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Conservation Research Institute

 

Talking transdisciplinarity

Guest bloggers Alexandre Chausson and Lydia Cole discuss achieving research impact through co-producing knowledge in transdisciplinary teams.

How do we really achieve impact in our work? The societal challenges of the 21st century – notably climate change, biodiversity loss and global inequality – are interlinked and cross-cutting, hence they cannot be resolved through siloed or sectoral approaches.

They call on researchers to work across disciplines, and to actively engage and work collaboratively with research users, including local communities, practitioners, businesses and policymakers to produce actionable research. Yet the need for truly collaborative problem solving is often underappreciated in the environmental conservation sector.

Perspectives, goals and priorities between researchers and research users often differ. Therefore, the answer to the critical question on how to achieve impact continues to evade us.

The IIED-led SENTINEL project and the British Ecological Society’s Conservation Ecology Group co-ran an online workshop at the 2020 Festival of Ecology. The workshop’s aim was to unpack transdisciplinary working and explore the facets of collaborative knowledge production that lie at its core.

Over 50 participants joined – primarily academics but also representatives from civil society, industry and government. Our objective was to increase awareness of what transdisciplinary working entails, and the competencies, tools and techniques required for fostering collaboration between researchers and research users.

We were joined by three experienced researchers and practitioners: researcher Abbie Chapman, communications expert Clair Grant-Salmon (IIED's head of audience development ) and research user Steve Gibson. They shared their experiences of working with people from a variety of disciplines on projects that apply research to address practical environmental challenges.

Here we summarise key themes and lessons explored in the workshop and drawn from the SENTINEL project.

Defining transdisciplinarity

Shared language and understanding are the foundations for achieving project impact; defining key terms and building a shared conceptual framework of the project is crucial. The workshop defined multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary working – these are often used interchangeably yet each approaches knowledge production differently.

The principles of collaboration behind multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary working (left to right, respectively) (Photo: Sentinel)

  • Multidisciplinarity: different disciplines (the square facets above left) work in parallel, with little or no integration of ideas, methods or outputs
  • Interdisciplinarity: crossing disciplinary boundaries to create new knowledge, theory, or methodologies and,
  • Transdisciplinarity: integrating different knowledge systems (the interwoven coloured strings), or ways of knowing, beyond academia, such as practitioner knowledge, or local and indigenous knowledge.

Therefore, while many competencies, tools and techniques for interdisciplinary working apply to transdisciplinary working, the latter requires additional skills and abilities of research teams to co-produce and implement knowledge.

The right approach to take depends on the scope of study, the make-up of project partners and the project’s ambitions. Interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity are not necessarily ‘better’ than disciplinary research: disciplinary research is crucial for expanding knowledge frontiers into specific research topics.

However, if the main objective is knowledge integration across disciplines, or achieving societal impact such as influencing a country’s policies, then inter- and transdisciplinary ways of working are essential.

Communication is key

To gauge how the audience perceived transdisciplinarity, and how this changed over the course of the workshop, we asked each participant to submit two words representing transdisciplinarity to a Mentimeter survey, both at the start and end of the workshop.

At the start of the workshop, participants were asked to submit two words they associate with transdisciplinary working (Image: Sentinel)

The results show a clear shift from collaboration to communication. Communication is crucial for enabling effective teamwork and engaging research users, regardless of the project’s focus. In transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary projects, effective communication supports a shared understanding of partners’ perspectives, objectives and challenges.

It also ensures the flow of information to support research conceptualisation, method design, research implementation and synthesis.

Achieving impact also calls for tailored, adaptable communication strategies to engage potential research users who may not be embedded in research teams. The strategy should identify the target research users, their relationships, what messages will get the most traction and through which channels.

By the end of the workshop, participants had shifted from ‘collaboration’ to ‘communication’ (Image: Sentinel)

Seven steps towards effective transdisciplinary working

Ninety minutes was not sufficient to explore the full breadth and depth of transdisciplinarity working. However, the panel discussion identified seven ‘top tips’ to guide researchers through effective transdisciplinary projects:

  • Understand your team members: 1) their disciplinary or professional background; 2) their perspective and priorities; and, 3) the contextual realities they work in, including constraints
  • Foster confidence, trust and supportive dialogues, enabling team members to share and discuss perspectives, ideas, methods or results, and develop a shared understanding and project vision
  • Be prepared to spend time developing project goals and objectives at the start, explicitly discussing and encompassing what could be a range of different priorities between different stakeholders
  • Discuss project outputs and expectations as close to the project start as possible, bearing in mind potential conflicting workloads and career requirements
  • Put a communication strategy in place from the start – it can be revised throughout the project. The strategy should include processes to identify, understand and engage with stakeholders throughout the course of a project
  • Establish effective leadership, that equitably engages the diversity of team members to foster a collaborative working environment, and
  • Incorporate ample time and contingency to foster dialogue, negotiation and joint iterative reflection to learn, and adaptively manage the project.

Just 3% of Earth's land ecosystems remain intact – but we can change that

Biodiversity News - Thu, 15/04/2021 - 14:48
One-fifth of Earth's land could be restored to wilderness by reintroducing animals and improving management. Andrew Plumptre, Key Biodiversity Areas Secretariat, Cambridge Conservation Institute, University of Cambridge Licensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.

Towards COP26: can the Adaptation Committee progress in time?

After a year of virtual meetings, the Adaptation Committee – the principal body set up under the UNFCCC to provide guidance on adaptation – is zeroing in on a series of key inputs for COP26. Consensus among members is vital and inclusive processes are critical. Can it deliver all key adaptation items in time?

A year ago, the Adaptation Committee was one of the first UNFCCC-constituted bodies to harness virtual meetings.

Meeting virtually is not easy, yet the committee’s 2019-21 workplan requires it to advance several crucial outputs ahead of the 2021 United Nations climate change conference (COP26). These include long-expected recommendations on modalities for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA), on supplementary guidance for Adaptation Communications, and on the preparation phase of the Global Stocktake (GST).

The Adaptation Committee recently held its 19th meeting (AC19, 16-19 March) to review progress and prepare its 2022-24 workplan. In light of the discussions, we look at where the AC must pick up its pace on the final leg before COP26.

Priority items that need the most work

The AC has made remarkable progress during a year of online collaboration. Nonetheless, virtual interactions have limited opportunities to consult and connect: meetings last three hours rather than a full day to respect time zones and capacities, and can be plagued by connection issues.

Despite the ongoing efforts of the secretariat and the creation of small working groups to advance work outside core meetings, some items are not as advanced as planned prior to the pandemic.

We note two critical items with fast approaching deadlines:

Recommendations on approaches to operationalise the Global Goal on Adaptation  

The Adaptation Committee must advise how to measure the collective progress on climate adaptation by individual countries, as part of the GST. The recommendations are due in the Adaptation Committee's annual report in October.

The committee has produced a robust technical paper, but conceptual, methodological and capacity issues remain; clear recommendations for Parties on the way forward are still awaited.

