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The scale of the climate challenge facing Myanmar

The scale of the climate challenge facing Myanmar

By Georgina Wade

Today, Myanmar is in the midst of a fight that will determine the future of its democracy. While this inevitably demands the full attention and energy of the population, the future holds other challenges of its own. The military takeover came just as the government was preparing for a crucial year for climate change, culminating in the COP26 UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, UK, in November. According to the 2020 Global Climate Risk Index, Myanmar is the world’s second most disaster-prone country, exposed to multiple climate-related hazards, including floods, cyclones, landslides, and droughts. Climate impacts will be felt through the whole economy and will touch all aspects of society. Building resilience will require the government to put climate change at the heart of its decision-making processes and development plans. Only an integrated approach that recognises the interconnected nature of climate risks will be effective.

Over the past decade, Myanmar has made some progress. The country had decreased its poverty rate from 48.2 per cent in 2005 to 24.8 per cent in 2017. Whilst this represents good progress, climate change threatens further development as it will impact all sectors in Myanmar, including agriculture, transport and energy.

Agriculture

Agriculture remains the backbone of Myanmar’s economy, employing over half of the labour force. Agricultural reforms have seen Myanmar reach a state of self-sufficiency in staple foods, and the country had experienced a rapid decline in malnutrition figures in just a few decades. For instance, the prevalence of stunting among children below the age of five had reduced from around 40 per cent in the 1990s to less than 30 per cent in 2016.

Despite this progress, seasonal food insecurity remains a concern across Myanmar. Kundhavi Kadiresan, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said in a speech in 2019 that “much work remains to be done for Myanmar to achieve SDG-2, the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger by 2030.” Climate impacts threaten to make this goal even harder to reach. 

Increased rainfall during the wet season and decreased rainfall during the dry season may reduce agricultural production for key crops. More frequent extreme heat and higher average temperatures may also lead to crop failures, reduce productivity, or alter staple crops’ nutritional content. Despite Myanmar’s economic progress, its reliance on the agricultural sector makes over half of the labour force highly vulnerable to climate change impacts. 

Transport

Productivity is linked to connectivity – efforts to improve transport connectivity in Myanmar present opportunities to boost trade, growth and regional integration. When transport systems are efficient and reliable, they provide economic and social opportunities and benefits that result in positive multiplier effects such as better accessibility to market and employment.

Research suggests that increased public spending on transport infrastructure over the next decade could reduce logistics costs by around 30 per cent and increase annual GDP by up to $40 bn. Energy, water and telecommunications infrastructure also face increased risk from physical damage and disruption caused by storms, floods and other hazards becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.

Energy

A reliable supply of energy is fundamental for Myanmar’s continued economic development. Myanmar has aggressively pursued hydropower as a way of meeting increasing demand whilst limiting its carbon emissions. Hydropower, the world’s leading renewable energy resource for electricity generation, accounted for 75 per cent of the country’s electricity consumption in 2017.

Over-reliance on hydropower holds its problems. Heatwaves and an increasing number of extreme heat days could increase energy demand for air conditioning and industrial cooling. At the same time, droughts and change in river flows due to erratic rainfall may affect hydropower energy generation. The costs of power outages will be felt across the whole economy, as industrial and commercial rely on a continuous power supply.

Diversified power systems that draw on multiple forms of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, are more resilient to climate impacts and can deliver energy closer to the communities that they serve. Nature-based solutions, such as reforestation, can also reduce the risk to hydropower by regulating water flow and stabilising the soil, preventing landslides and improving water quality.

When Myanmar is able to look towards the future once more, it must take steps to build its climate resilience to achieve its development objectives. An integrated approach is required to manage these interconnected challenges.

Climate change must be integrated into decision-making across all government departments. For it to be taken seriously, it must also be understood as a priority issue at the highest levels including within the Ministry of Planning and Finance. A broader process of engagement with Myanmar’s people is also required to ensure the country can move forward towards a future in which everyone can share. There is much reconciliation to do in the meantime to achieve this.


Cover image: Landslide in Myanmar. Climate change will make these events more common.  By Sukun, 2017

Infographic references:

i.Food Security Cluster (FSC); Myanmar

ii. The Myanmar Times (2020); Extreme weather in Myanmar’s Magwe breaks temperature record

iii. Frontier Myanmar (2019); The National League for Democracy’s power fail

iv. Global Witness (2020); Myanmar jade mine disaster highlights government inaction

National Event in Belize Validates Green Climate Fund (GCF) Country Programme through a Virtual Structured Dialogue

National Event in Belize Validates Green Climate Fund (GCF) Country Programme through a Virtual Structured Dialogue

Belize’s Ministry of Finance Economic Development and Investment (MFEDI) – the National Designated Authority (NDA) to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – in collaboration with Willis Towers Watson’s Climate Resilience Hub (CRH) convened a three-day virtual Structured Dialogue to receive stakeholder inputs and validate Belize’s updated Country Programme* for eventual submission to the GCF**. The event brought together almost 50 key stakeholders across various Belizean ministries, private sector and civil society organisations (CSOs) to guide the country’s engagement with the GCF over the period 2021-2025.

The event took place in the context of the Readiness support project carried out in Belize by the MFEDI in association with the CRH climate finance team and national consultant, Ms Ann Gordon, to update Belize’s Country Programme through an inclusive, and participatory process. The project is funded by the GCF through the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) who acts as a Readiness delivery partner (DP).

