A blog maintained by Tevita Kete, PGR Officer

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji Islands



This weblog documents the activities of Pacific Agricultural Genetic Resources Network (PAPGREN), along with other information on plant genetic resources (PGR) in the Pacific.

The myriad varieties found within cultivated plants are fundamental to the present and future productivity of agriculture. PAPGREN, which is coordinated by the Land Resources Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), helps Pacific countries and territories to conserve their crop genetic diversity sustainably, with technical assistance from the Bioversity International (BI) and support from NZAID and ACIAR.

SPC also hosts the Centre of Pacific Crops and Trees (CEPaCT). The CEPaCT maintains regional in vitro collections of crops important to the Pacific and carries out research on tissue culture technology. The CEPaCT Adviser is Dr Mary Taylor (MaryT@spc.int), the CEPaCT Curator is Ms Valerie Tuia (ValerieT@spc.int).




PAPGREN coordination and support

  • CTA
  • SPC
  • CEPaCT

     genebank locations
    Click on the thumbnail to see a map of the locations of Pacific genebanks. Click here to download a regional directory of genebanks in the Pacific, including information on their location, contact details and holdings.

    PAPGREN partners

    Mr William Wigmore
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture
    Department of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 96
    Cook Islands
    Tel: (682) 28711-29720
    Fax: (682) 21881
    Email: cimoa@oyster.net.ck

    Mr Adelino S. Lorens
    Agriculture Pohnpei
    Office of Economic Affairs
    P.O. Box 1028
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Tel: (691) 3202400
    Fax: (691) 3202127
    Email: pniagriculture@mail.fm

    Dr Lois Englberger
    Island Food Community of Pohnpei
    Research Advisor
    P.O. Box 2299
    Pohnpei 96941
    Federated States of Micronesia
    Email: nutrition@mail.fm

    Mr Apisai Ucuboi
    Director of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forest
    Koronivia Research Station
    P.O. Box 77
    Fiji Islands
    Tel: (679) 3477044
    Fax: (679) 3477546-400262
    Email: apisainu@yahoo.com

    Dr Maurice Wong
    Service du Developpement Rural
    B.P. 100
    Tahiti 98713
    French Polynesia
    Tel: (689) 42 81 44
    Fax: (689) 42 08 31
    Email: maurice.wong@rural.gov.pf

    Mr Tianeti Beenna Ioane
    Head, Research Section
    Division of Agriculture
    Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agricultural Development
    P.O. Box 267
    Tel: (686) 28096-28108-28080
    Fax: (686) 28121
    Email : agriculture@tskl.net.ki; Beenna_ti@yahoo.com

    Mr Frederick Muller
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 1727
    Majuro 96960
    Marshall Islands
    Tel: (692) 6253206
    Fax: (692) 6257471
    Email: rndsec@ntamar.net

    Mr Herman Francisco
    Bureau of Agriculture
    Ministry of Resources & Development
    P.O. Box 460
    Koror 96940
    Tel: (680) 4881517
    Fax: (680) 4881725
    Email: bnrd@pnccwg.palaunet.com

    Ms Rosa Kambuou
    Principal Scientist PGR
    NARI Dry Lowlands Programme
    Laloki Agricultural Research Station
    P.O. Box 1828
    National Capital District
    Papua New Guinea
    Tel: (675) 3235511
    Fax: (675) 3234733
    Email: kambuou@global.net.pg

    Ms Laisene Samuelu
    Principal Crop Development Officer
    Crops Division
    Ministry of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries & Meteorology
    P.O. Box 1874
    Tel: (685) 23416-20605
    Fax: (685) 20607-23996
    Email: lsamuelu@lesamoa.net

    Mr Jimi Saelea
    Director of Research
    Department of Agriculture and Livestock
    P.O. Box G13
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 27987

    Mr Tony Jansen
    Planting Materials Network
    Kastom Gaden Association
    Burns Creek, Honiara
    P.O. Box 742
    Solomon Islands
    Tel: (677) 39551
    Email: kastomgaden@solomon.com.sb

    Mr Finao Pole
    Head of Research
    Ministry of Agriculture & Forests
    P.O. Box 14
    Tel: (676) 23038
    Fax: (676) 24271
    Email: thaangana@hotmail.com

