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Reality stings: UN reports jellyfish ‘blooms’ may endanger fish stocks

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30 May 2013 – Surges in jellyfish populations due to overfishing may be one of the reasons behind the drop in fish stocks observed in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, according to a new United Nations report which argues for including jellyfish in fisheries management.

Overfishing removes top predators from the sea helping to create conditions where jellyfish “blooms”, or suddenly increased numbers, according to the report published by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.

The Review of Jellyfish Blooms in the Mediterranean and Black Sea advocates incorporating jellyfish research into fisheries management, “Normally, only the impact of human fishing activities is taken into account in setting sustainable fishing limits, but jellyfish can also have a high impact.”

According to the report, an increased number of jellyfish in the waters creates a “vicious cycle” where the jellyfish increasingly prey on fish eggs and larvae, and compete for the same food source as the fish stock already depleted by overfishing.

If the trend continues, jellyfish could supplant fish in the world’s oceans, according to some experts cited in the FAO report who speak of “a global regime shift from a fish to a jellyfish ocean.”

In addition to overfishing, the report’s authors note the impact of global warming which enhances the species that thrive at tropical latitudes to span out, and the prevalent use of sea walls – built to prevent coastal erosion – which are ideal habitats for some jellyfish.

The impact of jellyfish was demonstrated in the early 1980s when Mnemiopsis leidyi, a jellyfish species known as the “Sea Walnut” and normally resident on the Atlantic, was accidentally introduced into the Black Sea and had such “overwhelming” impact on fish populations that fisheries were put “on their knees.”

According to media reports, by 1989, the population reached its highest level with some 400 specimens per m³ of water or more than 10 animals per cubic foot of water. The jellyfish ate up a commercially important type of anchovy, preying on the larvea and young, as well as the anchovy’s food source.

The problem was resolved after another invader species, the Beroe ovate, which feeds on Mnemiopsis, also arrived in the Black sea, which rebalanced the predator-prey dynamic.

In another example, the Pelagia noctiluca jellyfish, known commonly as “the mauve stinger” coupled with overpopulation, contributed to fish populations dropping in the Adriatic about 30 years ago.

More recently, according to a media report in November 2007, a 10-square-mile (26 km2) swarm of the jellyfish wiped out a 100,000 fish salmon farm in Northern Ireland causing some $1.5 million worth of damage

Among other measures to prevent or cope with jellyfish blooms, the report urges using jellyfish products for food and medicine.

China is among the first countries to process jellyfish for human consumption, particularly the edible Rhopilema esculentum, and represents a multi-million-dollar sea food business in Asia.

Other jellyfish, such as the “immortal jellyfish” or Turritopsis nutricula, capable of reversing its ageing process, holds out the promise of developing powerful rejuvenation products for humans.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45043&Cr=food+security&Cr1=

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Sustainable energy tops agendas of UN-backed forums in Vienna, Russia

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28 May 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative should be integrated into a new set of global targets for the period after the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) expire in 2015 according to a United Nations-backed forum that started today in Austria.

“Energy is now recognized as a defining issue of our time,” said Kandeh K. Yumkella, the UN Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All, and the Director General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) which organized the three-day Vienna Energy Forum along with Austrian authorities and the Intentional Institute for Applied System Analysis (IIASA).

“The lack of access to energy is a crucial constraint for development efforts. This is why the post-2015 framework should put in place a clearly articulated, global, long-term goal on universal energy access, supported by short-term targets and a robust monitoring and reporting system,” he added.

More than 1,500 participates are attending the forum. Mr. Yumkella vowed that the organizers will work with the stakeholders “to achieve sustainable energy for all and drive real action on the ground to help transform lives, communities, economies and continents, and at the same time protect the environment.”

The Sustainable Energy for All initiative which the forum supports is aimed at achieving 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.

Meanwhile, Asia-Pacific countries are meeting in a four-day conference on regional cooperation for enhanced security and sustainable use of energy in Vladivostok, Russia, under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The conference, which started on 27 May, is the first Asia-Pacific region-wide intergovernmental ministerial meeting on energy convened by the UN.

