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Ten Central African countries to take part in UN-backed forest monitoring system

Ten Central African countries will take part in a United Nations-backed initiative that will help them set up national forest monitoring systems and strengthen cooperation among nations in the region, it was announced today.

The initiative targets the forests of Africa’s Congo Basin, which consist of some 200 million hectares and are one of the world’s largest primary rainforests, second only to the Amazon. The region’s forests also support the livelihoods of some 60 million people.

The €6 million initiative (approximately $7.3 million) will help protect these forests from direct threats such as land-use change and unsustainable logging and mining, and will provide up-to-date and accurate information on the current state of forests that will help countries manage and prevent forest degradation activities.

The project will be jointly managed by the Central Africa Forests Commission (COMIFAC) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in close collaboration with the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

“Learning from Brazil, the national forest monitoring system is the key element to pave the road for substantive international support to protect forests and promote sustainable forest management,” said the Assistant Director-General of the FAO Forestry Department, Eduardo Rojas.

The 10 participant countries are Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and São Tomé and Principe.

FAO will provide technical support to the countries, enabling them to use remote sensing technologies to estimate forest cover and forest cover changes as well as to estimate the amount of carbon stocks contained in forests in the region.

The initiative will be funded through The Congo Basin Forests Fund, launched by the Governments of Norway and the United Kingdom through the African Development Bank.

The project will also assist countries in preparing funding proposals for creating sustainable forest monitoring systems for each country, as part of the REDD+ initiative (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries).

The REDD+ initiative seeks to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42560&Cr=Forests&Cr1=

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UN official hails United Kingdom’s measures to make Olympics sustainable

A senior United Nations official today praised the measures taken by the United Kingdom to ensure that the London Summer Olympic Games are environmentally sustainable.

“London’s clean-up of an old industrial site; the restoration of flows and habitat on the River Lea; the greening of supply chains; the low energy linked with the design and construction of the stadium, including utilizing old gas pipes for the facility’s Olympic ring; and the use of temporary structures to reduce emissions are among the actions that can assist in inspiring the organizers of the Rio 2016 games and beyond,” said Achim Steiner.

Mr. Steiner is the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which has been cooperating with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since the mid-1990s so that host cities of the global sporting event strive to put measure in place that protect the environment and makes smart use of their resources.

“Every Olympic Games represents unique challenges and opportunities in terms of raising the bar of the third pillar of Olympism – namely the environment – and London is no exception,” Mr. Steiner said during a visit to the Olympic Park on the eve of the Games’ inauguration.

Some of the measures taken by the London Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games to make the event sustainable include the creation of the Olympic Park on a once-contaminated industrial land, the recycling of over 98 per cent of waste during the construction of the Park and the commitment to do the same on the demolition phase.

It has also committed to the delivery of public transport targeting one million extra walking and cycling journeys in London during the Games, and the use of a sustainability assessment guide developed in part by UNEP.

This is also the first time that a city has committed to measure its carbon footprint over the entire project term.

UNEP has also provided a set of recommendations to the Organizing Committee of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games in Russia to provide guidance on the integration of environmental considerations in the preparation and staging of the Winter Games and has been invited to assist Rio de Janeiro in its preparations for the 2016 Summer Games.

“We are committed to building a future for everyone where the natural environment is not just protected, but valued as a national asset,” said the UK Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman. “We are delighted to have set new standards in sustainable development, and to showcase the expertise and ingenuity of British companies in delivering a green Olympics so warmly welcomed by Mr. Steiner.”

UNEP has a longstanding collaboration with the IOC in the greening of the Games which goes back to Athens 2004, Torino 2006, Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42563&Cr=olympic&Cr1=

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Smuggling of elephant ivory and rhino horn on agenda of UN-backed forum

The massive smuggling of elephant ivory and rhino horn, tiger conservation and the illegal trade in great apes are among the issues on the agenda of a United Nations-backed meeting taking place in Geneva this week.

Some 350 participants are participating in the meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which began in Geneva yesterday.

The Committee oversees the implementation of rules for the international trade in protected wildlife on behalf of the Conference of the 175 member countries of CITES.

