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2012 set to be ninth warmest year on record


28 November 2012 – Temperatures this year are the ninth highest on record since 1850 despite the effect of La Niña, a meteorological phenomenon which is supposed to have a cooling influence on the Earth’s atmosphere, says a new United Nations report released today.

High temperatures were accompanied by unprecedented melting of the Arctic sea ice and multiple weather and climate extremes which affected many parts of the world.

The findings are among the highlights of the provisional UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) statement on the state of the global climate, which provides an annual snapshot of weather and climate events around the world.

The report, which is based on three global temperature sets, was released today at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, where thousands of representatives from governments, international organizations and civil society are meeting to advance ways to cut global carbon emissions and pollution.

“Naturally occurring climate variability due to phenomena such as El Niño and La Niña impact on temperatures and precipitation on a seasonal to annual scale, but they do not alter the underlying long-term trend of rising temperatures due to climate change as a result of human activities,” said WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud.

“The extent of Arctic sea ice reached a new record low. The alarming rate of its melt this year highlighted the far-reaching changes taking place on Earth’s oceans and biosphere. Climate change is taking place before our eyes and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” he added.

Notable extreme events were observed worldwide during the period of January–October 2012, the report states, including heat waves in North America and Europe, drought in the United States, China, Brazil and parts of Russia and Eastern Europe, floods in the Sahel region, Pakistan and China, and snow and extreme cold in Russia and Eastern Europe.

The Atlantic basin also experienced an above-average hurricane season for a third consecutive year with a total of 19 storms, with 10 reaching hurricane status, the most notable being Sandy, which wreaked havoc across the Caribbean and the US east coast.

East Asia was severely impacted by powerful typhoons, the biggest one being Sanba, which impacted the Philippines, Japan, and the Korean Peninsula, affecting thousands of people and causing millions of dollars in damage.

In March, WMO will publish final updates and figures for 2012 in its annual statement on the status of the global climate.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43618&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Thawing of permafrost to be ‘major factor’ in global warming, warns UN report


27 November 2012 – Massive stores of carbon trapped under the northern hemisphere’s frozen expanses risk being unleashed and significantly contributing to global warming should thawing of the region’s permafrost continue to accelerate, a United Nations report warned today.

Released on the sidelines of the UN Climate Change Conference in the Qatari capital of Doha, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report – Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost – underlines the potential hazards facing global ecosystems as well as national infrastructures if the rigid permafrost terrain were to become unstable.

It also warns that the threat posed by carbon dioxide and methane emissions from warming permafrost has only begun to enter mainstream scientific discourse in recent years and, as a result, has not been included in climate prediction modelling.

In a news release marking the report’s launch, Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of UNEP, emphasized the role permafrost could play in rapidly increasing the effects of global warming.

“Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet’s future because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world,” Mr. Steiner noted.

“Its potential impact on the climate, ecosystems and infrastructure has been neglected for too long,” he continued, adding that the report sought “to communicate to climate-treaty negotiators, policy-makers and the general public the implications of continuing to ignore the challenges of warming permafrost.”

Most of the planet’s permafrost formed during the last ice age and extends up to 700 metres in parts of Russia and Canada. It constitutes an active layer of up to two metres in thickness sitting atop a stratum of frozen soil.

Although permafrost regularly thaws each summer and refreezes in the winter, an increase in thickness of the active layer due to global warming would cause huge quantities of organic matter trapped in the frozen soil to thaw and decay, releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide.

The report’s finding that permafrost emissions could ultimately account for up to 39 per cent of total global emissions have prompted UNEP and the report’s authors to urge action at the Doha climate conference.

“The release of carbon dioxide and methane from warming permafrost is irreversible: once the organic matter thaws and decays away, there is no way to put it back into the permafrost,” the report’s lead author, Kevin Schaefer, noted.

With most climate change-related legislation ignoring the threat posed by the permafrost thawing, the report recommends a special assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as well as the creation of national monitoring networks and adaptation plans as key steps to dealing with the potential impacts of what could be “a significant source of emissions” and “a major factor in global warming.”

