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United Nations climate fund inaugurates first meeting

A United Nations fund aimed at mobilizing resources to help developing countries mitigate the impact of global warming has kicked-off its first official meeting, it was announced today.

Established by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) during the 2011 UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was created to help developing nations protect themselves from climate impacts and build their own sustainable futures.

However, the GCF could not meet officially until it had filled all 24 seats on its Board, which effectively governs and supervises all aspects of the Fund.

According to a press release confirming the inaugural session, the GCF will now set about satisfying its mandate, which includes providing developing countries with simplified and improved access to climate change funding, as well as providing them support to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The Board inaugurated its first gathering by electing Mr. Zaheer Fakir of South Africa and Mr. Ewen McDonald of Australia as its Co-Chairs for a one-year term. Mr. Fakir is the Head of International Relations and Governance of the Department of Environmental Affairs of South Africa, while Mr. McDonald is the Deputy Director General of the Australian Agency for International Development, and both boast numerous years of experience in development and climate change-related issues.

Meanwhile, six countries – Germany, Mexico, Namibia, Poland, Republic of Korea, and Switzerland – are vying to host the Fund.

The GCF’s meeting will conclude on Saturday, 25 August.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42732&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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With drought intensifying worldwide, UN calls for integrated climate policies

More consolidated efforts to combat the threat of climate change and counter its ripple effects on global food security are needed amid an intensifying global drought and increasing temperatures worldwide, the United Nations declared today.

“Climate change is projected to increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of droughts, with impacts on many sectors, in particular food, water, and energy,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in a press release. “We need to move away from a piecemeal, crisis-driven approach and develop integrated risk-based national drought policies,” he added.

According to the news release, the WMO and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), along with other UN agencies, are intensifying efforts to establish a more coordinated and proactive strategy for managing drought risk to fill existing policy vacuums in countries around the world. As a result, a High Level Meeting on National Drought Policy has been scheduled from 11 to 15 March 2013.

Speaking at a press conference in Geneva earlier today, Dr. Mannava Sivakumar, Director of the WMO Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch underlined the severity and reach of the current drought and its potential impact on global food prices.

He noted that one quarter of the United States was experiencing exceptional drought while the entire country was facing its longest 12 month period in a drought since 1895. Dr. Sivakumar also emphasized that the effects of the drought on the United States’ soybean and corn harvests was having “a major impact on food prices.”

Meanwhile, pointing to the situation in India, he told reporters that the Asian country was similarly experiencing very serious droughts with countrywide rainfall 17 per cent below normal. In Punjab, India’s breadbasket, rainfall was 70 per cent below normal, he said.

According to the WMO, severe drought also developed in parts of East Africa in late 2010 and continued through most of 2011 with the most severely affected areas encompassing the semi-arid regions eastern and northern Kenya, western Somalia, and southern border areas of Ethiopia.

“The 2010 drought-induced famine in the Greater Horn of Africa, the ongoing crisis in the Sahel region and the extensive drought in the USA show that developing and developed countries alike are vulnerable,” said Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD. “Effective long-term solutions to mitigate the effects of drought, and address desertification and land degradation urgently need to be mainstreamed in national development plans and policies,” he added.

In 2009, international climate experts gathered at the International Workshop on Drought and Extreme Temperatures in Beijing released their climate projections for the 21st century, forecasting an increase in the frequency of severe droughts in the continental USA and Mexico, the Mediterranean Basin, parts of northern China, across southern Africa and Australia and in parts of South America.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42716&Cr=climate&Cr1=drought

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UN warns of risk of African swine fever in Caucasus region

Following the first-ever detection of African swine fever (ASF)in Ukraine, the United Nations is warning that while control measures appear to have temporarily halted the disease’s spread, it has established a firm foothold in the Caucasus and poses an ongoing risk to neighbouring areas.

“National and local authorities in the entire region should scale up their prevention measures and be ready to respond in case of further outbreaks,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Chief Veterinary Officer, Juan Lubroth, said in a news release. “This could be the first of more outbreaks to come, according to our disease analyses.”

In addition to some other parts of Ukraine, nearby countries like Moldova, Kazakhstan and Latvia – which have large pig populations raised on household or family farms, and oftentimes weak bio-security protocols – are also now at high risk of the disease’s introduction, according to FAO.

ASF does not affect humans, but mortalities in domestic pigs can be extremely high. In 2011, up to 300,000 pigs died or were culled as a result of ASF outbreaks in the Russian Federation, incurring an estimated $240 million in economic losses.

