World must take moral climate stand for humanity, warns Pacific expert

Authors of the current IPCC reporting cycle in Fiji – Dr Helene Jacot Des Combe (from left), Dr Morgan Wairiu, Professor Elisabeth Holland and Diana Salili. Image: USP/Wansolwara

By Jope Tarai in Suva

The threat of rising global temperatures on Pacific ecosystems is not only a scientific analysis but a reality for many people in the region, with a Pacific climate change expert warning that the current aggregate emissions reductions by countries are inadequate.

Dr Morgan Wairiu, deputy director at USP’s Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, said the Pacific would effectively lose its ecosystems and resources at current emission levels, which indicate the possibility of the global temperature rising beyond 1.5C to 3.7C.

“The world needs to take a moral stand, this is a humanity issue, more than science, the economy or anything else,” he said, highlighting the need for greater action and urgency on climate change.

READ MORE: Strongest climate solutions ‘developed together’

“The Pacific’s natural and human systems would face greater devastation if the global average temperature rises above 1.5C.”

He warned the Pacific that the parties in the Conference of Parties (COP) were not on track to keep global average temperatures below 1.5C

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The Fiji-based Dr Wairiu knows all too well the dangers of climate change, spending more than 25 years championing change and assisting countries in keeping the global average temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This possibility cuts at the heart of Dr Wairui’s early formative years, growing up in his village and his boarding school supported by the lush and rich vegetation in Guadalcanal.

Pacific survival
“These ecosystems, which support the survival of Pacific people, are under threat. I remember spending long hours outdoors exploring and enjoying the village surrounding,” he said.

“In boarding school, we learnt resilience and self-sufficiency by tending to food gardens and fishing for seafood.”

Dr Wairiu, who hails from Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, was recently one of the lead authors in the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5C special report, which assessed what had been done so far and the feasibility of keeping the global average temperature below 1.5C.

This year he has been selected as the co-ordinating lead author for the “Small Islands” chapter in the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC AR6). The IPCC releases the assessment reports every five years, with the most recent one (IPCC AR5) released in 2014.

Dr Wairiu will be co-ordinating and guiding a number of authors within the “Small Islands” chapter of the sixth assessment report.

Dr Wairiu graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea in agriculture and returned to the Solomon Islands to serve his people in the research division at the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

His work focused on soil and plant growth. This proved crucial for Dr Wairiu because of the Solomon Islands’ logging industry, which coincided with his cultivated plant growth work.

Completed studies
Later, he secured a scholarship to complete his postgraduate studies at the University of London in the UK. He also completed a Masters degree at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland before returning to his home country.

Dr Wairiu then moved to Ohio State University in the US to pursue his PhD and at that stage he was examining soil carbon dynamics. Completing his PhD, he returned to his village during the tensions of the early 2000s.

Shortly afterwards, he was called by the Solomon Islands government to take up the role of permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

Dr Wairiu joined the Waikato University as a visiting research fellow before moving to the University of The South Pacific. His progression and years of experience has culminated in his current work on climate change.

Jope Tarai is an emerging indigenous Fijian scholar, based at the School of Government, Development and International Affairs, University of the South Pacific. His research interests include, Pacific regionalism, Pacific politics and digital ethnography. This article was first published by Wansolwara.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Climate change documentary about Kiribati wins top FIFO prize

Anote’s Ark trailer

By RNZ Pacific

A Canadian film about climate change in Kiribati and the Pacific has won the top prize at the 16th Pacific Documentary Film Festival in French Polynesia.

The film, Anote’s Ark by Matthieu Rytz, looked at the plight of Kiribati and former President Anote Tong who championed the Pacific human rights struggle over climate change.

Tong was president of his country between 2003 and 2016.

READ MORE: The FIFO 2019 film festival

The special prize of the jury went to Island of the Hungry Ghosts from Austrian director Gabrielle Brady.

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The prize of the public went to a local production Patutiki, the art of tattooing of the Marquesas Islands by Heretu Tetahiotupa and Christophe Cordier.

About 30,000 people attended the week-long event in the Tahitian capital of Pape’ete.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

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Killings, arrests as military ‘flush out’ Mindanao environmental defenders

An international non-government organisation, The Global Witness, has reported that 48 individuals were killed in the country last year, a majority related to agribusiness. Image: Philstar

By KEN E. CAGULA in Davao City

The massive human rights violations committed against indigenous peoples or Lumads and peasants are designed to silence the opposition to the continuing operations of large-scale mining and plantations in Northern Mindanao and the rest of Caraga Region.

This was the assessment made by the environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment or Kalikasan PNE.

“The military is trying to flush out the opposition to mining and plantation interests in Northern Mindanao and Caraga region,” said Kalikasan PNE coordinator Leon Dulce.

READ MORE: Philippines had highest number of killed environmental defenders in Asia

Dulce points out that these Lumad and peasant leaders are the environmental defenders that continue to stand and oppose the large-scale mining and plantation operations in areas of Mindanao.

