Category Archives: Pacific region

This Deep-Sea Creature Lays Its Eggs on Hydrothermal Vents—A First

The Pacific white skate lay its eggs on superheated hydrothermal vents, and then may wait more than four years for the eggs to hatch. PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYE NEWLIN, OCEAN EXPLORATION TRUST

Yet another scientific discovery lays bare the myth that ‘nothing lives down there’ and further reinforces that we just don’t know what could be lost if Nautilus Minerals is allowed to carry out its proposed open cut strip mining operation on the sea floor

Jason Bittel | National Geographic | February 8, 2018

The world’s most patient mom may be a deep-sea octopus that tends her eggs for nearly 4.5 years. But now, there may be a new contender for her throne.

Scientists have caught a rare glimpse of another deep-sea dweller that may also spend four or more years nursing its eggs, and it does it in an even more unusual place: on hydrothermal vents, where hot water spews from the ocean floor.

It’s called the Pacific white skate (Bathyraja spinosissima), a bone-white, bug-eyed relative of sharks that can live almost two miles (2,900 meters) underwater.

Deep-sea skates, which are shark relatives that resemble rays, lay large eggs that can take years to hatch in cold water. 

In June of 2015, scientists piloting a remotely operated vehicle through the depths of the Galapagos Marine Reserve discovered mounds upon mounds of Pacific white skate egg-casings littered atop a hydrothermal vent. Using the submarine’s robotic arm, the scientists plucked four of the yellow-green egg-cases—each about the size of a deflated football—and brought them back to the surface for DNA analysis.

This the first time skates have been found to use hydrothermal vents as nurseries, and the scientists suspect the animals are laying their eggs here for a reason.

It takes longer for eggs to incubate in cold water, so the skates may be warming them up on the vents, says Dr. Pelayo Salinas-de-León, a National Geographic Society Explorer who led the study, described in the journal Scientific Reports.

The team estimates that, like the deep-sea octopus, Pacific white ray egg cases may require more than four years to hatch, judging by the incubation time of a closely related skate in the Berendt Sea and the depth and temperature of the water surrounding the vent.

And that’s a “very conservative” estimate, adds Salinas-de-León, who is also a marine scientist with the Charles Darwin Foundation and National Geographic’s Pristine Seasinitiative.

A Whole New World

Since hydrothermal vents were first discovered in 1977, scientists have found crabs, anemones, mollusks, and shrimp inhabiting these seemingly inhospitable environments.

But until now, no one would have included skates on that list, says Dr. Lisa Levin, a professor of biological oceanography at the University of California, San Diego.

The Pacific white skate is the first animal found to be laying its eggs on a hydrothermal vent. PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYE NEWLIN, OCEAN EXPLORATION TRUST

“We know so little about the functions of these systems that finding a new function, like being a nursery habitat, is very important,” says Levin.

Interestingly, Levin says there have been a handful of sightings of skate eggs near cold seeps, which are similar to hydrothermal vents but lack heat and emit methane.

The water shooting out of a hydrothermal vent can exceed 750 degrees Fahrenheit (400°C), Salinas-de-León says, but as soon as it hits the near-freezing water of the deep sea, that plummets to just 36°F.

But even just a few degrees of warmth around the mouth of the vents could be enough to reduce the skate eggs’ incubation time by months or even years, says Salinas-de-León.

The only other animals known to use Earth’s warmth for egg incubation are the mound-building megapode birds of Southeast Asia and Australia and a group of nest-building neosauropod dinosaurs from the Cretaceous Period, he says.

Plumes In Peril

You might think that a bubbling cauldron at the bottom of the ocean would be relatively safe from humans and our impacts, but even these remote areas are threatened.

Hydrothermal vents are being targeted for deep seabed mining, and the oil and gas industry drills on the margins of methane cold seeps.

The water shooting out of a hydrothermal vent can exceed 750 degrees Fahrenheit, or 400°C. PHOTOGRAPH BY JULYE NEWLIN, OCEAN EXPLORATION TRUST

The new findings suggest that skates may be more at risk for overfishing than previously thought, since exceptionally long incubation times mean the animals’ populations can’t bounce back quickly.