Mr. Lubroth noted that Ukraine has responded quickly, implementing sanitary measures, destroying affected pigs and imposing a quarantine zone around the village where the outbreaks occurred.

Most importantly, he added, Ukraine has paid farmers compensation for pigs that were slaughtered and properly disposed of, so that poor families that depend on pig-raising for food and income are not left ruined by the loss of their pigs.

All countries at risk should stand ready to detect any ASF outbreaks as soon as they occur and respond in a similarly proactive fashion, according to FAO.

Prior to being introduced to the Caucasus in 2007, ASF had been confined for several decades to the African continent and the Italian island of Sardinia. Today, however, it is considered endemic in parts of the Russian Federation and some countries in the Caucasus region, including Georgia and Armenia.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42713&Cr=Ukraine&Cr1=

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Secretary-General launches new initiative to protect world’s oceans

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched a new initiative to protect the oceans and the people whose livelihoods depend on it, and called on countries to work together to achieve a more sustainable management of this precious resource and address the threats it is currently facing.

“The seas and oceans host some of the most vulnerable and important ecosystems on Earth, but the diversity of life they host is under ever-increasing strain,” Mr. Ban said at an event in the city of Yeosu in the Republic of Korea (ROK), to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening for signature of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Convention, also known as the “constitution of the oceans,” governs all aspects of ocean space, from delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues. It was first opened for signature in 1982 and entered into force in 1994; there are 162 parties to it – 161 States and the European Union.

Mr. Ban praised the achievements of the Convention in helping countries establish a legal framework to guide the management of the oceans, the settlement of disputes, and the administration of the international seabed.

“Among its principles, the Law of the Sea recognizes that all ocean issues are related and that they need to be addressed as a whole,” Mr. Ban said, adding that this is in line with the development framework put forward at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

However, Mr. Ban also emphasized the need to address multiple issues that threaten the marine environment. To do this, he announced the launch of the Oceans Compact, which will seek to support and strengthen the implementation of the Law of the Sea.

“What we need is to create new momentum for ocean sustainability,” Mr. Ban said. “The Oceans Compact sets out a strategic vision for the UN System to deliver more coherently and effectively on its oceans-related mandates, consistent with the Rio+20 outcome.”

The Compact, Mr. Ban added, will provide a platform to help countries protect the ocean’s natural resources, restore their full food production to help people’s whose livelihoods depend on the sea, and increase awareness and knowledge about the management of the oceans.

To achieve the objectives of the Compact, Mr. Ban proposed a results-oriented Action Plan along with the creation of an Ocean Advisory Group made up of high-level policymakers, scientists and experts, as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society.

During his visit, Mr. Ban also spoke to young people at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) youth forum, where he asked participants to practice solidarity among generations and lead the way in implementing sustainable measures in all aspects of society.

“From public squares to cyberspace, youth are a transformative force; you are creative, resourceful and enthusiastic agents of change,” Mr. Ban said. “A sustainable future can be ours. The work starts now, and it starts with you. This is a generational imperative… a generational opportunity… that your generation must seize.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42668&Cr=ocean&Cr1=

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In Republic of Korea, Ban launches new initiative to protect oceans

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched a new initiative to protect the oceans and the people whose livelihoods depend on it, and called on countries to work together to achieve a more sustainable management of this precious resource and address the threats it is currently facing.

“The seas and oceans host some of the most vulnerable and important ecosystems on Earth, but the diversity of life they host is under ever-increasing strain,” Mr. Ban said at an event in the city of Yeosu in the Republic of Korea (ROK), to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the opening for signature of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Convention, also known as the “constitution of the oceans,” governs all aspects of ocean space, from delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues. It was first opened for signature in 1982 and entered into force in 1994; there are 162 parties to it – 161 States and the European Union.

Mr. Ban praised the achievements of the Convention in helping countries establish a legal framework to guide the management of the oceans, the settlement of disputes, and the administration of the international seabed.

“Among its principles, the Law of the Sea recognizes that all ocean issues are related and that they need to be addressed as a whole,” Mr. Ban said, adding that this is in line with the development framework put forward at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

However, Mr. Ban also emphasized the need to address multiple issues that threaten the marine environment. To do this, he announced the launch of the Oceans Compact, which will seek to support and strengthen the implementation of the Law of the Sea.

“What we need is to create new momentum for ocean sustainability,” Mr. Ban said. “The Oceans Compact sets out a strategic vision for the UN System to deliver more coherently and effectively on its oceans-related mandates, consistent with the Rio+20 outcome.”