This is partly a chicken-and-egg problem: to communicate appropriate recommendations, the Adaptation Committee must understand Parties’ positions, questions and ambitions for the GGA – but most Parties don’t fully understand what the GGA entails, and need the Adaptation Committee's advice to advance national discussions...

The Adaptation Committee is aiming to tackle this conundrum by organising a webinar this spring. Publishing the latest version of its technical paper ahead of this webinar would help it gather useful feedback – and it would also give Parties a chance to prepare their positions ahead of what are expected to be polarised negotiations at COP26.

Recommendations on information on adaptation that should be included in the Global Stocktake

These are due in October ahead of COP26 while the first phase of the GST, comprising “information collection and preparation”, is starting by the end of 2021.

As part of this first phase, the Adaptation Committee – in collaboration with other key constituted bodies – must prepare a synthesis of 13 reports before the GST’s second phase of “technical assessment” in the spring of 2022.

This leaves the committee with very little time – and only one meeting in September – to review this item and, most importantly, to engage closely with other technical bodies to limit complexity and avoid redundancies in the reports they are producing for the GST.

The Adaptation Committee's advice to Parties on this item would benefit from their inputs early in the process: the committee has included a potential webinar in their workplan ahead of the technical assessment phase.

Other noteworthy, but less urgent items that must keep momentum include producing supplementary guidance on Adaptation Communications by June 2022.

Better engagement could be key to hit 2021 deadlines – and deliver future work 

The question of how to best disseminate the Adaptation Committee’s work was a common thread throughout AC19.

The core of the committee's mandate is to provide technical advice to Parties in its annual report and external publications. Yet how much of its work is accessed by Parties ahead of negotiations remains questionable. Most of the committee's work is available online as part of their scheduled agendas, but these complex materials can be difficult to digest for external and new stakeholders.

Getting feedback from Parties as part of developing their recommendations is critical to support Parties in understanding technical issues ahead of the COP, and ensure negotiations take place on a levelled playing field.

Figuring out how to best leverage external inputs and engagement may be the key to not only accelerate, but also amplify the work of the Adaptation Committee – whose members and secretariat face limited resources despite their enthusiasm.

It will be essential to collaborate closely with key constituted and other bodies, especially with the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG), the Standing Committee on Finance, the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Nairobi work programme.

The Adaptation Committee is currently discussing the communications strategy for specific items as they develop their materials.

Going forward, the committee could gain in both time and focus if it considered how to collect inputs and communicate outputs of its work earlier in its work processes. Establishing clearer processes for engaging with civil society and other actors outside formal submissions should be considered as the Adaptation Committee develops its 2022-24 workplan.

This could allow the committee to leverage external expertise through working groups or meetings – without compromising its independence as a technical body. This could include further disseminating its requests for submissions, or a transparent process to create expert working groups.

The Adaptation Committee faces a charged workplan ahead of COP26 – its success largely depends on how well it can increase its pace of delivery and whether it succeeds in engaging meaningfully with Parties and external actors.

Archive of completed 'Global ambition for climate action and justice' projects

Through compelling evidence and by supporting capacity building in vulnerable developing countries, IIED works to keep the world below a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures. This archive page links to past projects aimed at strengthening global climate ambition.

IIED's Stepping up global ambition for climate action and justice programme of work supports least developed countries (LDCs) and other vulnerable developing nations to achieve equitable and ambitious outcomes in global climate decision making. Below are links to our completed projects.

Building the capacity of LDCs to engage in the UNFCCC negotiations

This project aimed at strengthening the capabilities of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group in the UN climate talks through participating in training workshops and strategy meetings, informing the negotiations through research and developing toolkits for new delegates.

IIED also contributed to enhancing the knowledge, skills and confidence of LDC delegates to further increase their engagement in a fast-moving UNFCCC process. 

Helping parliamentarians drive national climate change policy

Linking global to local is a crucial approach to tackling climate change. This project built the capacity of members of parliament to break the international stalemate on climate change action by ‘domesticating’ global decisions, using national legislation.

Helping parliaments across the Southern African Customs Union region address climate change

IIED and partners helped boost the capacity of members of parliament in the Southern African Customs Union to engage effectively with climate change. Following the programme, MPs and clerks developed a formal proposal to establish a climate change committee to address climate change issues. 

This paper looks at how parliamentarians’ can boost their capacity to engage effectively with climate change in Southern Africa.

Developing Myanmar’s national climate change policy

During 2016 and 2017, IIED supported the Myanmar government to develop an overarching national climate change policy to integrate climate change into national priorities and planning, and provide a long-term vision for the country's sustainable development.

The outcome provided a long-term vision for equitable socioeconomic development and strategic direction for climate action, that acknowledged Myanmar's commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement.

Tue 13 Apr 11:00: Early Careers Event

Conservation at Cambridge - Tue, 13/04/2021 - 10:59
Early Careers Event

Discord server: https://discord.gg/6mhB5a5f – join for live updates as the event goes on and to chat to others attending

11am – 12:15pm: Welcome and quickfire talks on Zoom https://maths-cam-ac-uk.zoom.us/j/93282313755?pwd=Tzdma1NLalVwT3QyelMyNXNDR3JtUT09

1pm – 3pm: Poster session on Gather.town https://gather.town/app/s7sbTVyuqYxZ0j1p/CCfCS

———

11:00 – 12:15: Welcome and quickfire talks on Zoom

Thomas Aubry, Department of Geography Climate change modulates the stratospheric volcanic sulfate aerosol life cycle and radiative forcing

Zosia Staniaszek, Department of Chemistry What would happen if anthropogenic methane emissions ceased?

Charles Simpson, British Antarctic Survey Seasonal differences and regional disparities to climate risk in rice harvest labour

Vishnu Nair, Department of Geography A Lagrangian study of interfaces at the edge of cumulus clouds

12:15 – 13:00: Lunch

13:00 – 15:00: Afternoon poster/plot session Join the Gather server to wander around our virtual conference hall and view and discuss work with others. Each presenter will be assigned a 25 minute slot within the session to stand by their own work and are free to spend the rest of the time interacting with others!

Register to come here or upload a plot: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Rf5uXZrKGwQZNgzBmE0NXQUDLeq-isPDDSmUPGwMcGQ/edit

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Seven things we learned when we moved our public events online

Taking our event programme online when COVID-19 hit was a steep learning curve, but one which brought rich opportunity for exploration and learning.

A year last March we were six months into delivering IIED’s ambitious new external public event programme ‘IIED Debates’ when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

We had only one option: move our events online – and quickly. The challenge was daunting, and the learning curve steep. We invested in new online platforms, skilled up quickly, and tested, tested and tested some more. From there it was trial and error – executed from our kitchen tables.

Now, with a year’s experience under our belt, we’re sharing some key lessons from moving our events online, including what it meant for participation and engagement, particularly with our audiences in the global South. Taking a deep dive into our webinar data, this is what we found:

1. Biggest audience ever, widest reach yet

IIED Debates were previously convened in our London and Edinburgh offices where space permitted 60 participants. We knew the shift to online events would enable larger audiences; still, we were staggered at the scale and speed with which attendance increased – 300% on average.