“The idea of skates using heat to incubate their young, much like some dinosaurs, is likely to invoke fascination and maybe even a little sympathy,” says Sonja Fordham, president and founder of the conservation organization Shark Advocates International.

“We hope that exciting new findings like those in this paper can help to spark greater interest in skates and, in turn, a greater constituency for conserving them,” says Fordham.

Salinas-de-León, too, sees the discovery as a mandate to protect these unique and relatively unexplored ecosystems.

“We hardly know anything about the deep sea, and we are fishing, and mining, before we even get a chance to even document what species live down there and what unique behaviors [they] could reveal [to] us,” he says.


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Seabed mining could destroy ecosystems

Relatively little is known about deep-sea ecosystems

University of Exeter | PHYS.ORG | January 22, 2018

Mining on the ocean floor could do irreversible damage to deep-sea ecosystems, says a new study of seabed mining proposals around the world.

The deep sea (depths below 200m) covers about half of the Earth’s surface and is home to a vast range of species.

Little is known about these environments, and researchers from the University of Exeter and Greenpeace say mining could have “long-lasting and unforeseen consequences”– not just at mining sites but also across much larger areas.

The study is the first to give a global overview of all current plans to mine the seabed, in both national and international waters, and looks at the potential impacts including physical destruction of seabed habitats, creation of large underwater plumes of sediment and the effects of chemical, noise and light pollution arising from mining operations.

“Our knowledge of these ecosystems is still limited, but we know they’re very sensitive,” said Dr. David Santillo, a marine biologist and senior Greenpeace scientist based at the University of Exeter.

“Recovery from man-made disturbance could take decades, centuries or even millennia, if these ecosystems recover at all.”

“As we learn more about deep sea ecosystems and the role of oceans in mitigating climate change, it seems wise to take precautions to avoid damage that could have long-lasting and unforeseen consequences.”

Despite the term “mining”, much seabed mining would involve extraction of minerals over very wide areas of the sea floor rather than digging down to any great depth, potentially leaving a vast ‘footprint’ on the deep-sea habitats in which these mineral deposits occur.

Rising demand for minerals and metals, including for use in new technology, has sparked renewed interest in seabed mining.

Some operations are already taking place, generally at relatively shallow depths near national coastlines.

The first commercial enterprise in deeper waters, expected to target mineral-rich sulphides at depths of 1.5-2km off Papua New Guinea, is scheduled to begin early in 2019.

Speaking about these plans last year, Sir David Attenborough said it was “tragic that humanity should just plough on with no regard for the consequences”.

The Exeter and Greenpeace research team say there are “many questions and uncertainties” around seabed mining, including legal issues and the difficulties of predicting the scale and extent of impacts in advance, and of monitoring and regulating mining activity once it takes place in the deep sea.

The paper says that alternatives to seabed mining have already been proposed, including substituting metals in short supply for more abundant minerals with similar properties, as well as more effective collection and recycling of components from disused products and wastes.

However, Dr. Santillo said demand for seabed mining would also diminish if humanity could cut overproduction and overconsumption of consumer goods.

“Rather than using human ingenuity to invent more and more consumer products that we don’t actually need, we could deploy it instead to build goods that last longer, are easier to repair and make better use of the limited natural resources we have,” he said.

“With the right approaches, we can avoid the need for seabed mining altogether and stop the ‘race to the bottom’.

“As governments prepare to set the rules and the first companies gear up to mine, now is the time to ask whether we just have to accept seabed mining, or should instead decide that the potential damage is just so great that we really need to find less destructive alternatives.”

The paper, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, is titled “An overview of seabed mining including the current state of development, environmental impacts, and knowledge gaps.” It is an open-access publication accessible to readers anywhere in the world.

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Environmental and eco risk unknown in Cooks’ deep sea mining

Seabed mining machine

Dateline Pacific | Radio New Zealand | 29 November 2017 

The Cook Islands is exploring the benefits and potential of its deep sea resource.

Beneath the sunlit zones, where the country’s tourism and fishing industries lie, is a largely unexplored and untapped expanse of promise.