UNEP also warns that changes in the permafrost could have a substantial impact on human activities as the thawing would cause the terrain to become structurally weak and unsteady, ultimately adding to the growing costs associated with public infrastructure owing to climate change.

Mr. Schaefer confirmed that the thawing permafrost represented a dramatic physical change with potentially huge impacts on human infrastructure networks.

“Individual nations need to develop plans to evaluate the risks, costs and mitigation strategies to protect human infrastructure in permafrost regions most vulnerable to thaw,” he concluded.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43611&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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UN-led partnership set to push innovative investments against climate change


27 November 2012 – A new United Nations-led partnership aimed at showcasing innovative models for financing climate change adaptation and mitigation activities was unveiled today.

The initiative, which will pair the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the World Economic Forum (WEF) in an effort to spotlight successful public-private financing mechanisms, will be formally launched on 6 December as part of the ongoing UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres acknowledged that the time had come for the private sector to deliver “significant investments” and help guide the international community onto a path towards what she described as “a climate-secure future.”

“Given the scale of investment needed, the newness of technology solutions and the perception of risk that exists, the current level of investment is far too low,” Ms. Figueres cautioned in a news release, adding that the public sector could “help to unlock private finance and ensure supportive policy frameworks for climate-friendly investment.”

The partnership – called Momentum for Change: Innovative Financing for Climate-friendly Investment – will seek to inform Member States, investors, business, public finance agencies and the media about practical ways and means to kick-start a global shift to environmentally and economically sustainable growth.

In addition, it will also avail itself of the WEF’s Green Growth Action Alliance – a network of over 50 of the world’s largest energy companies, international finance institutions and development finance banks working to deliver greater investment into clean energy, transportation, and agriculture.

The Doha conference brings together the 195 Parties to the UNFCCC, the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Under the Protocol, 37 States – consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy – have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. The conference will, among other goals, try to extend the Protocol, whose first commitment period expires at the end of 2012.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43612&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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UN climate change talks begin in Doha with call to build on existing agreements


26 November 2012 – Thousands of government representatives, international organizations and civil society members have gathered in the Qatari capital of Doha for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which kicked off today with a call to build on and implement previously agreed decisions to curb global carbon emissions by the year 2020.

“We have a precious opportunity over the coming days, and we must make full use of it,” said the President of the Conference of the Parties (COP 18), Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, on the opening day of the talks, urging conference attendees to stick to agreed timetables and speedily implement already-agreed decisions.

The ten-day meeting brings together the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

Under the Protocol, 37 States – consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy – have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments. Government delegates at the Conference will, among other goals, try to extend the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.

In her opening remarks to the Conference, UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, highlighted recent UN-led reports which point to the urgency of keeping global average temperatures from rising beyond an internationally agreed level of two degrees Celsius, beyond which climate change would have serious impacts.

Analysis published by the World Bank last week shows the world remains at risk of seeing a four degree Celsius rise in temperatures by the end of the century. In its recently-released 2011 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said greenhouse gas concentration reached a record high last year, while the Emissions Gap Report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) warns that the gap between what is needed in terms of emission reductions to stay below two degrees Celsius and what is so far promised by countries is still widening, not decreasing.

Ms. Figueres stressed that countries can still reverse these trends if they decide to act, since the knowledge, technology and policy options needed to curb emissions are already available to them. However, she emphasized that time is running out.

“Expert analysis consistently says that we do have the possibility to keep on track and that to act now is safer and much less costly than to delay,” she said. “In the last three years, policy and action towards a sustainable, clean energy future has been growing faster than ever. But the door is closing fast because the pace and scale of action is simply not yet enough. So Doha must deliver its part in the longer-term solution.”

During a similar gathering in the South African city of Durban last year, 194 UNFCCC parties agreed on a package of decisions – known as the Durban Platform – which include the launch of a protocol or legal instrument that would apply to all members, a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and the launch of the Green Climate Fund, which was created to help developing nations protect themselves from climate impacts and build their own sustainable futures.

During informal talks in Bangkok, the Thai capital, in September, countries also set specific objectives for the meeting in Doha, which include triggering a new phase of climate action and filling in the gaps in the international policy response to climate change.

