pace, with close to 400 adaptation projects financed by multilateral funds serving the Paris Agreement undertaken in developing countries since 2006 – half of them starting after 2015.
Crucially, at the Climate Adaptation Summit in January, the World Bank and leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte committed to vast increases in finance for adaptation.
“The lessons learned from projects like these in Djibouti will guide these new adaptation investments to protect as many people as possible from the ever-looming climate breakdown,” says Jessica Troni, Head of UNEP’s Climate Change Adaptation Unit. “The world is getting ready.”
Virtual Ocean Dialogues 2021 to focus on climate, food and nature
A resilient and abundant ocean is essential to tackling climate change and key to providing sustainable food and jobs that boost recovery around the world. Half of the world’s GDP is dependent on nature, according to the World Economic Forum, and more than 3 billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihoods. As countries recover from the economic and social impacts of COVID-19, the ocean can be a major part of the solution.
To fast-track the innovations necessary for a healthy ocean, Friends of Ocean Action and the World Economic Forum are convening the second Virtual Ocean Dialogues event. On 25-26 May, government representatives, leaders from business, members of civil society and scientific communities will gather at this virtual global summit to highlight how a healthy ocean is critical to the sustainable development agenda. A healthy ocean is increasingly being seen as a solution to the many development challenges society is facing.
“It has never been more critical to fast-track solutions for a resilient and thriving ocean. A range of major global summits and forums in the coming months offer a moment to acknowledge the ocean’s transformative role in tackling climate change, supporting global food systems and rebuilding the health of the natural world,” said Kristian Teleki, Director of Friends of Ocean Action at the World Economic Forum. “I invite anyone with an interest in our shared future on this blue planet to tune into the livestreamed sessions and join the conversation.”
Sessions address the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, UN Food Systems Summit, UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), WTO negotiations to eliminate harmful fisheries subsidies and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit all taking place in 2021.
During the event, ideas and innovations for ocean health will also be shared on UpLink, the digital platform to crowdsource innovations to accelerate delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A new UpLink Ocean Challenge will be launched, to seek out new ideas to boost sustainable food from aquatic sources.
“Following the outstanding success of last year’s event, the Virtual Ocean Dialogues have become a key waymarker in global efforts to secure the ocean’s health,” said Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean, and Co-Chair of Friends of Ocean Action. “I am delighted to see this second iteration take to the airwaves.”
The 2021 Virtual Ocean Dialogues are part of a 3-day high-level virtual forum convened by the World Economic Forum, the Mission Possible Partnership and Friends of Ocean Action, together with the United Kingdom’s Presidency of the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26), the UN High-Level Champions for COP26 and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Ocean. The Climate Breakthroughs on 27 May seek to mobilize progress and sector breakthroughs to realize a 45% reduction in annual emissions by 2030 and net-zero global emissions before 2050, including a session on decarbonizing shipping with the Getting to Zero Coalition.
Friends of Ocean Action is a coalition of 65 ocean leaders who are fast-tracking solutions to the most pressing challenges facing the ocean. Its members come from business, civil society, international organizations, science and technology. It is hosted by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the World Resources Institute.
Cut methane emissions to avert global temperature rise
Methane emissions caused by human activity can be reduced by up to 45 per cent this decade, thus helping to keep global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a UN-backed report published on Thursday.
The Global Methane Assessment outlines the benefits of mitigating methane, a key ingredient in smog, which include preventing some 260,000 premature deaths and 775,000 asthma-related hospital visits annually, as well as 25 million tonnes in crop losses.
The study is the work of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), a global partnership of governments and non-State partners, and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years and complements necessary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide. The benefits to society, economies, and the environmental are numerous and far outweigh the cost”, said Inger Andersen, the UNEP Executive Director.
Methane is an extremely powerful greenhouse gas, responsible for around 30 per cent of warming since the pre-industrial era.
Most human-caused methane emissions come from three sectors: fossil fuels, such as oil and gas processing; landfills and waste; and agriculture, chiefly related to livestock.
Emissions ever increasing
The report underscores why international action is urgently needed as human-caused methane emissions are increasing faster than at any time since record keeping began in the 1980s.
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic causing an economic slowdown in 2020, which prevented another record year for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, data from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows the amount of methane in the atmosphere reached record levels last year.
The good news
However, unlike CO2, which stays in the atmosphere for centuries, methane breaks down quickly and most is gone after a decade, meaning action can rapidly reduce the rate of global warming in the near-term.
Methane accounts for nearly one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to Rick Duke, Senior Advisor to John Kerry, the US Special Presidential Envoy on Climate Change.
“The United States is committed to driving down methane emissions both at home and globally—through measures like research and development, standards to control fossil and landfill methane, and incentives to address agricultural methane”, he said.
Solutions readily available
The Assessment identifies readily available solutions that would reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030, mainly in the fossil fuel sector. Most, or around 60 per cent, are low cost and half have “negative costs”, meaning companies will make money from taking action.
So-called “mitigation potential” varies between countries and regions, according to the report. For example, whereas the largest potential in Europe and India is in the waste sector, in China it is from coal production and livestock, while in Africa it is from livestock followed by oil and gas.
