The island states of Seychelles and Palau are set on forging closer ties and strengthening their newly-established diplomatic relations.

This follows the signing Tuesday morning of a General Cooperation Agreement and a Short Stay Visa Waiver Agreement between the two countries which seeks to allow bilateral cooperation between the two sides in several areas.

The agreements were signed by the Seychelles Minister of Foreign Affairs and Transport Joel Morgan and Palau’s Ambassador to the United States of America, Hersey Kyota.

Kyota is part of the four-member delegation which the Palauan President Tommy Esang Remengesau is leading on his official visit to Seychelles.

The signing followed a tête-à-tête between President Remengesau and Seychelles President James Michel at State House in the Seychelles capital of Victoria, after which they were joined by officials of their two countries for further discussions.

In a press statement issued this afternoon, State House said talks between Michel and Remengesau centred on their respective countries' progress in various sectors, namely fisheries, aviation, tourism, environmental protection, renewable energy, economic reforms and wider issues of sustainable development.

Seychelles and Palau only established formal diplomatic ties earlier this year, although the two heads of states have enjoyed close relations for a number of years.

Michel and Remengesau were the ones who called for the setting up of the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) in January 2005 during the second International Meeting of the Small Island Developing States held in the neighbouring Indian Ocean island of Mauritius.

GLISPA is an open and voluntary platform for all islands and their supporters to work together to build resilient and sustainable island communities through innovative partnerships.

Both Palau and Seychelles are also members of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

On his first visit to Seychelles, Remengesau was also the guest of honour at yesterday’s National Day Celebrations.

In a press statement issued by State House this afternoon following this morning's meeting, Michel described Remengesau’s visit to the Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands as “a historic milestone” in the relations between the two countries.

“His presence amongst us is not only an opportunity for him to share in our festivities, to share our joy and achievements as a nation, but also an occasion to celebrate and strengthen even further the strong island kinship between our two brotherly countries and between islands everywhere,” said Michel.

According to the statement, the two leaders have agreed that “the close cooperation between Seychelles and Palau that is planned in the future” will be an example of collaboration between individual small island developing states adding that Seychelles and Palau will encourage such cooperation between other island nations.

“This type of cooperation should be replicated in the Post-2015 era if small island countries or as we say ‘large ocean states’ are to benefit to the maximum from the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Change agreement as well as the SAMOA PATHWAY,” said Michel.

For the Palauan president, the visit represents an opportunity which will allow the two island nations to share experiences and learn from each other’s best practices considering they face similar challenges.

“…I am reminded that we share the same values; that the development of a nation rests on the benefits it can bring to the people and that sustainability is at the heart of our island nations. We seek to continue to bring the same message of island people to the world community and work together in close collaboration,” said Remengesau.

The Palauan President will leave Seychelles on Wednesday July 1.

During his stay, he is also paying close attention to restoration of eroded coastlines due to climate change in Seychelles which is a similar challenge faced by Palau. This is through visits to several sites in the Seychelles where such projects have been undertaken.

Palau consists of over 200 islands, out of which only eight are permanently inhabited. The western Pacific islands have a much smaller population size of only around 21,000 people when compared to Seychelles’ population of around 90,000.

Palau which is close to Southeast Asia has a rather mixed population of Malay, Melanesian, Filipino, and Polynesian ancestry. It is believed that its original settlers as early as 2500 BC were from Indonesia.

The Palau islands remained under Spanish ownership for many years before Spain sold them to Germany in 1899. The islands were also occupied by Japan during the World War 1 and the US during the World War 2.

Palau became independent in 1994 More

 

 

 

Seychelles Warns of ‘Catastrophic’ Climate Change

Samuel walks through through the ruins of his family home with his father Phillip, on March 16, 2015 in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

March 16, 2015 12:01PM ET

The president of the Seychelles on Monday called on the international community to “wake up” to climate change after a massive tropical cyclone devastated the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.

“The cyclone, which has just struck Vanuatu — a sister Small Island State — with such catastrophic effects and the tragic loss of lives is a clear manifestation of climate change, which some persist to deny,” Seychelles President James Michel said in a statement.

“Today it is the South Pacific, tomorrow it could be us,” he added.

His comments echoed those of Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale. “Climate change is contributing to the disaster in Vanuatu,” he said Monday, as relief agencies surveyed the scale of damage caused by Super Cyclone Pam.