The Doha gathering will seek to meet the objectives set forth in another climate change meeting, held in Bali, and plan the work of the Durban Platform. In addition, it will address other issues such as deforestation, agriculture, and development and transfer of technology.

Climate initiatives in developing countries which have improved the lives of the urban poor will also be showcased at the Conference, as well as other innovative approaches to find solutions for climate change.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43600&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Global solidarity a must in upcoming climate change talks, says UN rights expert


23 November 2012 – Ahead of new climate change talks next week, an independent United Nations human rights expert today called on countries to rally behind the idea of helping those less able to deal with the impacts of this global problem.

“The costs of climate change to humanity cannot be covered only by accomplishing the commitments in finance for adaptation and mitigation,” said the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity, Virginia Dandan.

“International solidarity can be the bridge to support nations affected by impacts of climate change, whether rich or poor,” she added in a press release.

Ms. Dandan is mandated by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to develop a draft resolution on the right of peoples and individuals to international solidarity.

She issued her remarks as representatives from 194 countries prepare to meet in the Qatari capital of Doha from 26 November to 7 December to try, among other goals, to extend the Kyoto Protocol, the existing plan for curbing greenhouse gas emissions by developed nations that expires at the end of 2012.

“The international community must be prepared to give much more than money,” Ms. Dandan said as she went on to link climate change challenges to the question of promoting sustainable development, which aims to meet human needs through resource-use that also preserves the environment, and was central to the landmark UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June this year.

“We need world leaders with the courage to rise above narrow political and economic self-interest, towards fulfilling the promise of sustainable development made in Rio+20, and the eradication of poverty that is both the cause and effect of deeply entrenched inequalities and human rights deprivations, particularly of the most marginalized and vulnerable,” she said.

The expert stressed that international solidarity on climate change was “key” to helping build global backing for more equitable arrangements for climate change. She added this was particularly true for investments, finance, aid, debt, technology transfer, intellectual property, migration, environment and the global partnership for development.

“Most vulnerable nations cannot pay for what other nations have done or are doing today,” Ms. Dandan said, as she asked developed countries not to back down from their longstanding commitments, and also asked those rising economic powers who have become new polluters to do their part.

“In this project, we are all together,” she said.

Climate negotiations held last year in Durban, South Africa, produced important outcomes, including agreement to establish a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and the launch of the Green Climate Fund, and the launch of a protocol or legal instrument that would apply to all members to be negotiated by 2015 and implemented from 2020.

Ms. Dandan urged those heading to Doha “to focus their hearts and minds on their families and communities back home, as well as on the rest of the human family, whose very right to life is at stake on that table, and whose common present and future, are in their hands.”

She saw an urgent need for a new cooperation model that would be built on a multilateral response to the mounting challenges posed by climate change. Implemented in the spirit of international solidarity, the new model would be guided by the “human rights approach to the principles of equity and of common, but differentiated, responsibilities.”

“We have all witnessed in alarming frequency how, in the blink of an eye, human lives and decades of development gains can be totally wiped out, resulting in heart-breaking loss of lives, property and, for many, hope for the future,” Ms. Dandan said. “No country in the world today has been spared the effects of some form of extreme weather occurrence; not a single country can move forward in isolation.”

Independent experts are appointed in an honorary capacity. Ms. Dandan received her mandate in 2005 from the UN Human Rights Commission, which the Human Rights Council replaced a year later.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43591&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Ahead of climate talks, UN report warns greenhouse gas emissions still increasing


21 November 2012 – As countries prepare to meet next week at a major United Nations meeting on climate change, the world body today released a new report which finds that the concentration of warming gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) has increased by 20 per cent since 2000.

The Emissions Gap Report, coordinated by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Climate Foundation, also shows that greenhouse gas emissions levels are now around 14 per cent above where they need to be in 2020.

“If no swift action is taken by nations, emissions are likely to be at 58 gigatonnes (Gt) in eight years’ time,” states the report, which has involved 55 scientists from more than 20 countries.

Previous assessment reports have underlined that emissions need to be on average at around 44 Gt or less in 2020 to lay the path for the even bigger reductions needed at a cost that is manageable.

Action on climate change needs to be scaled-up and accelerated without delay if the world is to have a running chance of keeping a global average temperature rise below two degrees Celsius this century, the report notes.