Opening the meeting on 29th March 2021, MFEDI CEO Ms. Narda Garcia said that “to respond to the imminent threats posed by climate change, the government of Belize is committed to transforming the country’s economy along a low-emission and climate-resilient pathway towards sustainable development.” She also noted that one of the objectives of developing a CP that articulates priority climate change-related needs is to foster country ownership, built through an inclusive process driven by national stakeholders. Ms. Beverly Wade from Belize’s newly-formed Ministry of Blue Economy and Civil Aviation also opened the event by articulating the ministry’s mandate with ongoing GCF activities, acknowledging that Belize’s ocean health was a major contributor to Belize’s wealth and economic development. 

Over the three days, attendees had the opportunity to engage in frank exchanges amongst each other and the NDA on the contents of the updated CP, including its new pipeline of projects for submission to GCF, and Belize’s national climate circumstances and policy goals.

Discussions during the Dialogue highlighted and welcomed the robust support provided by the GCF, while exploring through group discussions the challenges and opportunities to further strengthen the country’s access to climate finance. Ministerial stakeholders, such as the NDA and the National Climate Change Office (NCCO) of Belize, shared the priority areas under Belize’s new administration, such as working with the private sector and increasing agriculture’s climate resilience amongst others, and provided updates on critical national climate documents being updated, such as the updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) which is being finalised for eventual submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

On the last day, stakeholders were presented with each other’s comments that were collected on the updated draft CP and were invited to share their feedback with the audience which ensured that the updated document embodied national agreement through an inclusive and multi-stakeholder process.

In response to the challenges that arose from COVID-19 travel restrictions, the virtual Dialogue employed a mix of plenary presentations from guest speakers, the use of real-time online collaboration tools to comment on the CP, as well as takeaway preparation materials for attendees. Additionally, a poll was administered after the event which found that stakeholders found the process to be inclusive and allowed them as national stakeholders to validate the update of Belize’s CP. This reflects the team’s efforts to ensure national stakeholders’ ownership of the process, despite the challenges arising from the pandemic.

At the end of the event, Mr. Leroy Martinez, Economist and the NDA’s GCF Focal Point, provided closing remarks and thanked all participants, reminding that the group had a shared goal to advance Belize’s national climate change goals. The CRH team will integrate the validated stakeholder feedback from the event into the Country Programme, and share it with the NDA for approval, which will in turn submit it to the GCF in the coming months.


* A Country Programme is a document that establishes the basis for a country’s engagement with the GCF which includes the country’s profile (climate-related impacts, development challenges and climate priorities), the country’s engagement with the GCF (a  GCF project portfolio  and prospective pipeline), and the continuous monitoring and evaluation of the document. As such, the Country Programme provides investment guidance to GCF to support countries achieve low-carbon and climate-resilient development.

** The GCF is the largest public fund dedicated to financing climate change action in developing countries.


Half a billion people may face heat of 56°C by 2100

Half a billion people may face heat of 56°C by 2100

By Tim Radford

Take today’s heat, apply mathematical logic and consider a murderously hot future, 56°C by 2100, for hundreds of millions.

LONDON, 29 March, 2021 − Many millions of people − among them some of the world’s poorest − will be exposed to potentially lethal temperatures on a routine basis. At worst, the mercury could reach 56°C by 2100.

Even if the world keeps its most ambitious promise and contains global heating to no more than 1.5°C above the global average normal for most of human history, the future looks distinctly menacing.

And if the world doesn’t quite get there, and annual average temperatures − already 1°C above the historic norm − rise to 2°C, then vast numbers of people in South Asia will find themselves exposed to deadly conditions at least three times as often.

As the researchers make this sober warning in one journal, researchers on the same day in yet another journal make a simple prediction about the cost of ignoring such warnings altogether, to go on burning ever more fossil fuels and destroying ever more tracts of the natural world.

If this happens, then people in the Middle East and North Africa will be hit by a new category of thermal menace: the arrival of super-extreme and ultra-extreme heatwaves.

Target far exceeded

Which means that by the end of this century, more than half a billion people could be exposed to temperatures as high as 56°C, not just for days, but for weeks. The hottest temperature so far ever recorded on Earth was 54°C, in Death Valley, California in 2020.

In 2015, almost all of the world’s nations met in Paris and vowed to contain global heating by the century’s end to “well below” a maximum of 2°C. In fact, the less explicit intention was to contain the mercury’s rise to no higher than 1.5°C.

So much for the vow: the latest evidence is that, on the basis of the national declared intentions so far, global temperatures will rise far higher than the 2°C target. And summer − defined as the hottest 25% of the year − could by the century’s end last almost six months.

A new computational study in Geophysical Research Letters warns that the 1.5°C target could be passed by 2040, in just two decades. And with higher average temperatures over longer periods, there will inevitably be higher than average extremes of temperature, more often, for longer periods, and over wider ranges.

“The need for adaptation over South Asia is today, not in the future. It’s not a choice any more.”

The outcome could be devastating for the countries of South Asia − India and Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Burma among them − as the thermometer rises and the humidity increases. Researchers have warned for years that at a certain level of heat and humidity − meteorologists call it the “wet bulb” temperature − humans cannot labour productively.

That level is 32°C. At a wet bulb temperature of 35°C, humans cannot expect to survive for long. Some parts of the region have already felt such temperatures with a global average rise of just over 1°C: in 2015, at least 3500 people in Pakistan and India died from causes directly related to extreme heat.

At 1.5°C the consequences could be significantly worse, and at 2°C, the scientists say, the hazard will have been amplified by a factor of 2.7: almost threefold. South Asia could later this century be home to more than two billion people: of the working population, 60% are now engaged in agricultural labour out of doors, and many millions live in crowded cities and in severe poverty. The region should prepare itself for a dangerously hot future.

“The future looks bad for South Asia,” said Moetasim Ashfaq, of the US Oak Ridge National Laboratory, one of the authors, “but the worst can be avoided by containing warming to as low as possible. The need for adaptation over South Asia is today, not in the future. It’s not a choice any more.”