The Compact, Mr. Ban added, will provide a platform to help countries protect the ocean’s natural resources, restore their full food production to help people’s whose livelihoods depend on the sea, and increase awareness and knowledge about the management of the oceans.

To achieve the objectives of the Compact, Mr. Ban proposed a results-oriented Action Plan along with the creation of an Ocean Advisory Group made up of high-level policymakers, scientists and experts, as well as representatives of the private sector and civil society.

During his visit, Mr. Ban also spoke to young people at the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) youth forum, where he asked participants to practice solidarity among generations and lead the way in implementing sustainable measures in all aspects of society.

“From public squares to cyberspace, youth are a transformative force; you are creative, resourceful and enthusiastic agents of change,” Mr. Ban said. “A sustainable future can be ours. The work starts now, and it starts with you. This is a generational imperative… a generational opportunity… that your generation must seize.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42668&Cr=ocean&Cr1=

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Japanese nuclear plant ‘remarkably undamaged’ in earthquake

The nuclear plant closest to the epicentre of the March 2011 earthquake that struck Japan, resulting in a devastating tsunami and radiation leakage at another facility, was “remarkably undamaged,” according to a report delivered today by the United Nations nuclear watchdog.

“The structural elements of the NPS were remarkably undamaged given the magnitude of ground motion experienced and the duration and size of this great earthquake,” according to the draft report of an expert team of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), following its two-week mission to the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station.

The Onagawa Nuclear Power Station is 120 kilometres north of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was severely damaged during the seismic event, when the building housing the plant exploded and three of its nuclear reactors suffered a meltdown in what was reported to be the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. A year later, a 19-kilometre exclusion zone still surrounds the disaster site.

The IAEA mission’s objective was to observe how safety structures, systems and components responded to the heavy shaking, which was not possible to study at Fukushima Daiichi because of the damage.

Onagawa, facing the Pacific Ocean on Japan’s north-east coast, experienced very high levels of ground shaking – among the strongest of any plant affected by the earthquake – and some flooding from the tsunami that followed, but was able to shut down safely, the IAEA said in a news release.

Findings from the visual investigation will be added to an IAEA database being compiled by its International Seismic Safety Centre (ISSC), as part of the IAEA’s Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, endorsed by the Agency’s Member States following the Fukushima Daiichi event.

“Information in the data base will allow IAEA member states to measure the performance of their nuclear power plants in the face of external hazards,” the mission’s leader and head of the ISSC, Sujit Samaddar, said, adding that the Centre also sought data from Member States other than Japan.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42664&Cr=iaea&Cr1=

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UN launches sustainable development network to help find solutions to global problems

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today launched a new independent global network of research centres, universities and technical institutions to help find solutions for some of the world’s most pressing environmental, social and economic problems.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) will work with stakeholders including business, civil society, UN agencies and other international organizations to identify and share the best pathways to achieve sustainable development, according to a UN news release.

This initiative is part of the work undertaken in response to the mandate on post-2015 and the outcome of UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which took place in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, in June.

The Solutions Network will be directed by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University and Special Advisor to Secretary-General Ban on the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It will operate in close coordination with the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

“The post-2015 objectives will help the world to focus on the vital challenges of sustainable development and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network will be an innovative way to draw upon worldwide expertise in the campuses, universities, scientific research centres and business technology divisions around the world,” Mr. Ban said.

The High-level Panel will advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015, the target date for achieving the MDGs, and it will hold its first meeting at the end of September, in the margins of the annual high-level debate of the General Assembly. It is expected to submit its findings to the Secretary-General in the first half of 2013, and those findings will inform his report to Member States.

The eight MDGs, agreed on by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, set specific targets on poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development.’

According to the news release, given that politics around the world too often focuses on short-term issues while governments often lack the timely information needed for long-term sustainable-development strategies, it is essential that scientists and technology experts outside of government support the development of long-term analyses, demonstration programmes and development pathways.

The SDSN is expected to provide an independent global, open and inclusive process to support and scale up problem-solving at local, national and global levels.

“In the 20 years since the first Rio Earth Summit, the world has largely failed to address some of the most serious environmental and social problems pressing in on us,” Mr. Sachs said. “We can’t afford business as usual. We need to engage the academic and scientific community, and tap into worldwide technological know-how in the private sector and civil society, in order to develop and implement practical solutions.”

