Keith Alverson
Keith Alverson
Topic: Building resilience to Climate Change: What role for ecosystems?
Keith Alverson is the Coordinator of Freshwater, Land and Climate Branch of the Division on Environmental Policy Implementation at the UNEP in Nairobi, Kenya....
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Number of questions: [5]
Posted on 11/02/2016 12:10:17
Dear Keith,

Thanks for opening up this interesting conversation on building resilience to climate change in terms of ecosystems. Can you provide any success stories from UNEP on how ecosystems built communities resilience against the impacts of climate change? And also, how will the projects be monitored over time to reveal their value or possible lessons learnt? Thanks.
Naomi Campbell (from Ireland)
Hi Naomi,
THe last part of your question clearly makes answering the first very difficult! Sure we have success stories - in the sense we have completed projects - we have planted mangroves in coastal Tanzania, reintroduced communal vicunia grazing at 5000m altitude in Peru and everything in-between (altitudinally) - however climate is still changing and understanding the efficacy of adaptation measures now or in the future clearly requires monitoring. This is a real achilles heel in the 'project based' adaptation approach which funders unfortunately insist on. Logframes and results based project rhetoric does not help overcome this fundamental problem. The global climate observing system we have in place is designed to provide sustained monitoring, but only for detection and attribution of the climate change, not for monitoring its effects on people or ecosystems, and even less so to monitor changes in vulnerability or efficacy of adaptation action. We can do better. Success stories are all well and good, but I hope that 20 years from now, the research community will be publishing eyebrow raising results about these supposed successes, and our false assumptions in early ecosystem based approach based projects, and thereby forcing us to adapt our efforts and continually improve them, thereby building real resilience to variability and change in climate.

Posted on 10/02/2016 21:32:43
Is there any precedent for the UN involving itself in a matter like what we are facing in the U.S. with the Supreme Court acting ahead of a lower court's ruling on an environmental issue?

Some background here:
www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-02-10/supreme-disarray-for-the-global-climate-agenda
heather ayres (from United States of America)
Hi Heather,
There are a few examples where binding international treaties compel domestic national legislation such as the Montreal Protocol requiring phase out of chloroflourocarbons, However, in the very interesting case you mention, I am firmly against any UN involvement, or even statement of opinion. The political domestic backlash in the US from any perceived UN meddling in a country's national affairs would almost certainly be far more damaging than any possible influence on the decision of the court that potential UN involvement might engender. The balance of 'executive action' and supreme court oversight of that executive based on established law, can only play out domestically. If the government(s) were to request a relevant international study on, say, the underlying legal, technical and scientific issues of whether CO2 can be defined as a pollutant, we would of course be happy to provide such a study as response to country request(s). Thanks for keeping involved and engaged in this important US environmental legal discussion which does have enormous potential implications for the rest of the world.

Posted on 10/02/2016 15:55:03
Hello,

my question is: did UNEP consider possibilities of positive influence man can made to change climate? Like reforesting, usage of desserts areas for composting, harvesting of rain water on large scales and influencing floods and droughts regimes? Did UNEP considered that changes we influence could be reverted to positive instead negative by planning ecosystems in large scales?
Anna Frank (from Canada)
Hi Anna,
Yes absolutely, UNEP has programs and projects in all of these areas. Our reforesting work is largely (but not entirely) in the context of the UN "REDD+" (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degredation) with a strong focus on multiple benefits from forests beyond only carbon sequestration including the services they provide for livelihoods and adaptation to climate change. As you rightly point out simply 'reducing negatives' is not really very satisfactory, we are also very interested in 'reverting to positives'. In this context UNEP also has many projects restoring diverse ecosystems (such as riparian areas, wetlands, forests, mountain areas, even urban and periurban ecosystems), both for inherent protection of the ecosystems themselves, and the biodiversity they support, but also in order to deliver benefits and services for humanity.

Posted on 10/02/2016 09:38:02
Hello
My question is about Arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi and the role to assistant plant on drought and implementation of AMF in several ways as SBPPRL (the practice of sown biodiverse permanent pastures rich in legumes) to increase grassland productivity and carbon sequestration , combat soil erosion and land abandoment .
Baraa Albadran (from Iraq)
Hi Baraa,
I don't see a question in your statement, and in any case am certainly not a specialist in the fungi you are working with. I can say that UNEP's work in building resilience to climate change very much focuses on 'green' solutions harnessing the resilience that ecosystems have developed over many millenia, for the benefit of human societies. What you describe certainly sounds like a promising solution of this nature - though as with all such interventions it would be very important to monitor and evaluate effectiveness, not just tell plausible stories. "Ecosystem based" resilience building measures can very effectively be brought to bear both on adaptation challenges, both as stand alone measures and in tandem with engineering approaches. As you point out they can contribute to mitigation as well through carbon sequestration, fundamentally though, substantial mitigation, and certainly keeping below the UNFCCC espoused 2C target, will require deep reductions in fossil fuel burning. Thanks for the comment!

Posted on 09/02/2016 20:25:59
How CSOs can be effectively involved in resilience mechanism when there is lack of transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the relevant governmental and global institutions. Various governments publicly accept the growing level of corruption and non-transparency and some of the global institutions have also become indirectly involved in this game to get the work done as shortcuts. One wonders how to be part of resilience efforts in such state of affairs?
Azhar Qureshi (from Pakistan)
Hi Anzhar,
I'm not sure what 'CSO' refers to here but irrespective it is certainly true that there is much corruption in governments, and global institutions or other governments sometimes ignore this for various short term 'realpolitik' reasons. Corruption also exists locally and in the private sector though. Very 'concretely' look at the empty tin cans that were used in cement walls in Taiwan instead of concrete and rebar, leading to clear lack of resilience in the earthquake last week when the building collapsed, or VW employing its substantial engineering skills, not to develop clean automotive technology, but to cheat testing regimes. I fully agree that part of the solution to building 'resilience' requires and builds on a basis of transparent governance and rule of law. I suspect that an indicator of 'resilience to climate change' (if we had one) would show good correlation with indices of transparency and rule of law (which do exist). Thanks for the great question.