That heat extremes are potentially lethal, that the people of South Asia are potentially at risk, and that an enormous proportion of the planet’s population will be exposed to dangerously high temperatures is not in dispute: the questions now are about the degree of danger, and its extent.

Ultra-extreme heat

Once again, the statisticians have been at work, and the answer in the journal Climate and Atmospheric Science is: it will be much worse, over a vaster region and for a very large number of people in the Middle East and North Africa.

Their calculations suggest that temperatures could reach as high as 56°C, and even more than 60° C in sweltering cities. Such heat extremes could endure for weeks.

So within the lifetimes of those alive today, about half the region’s population − that is, about 600 million people − could face extreme temperatures of around 56°C by 2100 every summer.

The researchers put their message with unusual forthrightness in the headline: “Business-as-usual will lead to super- and ultra-extreme heatwaves in the Middle East and North Africa.” − Climate News Network


This article was originally posted on The Climate News network.
Cover photo by Sarah Lachise on Unsplash
[Podcast] Building Climate Resilience: Managing Results-Based Adaptation Projects

[Podcast] Building Climate Resilience: Managing Results-Based Adaptation Projects

Guests: Mahamat Assouyouti, Senior Climate Change Specialist, Adaptation Fund, and Martina Dorigo, Program Analyst, Adaptation Fund
Host: Matt Pueschel, Communications Officer, Adaptation Fund

Members of the Adaptation Fund (AF) discuss AF’s Results-Based Management Framework in the context of its diverse portfolio of projects and programmes, and how they are improving lives, livelihoods and ecosystems on the ground that support them.

The value of adaptation metrics in enhancing adaptation outcomes and progress to date was detailed through highlights from the Fund’s latest Annual Performance Report, knowledge study on portfolio monitoring missions, virtual project country-level visits and examples of AF projects that have been scaled up by other funds. How projects have adapted in the face of the pandemic, continued high demand for projects, as well as expanded programmes being offered in the portfolio such as new project scale-up, enhanced direct access, innovation and learning grants were also discussed.

Listen now.


Cover photo by .Martin. on Flickr.
Virtual structured dialogue to validate Belize’s Country Programme for engagement with the world’s largest public climate fund, Green Climate Fund.

Virtual structured dialogue to validate Belize’s Country Programme for engagement with the world’s largest public climate fund, Green Climate Fund.

Press release

Belize, a Small Islands Developing State (SIDS) with mangrove forests, dense jungles and the largest barrier reef in North America, is exceptionally vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Its geographical location and low-lying topography leave the country exposed to rising sea levels and increased frequency and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes that have traditionally hit the area with catastrophic consequences. Additionally, the economic weight of highly climate-sensitive sectors, notably agriculture and tourism, heightens its vulnerability to a changing climate and threatens its economic development.  

In this context, the COVID-19 crisis places an additional burden on Belize’s growth perspective, leading to a 15.5% economic contraction in 2020, the largest in recent decades.

These climate stresses and economic shocks represent major hurdles Belize is facing to achieve the climate adaptation and mitigation goals the country has set out for itself.

The Green Climate Fund (known as the GCF) offers an attractive source of funding, currently capitalised at USD 9.7 billion, and is the largest fund dedicated to climate change in the world which can provide critical support to achieve climate goals. Belize is already seizing opportunities arising from the GCF.

GCF activities in Belize are coordinated by the country’s National Designated Authority (NDA) and the Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment (MFEDI), in collaboration with the delivery partner (DP), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC). In particular, the MFEDI plays an important role in facilitating access to the GCF in Belize and is responsible for acting as the focal point for communications with the GCF and national organisations, identifying national funding priorities in consultation with stakeholders, giving no-objection to funding proposals, and nominating national organisations for accreditation.

To date, there is one GCF-funded project in Belize, focused on climate-smart agricultural production, and implemented by the International Fund for Agriculture and Development (IFAD). Belize has also received support from the GCF to boost the capacities of the country to access international finance for investments in climate change projects, as part of the Fund’s Readiness programme.

An initial 2018 Readiness conducted by Acclimatise Ltd. (now Willis Towers Watson’s Climate Resilience Hub (CRH)[1]) ,“Capacity Building of the NDA and Preparation of Country Strategic Framework”, strengthened the MFEDI’s capacity to carry out its GCF-funded responsibilities and developed a  Country Programme to guide Belize’s engagement with the GCF.  A Country Programme is a document that guides Belize’s GCF investment priorities and Readiness support requests by translating national climate change priorities into a pipeline of fundable projects and programmes, prioritised by national stakeholders.

The CRH, together with a national consultant, are now implementing a second phase of Readiness activities to update Belize’s Country Programme and further strengthen Belize’s national capacities to effectively and efficiently access, manage, disburse and monitor GCF financing.

Activities have included an online training course on GCF project and programme requirements to build the capacities of the NDA and national stakeholders to prepare, appraise, and submit bankable project funding proposals for submission to the GCF; and the development of a set of gender criteria and indicators to integrate gender considerations into the design and appraisal of GCF concept notes.

Additionally under this project, a broad and country-driven consultative process was launched in the form of two Structured Dialogues to identify new projects and programmes that could be integrated into Belize’s Country Programme’s updated project pipeline. Using a country-driven approach through a first Structured Dialogue a pipeline of projects and programmes aligned with Belizean climate priorities and GCF requirements has been reviewed and prioritised by national stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as civil society. The Country Programme represents an opportunity for Belize to share its climate change priorities with the GCF and relevant accredited entities.