We also saw a huge upswing in geographical diversity: between March and December, participants from 118 countries joined our online events; pre-COVID, our audiences were almost entirely UK-based. Almost overnight people worldwide could now access IIED Debates at the click of a button.

2. Online and more inclusive

Of course, greater reach brings greater responsibility to design accessible and inclusive events. As our confidence with online conferencing platforms grew, we were able to experiment with multi-language events and live captioning. We are now exploring options to offer audio description and sign language interpretation.

We’ve also been examining our choices around the online tools we use and the support we offer to maximise access to our audience, as our data shows 30% of our online participants are based in the global South who often face challenges around connectivity, internet infrastructure (PDF), and the cost of internet and devices.  

3. Why planets don’t need to align for a stellar panel

IIED Debates operates on a small budget so, prior to the pandemic, the series made the most of moments when international speakers were ‘in the right place (London or Edinburgh) at the right time’. But these opportunities were far and few between, and 75% of our speakers were UK-based.

Moving our events online opened the door to international speakers: we have welcomed government officials, civil society and community representatives, researchers, youth activists and more from all over the world. Overall, we saw the representation of non-UK based speakers on our panels double.

4. Short, sharp, and engaging

‘How long should this event be?’ – the question every event organiser grapples with. Luckily our webinar data told us that the average amount of time participants remain in a webinar-style event for is close to 55 minutes. We’ve all experienced Zoom fatigue, and we know it is challenging to stay engaged online, so we aim to keep our events to an hour where we can.

We found interactivity keeps participants engaged and we maximise the use of webinar tools including chat, Q&A, polls or Mentimeter to create a more dynamic experience – but this is an emerging space and there are many options to explore.

5. Security, security, security

Two of our early webinar events were disrupted by a participant sharing offensive content. As an event organiser, it was a nightmare come true! We learned a hard lesson but quickly tightened up our security procedures and have had no disruptions since.

Many online event platforms have security tools (registration, passwords, waiting rooms) and ways to control participants posting comments anonymously. It is important to fully understand these tools and be aware they may compromise how your audience engages – there is a trade-off.

It’s also key that everyone involved – speakers, co-hosts and participants – understands how to prevent a security breach, such as keeping log-in information private, and the plan for dealing with a breach if it happens.

The shift to online events enabled larger audiences as participants could attend from their own home (Photo: Juliette Tunstall/IIED)

6. Building relationships

While there is no denying we miss the networking opportunities that come with in-person IIED Debates, we have found many new ways to build relationships through our online programme with our speakers and partner organisations.

For example, we’ve boosted engagement with youth leaders such as Ineza Grace, founder and CEO of The Green Fighter. Ineza spoke at several online IIED events last year which led to her joining the panel on an IIED Make Change Happen podcast.

7. A hybrid future?

Now we’re looking ahead at the shape of our events programme when in-person opportunities resume. Will there be the same appetite for in-person events? What might a hybrid event – with online and in-person participants and speakers – look like? Will remote participants online have the same opportunities to interact and engage as those in the room? And what technology will support that?

We are thinking about innovative ways to create inclusive and accessible for everyone and will be exploring these challenges and opportunities in a number of upcoming blogs.

Here's why Indigenous economics is the key to saving nature

Mainstream Western economics is destroying the environment - and the Indigenous knowledge that has conserved nature for millennia.

Western economics is not only destroying the environment. It is also destroying Indigenous peoples’ holistic development models that ensure balance with nature, and provide alternative paradigms for sustainable development.

For many of the world’s 476 million Indigenous peoples, balance and reciprocity (PDF) with nature are fundamental principles that guide all aspects of life. Rather than privileging human economic goals and pursuing nature conservation separately, many Indigenous societies seek to achieve ‘holistic wellbeing’ or ‘Buen Vivir’, which means the wellbeing of both people and nature together.

Take the Quechua and Aymara people in Peru, for example, who make up nearly a fifth of Peru’s population. According to their Andean cosmovision, the world is divided into three communities or ‘ayllus’: i) the wild or natural world, ii) the human and domesticated world, and iii) the sacred world.

To achieve wellbeing (‘Sumaq Causay’), these three communities must be in balance, which requires reciprocity between them (‘ayni’).

These Andean concepts come from the Incas, the largest pre-Columbian empire, and are still very much alive in the Andes. So too are barter markets (PDF), which provide people at different altitudes with access to essential nutrients and help sustain rich Andean biodiversity.

Balance with nature, reciprocity and solidarity (the obligation to help those in need) are key principles embedded in many Indigenous cultures across the world, from the Americas, to China, India and Kenya. These Indigenous economies (PDF) promote sufficiency rather than infinite growth, and equity and redistribution of wealth rather than accumulation.

Many subsistence economies are also characterised by circular agriculture models, which minimise waste and carbon emissions.

The separation of people and nature threatens both

In Peru and across the world, the nature- and people-friendly informal economies of Indigenous peoples are steadily being eroded by Western, neo-liberal economic policies that separate people and nature, and view Indigenous cultures and subsistence economies as ‘backward’ and in need of modernisation.

Ironically, the same Indigenous economies that have conserved and enhanced biodiversity for millennia are now threatened by environmental policies that often fail to recognise the value of Indigenous knowledge, thus contributing to its erosion.

Most of the world’s remaining biodiversity is located on lands owned or managed by Indigenous peoples. A global scientific assessment (PDF) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) found that “nature is generally declining less rapidly in Indigenous peoples’ lands than in other lands”.

However, the IPBES assessment also found nature managed by Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) is under increasing pressure, as is the knowledge of how to manage it. Areas managed by IPLCs “are facing growing resource extraction, commodity production, mining and transport and energy infrastructure”.

Negative impacts from all these pressures include “continued loss of subsistence and traditional livelihoods” and impacts on “health and wellbeing from pollution and water insecurity”.

These impacts “also challenge the transmission of Indigenous and local knowledge” and “the ability of indigenous peoples and local communities to conserve and sustainably manage wild and domesticated biodiversity that are also relevant to broader society”.

Mainstream economic activities on Indigenous lands have rarely benefited Indigenous Peoples, who make up 6% of the world’s population but 19% of the extreme poor.

In fact, their situation has often deteriorated (PDF), due to loss of land and natural resources, and the weakening of cultural ties and social cohesion. Integration with market economies has led to social tension and conflict, limited opportunities for meaningful employment, low returns for producers and a shift towards consumerist lifestyles.

The dominant approach to nature conservation through protected areas also reflects a Western worldview that separates people and nature, often excluding Indigenous people to protect biodiversity. Many state-run protected areas have resulted in negative social impacts, are losing biodiversity and are not effectively or equitably managed, as IPBES found (PDF).

Bridging the divide

Clearly, alternative development and conservation models that bridge the nature-people divide are urgently needed to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Indigenous Peoples’ holistic worldviews provide alternative development paradigms, which benefit both people and nature.

For example, Indigenous Peoples’ ‘mixed economies’, which combine subsistence and market activities, sustain Indigenous values that underpin biodiversity conservation, while contributing to nutrition, health, wellbeing and climate resilience, and generating income. Local markets and short value chains are often prioritised, rather than global export markets.