“There are two realities encapsulated in this report – that bridging the gap remains doable with existing technologies and policies; that there are many inspiring actions taking place at the national level on energy efficiency in buildings, investing in forests to avoid emissions linked with deforestation and new vehicle emissions standards alongside a remarkable growth in investment in new renewable energies worldwide, which in 2011 totalled close to $260 billion,”  said UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner.

“Yet the sobering fact remains that a transition to a low-carbon, inclusive green economy is happening far too slowly and the opportunity for meeting the 44 Gt target is narrowing annually,” he added.

The report estimates that large emission reductions are possible from sectors such as power generation, transport and forestry, as well as boosting the energy efficiency of buildings, which could help bridge the gap by 2020, in addition to providing examples of policies in each sector that countries can implement at a national level.

Greenhouse gases will feature prominently on the agenda of the UN Climate Change Conference beginning on Monday in the Qatar capital of Doha, and which brings together the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

“Governments meeting in Doha for COP18 now need to urgently implement existing decisions which will allow for a swifter transition towards a low-carbon and resilient world,” said the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres.

“This notably means amending the Kyoto Protocol, developing a clear vision of how greenhouse gases can be curbed globally before and after 2020, and completing the institutions required to help developing countries green their economies and adapt,” she added, “along with defining how the long-term climate finance that developing countries need can be mobilized. In addition, governments need to urgently identify how ambition can be raised.”

The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 192 of the UNFCCC Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43566&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Greenhouse gas concentration reached record high in 2011, says UN report


20 November 2012 – The amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011, according to a new United Nations report released today, ahead of the start next week of the latest round of global climate changes talks.

The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which produced the 2011 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, said that between 1990 and 2011, there was a 30 per cent increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on the Earth’s climate – because of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping long-lived gases.

Since the start of the industrial era in 1750, about 375 billion tonnes of carbon have been released into the atmosphere as CO2, primarily from fossil fuel combustion, the agency stated in a news release. About half of this carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, while the rest is absorbed by the oceans and terrestrial biosphere.

“These billions of tonnes of additional carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will remain there for centuries, causing our planet to warm further and impacting on all aspects of life on Earth,” said WMO’s Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud. “Future emissions will only compound the situation.”

The Bulletin reports on atmospheric concentrations – and not emissions – of greenhouse gases. Emissions represent what goes into the atmosphere. Concentrations are what remain in the atmosphere after the complex system of interactions between the atmosphere, biosphere and the oceans.

Mr. Jarraud noted that, until now, carbon sinks have absorbed nearly half of the carbon dioxide humans emitted in the atmosphere, but this will not necessarily continue in the future.

Carbon sinks are any process, activity or mechanism that removes a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. Forests, soils and oceans are natural sinks for CO2.

“We have already seen that the oceans are becoming more acidic as a result of the carbon dioxide uptake, with potential repercussions for the underwater food chain and coral reefs,” said Mr. Jarraud.

The role of carbon sinks is “pivotal” in the overall carbon equation, according to WMO. If the extra CO2 emitted is stored in reservoirs such as the deep oceans, it could be trapped for hundreds or even thousands of years, whereas new forests retain carbon for a much shorter time span.

The agency noted that carbon dioxide is the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities, and is responsible for 85 per cent of the increase in radiative forcing over the past decade. It is also the most important long-lived greenhouse gas, with the others being methane and nitrous oxide.

Greenhouse gases will feature prominently on the agenda of the UN Climate Change Conference that begins in the Qatari capital of Doha on Monday, and which brings together the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol has been ratified by 193 of the UNFCCC Parties. Under the Protocol, 37 States, consisting of highly industrialized countries and countries undergoing the process of transition to a market economy, have legally binding emission limitation and reduction commitments.

The ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43545&Cr=Greenhouse&Cr1=

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Resource degradation can impact upon countries’ sovereign debt repayments


19 November 2012 – The degradation of natural resources negatively affects countries’ ability to repay their sovereign debts, a new United Nations report said today, stressing that sustainable resource management is needed to encourage medium- and long-term investments.