“But targeted measures alone are not enough”, the partners warned. “Additional measures that do not specifically target methane, like a shift to renewable energy, residential and commercial energy efficiency, and a reduction in food loss and waste, can reduce methane emissions by a further 15 per cent by 2030.”
Drew Shindell, a Professor of Climate Science at Duke University in the USA, who chaired the assessment for the CCAC, said urgent steps must be taken to reduce methane emissions this decade.
“To achieve global climate goals, we must reduce methane emissions while also urgently reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” Dr Shindell said. “The good news is that most of the required actions bring not only climate benefits but also health and financial benefits, and all the technology needed is already available.”
Seven Key Principles for Implementing Net Zero
Meeting our shared goals for avoiding dangerous climate change requires a dramatic acceleration of progress towards clean growth and resilience. Over 120 countries have so far announced their intention to bring emissions to net zero by the middle of this century. As we look forward to COP26, this growing political consensus is a cause for optimism about the world’s ability to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement. A tremendous amount of work is now needed to turn ambitions into reality.
With that in mind, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States welcome the following Seven Key Principles for Implementing Net Zero, and we encourage the IEA Secretariat and Members to examine how the IEA, building on its key strengths, can best support the delivery of these principles, in close partnership with other relevant institutions:
Sustainable recoveries can provide a once-in-a-generation down payment toward net zero: As countries stimulate economies and build back after the Covid-19 pandemic, they also have an historic opportunity to jumpstart progress toward achieving net zero emissions. The IEA can further support governments to harness the transition to sustainable net zero energy systems as a driver of clean, sustainable growth and job creation.
Clear, ambitious and implementable net-zero-aligned roadmaps to 2030 and beyond are critical: Governments can increase international confidence in the transition by setting out national roadmaps for action over the next vital 10 years, which incorporate each country’s diverse circumstances and utilise a variety of low-carbon technologies and options to enhance steady implementation. The IEA can further support governments across the IEA family in the development of net-zero-aligned roadmaps to 2030 and beyond, and provide necessary guidance and assistance to facilitate implementation.
Transitions will go faster when learning is shared: A wide range of real-world implementation challenges are holding back transitions, including meeting the energy needs of underserved populations and improving safe and sustainable energy access for the poorest and most vulnerable groups. The IEA’s Clean Energy Transitions Programme is supporting governments across the IEA family to navigate the technical and economic transition risks and chart an actionable course towards a sustainable and inclusive energy system. Further enhancing mechanisms to share best practices, collaborate on technology, and provide targeted advice across the IEA family can help drive the pace of transition across the global energy system.
Net zero sectors and innovation are essential to achieve global net zero: Today’s early stage technologies will likely need to contribute almost half of the emissions reductions required to set the world on an ambitious path to net zero. The development and deployment at scale of a range of climate-neutral energy technologies, combined with energy efficiency, can enable rapid, sustainable and deep energy transitions across all major energy use sectors – many of which involve complex value chains that cross national boundaries. Stronger, consolidated public-private mechanisms for international coordination are needed to accelerate innovation and deployment within sectors. The IEA can further enhance and improve its analysis of innovation and sector decarbonisation, and promote joint strategies and approaches across the IEA family, including coordination with other relevant international fora.
Mobilising, tracking and benchmarking public and private investment can be the fuel to achieve net zero: There is an urgent need to shift gears on climate-neutral energy investment to put the world on track for net zero. By 2030, the amount of investment required in electricity (generation and grid/storage) needs to rise to more than $1.6 trillion per year to be on track for net zero emissions by 2050. Major international efforts are required to increase capital flows for climate neutral energy in emerging markets and developing economies. Public and private sector actors need to be brought together to create the necessary enabling environments to further catalyse sustainable and socially acceptable energy investment. The IEA can enhance its provision of analysis and practical guidance to both governments and the finance community, including through partnerships with other relevant organisations.
People-centred transitions are morally required and politically necessary: As countries seek to advance their shifts to clean energy technologies, the success of these efforts will rest on enabling citizens to benefit from transition opportunities and to navigate disruptions. This includes social, environmental and economic impacts on individuals and communities, as well as issues of affordability and fairness. A focus on training and skills development to equip all citizens to participate in the net zero economy is also critical. Governments should continue to share best practices and, where useful, explore and step up new ways of sharing best practices for designing climate-neutral energy policies that are people-centred and inclusive, including as part of the IEA’s Global Commission on People-Centred Clean Energy Transitions.
Net zero energy systems also need to be sustainable, secure, affordable and resilient: Maintaining energy security through transitions is critical. Governments, companies and other key actors need to both anticipate and manage existing and new energy security challenges, including ensuring uninterrupted flow of energy, even as variable power sources increase. This will require ensuring a diverse, sustainable and socially acceptable clean energy and technology mix; making best use of existing infrastructure; and addressing emerging challenges such as climate resilience, cyber risks and the availability and security of critical minerals. Governments should work together to analyse where new mechanisms can contribute to further strengthening the security and resilience of the global energy system alongside a swift net zero transition, which can be underpinned by the IEA’s provision of analytic expertise, best practice and efficient security mechanisms.
Being united by the high level of their ambitions, countries at all stages of development will need to determine their own unique path to implementing net zero according to the diversity of national circumstances and wide range of technologies.
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