Climate risk management in Latin America and the Caribbean

12 Oct 2016 by Matilde Mordt, Team Leader, Sustainable Development and Resilience, UNDP Regional Centre for Latin America and the Caribbean

Hurricane MatthewHurricane Matthew is only the latest reminder of the relentless force of nature. In 25 years, disasters have claimed more than 240,000 lives and caused losses of more than US$39 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean. Photo: Logan Abassi UN/MINUSTAH
In Mayan mythology, the god Huracán originated from the heart of heaven to rule the thunder, lightning, winds and storms. For the Caribbean Tainos, Juracán represented an evil god. In 1494 Christopher Columbus mentioned in his logbook a possible tropical cyclone that surprised his fleet while sailing in the waters near Cuba. It is from this time that this phenomenon, elsewhere in the world called cyclone or typhoon, acquires the name hurricane in the Western Hemisphere. The recent passage of Hurricane Matthew in the Caribbean, which has affected millions of people in the Bahamas, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and the United States, reminds us once again of the relentless forces of nature. In Haiti, in addition to the death toll that is rising, there are 750,000 people in need of assistance. In the most affected areas, villages have been shattered and agriculture devastated. Given the precarious sanitary conditions in the country, cholera threatens to resurge. The forces of heaven would perhaps have surprised pre-Columbian populations. These days, however, we can monitor and predict the course and strength of tropical storms and hurricanes, allowing us to take precautions and prepare for their arrival. Scientists tell us that the speed of the winds in hurricanes will increase with climate change. This stresses the fact that the necessary preparations should be long term and an integral element as we erect human settlements. In other words, we need to build more resilient societies. … Read more

Capacity development – the only sustainable way to implement the Paris Agreement

06 Oct 2016 by Frederik Tue Staun, Programme Analyst, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction Team, UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support

Capacity development is no longer limited to human resource development but covers issues of national ownership, policy-level impacts, and sustainability. Photo: UNDP
On September 22, 2016, Uganda became one of the first African countries to ratify the Paris Agreement - a milestone that made me reflect on the two years I spent in the country as the UNDP Climate Change focal point, but most of all, it made me proud on behalf of my former colleagues and tireless climate champions working in Uganda. When I look back at my time with UNDP Uganda, our work on climate change mitigation and low carbon capacity development stands out. The Low Emission Capacity Building (LECB) Project was one of the first projects to focus on low carbon development in the country and more specifically aiming at strengthening technical and institutional capacities at the country level and enable national decision makers, public institutions and private sector to holistically address climate change and decouple economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. When the Government of Uganda launched the LECB project in 2013 in Kampala, climate change mitigation and low carbon development were very new concepts and created confusion and many questions as climate change mitigation broadly was perceived as the responsibility of developed countries. … Read more

How the Montreal Protocol can complement the Paris Agreement and help fight climate change

04 Oct 2016 by By Jacques Van Engel, Director of the Montreal Protocol / Chemicals Unit, UNDP

Through initiatives like this CFC refrigerator exchange programme in Rio de Janeiro, UNDP has helped 120 countries eliminate 67,870 tonnes of ozone-depleting substances each year. Photo: Vanderlei Almeida/UNDP Brazil
Agreed in 1987, the Montreal Protocol has led to a massive reduction in the use of ozone-depleting chemicals, such as the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and the hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). It has also, famously, helped begin the process of closing the ozone hole over Antarctica. Now, efforts are underway to expand the Montreal Protocol and further protect the environment and help avert climate change. … Read more

Demystifying the NAMA, a Caribbean perspective

27 Sep 2016 by James Vener, Mitigation Economist, UNDP

Photo credits: Rajiv JalimLike many Small Island Developing States, Trinidad and Tobago is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels and more frequent flooding. UNDP photo
I was in Trinidad and Tobago recently as the country was gearing up for Carnival 2016. While I would have loved to be there to celebrate, my focus was on the country’s climate commitments and supporting the Government to develop a NAMA. What exactly is a NAMA? NAMAs, or Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions, are the projects that countries undertake to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG). This can include efforts to scale up markets for renewable energy products like solar home systems or to improve energy efficiency in buildings, which are responsible about one-third of all global GHG emissions. As the Paris Agreement includes commitments from each country, NAMAs serve as a vehicle to help further these objectives. … Read more

Are we finally getting an inclusive instrument in place to finance climate action?