Indigenous Peoples have started to shape new community enterprise models that assert control over their territories and promote Indigenous traditions of sustainability and enterprise for the common good. These Indigenous enterprises have delivered multiple benefits for livelihoods, culture, social capital and biodiversity conservation.

For example, in the Potato Park in Peru, a Biocultural Heritage Territory governed by six Quechua communities, collective micro-enterprises (for gastronomy, agro-ecotourism, crafts, herbal teas and so on) are guided by Andean principles and holistic wellbeing goals. Ten per cent of the revenues from each micro-enterprise is invested in a communal fund and redistributed annually to reward biocultural heritage stewards and help those in need.

Thanks to their ancestral Indigenous knowledge, linked with science, the Potato Park communities have ensured food security despite severe climate change impacts and the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic, the communities donated a ton of potatoes to hungry people in Cusco, in line with the principle of solidarity.

The social ties and mutual care and solidarity that Indigenous communities have displayed in the pandemic, highlights the type of social relations that are core to resilient economies and an inclusive green recovery.

The concept of 'biocultural heritage', which is derived from Indigenous Peoples’ holistic worldviews and traditions, recognises the inextricable linkages between nature, culture and development.

The way forward

A new narrative is needed which recognises the highly progressive and dynamic nature of Indigenous knowledge and economic systems that put nature and equity at the heart of development. Indigenous Peoples have a leading role to play in shaping alternative paradigms to mainstream economic models that are destroying the environment and traditional cultures.

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and undoing years of racial injustice that lie at the root of poverty and inequality, requires structural reform across economic and environment sectors, from local to global levels, to put Indigenous Peoples at the heart of decision-making.

This year provides an opportunity for governments and political leaders to demonstrate real commitment to achieving the SDGs and leaving no one behind.

It is not too late to reform the leadership structure for the UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021, so that representatives of poor, hungry, marginalised and Indigenous Peoples play a leading role. Or to reform the proposed post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework (PDF), to be agreed at the biodiversity convention COP15 in October, so that the knowledge and leadership of Indigenous Peoples and local communities is integrated across the targets.

Indigenous Peoples have answers for many of the world’s most intractable challenges: inequality, ecocide, climate change. We cannot address these challenges without their wisdom and leadership.

This blog was originally posted on the Green Economy Coalition website.

Wed 21 Apr 14:00: Digital Sea Ice Physics - A novel approach for computing and parametrising sea ice properties for geophysical applications

Conservation Related Talks and Seminars - Mon, 12/04/2021 - 19:33
Digital Sea Ice Physics - A novel approach for computing and parametrising sea ice properties for geophysical applications

One of the large challenges in sea ice science is how sea ice properties (e.g., albedo, thermal conductivity) on small scales influence properties and processes on larger scales (e.g., the floe or ridge scale and basin-scale sea ice behaviour). To make progress one has to understand the variability in small-scale properties which can span several orders of magnitude (e.g. permeability). For many properties a strong dependence on temperature and salinity has been found, yet the detailed physical processes leading to this variability have remained unclear: On the one hand are the bulk fractions of sea ice constituents (gas, ice, brine and solid salts) often insufficiently known or measured. On the other hand, there is the lack in observations of 3D sea ice micro-structure to which the physical properties are related.

In the present talk I will focus on the concept of “Digital Sea Ice physics” to improve our understanding of sea ice properties, their dependence on microstructure and growth conditions, and illustrate several applications to geophysical sea ice problems. The concept is adopted from rock science where it has been established as “Digital Rock Physics” (DRP) during the last decade. It is based on 3D X-ray tomographic imaging and digitizing of the sea ice pore space, followed by direct numerical computation of its effective physical properties. In this way the relationship between effective physical properties of sea ice and its bulk constituents (volume fractions of ice, air, brine and solid salts) is determined and related to micro-scale characteristics of the pore space, providing an improved understanding of the properties’ variability.

I will begin the talk with an overview of sea ice properties and microstructure and their variability, to illustrate related challenges and open questions in sea ice science, identifying the need of 3D microstructure information for many topics. I will then describe the work flow of “Digital Sea Ice Physics” from field sampling to physical property computations, as well as the challenges for the porous medium sea ice, when compared to rocks and snow. I will discuss several applications to obtain sea ice properties that are relevant for sea ice and climate modelling: (i) transport properties of sea ice and recent results on sea ice permeability and electrical conductivity; (ii) the microstructure at the sea ice ocean interface (with relevance for on ice-ocean heat, salt and momentum exchange as well as ice-ice friction) and (iii) the ice surface regime (with relevance for albedo and inter-facial processes between sea ice and snow). Digital Sea ice physics is a concept that has large future potential due to increasing computational power to handle large 3D images. The talk closes with an overview of climate-relevant sea ice properties for which the approach opens new paths to fundamental knowledge and understanding.

Add to your calendar or Include in your list

Wed 21 Apr 14:00: Digital Sea Ice Physics - A novel approach for computing and parametrising sea ice properties for geophysical applications

Conservation-related talks - Mon, 12/04/2021 - 19:33
Digital Sea Ice Physics - A novel approach for computing and parametrising sea ice properties for geophysical applications

One of the large challenges in sea ice science is how sea ice properties (e.g., albedo, thermal conductivity) on small scales influence properties and processes on larger scales (e.g., the floe or ridge scale and basin-scale sea ice behaviour). To make progress one has to understand the variability in small-scale properties which can span several orders of magnitude (e.g. permeability). For many properties a strong dependence on temperature and salinity has been found, yet the detailed physical processes leading to this variability have remained unclear: On the one hand are the bulk fractions of sea ice constituents (gas, ice, brine and solid salts) often insufficiently known or measured. On the other hand, there is the lack in observations of 3D sea ice micro-structure to which the physical properties are related.

In the present talk I will focus on the concept of “Digital Sea Ice physics” to improve our understanding of sea ice properties, their dependence on microstructure and growth conditions, and illustrate several applications to geophysical sea ice problems. The concept is adopted from rock science where it has been established as “Digital Rock Physics” (DRP) during the last decade. It is based on 3D X-ray tomographic imaging and digitizing of the sea ice pore space, followed by direct numerical computation of its effective physical properties. In this way the relationship between effective physical properties of sea ice and its bulk constituents (volume fractions of ice, air, brine and solid salts) is determined and related to micro-scale characteristics of the pore space, providing an improved understanding of the properties’ variability.

I will begin the talk with an overview of sea ice properties and microstructure and their variability, to illustrate related challenges and open questions in sea ice science, identifying the need of 3D microstructure information for many topics. I will then describe the work flow of “Digital Sea Ice Physics” from field sampling to physical property computations, as well as the challenges for the porous medium sea ice, when compared to rocks and snow. I will discuss several applications to obtain sea ice properties that are relevant for sea ice and climate modelling: (i) transport properties of sea ice and recent results on sea ice permeability and electrical conductivity; (ii) the microstructure at the sea ice ocean interface (with relevance for on ice-ocean heat, salt and momentum exchange as well as ice-ice friction) and (iii) the ice surface regime (with relevance for albedo and inter-facial processes between sea ice and snow). Digital Sea ice physics is a concept that has large future potential due to increasing computational power to handle large 3D images. The talk closes with an overview of climate-relevant sea ice properties for which the approach opens new paths to fundamental knowledge and understanding.