    Mr Frazer Bule Lehi
    Head of Research
    Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
    Private Mail Bag 040
    Port Vila
    Tel: (678) 22525
    Fax: (678) 25265
    Email: flehi@hotmail.com

    Other links

    Other CROP agencies
    Forum Secretariat
    University of the South Pacific

    Pacific biodiversity
    Biodiversity hotspots
    Breadfruit Institute
    Hawaiian native plants
    Intellectual property rights
    Nature Conservancy
    WWF South Pacific Program

    Other Pacific organizations
    Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific
    Micronesian Seminar
    Te Puna web directory

    Pacific news
    Cafe Pacific
    CocoNET Wireless
    Island Directory
    Pacific Islands News
    Pacific Islands Report
    Pacific Islands Travel
    Pacific Time
    South Pacific travel
    Time Pacific

    Interested in GIS?



    Thursday, August 28, 2008

    Biotechnology is not the only solution

    Source: Nature Biotechnology

    Biotechnology has a role to play in alleviating hunger and disease and mitigating climate change, but it's not the only solution, says an editorial in Nature Biotechnology.

    Claiming that biotechnology can "heal, fuel, feed the world" is unrealistic, the editorial says.

    Genetically modified crops have yet to address the main problems facing farmers in developing countries; biotechnology is only one of the approaches needed to improve biofuels; and gene therapy has not yet delivered promised cures for diseases.

    Biotechnology must be used in the context of all other technical and nontechnological solutions, and proponents must be careful about overhyping the discipline's current and potential applications.

    Further still, pushing the idea of biotechnology as the 'solution' is unlikely to convince sceptics, and could even be counterproductive.

    Biotechnology communications must be less one-dimensional and outline the problems accurately to allow people to come to their own conclusions about how best to solve the world's problems.

    Link to full article in Nature Biotechnology

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    Remembering the Role of Taro in Hawaii

    Wednesday 8-27-08

    Annual Taro Variety Field Day will display taro varieties.

    From : Molokai Dispatch

    By Alton S. Arakaki

    Today rice is our primary source of carbohydrate for the energy our body requires to conduct our everyday activities. Hawaii doesn’t produce any rice or other carbohydrate grains.

    Most of the grains we consume are naturally adapted and produced in the temperate regions of the world. People that live within tropical latitudes primarily depend on root crops that are more naturally adapted to the climatic conditions for their carbohydrate needs. Root crops such as true yams, sweet potato, cassava and taro are heavily depended on to provide daily rations of carbohydrate. Breadfruit is also a carbohydrate source.

    Not too long in our distance past, native Hawaiians produced 100 percent of their dietary carbohydrate needs. Those needs primarily came from taro. It has been said that each person consumed seven to nine pounds of taro per day on the average.

    If Michael Phelps, the golden U.S. Olympic swimmer, got the 12,000 calories per day he needs to swim by consuming, just for breakfast, three fried egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise, followed with two cups of coffee, five egg omelets, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate chip pancakes, it is conceivable that native Hawaiians consumed seven to nine pounds to perform their daily activities to survive.

    At that consumption rate, it would require 1.5 taro plants per day, or 550 plants per year. That’s the equivalent of 2,555 to 3,300 pounds of taro per person per year.

    Enough numbers, you do the rest in figuring out how much taro was required to feed the population of Hawaii of our distance past. Even with our modern sciences and technologies today, we don’t even come close to that production level in Hawaii. Not even with rice. This is something we need to think about collectively as island dwellers when talking about food security for Hawaii and our need for dietary carbohydrate.

    In order to produce that much carbohydrate, native Hawaiians developed advance land management and agriculture systems. We still see some of those systems in upper kula lands and in river valleys. They also developed and grew many taro varieties, some that were adapted to specific land districts and ahupua’a of the islands. Since taro plants don’t produce seeds readily like corn or mango, ancient growers needed to be pretty smart to develop new varieties. It is still a mystery as to how the varieties came to be. Some believe that it happened by accident or by nature’s plant mutation, and others believed that there were a few who understood the art of producing viable taro seeds. They had taro varieties reserved for the Ali’i, ceremonies and for medicinal purposes. At one time, there were more than 300 varieties grown on our islands. Today we have less than 70.

