12 Kasım 2008 Çarşamba

The Search of the Sinking Paradise for a New Homeland

Today the Maldives is facing a potential environmental catastrophe due to estimated rise in sea levels. In the Maldives, over 80% of the land is less than 1 meter above mean sea level. So climate change and consequently the slightest rise in sea level will prove extremely threatening with devastating consequences for life in the Maldives. Stretching across the Indian Ocean, The Maldives comprises of 1191 islands, of which approximately 250 are inhabited. Although the Maldives contributes minimally to the global greenhouse gas emissions, it is among the most prone to the climate change and its associated impact. While high income OECD countries account for almost half of all emissions with just 15% of the world’s population, the Maldives' contribution remains 0.001%.

Of immediate concern are the direct impacts of climate change on sustainable living in the Maldives. As sea level rises, the availability of groundwater is expected to decrease, leading to a profound impact on the sustainability of livelihoods. The tourism industry relying heavily on the marine ecosystems is also under threat from the impacts of climate change. An increase in temperature is expected to bring down the reef growth and disrupt the reef ecosystems.

In the Maldives, the coral reefs serve as natural breakwaters. Any potential damage to the coral reefs may ruin the natural protection of the islands from the waves and currents, and make the islands more vulnerable against other coastal damages such as beach erosion. In addition, increased seawater temperature poses a threat to coral reef biodiversity by leading to coral bleaching.

Fishery is also expected to suffer from the impacts of climate change. In the Maldives, tuna fishery is the most prioritized marine sector with significant contributions to the Maldives economy. A possible change in temperatures can drive the mostly migratory tuna stock to more accommodating temperatures. This may potentially lead to a decline in the practice of fishery as the fishermen may loose their fishing grounds.

Precautionary measures are essential to save the Maldives and many other low lying island states who face similar challenges. In order to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, pilot projects have been commissioned on alternate sources of energy. However, high installation costs and lack of technical back up have undermined the efforts towards wide use of solar and wind power. In addition, the existing wind speeds were determined to produce a marginal contribution for electricity generation, unless high towers were erected at high capital cost.

Other initiatives have been designed and implemented in areas such as coastal protection, freshwater management and coral reef protection. A defensive wall was built around the capital, Male, in order to protect it from sea surges. Forestation has been encouraged to prevent beach erosion, while a marine cleaning initiative was ignited to free coral reefs from litter and debris. Yet all these efforts have been aimed at mitigation of the impact rather than prevention it.

The former Maldives government stated that it has initiated talks with several countries about a possible relocation plan to a new homeland. Land, currently owned by Sri Lanka and India were identified as possibilities as these countries have cultures, cuisine and climate similar to those of the Maldives. Australia was also being considered because of the vast unoccupied land it owns. The studies show that the majority of the Maldives residents are opt to evacuate over the next 15 years while those remaining are expected to be forced to the same.

The Maldives is a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and ratified it on 9 November 1992. Maldives is also the first country to sign the Kyoto Protocol on 16 March 1998. Despite the Maldives’ government’s call on global action on climate change and the country’s minimal contribution to global GHG emissions, today, the growing threat of climate Change on livelihoods is taking its toll on the sinking paradise.

UNEP, State of the Environment Reporting, Maldives, pp. 29-35, 2002.
UNDP, Human Development Report, Maldives, 2007.
CNN/Environment, "Sinking island's nationals seek new home," 11/11/2008.

Written by Zeynep Basak 2008. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the author's permission.

5 Kasım 2008 Çarşamba

The Obama Approach on Energy and Environment

"I believe that global warming is not just the greatest environmental challenge facing our planet—it is one of our greatest challenges of any kind. It is an issue that we ignore at our own peril and at even greater peril for our children, grandchildren, and many impoverished global populations. Combating global warming will be a top priority of my presidency, and I will attend to it personally,” says Barack Obama, the newly elected 44th President of the United States.

Obama has been consistent and, at times, vocal about his support for climate action. He earned much respect from environmentalist circles with his climate and energy plan. The Obama Plan introduces a cap-and-trade system that aims for 80 percent emission reductions from 1990 levels by 2050 and calls for auctioning 100 percent of the pollution permits. Obama also calls for a large scale investment in clean energy and promises to create "green jobs". However, how much of his proposed action plan will be carried to reality is yet be witnessed in the times ahead.