22 Sep 2016 by Alexandra Soezer, Climate Change Technical Advisor

Planting trees to counter the effects of climate changePlanting trees is one way to counter the effects of climate change. Photo: Aaron Nsavyimana/UNDP Burundi
It is estimated that US$ 16 trillion is required to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This is money that will help to put countries on a low carbon path. Where this money will come from, however, has long been a source of debate. Yet, it seems that we may finally be putting in place the instruments we need to finance our low carbon future. A single mechanism for investing in low carbon development is ineffective, as it does not reflect contextual realities or the priorities of varying stakholders, such as the private sector. What is needed are parallel and complementary mechanisms that support countries at different levels of development. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has boosted private investment in mitigation projects in developing countries. With more than 8,000 projects registered, the CDM has leveraged almost US$ 200 billion of investments in developing countries. This mechanism has, therefore, been a key driver in the effort to reduce emissions and tackle climate change in developing countries. … Read more

For Pacific countries, tomorrow is too late to act on climate change

20 Sep 2016 by Estefanía Samper, Special Assistant to the Executive Coordinator of the Global Environmental Finance Unit

Pacific countries have contributed little to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet they are highly vulnerable to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. Photo: UNDP Fiji
The drought caused by El Niño in Palau has essentially halted life for many Palauans since March. An increasing number of Tuvaluans are displaced by sea level rise, and 64 communities in Fiji will need to relocate in the coming years. As a region, the Pacific has contributed little or nothing to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet it is incomparably vulnerable to sea level rise, climate-induced ocean acidification, extreme weather events, and erratic precipitation and drought patterns. We heard this sense of urgency repeated many times last month in Fiji, where Pacific countries met to discuss their climate change needs and learn how best to access funds to address them. Each Pacific country present at the meeting told a story of how one extreme climate event can easily wipe out 10 years of growth in one day. … Read more

El Nino happens every 3-7 years. How can Africa be better prepared?

31 Aug 2016 by Excellent Hachileka, Programme Specialist, Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change, UNDP Africa

A farmer in The Gambia shows a dry tuft of rice in a drought period. Photo: FAO
Some 60 million people’s lives have been affected by the 2015-2016 El Niño phenomenon in the Horn and Southern Africa. It was the strongest El Niño since 1950. Severe droughts have led to crop failure and food insecurity, massive livestock and wildlife deaths and loss of livelihoods. Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have all declared drought emergencies. In South Africa, only one province, Gauteng, has been spared the emergency. A total of 40 million people, or 22 percent of Southern Africa’s rural population, became food insecure. About 23 million of them needed immediate humanitarian assistance at a cost of US$2.7 billion. … Read more

Acting on climate change requires ‘boots on the ground’

22 Aug 2016 by Jazmin Burgess, Global Coordinator, Boots on the Ground, UNDP

Years of changing seasons can wipe out food and water supplies for decades. Photo: UNDP
Least Developed Countries (LDCs) are on the frontlines of climate change. With populations often heavily reliant on climate-vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forestry to drive their economies, the impacts of climate change are amplified. One erratic storm or years of changing growing seasons can wipe out food and water supplies for years or decades. This has immense social and economic impacts that reduce opportunities, reinforce inequalities and potentially reverse progress toward reducing poverty. Charting a development path that integrates climate change action is therefore essential for true sustainable development and that requires direct capacity-building. … Read more

The Angry Birds wish you a Happy Earth Day

22 Apr 2016 by Red, UN Honorary Ambassador for Green on the International Day of Happiness

Red eating under a tree
Happy Earth Day to my feathered and non-feathered friends! I’m writing to you from Hong Kong. I’m here as part of my tour around the world tour as the United Nations Honorary Ambassador for Green. I’m talking with people about how important it is to take action on climate change. After all, by taking small actions like using public transportation or turning off your lights, we can all make a difference. And today is a big day! It’s Earth Day and the signing ceremony of the Paris Agreement. … Read more

From signatures to action

21 Apr 2016 by Jazmine Burgess, Climate Change Specialist, UNDP

man and woman plantingClimate change requires a global commitment and national level action- neither is mutually exclusive.
When governments gather at the UN to sign the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, an important step will be taken to ensure the ambition, momentum and political will of December’s COP 21. Global buy-in is essential for any international agreement to be successful, but what often receives less attention is the equal importance of concrete action at country level to advance an agreement’s objectives. This is critical for the successful implementation of any agreement, and what makes a document negotiated thousands of miles away a tangible reality and source of support to national governments around the world. … Read more