High-level participants include heads of government and ministers from 35 regional countries across the Asia-Pacific region are focusing on access to energy, energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy and environment, energy economics, trade and investment, and connectivity.

Business leaders and representatives of civil society are also attending.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45023&Cr=sustainable+energy&Cr1=

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Japan to host world conference on disaster risk reduction in 2015

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23 May 2013 – Japan will host the world conference slated to be held in 2015 at which countries will adopt the successor to the current global blueprint for disaster risk reduction efforts, it was announced today at a United Nation forum on the issue that wrapped up in Geneva.

The 10-year Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) came out of the world conference held in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan, in 2005. It is the first plan to explain, describe and detail the work that is required from all different sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses.

The HFA outlines five priorities for action, and offers guiding principles and practical means for achieving disaster resilience. Its goal is to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015 by building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.

Delegates at this week’s 4th Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction called for immediately starting work on developing targets and indicators to monitor the reduction of risk, ahead of next year’s conference, to be held in the Japanese city of Sendai.

Martin Dahinden, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Chair of the Global Platform, said the three-day meeting confirmed that the process to develop a successor to the Hyogo Framework is well underway.

“There is consensus that the new instrument should build on the HFA and introduce the necessary innovations to address the challenges of increasing risk over the next 20 to 30 years,” he stated.

“We need to enable local action, address climate risk and recognize the central roles of both the scientific community and the private sector, which were both very present at this Global Platform.”

In addition to the scientific community and the private sector, the record 3,500 participants at the Global Platform also including representatives of government, academia and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), among others.

Organized by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the Global Platform was established in 2007 as a biennial forum for information exchange, discussion of latest development and knowledge and partnership-building across sectors, with the goal to improve implementation of disaster risk reduction through better communication and coordination amongst stakeholders.

Also today, UNISDR released the most detailed account yet of the implementation of the Hyogo Framework. It finds that, since 2005, 121 countries have enacted legislation to establish policy and legal frameworks for disaster risk reduction.

In addition, 191 countries have established HFA focal points and 85 countries have set up national coordinating bodies for disaster risk reduction.

While noting that almost 90 per cent of countries report the integration of disaster risk reduction in some form within public investment and planning decisions, the report finds that a key challenge is finding the resources to ensure that frameworks and principles become operational.

“Since the HFA was introduced there has been a significant change in mindset. We are seeing lots more planning, legislation and new policies. There are 56 national disaster loss data bases and their numbers are growing all the time. Nearly every country in the world now has a HFA focal point,” said UNISDR Director Elizabeth Longworth.

“There is evidence that the HFA is making a difference, even if a lot more needs to be done to address the gap between policy and implementation and arrest the continuous rise in economic losses from disasters,” she added.

Among the events at this week’s forum was the launch of a new interactive tool for accessing disaster data. With the touch of a finger, users of “GAR for Tangible Earth” can access real-time weather data or check historical disaster patterns. It uses earth science data from the 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, released earlier this month by UNISDR.

Tablet computer users can download the application for free from iTunes. Among other functions, they can request hourly weather updates or query the probability of seismic events for a given region. They can also make correlations between such phenomena as continental drift, El Niño, global warming and the growth of megacities.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44980&Cr=disaster+risk&Cr1=

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Japan must continue efforts to deactivate Fukushima nuclear plant

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24 May 2013 – Although Japan has made progress towards stabilizing the damaged reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crippled by a devastating earthquake two years ago, there are still issues to be resolved before it can begin its deactivation, the United Nations atomic agency said in a report released today.

The report was released after an expert team from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) completed an initial review of Japan’s efforts to implement a Mid-and-Long-Term Roadmap to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The visit was the first of what is planned to be a two-mission review, at the request of the Japanese Government.

“Our final report reflects that the Roadmap was developed early after the accident and that Japanese workers have achieved reasonable stable cooling of the damaged reactor cores and spent fuel pools,” said the Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology, Juan Carlos Lentijo.