Below is a brief list of highlights from the Obama approach on energy and environment:

  • Decrease dependence on foreign oil and increase domestic oil production
  • Reducing oil consumption by 35% in order to compensate for the oil imports from OPEC nations
  • Encourage use of alternative energy resources which rely on biofuel
  • Impose tax increase on oil companies
  • Maintain a well-balanced and responsible ethanol policy in the face of the emerging food crisis
  • Moderately support enactment of nuclear power plants
  • Promote production of hybrid cars and other electric-drive vehicles
  • Increase fuel efficiency standards
  • Shift away from petroleum towards cleaner and cheaper electricity for transportation
  • Establish an auction-based cap-and-trade mechanism for emissions trading in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Establish a target of 80% reduction in GHG emissions below 1990 levels by 2050 by creating a market-based cap-and-trade system.
  • Create “Green Collar Jobs” by investing in a clean energy future.
  • Oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as well nuclear waste storage at the Yucca Mountain repository in southern Nevada.

Source: http://presidentialprofiles2008.org/Obama/tab1.html

Written by Zeynep Basak 2008. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the author's permission.

3 Kasım 2008 Pazartesi

Investing in Climate Change During Times of Financial Crisis

Until recently, the carbon market has continued to attract capital and demonstrated steady growth despite the financial turmoil. However, the sharp decline in energy prices leading to a collapse in the price of oil, has hit the carbon markets heavily. Energy prices are now demonstrating continuous decline on fears of a world recession.

Despite the hit against the trading prices for carbon instruments, the future of the carbon market is still viewed with optimism by various actors of the carbon banking industry. Experts argue that the crisis may offer unique opportunities for transitioning to a low-carbon world.

"Investing in Climate Change 2009 - Necessity and Opportunity in Turbulent Times," a paper written by Deutsche Asset Management (DeAM)’s Climate Change Investment Research team, aims to provide a detailed analytical framework for understanding the opportunities for investing in climate-related sectors in the wake of the global financial crisis. The report concludes that, although the shock to the world’s financial system has lead investors to narrow their commitment to provide capital for low-carbon investments in the near-term, the current crisis offers great opportunities for the renewable energy and other climate change sectors to revive strongly.

Thus in the long run, carbon finance is expected to maintain its unique presence in the financial markets. What’s required, however, is for governments to put in place robust regulatory frameworks, particularly carbon pricing and tax incentives, to stimulate investment in carbon finance.

A copy of the report can be found at: http://dbadvisors.com/climatechange

Written by Zeynep Basak 2008. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the author's permission.

31 Ekim 2008 Cuma

Responding to the Effects of Climate Change

Climate change has emerged as one of the most important problems facing the world today. Unless immediate preventive action is taken on the issue, Climate Change will continue to pose a serious threat to the fight against poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Poor people are generally the most vulnerable when it comes to coping with the effects of climate change. This is largely due to the fact that the Poor live in areas more prone to flooding, cyclones, droughts, etc., and they have limited capacity to respond to the effects of natural disasters. Potential increase in natural disasters and drought may require children to engage more in household errands, leaving them limited or no time for schooling. Malnourishment and disease may also interfere with the education of the youth. Direct effects of climate change also include increases in mortality and illness rates associated with heat waves, particularly among the elderly and the urban poor.

What’s more, global warming is likely to shift ecosystem boundaries. The decline in the quantity and quality of drinking water and detoriating natural resource productivity may lead to food scarcity and malnutrition, causing ill health. Degradation of biodiversity will also reduce the availability of many traditional medicines. This will affect the Poor in rural areas, who depend more on natural resources for medicine as well as for income and food.

As mentioned above, the effects of climate change will be felt most strongly by the poorest people in the least developed countries, who rely on the natural environment for their livelihoods. Assisting the developing countries in their efforts to cope with the impacts of global Climate Change, and to create more sustainable, less greenhouse gas intensive paths to development is at the heart of the ongoing efforts run by many development agencies. Within this scope, various market-based instruments have been developed to address environmental issues, including the use of compliance and voluntary emission offsets in the area of climate change. In the compliance sector, the Kyoto Protocol, through the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation ignited a rapidly expanding, international market in carbon finance resulting in oppotunities for financing towards sustainable development.

