USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Environment

PEER Program Impact: Addressing Global Coral Reef Health through Science and Collaboration

Indonesia lies at the center of the most diverse ecosystems of the world: the Coral Triangle. Covering just two percent of the global ocean, the Coral Triangle contains 75 percent of all coral species and 35 percent of the world’s coral reefs. It serves as a home and breeding ground for hundreds of thousands of fish and animals contributing to the food supply of the people living in the region and global fisheries.

Healthy coral reefs support commercial and subsistence fisheries, as well as jobs and businesses that support tourism and recreation. The coral reef structure also buffers shorelines against waves, storms and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage and erosion.

Yellow band disease in Wanci Island. Photo credit: Courtney Couch

Yellow band disease in Wanci Island. Photo credit: Courtney Couch

Often, these coral reefs and sea creatures are referred to as the 21st century medicine cabinets because they are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, heart disease, viruses and other diseases.

However, in recent years coral reefs have increasingly come under threat from climate change, overfishing, pollution and disease. In this region alone, more than 120 million people rely on reefs for their economic livelihood. Without long-term management of coral reef health, both the ecosystem and its benefactors face an uncertain future.

To tackle complex global issues such as this, USAID is tapping into the vast potential of the science and technology sector. In 2011, in conjunction with the National Science Foundation (NSF), USAID announced the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program. The program, administered by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, funds collaborative research partnerships between developing country scientists and NSF-funded American scientists. On behalf of the American people, USAID supports research to help conserve one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet and ensure the plants, fish animals and the many important roles of the coral reef are maintained for this and future generations.

Line transect in Wakatobi island. Photo credit: Courtney Couch

Line transect in Wakatobi island. Photo credit: Courtney Couch

PEER project researchers Dr. Jamaluddin Jompa, one of Indonesia’s prominent coral reef scientists and Director of the Center for Coral Reef Research at Hasanuddin University, and U.S. partner Dr. Drew Harvell, Associate Director for Environment at Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, have set out to study the health of Indonesia’s coral reefs. The team measures declines in coral health by the prevalence of coral disease. Coral diseases, which have been on the increase worldwide since the 1970s, sometimes look like mold or rust and other times like the bleached-white bones of skeletons. They are key indicators of whether the reef ecosystem is out of balance.

The project aims to assess the impact of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on reef resilience and coral disease containment. These no-fish reserves, which are areas protected under the Indonesian Government’s Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program (COREMAP), serve as a sanctuary for marine life. This project will provide empirical data to show the importance of these preservation and conservation efforts. “We hope to provide additional evidence that MPAs have high impacts for the future,” said Dr. Jompa.

To ensure the reefs’ health and sustainability, long-term planning and management is key.

Focusing on local, manageable factors such as overfishing and coastal pollution, the team is developing new microbiological methods to better study their impacts—techniques which they hope will become incorporated into the COREMAP survey structure. Dr. Harvell asserts that with their findings, they will be able to evaluate how best to preserve nature while providing sustainable benefits to local communities.

The PEER program aims not only to fund researcher efforts with global impact but also to enhance scientific exchange and engagement. According to Drs. Harvell and Jompa, the collaboration has been very fruitful. For example, PEER mentoring and training has given Indonesian student researchers exposure to international science networks and state-of-the-art techniques while their American counterparts have gained international research experience.

Impacts can be seen in the classroom as well. Data gathered during the project have improved coral health case studies and curriculum in the Marine Science Department at Hasanuddin University. “As more and more students are becoming interested in coral reef education, we are building that knowledge foundation and investing in future generations,” said Dr. Jompa.

This PEER-funded project is part of a much larger effort to establish patterns of coral health worldwide. In conjunction with scientists from Australia, the team has been working on creating a larger Pacific network of coral health with comprehensive sustainability plans. Ultimately, said Dr. Jompa, “As the center of global marine biodiversity, these coral reefs belong not only to Indonesia, but to the world.”