“We are seeing a paradigm shift due to natural resource scarcities with profound implications for economies and, thus, sovereign debt risk worldwide,” said the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, at the launch of the report – E-RISC: A New Angle on Sovereign Credit Risk – in London.

“The time has come for a better understanding of the connection between environmental risk, and sovereign credit risk,” Mr. Steiner added. “Only then will investors, credit rating agencies and governments be able to plan effectively with the kind of insight aimed at ensuring long-term economic health and stability.”

Loss of soils, forests and fisheries, as well as rising resource costs, are becoming increasingly important to a nation’s economic health, affecting its ability to repay or refinance sovereign debt, states the report, issued by UNEP’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) – a global partnership between UNEP and more than 200 financial institutions, including banks, insurers and fund managers, which aims to better understand the impacts of environmental and social considerations on financial performance.

The E-RISC project, according to UNEP, investigates sovereign credit risk from an angle that has been largely overlooked by bond markets to date: natural resource risks and environmental impacts. The project explored to what extent natural resource risks can impact a country’s economy and thus, its ability to pay its debts.

At the moment, environmental risks remain largely absent from traditional models that determine sovereign credit ratings and other indicators of economic resilience. The report suggests that sovereign bond ratings should take into account the way a country manages its natural assets, to give investors more transparency when making investment decisions and encourage governments to manage their natural resources more sustainably.

Five countries – Brazil, France, India, Japan and Turkey – were analyzed as part of the report, highlighting major financial challenges due to a growing gap between rising demands for resources like freshwater, forests and soil, and the goods and services that countries can sustainably provide.

The report shows that India now demands 1.8 times more from its ecological assets than it is able to generate, while France demands 1.4 more resources than it can produce. Meanwhile, Japan met only 35 per cent of its renewable natural resource needs domestically in 2008, and Turkey is facing major risks due to water scarcity and desertification. Brazil was the only country that, although its ecological footprint has tripled since 1961, still generates more natural resources and services than its population demands.

“More and more countries depend on a level of resource demand that exceeds what their own ecosystems can provide,” said Susan Burns, the founder of Global Footprint Network, which collaborated with UNEP in the production of the report.

“This trend is tightening the global competition for the planet’s limited resources and represents risks for sovereign bond investors as well as countries issuing such bonds. A more accurate description of economic reality is therefore in everyone’s interest,” said Ms. Burns.

To address the gap between demand and supply of natural resources, the E-RISC report puts forward a framework that aims to assess the likely risks connected to the planet’s depleting resources, and to allow for a more comprehensive insight into the stability of future national income.

Among its findings, the E-RISC report estimates that a 10 per cent fall in the productivity of natural resources, such as grazing land or forests, could force current trade imbalances to grow wider – equivalent to an additional four per cent of gross domestic product – due mainly to a need for more imported goods.

The framework takes into account a country’s ecological footprint and its capacity to generate resources and absorb waste, to connect natural resource risks and environmental consequences with mainstream macroeconomic indicators.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43534&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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New UN partnership aims to reduce emissions of ozone-damaging gas used to treat pests


14 November 2012 – The United Nations today signed a new partnership with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPCC) to improve management of methyl bromide (MeBr), a gas used to prevent the spread of pests and diseases which damages the ozone layer.

In a new memorandum of understanding, the IPCC, which is based at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) headquarters in Rome, and the UN Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) Ozone Secretariat commit to work closely to promote existing recommendations on the use of MeBr, as well as support efforts to develop alternative treatments to replace it where possible, FAO stated in a news release.

A colourless gas at room temperature, methyl bromide both occurs naturally and is manufactured. Marine organisms are estimated to produce 1-2 billion kilograms of it each year, while it is also released in small quantities by some terrestrial plants. For agricultural and industrial use, the gas is manufactured by reacting methanol with hydrogen bromide.

For decades, MeBr offered a potent tool in combating the spread of plant pests and diseases. However, in 1991 it was added to the list of substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement set up to phase out the use of ozone-depleting technologies.

The Protocol discourages the use of MeBr to combat pests and disease for non-quarantine purposes during production, but does make an exception for its utilization as a quarantine treatment, given its effectiveness in stopping pests and diseases.