Add to your calendar or Include in your list

Wed 21 Apr 14:00: Digital Sea Ice Physics - A novel approach for computing and parametrising sea ice properties for geophysical applications

Conservation Talks - Mon, 12/04/2021 - 19:33
Digital Sea Ice Physics - A novel approach for computing and parametrising sea ice properties for geophysical applications

One of the large challenges in sea ice science is how sea ice properties (e.g., albedo, thermal conductivity) on small scales influence properties and processes on larger scales (e.g., the floe or ridge scale and basin-scale sea ice behaviour). To make progress one has to understand the variability in small-scale properties which can span several orders of magnitude (e.g. permeability). For many properties a strong dependence on temperature and salinity has been found, yet the detailed physical processes leading to this variability have remained unclear: On the one hand are the bulk fractions of sea ice constituents (gas, ice, brine and solid salts) often insufficiently known or measured. On the other hand, there is the lack in observations of 3D sea ice micro-structure to which the physical properties are related.

In the present talk I will focus on the concept of “Digital Sea Ice physics” to improve our understanding of sea ice properties, their dependence on microstructure and growth conditions, and illustrate several applications to geophysical sea ice problems. The concept is adopted from rock science where it has been established as “Digital Rock Physics” (DRP) during the last decade. It is based on 3D X-ray tomographic imaging and digitizing of the sea ice pore space, followed by direct numerical computation of its effective physical properties. In this way the relationship between effective physical properties of sea ice and its bulk constituents (volume fractions of ice, air, brine and solid salts) is determined and related to micro-scale characteristics of the pore space, providing an improved understanding of the properties’ variability.

I will begin the talk with an overview of sea ice properties and microstructure and their variability, to illustrate related challenges and open questions in sea ice science, identifying the need of 3D microstructure information for many topics. I will then describe the work flow of “Digital Sea Ice Physics” from field sampling to physical property computations, as well as the challenges for the porous medium sea ice, when compared to rocks and snow. I will discuss several applications to obtain sea ice properties that are relevant for sea ice and climate modelling: (i) transport properties of sea ice and recent results on sea ice permeability and electrical conductivity; (ii) the microstructure at the sea ice ocean interface (with relevance for on ice-ocean heat, salt and momentum exchange as well as ice-ice friction) and (iii) the ice surface regime (with relevance for albedo and inter-facial processes between sea ice and snow). Digital Sea ice physics is a concept that has large future potential due to increasing computational power to handle large 3D images. The talk closes with an overview of climate-relevant sea ice properties for which the approach opens new paths to fundamental knowledge and understanding.

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Wed 21 Apr 14:00: Digital Sea Ice Physics - A novel approach for computing and parametrising sea ice properties for geophysical applications

Conservation at Cambridge - Mon, 12/04/2021 - 19:33
Digital Sea Ice Physics - A novel approach for computing and parametrising sea ice properties for geophysical applications

One of the large challenges in sea ice science is how sea ice properties (e.g., albedo, thermal conductivity) on small scales influence properties and processes on larger scales (e.g., the floe or ridge scale and basin-scale sea ice behaviour). To make progress one has to understand the variability in small-scale properties which can span several orders of magnitude (e.g. permeability). For many properties a strong dependence on temperature and salinity has been found, yet the detailed physical processes leading to this variability have remained unclear: On the one hand are the bulk fractions of sea ice constituents (gas, ice, brine and solid salts) often insufficiently known or measured. On the other hand, there is the lack in observations of 3D sea ice micro-structure to which the physical properties are related.

In the present talk I will focus on the concept of “Digital Sea Ice physics” to improve our understanding of sea ice properties, their dependence on microstructure and growth conditions, and illustrate several applications to geophysical sea ice problems. The concept is adopted from rock science where it has been established as “Digital Rock Physics” (DRP) during the last decade. It is based on 3D X-ray tomographic imaging and digitizing of the sea ice pore space, followed by direct numerical computation of its effective physical properties. In this way the relationship between effective physical properties of sea ice and its bulk constituents (volume fractions of ice, air, brine and solid salts) is determined and related to micro-scale characteristics of the pore space, providing an improved understanding of the properties’ variability.

I will begin the talk with an overview of sea ice properties and microstructure and their variability, to illustrate related challenges and open questions in sea ice science, identifying the need of 3D microstructure information for many topics. I will then describe the work flow of “Digital Sea Ice Physics” from field sampling to physical property computations, as well as the challenges for the porous medium sea ice, when compared to rocks and snow. I will discuss several applications to obtain sea ice properties that are relevant for sea ice and climate modelling: (i) transport properties of sea ice and recent results on sea ice permeability and electrical conductivity; (ii) the microstructure at the sea ice ocean interface (with relevance for on ice-ocean heat, salt and momentum exchange as well as ice-ice friction) and (iii) the ice surface regime (with relevance for albedo and inter-facial processes between sea ice and snow). Digital Sea ice physics is a concept that has large future potential due to increasing computational power to handle large 3D images. The talk closes with an overview of climate-relevant sea ice properties for which the approach opens new paths to fundamental knowledge and understanding.

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Tue 13 Apr 11:00: Early Careers Event

Conservation at Cambridge - Mon, 12/04/2021 - 18:31
Early Careers Event

11:00 – 12:15: Welcome and quickfire talks on Zoom

Thomas Aubry, Department of Geography Climate change modulates the stratospheric volcanic sulfate aerosol life cycle and radiative forcing

Zosia Staniaszek, Department of Chemistry What would happen if anthropogenic methane emissions ceased?

Charles Simpson, British Antarctic Survey Seasonal differences and regional disparities to climate risk in rice harvest labour

Vishnu Nair, Department of Geography A Lagrangian study of interfaces at the edge of cumulus clouds

12:15 – 13:00: Lunch

13:00 – 15:00: Afternoon poster/plot session Join the Gather server to wander around our virtual conference hall and view and discuss work with others. Each presenter will be assigned a 25 minute slot within the session to stand by their own work and are free to spend the rest of the time interacting with others!

Register to come here or upload a plot: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Rf5uXZrKGwQZNgzBmE0NXQUDLeq-isPDDSmUPGwMcGQ/edit

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Can community rangers help tackle illegal wildlife trade?

Around the world, Indigenous Peoples and local communities are tackling wildlife crime including through working for, or establishing their own, community ranger or patrol programmes. But how effective are community-based rangers at reducing illegal wildlife trade?

Last month, IIED and the IUCN Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi) hosted a webinar as part of its Learning and Action Platform for Communities Against Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) initiative (LeAP).

The LeAP ’People not Poaching’ web portal showcases examples of community-based approaches to tackling IWT. The webinar focused on one of these approaches – community ranger or patrol programmes – exploring case studies from Asia and Africa, followed by a panel discussion on how best to support and manage these programmes.

