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Supermodel joins with former vice-president to boost UN’s green energy campaign

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26 February 2013 – Supermodel and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador Gisele Bündchen is joining former United States Vice President Al Gore to urge support for the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s initiative to achieve universal access to modern energy services by 2030.

In ads that started airing this week, Ms. Bündchen and Mr. Gore stand with the head of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Kandeh K. Yumkella, to advocate for the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.

“Energy can transform economies, lives, continents, our planets. We have a historic chance to eliminate energy poverty,” say Mr. Gore, Mr. Yumkella and Ms. Bündchen, who is a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador.

“Let’s bring energy to all – for power, women, progress, growth, our future, energy for all.”

Worldwide, almost 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, and about 1.5 billion have no access to electricity, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Sustainable Energy for All Initiative aims to achieve three inter-linked global targets by 2030: universal access to modern energy services; the doubling of energy efficiency; and the doubling of the share of renewable energy in the world’s energy mix.

At the Rio+20 Conference last year, the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative received over $50 billion in commitments towards actions under the initiative.

“Now it is down to making sure commitments are transformed into kilowatt hours for the people, and to support governments to do for the energy sector what they did for mobile phones – deregulate or unbundle the sector and incentivize private sector participation,” said Mr. Yumkella.

Last week, UNEP released new studies showing that countries which switch from lamps, candles, flashlights and other traditional lighting systems to solar power can recover the costs in less than one year depending on the cost of the LED [light-emitting diode] system and the local price of kerosene.

Supporting both sustainable off-grid and on-grid lighting support can bring about major financial savings in a short time, as well as additional educational, health and environmental benefits, according to UNEP.

Ensuring environmental sustainability is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), anti-poverty targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44232&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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Palestinians establish first national disaster loss database with UN help

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25 February 2013 – With support from the United Nations, Palestinian officials today launched the first database designed to provide information on disaster losses that will help develop planning policies and strengthen community resilience.

According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Palestine is highly vulnerable to natural hazards, mainly earthquakes, floods, landslides, droughts and desertification. The whole region frequently faces small to mid-scale disasters and is vulnerable to large-scale urban disasters, triggered by seismic activity and climate change.

In January, a winter storm struck the region and caused severe damage to the agriculture and infrastructure in the northern West Bank. About 12,000 people across 190 communities were affected by this storm.

The initiative was launched in Ramallah, and was presided over by various Palestinian officials as well as Margareta Wahlström, UNISDR chief and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, who began her visit to the region this week.

Ms. Wahlström met with the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Mohammad Abu-Rahmadan, who told her that the storm last month was an early warning to all sectors that “Palestine can be affected by weather-related events that are beyond the usual patterns.”

During her visit, Ms. Wahlström will also meet with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and other senior officials, as well as representatives from local government and members of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

“It’s an opportunity to pull together all the knowledge that exists here and strengthen the coordination to improve and enhance risk mitigation to be better prepared,” Ms. Wahlström said.

Over the next three days, 100 participants representing various Palestinian governmental and non-governmental entities, international organizations and UN agencies will attend a disaster inventory training as part of the initiative.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44222&Cr=palestin&Cr1=

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Mongolia to host UN World Environment Day 2013

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22 February 2013 – Mongolia will host this year’s World Environment Day (WED) celebration on 5 June, which will focus on reducing food waste and loss, the United Nations announced today.

The Asian nation was chosen for its efforts to shift towards a green economy in its major economic sectors such as mining and for promoting environmental awareness among youth, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a news release.

“Mongolia is facing enormous challenges, including growing pressure on food security, traditional nomadic herding and water supplies as a result of the impacts of climate change,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Indeed it is estimated that annual mean temperature has increased by over 2°C during the last 70 years and precipitation has decreased in most regions, except the western part of the country, indicating that Mongolia is among the most vulnerable nations in the world to global warming.

“Yet its Government is also determined to meet these challenges and seize the opportunities of a less-polluting and more-sustainable future – from a moratorium on new mining pending improved environmental regulations to plans to become a renewable energy power-house and exporter of clean energy regionally,” he said.