At present, these environmental defenders are protecting around 243,163 ha of forest and agricultural lands within their ancestral domains and farmlands against the encroachment of these extractive and destructive projects in Northern Mindanao and Caraga Region, he said.

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Hundreds of Lumad residents from Sitio Manluy-a, Panukmoan, and Decoy in Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town in Surigao del Sur fled from their homes after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) conducted a series of artillery bombardment and harassments last month.

On January 24, two Manobo farmers identified as Randel Gallego and Emel Tejero, all residents of Km. 16, Brgy. Diatagon went missing after they were allegedly fired upon by soldiers while hauling abaca products.

Dead farmers
The families of the two farmers found their dead bodies at a military detachment six days after they were reported missing.

The 401st Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army claimed that Gallego and Tejero were killed in a clash between soldiers and the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

But human rights advocates belied the military’s claim, saying that the two were unarmed civilians.

“The Lumad communities in Lianga are standing firmly against the coal and gold mining exploration and development projects attempting to grab lands and resources from their ancestral lands ensconced within the Andap River Valley Complex. For this, they are constantly being attacked by the military,” Dulce said.

These areas in Surigao del Sur are one of the largely militarised areas in Caraga region, prompting the exodus of IPs out from their lands due to the continuing presence of soldiers and paramilitary groups in their communities.

Kalikasan PNE also slammed the “illegal arrest” of Datu Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organisation and Ireneo Udarbe, chair of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas in Northern Mindanao Region on January 28.

The police named the two leaders as “top NPA leaders” which Kalikasan PNE said is a “repeated accusation” to justify the illegal arrest.

“Goaynon and Udarbe are stalwarts of the struggles of indigenous people and peasants against agri-industrial plantations in Northern Mindanao. They have also effectively exposed military-affiliated indigenous paramilitary groups such as the New Indigenous People’s Army Reform who have been attacking Lumad lands to pave the way for mining deals,” Dulce said.

Martial law
With the continued declaration of martial rule, Kalikasan PNE said that attacks against environmental defenders continue to worsen.

At least 28 cases of environmental-related killings in Mindanao were recorded by the group since it was first declared by President Rodrigo Duterte in May 23, 2017.

They noted the “growing trend” of killed defenders vilified as members or supporters of the NPA

“The Duterte government is trying to depict our fellow environmental defenders as rebels or terrorists to justify the militarization of their bastions of natural wealth. We demand that Goaynon and Udarbe be freed and that military troops wreaking havoc in Lianga be withdrawn as soon as possible.

“Justice for the murdered defenders must be delivered and the bloody reign of Duterte’s martial law over Mindanao must be lifted immediately,” Dulce said.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

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Miriori fires broadside at ‘rogue’ Bougainville mining rights bid

Destruction in the Arawa Hospital during the 1980s Bougainville civil war, sparked by a mining and environment dispute. Image: PNG Mine Watch

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

A highly controversial proposal by an unknown and newly registered company, Caballus Mining, is attempting to grab a monopoly over all large scale mines in Bougainville, reports PNG Mine Watch.

It is alleged that the Caballus plan is to override the fundamental principle of the Bougainville Mining Act – Customary Landowner ownership of the minerals in Bougainville and confer ownership on a McGlinn entity, Bougainville Advance Mining (BAM).

“Are Caballus the next rogue that is trying to take advantage of us, the customary owners and steal our minerals?” asked Philip Miriori, chairman of the Special Mining Lease Osikaiyang Landowners Association (SMLOLA).

READ MORE: Bougainville mining plan faces outrage

Miriori claimed Caballus had no relevant mine development experience.

“Caballus has no assets, and yet is demanding a monopoly on all major large scale mining projects in Bougainville.

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“They are demanding an initial 40 percent interest, which will increase further over time, without any upfront cash and only a shallow promise of future money if he is granted those rights first.”

Miriori said that when Caballus was presented to representatives of SMLOLA earlier last year, they were officially rejected in writing.

Clear position
“This is where it gets confusing as despite that clear position from the owners of the minerals at Panguna, Caballus is now demanding that the most fundamental principle of the Bougainville Mining Act (BMA) – customary ownership will now be stripped from the BMA.”

SMLOLA special adviser Lawrence Daveona said that by avoiding all the protection afforded to them under the BMA, which is fundamental to the Peace Agreement and the Bougainville constitution – “in fact the very grant of autonomy”, they would be stripped of their rights.

“The central tenant of our Peace Agreement is good governance.

“We will fight this to the end and hope our ABG will step in first and protect all customary owners in Bougainville.”

Miriori said it appeared some people were trying to take advantage of a severe funding crisis which their government faced in the lead up to the referendum on Bougainville this year. They were promising money but only if they were first given the keys to every large scale mine in Bougainville with zero up-front investment – “unbelievable”.

“Whoever puts up the money will ultimately control BAM, and all of Bougainville’s mines.”

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Precarious politics pose threats to world’s three biggest rainforests

By Sara Stefanini

Political uncertainty hangs over large swathes of the world’s tropical forests this year, raising the risk of more destruction and carbon emissions.

