How do we take this public health crisis, the loss of life, our paralyzed economies, and apply what we are learning to our equally urgent climate emergency?

The immediate crisis is painfully tangible. But that doesn’t make the profound, longer-term transformational shifts that are needed to protect our planet any less relevant to us, our economies or our financial markets.

These will just take a little longer to be seen and felt.

Three months ago, the threats of pandemic and our climate change emergency were similar. Both were problems scientists warned about but didn’t look to be happening anytime soon. They were problems for some future year and our governments did little to prepare, or were in the process of reversing protection and preparedness

Then, when the COVID-19 Pandemic started, many Governments didn’t want to take action that would damage the economy so were slow responding, allowing the virus to spread to a point where now, as I write, over 1,300,000 million people have fallen victim, at least one-third of the world’s population is in lockdown and the Pandemic is everywhere a first priority.

But what of that other, ‘future” problem, Climate Change? Might our governments, chastened by one ‘future” problem becoming a “now” problem turn their attention to Climate Change once COVID-19 is beaten? Let’s hope so because Climate Change is a far more difficult problem than the Pandemic and likely to have far more impact on humanity.

So what lessons can we learn from the pandemic that are relevant to climate? The first is that we were woefully unprepared. Despite warnings from the medical community, from scientists, expert opinion was suspect, ‘big government’ was bad and that meant it was easier to ignore.

Likewise, we are largely ignoring the warnings about climate. Science has shown that global GHG emissions must decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030. They must be at net zero by mid-century if the world is to prevent catastrophic global warming. Yet we have not been able to stimulate significant global action to this end.

The Paris Agreement in 2015, the Sustainable Development Goals and agenda to alleviate poverty and protect our planet, looked like the beginning of global collective action but not enough has happened since. Governments have translated their Paris Agreement commitments into nationally determined contributions that aim to reduce emissions. But if these are, indeed, to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050 as they must, they would have to be five times more ambitious.

Yet the voices of courageous climate youth activists such as Greta Thunberg are drowned out by inexpert climate-denier opinion across mainstream and social media channels that allow many of our politicians, to ignore what we can plainly see in weather events, migration and other systemic shifts as we move beyond our planetary boundaries.

And how can we get around the structural political problem that politicians exist and get re-elected, where there are elections, in the short run, the time period of a pandemic, while climate change is a long-term phenomenon, albeit increasingly experienced in the short run?

The second lesson is that we have ignored the warnings. For years the wildlife markets in China and elsewhere had been seen as repositories for disease, yet the trade has continued. It’s easier to maintain status quo than act against entrenched interests. We continue to destroy our remaining forests, reducing habitat for wildlife, pushing animals and humans ever closer, and at the same time impacting our climate by reducing watershed protection, eliminating our carbon sinks. Stressed climate, habitats and animals lead to drought and disease. Yet we have failed to act, again preferring not to regulate or legislate protection.

The third lesson has to be the spectacular speed of transmission and impact on our economies of the pandemic in our globalized, hyperconnected world. There are no barriers to pathogens or to the economic consequences of our global shutdown. We are much more vulnerable than we ever imagined.

We can extrapolate to a world where GHG emissions are not curbed, where we keep burning fossil fuels, and warming is not kept within the 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels that the IPCC has warned is manageable. Indeed, we are on a trajectory currently toward a potentially catastrophic 4 or 5 degrees of warming.

We assume that we will continue living as we do, consuming as we have, but we cannot without suffering the consequences. We know from the IPCC and other scientists that we have a decade to shift our global economy or we will reach a point of no return in terms of our climatic shifts.

Perhaps our current taste of swift change will show us all that we cannot take anything for granted, that although many of us haven’t experienced anything like this moment in our lifetimes, others have experienced devastating war or disease. History is replete with sudden shifts and we are not immune.

Unchecked GHG emissions will, in the not so distant future, start to have far more permanent and disastrous impacts on all of us than the current COVID 19 pandemic but unlike a disease that swiftly slips into our communities, keeps us from jobs and kills our vulnerable and then, recedes in a year or two, impacts of our changing climate will be longer in coming and irreversible, at least in our lifetimes. There will be no vaccine for climate change other than worldwide, radical policy change today.