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 is “Think.Eat.Save. Reduce Your Foodprint,” which builds on a global campaign of the same name launched earlier this year by UNEP, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other partners to reduce food and waste loss.

The announcement was made during UNEP’s Governing Council session in Nairobi, Kenya, where hundreds of environment ministers and civil society representatives met to discuss some of the most pressing environmental issues.

“I am sure that as the global host of WED, Mongolia will demonstrate to the world that a transition to a green economy is possible, even within some of the most traditionally challenging industrial sectors, when leadership, vision, smart policies and political will are translated into action on the ground,” Mr. Steiner said.

During the Council session, Mr. Steiner also announced that a UNEP mission to Mongolia was scheduled to depart in April to assist the country in its transition to a green economy in areas such as energy, land and water.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44202&Cr=green+economy&Cr1=

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Environmental and health issues deserve priority in development agenda

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21 February 2013 – Unless Africa’s leaders prioritize environmental and health issues, and prevent the degradation of health-promoting food and medicinal plants, people’s health and productivity will continue to suffer, warns a new report released today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Africa’s population is growing at the fastest rate in the world and its economy is expanding at a commensurate rate, yet not enough focus has been placed on the role environmental concerns play in ensuring the well-being of this expanding, dynamic continent’s citizens,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

Environmental risks contribute to 28 per cent of Africa’s diseases, according to the African Environment Outlook-3 (AEO-3). Diarrhoea, respiratory infections and malaria account for 60 per cent of known environmental health impacts in Africa.

Commissioned by the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), a permanent forum that meets every two years, the report highlights emerging issues and trends related to the environment, and proposes policy changes at the national, regional and global levels.

Among its finding, the air pollutant ‘particulate matter’ is a threat in poor rural areas, where little access to cleaner stoves and fuels causes significant health impacts through indoor pollution. Air pollution throughout the continent can be up to 30 times higher than World Health Organization (WHO) limits.

Health-related risks in Africa come from agrochemicals, persistent organic pollutants (POPs), chemical stockpiles, e-waste and petroleum waste, according to the report.

In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, the National Centre for Agronomical Research in Abidjan estimates that 65 per cent of the illnesses suffered by market gardeners, cotton growers, mango producers and consumers are due to pesticides.

The report also spotlights a lack of capacity to deal with the growing effects of climate change; inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene – in 2010, only 60 per cent of the sub-Saharan Africa population had access to safe water; and poor waste disposal practices.

Other issues highlighted include the negative impact of degradation of health-promoting goods and services such as food and medicinal plants made possible by land and marine biodiversity. For example, 80 per cent of Africa’s rural population depends on traditional medicines harvested from nature.

Climate change and variability impact human health because of Africa’s underdeveloped capacity to cope with the negative impacts. The report issued today provides policy changes that include incorporating climate-related scientific findings into decision making; building adaptive capacity; and strengthening early warning systems, preparedness and response.

The report “gives policy-makers a clear pathway to a sustainable and healthy future,” Mr. Steiner said.

“Africa is moving into a new phase that could see the continent become a major player in the transition to a global inclusive Green Economy, but to do that it needs a healthy population with guaranteed access to well-managed natural resources,” he added.

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recently signed an agreement with the East African Development Bank to increase participation in clean development projects. The agreement establishes a regional collaboration centre in Kampala, Uganda, that will support the identification of projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), provide assistance for their design, and offer opportunities to reduce transaction costs.

According to UNFCCC, there are more than 6,000 projects already registered in 83 developing countries.

However, today’s report cautions that in addition to new projects, there are already many good policies to address environmental change on the books; the challenge lies in their implementation.

“These policies must be strongly implemented to have an impact, and enforcement mechanisms should be put in place and strengthened to reduce the negative consequences,” said Terezya Huvisa, Minister of State – Environment of Tanzania and President of AMCEN.

“If the recommendations in AEO-3 are followed, our citizens can look forward to healthier, and ultimately more productive, lives.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44192&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Solar lighting can deliver major development and climate benefits

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20 February 2013 – Countries that switch from lamps, candles, flashlights and other traditional lighting systems to solar power can recover the costs in less than one year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today, highlighting new studies that show the development and climate benefits of ‘off-grid’ lighting.