Now a second structured dialogue is taking place virtually from 29th – 31st March 2021 with the NDA secretariat and national stakeholders to validate the updated Country Programme and its finalised pipeline as well as a proposed procedure for continuously updating the Country Programme. By project completion in April 2021, Belize will have developed a robust pipeline of projects and programmes (mostly adaptation-related with a sectoral focus on agriculture, marine and costal resources as well as biodiversity) for submission to the GCF as well as have a clear roadmap for investment priorities to tackle climate change as part of GCF’s first replenishment period of 2020-2023.

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment (MFEDI)

The Ministry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment in Belize formulates and recommends national development policies, strategies and programmes to promote macroeconomic stability, sustainable socioeconomic development and the reduction of poverty.

About the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC):

The Belize-based Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to mitigating and adapting to climate change. CCCCC sought accreditation to the GCF in 2015 to undertake and scale up both mitigation and adaptation projects across the region in order to drive a paradigm shift in the region’s development patterns.

About the Green Climate Fund

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) is a global fund created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change. GCF helps developing countries limit or reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapt to climate change. It seeks to promote a paradigm shift to low-emission and climate-resilient development, considering the needs of nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts.

It was set up by the 194 countries who are parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010, as part of the Convention’s financial mechanism. It aims to deliver equal amounts of funding to mitigation and adaptation, while being guided by the Convention’s principles and provisions.

CONTACTS

Mr. Leroy Martinez of the Ministry Finance, Economic Development and Investment (MFEDI): leroy.martinez@med.gov.bz


[1]     Acclimatise Ltd. was acquired by Willis Towers Watson’s (WTW) Climate Resilience Hub (CRH) on 11 November 2020. WTW is a global advisory, broking and solutions company with extensive experience consulting on climate change adaptation and climate finance.


Cover image by Seann McAuliffe
Green space in cities can bring considerable health benefits for communities, but access is unequal

Green space in cities can bring considerable health benefits for communities, but access is unequal

By Ambika Chawla

With the arrival of spring, Platte Farm Open Space, located in the diverse, working-class neighborhood of Globeville in north Denver, comes alive with native grasses, pollinator gardens that attract bees and butterflies, and wildflowers, such as Mexican hat, asters, poppies, and Gaillardia.

“This is a beautiful amenity — a beautiful piece of space that was previously being abused,” says Jan Ediger, a longtime resident of Globeville. A former brownfield site, Platte Farm is 5.5 acres (just over 2 hectares) of open green space in the heart of Globeville that, along with the wildflowers, grasses, and gardens, has walking trails, a play area for children, and a detention pond to help prevent localized flooding.

Once a dumping ground for trash and industrial pollution in Globeville, the development of Platte Farm Open Space was a 14-year journey — a collaborative effort between the community members of Globeville, the city of Denver, and Groundwork Denver, a nonprofit organization that works to create green spaces to help improve community health.

“A lot of people come through here walking and jogging. That never used to be the case,” Ediger says. “We always had a few people coming through on the way to the bus stop, as a pass through, but now people come here for exercise. We see kids playing, riding bikes, and their parents come with them.”

Health Disparities and Access to Green Space

Urban greenery, such as the shortgrass prairie of Platte Farm Open Space, benefits people’s health and recreation. But access to nature is unequal for lower-income communities and communities of color compared to affluent white communities.

This past summer, the Center for American Progress and the Hispanic Access Foundation released a report finding that communities of color experience “nature deprivation” at three times the rate of white Americans. According to the report, 74% of communities of color live in nature-deprived areas, with Black communities experiencing the highest levels of deprivation.

report from the Center for American Progress and the Hispanic Access Foundation found that communities of color experience “nature deprivation” at three times the rate of white Americans. Chart by the Center for American Progress based on an analysis by Conservation Science Partners (CSP). Click image to expand.

Meanwhile, in a 2019 study, researchers at the University of British Columbia examined 10 U.S. cities, including New York, Chicago, Houston, and others, and found that Latino and Black communities have less access to urban nature than white communities. “The widespread green inequities uncovered by this research are serious issues in the context of the effects of urban vegetation on urban health and well-being,” the authors write. “Urban residents with lower access to urban vegetation, according to our analyses, are also those who are most likely to experience poor public health outcomes that could potentially be mitigated by adequate exposure to urban vegetation.”

In fact, a growing body of evidence shows that access to green space in urban areas can bring considerable benefits to the health and well-being of city residents. These benefits may include improved cognitive development and functioningreduced symptom severity of attention deficit hyperactivity disorderreduced obesity, and positive impacts on mental health. Looking forward, the University of British Columbia researchers write, the “impact of urban vegetation exposure on the health and well-being of marginalized communities may become even more critical as climate change worsens.”

Gardener at West Athens Victory Garden, photo by Annie Bang

A growing body of evidence shows that access to green space in urban areas can bring considerable benefits to the health and well-being of city residents. Photo taken by Annie Bang courtesy of Los Angeles Neighborhood Trust.

Jennifer Wolch, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley, says these health benefits stem primarily from opportunities for residents to get outside and get active.

“Many epidemiological studies have shown that people who have better access to green space have higher rates of physical activity,” Wolch says. “One of the key problems facing inactive people is that they are at a higher risk of chronic disease, such as diabetes, chronic heart problems, and sometimes cancers. Since access to places to play — whether it’s team sports at a park or simply hiking in a nature preserve — is positively related to levels of physical activity, such parks and open spaces are important elements in keeping people healthy.”

Resources and Strategic Partnerships

“Platte Farm Open Space really is the epitome of a community-led project,” says Cindy Chang, the executive director of Groundwork Denver. “The residents of Globeville had a vision for this land as being an open park that anyone in the community could enjoy. This was a unique process because the community was at the table for almost every design meeting, almost every construction stage, and they even helped decide which kinds of trees would be planted. They were involved in the details in a way that Denver has almost never designed a park before.”