“But the continuing accumulation of contaminated water at the site is influencing the stability of the situation and must be resolved in the near term before other recovery and decommissioning steps can begin.”

In March 2011, Japan was struck by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and forceful tsunami that killed more than 20,000 people in the eastern part of the country. The tsunami also slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, disabling cooling systems and leading to fuel meltdowns in three of the six units. The incident was reported to be the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The report, which is available to the public online, acknowledges Japan’s accomplishments since the incident and provides advice on a range of issues, including overall strategy and planning, stakeholder involvement, and the management of reactor fuel.

Thirteen IAEA experts visited Japan in April, and met in Tokyo, the capital, with officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Tokyo Electric Power Company. The team also visited the nuclear accident site to gain first-hand information about conditions at the plant.

“I hope that Japan will benefit from our mission, and also that nuclear operators around the world can learn important lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi accident,” Mr. Lentijo said. “In this context, I’m pleased by the Government of Japan’s clear intention to make this report publicly available, which will contribute to disseminating the lessons learned to the international community.”

Japan’s request for the mission came in the context of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, endorsed by all IAEA Member States in September 2011. The Action Plan defines a programme of work to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework, and it encourages the use of peer review missions to take advantage of worldwide experience.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44992&Cr=nuclear&Cr1=

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Japan to host world conference on disaster risk reduction next year

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23 May 2013 – Japan will host the world conference slated to be held next year at which countries will adopt the successor to the current global blueprint for disaster risk reduction efforts, it was announced today at a United Nation forum on the issue that wrapped up in Geneva.

The 10-year Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA) came out of the world conference held in Kobe, Hyogo, Japan, in 2005. It is the first plan to explain, describe and detail the work that is required from all different sectors and actors to reduce disaster losses.

The HFA outlines five priorities for action, and offers guiding principles and practical means for achieving disaster resilience. Its goal is to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015 by building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters.

Delegates at this week’s 4th Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction called for immediately starting work on developing targets and indicators to monitor the reduction of risk, ahead of next year’s conference, to be held in the Japanese city of Sendai.

Martin Dahinden, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Chair of the Global Platform, said the three-day meeting confirmed that the process to develop a successor to the Hyogo Framework is well underway.

“There is consensus that the new instrument should build on the HFA and introduce the necessary innovations to address the challenges of increasing risk over the next 20 to 30 years,” he stated.

“We need to enable local action, address climate risk and recognize the central roles of both the scientific community and the private sector, which were both very present at this Global Platform.”

In addition to the scientific community and the private sector, the record 3,500 participants at the Global Platform also including representatives of government, academia and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), among others.

Organized by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the Global Platform was established in 2007 as a biennial forum for information exchange, discussion of latest development and knowledge and partnership-building across sectors, with the goal to improve implementation of disaster risk reduction through better communication and coordination amongst stakeholders.

Also today, UNISDR released the most detailed account yet of the implementation of the Hyogo Framework. It finds that, since 2005, 121 countries have enacted legislation to establish policy and legal frameworks for disaster risk reduction.

In addition, 191 countries have established HFA focal points and 85 countries have set up national coordinating bodies for disaster risk reduction.

While noting that almost 90 per cent of countries report the integration of disaster risk reduction in some form within public investment and planning decisions, the report finds that a key challenge is finding the resources to ensure that frameworks and principles become operational.

“Since the HFA was introduced there has been a significant change in mindset. We are seeing lots more planning, legislation and new policies. There are 56 national disaster loss data bases and their numbers are growing all the time. Nearly every country in the world now has a HFA focal point,” said UNISDR Director Elizabeth Longworth.

“There is evidence that the HFA is making a difference, even if a lot more needs to be done to address the gap between policy and implementation and arrest the continuous rise in economic losses from disasters,” she added.