Learn more about the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) in the Philippines, which was held on Aug. 14. 


Photo of the Week: Market Linkages in Bangladesh


USAID creates market linkages to sustain traditional weaving of indigenous women. USAID’s environment activity, the Climate-Resilient Ecosystems and Livelihoods (CREL), improves diversified livelihoods that are environmentally sustainable and resilient to climate change. USAID has worked with the Government of Bangladesh and local communities to better manage and conserve Bangladesh’s natural resources and biodiversity since 1998. More resilient livelihoods and ecosystems will help Bangladesh meet development goals and move along the path to becoming a healthy, prosperous country. CREL is implemented by Winrock International.

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: USAID Bangladesh.

Like USAID Bangladesh on Facebook and follow @USAID_BD and #MissionofMonth on Twitter for ongoing updates!

Creating Partners in Conservation in Rwanda

Dr. Jane Goodall and the Critical Role of Development in Environmental Conservation

Tucked in the corner of southwestern Rwanda, along the borders of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo and about four hours outside of Rwanda’s capital city is one of the most beautiful places in the world, Nyungwe Forest National Park.

Dr. Jane Goodall in Nyungwe. Photo Credit: USAID

Officially established as a national park in 2004, Nyungwe is a moist, cool rainforest that is home to a wide variety of rare plants and animals, including more than 13 different primates, 275 birds, and 1,000 plants, some of which have only been found in Nyungwe.

This past week, we had opportunity to welcome a very special guest visiting the park for the very first time — Dr. Jane Goodall.

Dr. Goodall is the famed primatologist who has dedicated her life to studying chimpanzees and traveling around the world telling people about the importance of conservation. Even at nearly 80 years old, she literally never stays in the same place for more than three weeks at a time. Dr. Goodall came to Rwanda to highlight the importance of protecting natural resources like Nyungwe and to explore future partnerships in conservation education between her organization, the Jane Goodall Institute, and local and international organizations already working in the Park.

During her visit, we had the opportunity to hear to her speak to park staff. What really stuck out was the emphasis she placed on the critical linkage between community development and conservation efforts. They go hand and hand.

“The poverty of people is one of the biggest problems for the environment. People must choose between eating today by destroying nature, or starving.” She acknowledged that anyone faced with that choice would choose food, but when you first acknowledge and meet the needs of people, they then “become your partners in conservation.”

Dr. Goodall also challenged us to think a bit deeper and more long-term. If we don’t act, what happens when all of the natural resources are gone? What happens when animals go extinct or water sources have dried up because we didn’t protect the forests that sheltered them? History tells us the unfortunate truth: in many cases, conflict ensues.

Here’s a real life example. Nyungwe supplies 70 percent of Rwanda’s water and is a source of water for people who live as far north as Egypt. What would happen if Nyungwe were destroyed and the water was all gone? Dr. Goodall was blunt: “If water runs out in Nyungwe, people will pick up guns.”

Dr. Jane Goodall in Rwanda. Photo Credit: USAID

But when investing in the environment, we must also invest in people. We need to teach people about the importance of conservation, and more importantly help individuals and communities maintain their livelihoods in sustainable ways.

USAID has been working in Nyungwe since the mid-1980s. Our work there has helped to build an eco-tourism industry through activities like trail maintenance, training park guides, and creating partnerships with the private sector to invest in things like lodging around the park. We’re also working with communities living in and around Nyungwe to help them earn steady incomes in ways that don’t deplete the park’s resources.

One community just outside the park entrance has formed a cooperative and created what they call a “cultural village,” giving visitors another place to stop and a fascinating peek into Rwandan culture. The community has replicated traditional Rwandan houses (including the King’s Palace) where you can stay overnight, see traditional dance performances, and have a snack with a spectacular view of the forest. The community is doing quite well, and many of the cooperative members have said that instances of villagers engaging in activities like poaching for income has decreased as a result.