Through a process of remediation, contaminated land was replaced with fresh layers of topsoil, and is now home to prairie habitat that attracts foxes, rabbits, birds and butterflies.

The necessary financial resources to make Platte Farm a reality — money for the purchase of the land, remediation of the soil and planning of the site — weren’t always easy to come by.

For example, in 2013, Xcel Energy and the environmental nonprofit WildEarth Guardians concluded a legal settlement in which Xcel agreed to pay Groundwork Denver US$447,000 to fund energy efficiency and other clean energy projects in neighborhoods in north Denver impacted by air pollution, while channeling the remaining funds toward Platte Farm. In addition, Platte Farm received a US$550,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to help with the construction and maintenance of the site, bringing the project’s total cost to about US$1 million.

Circle of residents is a Community Organizing Event at West Athens Victory Garden in South LA.

While community involvement is often a key to successful green-space initiatives, Alessandro Rigolon, an assistant professor in the department of City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah, recommends green equity groups locate city officials who will be advocates for their work. “They need champions among the elected official community.” Photo of a community organizing event at West Athens Victory Garden in South Los Angeles courtesy of Los Angeles Neighborhood Trust.

Strategic partnerships between a steering committee made up of Globeville community members, Groundwork Denver and the City of Denver also played a vital role in making Platte Farm a reality, particularly given the need for the community of Globeville to have some sort of institutional backing. “Unfortunately, people don’t listen to autonomous communities,” says Ediger. “In a way you have a voice, but it’s not an official voice.”

City-wide policies also helped Platte Farm. “More recently, the city committed to having open space within a 10-minute walk of any resident of Denver,” says Chang. “Platte Farm Open Space allowed them to hold to that commitment in Globeville.”

Chang also notes that the passage of a ballot measure known as Measure 2A was a great achievement for Denver-based environmental justice leaders working to ensure that diverse communities have access to urban nature. The measure, approved by voters in 2018, calls for a quarter percent increase in Denver’s sales tax to be channeled toward expanding the city’s park system.

Healing Spaces

While Platte Farm offers an example of a successful community-led green space initiative in a lower-income, diverse neighborhood, many communities of color in metropolitan areas are still nature-deprived.

Limited financial resources for environmental justice organizations, green gentrification, and redlining are among the many obstacles that have resulted in inequitable access to green space, worsening health disparities among urban communities.


This article was originally posted on ENSIA.
Cover photo by Cassie Gallegos on Unsplash
Event: Online ADB Sanitation Dialogue 2021

Event: Online ADB Sanitation Dialogue 2021

The Online ADB Sanitation Dialogue 2021 (ASD 2021) is the prime platform for sanitation practitioners, decision-makers and policymakers, and development partners to convene and discuss the challenges, solutions, and strategies that will lead to systemic change toward inclusive sanitation. ASD 2021 is an opportunity to raise awareness and action on increasing access to sanitation that is safe, equitable, sustainable, and inclusive. The aim is to flush away business as usual and ensure that investments are directed toward communities who need interventions the most. Learn more

Adapting to the new normal, this event has been designed as a series of webinars and interactive workshops over the course of two weeks.

Click here to register.

Who should join

If you are involved in improving sanitation and public health, through any of the following roles, then this online event is a must for you: Ministry Senior Executives and Middle or Technical Managers • City/Town Mayors and Senior Officials • Project Managers • Development Partners • Private Sector • Think Tanks • Academia • Civil Society and NGOs • Sanitation Consultants • Utility Management and Associations


How droughts and floods lead to migration — and 7 things governments can do to help

How droughts and floods lead to migration — and 7 things governments can do to help

By Cameron Fioret and Nidhi Nagabhatla

Extreme water events affecting water for drinking, cooking, washing and agriculture drive migration all over the world. Earlier this year, cyclone Eloise battered Mozambique, displacing 100,000 to 400,000 people and weakening the country’s infrastructure. People displaced by the storm were in need of food, hygiene kits and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Cyclones are just one form of extreme water events that will play out more frequently and adversely as water crises worsen with climate change. Water extremes and climate change will cause more than one billion people to migrate by 2050.

Migration will be spurred by drought, as in the Sahel in Africa, shortsighted water management, as in the Aral Sea region of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, flooding, as in Bangladesh and small island developing states, and other extremes like cyclones.

Addressing water-driven migration will require research that crosses borders and research boundaries. As climate change continues to cause serious displacement and socio-political upheaval, governments must take action to minimize the effects on people vulnerable to migration.

The stakes of water-driven migration

Water-driven migration is a crucial challenge for people living in vulnerable and unstable regions. Water stress acts as a direct or indirect driver of conflict and migration. As water and climate extremes become worse, more people will face water crises and be forced to migrate.

For instance, take the famous case of the Aral Sea that shrank to 9,830 square kilometres in 2017 from 55,700 square kilometres in the 1970s. More than 100,000 people migrated due to collapse of agriculture, fisheries, tourism and increased illnesses such as tuberculosis and diarrhea.

Satellite imagery of the Aral Sea over time.
More than 100,000 people were displaced from the area around the Aral Sea from 1970 to 2017 due to water mismanagement. (Landsat data mapped by UNU-INWEH), Author provided

Vulnerable populations bear the brunt of impacts on water availability, food production, livelihoods and income. As water and care providers, women and girls carry the burden of fulfilling water needs for their households and families. Women and girls also bear disproportionate health impacts of water crises as more hours are spent organizing household water needs.