Reports from the outer islands of Vanuatu on Monday painted a picture of utter destruction after the monster storm tore through the South Pacific island nation, flattening buildings and killing at least 24 people.

Disaster management officials and relief workers were struggling to establish contact with the islands that bore the brunt of Cyclone Pam’s winds of more than 185 mph, which destroyed homes, smashed boats and washed away roads and bridges as it struck late on Friday and into Saturday.

The official toll of 24 killed looked certain to rise as reports began to trickle from the hardest hit parts of the scattered archipelago.

“Many of the buildings and houses have been completely destroyed,” Lonsdale told Reuters. “More than 90 percent of the buildings have been destroyed.”

President James Michel blames devastating Cyclone Pam on global warming, issues warning to world

Military flights from New Zealand and Australia were bringing in water, sanitation kits, medicines and temporary shelters for the estimated 10,000 made homeless on the main island, with supplies being unloaded late into the evening at the airport. France and the United States were also sending aid.

Commercial flights resumed on Monday, bringing in more aid and taking out tourists.

Formerly known as the New Hebrides, Vanuatu is a sprawling cluster of more than 80 islands home to 260,000 people, about 1,250 miles northeast of the Australian city of Brisbane.

Perched on the geologically active Ring of Fire, Vanuatu of the world’s poorest nations suffers from frequent earthquakes and tsunamis and has several active volcanoes, in addition to threats from storms and rising sea levels.

Low-lying island nations, some of which are little more than three feet above sea level, are regarded as some of the most vulnerable to rising seas blamed on climate change.

“When will the international community wake up to reality and put our efforts and resources to get a binding agreement to reduce global warming and sustain the survival of our planet?” Michel said.

In November last year, Michel urged the planet’s small island nations to unite for an unprecedented campaign against climate change or else be treated as global “bystanders” and be allowed to drown. The Alliance of Small Island States, a group of 44 coastal and low-lying countries, repeated that goal and presented measures to keep the global temperature from rising even further at the climate change summit in Lima, Peru in December. More

 

 

2028: The End of the World As We Know It?

“There is nothing radical in what we’re discussing,” journalist and climate change activist Bill McKibben said before a crowd of nearly 1,000 at the University of California Los Angeles last night. “The radicals work for the oil companies.”

Bill McKibben

Taken on its own, a statement like that would likely sound hyperbolic to most Americans—fodder for a sound bite on Fox News. Anyone who saw McKibben’s lecture in full, however, would know he was not exaggerating.

McKibben was in Los Angeles as part of his nationwide “Do the Math” tour. Based on a recent article of his in Rolling Stone, (“The one with Justin Bieber on the cover,” McKibben joked) the event is essentially a lecture circuit based on a single premise: climate change is simple math—and the numbers do not look good. If immediate action isn’t taken by global leaders: “It’s game-over for the planet.”

The math, McKibben explained, works like this. Global leaders recently came to an international agreement based on the scientific understanding that a global temperature raise of 2°C would have “catastrophic” consequences for the future of humanity. In order to raise global temperatures to this catastrophic threshold, the world would have to release 565 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Here’s the problem: Fossil fuel companies currently have 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide in their fuel reserves—and their business model depends on that fuel being sold and burned. At current rates of consumption, the world will have blown through its 565-gigaton threshold in 16 years.

To prevent the end of the world as we know it, it will require no less than the death of the most profitable industry in the history of humankind.

“As of tonight,” McKibben said, “we’re going after the fossil fuel industry.”

Obviously no easy task. The oil industry commands annual profits of $137 billion and the political power to match. As McKibben noted, “Oil companies follow the laws because they get to write them.”

However, there are some numbers on McKibben’s side. Recent polling data shows 74 percent of Americans now believe in climate change, and 68 percent view it as dangerous. The problem environmental activists are facing is in converting those favorable polling numbers into grassroots action.

Enter “Do the Math.”

Using McKibben’s popularity as an author, organizers are turning what would otherwise be a lecture circuit into a political machine. Before rolling into town, Do the Math smartly organizes with local environmental groups. Prior to McKibben’s lecture, these groups are allowed to take the stage and talk about local initiatives that need fighting. Contact information is gathered to keep the audience updated on those efforts. Instead of simply listening to McKibben, as they perhaps intended, the audience has suddenly become part of their local environmental movement.