Among the events at this week’s forum was the launch of a new interactive tool for accessing disaster data. With the touch of a finger, users of “GAR for Tangible Earth” can access real-time weather data or check historical disaster patterns. It uses earth science data from the 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, released earlier this month by UNISDR.

Tablet computer users can download the application for free from iTunes. Among other functions, they can request hourly weather updates or query the probability of seismic events for a given region. They can also make correlations between such phenomena as continental drift, El Niño, global warming and the growth of megacities.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44980&Cr=disaster+risk&Cr1=

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UN urges collective efforts to achieve ‘water secure world’ on Day for Biological Diversity

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22 May 2013 – Unless greater efforts are made to reverse current trends, the world will run out of freshwater, the United Nations said today marking the International Day for Biological Diversity and urging stronger scientific alliances to understand and protect natural resources.

“We live in an increasingly water insecure world where demand often outstrips supply and where water quality often fails to meet minimum standards. Under current trends, future demands for water will not be met,” Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day.

“Although seemingly abundant, only a tiny amount of the water on our planet is easily available as freshwater,” he added.

Of the total volume of water on Earth, freshwater makes up around 35 million km3, or about 2.5 per cent of the total volume, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Water scarcity affects almost every continent and more than 40 per cent of the people on our planet, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said. With current trends, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity by 2025, and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.

“Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides are central to achieving the vision of a water secure world,” Mr. Ban said, noting the mutually supporting roles of forests, wetlands and soil biodiversity.

“Integrating nature-based solutions into urban planning can also help us build better water futures for cities, where water stresses may be especially acute given the rapid pace of urbanization,” he added.

This year’s theme for the Day is ‘Water and Biodiversity’, which coincides with the UN designation of 2013 as International Year of Water Cooperation. The Year is being coordinated by UNESCO on behalf of UN-Water.

“This is an opportunity for us to join efforts to enhance fair and innovative water management arrangements and to share best practices for the preservation of wetlands – streams, lakes, coasts and marine zones – that play a substantial role in ensuring biodiversity,” Irina Bokova, head of UNESCO, said in her message for the Day.

Ms. Bokova and Mr. Ban noted the importance of strong scientific alliances as part of a global effort to protect natural resources. They encouraged parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity who have not already done so to ratify the Nagoya Protocol on the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. Adopted in 2010, the Nagoya Protocol also sets a goal of cutting the current extinction rate by half or more by 2020.

Recognizing the importance of biodiversity, the UN General Assembly encouraged the use of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Aichi Targets in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda. Last year’s Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) also recognized the role of ecosystems in maintaining water quantity and quality.

He stressed that a focus on water and biodiversity is particularly important now as the international community strives to hasten progress towards the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline and to plan a new set of development targets.

“As the international community strives to accelerate its efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and define a post-2015 agenda, including a set of goals for sustainable development, water and biodiversity are important streams in the discussion,” he noted.

In a press conference in New York, Braulio de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity said biodiversity needs to be seen as part of a ‘win-win’ solution for sustainable development.

“It’s very easy to say that yes, we should provide water for everyone, but how do we do that, so the traditional way of doing this is to work in silos,” Mr. Dias said, stressing the importance of thinking beyond traditional engineered solutions in a more integrated, collaborative way to effectively deliver on the MDGs.

He also noted that Governments sometimes make decisions based on “short-sighted information” without informing sufficiently communities about the impact of those decisions on local ecosystems.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44967&Cr=water&Cr1=biodiversity

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UN agency to open nuclear emergency preparedness centre in Fukushima

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22 May 2013 – Experts from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are heading to Japan to launch an emergency preparedness and response centre in Fukushima, the coastal city devastated two years ago when a massive earthquake and tsunami set off meltdowns at a nuclear power plant.

The IAEA, supported by the Government of Japan, will designate a new Response and Assistance Network (RANET) Capacity Building Centre in Fukushima next week, according to a news release from the UN nuclear watchdog.

The Centre will be home to several IAEA activities aimed at enhancing emergency preparedness and response capacity, both in Japan and worldwide, in light of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant accident.