The range of community rangers

The People not Poaching portal includes over 20 examples of Indigenous Peoples and local community (IPLC) members employed or volunteering as rangers, scouts or game guards in anti-poaching initiatives. The different roles fall into four broad categories:

  1. Community rangers working in partnership with formal law enforcement agencies
  2. Community-led patrols, such as self-formed monitoring or intelligence networks
  3. Initiatives that seek to retrain ex-poachers as rangers, and
  4. All-women community ranger groups.

This training of women-based community forest rangers serves as a role model that will hopefully change the behaviours of illegal activities in the conservation area and protect the wildlife, as well as inspire new livelihood alternatives – Ir Sustyo Iriyono MSi, director of forest protections, Indonesia

Each of these categories takes a different approach. For example, community rangers might be incentivised by a salary, or non-monetary rewards such as training and skills development. But they may be equally motivated by a desire to protect their land and resources.

Some rangers are targeted for selection based on their gender, while others are picked because of their poaching history – not only do they need an alternative to poaching but also, pragmatically, they often already have excellent animal tracking skills.

Supporting local needs, building community trust

The webinar showed how different types of community rangers operate in different contexts. But when asked what makes a successful initiative, the answer was the same: success comes when approaches are embedded in wider community engagement activities that respect rights and local customs, are participatory and protective, and build trust.

For example, in Cambodia, the self-formed Prey Lang Community Network conducts voluntary patrols to protect the Prey Lang forest from illegal logging. This bottom-up approach has won prestigious environmental awards but is now under threat from a corrupt and unsupportive government.

Their experience shows that to get results you must address local needs and develop trusting relationships – but also shows the challenges of working under prohibitive conditions.

Elsewhere, healthy relations between government authorities and local people have provided the necessary conditions to reduce IWT. In Indonesia’s Kerinci Seblat National Park, a project led by Fauna & Flora International supports patrol teams comprising three community rangers and one national park ranger.

These close-knit teams draw on the distinct skills of each member – the national park ranger acts as an official ‘law enforcer’ while the community rangers use their tracking skills and close relationship with local villagers to collect intelligence on illegal activities.

A community ranger’s activities, which often includes collecting intelligence and acting as an informant, can be dangerous, and lead to ostracism by friends and family. Community rangers need protection – but who is responsible for this?

What support do community rangers need?

All panellists agreed that any implementing agency should prioritise the safety and wellbeing of community rangers. At Namibia’s Save the Rhino Trust, community rangers are protected by armed officers when on patrol.

And in Indonesia’s Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, female forest rangers are supported by armed male colleagues who are employed by the park.

But while community rangers face the same threats as the rest of their patrol team and need protection, they must also be trained and provided with equipment, so they can protect themselves.

It is equally important that any national park rangers receive human rights training – this is a key factor in selecting the winner of Tusk’s Wildlife Ranger Award and an issue that has surfaced recently regarding abusive law enforcement practices towards local communities.

It’s a complex relationship and national park rangers often don’t work in ideal situations themselves.

So how to move forward? The webinar discussed looking beyond communities as simply being the ‘eyes and ears’ of law enforcement and stop considering community rangers as an inexpensive way to patrol. Instead, communities must be full and active partners in conservation so that wildlife becomes a benefit, rather than a cost.

In Namibia, villagers choose to report on poaching activities because they have been given rights and ownership over wildlife. Here, intelligence starts with the communities because trust has been developed over many years via a supportive Community Based Natural Resource Management (CBNRM) programme.

Immediate next steps call for standard operating procedures, such as global training standards for community rangers. But since success depends so clearly on local support, anti-poaching projects should start by prioritising local needs, supporting community voices in decision making and – above all – building trusting relationships.

The LeAP project is supported by the UK government’s Illegal Wildlife Challenge Fund. With thanks to the webinar’s speakers and panellists.

LIFE-AR: inspiring change within IIED

The least developed countries’ vision for a climate-resilient future calls for a radical shake-up of the ‘business-as-usual’ response to the climate crisis. Within IIED, it’s an opportunity to embed ‘business unusual’ principles in the way we work.

The biggest ever climate poll to date suggests over two-thirds of people now recognise climate change as a ‘global emergency’.

But global action to deal with the climate crisis isn’t working. The Least Developed Countries (LDC) Group – representing the world’s poorest nations, hit hardest by climate change – are driving a bold, new approach to reshape the climate response.

The LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR) calls on organisations working in climate and development to shift from one-size-fits-all to context-specific solutions; from top-down to bottom-up responses; from short-term thinking to long-term planning.

The initiative encourages a decentralised approach where local actors have agency and decision-making power over how to plan, manage and use finances, specifically calling for at least 70% of climate finance flows to support local action by 2030.

Being LDC-run and LDC-led, LIFE-AR enables the LDCs to put their decades-long, country-specific experience into practice to tackle the climate crisis.

This new approach – where local individuals, communities, and institutions lead the design and delivery of adaptation solutions – marks a radical shift in beliefs, behaviours and attitudes.

We call this approach ‘business unusual’.

Forging new ways of working

IIED was humbled to be invited by the LDC chair and LDC Group to take on the role of interim secretariat and support the LDCs to establish this initiative.

LIFE-AR’s bold vision calls for collective action to do things differently, and has spurred IIED to do things differently too.

So, within IIED, LIFE-AR has given us the opportunity to unpack what business unusual means in practice, and seek to embed principles of business unusual in the way we work and the way we engage with others.

We recognise we need to be more agile, inclusive, and adaptive while we support the LDC leadership at the global and national levels.

We will take a backseat – which includes supporting the LDCs only where support is requested and desired. We will be prepared to listen first and foremost to the LDCs – remembering to consult, ask permission, get guidance, copy, include and inform. We will strive to put more effective processes into practice, including moving away from fly-in-fly-out consultants and costly workshops. And we will remind ourselves to question common practices, manage expectations and hold ourselves accountable.

We shall continue to promote LDC leadership and LDC voices by making sure there are spaces where the LDCs can contribute, and by building the LDC platform that strengthens LDC voice on the international stage. We will ensure equality is embedded in our management approach so that we can ultimately work to share and shift the dynamics of power between us and our global South partners. At the end of the day, IIED is working itself out of a job.

While being encouraged to reflect on our internal ways of working, we also recognise that change can only happen within a wider enabling environment created by donors on the one hand and LDCs on the other. With support from our LDC partners, we are seeking to build evidence around the business unusual way of working, and to use this evidence to drive more effective climate action.  

Funder contracts, for example, often come with tight financial and reporting deadlines set by existing processes. With these partners holding the purse strings, our LDC partners do not have the power to push back on these contract requirements, even when unfair or unrealistic.

Inspired by LIFE-AR, we will encourage our global North partners to embrace the business unusual principles, so we can improve our ways of working together. One step is to urge donors to be more flexible, patient and adaptive in their conditions and requirements. For LIFE-AR to deliver long-term results that leave a legacy, donors and international organisations must allow LDCs to set the pace.

We are also encouraging donors supporting LIFE-AR to recognise the initiative as an iterative learning process rather than a finished idea – one geared towards holistic and flexible milestones, rather than deliverables and outputs set out in a linear log frame.