“Replacing the world’s 670 million kerosene lamps with cleaner, safer solar-powered lighting represents a major opportunity to deliver across multiple fronts, from cuts in global carbon emissions, health risks from indoor air pollution, support for green technologies and the generation of green jobs,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a news release.

UNEP-led assessments of solar-power alternatives in 80 countries showed that the payback period in most countries is less than a year, depending on the cost of the LED [light-emitting diode] system and the local price of kerosene.

According to the findings, more than 1.3 billion people live without access to electric light worldwide and pay a total of $23 billion each year to fuel their kerosene lamps with the required 25 billion litres of kerosene.

If Nigeria, for example, replaced all of the kerosene, candles and batteries used annually for off-grid lighting, it could save over $1.4 billion annually or the equivalent of 17.3 million barrels of crude oil.

Meanwhile, in Kenya, transitioning out all fuel-based lighting for solar-powered LED systems, the costs would be repaid in only seven months, according to UNEP.

The switch would also have an impact on the environment. Fuel-based light sources in the country are responsible for over 2.3 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Switching to solar power supports UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative and its goal of achieving universal access to modern energy services by 2030.

In a message to UNEP’s Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum in Nairobi earlier this week, Mr. Ban called on countries to implement policies that protect the environment, stressing that this will also benefit their economic growth and prosperity.

“Investing in the environment and a green economy is not a cost but a sound insurance policy for the future we want,” he said.

Also today, UNEP announced that is collaborating with the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association (GOGLA) on a series of projects, including in West Africa where 76 per cent of the population lives without reliable access to electricity.

“Supporting both sustainable off-grid and on-grid lighting can bring about major financial savings in a short time, as well as additional educational, health and environmental benefits towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals,” Mr. Steiner said, referring to the set of anti-poverty targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44185&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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Threat of space objects demands international coordination, UN team says

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20 February 2013 – In the wake of a meteor impact in Russia that shattered windows over a wide area, injuring hundreds of people and terrifying thousands, a United Nations team today called for international cooperation to face the threat of near space objects.

“If the proposed coordination mechanism was in place, then at minimum it would have allowed for more observation and better understanding and education of the population on what to expect rather than having a surprise effect with people not knowing what was happening,” Sergio Camacho, Chairman of the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects of the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA), said at a press conference in Vienna.

Mr. Camacho’s team, also known as Action Team 14, recommended the formation of an International Asteroid Warning Network (IAWN), which would pool together the expertise of the world’s many existing scientific agencies and organizations to discover and track objects and generate early warnings of potential impacts.

It also recommended forming advisory groups for disaster mitigation and for combining the technological resources of all space-faring nations to develop protocols that may include collision-prevention missions.

The group emphasized the value of finding hazardous near-earth objects, or NEOs, as soon as possible in order to better understand their orbits. This would help to avoid unnecessary NEO “threat mitigation missions” should it be deemed necessary, it said.

Near-Earth objects made headlines last Friday, with not only the meteor impact in the Russian region of Chelyabinsk, but also given the fly-by – on the same day – of an asteroid, widely described as being the size of an office building, that passed within 17,200 miles (27,000 kilometres) of Earth.

However, UNOOSA has long been preoccupied with the issue, given the potential devastation of an object that size hitting the Earth and the enormous resources required to prevent a collision if the need arises.

“Already in 1995, UNOOSA organized the United Nations International Conference on Near-Earth Objects in New York to sensitize Member States about the potential threat of near-Earth objects, given the global consequences of their impact,” Mazlan Othman, Director of UNOOSA, said at today’s press conference.

Action Team 14 was established in 2001 by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), in response to recommendation 14 of the Third UN Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE III) that was held in Vienna in 1999.

The team has been mandated to review ongoing efforts in the field of NEOs, identify gaps that could be filled by coordination and propose steps for such coordination in collaboration with specialized bodies.

The team is currently discussing their recommendations in the framework of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. The recommendations are expected to be adopted during the Subcommittee’s current session, which ends Friday, and then endorsed by the Committee itself during its session in June.