Written by Zeynep Basak 2008. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the author's permission.

On the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa: A human rights approach

One patient wrote in the Egypt Health Ministry’s AIDS awareness bulletin “When you die, you find someone to mourn you. But when you get infected with the AIDS virus, even the closest person runs away.” What these words meant was very true for the 35-year old Egyptian man who was kicked out of his house by his brothers and lost his job as a janitor at a Cairo hotel when he caught the AIDS virus after having sex with a foreign woman. He lived on streets with his mother, after his brothers refused to let him stay in the house. For fear of being despised by a mostly conservative society where strict cultural taboos deny the practice of premarital sex, he declined to reveal his name. A 38-year old Iranian father, Mohammed, suffered similar discrimination problems as a result of the stigma attached to the HIV. He refrained from telling even his wife about his HIV status. It is this kind of stigma that most holds back the combat against the disease in many of the Arab countries.

While less is known about the HIV infection in North Africa and the Middle East than in other parts of the world, there is still a growing concern on the rapid spread of the disease in this region. The spread of the disease means more than the deterioration of the health conditions of thousands of people. Unfortunately, due to socio-cultural constraints of the societies of this region among many other factors, the epidemic tragically reveals how societies discriminate against people, against homosexuals, against sexual intercourse, against one’s right to employment, right to migrate, right to health care and most importantly right to live as one desires. Thus, there is a strong relation between human rights and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

According to the UNFPA, the HIV/AIDS epidemic started in the late
1980’s in the Middle East and North Africa. Few new country estimates of HIV infection were produced for this region between 1994 and 1999. Recent evidence, however, suggests that new infections are on the rise. With an estimated 80,000 new infections in the region during 2001 the number of adults and children living with HIV/AIDS had reached 500,000. 46% of the infected population was women. The main modes of transmission for those living with AIDS in the year 2000 were heterosexual relationships and infected drug users.

Compared to the other parts of the world, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Middle East and North Africa region has not yet constituted a vitally serious problem. However, due to insufficient surveillance systems and pervasive fear and stigma attached to the virus, many of the cases remain unreported. As far as the human rights related issues are concerned, HIV/AIDS-related social discrimination and hate crimes, women’s rights and HIV/AIDS, rights of HIV/AIDS-affected children, lack of sufficient medical care and treatment for HIV/AIDS patients, handling of HIV/AIDS in prisons and the legal aspects of the HIV/AIDS-related immigration and employment procedures are of immediate concern. While s
ystematic analysis of the factors giving rise to the epidemic is lacking in many countries in the region, socioeconomic disparities, high unemployment, population mobility, and political instability are the main factors leading to the spread of the disease in the Middle East and North Africa. Furthermore, the countries of this region are lacking sufficient educational systems to introduce the facts about the HIV/AIDS to their populations, the necessary surveillance systems for keeping record of the spread of the disease and its demographic dimensions and the government led programs to reduce the stigma around the people living with AIDS and around those who constitute high-risk vulnerability. Discussion of sexual behavior, including extramarital and homosexual sex may also be difficult in the conservative settings.

Some countries such as Iran and Lebanon have undertaken initiatives to introduce prevention policies and anti-discrimination programs. However, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is still a serious human rights concern in the Middle East and North Africa region and much work remains to be done. Within this scope, federal response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic must be comprehensive in nature - including appropriate resources for prevention, research, and care and treatment. Anti-discrimination campaigns and educational programs must be promoted to reduce the stigma around the patients living with HIV/AIDS. Government spending must be re
gulated in order to provide better surveillance systems and research programs. Other governmental and non-governmental initiatives must respond to the psychological, financial and medical needs of the HIV/AIDS patients. Governments must respect the rights of these individuals by enforcing human rights laws. Equal opportunity programs must be promoted to protect the employment and immigration rights of the people living with the epidemic. Both national and international agencies must be devoted to undertake the necessary actions to reduce the human rights abuses with respect to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this region.

[1]Reuters, Sept 6, http://www.aegis.com/news/re/1998/RE980902.html
[2] IRIN
[3] UNAIDS, AIDS Epidemic Update, Dec. 2001.