Substantial emphasis will be placed on collaboration across countries to analyze common problems and learn from each other’s experiences. The network will accelerate joint learning and help to overcome the compartmentalization of technical and policy work by promoting integrated “systems” approaches to addressing the complex economic, social and environmental challenges confronting governments.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42658&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=

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Initiatives from five countries receive UN prize for inspiring environmental action

Projects from Australia, Bangladesh, Colombia, India, and Kenya that inspired and galvanized environmental action are the winners of this year’s World Environment Day Challenge, the United Nations announced today.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) challenged people across the world to pledge an environmental activity for the chance to win a Kia Motors fuel-efficient car in connection with this year’s World Environment Day, which was observed on 5 June.

“Today we celebrate five inspiring projects, submitted for the World Environment Day 2012 challenge, that illuminate the pathway to a transition to a green economy,” said UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner.

“The most environmentally friendly travel is by train, bus, carpooling, cycle or on foot, but in some countries making an eco-friendly project happen may need a private vehicle. If so, it should be fuel-efficient,” he added. “This is why we are awarding such vehicles to these projects, most of which are run in developing nations with underdeveloped public transport networks.”

Among the winners is Fundacion Ecoprogreso, a group in Colombia that works to protect a mangrove lagoon surrounding the city of Cartagena, organized activities for the Day to raise awareness of the importance of the mangrove ecosystem for the local green economy, especially for ecotourism and sustainable fishing.

Maji Mazuri Centre International, located in Nairobi, runs an initiative called Green Heroes, in which youth focus on organizing and improving waste management in the Kenyan capital’s informal Mathare settlement. Among its events for World Environment Day were a communal clean-up day and a football match that galvanized over 2,000 people.

On Australia’s Sunshine Coast, the World Environment Day Festival is held annually to raise awareness of environmental issues and the unique flora and fauna of the region, as well as promote the adoption of sustainable lifestyles and technologies. It is organized by the Sunshine Coast Environment Council, another winner of this year’s challenge.

A Bangladeshi non-profit organization, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, celebrated the Day through a solar-powered boat rally, a drawing competition on floating schools, an essay-writing competition on floating libraries, an exhibition on a two-tier boat and evening shows of training boats under the theme – ‘The Green Economy in a Changing Climate – Hope Floats.’

The fifth winner, Hand in Hand India, a development organization in the southern city of Chennai, brought together over 500 volunteers to create a colourful 10,000 square foot Rangoli carpet depicting 10 environmental themes. Rangoli is a hand-drawn Indian art which adorns the courtyards of many houses.

Observance of World Environment Day began in 1972 as a way to raise awareness of the environment and encourage political attention and action. This year’s theme for the Day – ‘Green Economy: Does it include you?’ – sought to underscore the need for everyone to play a part in keeping humankind’s ecological footprints within planetary boundaries.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42612&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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UN agency welcomes Nigeria’s decision to carry out oil clean-up in Ogoniland

The United Nations today welcomed the decision by the Nigerian Government to clean up a major oil contamination in the Ogoniland region of the country.

The decision comes twelve months after the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) presented a scientific assessment of oil pollution in Ogoniland to the Government, underlining serious public health and environmental impacts.

“On the anniversary of the Ogoniland assessment there are now clear and encouraging signals that the Government is keen to move on the recommendations – this is a welcome development for the people and the environment of this region who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the legacy of some 50 years of unsustainable oil exploration and production,” UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said in a news release.

The independent scientific assessment, carried out over a 14-month period, showed greater and deeper pollution than previously thought after an agency team examined more than 200 locations, surveyed 122 kilometres of pipeline rights of way, analyzed 4,000 soil and water samples, reviewed more than 5,000 medical records and engaged over 23,000 people at local community meetings.

The assessment emphasized the need for swift action to prevent the pollution footprint from spreading further and exacerbating the situation for the Ogoni people, and had proposed an initial sum of $1 billion to cover the first five years of clean-up operations.

The assessment had also estimated that while some on-the-ground results could be immediate, a fully sustainable recovery of Ogoniland could take 25 to 30 years and would require long-term financing.

Last month, the Nigerian Government announced that it would establish the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project, a government initiative that would fully implement UNEP’s recommendations to clean-up the area.

Over recent weeks, UNEP has held discussions with Nigerian environment officials on how to implement those recommendations.

“The immediate need is for the necessary funds to be mobilized and to be deployed to take the Project forward at a scale and speed commensurate with the challenge. Everyone has a part to play in realizing significant and positive results from the Government of Nigeria, local authorities and the oil industry to NGOs and local communities,” said the Director of UNEP’s Division of Environmental Policy Implementation, Ibrahim Thiaw, who presented the UNEP report to the Government last year.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42600&Cr=nigeria&Cr1=

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