Dr. Goodall’s guidance about the necessity of pairing environmental conservation with development rings true in places like Nyungwe National Park as well as the communities we all live in. And as Dr. Goodall stressed – in her seemingly endless optimism – it’s up to us: “Every single one of us matters, every single one of us has a role, and every single one of us can make a difference.”



Global Tiger Day

Global Tiger Day is an opportunity every July 29th to raise awareness of the need to protect our last remaining tigers for future generations.

A tiger in Nepal. Photo Credit: USAID

The greatest threat to tiger survival is poaching. Trafficking of wildlife is the third largest area of illegal trade after arms and drugs, often for organized crime and terrorist organizations. It also directly harms the environment and natural resources as wildlife populations decline and ecosystems are altered.

USAID is working in several countries across Asia to reverse this devastating trend.

In Indonesia, the United States is partnering with four local NGOs in Sumatra to protect Sumatran tigers from poaching, habitat degradation and conflict with humans – the most serious threats to their survival. We’re also working to preserve habitats for a number of other Sumatran species, including orangutans, elephants and rhinos, through better forestry management. The population of Sumatran tigers is estimated to be as low as 250 tigers.

In Nepal, we’re working to create a new international standard for wildlife conservation by taking conservation genetics to a whole new level. A national DNA database being created with support from USAID catalogues extremely detailed genetic data on the endangered Bengal tigers, so that law enforcement agencies can determine where confiscated parts might have originated and crack down on an entire smuggling operation. And, it helps conservationists and researchers in their work to protect the animals and their habitats.

USAID is also a partner in INTERPOL’s Project Predator initiative. Launched in November 2011, this partnership unites the efforts of police, customs and wildlife officials in support of enhanced governance and law enforcement capacity in the 13 countries in Asia where wild tigers can still be found. Last year during one Project Predator operation in Bhutan, China, India and Nepal, officials arrested over 50 individuals and confiscated big cat skins, body parts and other wildlife products. To learn more, visit INTERPOL’s Project Predator website.

West African Nations Unite to Build Coastal Resilience to Climate Change

An important movement is afoot to build resilience along West Africa’s coast, where more than 30 million people live and depend on coastal resources for their livelihoods and food security.

In June, government officials from 11 West African nations travelled to Accra, Ghana to kick off a regional coordination effort as they develop national plans to reduce vulnerability to climate change.

Panel discussion with representatives from Ghana, Benin and Cote d’Ivoire. Photo credit: Pam Rubinoff

The coastal region is the economic engine of West Africa, generating much of the region’s GDP through agriculture, fisheries, tourism, and industry, and providing critical infrastructure for trade with the poorer Sahel region to the north.

But West Africa’s coastal areas face multiple climate change impacts – such as more frequent and intense droughts, floods, and storms, as well as sea level rise – in the coming decades.

ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States, hosted the kick-off event with USAID to encourage governments to take a shared approach to coastal issues as they create National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) under the UN climate change process.

Ghana’s Deputy Environment Minister, Bernice Heloo, opened the event by reminding officials that all nations will face climate change together. “Many African countries, including Ghana, are struggling to cope with current climate variability and change.”

Ibila Djibril, Benin’s focal point for National Adaptation Plans in the UN climate process, stressed the links between climate and development. “What is at stake here is not just the environment… but the whole process of development. A country cannot truly develop itself when climate change jeopardizes national efforts,” he said.

So what was accomplished in Accra? Participants learned to use a new approach, pioneered by USAID in Jamaica and Tanzania, to think through the initial stages of NAP development strategically. They also shared experiences with coastal development and adaptation planning through discussion and peer-to-peer learning.

But most important, a regional action plan was drafted to promote better coordination of transboundary and regional efforts in coming months. Regional institutions like ECOWAS, it was agreed, can play a key role in helping countries to access climate information and to take coordinated action around critical issues, like planning coastal infrastructure and managing coastal forests, watersheds and other shared natural resources.

Ms. Heloo, Ghana’s Deputy Environment Minister, was just one of the officials to explicitly recognize the importance of working together to build coastal climate resilience in West Africa.