The Protocol also calls for alternative practices, which requires plant protection authorities to have information on and access to other treatments that are affordable and effective according to their needs, FAO said in a news release.

According to FAO, the new partnership aims to facilitate this transition to alternative treatments by improving regional and international coordination regarding MeBr management, fostering information exchanges and cooperative research on alternative treatments, and promoting best fumigation practices to minimize MeBr emission, among other measures.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43493&Cr=ozone&Cr1=

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UN environment agency recognises three students for contributions to sustainable innovation


12 November 2012 – Three young students are being honoured for their contributions to environmental conservation and the promotion of sustainability in their home countries, the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has announced.

At a ceremony in Leverkusen Germany, UNEP declared Adriana Maria Villalobos Delgado of Costa Rica, Mwanyuma Hope Mugambi of Kenya and Dang Huyn Mai Anh of Viet Nam this year’s recipients of the Young Environmental Leader Award for their impactful environmentalist projects.

“All of the 2012 Young Environmental Envoys clearly demonstrate that young people across the world have the motivation, creativity and knowledge to provide concrete solutions to the world’s most critical environmental challenges,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said at the award presentation, held on Saturday.

The laureates were selected on the final day of the Young Environmental Envoy Programme, a week-long programme co-organized by UNEP and pharmaceutical company Bayer, which brought together close to 50 young leaders from 19 developing countries for a study tour in Germany.

Ms. Delgado, a 20-year-old chemistry student at Costa Rica’s Universidad Nacional, pioneered a system for extracting active ingredients for medicine from discarded shrimp shells in an effort to introduce more effect methods of waste management to her country’s shrimping sector.

Ms. Mugambi, a 23-year-old student of environmental sciences in Mombasa, developed a project combining the artisanal skills of local Kenyan women with the growing supply of discarded polythene bags littering her city’s streets as well as the municipal dump. She and her team of volunteers brought in local women to sew purses, bags and table mats from the plastic bags found in the community, providing the women with marketable skills as well as a source of income through the sale of their products.

Dang Huyn Mai Anh, meanwhile, developed an innovative approach to educating Viet Nam’s households in reducing their energy consumption. After extensive research, the 20-year-old business administration student from Ho Chi Minh City designed, produced and distributed a ‘Green Book for Housewives’ providing valuable information on the economic savings that private households can make through efficient energy usage.

“With the right kind of support, these innovative projects can be scaled up and replicated elsewhere, thus providing an important contribution to an inclusive, low carbon, resource efficient green economy, which is vital if the world is to meet the resource needs of a global population of nine billion by 2050,” Mr. Steiner added.

Since its founding, the UNEP programme has accepted over 500 young innovators from around the world to partake in the study tour.

The programme now covers a wide range of countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, Republic of Korea, Thailand, Venezuela, and Viet Nam.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43471&Cr=unep&Cr1=

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Ban welcomes Australia’s decision to join second phase of Kyoto Protocol


9 November 2012 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed Australia’s announcement that it will sign up for the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, his spokesperson said, referring to the legally binding treaty to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and for which the first period for emission reduction commitments is due to expire at the end of this year.

“Addressing climate change is fundamental for achieving sustainable development,” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement. “Urgent action is needed.”

The Kyoto Protocol was adopted in Kyoto, Japan, on 11 December 1997, and entered into force in February 2005. Its major feature is that it sets binding targets for 37 industrialized countries and the European community for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Ban praised Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her leadership, and called on all governments to take decisive steps against climate change at the upcoming Climate Change Conference, which will be held in the Qatari capital of Doha later this month.

The Conference is expected to bring thousands of State representatives, international organizations and civil society members to discuss ways to cut global carbon emissions by the year 2020.

During a conference in the South African city of Durban last year, 194 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), agreed on a package of decisions – known as the Durban Platform – which include the launch of a protocol or legal instrument that would apply to all members, a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, and the launch of the Green Climate Fund, which was created to help developing nations protect themselves from climate impacts and build their own sustainable futures.

The UNFCCC sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change.