Also unexplored is the environmental risk and potential threat to other parts of the economy.

Dominic Godfrey reports.

Five kilometres below the surface of the Cook Islands exclusive economic zone lie manganese deposits which could provide a pathway to prosperity for the country.

The problem is not just getting them to the surface but the environmental impact this may have, as New Zealand’s principal ocean scientist Malcolm Clark explains.

MALCOLM CLARK: “The deep sea is a very poorly understood system. There are no boundaries in the oceans and so – coastal, continental shelf, deep sea, inshore, offshore – it’s all linked. And that’s especially important in the Pacific Island countries where we’re fairly small land-masses in the middle of a large ocean. So the connectivity across potentially quite large areas of ocean space is very important to understand.”

Dr Clark says while the actual area of mining may be small, the impact could encompass large areas.

MALCOLM CLARK: “In digging up these resources, there’s going to be disturbance of the sea bed and the sediment that’s been sitting idle is going to be demobilised and it will form a cloud. And that’s going to start to move with the currents, away from the area of direct physical impact. That’s an aspect that we don’t yet well understand but what the effect on the sea-floor communities, the sea-life, we’re not too sure at the moment. We’re working on that in a number of research programmes around the world.”

The co-ordinator for the Pacific Network on Globalisation, Maureen Penjueli, says the lack of understanding is a major concern as Cooks’ seabed legislation contains no reference to avoiding international harm.

She says the 2009 Seabed Minerals Act also has no provision for ‘precautionary principle’, where human activities could plausibly result in unacceptable harm.

MAUREEN PENJUELI: T”here was very little understanding about the potential impacts. There was an over emphasis on the potential economic benefits. So the legislations were set up under the broad narrative that seabed mining was considered small risk, very high return.”

Maureen Penjueli says it was drafted with no provision for the possible impact on tourism, fishing and black pearl farming.

MAUREEN PENJUELI: “When you consider that our economies are heavily dependent on the ocean – our people are heavily dependent on the ocean for livelihoods, food security – that’s quite problematic in terms of the current legislation.”

However, the country’s Seabed Minerals Authority commissioner Paul Lynch says ‘precautionary principle’ and environmental issues were front and centre to the original Act.

He says it was amended in 2015 and is under continual review with input from Ms Penjueli and PANG welcome.

PAUL LYNCH: “We’re very open to that but currently we’ve got the act out for review and we’re expecting that out to the community next year and into Parliament should there be any changes needed.”

But Mr Lynch says this year the Marae Moana Act was passed to provide an holistic umbrella to all aspects of the Cooks’ marine management.

He says it’s ground-breaking national legislation that has conservation as its main plank.

PAUL LYNCH: “With zoning for different users, like zoning for fishing, zoning for tourism, zoning for mining. Mining if it takes place in the future, it’s going to be quite contained and controlled based on a zoned management marine spatial plan.”

In zones beyond the Cook Islands in the north-east Pacific, mining projects are underway managed by the International Seabed Authority under the UN’s Law of the Sea.

The environmental organisation Te Ipukarea Society’s Kelvin Passfield says the Cooks should learn from these.

KELVIN PASSFIELD: ” I’d be inclined to wait and see what the environmental impacts outside of our EEZ were before allowing any mining within our EEZ. The Cooks can wait and see what happens in other jurisdictions or in the high-seas like the Clarion Clipperton Zone and determine what impacts there may be from them.”

PANG’S Maureen Penjueli agrees but points to Nautilus Minerals’ plans to mine Papua New Guinea’s Bismarck seabed.

MAUREEN PENJUELI: “If you simply take PNG as the case study, the Solwara 1 project, it is clear that impacts have already been felt. You don’t have to go into it to look at the impact, you can look at PNG.”

An annual report from the Canadian company shows both the environmental impacts and profits from the project are unknown.

In the Cooks, Texas based Ocean Minerals has 17 months left in its agreement to apply for manganese nodule prospecting and exploration licences but with weak global demand for rare earth minerals, the economics may not stack up.

