Head of UN-backed treaty voices concern at mass elephant killings in Cameroon
Voicing grave concern over reports of mass elephant killings in northern Cameroon, the head of the United Nations-backed convention on endangered species called for effective action to manage and conserve these animals and for the control of trade in elephant ivory.
It is reported that close to 450 elephants in Bouba Ndjida National Park in northern Cameroon were recently killed, according to a news release issued by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“This most recent incident of poaching elephants is on a massive scale but it reflects a new trend we are detecting across many range States, where well-armed poachers with sophisticated weapons decimate elephant populations, often with impunity,” said the Secretary-General of the Convention, John E. Scanlon.
Governments of the region are being offered support to find, and bring to justice, those responsible for the killings and to locate and seize the poached ivory. Potential transit and final destination countries have also been urged to remain extremely vigilant and to cooperate.
The CITES programme for Monitoring Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) has revealed increasing levels of poaching in 2011, noted Mr. Scanlon.
“This spike in elephant poaching is of grave concern not only to Cameroon, a member State to CITES, but to all 38 range States of the African elephant, as well as the secretariat,” he said.
It is reported that elephants have been slaughtered in recent weeks by groups from Chad and Sudan, according to CITES. The poached ivory is believed to be exchanged against money, weapons and ammunition to support conflicts in neighbouring countries.
The CITES secretariat is contacting officials in Cameroon, Chad, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Sudan, offering support to help galvanize enforcement efforts and trans-boundary anti-poaching mechanisms in Africa.
In addition, Mr. Scanlon has designated Ben Janse Van Rensburg, CITES Chief Enforcement Support, as the CITES secretariat’s focal point for coordinating support in responding to major elephant poaching incidents.
The focal point is engaging with the countries concerned and with partners in the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), namely Interpol, the World Customs Organization, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the World Bank, to share intelligence that could be used to help bring the perpetrators to justice, to locate and confiscate the poached ivory, and to help prevent future incidents.
The CITES secretariat, which is administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), stressed that a national, regional and international approach to manage and conserve elephants is essential, and that the most recent mass killing demonstrates the need for effectively implementing the action plan for the control of trade in elephant ivory that was created under the auspices of the Convention.Back to Top
UN-supported project brings Afghans one step closer to cleaner cooking stoves
The United Nations and its partners have teamed up with local villagers in Afghanistan to develop clean cooking stoves that could potentially save lives by improving indoor air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on wood for fuel.
Afghanistan is among the 10 countries worst affected by indoor pollution, given that over 95 per cent of its estimated 30 million people burn wood and other solid fuels in their homes, according to the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
Indoor smoke from traditional Afghan tandoors, or drum-shaped ovens which are used for cooking and heating, is a major health issue. A recent WHO study found that inhaling smoke from indoor heating and cooking kills about 54,000 Afghans per year. Regularly breathing smoke also leads to childhood pneumonia, lung cancer and other cardiovascular diseases.
The inefficient use of dung and wood for fuel is also adding to stress on the environment, says the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which notes that all Afghan forests will disappear within 30 years at the current rate of deforestation.
“As Afghanistan moves from conflict and humanitarian crises to a development-driven agenda, practical programmes focusing on economic development, labour creation and the sustainable management of the environment are a high priority,” said Andrew Scanlon, officer-in-charge of UNEP’s Afghanistan programme.
The UN-supported project brings together local metal-smiths, engineers and environmental experts in Bamiyan province to design prototypes for clean cook stoves and other low-cost energy solutions which are now being tested by villagers.
The design team has so far developed four prototypes: a tandoor (called the Sutra, meaning clean), a bhukari (called the Foladi, meaning iron), improved briquettes and a solar water heater.
The project is part of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, which is calling for 100 million homes to adopt clean and efficient stoves and fuels by 2020 to cut the estimated 1.6 million to 1.8 million premature deaths each year linked to indoor emissions from inefficient cook stoves.
As the stoves and other products are produced, they will be traded, rather than given away, as part of providing income sources and empowering local communities, according to Mr. Scanlon.
