A MODERN day land-based engineering feat which has added 250 metres of the coastline of eight kilometres long on the northern coast of the Netherlands is being hailed as one of the wonders of today’s world. The Hondsbossche and Pettemer flood defences are said to be a better and more effective way to address flooding and seawater intrusion into the fertile farmlands of this European nation. But the massive cost of this artificial re-engineering makes such solutions unfeasible to small island states in the Pacific that are vulnerable to sea level rise, storm surges and king tides.
Netherlands’ Hondsbossche Dunes, for instance, cost 250 million Euros ($USD280.5m) to build. Planning and consultations lasted 10 years, and actual construction which involved offshore barges and boats sucking sand from depths of seven metres offshore and piping it ashore took an entire year with boats and machines working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When it opened in 2015, 35 million cubic metres of sand had added 250 metres more to the eight kilometre long Hondsbossche coastline. For this football-mad country, the new sand dunes are equivalent to the creation of 400 new soccer fields. The Hondsbossche Dunes project was one of many offered as successful climate change adaptation initiatives to the 1800 delegates of the International Conference on Climate Change Adaptation Conference in Rotterdam last month.
The Dutch Government together with the European Commission and PROVIA, the Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation funded the four-day long conference which brought together scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, NGO representatives and some government officials from Europe mainly, North America, Africa, Asia and South America.
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TWO months after the Pacific joined the world in adopting a new agreement on climate change, news are just emerging that all was not well within the Pacific Island Counties. Finally responding to questions submitted to his office in late December, Prime Minster of Tuvalu and lead negotiator for the Pacific Enele Sopoaga confirmed his country withdrew from joining the so called Coalition of High Ambition Nations grouping in the UN climate change negotiations in Paris.
The coalition was the brainchild of former foreign minister of the Marshall Islands Tony de Brum. de Drum was unsuccessful in his country’s general elections last November. “When this gathering of meeting first came together at a Paris Ministerial meeting in July 2015, we (Tuvalu) actively participated in the group formed by Senator de Brum. At this stage it was not called anything except a gathering of “like-minded” countries.
We participated in two subsequent meetings before the start of the Conference of Parties in Paris. We thought it was an effective means of exchange between generally like-minded countries,” explains PM Sopoaga. “But the process became more than a dialogue and started to hold press conferences and pull in other countries, which were not so like-minded. It also branded itself as the Coalition of High Ambition Nations. It was at this stage that we withdrew from this grouping.
IN Paris last month, Australian Prime Minister Turnbull announced that “Australia will contribute at least $1 billion over the next five years from our existing aid budget, both to build climate resilience and reduce emissions.”
At first glance, this is a welcome initiative, reversing the policies of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who Turnbull replaced as Liberal leader last September. On closer analysis, Pacific calls for “new and additional” climate funding have come to nothing. Behind the smoke and mirrors, the Turnbull pledge is a reversion to the status quo before Abbott came to office.
About $200 million (US$145m) will be allocated each year for multilateral, regional as well as bilateral climate programmes. This sum is equivalent to the funding allocated during the “Fast Start Finance” period of 2010-12 under the Rudd and Gillard Labour Governments. However the Fast Start funding came at a time when Australia’s aid budget was expanding towards $8 billion (US$5.8b) - those days are long gone!
Turnbull’s Paris pledge includes funds already announced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at the 2014 climate negotiations in Lima. Funds will be reallocated from the existing aid budget, rather than drawn from innovative financial mechanisms like taxes on financial speculation.
TWENTY years of negotiations culminating in intense and physically as well as emotionally draining deliberations in which negotiators burnt the midnight oil right over the wee hours of the next day for 13 days in Paris last month produced the world’s new agreement on climate change world leaders have hailed as historic and ground breaking.
“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and groups of countries to go back home with their heads held high,” says Laurent Fabius, who was President of COP21 in Paris in his capacity as the French Foreign Minister. “Our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual effort,” he added. Standing beside him, a clearly proud French President Francois Hollande who took the bold decision to go ahead with the hosting of COP21 just two weeks after Paris was a capital under siege when Islamic radicals killed 130 people in a series of terrorist attacks, congratulated the world’s negotiators for the new deal.
“You’ve done it, reached an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud before your children and grandchildren.”
Pacific people, of all faiths, are deeply grateful for the leadership shown by Pope Francis on climate change. We must respond by pressing for an ambitious, and just, global agreement at climate negotiations in Paris in December.
IN a powerful letter, addressed not only to the Catholic Church but to all people, Pope Francis explained that climate change is real, and must be urgently addressed. The encyclical letter, called the Laudato Si’ (Italian for ‘Praise Be to You’) called on all people to remember their responsibilities as stewards of creation. Released on June 18, the encyclical emphasised the connection between environmental degradation and poverty, and the connection between love for creation and poverty reduction.
The Pope’s message is clear: we must care for the world and for each other. We cannot steal resources from future generations. To celebrate the release of the encycliby Fenton Lutunatabua cal, two Pacific Climate Warriors – representing the global climate organisation 350.org – travelled to Rome to take part in a march organised by Green Faith and the Global Catholic Climate Movement on June 28. The march, under the banner of ‘One Earth, One Human Family,’ was held to acknowledge how grateful people were for the leadership shown by Pope Francis on climate change.
Arianne Kassman, a young Climate Warrior from Papua New Guinea, said she felt ‘validated’ that Pope Francis had strongly aligned himself with the global climate movement. “To be able to travel to Rome is an incredible moment to be part of,” said Arianne. “Climate change threatens so many aspects of our lives as Pacific islanders. For some of us, it threatens our connections to our land and everything our land represents. When we lose our land, we lose our homes and if we lose our homes our customs, traditions and identity are at risk of being lost too.” George Nacewa, from Fiji, said he was encouraged by the encyclical.
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