Elephant issues, including rising levels in the illegal killing of elephants and ivory smuggling, features high on the agenda of the week-long meeting, as does the drivers behind the “exploding” demand in rhino horn, according to a news release issued by the CITES secretariat, which is administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“With elephant and rhino poaching and smuggling levels being the worst in a decade, it is clear that strong additional measures are required,” said the Chairman of the Committee, Øysten Størkersen, adding that 2013 will be a critical year to adopt enhanced measures to protect the planet’s biodiversity and ensure effective implementation on the ground.

“The present meeting will help set the priorities and to ensure the long-term survival of key species we would like to leave to future generations,” he stated.

The meeting will also review the progress made in the implementation of measures to reduce the over-exploitation of freshwater turtles and tortoises, as well as some frogs and plants from Madagascar, in addition to discussing the sourcing of Asian snakes used in the leather industry. Also on the agenda are tiger conservation initiatives and the illegal trade in great apes.

This week’s gathering will also decide on the agenda of the next meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which will take place in Bangkok in March 2013, and will coincide with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Convention.

CITES regulates international trade in close to 35,000 species of plants and animals, including their products and derivatives, ensuring their survival in the wild with benefits for the livelihoods of local people and the global environment.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42548&Cr=endangered+species&Cr1=

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UN rights expert urges international community to not turn its back on Tuvalu

A United Nations independent expert today called on the international community to not turn its back on the small island State of Tuvalu, where communities are being seriously affected by climate change.

“Climate change is an everyday reality for people in Tuvalu, and is slowly but steadily impacting their human rights to water and sanitation,” warned the Special Rapporteur on the right to safe drinking water, Catarina de Albuquerque, at the end of her first mission to the country. “Climate change will exacerbate water scarcity, saltwater intrusions, sea level rise and frequency of extreme weather events.”

As of 2010, 98 per cent of the population in Tuvalu had access to an improved source of water and 85 per cent had access to improved sanitation facilities, according to a joint report by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

However, Ms. de Albuquerque noted, “these figures do not portray an accurate picture of the country’s situation and mask severe challenges currently faced by its population.” She noted that people cannot actually drink directly from the water storage tanks and have to boil it, despite previous efforts to improve the situation.

“People are still suffering from a lack of water in sufficient quantities on a continuous basis. Several people told me that they have no confidence in the sustainability of the water supply,” she said.

The Special Rapporteur called on authorities to ensure that the country’s water harvesting system is used to its maximum potential in old and new buildings, and urged the Government to immediately adopt and implement a national water strategy and plan of action covering the entire population.

“Access to water and sanitation must be affordable to all, in particular to those who have a lower income. The price paid for water, sanitation and hygiene must not compromise access to other human rights such as food, housing or education,” Ms. de Albuquerque said. “I call on the Government to bear this in mind when discussing and adopting new water tariffs or when advancing the use of composting toilets.”

Tuvalu is currently developing a draft Water Act as well as a Sustainable and Integrated Water and Sanitation Policy.

During her three-day visit, Ms. de Albuquerque met with various Government departments, and visited a settlement. She also visited a school to discuss the pupils’ access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

The Special Rapporteur will present a report on her mission to a forthcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council. After her visit to Tuvalu, Ms. de Albuquerque will travel to Kiribati, also in the Pacific Ocean, on a similar fact-finding mission from 23 to 26 July.

Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not United Nations staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42519&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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UNESCO adds 20 new sites to global network of biosphere reserves

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today added 20 new sites to its global list of biosphere reserves, bringing the total to 599 in 117 countries.

The International Coordinating Council of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB), meeting in Paris, France, added sites in Haiti, Kazakhstan and Sao Tome and Principe for the first time to the World Network of Biosphere Reserves.

Biosphere reserves are places recognized by MAB where local communities are actively involved in governance and management, research, education, training and monitoring at the service of both socio-economic development and biodiversity conservation.

They are “sites for experimenting with and learning about sustainable development,” UNESCO said in a news release.

