Climate change in Asia and the Pacific. What’s at stake?
20 Sept 2019 - Asia-Pacific is the most disaster-prone region in the world.
With extensive coastlines, low-lying territories, and many small island states, its geography makes it highly susceptible to rising sea levels and weather extremes.
Heat waves, floods, and droughts affect every aspect of life, from nutrition and health, to safety and income.
Unlike developed countries, many nations in Asia and the Pacific cope with the effects of climate change while at the same time trying to raise living standards.
While Asia-Pacific’s poorer communities contribute the least to greenhouse gas emissions, they are the ones feeling the consequences of climate change the most. Unpredictable weather patterns can lead to failing crops, spiking food prices, and spreading diseases that threaten to wipe out decades of development gains.
Our waste problem is, put simply, enormous. And while initiatives such as forbidding plastic straws, encouraging alternatives to plastic coffee cups, and hosting ocean cleanups are very important contributions, they are not addressing the root of the issues, and are not moving the needle nearly enough. Recycling is not a panacea for our waste woes.
To get a grasp on the problem, we need new thinking and we need to scale-up. Now. But where lie the solutions? How are we to move the proverbial needle to where it needs to be?
First, we must more deeply realise that a thriving planet — with healthy ecosystems and biodiversity — are crucial to development and a sustainable future. From reducing poverty to achieving zero hunger to securing economic growth and sustainable cities, we need a healthy environment.
Second, we need to recognise the world’s capacity for economic growth is not unlimited. In fact, just as my two kids, six and eight years old will stop growing in 10 years, in the same way, a linear economy is probably limited in its growth as well. This is outlined by economist Kate Raworth (who has previously co-authored UNDP’s Human Development Report) in her book Doughnut Economics. Raworth argues that that we have reached our planetary boundaries and that unlimited growth might not be sustainable.
Third, we need to step-up action at-scale. It is through sound government policy and business leadership, that we will make a difference.
Indeed, the private sector — multinational corporations down to small- and medium-sized enterprises — are key partners.
The concept is not new and has been gaining interest over the past years. However, we remain far from realizing our goals.
“We have an opportunity with the circular economy to rethink how we use resources like plastic and become a more responsible custodian of the planet. By using resources more efficiently and creating policies and economic infrastructure that encourage recycling and reuse, we can advance both Agenda 2030 and the Paris Agreement.” — Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UN Development Programme
Marine protected areas (MPAs) in South-East Asia increasing fish stocks
8 Nov 2018 - UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, says that MPAs need to increase well beyond 10% and improve their management and enforcement policies.
8 Nov 2018 - Surrounded by severely damaged coral reefs, the fishers of Indonesia’s Seraya Besar, off the west coast of Flores, struggle to make ends meet. Year-on-year fish stocks have shrivelled as the damaged reef can only support limited life. If these fishers want more, they would have to fish further out, increasing their costs and lowering profits.
Armed with memories of larger catches and bigger fish within their local waters, the fishers of Seraya Besar, in partnership with a French non-profit reef conservation organisation Coral Guardian, came together to set up a locally managed marine protected area (MPA). Manned by a 15-person team, the damaged coral reefs within the 1,550-acre MPA underwent small-scale coral restoration, under which more than 26,000 corals were planted.
According to a report by the Ocean Agency, the outcome resulted in boosted fish stocks including protected species with five-fold hauls described by fishers. Over the past two years, the coral plantings have grown to form a natural-like reef, with the steel structure barely visible. Bigger fish like groupers, trigger and butterflyfish have also been seen taking occupancy.
Within the MPA where corals have been planted, the numbers of fish have grown from 200 fish per 100 square metres to roughly 1,000 fish per 100 square metres. The impact spill-over on human livelihood can also be felt in much wider areas, including on the nearby Komodo National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Politically-motivated, scientifically-based MPA
MPAs are one of the instruments used to protect our coasts, estuaries and seas of particular scientific interest or with high biodiversity within local, national or international law from damaging human activities. The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 on life under water targets a 10 percent share of MPAs by 2020. Questions have been raised on how these areas are selected and if quotas are filled for the sake of achieving targets and not based on achieving conservation benefits.
The United Nations (UN) Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, said that while the current determination of MPAs are both, political and scientific, governments need to do more to back their actions scientifically. According to Thomson, two big things need to happen to achieve this objective: increase MPAs well beyond 10 percent and improve their quality in terms of management and enforcement policies.
“We have to protect coastal areas, but also remote areas. We need to protect the Arctic and the Antarctic. A year ago, we were at 5.7 percent, today we are at 7.4 percent. 10 percent is definitely achievable. But we have to look beyond the 10 percent. It will not just stop after 2020. The challenge is going to be to connect all these protected areas in scientifically correct ways.
“After 2020, we have the UN Decade of Ocean Science. I would expect that during that decade we are going to be able to sift humanity’s knowledge of the science of the ocean and that will much better equip us working out what part of the ocean should be protected,” said Thomson, who is also the Co-Chair of the Friends of Ocean Action, an initiave run by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and World Resources Institute (WRI).
Local participation key to success
For countries like Indonesia where limited support from government agencies is expected due to the territorial spread of over 17,000 islands, local participation especially from fisher communities is very important. Coral Guardian's Co-founder and Scientific Director, Martin Colognoli said that in Seraya Besar, much of the work is carried out by the village’s fisher communities.
Waste in the ocean, especially plastic is eating up the fishes making them vulnerable and close to extinction.
People near have been fishing for a very long time. Their livelihood depends on it. But due to the increasing use of plastic and more horrifying dumping of that plastic into the ocean, our marine life has been endangered. Not only the marine is affected, the nets and other equipments used by fishermen gets destroyed.
This is a story of fishermen in Kerala who designed a way to not only help the fishermen save their tools but also reduce the effect of plastic in the ocean. With help from several government agencies, they’ve set up the first-ever recycling center in the region, to clean, sort and process all the sea-tossed plastic bags, bottles, straws, flip-flops and drowned Barbies that they fish out. So far, they’ve collected about 65 metric tons (71 short tons) of plastic waste.