“I am glad this workshop will seek to agree on an approach toward preparing a regional development strategy to address the complexities of the coastal zone,” she said. “The impacts of climate change on the coastal areas and coastal development can be devastating.”

The 11 West African countries were Benin, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. ECOWAS works to promote cooperation in the region on a range of economic and political issues.

USAID in the News

A publication in the Middle East’s AmeInfo, writes of a dialogue hosted by USAID’s Youth for Future Project. This session showcased success stories and firsthand experiences from several Youth Entrepreneurship Project beneficiaries, and concluded with a Q & A segment and the dissemination of the final report on the Project.

Administrator Rajiv Shah and Secretary of State John Kerry. Photo Credit: Pat Adams, USAID

The New York Times mentioned “a new loan-guarantee program by [USAID] intended to generate…$100 million in private financing to develop clean-energy technologies” in a piece on President Obama’s speech on climate change at Georgetown University in late June. Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement  during a recent visit to New Delhi. “The good news is that if we do this right, it’s not going to hurt our economies,” Mr. Kerry said. “It actually helps them. It won’t deny our children opportunity; it will actually create new ones.”

The Power of Energy in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan, the world’s largest landlocked country and a former Soviet nation, is rich in natural resources and pursuing an ambitious agenda in response to global climate change. With a growing economy and booming oil and gas sectors, Kazakhstan is committed to improving its energy efficiency. Kazakhstan 2030, the country’s long-term strategy for development, aims to reduce its energy intensity 25 percent by 2020.

Kazakhstan’s most energy-intensive companies attend hands-on energy management workshops on energy efficiency. Photo credit: ICF International

President Obama’s Global Climate Change Initiative provides a unique opportunity for USAID to engage with Kazakhstan directly and assist its people in reaching their goals. Through the Central Asia Energy Efficiency Support Program, USAID is helping industries in Kazakhstan comply with energy laws and implement the ISO-50001 standard: a series of requirements created by the International Organization for Standardization for an energy management system. The ISO-50001 standard provides ways to increase energy efficiency, reduce costs and improve energy performance. USAID gathered Kazakhstan’s largest energy-intensive enterprises, government officials and educational institutions in Astana on June 20, 2013, to exchange ideas on best practices of energy audits and energy resources management.

Galina Markilova, the head of the Standards Department for KazPhosphate, a large phosphate mining and processing company, reflected on the event. “This was a very productive conference, based on the specific needs of our industries. We learned a lot and will be able to better implement our energy management system with what we learned today.” Program experts conducted an energy management audit of KazPhosphate in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Energy/Oak Ridge National Laboratory and identified more than $1 million in potential annual energy cost savings that could be achieved. Payback periods for all measures identified were less than three years.

Despite the grave and complex nature of climate change, it is inspiring to see global plans coming to life in practical ways across Kazakhstan. The city of Aksu, located in northern Kazakhstan and home to a coal power plant with some of the highest carbon dioxide emissions in the country, is in the initial phase of adopting a clean energy plan. USAID is working closely with the local government to provide training on energy management and auditing for municipal buildings, including schools and hospitals. In a consultation with the Energy and Communal Services in the Pavlodar region, Department Chief Mr. Nurlan Mashrapov shared how these green energy changes are going to impact local lives. “We want our kids to grow up in a city with clean air and green industry. We’re grateful for the help from USAID to teach us how to implement energy efficiency in our public buildings.”

In a further effort to support sustainable and innovative approaches to carbon reduction, Kazakhstan’s Vice Minister of Environmental Protection, Marlen Iskakov, and representatives of the U.S. Government, including Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Dr. Kerri-Ann Jones, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Fairfax, and USAID Regional Mission Director Anne Aarnes, formalized a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on June 25, 2013. The MOU signified an agreement to work together on an Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategy, a long-term development plan to slow the growth of greenhouse gas emissions across the country. This was a groundbreaking milestone in Kazakhstan’s commitment to climate resiliency and a significant event as our countries collaborate to ensure a sustainable response to climate change.