Recent leadership changes in Brazil and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and presidential elections in Indonesia in April, are fuelling concerns that politics could side with industries such as palm oil, timber, mining and agriculture in the world’s three biggest rainforest countries.

Brazil’s new right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro campaigned on promises to open the Amazon up to development. In his first foray on the international stage last week, he called on international businesses to invest in the country’s natural resources.

READ MORE: France aims to ban deforestation imports by 2030

The DRC’s peaceful presidential election of Felix Tshisekedi last month was the first democratic transfer of power since independence in 1960 – although the African Union and European Union questioned the results and The Financial Times reported “massive electoral fraud”.

It now remains to be seen whether Tshisekedi’s government curbs forest clearing and cracks down on the corruption that undermines conservation efforts. He gave little indication during the campaign.

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Meanwhile in Indonesia, the two presidential candidates – incumbent Joko “Jokowi” Widodo  and ex-army officer Prabowo Subianto – have given vague promises of environmental protection but few details. That said, Jokowi, who won as an outsider populist in 2014, has done more than some expected to tackle deforestation.

As of 2015, Brazil was home to 12 percent of total forest global cover, the DRC nearly 4 percent and Indonesia 2 percent, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. But tree cover in all three nations continues to shrink.

Worst effects
The actions of the new governments could determine the world’s ability to avoid some of the worst effects of climate change.

“Forests could provide about a third of the solution to climate change, but at the moment they’re more part of the problem because of deforestation,” said Tim Christophersen, head of UN Environment’s freshwater, land and climate branch in Kenya.

“If that was stopped and we could restore forests at a large scale, we could probably close about a third of the current emissions gap.”

For now, efforts to stem deforestation have mostly failed to make a dent. The tropics lost an area the size of Vietnam over 2016 and 2017, when tree cover shrunk by record levels, according to the data and monitoring website Global Forest Watch.

Brazil’s deforestation in 2017 was equivalent to 365 million tonnes of CO2 and jumped by almost 50 percent over the three months of campaigning before Bolsonaro was elected last year. The DRC’s tree cover loss was equivalent to 158Mt last year and Indonesia’s to 125Mt.

Environmentalists are particularly concerned about Brazil. In his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week, Bolsonaro stressed Brazil’s history of environmental protection while touting its economic opportunities.

But the “wave of forest destruction and violence” started when Bolsonaro immediately removed environmental and human rights safeguards, said Christian Poirier, programme director at the NGO Amazon Watch.

Reckless moves
“These reckless moves, tailored to serve Brazil’s agribusiness and extractive industries, undermine fundamental constitutional protections that preserve forests and assure the safety of the indigenous and traditional communities who call them home,” he said.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, deforestation remains relatively high and driven by clearing for agriculture, the use of wood for energy, timber and mining, said Christophersen.

The UN’s REDD+ programme, which pays developing countries to reduce their deforestation, is starting to work in some places. But it was forced to freeze payments to the government last year amid concerns over the awarding of new logging concessions to Chinese companies. Peatlands across the Congo Basin could release huge stocks of carbon if developed for mining and fossil fuels, Christophersen added.

There is more optimism around Indonesia, although environmentalists are still wary.

Jokowi initially raised concerns that he would not follow through on his predecessor’s commitments on forestry, but then made progressive moves such as creating a new peatland restoration agency and extending a 2011 moratorium on licenses in forest and peatland, said Frances Seymour, distinguished senior fellow at the World Resources Institute.

Still, it will be up to the next president to cement that ban and push Indonesia’s large palm oil industry to become more sustainable, said Panut Hadisiswoyo, founding director of the Orangutan Information Centre in Indonesia. The country has around 69 percent of its natural forest intact, he said.

“I worry that with the current visions of the presidential candidates, they have no specific calls for the protection of this remaining forest,” Hadisiswoyo said. “This natural forest is the last limit for sustaining our biodiversity. I worry that this forest will have no guarantee to strive, to be kept as forest.”

Good signs
There are some good signs. Costa Rica’s tree cover grew from 20 perecent to around 50 percent over 30 years, Christophersen noted. And Indonesia’s loss dropped by 60 percent year-on-year in 2017, which Global Forest Watch attributed in part to a 2016 moratorium on peat drainage, educational campaigns and stronger enforcement.

“Without political leadership, we would not see with those kinds of successes,” Christophersen said.

However the potential for more damage remains strong – especially at a time of more nationalistic populist leaders such as Bolsonaro.

“A cross-cutting issue is how this global wave of populism plays out in the climate change debate, and in these countries how it plays out with respect to land use in particular,” said Seymour.

  • France intends to stop importing soy, palm oil, beef, wood and other products linked to deforestation and unsustainable agriculture by 2030, shooting ahead of the rest of the European Union, reports Climate Change News.

The new national strategy to combat imported deforestation, released by the environment ministry late last year, will use trade to help decouple economic development from tree-cutting and unsustainable agriculture in poorer countries.