    The Cooperative Extension Service will be holding their Annual Taro Variety Field Day on Saturday, Sept. 6 starting at 9 a.m. More than 60 of the rarest native Hawaiian taro varieties will be displayed. There will be discussions on the taro varieties and on how to grow them.

    There will be a limited amount of planting materials, huli, of Hawaiian taro varieties for you to take home to grow and contribute towards perpetuating our native Hawaiian taro. If you wish to take planting materials, please come in your field attire because taro sap will permanently stain your clothes, and bring your digging and cutting tools, labels, marking pens, ties and a container.

    Alton S. Arakaki is an extension agent with the county.

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    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Agriculture ministers meet to tackle global food crisis, food security

    From : SPC LRD

    Rising global food prices have made imported food, particularly basic items, very expensive for Pacific Island households. Already we are seeing an increase in poverty levels. In the last two years, the cost of a kilogram of flour increased from ST 1.54 to 3.04 in Samoa and a kilogram of rice from PGK 2.40 to 3.70 in Papua New Guinea. Similar scenarios are happening right across the Pacific. In Solomon Islands, the price of imported food increased by 26% over the first six months of 2008. Prices are expected to remain high in the foreseeable future.

    In many parts of the world, riots have occurred as a result of the high cost of food. As is often the case, the poorest are affected most because they spend more of their income on food – up to 70%. If the food bill gets too high, they are forced to buy cheaper, less nutritious food or to cut down on living costs, for example, by not sending their children to school. What can be done to ensure Pacific communities are able to put healthy and nutritious food on the table now and in the future? Strengthening local food production is an obvious part of the solution to this global problem, but this has to be achieved and sustained at a time when farmers are also facing the challenges of climate change.

    These two major issues – food security and climate change – will be high on the agenda of back-to-back meetings of Pacific Heads and Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry Services, 3– 5 and 8–9 September, respectively, in Apia, Samoa. The Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services meet every two years with the outcome of their discussions guiding the work programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Land Resources Division (LRD). The meetings in Samoa are timely with the topics being considered very much in line with the recommendations of the recent Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting. Close to 100 regional and international delegates will attend the two meetings, which are organised by LRD in collaboration with the Samoa Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the meeting hosts.

    A draft LRD strategic plan for the 2009–2012 period, which was developed with the participation of stakeholder representatives, will be presented to the meeting for discussion and endorsement.

    The resolutions that come out of the first meeting will be presented to ministers for their endorsement. The resulting recommendations will form part of the communiqué of the ministers at the conclusion of their Second Regional Conference. This document will then provide the basis of the LRD work programme.

    ‘Aleki Sisifa, LRD Director, in the lead up to the regional meetings said. ‘At no other time in the history of regional meetings on land, agriculture and forestry in the Pacific islands, has there been such a convergence of serious emerging global issues affecting the sectors, and deliberation of how to tackle them at regional, subregional and national levels. Work to secure the resources needed to implement the new LRD strategic plan to address these issue will begin in earnest after the meetings.’

    The high-level meetings will be held at the new Development Bank building in Apia. The USP School of Agriculture and Food Technology will host official delegates at an evening function at Alafua, where school officials will make a presentation on the development of curricula for agricultural diplomas and degrees.

    About LRD:

    Our vision: To improve food security, increase trade and assist the Pacific Community to be more prosperous and healthy and manage its agricultural and forest resources in a sustainable way

    SPC’s Land Resources Division includes seven thematic-area teams and three support teams. The current thematic areas are: forest and trees, genetic resources, forestry and agriculture diversification, plant health, biosecurity and trade facilitation, animal health and production, and crop production. Three LRD groups provide support across the thematic area teams: information, communication and extension (ICE Group), agriculture and forestry land use, and administration. LRD has developed an integrated work plan and budget which is used as the basis for implementation and monitoring of LRD country activities as well as for reporting.

    The Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (HOAFS) is the leading regional body that provides guidance to LRD work plans. The two-yearly HOAFS Meeting examines and endorses the LRD’s work plans and budget. The office of the LRD Executive acts as the Secretariat for HOAFS.

    For more information on LRD activities, please visit our website www.spc.int/lrd or email us, lrdhelpdesk@spc.int, or emila@spc.int.