Written by Zeynep Basak 2002. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the author's permission.

Dealing with the Global Food Crisis

The steep increase in food prices in the past year has caused a humanitarian crisis, threatening the development potential of millions of people around the globe. Unless immediate preventive action is taken on the issue, the coming years will pose great challenges for obtaining an affordable and accessible food supply for the world's most vulnerable populations. This will result in the food crisis to undermine the fight against poverty and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Factors contributing to the emergence of the food crisis include food scarcity, low grain stocks, competing demands for food crops, increased diversion to ethanol and biofuel production, rising input costs for energy, restricted trade and life style changes which lead to increased meat consumption in emerging economies. The magnitude of the challenge is even more dramatic when soaring food and fuel prices combine with other factors such as adverse weather and land conditions which devastate producing land.

The food crisis has already been negatively impacting the achievement of the Millennium Goals (Goals 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 in particular) with regards to the rise in both the magnitude and incidence of hunger/malnutrition; declining school attendance rates; deteriorating health conditions ; increase mortality rates of HIV/AIDS and pregnant women due to malnourishment.

The effects of the food crisis have also been observed in other areas. Worldwide food reserves have hit their lowest in the past decades. The rise in global temperatures caused by pollution has disrupted food production in many countries.

High prices have already prompted a string of food protests around the world. The change in the eating habits of financially affluent populations in emerging economies have increased the consumption of meat and chicken requiring animal feed to raise animals, which led to the emergence of huge demand on cereal stocks, negatively impacting the rate of food consumption by humans.

The impact of the soaring cost of oil on the food crisis is two fold. On the demand side, one of the key issues is the move to biofuels made from food crops such as corn, sugar cane, and palm oil, in an effort to ease global warming and reduce dependency on high-cost energy resources such as gasoline or diesel. Biofuels use significant amount of crop land to produce crops for ethanol and biodiesel, resulting in a sharp decline in agricultural land planted for food crops. On the supply side, Conventional large scale agricultural production is extremely energy intensive leading to increases in fertilizer and transport costs and resulting in fewer agricultural investments.

With rising food scarcity, social unrest, and accelerated inflation driven to a large extent by food prices, governments, nongovernmental organizations and multilateral agencies have begun responding to the food crisis with a new sense of urgency. However, questions remain untackled on how best to meet immediate hunger needs, and what the future holds for addressing the deeper roots of the food crisis. Immediate measures and preventive actions are required as well as medium- and long-term interventions and investments in agriculture.

The immediate measures taken during the emergency period will have positive effects on development. However steps must be taken to develop long-term solutions in agriculture by fostering the productivity of small farmers and linking them to larger markets. In order to ensure uninterrupted access to food and nutrition during unforseen periods of catastrophe, governments shoud be encouraged to invest in effective safety-net systems, enforce disaster preparedness and enhance risk-management capacities.

Despite the crisis posed by the increase in food prices, the emergency relief efforts and the awareness building impact of the crisis will introduce an opportunity for delving deeper into persistent development challenges. The rocketing food prices, coupled by the increasing demand for food, introduces a significant opportunity to reverse the past due neglect on agriculture. Promoting investments in agricultural development, governments should devise policies to keep large masses of people in rural areas productively employed in agriculture. Agricultural research should be increased, and agricultural productivity should be fostered by investing in all agricultural other inputs required for global competitiveness. Within this scope, funding should be made available to conduct research in alternative biofuel products for oil production. Investments should be encouraged in innovative areas such as algae farming to produce biofuel and animal feed with less water consumption and limited land use while maintaining environmental sustainability.

The increasing restrictions on exports in many countries make it difficult to acquire and transfer humanitarian aid around the world. Policies should be developed calling on all nations to exempt humanitarian food purchases and shipments from these restrictions. Earmarks and restrictions should not limit the ability of donor contributions to reach those in urgent need.

As food prices keep rising, more and more people around the globe will be unable to afford the food they need to survive. A healthy food supply should be recognized as a human right and policies should be implemented in all countries to ensure that people have access to sufficient food. Lessons must be learnt from this crisis should serve as a for taking preventive measures against any unforeseen challenges in the future.

Written by Zeynep Basak 2008. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the author's permission.