The project has added significance in that 2012 is the UN International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. The initiative aims to bring about concrete action to achieve universal access to modern energy services and double both the rate of improvement in energy efficiency and the share of renewable energy in the global mix by 2030.Back to Top
UN-backed forum to discuss early action ahead of next drought in Horn of Africa
Government representatives, climatologists, agricultural experts, disaster risk managers and others will gather in Rwanda next week to discuss early action in case of a possible third consecutive year of drought in the Horn of Africa.
“The meeting is overshadowed by the world’s failure to act on previous warnings of drought in the region which resulted in thousands of deaths from famine, particularly in Somalia,” stated a news release issued by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, known as UNISDR.
The office is supporting the three-day Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum, which begins in Kigali on Monday, along with the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The meeting, hosted by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and IGAD’s Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), will discuss the prospects for the March-to-May rainy season and consider measures to ensure that early warning leads to early action in the event of a failure of the rains.
“Two consecutive years of drought in the Horn of Africa have resulted in catastrophe for many vulnerable communities. A failure of the rains in the coming months will leave them with little coping capacity to survive,” said Pedro Basabe, head of the UNISDR Africa office.
“This year, more than ever, it is important that climate and food security experts work closely with disaster managers to monitor any serious deterioration in the situation,” he added.
Towards the end of last year, a total of 13.3 million people needed assistance in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti as a result of what aid agencies said was the worst drought in the region in six decades.
During the forum, ICPAC and UNISDR will hold joint training sessions to help strengthen the existing cooperation between climate scientists and disaster risk managers to advance information sharing for disaster risk reduction in the region.Back to Top
Brazil to host UN World Environment Day this year
Brazil will be the host of World Environment Day (WED) in June, which aims to emphasize how individual actions can have an exponential impact on the planet and help reduce pollution, the United Nations announced today.
According to the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), in recent years Brazil has taken significant steps to tackle issues such as deforestation in the Amazon which has led to one of the biggest greenhouse gas emissions in the world, and it is also at the forefront of building an economy that includes recycling and renewable energy and the generation of green jobs, making it a fitting host for WED.
“In celebrating WED in Brazil in 2012, we are returning to the roots of contemporary sustainable development in order to forge a new path that reflects the realities but also the opportunities of a new century,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
WED celebrations in Brazil will be part of thousands of events taking place around the world. Activities will range from marathons, to community clean-ups, car-free days, green blogging competitions, exhibits, green petitions, and nationwide green campaigns, among others.
This year’s theme – Green Economy: Does it include you? – is as an invitation for individuals to assess where the green economy fits in their daily lives and to evaluate how it can deliver economic and environmental outcomes for a sustainable future in a planet of seven billion people.
Brazil had previously hosted WED in 1992, on the eve of the first Earth Summit, when world leaders, government officials and international organizations met to refocus, recalibrate and deliver a route map towards sustainable development.
“The contemporary direction of sustainable development was born in Brazil – in many ways its future health, maturity and ability to respond to the challenges and opportunities of a markedly different world will be forged in Brazil in four months’ time,” said Mr. Steiner, referring to the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20) which will also be hosted in the South American country just a few weeks after WED.
“The history of Brazil, the complexion of its diverse and dynamic economy with its natural and nature-based resources allied to its industries and its current and future role in international relations, offer a lens and a unique perspective through which a broad-based, transformational outcome is possible at Rio+20,” he added.
As part of the preparatory activities for WED, UNEP announced that the car manufacturer KIA Motors, which is based on the Republic of Korea (ROK) will donate fuel-efficient cars for a global competition to mark the day.Back to Top
Ministers at UN meeting pledge to ensure action on sustainable development
Environment ministers from across the world today made a commitment to ensure that the United Nations conference on sustainable development in Brazil later this year succeeds in developing concrete actions to address pressing global environmental challenges.
The ministers, who make up the Governing Council of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which is marking its 40th anniversary this year, said the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) to be held in Rio de Janeiro will be “a unique opportunity to address the economic, social and environmental challenges in the context of sustainable development.”