Water: A Unifying Issue: USAID’s New Global Water Strategy

Chris Holmes serves as USAID’s Global Water Coordinator.

In late May, when USAID launched its first global water strategy, Administrator Shah, Democrats and Republicans alike agreed on the message: solving the water and sanitation crises is critical. The goal of the USAID Water and Development Strategy is to save lives and improve development in a world where practically 800 million people are without adequate water and 2.5 billion people are without access to adequate sanitation. To achieve its goal, the strategy sets out two overarching strategic objectives: improve global health and strengthen global food security through USAID-supported water programs.

Partnering with faith-based and community organizations—as well as other stakeholders – is critical to meeting these objectives. It is through partnerships that we combine the resources, expertise and wisdom necessary to meet the needs of literally billions of people.

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a conference call hosted by Ms. Melissa Rogers, Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Participants on the call included WASH Advocates, Blood: Water Mission, the Millennium Water Alliance, EROD, PATH, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, World Vision, International Orthodox Christian Charities, Episcopal Relief and Development, Catholic Relief Services, Engineering Ministries International and Lifewater International.  During our call, we covered a wide range of activities—partnerships— to save and improve lives.  One participant noted that it was exciting to see the strategy’s emphasis on women, in particular engaging women in WASH programming and leadership as well as focusing the strategy on countries and regions where we can have greatest impact.  Others on the call addressed such matters as watershed management, evaluation, and the impact on NGOs of channeling development resources through national governments.

Regarding country focus, we discussed how the strategy advances activities consistent with the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act of 2005 such as establishing criteria to designate high-priority countries for increased investments to support access to safe water and sanitation. We are designing criteria that designate which countries will receive water and sanitation funding. The criteria are based on a combination of factors, such as high childhood mortality rates due to diarrhea, and the capacity of governments to manage and sustain effective programs. Ethiopia is an example of a country that could meet the criteria. It has the requisite infrastructure, governance and institutional experience for USAID water programs that have a transformative impact.

Turning to engaging women in our water programs, we addressed the USAID-supported Somalia School Environment and Education Development Program (SEEDS) which plays an important role in providing water, sanitation and privacy needed to help keep young women in schools, as well as the Afghanistan Sustainable Water Supply and Sanitation Project (SWSS) where USAID is building the capacity of the Afghan government and local communities to provide potable water and sanitation facilities and to improve hygiene behavior. An important component of this program is to engage women in the delivery of training.

We also talked about the importance of setting and meeting specific targets. The strategy sets targets for a minimum number of people to be reached over five years: 10 million with sustainable water services and 6 million with sustainable sanitation services. The strategy emphasizes the need for increased investments and expanded attention to sanitation to translate into broader health and economic benefits. In Ethiopia, the USAID- supported Hygiene Improvement program (PDF) facilitated the implementation of the Government’s National Hygiene and Sanitation strategy. More than 5.8 million people in the Amhara region have been reached by hygiene and sanitation promotion activities, and an estimated 2.8 million people have stopped the practice of open defecation and now use a basic pit latrine.

In order to meet our objectives, the strategy relies on partnerships, innovation, and sustainable approaches. An example of USAID’s focus on innovation in the WASH sector is the Development Innovation Ventures (DIV). Through WASH for Life, our partnership with the Gates Foundation, DIV is testing and scaling promising, cost-effective solutions in water, sanitation, and hygiene. DIV recently announced its biggest award yet to the Dispensers for Safe Water program. This approach seeks to scale safe drinking water to more than 5 million, including 1.6 million children, over the next three years. Ensuring long-term sustainability of water and sanitation infrastructure interventions is a central component of the strategy.

Clearly, faith-based and community organizations and our other partners play such a critical role in meeting the needs of millions of people. As was the case in our conference call , we learn a great deal from our partners. In this regard, I would also like to thank USAID’s Office of Faith Based Community Initiatives for its role in linking faith-based and community organizations with USAID’s global water related efforts.