According to the team, an agreement by that date should still prove valuable. “No object larger than a kilometre is expected to pose a threat to Earth in the next few hundred years,” according to one of today’s briefers, Lindley Johnson, Executive of the Near Earth Object Observation Program of the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44186&Cr=outer+space&Cr1=

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New UN partnership will help 30 countries transition to green economies

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19 February 2013 – United Nations agencies will support 30 countries over the next seven years to build green economy strategies that will generate jobs, promote clean technologies and reduce environmental risk, through a new partnership launched today.

The Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) will help participating countries to shift investment and policies towards the creation of clean technologies, resource-efficient infrastructure, green skilled labour and good governance, among other services.

This is the first time that four UN agencies – the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) – join forces to coordinate their expertise and resources at a national level.

“The Partnership for Action on Green Economy will work with countries to catalyze change at the national level, assisting  them with targeted economic and policy instruments and training that will accelerate their green economy transition across sectors ranging from clean energy to sustainable agriculture,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“With the support of PAGE, developing countries, in particular, can put in place the policies needed to reap the economic and environmental benefits of an inclusive, resource-efficient, low-carbon pathway, and avoid the risks and shocks of carbon-intensive infrastructures.”

PAGE is a direct response to the outcome document of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which was held in June in Brazil. The document, entitled “The Future We Want,” calls on UN agencies to support countries that want to accelerate their transition to an inclusive green economy to reduce poverty and achieve sustainable development.

“ILO estimates that at least half of the global workforce – or 1.5 billion people – could be affected in some way by the transition to a green economy,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. “PAGE aims to embed the right policies and opportunities at the national level as countries move forward with their inclusive green economy plans, and thus ensure this transition creates more and better jobs and benefits all of society.”

During the first two years of the partnership, PAGE will focus on seven pilot countries, which are yet to be named, and will scale up its support to a total of 30 countries by 2020, the agencies said in a news release.

“Promoting green and clean new industries, and helping existing industries become more resource-efficient, will be a key focus of the partnership,” said Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of UNIDO.  “While business and industry should be aligned with national green economy efforts, Governments need to set the parameters in order for business to thrive.”

Director ad Interim of UNITAR, Sally Fegan-Wyles, said the transition to a green economy will create unprecedented opportunities for learning skills and development.

“PAGE addresses this challenge, by offering a suite of learning programmes and by strengthening capacities of national research and training institutions to ensure sustainability,” she added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44169&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=

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At UN forum, Ban calls on countries to invest in environmental policies to spur growth

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19 February 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on countries to implement policies that protect the environment, stressing that this will also benefit their economic growth and prosperity.

“When the environment is neglected, poverty and instability follow. When it is nurtured, well-being and prosperity flourish,” Mr. Ban said in his message to the 27th session of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum, held at the agency’s headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

“You have a responsibility to articulate these truths and to help craft the policies and programmes that will benefit all people – and especially those most at risk from environmental degradation and climate change,” Mr. Ban said. “To do so, you will need to engage closely with your counterparts in government to enable them to see that investing in the environment and a green economy is not a cost but a sound insurance policy for the future we want.”

This is the first time that all UN Member States are participating in the five-day forum, following a decision on universal membership in UNEP that was taken at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in June and which was endorsed by the General Assembly in September.

“We cannot continue to ‘save the planet’, one species, one ecosystem, one policy, one issue, one law, one treaty at a time. Our challenge at the beginning of the 21st century has become a systemic one,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in his policy statement to the Governing Council.

“Environment ministers have a mandate to protect the environment but increasingly their success in doing so will be predicated on their capacity to offer environmental solutions which create jobs, expand access to energy, address food security, reduce poverty and enhance livelihoods.”

Also speaking at the forum was the UN independent expert on human rights and the environment, John Knox, who urged governments to take into account human rights laws when they design and develop environmental policies.

“When governments around the world fail to restrict emissions of greenhouse gases, jeopardizing the continued existence of, among others, vulnerable communities in the Arctic and in low-lying coastal areas, they fail to protect many human rights, including rights to life, health, property, and development,” Mr. Knox said.

