Countries saving nature and money
Swapping debt for nature, more people experience extreme heat, and cut your digital carbon footprint
In a record-setting “debt-for-nature” deal, Ecuador has secured about $17M annually to preserve the waters around the Galapagos Islands and wiped out over $1B of its national debt in the process. The Galapagos, which are about 600 miles off Ecuador’s mainland, are home to many species like the islands’ famed giant tortoises that live nowhere else on Earth. Ecuador’s deal earmarks $12M per year for conservation efforts and puts another $5M a year into a fund for the future.
Debt-for-nature swaps are like re-financing your mortgage, except for government bonds. A lender offers a lower interest rate that will save the borrower a lot of money, and in exchange the borrower agrees to protect unique ecosystems over which they have jurisdiction.
Last September, for example, the Nature Conservancy brokered a debt-for-nature swap for Barbados that allowed the island nation to protect 30% of its marine area. Barbados is using the $50M they saved to support sustainable development that will make their country more resilient to climate impacts.
Since the late 1980s, over 140 countries, including Seychelles, Belize, and Bolivia, have reached similar agreements: but we need more. Debt-for-nature swaps have the potential to save many lower-income countries a lot of money and make a big dent in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework goals of protecting 30% of the world’s land and water by 2030 and help those countries build climate resilience. They’re a win-win-win solution!
Researchers have defined the “human climate niche” as temperature ranges within which people and society have historically thrived. Outside of this niche, conditions become too extreme for people to thrive.
Climate change has already pushed 9% of the world out of this niche, and it’s estimated that the lifetime emissions of a single person living an average life in North America will expose one more person to extreme heat by the end of the century. About 2 billion people will live in places at risk of extreme heat by the end of the century without additional climate action.
As always, the most vulnerable populations live in countries that have done relatively little to cause the problem--India, Nigeria, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Pakistan—and that’s not fair. This is why climate action isn’t only a scientific, an economic, or a practical concern; it’s a moral imperative.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Have you ever thought about your digital carbon footprint? If digital technology were a country, it would be the world’s third-highest consumer of electricity behind China and United States. Here’s a few things you can do to cut it down.
Choose your search engine wisely. One online search can use up to as much electricity as a light bulb left on for 35 minutes. Google is working hard to make all its data centers (and therefore searches) carbon-free, but the search engine Ecosia is a few steps ahead. It uses its ad revenue to plant trees. It’s planted over 175 million of them so far!
Storage takes up energy: so give your online storage a spring cleaning by deleting duplicates or files you no longer need. Yes, even unsubscribing from newsletters you no longer read and deleting all those spam emails in your online folders can have an impact.
Check the settings on your computer so your monitor will turn off after a few minutes, and turn off your computer entirely when you aren’t using it because it still sucks power in sleep mode. It will make your re-starts shorter, too.
Think about what’s powering your computer. We subscribe to a wind energy company for our home power and few years ago, I switched my web hosting to a company that uses clean energy and plants a tree for every new account, too. The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use; that’s why I also use the most energy efficient laptop, according to this list.
And finally, electronic waste is a growing problem. So when your computer or electronics die, be sure to recycle them. Many cities have electronic recycling programs; at Best Buy stores, you can recycle up to three electronic items a day, from appliances to cel phones; and Dell’s recycling program accepts old equipment from any brand.
What we do makes a difference: but when we share what we know with other people and encourage them to act too, it makes an even bigger difference. So don’t forget to share this information with others, especially where you work or go to school, and encourage them to consider these actions too.