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    Tuesday, August 26, 2008

    Global warming 'induces fewer, but meaner, cyclones'

    From : Sci Dev. Net

    Adverse wind conditions may reduce the frequency of tropical cyclones due to global warming — but those forming will be stronger, researchers say.

    The findings are contrary to the widely held theory that global warming will increase the frequency of tropical cyclones, known as hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean.

    A team led by David Nolan from the University of Miami in the United States developed new computer-based models to predict the impact of warmer ocean temperatures and wind conditions on tropical cyclones.

    The models showed that, as expected, the frequency of tropical storms increased with warmer ocean temperatures. But when 'wind shear' — the change in wind direction and speed with height — was studied they found that, as water temperature increased, the shear helped suppress formation of hurricanes to a greater extent.

    "We expected to find that when oceans warm, hurricanes would form more quickly, even in the presence of adverse wind conditions we call wind shear," says Nolan. "Instead we found the opposite: adverse wind shear did more damage to developing storms when sea surface temperature was increasing."

    Ocean temperatures and wind shear are considered the two most important factors for predicting hurricanes, both in regular weather prediction studies and climate change studies.

    Nolan says the new models are complementary to existing ones, which are able to simulate global weather but do not simulate hurricanes accurately. In contrast, the new models are able to simulate hurricanes in small localities.

    The study was published in Geophysical Research Letters (July 2008). The researchers hope their model will lead to a better understanding of the relationship between climate and global hurricane activity.

    In a separate study, reported in the August issue of the same journal, Brazilian and Indian scientists noted a decrease in easterly wind shear in the tropics, favouring the formation of strong cyclones.

    The study notes that, for the first time in recorded history, a category five tropical hurricane formed in June 2007 together with two more severe tropical storms over the northern Indian Ocean.

    Tropical cyclones in the Bay of Bengal region usually occur in the non-monsoon months. But the researchers suggest that if the weakening trend continues, there could be more severe cyclones, even during the summer monsoon months of June to September.

    Geophysical Research Letters, doi 10.1029/2008GL034147 (2008)

    Geophysical Research Letters, doi 10.1029/2008GL034729 (2008)

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    Monday, August 25, 2008

    SPC's invitation to Pacific Islands Private Sector Enterprises wanting to expand their Trade in Agriculture and Forest Products

    From : SPC

    The Land Resources Division (LRD) of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) is launching a new European Union-funded pilot project FACT (Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade) to support the development of agriculture, agroforestry and forestry export-orientated enterprises in 14 Pacific Island ACP Countries (Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu). FACT will work with private sector enterprises that want to expand their operations to develop new products or improve existing products or production systems.

    FACT will provide technical and material assistance to selected enterprises. This will include a joint analysis of their business and supply chain to identify and document problems with the current chain, and areas needing support and new export opportunities.

    It is envisaged that project support will include areas such as training of operators
    (producers, handlers, processors), provision of necessary post-harvest processing equipment, storage facilities, certification (organic/fair trade/eco), new product development, evaluation and supply of germplasm of new species and varieties, and training in marketing skills such as pricing promotion, distribution, and negotiating.

    Selected enterprises will benefit from the expertise of specialised SPC LRD staff that can provide advice and assistance including sustainable production techniques; certification; pest and disease management; meeting necessary quarantine, food safety and quality standards; packaging/labelling/branding; supply chain management and market information.

    Interested enterprises, associations and individuals are invited to provide a 1-2 page expression of interest to FACT Project Office to be received by 15th September 2008 including name, type of business/association, contact details, types of product(s)exported and markets, turnover in 2007, number of staff and approximate number of
    farmers or suppliers and proposed new export business directions.

    Fact Project Officer
    SPC Private Mail Bag Suva, Fiji
    Ph: 679 3370733 ext 295
    Fax: 679 3370021
    E-mail: lext@spc.int

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    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    Galip nut development gains momentum

    From : Didinet

    The prospects of developing alternative cash crops for the PNG farming community are reaching new grounds with a new nut development project currently in progress in East New Britain.

    With funding support from European Union, a new cash crop industry on galip nut - estimated to be valuing around US$300 million per year at the international market - is being tested and promoted for the wet lowlands by NARI at Keravat. Along with galip, the project is also promoting nutmeg spice.