In a statement at the end of the three-day annual meeting of the Governing Council at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, the ministers noted that many of the environmental challenges highlighted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 are fast becoming reality as a result of climate change, the loss of biodiversity and fisheries to deforestation and the decline in productive and healthy soils.
Summarizing discussions at the conference, the current President of the UNEP Governing Council, Federico Ramos de Armas, Spain’s State Secretary of the Ministry of the Environment, said debate focused on the theme of the green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, as well as institutional framework for sustainable development.
The green economy was widely viewed by the ministers and delegates as a way to achieve sustainable development, poverty eradication and the creation of decent jobs “by increasing resource efficiency, supporting the shift to sustainable consumption and production patterns and facilitating low-carbon development,” he said.
There was also a high level of support for strengthening UNEP’s mandate, authority and financial resources. More than 100 countries, including members of the African Union and the European Union, have backed a proposal to upgrade UNEP to a fully-fledged specialized agency of the UN as part of the Rio+20 outcomes.
“The world’s ministers responsible for the environment have sent a clear signal to the Rio+20 summit – namely that there needs to be an urgent focus on scaling up implementation of sustainable development and that bold, transformative decisions need to be taken in four months’ time in Brazil,” said Achim Steiner, UNEP’s Executive Director.Back to Top
UN urges Africa to facilitate private investment in clean energy production
Government policies that facilitate private sector investment in energy markets are crucial to help tap Africa’s massive renewable energy potential, which can fuel the continent’s poverty reduction efforts and put it on a path to sustainable development, according to a United Nations report released today.
Experts estimate that unless stronger commitments are made to reverse current trends, half the population in sub-Saharan Africa will still be without electricity by 2030.
The report produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi to mark the Africa launch of the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, outlines how current obstacles to the scaling-up of sustainable energy solutions in Africa, such as the cost of electricity generation or difficult grid access, can be tackled.
To meet the continent’s growing energy demands, the power sector in Africa needs to install an estimated 7,000 megawatts (MW) of new generation capacity each year, the report states, and argues that much of that can come from Africa’s wealth of untapped, domestic renewable resources. Cape Verde, Kenya, Madagascar, Sudan and Chad have particularly significant potential, the study says.
According to the African Development Bank, Mauritania’s wind energy potential is almost four times its annual energy needs, while Sudan’s is equivalent to 90 per cent of its annual energy needs.
“Accelerating and scaling-up sustainable energy for all will be key to realizing a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient ‘inclusive’ Green Economy,” said Achim Steiner, the UNEP Executive Director. He noted that an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide have no access to electricity and 95 per cent of them live in Africa.
“Yet the continent has abundant renewable resources that, with the right kind of public policies in place can unlock a new development future and light up the lives and the livelihoods of millions of people,’ he said.
Mr. Steiner stressed that access to sustainable energy should be uppermost in the minds of delegates who will attend the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro in June.
Current barriers – that range from fossil fuel subsidies to the need for upfront financing – which have held back the massive sustainable energy production potential in Africa and elsewhere – should also be addressed during Rio+20.
The study gives examples of how policy incentives can help reduce the higher costs associated with electricity generation from renewable sources and improve the competitiveness of investments in the sector, compared to traditional energy sources.
In Kenya, a Government feed-in tariff introduced in 2008 to expand renewable energy power generation in the country, will give production incentives for an estimated additional energy generation capacity of 1300 megawatts, more than double Kenya’s present capacity, according to the report.
Uganda’s dedicated renewable energy policy has been praised for developing an institutional infrastructure for management of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) that has successfully led to a spike in renewable energy activity.
In a related development, a Nigerian radio journalist has won the UNEP’s Young Environmental Journalist Award (YEJA), beating over 120 entries from journalists across Africa.
Ugochi Anyaka, 28, received her award at a special ceremony held during the 12th Special Session of the UNEP Governing Council today in Nairobi. Her radio feature profiled a project in a low-income suburb of Abuja that manufactures briquettes from waste paper, in order to provide an alternative fuel to traditional firewood.