Sara Stefanini is a senior journalist with Climate Change News.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

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Pacific ‘smart’ thinking grows creative tension between policy and research

ANALYSIS: By Professor Derrick Armstrong

A traditional view of the tension between research and policy suggests that researchers are poor at communicating their research findings to policy-makers in clear and unambiguous ways.

I am arguing that this is an outdated view of the relationship between research and policy. Science, including social science, and policy come together in many interesting and creative ways.

This does not mean that tensions between the two are dissolved but the conversation between research and policy centre as much on ideological and pragmatic issues as it does upon the strength of the scientific evidence itself.

READ MORE: The DevNet 2018 conference

Researchers are increasingly “smart” in the ways that they seek to influence public debate while policy-makers genuinely value the insights that research can provide in supporting political and policy agendas that goes beyond simply legitimating pre-existing policy choices.

For example, in climate change debates science cannot be seen simply as an arbiter of “truth” that informs policy and political decision-making. Science also plays an advocacy role in alliance with some social interests against others.

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Likewise, policy can draw on science but it can also reject the evidence of science where scientific evidence is weighed against the interests of other powerful voices in the policy-process.

Oceans research and policy provides a good example of this more sophisticated relationship between science and policy and suggests some of the significant disconnects and tensions that challenge the relationship as well as how creative tensions between the two operate in practice. Three areas of disconnect can be identified.

Practical disconnection
The first of these is practical disconnection of regulation with regard to the Oceans. An integrated legal framework for the ocean might be considered critical for progress towards meeting the objectives of SDG 14 (Life under the Sea) but complexity and fragmentation present many challenges which are both sectorial and geographical.

National laws lack coordination across different ocean-related productive sectors, conservation, and areas of human wellbeing. In addition, these laws are disconnected from the regulation of land-based activities that negatively impact upon the ocean – agriculture, industrial production and waste management (including ocean plastic).

“These disconnections are compounded by limited understanding of the role of international human rights and economic law, as well as the norms of indigenous peoples, development partners and private companies.” Image: David Robie/PMC

These disconnections are compounded by limited understanding of the role of international human rights and economic law, as well as the norms of indigenous peoples, development partners and private companies.

Disconnected science is itself a problem in this area. Ocean science is still weak in most countries due to limited holistic approaches for understanding cumulative impacts of various threats to ocean health such as climate change, pollution, coastal erosion and overfishing.

Equally, scientific understanding of the effectiveness of conservation and management responses is poor, so that the productivity limits and recovery time of ecosystems cannot be easily predicted.

Even when science is making progress, effective science-policy interfaces are often poorly articulated at all levels. As a result, there are significant barriers to effectively measuring progress in reaching SDG14.

Oceans research policies rare
National oceans research policies to support sustainable development are rare. This is compounded by limited understanding of the role of different knowledge systems, notably the traditional knowledge of indigenous people.

Third, there is a disconnected dialogue. Key stakeholders, most notably the communities most dependent on ocean health, are not sufficiently involved in developing and implementing ocean management; yet, they are most disproportionately affected by their negative consequences.

More positively, there are some good examples of effective science-policy diplomacy collaborations and networks. For example, in the Pacific my own university (University of the South Pacific) has worked very effectively to support Pacific island countries, especially Fiji, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, to successfully lead arguments at the International Maritime Organisation for international commitments to reduced carbon emission targets for shipping.

Technical, scientific support has been critical to support the advocacy of Pacific leaders and their ability to mobilise wider political support.

Building the capacity to achieve such outcomes within the regions of the world that confront these problems most sharply is a significant challenge. Aid policy can play an Important role in this respect – for example, by supporting capacity building through investment in local institutions such as universities rather than funnelling aid money back into donor countries through consultancies.

The scientific dominance of the global north is every bit as disempowering and threatening as post-colonial political domination.

For countries in the developing world, capacity building in research is critical to supporting their own countries. Another good example of this is found in the High Ambition Pacific coalition led by the Marshall Islands which secured significant support from European countries and elsewhere, in their campaign for a 1.5 degrees emissions target at the COP21 meeting in Paris in 2015.

Science-policy-advocacy alliance
This coalition was a good example of a science-policy-advocacy alliance which did not come from the global north.

Scientific as well as policy collaborations between the global south and the global north are certainly possible but it also the case that scientific research and intervention in the countries of the south from the outside can very easily reinforce the political domination that politicians and policy-makers from the south so often experience in international forums and through the aid policies bestowed upon them from outside.

The aggressive assertion of the privileges of Western science to do research in developing countries at the expense of building local capacity demonstrates another side of this post-colonial experience. It is impossible to credibly talk of “giving voice to the ‘disadvantaged’ and ‘vulnerable’” where the research practices of outside researchers and their institutions cripple the ability of local researchers to speak.

Yet, researchers in the Pacific are more effectively operating at the cutting-edge of the science-policy interface than many outside the region may understand or recognise.