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Pacific Islanders call for Australia not to fund Adani coalmine

The village of Eita in Kiribati in 2015. Residents of endangered Pacific islands want the Australian government to stop funding Adani’s Carmichael coalmine. Photograph: Jonas Gratzer/LightRocket via Getty Images

Caritas says thousands face threats to their wellbeing, livelihoods and ‘their very existence’ due to rising sea levels

Naaman Zhou | The Guardian | 31 October 2017 

Pacific Islanders whose homes face eradication by rising sea levels have called on Australia to not fund the Adani Carmichael coalmine, as a new report reveals the worsening impact of climate change across Oceania.

Residents of the endangered islands have described their forced displacement as like “having your heart ripped out of your chest” as they called on the Australian government to do more to combat climate change.

A report released by international aid group Caritas on Wednesday found that thousands of Pacific people across the region faced “threats to their wellbeing, livelihoods and, in some places, their very existence” due to rising sea levels, king tides and natural disasters brought about by climate change.

In Papua New Guinea, 2,000 households across 35 coastal communities were displaced by coastal erosion over the past year. In Samoa, 60% of the village of Solosolo was relocated to higher ground.

In the Torres Strait, 15 island communities were identified as at risk over the next 50 years.

The mayor of the Torres Straight Island regional council, Fred Gela, described the forcible removals as like having your heart ripped out “because you are told you’re not able to live on your land”.

Erietera Arama resident of Kiribati who works for the Department of Fisheries, said he decided to visit Australia to ask its government to take action.

“We talk about the Adani coalmine,” he said. “That’s a new one. I think it’s not a good idea – it makes the world worse for all of us. It is inconsiderate of other humans on this planet.

“We didn’t think of Australia as a country that would do that. We looked at it as our bigger brother. Proceeding with that new mine is a sad move. We live together in the environment but it’s like they are ignoring us.

“We’re two metres above sea level. With the sea level rise, most of our lands have been taken by coastal erosion. We love our country and we want our children to live there as well, hopefully forever. It’s hard to talk about leaving the place where you belong.”

According to the report’s authors, the impact of coastal erosion and flooding reached “severe” levels in 2016, upgraded from “high” the year before. Climate change also made it “increasingly difficult to maintain the health and integrity” of food and water sources. Water scarcity was deemed a “serious slow-onset problem throughout Oceania”.

In terms of natural disasters, a month’s worth of rain fell in 24 hours in New Caledonia in November 2016, killing nine people, while flash flooding in Fiji after Cyclone Winston forced 3,000 people into evacuation centres in December 2016.

In Fiji, the report found that certain types of fish were becoming poisonous, potentially as a result of farming contamination or seabed mining operations.

“Earlier this year four people died in the island of Gau from fish poisoning,” said Leo Nainoka from the country’s social empowerment education program.

Global sea levels are expected to rise 30cm by 2050 compared with a 20cm average rise over the 100 years before 2000. But in certain areas of the tropical western Pacific, sea level rise has been four times the global average due to El Nino and associated weather effects.

“Australia needs to make a stronger contribution to fight climate change and its impacts,” the report says. “To reach our emissions reductions targets, Australian policies need to rule out any major new fossil fuel projects or the expansion of existing ones, as this would be inherently incompatible with meeting our global climate commitments.”

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‘Indigenous peoples are the best guardians of world’s biodiversity’

UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, a Kankanaey Igorot woman from the Philippines. Photograph: Pierre Suu/Getty Images for UNDP

Interview with UN Special Rapporteur Victoria Tauli-Corpuz to mark the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

David Hill | The Guardian | 9 August 2017 

Today is the United Nations’ (UN) International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, numbering an estimated 370 million in 90 countries and speaking roughly 7,000 languages. To mark it, the Guardian interviews Kankanaey Igorot woman Victoria Tauli-Corpuz about the UN’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which she calls “historic” and was adopted 10 years ago.

Tauli-Corpuz, from the Philippines, was Chair of the UN Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues when the Declaration was adopted, and is currently the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In this interview, conducted via email, she explains why the Declaration is so important, argues that governments are failing to implement it, and claims that the struggle for indigenous rights “surpasses” other great social movements of the past:

DH: Why is the UN Declaration so important?