“Human rights and the environment are not only interrelated, they are also interdependent. A healthy environment is fundamentally important to the enjoyment of human rights, and the exercise of human rights is necessary for a healthy environment,” he added.

The independent expert underlined that countries have an obligation to take steps to prevent environmental degradation that violates human rights, and should take into account recommendations from various mechanisms and international conferences which are developing human rights norms relevant to environmental protection.

Independent experts are appointed by the UN Human Rights 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 UN staff, nor are they paid for their work. Mr. Knox is scheduled to present his report on issues related to human rights and the environment next month.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44172&Cr=environment&Cr1=human+rights

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Citing sea ice melt, UN urges stronger measures to protect fragile Arctic environment

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18 February 2013 – The melting of sea ice and the resulting rush for resources require effective measures to avoid damage in the Arctic, according to an annual United Nations study of emerging environmental issues that also highlight risks from chemicals and the recent spike in illegal wildlife trade.

A reduction in Arctic summer ice cover has become more intense in recent years, culminating in a record low of 3.4 million square kilometres in 2012 – 18 per cent below the previous recorded minimum in 2007 and 50 per cent below the average in the 1980s and 1990s, stated the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which added that land ice is also retreating and permafrost is melting.

The agency’s “Year Book 2013” says that the retreating ice brings easier access to natural resources such as gas and oil, thus prompting increased human activity that may threaten the already fragile ecosystems and wildlife.

“Changing environmental conditions in the Arctic – often considered a bellwether for global climate change – have been an issue of concern for some time, but as of yet this awareness has not translated into urgent action,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said in a news release.

“In fact, what we are seeing is that the melting of ice is prompting a rush for exactly the fossil fuel resources that fuelled the melt in the first place,” he added. “As the ‘UNEP Year Book 2013’ points out, the rush to exploit these vast untapped reserves have consequences that must be carefully thought through by countries everywhere, given the global impacts and issues at stake.”

As ice and snow recede, making access and transport easier, the Arctic is expected to play a greatly expanded role in world energy and minerals supplies, the agency pointed out.

The United States Geological Survey estimates that 30 per cent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas is in the Arctic, largely on the continental shelves beneath the Arctic Ocean. More than 70 per cent of the undiscovered oil resources in the Arctic are estimated to be held in northern Alaska, the Amerasian Basin, the eastern side of Greenland and other areas.

UNEP noted that the combination of rapid environmental transformation and the rush for resources can interrupt hydrology, endanger ecosystems, prevent the passage of migrating caribou and reindeer and severely disrupt the traditional lifestyles of indigenous peoples. It also raises important geopolitical issues that are likely to have ramifications beyond far beyond the Arctic.

It added that the Arctic Council – the core of which is formed by Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the US – has a crucial role to play in ensuring any resource exploitation is done responsibly.

The report contains many recommendations on the way forward for the Arctic, with the most important being the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. No steps to exploit the new environmental state of the Arctic should be taken without first assessing how the exploitation would affect ecosystems, the peoples of the North and the rest of the world as the potential for major environmental damage is high, it added.

Year Book 2013 also highlights the need for better information and sound management to minimize the risks from chemicals and raises the issue of the recent spike in the illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn.

While chemicals bring many benefits, according to the report, there is a need for better information and coordinated action by governments and industry to reduce the growing risks to human health and the environment posed by the unsustainable management of chemicals worldwide.

The report recommends the use of economic instruments to create financial incentives for improving chemical safety, increased government capacity for chemical regulation and clear and consistent public information on the hazards and uses of specific chemicals.

Regarding the illegal trade in wildlife, the report states that data from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) monitoring programme showed that 2011 had the highest level of poaching since records began in 2002. Early indications suggest that the number of elephants that were killed in 2012, ran, as in 2011, into the tens of thousands, while a record 668 rhinos were poached in South Africa that year.

CITES and its partners are supporting the strengthening of national enforcement capacities to fight wildlife crime. UNEP and CITES are also launching a campaign aimed at reducing demand for products from the illegal wildlife trade.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44165&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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UN partners with African bank to boost participation in clean development projects

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13 February 2013 – The United Nations has signed an agreement with the East African Development Bank to increase participation in clean development projects in the region, it was announced today.