In our own case at USP, genuine collaboration across the boundaries of south and north have been possible but just as our leaders and our communities have had to fight against patronising notions of “vulnerability” our scientific need is to build our own capacity to effectively engage with the priorities of our own region and its people. We aim to build a scientific and research capacity that is neither dominated by or exploited from outside.

So, in summary, the tensions that have traditionally been used to characterise the science-policy interface greatly oversimplify the reality. They oversimplify it at an abstract level by whether by characterising science as disinterested or by characterising the aim of policy-makers to rational and evidence-based.

They also oversimplify the relationships within and between scientific communities, ignoring the social interests and power structures that serve the continuation, whether intentionally or not, of post-colonial domination, restricting opportunities to build scientific capacity which enables the achievement of locally determined priorities.

Professor Derrick Armstrong is deputy vice-chancellor (research, innovation and international) at the Suva-based University of the South Pacific. This was a presentation made at the concluding “creative tension” panel at the DevNet 2018 “Disruption and Renewal” conference in Christchurch, New Zealand, last week.

Professor Derrick Armstrong speaking with other members of the final “creative tension” panel at the DevNet 2018 development studies conference. Image: David Robie/PMC

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Pacific voices tell stories of climate change reality in new documentary

A new documentary Subject to Change, a collection of interviews and personal stories from across the Pacific, explores the impact of climate change. Video: MFAT

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

Two young women students are the driving force who created a new documentary titled Subject to Change which highlights the climate change challenges faced by Pacific people in the region.

Among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, Pacific voices are at the heart of the film which has been premiered at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Katowice, Poland, at the Pacific and Koronivia Pavilion.

Producer Amiria Ranfurly, who is of Niuean-New Zealand descent, and Polish director Wiktoria Ojrzyńska, are students of Massey University of New Zealand.

READ MORE: AUT’s Bearing Witness climate change project

The young women chose to showcase climate change in their work because of the impact in the region.

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“We wanted to explore the impacts that climate change is having on our world, and Subject to Change is a documentary film that presents a collection of interviews and personal stories from across the Pacific,” says Ranfurly.

“With passion and determination, we have created a film that shares insight to New Zealand’s response to the global objectives set by the Paris Agreement, alongside intimate stories from the frontline in a truthful and evocative way.”

Documentary producer Amiria Ranfurly (left) and director Wiktoria Ojrzyńska … “intimate frontline climate stories”. Image: COP24 Pacific

Director Ojrzyńska says: “Directing Subject to Change was an amazing storytelling experience, during which I worked with many inspirational people and gained experience across different aspects of filmmaking.”

Collaboration project
Subject to Change
is a collaboration between Massey University and NZ’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

Present to launch the film at the premiere was the Ambassador and Climate Change Special Adviser of the Government of New Zealand, with special guest speaker Inia Seruiratu, COP23 High Level Climate Champion of Global Climate Action, and Minister for Defence and National Security of Fiji who introduced the Director and the Producer of the film.

“Climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific,” said Ambassador Stephanie Lee. “Our Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, has described the climate change challenge as the Nuclear-Free Movement of our generation.”

“We have heard about the IPCC 1.5 degrees report and we already knew that it really underlines this challenge as an urgent one. The documentary you are about to see embodies that sense of challenge, but it also embodies a sense of hope,” said Ambassador Lee.

The documentary featured and drew strongly on the perspective of the Fijian people, particularly of those of the small island of Batiki with a population of around 300 people that was hit hardest by Cyclone Winston in February, 2017.

Inia Seruiratu thanked the NZ government and Massey University for supporting the documentary, as well as New Zealand’s support and partnership on the Pacific and Koronivia Pavilion where the premiere was being held.

Speaking about his experience as a Pacific islander, Seruiratu thanked the producer, director and the team behind the documentary for producing a powerful medium with which the voices of the vulnerable could be heard.

“People need to see and experience visually the realities others such as those in the Pacific are facing in order to better understand. And this is why this documentary is so important and serves as a great tool,” said Seruiratu.

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Nations close ranks to stop ‘big four’ oil producers watering down UN report

By Sara Stefanini and Karl Mathiesen in Katowice, Poland

In a moment of drama in Poland, countries have closed ranks against a push by oil producers to water down recognition of the UN’s report on the impacts of 1.5C warming.

Four big oil and gas producers blocked the UN climate talks from welcoming the most influential climate science report in years, as the meeting in Katowice descended into acrimony yesterday.

By failing to reach agreement after two and half hours of emotional negotiations, delegates in Katowice set the scene for a political fight next week over the importance of the UN’s landmark scientific report on the effects of a 1.5C rise in the global temperature.

READ MORE: 12 activists denied entry to Poland for UN climate summit

The battle, halfway through a fortnight of Cop24 negotiations, was over two words: “note” or “welcome”.

Saudi Arabia, the US, Kuwait and Russia said it was enough for the members of the UN climate convention (the UNFCCC) to “note” the findings.