How Better-Trained Farmers are Slowing Brazil’s Deforestation

This originally appeared on the Mercy Corps’ Blog.

In Pará, Brazil, farmers are turning a profit and the government is on track to slow deforestation thanks to local nonprofit Imazon, which got them to work together.

By 2003, Brazil was on the verge of an environmental catastrophe. As its economy expanded, cattle ranchers needed more land to graze their livestock, and few laws prevented them from burning down thousands of square kilometers of untitled land in the Amazon, causing vast environmental damage. In the worst regions, like Pará, widespread poverty meant that stopping deforestation was at the bottom of the government’s list, despite massive efforts by groups like Greenpeace and Imazon.

Imazon has trained Brazilian cattle farmers to use their pastures more efficiently, reducing the need to cut down trees to clear land. Photo credit: Lou Gold/Flickr

A wave of environmental laws passed by the federal government from 2004 to 2008 seemed to complicate things for local governments and economies, even as deforestation rates fell. Many municipal governments couldn’t fully meet government targets under the new regulations but faced economic sanctions if they didn’t. A beef embargo prevented farmers from selling their meat to mainstream supermarket chains like Carrefour and Walmart if their municipality ended up on a blacklist for failing to reduce illegal deforestation to government-mandated levels. The government confiscated herds and sawmills from the law’s offenders. When Paragominas, a municipality in Para where Imazon worked, was placed on the list, 2,300 jobs and all the municipality’s federal agricultural credits disappeared within a year.

Imazon found itself helping save the local economy. It created a training program for the local government to learn how to use satellite technology to track deforestation. Since most of the affected land wasn’t titled, Imazon also helped farmers formalize their land titles and trained them in improved farming techniques, like rotating crops and limiting overgrazing, to make their land more productive and reduce the need to cut down more rainforest.

It worked. Farmers trained in better methods required less land to turn a profit, so they cut down fewer trees.

In just a few years, Imazon’s program in Paragominas helped to reduce illegal deforestation by more than 80 percent. When farmers in Paragominas implemented Imazon’s training techniques, most saw their incomes increase, even as they stopped clearing additional land. Inspired by the success of the program, the state government decided to launch its own Green Municipalities Program in 2011, essentially promoting Imazon’s collaborative approach in Paragominas at a state level. Now, more than 94 of Para State’s 143 municipalities have signed onto the Green Municipalities Program, and both the state government and Imazon are straining to meet the demand.

However, a new breakthrough came when Imazon attracted the attention of the Innovation Investment Alliance (PDF), a new partnership between Mercy Corps, USAID and the Skoll Foundation. This April at the Skoll World Forum, the partners announced their first grant of $3.4 million, complementing an earlier $2.6 million from Skoll. The funding will support Imazon to scale the successes in Paragominas across the state of Para. The project has ambitious goals, as the government has promised to reduce deforestation by 80 percent over the next seven years. By systematizing the training process, the Alliance hopes to leave the state government capable of responding to the growing demand from farmers and municipal governments who have seen Imazon’s programs work in Paragominas.

The question is how Imazon can show their methodologies work. Mercy Corps will help Imazon to test its approach in 10 municipalities serving as guinea pigs, drawing from its own network of experts in impact analysis.

But Imazon’s biggest success may be its ability to get locals on board with its ideas. 94 municipalities have already signed on to reducing deforestation through the Green Municipalities Program, and Cameron Peake, Mercy Corps’s director of social innovations special initiatives, says she’s impressed at how the nonprofit has persuaded the local farmers and government that environmental sustainability, economic growth, land rights and good governance can actually go together.

And that achievement, for one, is too valuable to put a number on.

Increasing Economic Growth without Increasing Emissions

Growth requires energy, and the Philippines, one of Asia’s fastest rising economies, foresees an ever greater need for more energy to maintain the pace of development for its 94 million residents.