The positive that we should take from our current moment is that there can be swift change. The Chinese government has announced a ban on the wildlife trade, people have stayed home to protect the more vulnerable from disease and companies have encouraged work from home arrangements that will help slow the spread. Governments have rolled out stimulus packages to protect workers and companies. Policy makers and scientists are working collectively to gather data, model the spread of the pandemic, push for new drugs, vaccines and formulate appropriate responses.

The pandemic has kept us at home, slowed our pace, kept us from any travel that wasn’t absolutely necessary. It has made us conscious of unnecessary buying, of hoarding. We have been shamed, at least in Hong Kong, for not wearing masks, for leaving our homes when quarantined, for acting against the public good.

We must not think that, once the pandemic fades, we can return to old consumption patterns. Rather let’s consider what is necessary in our lives and how we help reshape a society that is less consumptive, more centered, innovative and collective, one that no longer taxes our planet and its biodiversity.

We must think about how we invest to promote sustainability, how our supply chains will produce to protect, not encourage, destruction of our important forests and biodiversity, and promote worker rights. It is to our governments that we look in a time of crisis and it is up to our elected officials also to act to protect us not only from this pandemic but also from our climate tragedy.

The collective response to the pandemic has been swift, perhaps not swift enough, but hopefully the four months since December when the coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan has been sufficiently dramatic and impactful to show that we can act locally and globally to stem another existential challenge: Our climate emergency

As we enter ADM Capital Foundation’s second decade, we have launched a new website at ADMCF.org that reflects our narrowed focus on Asia’s environmental challenges.

Over the past ten years, we have worked with dozens of NGO partners to help support some of the region’s most marginalised children to better lives, we have pushed for action to reduce air pollution, to cut consumption of shark fin and protect our oceans, stem the wildlife trade, protect forests, build knowledge and action around China’s water crisis. We have worked to see that the appropriate research informs the right sort of change.

But this year represents a shift from our dual focus on children at risk and the environment to where we feel the need is greatest: environmental protection.

The two-decade shift of manufacturing to Asia amid lax local regulation and enforcement has come at unprecedented environmental cost. While we enjoy cheap goods, clothes in particular produced at unsustainably low prices, Asia shoulders the environmental burden of our excessive consumption. Global climate change, ocean acidification, the consequences of our excessive lifestyles, now affect us all.

Globally, we are living as though we have three planets in terms of resource consumption. We must find ways to live more sustainably, to accommodate a world population that is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.

Philanthropy is not the only answer but it can support essential research, spread knowledge, seed ideas, push for thought change in consumers and action from governments, all of which is critical.

Yet only an estimated 2 to 3 percent of global philanthropy finds its way into addressing our urgent environmental challenges.

Thus, we felt ADMCF’s resources were best spent striving toward: cleaner air; improved and secure water sources; forest protection balanced with low carbon rural development; better managed fisheries and sustainable consumption of our ocean resources; improved regulation and enforcement to protect endangered wildlife.

At the same time, we are exploring sustainable business models, a circular economy and the finance that must underpin all.

Collaboration remains the key. None of our work can be done alone, without the energy of our many incredible NGO partners, our funding partners, our pro bono supporters.

The challenges we face are substantial but in our short ten years we can see systemic change, we can see that it is possible to generate lasting impact.

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IMG_1285ADM Capital and ADM Capital Foundation (ADMCF) have received a grant from Toronto-based Convergence to support the design of the Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility (TLFF) and Tropical Landscapes Bond (TLB), which are being developed in partnership with UNEP, ICRAF, and BNP Paribas.

The TLFF will provide long-term financing for projects that improve access to rural electricity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance smallholder farmers’ livelihoods in Indonesia.

The country is globally the fourth-biggest emitter of carbon, much of this from deforestation. Extreme poverty and a chronic education gap affect many rural areas. An estimated 13,000 villages (out of 75,000) have no power. Hoping to remedy the shortfall in electricity, the government’s current 5-year plan calls for 35 GW of new power of which 8GW is alternative energy.

An estimated USD 16 bn is required to fund this, much of which should be long-term debt yet current delivery platforms could not come close to making such amounts available.

The TLFF will have a strong focus on social and environmental outcomes and the emphasis  on debt ensures local promoters and developers have an aligned interest in project success.