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But poor and undeveloped countries, small island states, Pacific nations, Europeans and many others called to change the wording to “welcome” the study – noting that they had commissioned it when they reached the Paris climate agreement in 2015.

“This is not a choice between one word and another,” Rueanna Haynes, a delegate for St Kitts and Nevis, told the plenary.

‘This is us’
“This is us, as the UNFCCC, being in a position to welcome a report that we requested, that we invited [scientists] to prepare. So it seems to me that if there is anything ludicrous about the discussion that is taking place, it is that we in this body are not in a position to welcome the report.”

The four opposing countries argued the change was not necessary. Saudi Arabia threatened to block the entire discussion if others pushed to change the single word – and warned that it would disrupt the last stretch of negotiations between ministers next week.

The aim of the Cop24 climate summit is to agree a dense set of technical rules to underpin the Paris Agreement’s goals for limiting global warming to well below 2C, and ideally 1.5C, by the end of the century.

The scientific report was published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in October. It found that limiting global warming to 1.5C, rather than below 2C, could help avoid some of the worst effects of climate change, and potentially save vulnerable regions such as low-lying Pacific islands and coastal villages in the Arctic.

But it also made clear that the world would have to slash greenhouse gases by about 45 percent by 2030.

Before the plenary on Saturday, the UN’s climate chief Patricia Espinosa said she hoped to see countries “really welcoming and highlighting the importance of this report… Even if the IPCC is very clear in saying how difficult it will be to achieve that goal, it still says it is possible”.

The US, which raised doubts about the science behind the report before it was finalised, said on Saturday that it would accept wording that noted the IPCC’s findings – while stressing that that “does not imply endorsement” of its contents.

Russia said “it is enough just to note it”, rather than welcoming the report, while Kuwait said it was happy with the wording as it stood.

Plenary push
The push in the plenary to change the wording to “welcome” began with the Maldives, which chairs the alliance of small island states. It was quickly backed by a wide range of countries and groups, including the EU, the bloc of 47 least developed countries, the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean, African countries, Norway (another large oil and gas producer), Argentina, Switzerland, Nepal, Bhutan, Marshall Islands, Belize and South Korea.

Negotiators huddled with the plenary meeting’s chair, Paul Watkinson, for nearly an hour to try and work out a compromise.

But Watkinson’s suggestion – welcoming the “efforts” of the IPCC experts and noting the “importance of the underlying research” – fell flat.

Delegates from Latin America, small islands, Europe, New Zealand, Canada, Africa and elsewhere argued it was not enough to highlight the work that went into the report, it needed to address the findings.

Watkinson said he was disappointed that they could not agree. But a negotiator said the talks would continue: “This is a prelude to a huge fight next week,” when ministers arrive in Poland. It will be up to the Polish hosts to find a place for the report’s findings in the final outcome of the talks.

Wording that welcomes, rather than notes, the 1.5C report should be the bare minimum, Belize negotiator Carlos Fuller told Climate Home News. However, “the oil producing countries recognise that if the international community takes it on board, it means a massive change in the use of fossil fuels”, he said. “From the US point of view, this is the Trump administration saying ‘we do not believe the climate science’.”

‘Won the fight’
Fuller added: “In my opinion we have won the fight, because the headline tomorrow will be: the UNFCCC cannot agree the IPCC report’, and people will say ‘Why, what’s in the report?’ and go and look.”

The 1.5C science wasn’t the only divisive issue after a week of Cop24 talks, with countries still mostly holding their ground on the Paris Agreement’s rulebook.

Contentious decisions related to the transparency of reporting emissions and the make up of national climate plans have all been refined, but ultimately kicked to the higher ministerial level. Several observers raised the concern that some unresolved issues may be too technical for ministers to debate with adequate expertise.

Financial aid is still contentious issue. The rules on how and what developed countries must report on their past and planned funding, and the extent to which emerging economies are urged to do the same, remains largely up for debate.

In a further moment of drama on Saturday afternoon, Africa stood firm as UN officials tried to finalise a draft of the rules that will govern the deal. Africa’s representative Mohamed Nasr said the continent could not accept the deal as it was presented, forcing the text to be redrafted on the plenary floor.

“You can’t bully Africa, it’s 54 countries,” said one negotiator, watching from the plenary floor.

The change will mean new proposals to be made to the text next week. That would allow African ministers to attempt to strengthen a major climate fund dedicated to helping countries adapt to climate change and push for less strict measures for developing countries.

‘Voicing our concerns’
“We have been voicing our concerns, maybe the co-chairs in their attempt to seek a balanced outcome they overlooked some of the stuff. So we are saying that we are not going to stop the process but we need to make sure that our views are included,” Nasr told CHN.

Mohamed Adow, a campaigner with Christian Aid, said the African intervention had “saved the process” by ensuring that dissatisfied countries could still have their issues heard.

“It’s actually much better than it’s ever been in this process at this stage,” he said. “Because this is the end of the first week and ministers have been provided with clear options. Of course nothing is closed but the options are actually narrower.”