VTC: [It’s] so important because it enshrines and affirms the inherent or pre-existing collective human rights of Indigenous Peoples, as well as the individual human rights of indigenous persons. It is a framework for justice and reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples and states, and applies international human rights standards to the specific historical, cultural, social and economic circumstances of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration is a standard-setting resolution of profound significance as it reflects a wide consensus at the global level on the minimum content of the rights of indigenous peoples. It is a remedial tool which addresses the need to overcome and repair the historical denial of the fundamental human rights of indigenous peoples, and affirms their equality to all other members of society.

DH: How significant an achievement was it?

VTC: In the 1970s Indigenous Peoples had brought to the UN’s attention the problems and issues they were facing, which led the UN to establish the Working Group on Indigenous Populations in 1982. This was mandated to listen to the developments in indigenous territories and to draft a declaration on their rights. The drafting started in 1985 and Indigenous Peoples took an active part. When the Working Group finished its draft in 1995, it was brought to the Commission on Human Rights where the intergovernmental negotiations took place. On the first day, the Chair of the Intergovernmental Working Group told Indigenous Peoples that we weren’t allowed to speak at the negotiations – only to observe. We walked out, of course, because we could not accept and respect a declaration on our rights made without our participation. This led to a change in the UN rules and we were allowed to take part. It was during my term as Chair of the UN Permanent Forum that the Declaration was adopted. There was a real concern that [that would never happen], or that it would be watered down, but finally in September 2007 we were able to achieve this important victory.

DH: How has the Declaration helped indigenous peoples to date?

VTC: Its adoption has boosted the confidence and commitment of many Indigenous Peoples to sustain and strengthen their movements to assert and claim their rights, especially to their lands, territories, resources and self-determination, which includes the right to have their free, prior and informed consent obtained when projects are brought to their lands. I would daresay that Indigenous Peoples’ movements in many countries, regions and even the global movement gained more strength after the Declaration’s adoption. It has made Indigenous Peoples’ rights issues more visible and discussed during global processes, such as the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals. Unfortunately, even if the UN’s member states adopted the Declaration, most have not been able to implement it effectively. There has been limited progress. Many Indigenous Peoples are still being dispossessed of their lands by states and corporations, and are being criminalised and assassinated when they fight to protect their lands from being grabbed and polluted by mining and oil companies. The Declaration remains the main tool to fight these battles. In some cases, these battles are being won.

DH: When you talk about “implementation”, do you mean it being respected as a Declaration or made legally binding? Are there any countries where attempts to do the latter have made serious progress?

VTC: Implementation means that states will amend their constitutions and adopt a national law to protect and respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples which are consistent with the standards established in the Declaration. Effective implementation requires states to develop an ambitious program of reforms to remedy past and current injustices. It involves all branches of the state, executive, judiciary, and legislative, and implies a combination of political will, legal reform, technical capacity, and financial commitments. Several countries have taken the significant step of passing such laws or enshrining recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights in their constitutions, such as Bolivia, Brazil and Ecuador, among others. Brazil was an early leader in this regard and has titled over 100 million hectares of indigenous land, but we are now seeing this progress threatened by the current administration. Latin America has historically been the strongest with regard to recognising indigenous land rights – yet many countries now face potential roll-back. The Declaration doesn’t have to be made legally binding for it to be implemented effectively.

DH: Do you think the Declaration could be improved? Or is there anything in it you would be critical of?

VTC: No, I don’t think the Declaration has to be improved. It is not a perfect document, but it is the result of more than two decades of drafting and negotiating until Indigenous Peoples and states agreed that it was acceptable. Every article represents a response to some of the human rights violations and injustices suffered by Indigenous Peoples. . . We fought to be called “Indigenous Peoples”, a title that recognises us as distinct with our own identities and cultures. We fought for the inclusion of free, prior and informed consent. The biggest problem [with the Declaration] is a lack of implementation. Indigenous Peoples are still forced from their lands for development and conservation projects, and still face violence and criminalisation when they stand up for their rights.

DH: What did you think of the Pope’s comment earlier in the year saying indigenous peoples have the right to ‘prior and informed consent’? Were you surprised?

