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Greenland, Antarctica Melting Six Times Faster Than in the 1990s – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet
23 February 2015: The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and UN Development Programme (UNDP) have formed a partnership in support of the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) initiative in the Americas.
26 January 2015: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched a manual on calculating the value of ecosystems in small island developing States (SIDS), with the aim of supporting a transition to a green economy. The manual underscores the importance of accounting for the contribution of ecosystem services to human well-being in order to quantify and value these benefits.
The ‘Guidance Manual on Valuation and Accounting of Ecosystem Services for SIDS' highlights the interdependence between SIDS' economies and the natural environment. In Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Seychelles and Vanuatu, 50% of gross domestic product (GDP) comes from the tourism industry, according to the manual. In the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), fisheries contribute 10% of GDP while 52% of Grenada's exports come from tuna, albacore, cocoa beans and nutmeg.
The manual provides a step-by-step methodological approach to select, design and implement island ecosystem services valuation and accounting exercises, and shares case study examples of accounting and valuation techniques. For instance, a 1% increase in the number of coastal protected areas is associated with a 2.9% increase in international coastal tourism arrivals. The manual also provides guidance on designing a payments for ecosystem services (PES) scheme in SIDS, using the example of Palau's Green Fee.
The manual aims to support policymakers in achieving sustainable development, taking into consideration SIDS' unique environmental, socio-economic and capacity issues. The manual emphasizes that “there is no simple solution” to valuing and accounting for SIDS' ecosystem services, emphasizing that economic valuation and accounting techniques depend on the category of island ecosystem services (cultural, provisioning or regulating) and the island's type of economic policy.
UNEP launched the manual at an event marking the close of the 2014 International Year of SIDS. [Publication: Guidance Manual on Valuation and Accounting of Ecosystem Services in Small Island Developing States] [UNEP Press Release] [UNEP Publications Website]
One theme that is emerging loud and clear from the UN Climate Talks (much more so than any other previous negotiation) – if the world is serious about addressing the climate crisis, we must get off fossil fuels— completely. We can't just leave it up to governments, will you be a part of creating the solution we need?
Read more —> http://buff.ly/1zVkaM7 #COP20
Former Costa Rican president and Carbon War Room head José María Figueres on islands, carbon, and global energy use
In 1994 at age 39, José María Figueres was elected president of Costa Rica, becoming the youngest president of a Central American country during modern times. A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, his administration focused on sustainable development. Since then, he has served as the chair of a United Nations taskforce, CEO of the World Economic Forum and then Concordia 21, and most recently president of Sir Richard Branson’s nonprofit Carbon War Room. Fresh off travel through parts of Asia with RMI chief scientist Amory Lovins, we asked Figueres about the importance of working with islands, creating low-carbon economies, and how to accelerate transforming global energy use.
Rocky Mountain Institute: Like RMI CEO Jules Kortenhorst, your background spans business and government. Looking at today’s energy and climate challenges, why are market-based solutions — even if bolstered by supportive governmental policies — so important for driving change?
José María Figueres: About 40 percent of global carbon emissions can be profitably avoided today within existing international agreements and national regulations by applying already-proven technologies. RMI and CWR are leaders in helping businesses realize this terrific market opportunity. As we get more capital to flow into financing the transition toward clean energy and lower carbon emissions, we can provide profitable example for others to follow and broaden understanding about these issues at the same time.
RMI: Looking at RMI and Carbon War Room’s collaborative work together in the Caribbean, including the Creating Climate Wealth summit earlier this year, why is focusing on islands so important, given their small contribution to climate change yet great vulnerability in the face of it?
JMF: Working with islands to shift their energy base from fossil fuels to renewables is important for at least three reasons. First, it helps improve the quality of life for island residents, who are burdened with some of the highest electricity prices in the world. Second, such a transition creates jobs, investment possibilities, and entrepreneurial opportunities that render these islands — normally dependent on tourism for the overwhelming bulk of their economies — more competitive. And third, our work with islands can yield shining examples of a successful transition to lower-carbon, clean-energy economies using existing technologies. This will hopefully inspire others to follow in their footsteps, and not only on literal islands. After all, islands need not be surrounded by water. They can be an off-grid mine, a rural community, an isolated military installation, and much more.