A recent report explains that political instability, chronic poverty and inequality and climate change worsen water-driven migration. With at least 33 nations set to face “extremely high (water) stress” by 2040, it is more pressing than ever to face this problem with a strategic approach.

A seven-point strategy

Countries that have committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals could address water-driven migration through SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). Policy can be aligned with SDG 16 along a seven-point strategy:

  1. Address the connection between water ownership, distribution and migrationWater ownership and distribution likely influence migration at local, regional and global levels. To capture the scope of water issues, future research must strike a balance between scientific and social aspects of water.
  2. Understand how water crises influence migration: Causality is important in addressing migration. Land, water and human security issues could serve as a base for outlining a preventative outlook for new and emerging migration pathways.
  3. Integrate diverse perspectives in water migration assessments: Water co-operation treaties must integrate under-represented, marginalized and racialized migrant voices. The United Nations University’s Institute for Water, Environment and Health has developed an approach to aggregate the causes and consequences of water-driven migration. This framework can help policy-makers interpret migration in diverse socio-ecological, socio-economic, and socio-political settings.
  4. Assess water, migration and development practices through participatory, bottom-up and interdisciplinary approaches: Research should be participatoryapplicable between disciplines and socially inclusive to complement scientific, descriptive methods. Nuanced facts of the diverse influences that shape migration can provide understanding to build resilience among vulnerable populations.
  5. Manage data, information and knowledge: Researchers need updated data to examine how water crises are linked with human migration. To close the gaps, the UN has pointed to the need to improve capacity for data analysis within and between countries. Also, there must be stronger co-ordination at the state, regional and international levels to share best practices.
  6. Apply a gender-sensitive lens: The economic, health and societal effects of water-driven migration affect men, women and children differently. Filling these knowledge gaps will require a gender-sensitive approach to assess causes and effects. Namrata Chindarkar, a water and public policy researcher, has argued that comprehensive and holistic investigations of the states people come from, end up in and transit through must be gender-sensitive if they are to be inclusive.
  7. Understand water, migration and peace: There is potential for using water security to promote peace. Broader approaches could help examine key links between water, migration and peace.

Policy-makers must prepare for the consequences of water crises by adopting improvements that address the concerns of those vulnerable to migration. The seven-point strategy calls for policy-makers to use strategic and integrated approaches between disciplines. Research that maps causes, risks and impacts at the local, regional and global levels can strengthen water migration policies.


Read the original article by The Conversation here. CC BY-ND 4.0
Cover photo by Atul Pandey on Unsplash
Sea levels are rising fastest in big cities – here’s why

Sea levels are rising fastest in big cities – here’s why

By Sally Brown and Robert James Nicholls

It is well known that climate-induced sea level rise is a major threat. What is less well know is the threat of sinking land. And in many of the most populated coastal areas, the land is sinking even faster than the sea is rising.

Parts of Tokyo for instance sank by 4 metres during the 20th century, with 2 metres or more of sinking reported in Shanghai, Bangkok, and New Orleans. This process is known as subsidence. Slow subsidence happens naturally in river deltas, and it can be accelerated by the extraction of groundwater, oil or gas which causes the soil to consolidate and the surface to lose elevation.

Subsidence leads to relative sea level rise (sea level rise plus land sinking). It turns croplands salty, damages buildings, causes widespread flooding and can even mean the loss of entire coastal areas.

Subsidence can threaten flooding in low-lying coastal areas, much more so than rising sea levels, yet scientists are only just realising the global implications of the threat with respect to coastal cities.

In fact, while the average coastal area experiences relative sea level rise of less than 3mm per year, the average coastal resident experiences a rise of around 8mm to 10mm per year. This is because so many people live in deltas and especially cities on deltas that are subsiding. That’s the key finding of our new research, where we analysed how fast cities are sinking across the world and compared them with global subsidence data including less densely populated coastlines.

Map showing relative sea level rise in 23 coastal regions around the world.
When weighted by population, relative sea level rise is worst in south east Asia, followed by south and east Asia, and the southern Mediterranean. Nicholls et alCC BY-SA

Our finding reflects that people often choose to live in river deltas, floodplains and other areas that were already prone to sinking, and in doing so will further enhance subsidence. In particular, subsiding cities contain more than 150 million people in the coastal zone – that’s roughly 20% of people in the world who live by the sea. This means relative sealevel rise will have a more sudden and more severe impact than scientists had originally thought.

Here are a few of the most affected cities:

Jakarta

The Indonesian capital Jakarta is home to 10 million people, and is built on low-lying land next to the sea. Groundwater extraction caused the city to sink more than three metres from 1947 to 2010 and much of the city is still sinking by 10cm or more each year.

Subsidence does not occur evenly, leading to uneven risks that make urban planning difficult. Buildings are now flooded, cracks are appearing in infrastructure which is being abandoned.

Jakarta has built higher sea walls to keep up with the subsidence. But since groundwater pumping continues, this patching-up policy can only last so long before the same problems occur again. And the city needs to keep pumping since groundwater is used for drinking water. Taking water, the very thing that humans need to survive, ultimately puts people at risk from inundation.

The battle against subsidence is slowly being lost, with the government proposing in 2019 to move the capital to a purpose-built city on the island of Borneo more than 1,000km away, with subsidence being one of many reasons.

Shanghai

Developing rapidly in the past few decades, and now with a population of 26 million, Shanghai is another sinker. The city has maximum subsidence rates of around 2.5cm a year. Again this is mostly caused by lowering groundwater levels, in this case thanks to drainage to construct skyscrapers, metro lines and roads (for instance Metro Line 1, built in the 1990s, caused rapid subsidence).

Body of water in front of lots of skyscrapers.
Shanghai is found where the river Yangtze meets the sea. John_T / shutterstock

If no additional protection is built, by 2100 this rate of subsidence and sea level rise mean that a storm surge could flood around 15% of the city.

