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Swimming against the tide: the Pacific nations fighting a losing battle with climate change

Many of the small island Pacific nations have ambitious renewable energy targets, but their efforts will all be in vain if progress is absent where it really counts. Alex Blackburne looks at a group of countries desperately hoping for change.

It’s a David versus Goliath scenario in which David doesn’t even own a slingshot. David, or the 22 Pacific Islands, is being continually pummelled by several Goliaths in the shape of China, the US, and the rest of the top ten polluting nations who are perhaps unaware of their opponent’s existence.

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Many of the small island Pacific nations have ambitious renewable energy targets, but their efforts will all be in vain if progress is absent where it really counts. Alex Blackburne looks at a group of countries desperately hoping for change.

It’s a David versus Goliath scenario in which David doesn’t even own a slingshot. David, or the 22 Pacific Islands, is being continually pummelled by several Goliaths in the shape of China, the US, and the rest of the top ten polluting nations who are perhaps unaware of their opponent’s existence.

Despite the best efforts of the Pacific Island Countries (PICs), climate change is becoming an increasingly real threat for the region. And it is a threat that they have very little control over.

The whole nation of Kiribati is seriously considering uprooting and relocating to Fiji for salvation, all because of the dangers of rising sea levels.

In an effort to influence the rest of the world, many PICs have set themselves ambitious but entirely realistic renewable energy targets.

As it stands, the PICs have a high dependence on fossil fuels. But they are so insignificantly small when compared to the rest of the world, that their combined carbon emissions only account for around 0.03% of the world’s total.

You only have to compare PICs emissions to China—the world’s most polluting (and admittedly most populous) country with a 25% contribution to this total—to get a real sense of scale.

Still, the Pacific Islands Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project (snappily shortened to PIGGAREP) endeavours to make change. It claims that even with a business-as-usual approach, the 11 nations taking part can collectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33% by 2015.

With investments pumped into renewable technologies, the targets are even more impressive. Tuvalu and Niue both have 100% renewable targets set for the not-too-distant future. The Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu also have similarly ambitious aims, according to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Most of these extremely positive targets are sadly somewhat irrelevant, really only serving as a cry for help. Niue, for example, emits less carbon than any other country on the planet—just 4,000 tonnes yearly (China emits 30 million tonnes).

In its drive towards being 100% renewably powered, a blog called Niue Press, which is devoted to everything related to the island, lists all the places where solar panels are found in the country – the high school, the power station office, and the hospital. That’s it.

The country has 1,398 inhabitants (as of July 2009), two television stations, one newspaper, one nine-hole golf course, and a currently-under-construction lawn bowling green.

The sad irony behind the PICs’ heart-warming, globe-cooling efforts is that whilst they’re the ones that will very soon be most severely affected, they’re also the ones that can do the least about it.

Back in November, we wrote an article about how research by global risks advisory firm, Maplecroft, had deemed the developing world at “extreme risk” of climate change. It’s a familiar story.

Conversely, the biggest contributors to world carbon levels—by rank, China, the US, India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Canada, South Korea, Iran and the UK—will not witness such a severe effects when climate change really digs its heels in, but are the nations with the most power and influence.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: Ben Willers

China’s contribution to carbon emissions is staggering—25.36% to be exact—but then again, it does also account for nearly 20% of the Earth’s population.

The real demon then, is instead our cousin across the Atlantic. Sitting comfortably in second place of the carbon emissions table, with a total input of nearly 18%. However, unlike China, the US can’t be allowed off the hook because of a massive population. With just over 4.5% of people living in the country, its carbon emission levels are shockingly high.

And the UK isn’t exactly sitting pretty. It’s tenth in the carbon emissions table, and boasts just over 0.9% of the world population.

In stark contrast, the Pacific Islands are way, way down on both carbon emission and population. Even when added together the ones on the list only contribute 0.05% of the world’s greenhouse gases, placing the PICs between Lebanon and Bolivia.

Click to enlarge. Infographic: Ben Willers.

The above infographic shows the gulf in both population and carbon levels between China and the US, and the PICs. Whilst China and the 15 combined PICs more or less produce carbon levels relative to their population, the US clearly doesn’t. It produces as much carbon as the bottom 194 countries combined but has a population equal to the bottom 129.

In reality, the majority of world’s countries release carbon at a relatively insignificant level. Therefore, put simply, it’s down to the top emitters to make the real difference. But sadly, we’re not currently doing enough.

The US, China to an extent and, yes, the UK and the rest of the top 10 polluters are all responsible for the near-term climate change problems that have led Kiribati to consider relocating to Fiji. But this is not a solution for the longer term—we can’t all move to Fiji.

At the end of last year, Japan announced that it was contributing $15m to support the clean energy drive in some of the world’s smallest nations that face an immediate threat from climate change.

While sustainable investment is always welcome, because of the aforementioned issues of scale, it really only serves to send out a signal to the rest of the world and raise the profile and immediacy of the threat.

Finding solutions to meet this very global challenge is what makes sustainable investment so important. Adopting a “not my problem, why should I care?” attitude can no longer be tolerated. We, the nations with the true power and influence to make a difference, must act now.

And you can be part of that revolution. Ask your financial adviser how you can invest money into funds and companies that don’t contribute to the PICs’ increasingly doomed existence or, even better, how you can let your money do sustainable work for you. If you can’t find an answer to your questions or if you don’t have an IFA, fill in our online form and we’ll connect you to a specialist.

What’s more, you can switch to 100% renewable energy at home and start reducing your carbon footprint immediately. Visit Good Energy to find out more.

Related links:

Rising sea levels force Pacific Islanders to relocate

Developing world at ‘extreme risk’ of climate change

Infographics: Ben Willers. Picture source: YXO.

Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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Features

How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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