14 Pacific Island Nations Negotiate World's First Climate Treaty to Ban Fossil Fuels
As coastal erosion and sea level rise eats away the Solomon Islands due to climate change, the Pacific island nations are considering the world's first international treaty that would ban or phase out fossil fuels and set goals for renewables.
PIDF Leaders declare 2017 Pacific Year for the Ocean #pidfsummit. https://t.co/zF7OIiYqhm— Mark Borg (@Mark Borg)1468384975.0
The "Pacific Climate Treaty" is currently under consideration after the fourth annual Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) held in the Solomon Islands this week.
During the two-day summit, 14 presidents, prime ministers and ambassadors from the island countries and territories discussed solutions to the Pacific's development challenges.
“[Leaders] seemed convinced that this is an avenue where the Pacific could again show or build on the moral and political leadership that they've shown earlier in their efforts to tackle climate change," Mahendra Kumar, climate change advisor to PIDF, told the
The treaty is being utilized as a way to implement the aspirational 1.5 degrees Celsius target set by the Paris COP21 climate talks in the Pacific region, according to the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN), a coalition of NGOs that wrote the treaty.
The proposed treaty will be studied and a report will be presented at the 2017 summit.
"Expressing positive reviews to our proposal, the Leaders agreed to 'note the content of the draft Pacific Climate Treaty and approve that further consultations be undertaken, with a report back at the 5th PIDF Leaders Summit next year' for possible adoption," PICAN wrote on its Facebook page. "This is a major accomplishment for our PICAN team working in partnership with our Government Leaders to lead the sustainable development agenda of the region."
Kumar said the treaty could be ratified in 2018.
The PIDF was created in 2013 by Fiji. This year's summit excluded Australia and New Zealand, which were part of earlier talks. At last year's talks, Australia and New Zealand were criticized by their smaller and developing island neighbors for having less ambitious climate change targets and for not doing more to combat climate change.
Official opening ceremony of the PIDF Leaders Summit, Honiara, Solomon Islands #PIDFSummit https://t.co/bb1CWfMxVo— PIDF (@PIDF)1468294945.0
Many low-lying nations are under threat as oceans continue to rise.
Scientists predict that Kiribati—a remote Island Republic in the Central Pacific—could be lost to rising sea levels in the next 50 years.
Tony de Brum, the Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands,
said last year that "anything over two degrees ... [and] we go under water."
The Philippines is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather, with the nation suffering violent storms like Typhoon Haiyan. Tropical storms have struck the nation more often and more severely, scientists believe, because of climate change. The Global Climate Risk Index 2015 listed the Philippines as the number one most affected country by climate change, using 2013's data.
The Philippines has long been particularly vulnerable to extreme weather.The Climate Reality Project
“Pacific island leaders are among the most proactive in the world on global warming because their countries are bearing the brunt of climate changes ... Their willingness to consider a Pacific climate treaty shows much-needed leadership on the world's most pressing environmental challenge," Joeteshna Gurdayal Zenos, acting head of Pacfic Net, which is Greenpeace Australia Pacific's climate justice project, told the Guardian.
PICAN said in a report presenting the Pacific Climate Treaty
that the potential treaty parties "already possess the political courage and commitment needed to adopt a flagship legal instrument that is sufficiently ambitious to prevent catastrophic changes in the global climate system."
“Such a treaty, when implemented in collaboration with PIDF and civil society, would send a powerful signal to markets, governments and civil society around the world that the end of fossil fuels is near, with Pacific Islanders acting not as victims of climate change but as agents of change," it said. “As there is currently no treaty that bans or phases out fossil fuels, the Treaty would set a pioneering example to the rest of the world."
The treaty includes sections on climate-related migration and adaptation. It would also set up a fund to compensate for communities that have suffered from climate change.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.