New Orleans

In New Orleans, centuries of embankments and ditches had effectively drained the city and sunk it, leaving about half of it below sea level.

Map of New Orleans with shaded areas below sea level.
Much of New Orleans is below sea level (red) and relies on sea walls to stay dry. The Data Center, New OrleansCC BY-SA

When Hurricane Katrina breached the levees in 2005, the city did not stand a chance. The hurricane caused at least US$40 billion (£29 billion) in damage and particularly took its toll on the city’s African American community. More than 1,570 people died across the state of Louisiana.

If the city had not subsided, damage would have been greatly reduced and lives would have been saved. Decisions that were made many decades or more ago set the path for the disasters that are seen today, and what we will see in the future.

There are no simple solutions

So what can be done? Building a sea wall or dike is one immediate solution. This of course stops the water coming in, but remember that the sea wall is sinking too, so it has to be extra large in order to be effective in the long-term. In urban areas, engineers cannot raise ground easily: that can take decades as buildings and infrastructure are renewed. There is no simple solution, and large-scale urban subsidence is largely irreversible.

Some cities have found “solutions”. Tokyo for instance managed to stop subsidence from about 1960 onwards thanks to stronger regulations on water pumping, but it cannot get rid of the overall risk as parts of city are below sea level and depend on dikes and pumps to be habitable. Indonesia’s bold proposal to move its capital city may be the ultimate solution.

Increased urbanisation especially in deltas areas and the demand for freshwater means subsidence will remain a pressing issue in the coming decades. Dealing with subsidence is complementary to dealing with climate-induced sea level rise and both need to be addressed. A combination of rising seas and sinking lands will increasingly leave coastal cities at risk.


This article was originally posted on The Conversation.
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
India farmers’ protests: will the new farm laws address climate vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector?

India farmers’ protests: will the new farm laws address climate vulnerabilities in the agricultural sector?

By Uma Pal

In November 2020, more than 200 farm unions from 22 states across India organised a nationwide protest against the new farm laws introduced by the Indian government. Over the past few months, thousands of farmers have taken to the streets, battling the cold, water cannons and tear gas to demand amendments in the new laws for better income security, market regulation and protection from being exploited by large corporations. The protest, which started in the northern, agricultural states of Punjab and Haryana, has ever since become heavily political, with massive push back by the current government and support from some opposition parties, and gaining traction in the international community. As a result, the Supreme Court of India has put the three new farm laws on hold and asked for a committee to be constituted to resolve the impasse.

The focus of the protests surrounds three farm laws enacted by the Government of India in September 2020, which collectively intend to facilitate barrier-free trade of agricultural produce outside notified markets under the state-controlled Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) laws. They also introduce a framework for contract farming and regulate supply mechanisms for certain crops such as cereals, pulses, potatoes, and onions only under extraordinary circumstances such as famine, price rise and war[1].

Explainer: Why are the farmers protesting? Prior to the introduction of the farm laws, APMCs were controlled under state laws, with states levying taxes and fees from buyers. While the new Act proposes that anyone can buy produce directly from farmers, based on certain conditions, farmers fear that by doing away with APMC, regulated market prices might subject them to market exploitation. The new laws have not envisioned an alternative market system that can set price signals. The other main concern that farmers have is regarding the laws doing away with the federally fixed Minimum Support Price (MSP), a safety net that guarantees farmers prices and assured markets. While the government has made provisions for MSP for 23 crops, only wheat and rice are bought by the government in large quantities under the Public Distribution System (PDS), mainly due to lack of procurement capacity[2]. This has raised concerns regarding MSP limiting crop diversification. MSPs are also variable across states, causing wide variations in price levels across the country[3]. Alongside, less than 10% of farmers sell their produce at the MSP set by governments[4]. However, despite many challenges within the MSP system, a robust MSP mechanism in the predominantly wheat and rice-growing states of Punjab and Haryana is the principal reason why the protest is the strongest in these states[5].  

In essence, the farmers’ protest signifies the vicious cycle of poverty and vulnerability that plagues farmers and the agriculture sector and the dire need for agricultural reforms and social and economic protection structures that take into account farmers’ voices. Close to 43% of the country’s total employed population was engaged in agriculture and allied services as of 2019[6]. However, the sector faces multiple challenges such as fragmented and small landholdings, subsistence farming, fragmented markets with several intermediaries, high costs and margins, low-value addition and low-income share of farmers, and limited access of farmers to institutional finance technology, inputs, and storage.[7] These structural issues are exacerbated by challenges associated with the energy-water-agriculture nexus: Heavy dependence on rainfed agriculture, poor access to and inefficient use of irrigation, water contamination and degradation due to indiscriminate fertiliser and pesticide use, water scarcity, and poor soil health.

Socio-economic vulnerabilities in the agriculture sector exacerbated by the climate challenge

Climate change-induced temperature rise, shifts in rainfall patterns and increased intensity of extreme events further exacerbate existing socio-economic vulnerabilities. The Global Climate Risk Index 2020[8] ranked India the fifth most vulnerable to the impacts of climate. Estimations indicate that climate change is responsible for annual economic losses in the agriculture sector up to 9%[9]. According to India’s Economic Survey 2017-18, climate change could reduce annual agricultural incomes by 15-18% and up to 20- 25% for rainfed agriculture[10]. The survey also indicates that repeated monsoon failures and prolonged drought have been a significant cause for stagnation in the country’s agriculture GDP. Climate projections suggest that rice and wheat yield in India may decline by 6-10% by 2030, while crops like potatoes, soybean, chickpea and mustard may be neutrally or positively impacted in the short term[11]. While there are uncertainties around how climate change affects different regions and crops, it is well established that crop seasons are shifting, and yields of some crops are adversely impacted. These shifts point to an urgent need to incorporate climate considerations into all facets of the agricultural sector. An effective response will require access to climate information, climate-smart practices, new crops better suited for different micro-climates, and interventions for addressing existing socio-economic vulnerabilities. Importantly, climate change needs to be fully integrated into large scale agricultural reforms instead of being seen as a standalone issue.