Some reflections and moving forward

The pathway to business unusual is a learning journey. It presents the opportunity for big change but accepts that the steps along the path may take time. Embarking on a new way of working will bring new challenges. Sometimes we will be prevented from taking a step forward and perhaps even forced to take a step back. However, we believe it is worth the effort for greater climate effectiveness and impact.

Business unusual is a learning process, and each step or experience along the path to change is important. IIED is giving itself the time to learn, reflect, and adapt – exploring the skills we need to truly commit to supporting LDCs and other partners to move beyond business-as-usual.

It is our privilege to support the LDCs in establishing LIFE-AR. While we work together in partnership with mutual respect and appreciation of shared knowledge, experience and capabilities, we invite the LDCs to help us build our own capabilities and knowledge, all the while challenging our ways of working.

With thanks to Sarah McIvor for her contributions to this blog.

Business unusual: LDC-led climate action

This series of blogs captures the leadership shown by the least developed countries (LDCs) tackling climate change as they embark on new ways of working.

The climate emergency calls for a historic shift in the way we respond to climate change, and ‘business as usual’ approaches are not working. As a result, the LDCs have stepped up ambition and launched the LDC initiative for effective adaptation and resilience (LIFE-AR).

These blogs will shine a light on the LIFE-AR project, explore its core principles in depth, showcase lessons emerging from LDC front runners and document IIED’s response to the new way of working. We expect to have a new blog every second month.

Biodiversity: we can map the biggest threats to endangered species in your local area

Biodiversity News - Thu, 08/04/2021 - 19:32
To get a grip on the biodiversity crisis, we'll need to understand how wildlife is threatened in our own backyard. Louise Mair, Research Associate in Biodiversity Conservation and Policy, Newcastle University Philip McGowan, Professor of Conservation Science and Policy, Newcastle University Licensed as Creative Commons – attribution, no derivatives.

2020 in review: climate impacts in the least developed countries

Evolving and overlapping global crises hit the world’s most vulnerable nations the hardest. Now, more than ever, world leaders must demonstrate solidarity and support with concrete action.

Question: In all of recorded history, did 2020…

  1. Tie as the warmest year ever for global surface temperatures?
  2. Register as the warmest year ever for ocean heat?
  3. See the worst Atlantic hurricane season, producing the most named storms ever?

Answer: All the above.

2020 registered as the warmest year on record (tied with 2016), the warmest ever for ocean heat, and the year with most named storms

While COVID-19 dominated 2020’s headlines, and rightly so, another emergency wreaked havoc in the background. As the pandemic ravaged the world, climate impacts continued to break records, mostly affecting the world’s most vulnerable populations.

The least developed countries (LDCs), home to one billion of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, have contributed the least to climate change yet suffer the worst from its impacts. In 2020 alone:

  • People of the Solomon Islands have been spared from any COVID-19 deaths, but almost 30 lost their lives to Cyclone Harold
  • Monsoons in south Asia left an indelible mark. Floods submerged almost a quarter of Bangladesh and nearly a million homes were inundated. Five million people were affected and at least 54 died, most of them children
  • Record flooding in Sudan in August and September devastated communities across the country; 100 people died and over 500,000 were displaced
  • The August flash floods in Yemen killed at least 172 people and damaged infrastructure, including UNESCO-listed world heritage sites, and
  • The heaviest floods in more than a century displaced thousands of Ugandans from their homes along the shoreline of Lake Victoria.

These are just snapshots of the loss and damage caused by climate-related disasters in LDCs. And they are testament to an ever-worsening trend: over the last 50 years, 69% of worldwide deaths caused by climate-related disasters were in LDCs (despite being hit by 18% of disasters and home to only 13% of the world’s population).

Alongside unprecedented biodiversity loss, rising inequalities and crippling debt, by 2030 climate change could push more than 130 million people in developing countries (PDF) below the extreme poverty line. COVID-19 could push a further 100 million to 150 million people (PDF) over this threshold by the year end.

Overlapping crises

Preliminary analysis (PDF) shows that, as of 15 September 2020, 51.6 million people globally have been directly affected by a combination of floods, droughts, or storms and COVID-19. Over 3,000 people have been killed.

The huge overlap between the pandemic and climate-related disasters demonstrates the need for a multi-layered response, not least because of the compounded vulnerability faced by communities in LDCs.

For this reason, LDCs are calling for solidarity and support from world leaders from developed countries. LDCs are concerned about shrinking overseas development assistance (ODA), and developed counties failing to meet their climate finance commitments.

They are also concerned that COVID-19-recovery packages and economic stimulus plans are not placing people, climate and nature at their core.

A new tool tracking G20 stimulus packages shows a troubling trend: G20 governments have pledged US$151 billion in support of fossil fuels, with only 20% of those policies making financial support conditional on green requirements, such as setting climate targets or implementing pollution reduction plans.

Action, now

It comes as no surprise then that LDCs are pushing hard for strong climate action in 2021, especially in terms of increasing adaptive capabilities and enhancing resilience, reducing the loss and damage caused by climate change, and calling for increased climate finance.

At the ‘Thimphu Ambition Summit: Momentum for a 1.5°C World’, leaders from vulnerable countries, led by Bhutan, made an urgent and united call for climate action. Between now and 2030, developed countries must ramp up measures to close the emissions gap.

And these must be big steps, big enough to drive transformative change across all aspects of society and for shifting financial flows to align with low-carbon, climate-resilient development pathways.

The pandemic has laid bare the need – and opportunity – to put resilience at the centre of macroeconomic fundamentals, to advance a truly green and resilient economy, rather than just responding to the great and growing array of non-financial external shocks.

2020 showed, more starkly than ever, that crises do not happen in siloes; we cannot deal with them singly, in isolation.

In this ‘super year’, when decisions taken (both at the multilateral and national levels) will shape outcomes for climate, nature and people for decades to come, we must push for solutions that, together, can tackle the world’s evolving and overlapping crises.

Here’s how to propel a green recovery for the poorest

Special drawing rights could give indebted countries the flexibility to take climate action that benefits everyone, discuss IIED's Paul Steele and Shamshad Akhtar, former Minister of Finance for Pakistan.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced at the recent Climate Adaptation Summit its intention to place climate change at the heart of its work – recognising the natural world and the economy are no longer at odds. 

With the growing climate stress and depletion of ecosystems, it is imperative that the renewed efforts are launched to propel a green recovery from the pandemic, preserving nature for future generations and giving it much needed economic value. 

As climate scenarios are integrated within economic frameworks, climate vulnerabilities will be more evident across the globe and strain the medium-term economic scenarios. Climate shocks could chop off up to 5% of gross domestic product (GDP) per year by 2030 in some vulnerable countries. This also means debt distress will limit the fiscal space to support an inclusive and effective green recovery post COVID-19. 

What could help?

Unlocking the potential of Special Drawing Rights for a green recovery 

New Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), which the G7 has approved, could help leverage more financing crucial for low income and developing countries.  

There is an estimated US$650 billion as SDRs available from the IMF with provision for shareholder countries to voluntarily reallocate funds where they are needed most, rather than distributing them among themselves leaving less than 4% for poorer countries. 