    Galip nut, an indigenous tree crop which grows in the wild of PNG, was identified to have the potential of becoming a new export cash crop once it is domesticated and commercialised. NARI is currently developing the resource base at its Lowlands Agricultural Experiment Station to kick-start the new industry. Over 32 000 seedlings of elite galip nuts have been propagated last month at Keravat and were sold at 25t each to farmers and growers in the province. They are high quality seedlings from Karkar in Madang and Nissan Island in Bougainville which have been evaluated and selected recently. The project is aiming at raising 62 400 seedlings of galip by the end of 2008 which should occupy around 800 hectares in East New Britain. Similarly, 62, 400 elite nutmeg clones will also be produced and planted to 200 hectares in the province.

    The project anticipates that besides cash income, both nutmeg and galip nut trees will also benefit smallholder farmers by acting as shade trees for new and existing cocoa and coffee blocks and plantations. Complementary work on post-harvest handling of these nuts, aiming at processing suitable products for domestic and international markets, is also being implemented. This component is supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research.

    Approaches developed to diversify cash generation and food and nutritional security would make a substantial contribution to PNG’s self reliance and the livelihoods of lowland communities. The galip industry would also create employment opportunities.

    PNG has a competitive advantage in galip nut development as the tree crop does not grow elsewhere except Vanuatu and Solomon Islands. The initiative can be up-scaled and out-scaled with the private sector in collaboration with research efforts.

    Effort by engineers to formulate first climate change policy

    Moves are underway to help the Government save millions on infrastructure and help Papua New Guineans avoid the detrimental impacts of climate change. The Institute of Engineers Papua New Guinea (IEPNG) is taking steps to formulate the country’s first climate change policy, but is asking the Government to help so infrastructures built could withstand the effects of climate change.

    IEPNG yesterday launched the country’s first climate change conference to be held later this year where recommendations from that gathering will help towards formulating a national strategy on how climate change impacts can be averted.

    The conference, to be held in Port Moresby on October 23 and 24, will also enable engineers plan and design infrastructures that can withstand nature’s changing trends due to climate change. The event will be attended by international and local climate change experts with recommendations to be made to the Government for consideration. The conference Chairman John Cholai, while calling on business houses and government organisations for sponsorships, said authors who wished to present their research were invited to submit their abstracts. IEPNG Chief Executive Officer Benedict Mick said the Institute wanted to work alongside the new climate change office set up by Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare, who is a strong advocate on climate change and carbon trading.

    “We will be targeting primarily areas to do with infrastructure developments in PNG and the impact climate change would have on the infrastructure so that engineers can be well prepared, well versed in their designs,” Mr Mick said. “The institution believes that right now there are no policy guidelines in place to address the impact of climate change to do with the infrastructure development.

    “The Government is putting a lot of money into infrastructure development and we believe all members of parliament should have some tangible guidelines to help them when they implement infrastructure developments in their respective electorates,” he said.

    President of the IEPNG Eric Sikam said: “We very much really want to work with the Government before all our roads and jetties go under water.
    “We all need to work together.”


    (Post Courier, 11 July 2008

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    Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    FAO Highlights Indigenous Peoples’ Role in Climate Change Adaptation

    From : Climate-L.Org

    8 August 2008: On the eve of the International Day for the World’s Indigenous Peoples, which is celebrated on 9 August, Regina Laub, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) focal point for Indigenous Peoples, noted that climate change and limited land rights increasingly threaten indigenous peoples’ livelihoods.

    “Many live in vulnerable environments and are among the first to identify and suffer the effects of climate change. Indigenous peoples can play a critical role in adapting to these impacts, as they hold unique knowledge and skills, and their territories contain approximately 80% of the world’s remaining biodiversity,” she said. Recognizing the importance of land rights for indigenous peoples’ livelihoods, FAO has developed activities aimed to improve their tenure security in sub-Saharan Africa and has documented good practices in sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific. [FAO press release, 8 August 2008]

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    Organic standards to add value to agricultural produce

    From : Radio New Zealand International

    Posted at 22:32 on 11 August, 2008 UTC

    Organic standards for agricultural produce in the Pacific region have been developed and will be officially launched in Samoa next month.