The Green Revolution in India is the most dramatic example of large-scale agricultural reforms that failed to adequately consider the long-term social, environmental, and climate impacts. The revolution was characterised by short-termism. Initially, the policies increased agricultural production and played a vital role in making the country self-sufficient in food grains. However, in recent years farmers have been dealing with contaminated soil, air and water, and chronic health problems amongst communities; fallout from the heavy use of fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation over many years. These challenges have rendered farming systems in the region highly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as erratic rainfall, droughts, and higher intensity floods, indicating the urgent need to diversify seed varieties and resources used based on regional vulnerabilities[12].

The Indian government has made a concerted effort to tackle the impacts of climate change on agriculture, for example, by researching abiotic stress-tolerant seed varieties, demonstrating climate tolerant technological activities, and encouraging shifts to dryland agricultural practices under the National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture. However, domestic agriculture policy considerations continue to fall short of considering long term impacts of climate change while designing reforms and development activities. The new farm laws are a case in point. They do not consider how climate change impacts production causing price volatility and demand-supply gaps, with knock-on effects across agricultural value chains.

The new laws also fail to recognise the economic importance of APMC markets in enabling price discovery and regulating price fluctuations and the need to address existing limitations of the MSP system to incorporate broader climate challenges, diversify the government’s procurement system and scale it up for better access for farmers. In this context, the question remains whether limiting APMC’s influence or not addressing existing challenges within the MSP system is the best way forward.  The farmers do not seem to think so.

The underlying dynamics of the famers’ protest Enhancing growth in the agriculture sector and enabling rural development continues to be a key policy concern for India. The government maintains that the new farm laws are designed to improve farmers’ access to markets and their bargaining power and that the MSP system will continue functioning, and so will the APMC mandi systems, albeit with a more limited scope. However, one of the most extensive critiques of the new Farm Laws is that they were formulated in silos without considering pre-existing diverse contexts, policies, regulations, and interventions in various agricultural states[13]. For example, the new farm laws fail to recognise that multiple states have introduced different localised agricultural market ecosystems and that farmers’ groups play an active role in asserting their market demands and navigating market spaces. Concerns over the government doing away with MSP and existing regulated market systems collapsing are underpinned by a sense that the new farm laws do not consider farmers’ voices, existing localised market dynamics and interactions and context-specific vulnerabilities.

Valuable lessons for climate practitioners from the farmers’ protests

The protests against the farm laws show that when designing policies, regulations and interventions for addressing various bottlenecks within the sector, it is imperative to foster a deeper understanding of on-ground complexities. Socio-economic and climate vulnerabilities, power relations, market dynamics and perceptions of farmers and local players in the sector are crucial considerations for effective policy design and implementation. The farm laws’ inability to take such complexities into account exemplifies how top-down policies and regulatory mechanisms run the risk of not addressing root causes of vulnerabilities and bottlenecks and fail to get buy-in from the community they intend to benefit.

Equally, climate resilience planning and action need to delve into existing nuances and locally-driven processes and partner with on-field experts and players to identify effective entry points and design flexible solutions. Regulations or technological interventions aimed at enabling adaptation, without considering how they will be perceived and how they might impact existing complex ecosystems, runs the risk of exacerbating the very vulnerabilities they wish to address. The farmers’ protest against the new farm laws provides valuable insights into the need to develop participatory and context-specific interventions while also integrating climate change in macro policy considerations. Resilience to climate change can only be effectively enhanced if considered in tandem with the existing array of social, economic and ecological challenges across scales.


[1] https://www.prsindia.org/theprsblog/comparison-2020-central-farm-laws-amendments-proposed-states

[2] https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/whats-msp-and-how-is-it-determined-the-issue-at-the-heart-of-farm-protests/562172/

[3] https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/whats-msp-and-how-is-it-determined-the-issue-at-the-heart-of-farm-protests/562172/

[4] https://theprint.in/theprint-essential/whats-msp-and-how-is-it-determined-the-issue-at-the-heart-of-farm-protests/562172/

[5] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/here-s-why-farm-protests-have-been-loudest-in-punjab-haryana/story-G18qzwYWo7UuvrFmb06xuK.html

[6] https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.AGR.EMPL.ZS?locations=IN

[7] Financing agriculture value chains in India: challenges and opportunities. Indian study in business and economics. https://www.ifpri.org/publication/financing-agriculture-value-chains-india-challenges-and-opportunities

[8] https://germanwatch.org/sites/germanwatch.org/files/20-2-01e%20Global%20Climate%20Risk%20Index%202020_10.pdf

[9] http://www.acclimatise.uk.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/OPM_Agriculture_Pr2Final_WEB.pdf

[10] http://mofapp.nic.in:8080/economicsurvey/pdf/082-101_Chapter_06_ENGLISH_Vol_01_2017-18.pdf

[11] https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/agriculture/climate-change-causes-about-1-5-per-cent-loss-in-india-s-gdp-57883

[12] https://www.gaiafoundation.org/un-climate-experts-green-revolution-leaves-food-systems-vulnerable-to-climate-change/

[13] https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/will-the-farm-bills-benefit-farmers/article32690170.ece


Cover photo by Randeep Maddoke, Wikimedia Commons.