VTC: I was very glad to hear the Pope’s comments on the right to free, prior and informed consent and his recognition that our lands are vital to our identities, values and spirituality. His words inspire hope for Indigenous Peoples facing an uphill struggle. The Pope also recognised the importance of indigenous rights in the global struggle against climate change: when Indigenous Peoples’ rights to their lands are protected, they are the best guardians of the world’s forests and biodiversity. Studies show that where Indigenous Peoples have secure rights to their lands, carbon storage is higher and deforestation is lower.

DH: In your time as Rapporteur you’ve visited many countries and spoken to many indigenous peoples around the world. What has been the most distressing trip you’ve made so far?

VTC: Around the world, Indigenous Peoples face escalating attacks as well as arrests for refusing to give up the lands they have called home since time immemorial. Seeing evidence of this violence on my visits has been particularly distressing. When I visited indigenous communities in Brazil last year, they showed me the scars on their bodies from rubber bullets and the graves of their murdered leaders. I later found out that some of the communities I visited were attacked only hours after I left. I have seen evidence of this violence in many countries. In the last year alone I communicated my concerns to governments about these attacks in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Tanzania and the United States.

DH: And what has been your most inspiring trip?

VTC: What inspires me the most is the firm determination of indigenous peoples to fight for their rights. Also, their capacity to survive and their high levels of resilience in the face of great difficulties.

DH: You’ve mentioned some of the threats and challenges that indigenous peoples have to deal with. Very briefly, what do you think are the biggest threats?

VTC: I think the biggest threats are extractive industries, conservation projects and climate change. Many Indigenous Peoples live on resource-rich territory – in large part because they have protected and preserved that land for generations – making them prime targets for both extractive industries and protected areas. Despite the fact that the UN Declaration has been accepted as an international norm, international law still heavily privileges investors and companies. Also, as I found in my report to the [UN] General Assembly last year, protected areas are still being established on indigenous lands without their consent, even though Indigenous Peoples are the proven best guardians of the forest and forcing them from their lands does not improve environmental outcomes. Finally, Indigenous Peoples often live in areas at increased risk of climate change-related disasters. I have already heard from Indigenous Peoples in Kiribati whose homes have been lost to rising seas. Unfortunately, even the solutions to climate change, such as wind farms and geothermal energy, can sometimes threaten indigenous land rights. Where Indigenous Peoples’ rights are ignored, they face the loss of their lands, livelihoods, sacred sites and self-governance.

DH: What do you think of the mainstream media’s portrayal of indigenous peoples?

VTC: I think that there has been an increase in media coverage over the years. I’m glad to see less coverage that portrays us as primitive, but sometimes the media fails to capture the fact that we are not anti-development. We are also seeing more media coverage – but still not enough – on the contributions of Indigenous Peoples to global goals on climate, poverty and peace. If Indigenous Peoples’ rights are not secured and protected, it will be impossible for the world to deliver on the promises of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. Secure land rights for Indigenous Peoples is a proven climate change solution, and denying indigenous land rights and self-determination is a threat to the world’s remaining forests and biodiversity. It is also a primary cause of poverty. Many indigenous communities face intractable poverty despite living on resource-rich lands because their rights are not respected and their self-determined development is not supported. Protecting the rights of indigenous women, who are often responsible for both their communities’ food security and for managing their forests, is particularly important. Finally, undocumented land rights are a primary cause of conflict and a threat to investment in developing countries. Securing their rights can help mitigate these conflicts and create a more peaceful world.

DH: Finally, do you think the struggle for indigenous peoples’ rights and territories is comparable to any of the other great social movements in the past?

VTC: I think the Indigenous Peoples’ movement surpasses other social movements. They have struggled against colonisation for more than 500 years and continue against forms of colonisation and racism. At the same time, they continue to construct and reconstruct their communities and practice their cultural values of collectivity, solidarity with nature, and reciprocity even amidst serious challenges. Many still fight to protect their territories, which makes their movement different from others.

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Pacific Islands forum supports calls to phase out coal

Sikeli Qounadovu | The Fiji Times | October 19, 2017

THE Pacific Islands Development Forum fully supports the call by Canada and the UK to phase out coal.