RMI: Costa Rica, already known as an ecotourism hot spot and global leader in environmental stewardship, has set a goal to become carbon neutral by 2021. Your energy mix is already almost entirely renewable (mostly hydro plus some geothermal and wind), with an impressively small amount of fossil fuels. As the country embraces diversification with other renewables, such as solar in the Guanacaste region, what lessons can the rest of the world learn from your successes and challenges?
JMF: The first lesson is that renewables are profitable. Powered by renewables Costa Rica has successfully diversified its economy, with a very pronounced and competitive export-oriented bias. Secondly, we are living proof it can be done even among developing nations with scarcer economic resources than the developed world. Thirdly, our experience shows that systemic thinking in addressing these challenges is much better than a “silo” focus.
RMI: What do you see as the most significant barriers that stand in the way of transforming global energy use? With renewables making an increasingly compelling economic case — garnering billions of dollars of global investment, while their costs keep declining, making that investment go further — how can we accelerate their adoption and topple incumbent fossil fuels?
JMF: There is nothing harder than changing cultural attitudes. Most of the world grew up on fossil fuels without thinking of their unintended consequences: increasing carbon emissions driving climate change. Now we must change our habits and practices, and do so within a ten- to fifteen-year window to avoid temperature changes from escalating beyond two degrees Celsius. This requires broadening our understanding with respect to the business opportunities it entails, strong leadership to change present business models, and public-private partnerships to make progress in the short time we have to act.
RMI: With China and the U.S. dominating global oil imports, fossil fuel consumption (especially coal), and carbon emissions, how do smaller countries such as Costa Rica and the Caribbean’s island-nations perceive their place in that landscape?
JMF: Smaller nations face both a great challenge and a great opportunity. The challenge — and it’s not an easy one to come to terms with — is that even if we do everything we can in the smaller nations and reduce our carbon footprint to zero, the world still needs China, the U.S., Brazil, India, and other large players to do more and move faster. The opportunity, though, is for smaller nations to set an example in the transition to low-carbon economies, which hopefully inspires others to follow. Then, the issue becomes one of scaling solutions, rather than proving them in the first place. Smaller nations can become early-adopters proving the case that paves the way for other major world energy powers to follow.
Seawater is proving to be one way to combat climate change by reducing fossil fuel dependency for some ocean island nations. Taking a page from land-based geothermal power which uses the coolness below ground in heat exchange systems, islands are using the thermal energy gradient in a column of seawater to generate electricity.
The technology is known as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion or OTEC. A French defense contractor, DCNS Group, is the latest to deploy it in the island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. It plans a second project in Martinique which is expected to come online in 2015.
Lockheed Martin, the American defense contractor, has been working with OTEC for over a decade. When I previously wrote about this technology I described apilot project Lockheed was building in Southern China. The company currently plans to have an OTEC power plant operating offshore in Hawaii.
Why offshore? Because OTEC projects need to be on or near the water. The Lockheed and DCNS technology above the water looks very much like a marine production oil platform (see picture below).
Because the ocean is a great energy storage medium, in fact, the largest on the planet, we can take advantage of the temperature gradient that occurs in a column of water and use it to our advantage. Surface water can be as warm as 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) off islands like Reunion and Martinique. At depths of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet), however, that water remains a constant 4-5 degrees Celsius (39-41 Fahrenheit). Go deeper and you approach freezing temperatures or below freezing. The difference in temperature between surface and deep water is what makes OTEC work.
OTEC technology is built using a membrane that serves as a heat exchanger. The warm surface water is exposed to a liquid with a low boiling point. DCNS uses ammonia. When it gasifies the ammonia drives a turbine which is attached to a gemerator. The second part of the OTEC technology involves drawing the cold from below to act as a coolant. This condenses the ammonia back to a liquid state where the process can then be repeated.
Key to OTEC's successful deployment is the finding of island and coastal locations that currently experience high energy costs because fossil fuels need to be imported for energy generation. The second key is locations where there is a sufficiently high temperature gradient in nearby ocean and seas. Japan, China, the Bahamas, Curacao, South Korea and Hawaii are current locations where OTEC is under development or being considered. For countries looking to lower their carbon footprint with all the right keys in place, OTEC may prove to be a strong renewable energy play. More
Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change called upon the Pacific Island Small Island Developing States to use their voice to call for a faster transfer to renewable energy use across the globe.