    Adi Maimalaga Tafuna’i , executive director of Samoa’s NGO Women in Business Inc. says complying with organic standards is always a major issue especially for agricultural exports.

    Last year the NGO launched Samoa’s coconut oil to the world through the international skin care brand, the Body Shop.

    Adi Tafuna’i says it was exciting to have helped develop organic standards with New Zealand and Pacific expertise which is crucial to competing with international markets.

    “We’ve actually helped to develop some organic standards that are specific to the Pacific, and that’s going to be launched very soon in September in Samoa through the Secretariat of the Pacific Community. We’ve been very much a part of that because we see our future in the Pacific will be in agriculture, because agriculture is really our most sustainable source of anything to do economically.”
    Adi Tafuna’i says an organic standard throughout the Pacific region will add value to the small quantities of agricultural produce for export.

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    PIANGO confident it will be able to expand its work over next three years

    From : Radio New Zealand International

    Posted at 07:59 on 11 August, 2008 UTC

    The outgoing chair of PIANGO’s board,Adi Maimalaga Tafuna’i, says she’s confident it will grow bigger and stronger over the next 3 year term.

    The council for PIANGO, which is the organisation representing NGOs in the Pacific, has been meeting in New Zealand to determine its strategy for the next three years.

    Adi Tafuna’i says funding remains a major challenge but NZAid and AusAID as well as other development partners have helped the organisation progress.

    She says with such support, PIANGO’s work will continue to contribute greatly to the region at grassroots level.

    “What we will see is organisations that are non governmental on the ground throughout the Pacific doing the work that they are mandated to do. Which is like looking at issues to do with HIV Aids, Health, Income Generation. You have civil society trying to better the lives of people in the islands so they can really have sustainable livelihoods.”
    Adi Tafana’i, the outgoing chair of PIANGO.

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    On a Planet 4C Hotter, All We Can Prepare for Is Extinction There’s no ‘adaptation’ to such steep warming.

    We must stop pandering to special interests, and try a new, post-Kyoto strategy

    From : The Guardian/UK
    by Oliver Tickell

    We need to get prepared for four degrees of global warming, Bob Watson told the Guardian last week. At first sight this looks like wise counsel from the climate science adviser to Defra. But the idea that we could adapt to a 4C rise is absurd and dangerous. Global warming on this scale would be a catastrophe that would mean, in the immortal words that Chief Seattle probably never spoke, “the end of living and the beginning of survival” for humankind. Or perhaps the beginning of our extinction.

    The collapse of the polar ice caps would become inevitable, bringing long-term sea level rises of 70-80 metres. All the world’s coastal plains would be lost, complete with ports, cities, transport and industrial infrastructure, and much of the world’s most productive farmland. The world’s geography would be transformed much as it was at the end of the last ice age, when sea levels rose by about 120 metres to create the Channel, the North Sea and Cardigan Bay out of dry land. Weather would become extreme and unpredictable, with more frequent and severe droughts, floods and hurricanes. The Earth’s carrying capacity would be hugely reduced. Billions would undoubtedly die.

    Watson’s call was supported by the government’s former chief scientific adviser, Sir David King, who warned that “if we get to a four-degree rise it is quite possible that we would begin to see a runaway increase”. This is a remarkable understatement. The climate system is already experiencing significant feedbacks, notably the summer melting of the Arctic sea ice. The more the ice melts, the more sunshine is absorbed by the sea, and the more the Arctic warms. And as the Arctic warms, the release of billions of tonnes of methane - a greenhouse gas 70 times stronger than carbon dioxide over 20 years - captured under melting permafrost is already under way.

    To see how far this process could go, look 55.5m years to the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, when a global temperature increase of 6C coincided with the release of about 5,000 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, both as CO2 and as methane from bogs and seabed sediments. Lush subtropical forests grew in polar regions, and sea levels rose to 100m higher than today. It appears that an initial warming pulse triggered other warming processes. Many scientists warn that this historical event may be analogous to the present: the warming caused by human emissions could propel us towards a similar hothouse Earth.

