Climate Change is caused directly or indirectly by human activity that changes the composition of the global atmosphere and is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.
Green-house gas (GHG) emissions such as carbon dioxide, methane gas and nitrous oxide in the earth’s atmosphere have increased to levels unprecedented in the last 800,000 years. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40% since pre-inudstrial times primary from fossil fuel emissions and secondary from emissions in land use change. Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years. According to the NOAA Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, the year 2015 was the fourth (4th) conservative year that carbon dioxide (CO2) grew more than 2 parts per million (ppm). Carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years. In February 2016, the average global atmospheric carbon dioxide level stood at 402.59ppm. Prior to 1800, atmospheric carbon dioxide averaged about 280ppm. The last time the Earth experienced such a sustained carbon dioxide increase was between 17,000 and 11,000 years ago when carbon dioxide levels increased by 80ppm. Today’s rate of increase is 200 times faster exacerbated by the current El Nino weather pattern we are experiencing worldwide. El Nino warms and dries tropical ecosystems, reduces their uptake of carbon (reduced carbon sequestration) and exacerbates forest fires through the release of carbon dioxide. The impacts of El Nino are now more sever then the last big El Nino experienced in 1997/1998 since human emissions are now 25% greater.
The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) has revealed that 2017 is expected to be the second or third warmest year recorded – and the hottest without the influence of a “El Nino” natural weather pattern which pushes up global temperatures. High temperatures has been accompanied by “extraordinary weather” from record-breaking hurricanes to heatwaves, flooding and drought, many of which bear the tell-tale sign of climate change caused by human activity, the WMO said.
Furthermore, according to WMO, the average global temperature from January to September 2017 was 1.1C above the pre-industrial era. As a result of a powerful El Nino, 2016 is likely to remain the hottest year on record, but 2017 is expected to join 2015 as the second or third hottest year.
Carbon dioxide is emitted from the burning of fossil fuels like petrol, diesel, oil and from removal of forest and vegetation cover. As more of these gases accumulate they trap more heat that increases the earth’s temperature. This contributes to global warming which brings about changes in our climate. The effects of this increased warming for small island countries like Fiji which is evident today include sea level rise, storm surges, erosion and other coastal hazards threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities that support the livelihood of communities.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector contributes to 24% of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. Deforestation of tropical forests as a result of agriculture clearance and land use change contribute greatly to these man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Forests mitigate climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Trees take in carbon dioxide to make their food and build new plant cells. This intake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere makes forests a carbon sink. Forests also provide valuable ecosystem services such as regulating the local climate, mitigating floods and reducing soil erosion, purifying water, harbouring plants, animals and birds and providing forest communities with food, fresh water, wood, fibre, medicine and shelter. These services reduce the vulnerability of local communities to the impacts of climate change.
Knowing the forests role in climate change – a decision was made by the UNFCCC in Cancun Mexico in 2010 to contribute to greenhouse gas mitigation actions in the forest sector by undertaking REDD+ activities. The 5 key REDD+ activities include reducing emissions from deforestation, reducing emissions from forest degradation, forest conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.
Climate Change & REDD+ in Fiji
The Prime Minister of Fiji, Voreqe Bainimarama presided over the COP 23 talks in Bonn with support from the Government of Germany called on leaders to together tackle the underlying causes of climate change. “Climate change is as great a threat to global security as any source of conflict. Millions of people are already on the move because of drought and the changes to agriculture threatening their food security and access to water,” PM Bainimarama said.
Furthermore, the PM said that, “For the Fijian people, climate change is real. It affects our lives altogether. Whether it is the whole villages we are moving out of the way of the rising seas; the loss of our ancestral burial grounds; the salinity affecting our crops; or the constant threat of destruction to homes and infrastructure of the kind we experienced last year.”
In Fiji, REDD+ is implemented by the Ministry of Forestry supported by the World Bank and Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) and other agencies such as the Pacific Community (SPC) and the GIZ Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region Programme (CCCPIR). The implementation of REDD+ is guided by the National REDD+ Steering Committee (NRSC) which is made up of Government agencies, Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), Faith Based Organisations (FBOs) and the private sector. In 2015, Fiji was able to secure US$3.8 million from the FCPF to assist in its readiness phase for the Emissions Reduction Programme (ERP) to which Fiji will then be eligible to access carbon funding. An additional US$2 million was provided again by the FCPF to other readiness activities that needed to be undertaken to prepare Fiji for the Emissions Reduction phase.
For the readiness phase, Fiji must develop a national REDD+ Strategy, implement an environmental and social assessment and develop an Environment Social Management Framework (ESMF), establish a national reference emissions level, a national Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) system, establish a feedback and grievance redress mechanism (FGRM) and a Benefit Sharing Plan (BSP) as well as ensuring effective consultation and participation of all stakeholders in the process.
Forests and trees contribute to economic growth, employment, food security, and energy generation, and are key to helping countries respond to climate change. In Fiji, the forestry sector contributes an average estimate of 20% GDP export earnings.
Here in Fiji, you and I can support the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by planting more trees and providing a healthy environment for trees to regenerate. We can also support through agroforestry farming, planting trees where forests have recently been cleared, planting in degraded non-forest lands and planting suitable trees in degraded forests areas to restore the forest structure.
We can also help reduce the release of carbon dioxide emitted to the atmosphere by preventing the conversion of forestland for agriculture purposes, reducing the degradation and destructive utilisation of our forests and setting aside valuable forest areas for conservation.