The TLFF structure is such that once projects mature and produce cashflows, they will be parceled up and sold to the private sector in the form of bonds, which will be pass through notes and will only have recourse to the underlying projects.

The design grant is part of Convergence’s efforts to surface the next generation of blended finance models and foster market-wide learning to drive the field forward. Convergence will award a minimum of CAD 10M in design grants over the next five years, and this initial funding is provided by the Government of Canada.

ADM Capital/ADMCF will use the Convergence proof of concept funding to help finalize the overall design of the TLFF, which will also include a grant fund, and structure initial projects that will be funded by the TLFF.

Convergence is an independent institution that helps public, philanthropic, and private investors find and connect with each other to co-invest in blended finance deals in emerging markets. It offers grant funding for practitioners to design innovative blended finance instruments that address a key development need but would otherwise be too risky or complex to pursue.

To share what grantees have learned through their design process, Convergence, in partnership with the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business, will create learning briefs that outline key decisions and outcomes from the design processes to ensure practitioners considering similar instruments have access to design best practices.

The full press release can be found here.

 

Over exploitation of the Totoaba has been driven by demand in China for its swim bladder, a highly prized product known as ‘aquatic cocaine’. And bycatch catch in gillnets used to poach totoaba is close to eliminating the vaquita.

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We are fishing and eating from our oceans unsustainably, eating down the food chain

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Please watch, this great video from Hong Kong’s Clean Air Network. It really says it all.

  • Hong Kong University of Science and Technology/Civic Exchange research has shown that 53 percent of the time, the pollution that affects us most in HK is from transport – trucks, buses and ships
  • Last March the government introduced retirement schemes for old Commercial Diesel Vehicles as well as selective catalytic converters for taxis and mini-buses
  • And last year, data did show that HK’s air improved slightly
  • More good news: The government recently tabled regulation in Legco that mandates ships switch to cleaner from bunker fuel while at berth
  • But measures to improve our air have been largely offset by the huge increase in private car ownership in recent years as well as the massive development initiatives that are being undertaken
  • The Hedley Environmental Index estimates that in 2014, air pollution caused 2,616 premature deaths, 32.657 billion in lost dollars, 174,926 hospitalizations, and 4.253 million doctor visits
  • The so-called “end of pipe” solutions the government has introduced are certainly a beginning but inadequate alone
  • Hong Kong needs to follow Singapore and European cities in establishing low emission zones, pedestrian zones, electronic road pricing and intelligent transport solutions
  • We urgently need a smarter, cleaner city. This is within our reach.

Jodi Rowley, an amphibian researcher from the Australian Museum, writes in her most recent blog about a newly discovered species of frog that gives birth to tadpoles rather than laying eggs.

Found first in Northern Sulawesi’s Nantu Forest, Limnonectes larvaepartus, whose name reflects the species’ unique nature (Larvaepartus: to give birth to larvae), expands the scientific community’s understanding of frogs, Jodi writes.

 

Limnonectes larvaepartus, a new species of frog discovered  in Nantu

Limnonectes larvaepartus, a new species of frog discovered in Nantu

“Most of the roughly 7,000 species of frog lay eggs in water, where they are fertilized externally, hatch into tadpoles, and start feeding, then gradually develop into frogs. A small percentage of frogs are known to buck the trend and supply their young energy to grow and develop (generally in the form of yolk). Only a dozen or so have internal fertilization, but these frogs lay fertilized eggs, or tiny frogs. Until this week, we knew of no frog, anywhere in the world, that gave birth to tadpoles.”

Beyond being extraordinary in its reproduction, the tiny frog sports fangs in its lower jaw.

The species was recently described and officially named and that paper can be found here.

Jodi, the engine behind the amphibian discovery trip to Indonesia’s Nantu, with colleagues has looked at the breeding mode of Limnonectes larvaepartus in more detail and they have described its tadpole for the first time here.

She says the reproductive novelty of this particular frog emphasizes just how little we know about amphibians overall and how much remains to be discovered from the imperiled forests of Southeast Asia.

Both Jodi and YANI, which administers and protects the Nantu Forest, have long been recipients of grants from ADMCF.

Nantu, 500 square kilometers of virgin rainforest, is located in the heart of the Wallacea region in Gorontalo Province, northern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Wallacea is the wildlife transition zone between Asia and Australia and replete with endemic species.

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