Yet increased energy use comes at a cost, in the form of increased greenhouse gas emissions, which puts the country in a conundrum: How can a country continue its economic growth yet make it both equitable and sustainable in the long term?

The Philippines is especially conscious of global warming and climate change. An archipelago of more than 7,107 islands, it is ranked the world’s 10th most vulnerable countries to climate change, with Manila the world’s second most at-risk city. Typhoons batter the country regularly, so the Philippines in particular is keen to avoid the prospect of more extreme weather and rising sea levels.

Eric Postel delivers remarks at a recent meeting with climate change and economy officials from the Philippines, EC-LEDS partners and the Department of State. Photo credit: Caryn Fisher, USAID Asia

Mitigating climate change provides the international community then a chance to at least reduce the risk of such disasters. As the Philippines Deputy Chief of Mission to the United States Minister Maria Andrelita S. Austria said, “The more we work on climate change, the less we’ll need to work on disaster assistance.”

Since 2010, USAID, through efforts such as the Enhancing Capacity for Low Emission Development Strategies (EC-LEDS) program, has been partnering with countries such as the Philippines to find alternative development pathways that lower greenhouse gas emissions trends and increase the resilience of communities and economies to climate change impacts. These programs are part of the U.S. Government’s continuing commitment to encourage developing economies to move towards a low carbon economic growth pathway, which is integral to long term, sustained development. Under EC-LEDS, the Philippines is partnering with the United States in strategizing on how to enable low emission economic growth.

“This program is an important diplomatic priority for the U.S. government. Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern views this as an opportunity to enhance key diplomatic relationships with partner countries, furthering our global goal of limiting temperature increase to no more than two degrees Celsius,” said Assistant Administrator Eric Postel of USAID’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment to a Government of Philippines delegation visiting the United States recently.

The climate change and economy officials from the Philippines met with EC-LEDS partners at USAID and the Department of State, who both lead the program, as well as experts from other U.S. Government interagency partners, think tanks, and industry organizations. 

Greg Beck, USAID’s Asia Bureau Deputy Assistant Administrator, said, “While we in the United States and the Philippines both work together to improve the Philippines’ international competitiveness, it is equally important that the Philippines pursues its economic targets through a low carbon pathway. The United States government is committed to providing the necessary technical assistance in enhancing capacity for low emission strategies.”

For the Philippines, EC-LEDS focuses on three areas: 1) supporting the development of the country’s greenhouse gas inventory, which will help determine where emissions are coming from and provide a baseline to measure any increase or decrease in emissions over time; 2) building the in-country capacity to use analytical tools to choose the most cost-effective actions to reduce emissions; and 3) helping Philippines take actions that address climate change, such as identifying promising sources of renewable energy, improving forest management, and supporting local Eco-Towns.

EC-LEDS builds upon a long history of partnership between the United States and the Philippines, which was solidified when the Philippines was chosen to join three other countries (El Salvador, Ghana and Tanzania) under President Obama’s flagship Partnership for Growth, or PFG. Under the PFG, both governments are working hand-in-hand to address the most serious constraints to economic growth and development in the Philippines.

The partnership theme carries over to EC-LEDS, as the partner countries themselves drive the process. “By design, a LEDS is a country-specific strategic plan to promote climate-resilient economic growth and reduce long-term greenhouse gas emissions trajectories. U.S. support and technical assistance is tailored to those development priorities identified by our partners,” Beck said.

The noteworthy Philippine commitment to this partnership is fueled in part by having seen the lasting devastation climate change can have after weather-related disasters move on. The country’s government created a Climate Change Commission in 2009 after discovering that typhoon-related costs that year amounted to 2.9% of the Philippines’ GDP, according to Mary Ann Lucille Sering, the Commission’s head.

“We believe that the twin goals of economic prosperity and environment protection are achievable and LEDS is the effective mechanism to reach those goals,” said Beck.

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