This article is republished with permission from Climate Home News.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pioneering NZ Pacific research initiative to make ‘reset’ change

Keynote speakers Associate Professor Kabini Sanga from Victoria University and Dr Alisi Holani (right), deputy CEO of the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation and Labour (MCCTIL) in Tonga. They spoke about a “rich gap” and other issues affecting Pacific media reportage. Image: Tom Blessen/PMC

By Sri Krishnamurthi

The NZ Institute for Pacific Research will cease to exist in its current form, Emeritus Professor Richard Bedford said in a bombshell announcement to the Oceans and Islands conference today.

Rumours of NZIPR’s demise were doing the rounds after a review of the organisation earlier this year by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT).

“I do want to finish with expressing the gratitude that the institute has for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for the investment they have put in to the establishment of a NZ Institute for Pacific Research,” said the acting director in his conference closing address.

READ MORE: NZ think-tank launched to advance Pacific research

“We are in a rather ambiguous situation at the moment and quite a lot of speakers were informed of this in advance. I wrote to alert them to the fact we were in yet another ‘Pacific reset’ around the institute.

“Pacific reset are the words that the ministry has used for the rethinking of aspects of our policy in the Pacific,” said Professor Bedford.

He admitted that he had yet to see the review report which is said to be confidential to the institute’s board. They knew the recommendations that the decision to cease the current arrangement was based on.

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“Just for those of you who might be bewildered by this, it’s not about getting rid of the NZ Institute of Pacific Research,” he said.

Review of investment
“Basically, what the ministry has done is have a review of what its investment has achieved.
“I think they’ve been impressed with a number of things that have happened. They have been impressed with some of the research that has been done,” he said.

“But the model and the way it’s worked has not given them the return on investment with regard to research that informs policy.

“I can sympathise a little bit with MFAT here because academic research doesn’t always and should never always fit perfectly some policy objective or goal,” he said in attempting to cushion the blow.

“The drivers of academic research are different from policy orientated research,” he said highlighting the difference in what the ministry had expected from NZIPR.

“This applied especially to discovery-led research, and a great deal of research we’ve heard about in this conference is discovery-led research.

“It’s about understanding and learning ways of doing things, testing models, testing ideas. It’s not about necessarily just producing something to enable a solution. The research may contribute to a solution long-term but that isn’t what drives it initially.”

MFAT-owned brand
He made it clear that the brand name was owned by MFAT and not the three universities (Auckland, Otago and Auckland University of Technology) that have been involved in the initial conglomerate that formed the NZIPR.

It was envisioned initially that long-term the NZIPR would become something like Australia’s think tank Lowy Institute.

When NZIPR was formed, MFAT invested $5 million for a set number of years, but the arrangement was that the NZIPR would look to possible external sources of funding to top up MFAT’s investment but that never eventuated.

“The label NZ Institute for Pacific Research belongs to MFAT, it’s not a label that belongs to the consortium of universities that has worked with MFAT to deliver on the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that led to the formation of the current NZ Institute for Pacific Research,” he clarified.

“The NZ Institute for Pacific will continue to exist, operating under a different but as yet unspecified model.

“Whatever actually happens, in my view they’d be mad if they got rid of the opportunity that we’ve had to have this kind of conference,” he said voicing his opinion.

He said the support from MFAT needed to be acknowledged and he aimed to work with the ministry constructively to try and ensure that all the many good things that have emanated from their investment continue in whatever form they chose to implement the institute in the future.

Transition period
“That’s just to clarify that it won’t be the same next year, the current arrangement finishes on March 14,” Professor Bedford said.

“Between now and March 14 Evelyn [Dr Evelyn Marsters – research programme manager] and I, along with others in the University of Auckland, AUT and the University of Otago which are partners in the consortium, will work with MFAT to ensure that the transition from the first generation, the Fresh Off the Boat version of NZIPR moves along to the next generation version under MFAT control.”

Day two of the conference, apart from this sensational announcement, featured keynote speakers Associate Professor Kabini Sanga from Victoria University (Wellington), who spoke about “Pacific research frontiering” and Dr Alisi Holani, Deputy CEO of the Ministry of Commerce, Consumer, Trade, Innovation and Labour (MCCTIL) in Tonga, who spoke about “Bridging the policy-research gap in the Pacific – Insights from labour mobility negotiations in PACER Plus”.

The third keynote speaker, Dr Tapugao Falefou Permanent Secretary Government of Tuvalu, could not attend the conference due to not having his visa processed in time, something which was lamented by Professor Bedford.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Pacific’s brightest minds gather for Oceans and Islands research summit

By Blessen Tom

In a bold and innovative move for researchers, the two-day inaugural Oceans and Islands conference today brought together the brightest minds of the Pacific to demonstrate what they do.

Oceans and Islands – a showcase for the region hosted by the NZ Institute for Pacific Research (NZIPR) – was opened by the Minister for Pacific Peoples, Carmel Sepuloni, this morning.