    But what are we to do? All our policies to date to tackle global warming have been miserable failures. The Kyoto protocol has created a vast carbon market but done little to reduce emissions. The main effect of the EU’s emissions trading scheme has been to transfer about €30bn or more from consumers to Europe’s biggest polluters, the power companies. The EU and US foray into biofuels has, at huge cost, increased greenhouse gas emissions and created a world food crisis, causing starvation in many poor countries.

    So are all our efforts doomed to failure? Yes, so long as our governments remain craven to special interests, whether carbon traders or fossil fuel companies. The carbon market is a valuable tool, but must be subordinate to climatic imperatives. The truth is that to prevent runaway greenhouse warming, we will have to leave most of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground, especially carbon-heavy coal, oil shales and tar sands. The fossil fuel and power companies must be faced down.

    Global problems need global solutions, and we also need an effective replacement for the failed Kyoto protocol. The entire Kyoto system of national allocations is obsolete because of the huge volumes of energy embodied in products traded across national boundaries. It also presents a major obstacle to any new agreement - as demonstrated by the 2008 G8 meeting in Japan that degenerated into a squabble over national emission rights.

    The answer? Scrap national allocations and place a single global cap on greenhouse gas emissions, applied “upstream” - for instance, at the oil refinery, coal-washing station and cement factory. Sell permits up to that cap in a global auction, and use the proceeds to finance solutions to climate change - accelerating the use of renewable energy, raising energy efficiency, protecting forests, promoting climate-friendly farming, and researching geoengineering technologies. And commit hundreds of billions of dollars per year to finance adaptation to climate change, especially in poor countries.

    Such a package of measures would allow us to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and long-term stabilisation at 350 parts per million of CO2 equivalent. This avoids the economic pain that a cap-and-trade system alone would cause, and targets assistance at the poor, who are least to blame and most need help. The permit auction would raise about $1 trillion per year, enough to finance a spread of solutions. At a quarter of the world’s annual oil spending, it is a price well worth paying.

    Oliver Tickell’s book Kyoto2 has just been published kyoto2.org

    © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

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    Breaking the Climate Deadlock

    Briefing Paper

    From : The Climate Group

    Executive Summary

    • Biofuels have a potentially useful role in cutting emissions of greenhouse gases in the transport sector. They are one of the few technologies available that is compatible with existing vehicles.
    • Biofuels alone cannot deliver a sustainable transport system. Technical and economic constraints limit the ability of biofuels to replace fossil fuels. They must be part of an integrated package of measures that stimulates a range of low carbon measures.
    • Existing policy frameworks and targets for biofuels are sometimes based on scant evidence and may miss important opportunities to deliver greenhouse gas emission reductions. There is a real danger that a policy framework driven solely by supply targets will mean we become locked into inefficient biofuels supply chains that are potentially environmentally harmful.
    • There is a huge range of biofuels and ways to produce them, each with different environmental, social and economic benefits. It is therefore not possible to make simple generalisations about their performance. However, there are real opportunities to develop biofuels that can deliver substantial greenhouse gas savings and wider environmental, social and economic benefits.
    • International agreement is needed for methodologies for assessing sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions from biofuel supply chains.

    However, policy frameworks must be flexible enough to accommodate current uncertainties in the data and areas where there is a lack of information, as well as developments in the technology.• Clear long term policies and incentives are needed that target the entire supply chain and that promote the development of biofuels that deliver the greatest environmental, social and economic benefit.


    • Policies and incentives to promote biofuels need to promote those with the best sustainability performance. Policies designed to increase biofuel usage should include a mechanism to incentivise biofuels with the best greenhouse gas performance, while also reducing wider environmental harm and promoting sustainable development.
    • Investment and funding of research and development is needed to accelerate the delivery of more efficient supply chains. Long term policy signals are needed for industry to encourage investment across the entire supply chain.
    • Biofuels can play a useful role in reducing emissions from the transport sector. However they should not be treated as a “silver bullet” and should be part of broader transport policies that stimulate innovation in a whole range of technologies in order to decarbonise the transport sector.
    • Internationally agreed sustainability criteria and certification schemes are needed to ensure that biofuels provide the greatest benefits to the environment and people, and maximise the opportunities to restore degraded land and protect watersheds. These sustainability criteria need to be given greater priority in international negotiations with a priority given to trade discussions in the World Trade Organisation.

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