It’s a smart strategy, and an essential one—because the problem of climate change is almost exclusively a political in nature. Between renewable energy and more efficient engineering, the technology already exists to stave off catastrophic global warming. Though its application is lagging in the United States, it is being employed on a mass scale in other countries. In socially-stratified China, with its billion-plus population and tremendous wealth inequalities, 25 percent of the country still manages to use solar arrays to heat its water. Germany—Europe’s economic powerhouse—in less than a decade, has managed to get upwards of half of its energy from sustainable sources.

The same can happen here in America—provided we have the will to make it happen. McKibben says the key to realizing that goal is to battle the lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry—its bottom line.

To start, he’s calling for an immediate global divestment from fossil fuel companies. “We’re asking that people who believe in the problem of climate change to stop profiting from it. Just like with divestment movement in South Africa over apartheid, we need to eliminate the oil companies veneer of respectability.”

In conjunction with the divestment regimen, continued protests against unsustainable energy projects will also be crucial. McKibben will be in Washington, D.C. on November 18 to lead a mass rally against climate change and the Keystone Pipeline. “We can no longer just assume that President Obama is going to do everything he promised during his campaign. We need to push him.”

“I don’t know if we’re going to win. But I do know we’re going to fight.” More

 

Geneva beckons Rolph Payet – Seychelles environment and energy minister lands top UN post

(Seychelles News Agency) – Seychelles Minister for Environment and Energy, Professor Rolph Payet has been appointed the new Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.


Announcing the appointment in a press statement this afternoon, State House said Payet will contribute to the implementation of the mandates and missions of those three conventions including the formulation of their overall strategies and policies.

“He will also act in an advisory capacity to the UNEP Executive Director and the Presidents and the Bureaus of the conventions as well as their subsidiary bodies,” reads the statement.

The environment minister’s role will also include coordinating the preparation of the meetings and implement the substantive work programme of the conventions, including providing assistance to parties, in particular developing country parties and those with economies in transition.

He will also lead the development of strategies and policies and undertake fund raising and donor reporting, the strategic interagency work of the Secretariat in close coordination with UNEP and other Multilateral Environmental Agreements.

Responding to SNA in an email following this afternoon’s announcement, Payet said he is deeply honoured of such confidence in him to lead the conventions.

“I am equally happy that I have been chosen, coming from a Small Island Developing States, during this year dedicated to SIDS. My appointment represents the hard work of President James Michel and the government of Seychelles to continuously push so that Seychelles remains a leader in environment on the international scene. I will miss my work and even though I will be away from Seychelles I will continue to work for the benefit of my country,” he said.

Payet will take up his new post in October this year and he will be based in Geneva.

He will replace Kerstin Stendahl from Finland, who has been serving as interim since April this year following the retirement of US national Jim Willis as the Executive Director of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

The Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

The first convention is aimed at protecting human health and the environment from the effects of hazardous wastes.

This convention was adopted in 1989 and it entered into force in 1992.

The Rotterdam Convention, which entered into force ten years ago, also deals with the disposal of waste especially pesticides and industrial chemicals.

The third one, the Stockholm Convention which also came into force 10 years ago is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from chemicals that remain intact in the environment for long periods. The latter or POPs is said to have serious consequences on humans and wildlife.

Seychelles president hails Payet’s appointment as “a memorable achievement.”

Seychelles President James Michel has hailed Payet’s appointment which he describes as “a memorable achievement.”

In a congratulatory message sent to the minister, Michel has wished him success in his new role and expressed his full cooperation and support in his tasks and challenges that lie ahead.

“Your appointment to this high office is a well-deserved recognition of your scientific and academic capabilities and crowns a professional life devoted to the environment and to the cause of Small Island Developing States. It also brings immense pride and satisfaction to Seychelles,” said Michel in the statement.

Michel said he would announce a new minister for environment and energy at a later date.

Payet and the environment cause

The 46 year old leaves vacant the portfolio of Environment and Energy which he assumed in March 2012.

Before that he was Special Advisor to the president on numerous environmental matters including sustainable development, biodiversity, climate change, energy and international environment policy

Payet who holds a Phd in Environmental Science from Linnaeus University of which is now an Associate Professor, is described as a leader in the protection of the environment on the international scene.

He has been at the forefront of several international discussions on issues affecting small islands developing states such as climate change, sustainable development, biodiversity and other environmental issues.

In recent years, he has been invited to participate or as a guest speaker on numerous international conference committees and panels including the United Nations General Assembly.

He has also contributed widely towards several publications on environmental issues.