Some in the IMF would be willing to support such re-allocated 'SDRs for green recovery' – for example the more climate-vulnerable a country the larger their reallocation – or by linking SDR reallocations to spending on pro-poor and growth-enhancing climate resilience or biodiversity investments and policies.  

These $650 billion SDRs for green recovery would represent 65 times the size of the current Green Climate Fund (GCF) and if judiciously distributed could finance the much-needed climate adaptation and mitigations needs of low-income countries.

Green SDRs are good for equity and efficiency 

But while the IMF has recently become vocal on climate action and green recovery, its COVID-19 funding has only financed 16% for ‘greening’ which is less than during the post-2008 financial crisis.  

SDR reallocations are an imperative for poor countries given their massive climate liability. Some small island developing states and least developed countries are close to insolvency, experiencing major climate impacts on their economies, with reduced economic growth prospects and increasing debt burden.

Putting aside climate justice, reallocating SDRs to finance green recovery is good for efficiency. Rich countries need a strong incentive to give up their SDR quotas but effective climate action, supporting climate-vulnerable countries to become more resilient, is universally recognised by all countries in the 2015 Paris climate change agreement.  

Mitigating climate emissions, often cheaper in developing countries, would also be money well spent for richer countries. 

Managing debt for climate and nature outcomes

Reallocated SDRs for green recovery can also provide the liquidity for multilateral debt relief by the IMF, World Bank and Regional Development Banks (RDBs) to climate vulnerable countries. Allowing some SDRs to be leveraged by the World Bank and RDBs, while IMF financing also mainstreams climate change, will maximise climate action.

With a climate-responsive Biden administration in the United States coupled with the European Union’s Green Deal, now is the opportunity to seize the moment for re-allocated SDRs to respond to the climate and nature crisis, reduce debt and ensure an inclusive and sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery. 

This blog was originally posted on the Thomson Reuters Foundation website.

Wanted: latest advertised roles at IIED

The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) is advertising for a consultant to assist the Climate Change research group and a project manager to join the Climate Governance and Finance team 

We are an independent policy research organisation based in the UK and active in five continents through an extended network of partners. And as a growing organisation, we are often on the lookout for professional and creative people with a passion for our mission. Find out more about IIED.

IIED is seeking a consultant to support the LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR) within the Climate Change research group, to establish a communication and engagement strategy for a multi-country initiative.

The expert will review existing communication methods and conduct interviews with LDC representatives at global and national level, to understand current and in-country outreach approaches, skills and resources to build upon. The deadline for expressions of interest is Wednesday, 14 April 2021.

We're also recruiting a project manager or senior coordinator to join the Climate Governance and Finance team for a nine-month, fixed term maternity cover contract. 

The ideal candidate will ensure the effective and efficient implementation of a complex portfolio of multi-partner, international research and policy projects. The postholder will also play a key part in the delivery of finance projects and work. The deadline for applications is Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all roles will initially be remote based.

Find out more about the role and get full details of all positions available at IIED, including job descriptions and how to apply: www.iied.org/jobs.

Check back regularly for updates, or subscribe to email alerts.

Will green bonds boost finance flows to sustainable hydropower?

Jamie Skinner discusses the impacts of stringent new criteria on investments in sustainable hydropower projects.

The Climate Bonds Initiative (CBI) has recently expanded the criteria of the Climate Bonds Standard to include sustainable hydropower projects. Over US$1 trillion of green bonds have been issued to date, and by extending its criteria to hydropower, the CBI is boosting financing opportunities for sustainable hydropower developers while supporting global efforts to build a low-carbon future.

While hydropower usually emits markedly less greenhouse gas per kilowatt hour (kWh) than thermal generation sources it is not carbon neutral. Nor is the technology without social and environmental risks; many organisations have objected to hydropower projects either due to their impacts on local communities and their resource base, or due to their impacts on wider ecosystems, both locally and downstream.

Under the CBI’s new criteria bond issuers must demonstrate that sustainable hydropower projects meet certain standards covering climate mitigation, adaption and resilience, and social and environmental outcomes.

Spotlight: emission levels

Perhaps the most controversial among these is the level of emissions per kWh. For electricity grids substantially powered by thermal sources, grid level emissions typically lie between 500 and 900 g/kWh. To meet global warming targets as set by the Paris climate agreement, grid level emissions worldwide may need to decline to as low as 50g/kWh by 2050.

In 2016, CBI already established a 100g/kWh limit for bonds supporting geothermal investments, even though this level of grid emission would not meet low carbon targets for 2050. Hydropower dams are long-lived assets and many being built today will still be functioning in 2100.

The CBI’s working group charged with discussing these issues used data from the International Hydropower Association/UNESCO greenhouse gas emissions tool (G-RES) that measures carbon emission intensity (CO2eq/kWh) from reservoirs. At the time, around 20% of the 450 hydropower plants in the database emitted more than 100g/kWh.

However, it was also argued that hydropower is expected to become fundamental in supporting intermittent renewables on national grids, providing not only base load when the wind and solar are not working, but also essential ancillary services required to maintain grid functionality (PDF).

The working group finally decided to allow bonds for existing plants that emit 100g/kWh (aligned with criteria for geothermal plants) while using 50g/kWh for any new projects. It remains to be seen how the markets will respond to these thresholds.

For broader social and environmental acceptability, CBI will require a certification process from independent assessors, linked to the International Hydropower Association’s (IHA) sustainability protocol, that monitors compliance using a sustainability criteria.

Developers wishing to purchase certified climate bonds are required to analyse the project using the environmental, social and governance gap analysis tool of the IHA. This is carried out by a certified assessor and measures alignment with international best practice on a range of indicators.

New private sector instruments for social and environmental performance

For the time being, this architecture remains somewhat theoretical as this kind of private sector certification has not previously been undertaken for hydropower, which is notoriously complex. Many public sector donors, such as the International Finance Corporation or the World Bank, have developed extensive safeguarding policies to reduce some of the negative consequences externalities of hydropower on people and ecosystems.

The IHA has done likewise through its sustainability protocol and guidance which until now have remained largely voluntary. Being able to tie bond financing to respect for industry sustainability protocols represents a new step in private sector self-regulation, driven largely by the financial sector’s desire for certified low-carbon investments, mediated by CBI.  

While every hydropower plant is unique in its scope and impacts, this process offers some credible and consistent guidance on achieving sustainability for private sector investments while contributing to long-term warming targets.

Nevertheless, it will be important to review uptake and progress in three or five years’ time in a transparent and inclusive process to ensure that bond finance is not driving any maladaptation on the ground, or impacting long term social and environmental sustainability.

The question of whether low carbon financiers should judge hydropower solely on its emissions, or give it special recognition as a key enabler of low-carbon renewables is an active area of IIED research (PDF) within the FutureDAMS project.

Led by the University of Manchester, innovative simulation tools are increasing our understanding of how a grid dominated by solar, wind and biomass energy sources may require night time hydropeaking from hydropower dams to ensure a low carbon outcome.

When combined with the feedback on market uptake of climate bonds, these approaches will allow the synergies, and the specific contribution of hydropower to be identified more accurately.