PIDF secretary general Francois Martel urged other developed nations to unite and implement the transition from unabated coal fired electricity and support the Pacific call to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees.

“We congratulate Canada and the United Kingdom for championing a global alliance on coal-phase out and encourage other developed countries such as Australia to support this initiative,” he said.

“On one hand, we need to provide support to Pacific countries to ensure they can reach the targets set in the Paris Agreement, on the other hand, we need to pursue advocacy and engagement to ensure that what fell off the negotiations in Paris to achieve the main targets of 1.5 degree Celsius are now fully addressed.”

Mr Martel said much faster and decisive action was needed to phase out coal and prevent coal lock-in and the greater risk of stranded coal mining and coal power station assets and big amounts of already available stocks of coal.

“Urgency and high ambition for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions need to remain the top priority on the agenda — financing adaptation by development partners should not be the fall-out position for paying lip-service to reducing emissions, nor does it follow the spirit and the letter of the Paris Agreement as ratified,” said the PIDF secretary general.

Canada strives to have 90 per cent of electricity from non-emitting sources by 2030.

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Samoa cautioned about experimental seabed mining

S.U.N.G.O. PRESIDENT: Roina Vavatau.

Joyetter Feagaimaali’i-Luamanu  | Samoa Observer | 20 August 2017

Experimental deep-sea mining is on the agenda for a five-day National Focus Group Dialogue hosted by the Samoa Umbrella for Non-Governmental Organizations (S.U.N.G.O.) which starts today.

But S.U.N.G.O. President, Roina Vavatau, believes Samoa needs to proceed with caution.

During an interview with the Samoa Observer, the President of S.U.N.G.O said Samoa should not be easily enticed by the millions promised if they opt to support deep-sea mining activities. 

“The money is very attractive however we have to consider the social impact of deep sea mining on us,” she said. “This is our livelihood, everyone depends on the ocean and if this deal comes to pass, what is going to happen to us.” 

Mrs. Vavatau urges the public to come as one and voice the rejection of Samoa to be a part of deep-sea mining activities. 

“Although the P.A.C.E.R Plus has been signed… however unless a total of eight Pacific countries do not sign on, there is no deep sea mining in our oceans.”

To be held at Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi conventional centre, the meeting will focus on disability; climate change; Sustainable Development Goals; Land Act and Laws and Deep Sea Mining. 

“These topics will form the basis of dialogue throughout the week,” she said.

 “Experts in these identified areas have been invited to provide information and guidance throughout the week to ensure participants are well informed in the approach to formulate Position Papers and Action Plans that S.U.N.G.O. will advocate on behalf of Samoa’s Civil Societies.”

The President invited members of the public so they can be informed about the conversations around the topics.

 “There will be representatives from government agencies whose mandates deal with the issues discussed as stated earlier.” 

According to Mrs. Vavatau, their main goal is to afford the public the opportunity to gain knowledge of the said topics. 

“That way they can make informed decisions when they come across these issues.” 

Last year, a World Bank report recommended that Pacific Island countries supporting or considering deep-sea mining activities proceed with a high degree of caution to avoid irreversible damage to the ecosystem, and ensure that appropriate social and environmental safeguards are in place as part of strong governance arrangements for this emerging industry.

The report says that Deep sea exploration of minerals and resources is increasing across the globe, but its short and long-term impacts on the environment, economy and society in general remain largely unknown, according to the report, Pacific Possible: Precautionary Management of Deep Sea Mining Potential in Pacific Island Countries.

“Given the immense uncertainty, deep sea mining in Pacific Island countries should be approached with the highest degree of caution and transparency,” said Tijen Arin, Senior Environmental Economist and co-author of the paper. 

“Work in this space is already progressing in many countries, and progress has been made in legislation, but strengthening and increasing institutional capacity still remains a significant challenge and therefore we recommend stronger regional cooperation in this area.”

Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu have granted permits for deep-sea mining exploration, and the Cook Islands undertook a minerals exploration tender process. 

So far, Papua New Guinea is the only country in the Pacific region to have granted a license for ocean floor mining. 

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