Payet’s work in advancing environment, islands, ocean, biodiversity and climate issues at the global level has earned him numerous international awards and recognition.

In January 2007, he was recognised as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and in November that same year he shared in the IPCC Nobel Peace Prize as one of the authors of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Locally, Payet has also helped to set up Seychelles first university, the University of Seychelles which was set up in September 2009. He is currently the pro chancellor of the university. More

 

 

Major Companies Push for More, Easier Renewable Energy

Some of the largest companies in the United States have banded together to call for a substantial increase in the production of renewable electricity, as well as for more simplicity in purchasing large blocs of green energy.

A dozen U.S-based companies, most of which operate globally, say they want to significantly step up the amount of renewable energy they use, but warn that production levels remain too low and procurement remains too complex. The 12 companies have now put forward a set of principles aimed at helping to “facilitate progress on these challenges” and lead to a broader shift in the market.

“We would like our efforts to result in new renewable power generation,” the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, released Friday, state. The companies note “our desire to promote new projects, ensure our purchases add new capacity to the system, and that we buy the most cost-competitive renewable energy products.”

The principles consist of six broad reforms, aimed at broadening and strengthening the renewable energy marketplace. Companies want more choice in their procurement options, greater cost competitiveness between renewable and traditional power sources, and “simplified processes, contracts and financing” around the long-term purchase of renewables.

Founding signatories to the principles, which were shepherded by civil society, include manufacturers and consumer goods companies (General Motors, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Proctor & Gamble), tech giants (Facebook, HP, Intel, Sprint) and major retailers (Walmart, the outdoor-goods store REI).

These 12 companies combined have renewable energy consumption targets of more than eight million megawatt hours of energy through the end of this decade, according to organisers. Yet the new principles, meant to guide policy discussions, have come about due to frustration over the inability of the U.S. renewables market to keep up with spiking demand.

“The problem these companies are seeing is that they’re paying too much, even though they know that cost-effective renewable energy is available. These companies are used to having choices,” Marty Spitzer, director of U.S. climate policy at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a conservation and advocacy group that helped to spearhead the principles, told IPS.

WWF was joined in the initiative by the World Resources Institute and the Rocky Mountain Institute, both think tanks that focus on issues of energy and sustainability.

“The companies have also recognised that it’s often very difficult to procure renewables and bring them to their facilities,” Spitzer continues. “While most of them didn’t think of it this way at first, they’ve now realised that they have been experiencing a lot of the same problems.”

‘Too difficult’

In recent years, nearly two-thirds of big U.S. businesses have created explicit policies around climate goals and renewable energy usage, according to WWF. While there is increasing political and public compunction behind these new policies, a primary goal remains simple cost-cutting and long-term efficiencies.

“A significant part of the value to us from renewable energy is the ability to lock in energy price certainty and avoid fuel price volatility,” the principles note.

In part due to political deadlock in Washington, particularly around issues of climate and energy, renewable production in the United States remains too low to keep up with this corporate demand. According to the U.S. government, only around 13 percent of domestic energy production last year was from renewable sources.

Accessing even that small portion of the market remains unwieldy.

“We know cost-competitive renewable energy exists but the problem is that it is way too difficult for most companies to buy,” Amy Hargroves, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability for Sprint, a telecommunications company, said in a statement.

“Very few companies have the knowledge and resources to purchase renewable energy given today’s very limited and complex options. Our hope is that by identifying the commonalities among large buyers, the principles will catalyse market changes that will help make renewables more affordable and accessible for all companies.”

One of the most far-reaching sustainability commitments has come from the world’s largest retailer, Walmart. A decade ago, the company set an “aspirational” goal for itself, to be supplied completely by renewable energy.

Last year, it created a more specific goal aimed at helping to grow the global market for renewables, pledging to drive the production or procurement of seven billion kilowatt hours of renewable energy globally by the end of 2020, a sixfold increase over 2010. (The company is also working to increase the energy efficiency of its stores by 20 percent over this timeframe.)

While the company has since become a leader in terms of installing solar and wind projects at its stores and properties, it has experienced frustrations in trying to make long-term bulk purchases of renewable electricity from U.S. utilities.

“The way we finance is important … cost-competitiveness is very important, as is access to longer-term contracts,” David Ozment, senior director of energy at Walmart, told IPS. “We like to use power-purchase agreements to finance our renewable energy projects, but currently only around half of the states in the U.S. allow for these arrangements.”