Meanwhile, a ‘Foresight Panel’ of 400 leading scientists and experts meeting at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi yesterday called for complete overhaul of the way the planet is managed to tackle the challenges of global sustainability for its seven billion inhabitants.
It concluded that the three leading issues facing the planet are aligning governance with the challenges of global sustainability; transforming human capabilities for the 21st century; and meeting global environmental challenges and moving towards a green economy.Back to Top
Warning of destructive floods as Danube thaw sets in, UN urges better response
Destructive floods caused by the rapid thawing of the Danube River could add to the fatalities from an already harsh European winter, the head of the United Nations agency dealing with disaster risk reduction warned today.
In a statement, Margareta Wahlström, the head of the secretariat of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), voiced concern for the consequences faced by those countries traversed by the Danube, whose sudden thaw is taking many by surprise.
“The thaw is now setting in along the Danube. While thousands of people remain snowbound from Serbia to Bulgaria, there are warning signs that destructive floods will add to the loss of life and economic assets particularly in places where there is an absence of flood management infrastructure such as dams and dikes,” Ms. Wahlström stated.
According to media reports, the quick thawing of Europe’s second longest river has sent massive ice floes careening into boats and bridges, causing widespread damage to river vessels. The cold front had previously frozen large tracts of the waterway, making it unnavigable in areas of Germany and the Balkans.
“This severe winter in which hundreds of people have died has highlighted several weaknesses in our built environment and our ability to prepare for worst¬¬–case scenarios,” Ms. Wahlström said. “Vulnerable communities across Europe have been cut off from transport, schools, health facilities and electricity in many cases.”
The cold spell which has paralyzed much of Europe also reportedly killed more than 300 people in Ukraine, Poland, France and Italy as extremely low temperatures and substantial snowfalls blanketed the continent.
Ms. Wahlström commended Bulgaria’s decision to inspect over 500 dams throughout the country and to release the water from some dams and reservoirs to contain the Danube’s eventual floodwaters.
However, she also urged governments to undertake better planning for the possibility of future extreme winter weather patterns
“The unpredictability of severe weather events leads to high human and financial costs,” she added. “More focus on winterisation planning will be a wise investment in the coming years.”Back to Top
UN environment agency celebrates anniversary with star-filled races
Hundreds of runners took to the roads of Nairobi, Kenya, earlier today to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and raise awareness about green issues.
More than 200 runners competed in a half-marathon race and over 300 others took part in a five-kilometre fun run, the agency reported in a press release.
Many of the competitors in the half-marathon were elite runners in training for events such as the London Marathon in April and the Summer Olympics in August. Victor Kipchirchir won the race in a time of 1 hour and 27 seconds and Mercy Chemutai was the fastest woman with a time of 1:12:51.
In the five-kilometre race, dignitaries and officials from 150 countries attending a UNEP meeting this week in Nairobi were invited to run alongside such luminaries as Patrick Makau, the current world record holder in the marathon, and Paul Tergat, the former world record holder and an Ambassador Against Hunger for the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
“This is the ultimate opportunity for athletes to demonstrate their support for the work of the UN Environment Programme in protecting the environment for the past decades,” said Mr. Tergat, whose foundation co-organized the races with UNEP and Athletics Kenya.
“This is a landmark partnership between sports and the environment in which celebrities can use their iconic status for the cause of the environment, for which I have a personal passion and commitment.”
Amina Mohamed, UNEP’s deputy executive director, commended the participants in today’s races.
“We also thank the wider public for not only joining this event but also for showing commitment to continue supporting UNEP in its work to protect the environment,” she said.
Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41296&Cr=UNEP&Cr1=Back to Top
UN-backed marine expedition highlights impact of climate change in oceans
A United Nations-backed scientific expedition which has been travelling the world’s oceans for almost three years is in New York seeking to raise public awareness of the impact of climate change in oceans.
The mission, known as Tara Oceans, has travelled 70,000 miles across the Atlantic, Pacific, Antarctic and Indian oceans investigating the effects of global warming on biodiversity and marine life, particularly focusing on marine plankton, and aims to bridge the knowledge gap between the scientific community and the public by regularly sharing its findings and data and allowing visitors into the Tara vessel wherever it docks.