“I really do have the privilege of being able to witness the great contribution that Pacific leaders, academics and communities make to Aotearoa and globally,” the minister said.

READ MORE: Pacific aid mapping tool aimed at improving transparency in region

Pacific Peoples Minister Carmel Sepuloni … “critical that Pacific people are meaningfully included in thought leadership and decision making”. Images: Blessen Tom/PMC

She acknowledged the excellence of Pacific research in New Zealand and welcomed the establishment of research agencies such as Moana Research and commended the leadership of Dr Teuila Percival, Jcinta Fa’alili-Fidow and Dudley Gentles.

The minister also shared some of the research initiatives that she is directly involved with such as the extended funding to the growing up in New Zealand study and Treasury’s Pasifika Economic Report.

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“It is critical that Pacific people are meaningfully included in thought leadership and decision making. We must be the authors of our own solutions, and conferences like this support us towards that end,” she added.

Toeolesulusulu Associate Professor Damon Salesa … struggles faced by Pacific researchers. Image: David Robie/PMC

Many struggles
Toeolesulusulu Associate Professor Damon Salesa, who was recently appointed pro vice-chancellor (Pacific) of the University of Auckland, said: “Pacific research and Pacific knowledge matters.”

“It’s not simply research about the Pacific, by the Pacific that makes it Pacific research. It’s much more than that…and it has faced many struggles,” he added.

He talked about the struggles that researchers faced, such as not being properly resourced, the lack of opportunities to succeed, and the lack of proper recognition.

“These are the struggles NZIPR embarked on,” he said in a tribute to the institute that he was the founding director of. The achievements of NZIPR were:

• Creating a formal research programme – “five research programmes will be signed off completed or published by the end of this year.”

• Disseminating research through both online and offline platforms, and establishing a research repository to make visible the different kinds of knowledge.

• Building research capability and the research recognition of a diverse range of researchers that includes 12 scholarships and sponsorship for individual researchers and research projects.

He also remarked that NZIPR had “achieved so much so quickly”.

Indigenous principles
Dr David Welchman Gegeo led the third keynote session when he gave full recognition to indigenous ethical principles that guide the social construction of knowledge in Pacific island communities.

“Why do we keep doing research on Pacific communities?” and “Are we alone?” asked David Gegeo.

“Pacific Island’s epistemic communities are not alone in the quest for the indigenisation or oceanisation of research and knowledge construction in the Pacific,” he said.

“I think we have a better chance of answering some of our lingering questions in research when we work together as this team.”

He advocated the working together of university epistemic community, metro-centrist epistemic community and Pacific village epistemic community for research and construction of pacific knowledge.

Dr Gegeo holds a research position in the Office of Research and Postgraduate Studies at the Solomon Islands National University.

Professor Kapua’ala Sproat … proactive indigenous responses to “pernicious impacts of global warming”. Image: Blessen Tom/PMC

Dr Kapua’ala Sproat is a professor of law at the University of Hawai’i’s Richardson School of Law and the director of Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawai’ian Law.

Her keynote explored indigenous people’s proactive responses to the pernicious impacts of global warming.

‘Sense of culture’
“I’m incredibly grateful that I grew up with a strong sense of self and culture because I think that really has rooted both myself and but also my work,” she said.

Professor Sprout examined Native Hawai’ians’ potential deployment of local laws that embody restorative justice principles to fashion meaningful remedies for the environmental and cultural damage as a result of the global climate crisis.

“Our identity as indigenous people is inextricably tied to these islands and our natural and cultural resources” said Professor Sprout and “Global Warming threatens our island home and our identity as a people”.

The final keynote session of the day was addressed by Leina Tucker-Masters, Eliza Puna and by Dr Jamaima Tiataia- Seath.

Their presentation canvassed the journeys of three Pacific women researchers throughout their academic careers.

“Engaging in research as an undergraduate student helped me connect with my Pacific culture while at university,” said Leina Tucker-Masters, a medical student at the University of Auckland.

Research methodologies
Tucker-Masters talked about her experience with Pacific research methodologies and how they influenced literature.

“I learned about Pacific health initiatives that use Pacific ways of thinking to heal Pacific people”.

“Postgraduate research gives you an opportunity to carry out very ethnic specific research and it allows for in depth engagement and helps to bridge academia and our communities,” said Eliza Puna, a doctoral candidate in Pacific Studies at Auckland University.

Dr Jemaima Tiatia-Seath is currently co-head of school and head of Pacific studies, Te Wananga o Waipapa, School of Māori and Pacific Studies, University of Auckland.

She talked about her experience as one of six panelists on the government’s Mental Health and Addiction Enquiry.

The Oceans and Islands conference will conclude tomorrow evening.

Sri Krishnamurthi and Blessen Tom of the Pacific Media Centre are working as part of a PMC partnership with the NZ Institute for Pacific Research.

NZIPR research manager Dr Evelyn Marsters and one of the keynote speakers, Professor David Gegeo of the Solomon Islands, at the Oceans and Islands conference in Auckland today. Image: David Robie/PMC

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media