The agreement, signed by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), will establish a regional collaboration centre in Kampala, Uganda, that will support the identification of projects under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), provide assistance for their design, and offer opportunities to reduce transaction costs.

The Mechanism allows emission-reduction projects in developing countries to earn certified emission reductions – or CERs – which can then be traded, sold and used by industrialized countries to meet environmental targets. Each CER is equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide.

According to UNFCCC, there are more than 6,000 registered projects in 83 developing countries. Uganda is one of the leading nations on the use of the Mechanism, with 12 projects currently registered in the country.

This is the second regional collaboration centre established by the UNFCCC and a regional development bank in Africa. The first centre was established a few months ago in Lomé, Togo, in collaboration with the Banque Ouest Africaine de Développement and provides assistance in the development of CDM projects in Francophone Africa.

“The two regional collaboration centres in Lomé and Kampala are designed to help Africa increase its attractiveness and potential for CDM. Our goal is to build capacity, reduce the risk for investors in such projects and help make the continent an increasingly attractive destination for CDM projects,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.

The centre in Kampala will open in May, and is expected to provide hands-on support to governments, non-governmental organizations and businesses interested in developing CDM projects in more than 20 countries in the region.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44132&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Youth to showcase their solutions to environmental challenges at UN conference

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11 February 2013 – Some 250 youth delegates from over 100 countries will examine ways in which young people can directly tackle today’s most pressing environmental issues at a United Nations conference that kicked off in Nairobi, Kenya.

Organized by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the 2013 TUNZA International Youth Conference on the Environment will give young people the chance to hold discussion with health and environment experts on sustainable development, green entrepreneurship, water and reduction of food waste, among other topics.

“Through the TUNZA Conference, young people can deliver a clear message that, paradoxically, while time is running out, actions already underway across the globe hold the promise of delivering an inclusive green economy, green jobs and a sustainable century if accelerated and scaled-up,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner told youth delegates at the opening ceremony.

During the opening of the week-long conference, a new youth-edited publication, “TUNZA Acting for a Better World: GEO-5 for Youth,” was also launched. The publication spotlights innovative sustainable development projects by young people around the world ranging from a green community radio station in Cameroon to a project in Nicaragua that turns waste into durable building materials.

“GEO-5 for Youth shows that young people are trailblazers when it comes to new, creative solutions to the world’s most critical environmental challenges,” said Mr. Steiner. “In order to follow this example, and to ensure a fair share of the world’s resources for all, governments, industry and others must also commit to firm actions that can place the world on a more sustainable path.”

The publication also incorporates key findings from the UNEP Global Environment Outlook (GEO-5) report to equip young readers with the latest science-based information on the current state of the global environment, including climate change, air quality, biodiversity, land use and other areas.

“This book is not just about the environment or its problems – it is also about acting for change together,” said the GEO-5 for Youth’s editorial team, made up of three young environmentalists. “Its aim is to show that there is hope, and that successes are happening every day. We all have a responsibility to implement sustainable solutions that will protect our future and that of coming generations. We can no longer wait for someone else to fix things for us.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44109&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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Oil clean-up in Nigeria’s Ogoniland urgent but national collaboration crucial

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5 February 2013 – On a visit to Nigeria to meet with the Government on ending delays in cleaning up major oil contamination in the Ogoniland region of the country, a special envoy of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said national collaboration was critical for the effort.

“We can only ensure long-term environmental sustainability through dialogue, confidence and trust, and it is in this mindset that I lead the UNEP team here this week,” Erik Solheim, UNEP Special Envoy for disasters and conflicts, said of his visit to Abuja and Port Harcourt a year and a half after the agency presented a scientific assessment of the pollution in Ogoniland to the Government, underlining serious public health and environmental impacts that would worsen with time.

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.

“Continued delay in the implementation of the recommendations will not only undermine the livelihoods of the Ogoni communities, but will also cause the pollution footprint to expand. In the long run, the findings of the study itself will become dated,” UNEP said in a press release.

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.

In July 2012, the Nigerian authorities 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.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44072&Cr=UNEP&Cr1=

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