Given Walmart’s size and scale, Ozment says the company is regularly asked by suppliers, regulators and utilities about what it is looking for in power procurement. The new principles, he says, offer a strong answer, providing direction as well as flexibility for whatever compulsion is driving a particular company’s energy choices, whether “efficiency, conservation or greenhouse gas impact”.

“We’ve seen the price of solar drop dramatically over the past five years, and we hope our participation helped in that,” he says. “Now, these new principles will hopefully create the scale to continue to drop the cost of renewables and make them more affordable for everyone.”

Internationally applicable

Ozment is also clear that the new principles need not apply only to U.S. operations, noting that the principles “dovetail” with what Walmart is already doing internationally.

In an e-mail, a representative for Intel, the computer chip manufacturer, likewise told IPS that the company is “interested in promoting renewables markets in countries where we have significant operations … at a high level, the need to make renewables both more abundant and easier to access applies outside the U.S.”

For his part, WWF’s Spitzer says that just one of the principles is specific to the U.S. regulatory context.

“Many other countries have their own instruments on renewable production,” he says, “but five out of these six principles are relevant and perfectly appropriate internationally.”

Meanwhile, both the principles and their signatories remain open-ended. Spitzer says that just since Friday he’s heard from additional companies interested in adding their support. More

 

 

Besieged by the rising tides of climate change, Kiribati buys land in Fiji

The people of Kiribati, a group of islands in the Pacific ocean particularly exposed to climate change, now own a possible refuge elsewhere. President Anote Tong has recently finalised the purchase of 20 sq km on Vanua Levu, one of the Fijiislands, about 2,000km away.

Abandoned house affected by sea water

The Church of England has sold a stretch of land mainly covered by dense forest for $8.77m. “We would hope not to put everyone on [this] one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it,” Tong told the Associated Press. Kiribati has a population of about 110,000 scattered over 33 small, low-lying islands extending over a total area of 3.5m sq km.

In 2009 the Maldives were the first to raise the possibility of purchasing land in another country in anticipation of being gradually submerged. At the time the government looked at options in India and Sri Lanka.

Now Kiribati has taken action. “Kiribati is just the first on a list which could get longer as time passes,” says Ronald Jumeau, Seychelles ambassador at the United Nations, who took part in the international negotiations on climate change in Bonn last month.

In March the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published the volume on adaptation of its fifth assessment report, confirming in starker terms forecasts first outlined by scientists in 1990. Within a few decades, small islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans risk being extensively or even completely submerged. In places the sea level is rising by 1.2cm a year, four times faster than the global average.

The cost of protecting these places against rising sea levels, compared with national income, is among the highest in the world. Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Maldives are among the 10 countries where the financial impact of climate change is the most severe.

For many of these countries, which are represented by the Alliance of Small Island States, the impacts of climate change are “irreparable”, as Tong has often stressed. “Whatever is agreed within the United States today, with China [the two largest sources of CO2 emissions], it will not have a bearing on our future, because already, it's too late for us … And so we are the canary. But hopefully, that experience will send a very strong message that we might be on the frontline today, but others will be on the frontline next,” he said in an interview on CNN last month. This explains why small island states think it is so important to set up an international mechanism for loss and damage, to compensate for the irremediable consequences of global warming.

The international community approved the principle of such a mechanism in November 2013. “When a population is forced to leave its country, it is no longer a matter of adaptation,” Jumeau claims. “Where will these countries find funds? It is up to the industrialised countries, which caused global warming, to shoulder their responsibilities.” He wants to make the loss and damage mechanism a priority for the global deal on climate change slated to be signed in Paris in December 2015.

In the immediate future, the land purchased by Kiribati will above all be used to for agricultural and fish-farming projects to guarantee the nation's food security. With sea water increasingly contaminating the atolls' groundwater and catastrophic coral bleaching – total in some cases such as Phoenix atoll – there are growing food shortages. “Among the small islands, Kiribati is the country that has done most to anticipate its population's future needs,” says François Gemenne, a specialist on migrations at Versailles-Saint Quentin University, France. “The government has launched the 'migration with dignity' policy to allow people to apply for jobs on offer in neighbouring countries such as New Zealand. The aim is to avoid one day having to cope with a humanitarian evacuation.”

Kiribati has long-standing relations with Fiji. In the 1950s families from Banaba island, who had been displaced to make room for a phosphate mine, took refuge there, Gemenne recalls. More