The new additions to the list include the West Polesie Transboundary Biosphere Reserve, which crosses Belarus, Poland and Ukraine; the Sheka reserve in Ethiopia; the four islands that make up the Wakatobi reserve in Indonesia; and the Ferlo reserve in Senegal, which has been threatened by droughts due to human activities, among others.

There were also extensions to four reserves: the Fray Jorge Biosphere Reserve in Chile; the Réserve de biosphère des Iles et de la Mer d’Iroise in France; and the Doñana and Sierra Nevada Biosphere Reserves, both located in Spain.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42451&Cr=biodiversity&Cr1=

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UNESCO and NGO partner appeal for funds to help wildlife reserve attacked by poachers

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and a non-governmental organization today launched an emergency appeal to support the staff and rebuild the headquarters of a key wildlife reserve in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which was recently attacked by poachers.

“Unless we can reverse this situation quickly, this will be a real setback for the conservation in Okapi Wildlife Reserve, home to the largest remaining population of forest elephants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” the Chief of UNESCO’s Special Projects Unit, Guy Debonnet, said in a news release. “We can’t let those poachers kill rangers and hunt wildlife with impunity.”

According to UNESCO, the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, which is also a World Heritage Site, occupies about one-fifth of the DRC’s Ituri forest. It also contains threatened species of primates and birds, and about 5,000 of the estimated 30,000 okapi – a rare forest giraffe – surviving in the wild.

The Reserve’s headquarters, located in Epulu, a small village, came under attack on 24 June by poachers armed with AK-47 rifles and led by a notorious elephant poacher known as Morgan – seven people were killed, including two rangers, and buildings were torched and equipment destroyed. As well, 13 okapi were killed in the raid.

The emergency appeal, by UNESCO and Fauna and Flora International, hopes to raise $120,000 by 20 July, to help the families of the victims and repair the Reserve’s headquarters.

“Unless the facility can be restored very soon, these poachers will have met their objective: to move freely about the reserve in their search for elephant tusks,” UNESCO said.

It noted that funds from the campaign will be used to protect the Reserve’s elephants, whose population has been declining rapidly because of the ivory poaching, and to help re-establish the Reserve’s successful okapi breeding programme.

“Buildings will be rebuilt and equipment repaired or replaced. Perhaps most importantly, the families of those who were killed will be supported,” UNESCO added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42397&Cr=elephant&Cr1=

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UN-backed meeting seeks to establish global treaty to reduce use of mercury

Over 500 representatives from governments and civil society organizations are taking part in a United Nations-backed meeting in Punta del Este, Uruguay, which seeks to negotiate a global treaty that would reduce the use of mercury.

The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, said the six-day meeting will help governments work towards a common goal in reducing “the exposure of significant numbers of people across the globe to a highly hazardous substance whose impacts on human health are well known – and in doing so make a serious contribution to sustainable development and a transition to an inclusive green economy in the wake of Rio+20.”

The meeting of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee is covering a wide range of areas, from products and processes that contain mercury, to the supply, trade, storage and waste of the element.

UNEP also launched a practical guide at the meeting on methods and techniques to reduce mercury use and non-mercury alternative practices in Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM).

Developed in collaboration with the Artisanal Gold Council and other partners, the guide informs policymakers, miners and civil society about available techniques for reducing and ultimately eliminating mercury use in ASGM.

With the value of gold having soared amid the recent financial turmoil, small-scale, artisanal gold mining is booming throughout the world. The Artisanal Gold Council estimates that between 12 and 15 million people in over 70 countries are employed in the sector, producing up to 20 per cent of the total gold supply.

However, the often informal and sometimes illegal status of the sector in many countries has been one of the biggest challenges in addressing the health and environmental issues of the sector. The UNEP guide seeks to also be a useful tool for governments to explain the technical fundamentals that underpin and encourage the formalization of ASGM.

“[ASGM] is an important economic activity, which can contribute directly to poverty alleviation and regional well-being. The global mercury legal instrument under development gives an important opportunity to ensure that a small-scale activity, such as this one, continues in a safe and sustainable way,” Mr. Steiner said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42378&Cr=unep&Cr1=

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