“The Tara expedition represents an extraordinary human endeavour by focusing on the key major gaps in our knowledge on plankton,” said Andrew Hudson, the Coordinator of UN Oceans, adding that it is facilitating communication not only between scientists and the public but also with policy-makers so they know how the ocean works and how human activity impacts this vital ecosystem.
Mr. Hudson also spotlighted the importance of this initiative in raising awareness before the UN Sustainable Development Conference (Rio+20) in June, where Tara researchers will be sharing their message as they try to rally support for new initiatives, reforms and financing needed for ocean sustainability.
Philippe Kridelka, Director of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) office in New York, echoed Mr. Hudson’s remarks and emphasized the importance of the mission in bringing the topic of oceans into the development agenda.
The vessel has also had artists and journalists on board to help promote the mission, including French fashion designer agnès b., who is also one of the main sponsors of Tara.
The designer, along with other members of the Tara crew, met Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier today and talked to him about the activities of the mission.
The mission is carried out under the auspices of the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and in partnership with UNESCO’s International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission.Back to Top
UN-backed report warns of dangers of increasing electronic waste in West Africa
West Africa is facing a significant increase in waste generated by electronic equipment which poses mounting health and environmental risks, according to a United Nations report released today.
About 85 per cent of the waste produced in the region comes from domestic consumption, the report reveals. However, the problem is further exacerbated by industrialized countries importing used equipment which often proves to be unsuitable for re-use and end up being discarded.
“Effective management of the growing amount of e-waste generated in Africa and other parts of the world is an important part of the transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy”, said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The report assessed the situation over two years in five countries – Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia and Nigeria – and found that they produce between 650,000 and 1,000,000 tons of domestic e-waste each year, which can have a negative impact in the environment and increase the risk of health issues.
As for waste coming from other countries, the report notes that the United Kingdom is the dominant exporting country to Africa for both new and used electrical and electronic equipment, followed by France and Germany.
According to UNEP, although the use of electrical and electronic equipment is still low in Africa compared to other regions, it is growing at a staggering pace as more people start using mobile phones and personal computers.
The report, which was prepared by the Secretariat of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal and partners, also documents the economic and environmental potential of building a resource recovery and waste management system for electronic waste, along with the risks of continuing on the present course.
“We can grow Africa’s economies, generate decent employment and safeguard the environment by supporting sustainable e-waste management and recovering the valuable metals and other resources locked inside products that end up as e-waste,” Mr. Steiner said, adding that the report provides various strategies to limit damages and provide economic opportunities, something that is crucial for long-term sustainability.
“E-waste is the fastest growing waste stream world-wide and a key waste stream under the Basel Convention,” said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel Convention. The convention’s secretariat is administered by UNEP.
“Dealing with electronic and electrical equipment properly presents a serious environmental and health challenge for many countries, yet also offers a potentially significant opportunity to create green businesses and green jobs.”Back to Top
UN and partners help to power education with solar panel donation
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has partnered with religious institutions to provide solar panels that will power much-needed electricity to schools as well as promote the use of renewable energy.
The first solar panels were donated to the Ebrahim Hamim Madrasa and the Islamic Centre of Social Welfare outside of Jalalabad, in the eastern province of Nangarhar, last week.
The solar panels and related equipment will benefit around 570 students, including 350 girls, by powering lights in the school, stated the mission.
Speaking with students and school officials, the head of UNAMA’s Eastern Regional Office, Nahid Abuakar, said the UN understands the significant role that preaching and religious education hold in promotion of peace and human rights among neighbourhoods.
“We enjoy excellent working relations with representatives of religious communities and we hope that this assistance will increase your working capacity in delivering significant services – especially for women – and promote human rights values,” she said.
During the handover of the equipment, the principal of the school, Mawlawi Esrarullah Hamim, said that the support given to the ulamas, or religious scholars, through the donation could also help create a culture of peace.
“Supporting ulamas means supporting peace because our people respect mullahs and religious scholars. They could encourage people to support peace and reconciliation process,” said Mr. Hamim.Back to Top