During informal talks in Bangkok, the Thai capital, in September, countries also set specific objectives for the meeting in Doha, which include triggering a new phase of climate action and filling in the gaps in the international policy response to climate change.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43457&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Kenya has ‘unique’ chance to move ahead with deforestation reversal


7 November 2012 – The top United Nations environment official today called on Kenya to act on a “roadmap” for reversing deforestation in the East African country, saying the document – produced following a national dialogue on the economic value of Kenya’s high-elevation forests – offers a “unique opportunity” for implementation.

“The outcomes of this meeting provide an agenda for moving beyond an era when forests were seen as the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said at the conclusion of Kenya Water Towers, Forests and Green Economy National Dialogue, a three-day gathering at UNEP headquarters in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

The meeting focused on Kenya’s five montane forests, also known as ‘water towers’ due to the fact that these forests store water during the rainy season and release it slowly, thus ensuring water flow during dry period, according to a UNEP press release.

Kenya’s new constitution calls for an increase in forest cover to ten per cent, which, coupled with increasing public demand to halt and reverse deforestation, “has the potential to trigger unprecedented investment in the forest sector,” UNEP noted, in relaying a key point of the final outcome document of the National Dialogue.

“Kenya has already signalled its intent to build up this natural capital as a vibrant and sustainable engine for growth and prosperity,” Mr. Steiner said. “There now exists a unique opportunity to translate this pioneering and commendable intention into implementation.”

More than 200 delegates – including key decision-makers and representatives of the private sector, development partners and civil society – used the National Dialogue to map a way forward to overcome an economic deforestation deficit that a joint UNEP-Kenya Forest Service report, released on Monday, showed to be more than four times greater than gains from forestry and logging.

Deforestation deprived Kenya’s economy of 5.8 billion shillings ($68 million) in 2010 and 6.6 billion shillings in 2009, far outstripping the roughly 1.3 billion shillings injected from forestry and logging each year, UNEP cited from the report, entitled The Role and Contribution of Montane Forests and Related Ecosystem Services to the Kenyan Economy.

“Trees continued to be felled due to a multiple and complex reasons, including unregulated charcoal production, livestock grazing and human settlements,” UNEP said, adding that such activities threaten more than 70 per cent of Kenya’s water supply.

Kenya’s five ‘water towers’ are the Mau Forest Complex, Mount Kenya, the Aberdares, Mount Elgon and Cherangani.

The National Dialogue, the roadmap for which covers deforestation reversal spans five years, stressed that success depended on sustained high-level political support and the involvement of the private sector and local communities, according to UNEP.

“Alongside the high-level momentum, enabling conditions for better management and private sector investment – such as secure land tenure, good forest governance and law enforcement –should be established through a clear and conducive legal framework,” UNEP said of the Dialogue’s findings

The National Dialogue roadmap recommendations include one calling for “Improved coordination and synergies,” and add that the “new constitutional limit on government departments provides an opportunity to avoid multiple policies, plans and strategies with overlapping mandates, and should be seized,” according to UNEP.

Mr. Steiner also presented Kenya’s Minister of Public Works, Dalmas Otieno, with a UNEP publication focused on Kenya’s Tana Basin, whose river is an important source of drinking water, irrigation and power, but which also has high siltation due to poor land use, and faces a deteriorating water shed.

The booklet, Securing Water and Land in the Tana Basin: a resource book for water managers and practitioner, documents field-tested practical technologies from other countries that can be replicated in Kenya to help improve management of water and land resources, UNEP said.

Separately today, the UNEP chief commented on the official launch in Singapore, on Tuesday, of a key development under the umbrella of a UNEP-backed biodiversity-appreciation programme, called the The Economics of Environment and Biodiversity (TEEB).

The opening of headquarters for the TEEB for Business Coalition marks another step in the coalition’s self-described goal of bringing about a shift in corporate behaviour so that the world’s natural capital – defined as goods and services relating to the natural environment – are preserved, rather than depleted.

“The Coalition brings together global stakeholders to study and standardize methods for natural capital accounting to enable its valuation and reporting in business,” explained a UNEP press release.

It also cited Mr. Steiner as saying that TEEB’s work “makes another sound case for an inclusive Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication, and highlights an urgent need to integrate the valuation of natural capital into business practices in the vital private sector.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43434&Cr=deforestation&Cr1=

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