In March 2011, Japan was struck by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and forceful tsunami that killed more than 20,000 people in the eastern part of the country. The tsunami also slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, disabling cooling systems and leading to fuel meltdowns in three of the six units. The incident was reported to be the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Briefing the IAEA Board of Governors in Vienna two months ago, Yukiya Amano, the Agency’s Director General, said it had been a challenging two years, especially for the people and Government of Japan, but also for the IAEA. “However, the worst elements of the accident are behind us and we are now in the post-accident phase.”

“The Agency continues to work hard to help Japan deal with the consequences of the accident. Member States are also making serious efforts to implement the lessons learned from this and from previous accidents,” noted Mr. Amano.

The RANET Centre will be part of that ongoing effort. A ceremony to mark the designation of the Centre will be held next week, on 27 May.

The Centre’s first activity, an IAEA RANET workshop, will start the following day, and conclude on 31 May. About 40 experts from 18 countries will participate in the workshop, which will involve a field exercise in Fukushima Prefecture, according to the Agency’s news release.

Through RANET, the IAEA can mobilize the expert support and equipment to facilitate the provision of international assistance by request under the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44969&Cr=nuclear&Cr1=

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UN global disasters forum opens with condolences for Oklahoma City tornado victims

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21 May 2013 – A United Nations forum dedicated to building resilience to disasters and making communities safer opened today in Geneva with expressions of sympathy for the people of Oklahoma City over the loss of life caused yesterday by a deadly tornado.

“Our thoughts and hearts go to the people of Oklahoma and we hope that help will reach those in need soon,” Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told participants at the opening of the 4th Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is on the theme: “Invest Today for a Safer Tomorrow.”

The tornado, one of several over the past few days to hit various cities in the Midwestern United States, damaged schools and took many lives, including those of at least 20 school children.

Separately, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon voiced his sadness at the news of the death and destruction in Oklahoma City as a result of Monday’s tornado, and sent his deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones and to everyone affected by the storm.

Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement that the Secretary-General has written to the Governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, to express his solidarity and to offer the UN’s assistance, if requested, to help with the recovery efforts.

“The impact of this disaster,” Mr. Eliasson noted in his remarks, “was evident for one of the world’s most economically developed countries. Think how much more dangerous the situation is in places where people are poor and living in fragile homes with insufficient water and health services.”

The Global Platform was established in 2007 as a biennial forum for information exchange, discussion of latest development and knowledge and partnership-building across sectors, with the goal to improve implementation of disaster risk reduction through better communication and coordination amongst stakeholders.

The forum is organized by UNISDR, the UN’s office for disaster risk reduction and secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction. Some 4,800 participants have registered to attend this week’s event, including delegates from national and local governments, non-governmental organizations, civil society, the private and public sectors, international organizations, parliamentarians, scientists and academics.

The 2013 Global Platform will devote special attention to three critical areas: private sector investment in disaster risk management; the work of local communities, networks, and supporting policies in building resilience; and local and national efforts to implement the Hyogo Framework for Action, as well as on an action agenda for building disaster resilience in a post- 2015 successor agenda.

Mr. Eliasson said that building resilience to disasters and making communities safer is “our collective and shared responsibility,” adding that his visit to Japan earlier this year was a lesson on the urgency of reducing the risks for disasters.

In March 2011, Japan was struck by an earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 20,000 people in the eastern part of the country. The tsunami also slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, located in Fukushima Prefecture, disabling cooling systems and leading to fuel meltdowns in three of the six units.

“Japan is leading a model of disaster risk reduction – but even in this advanced country, the deadly combination of multiple hazards was overwhelming and catastrophic,” said Mr. Eliasson.

He noted that the risks are higher in poor countries and for poor people, but the strategies are the same. “Everywhere on Earth, we reduce risks by identifying and addressing which factors drive the risks and what we can do about them.”

In this effort, the Deputy Secretary-General stated, the private sector is crucial, adding that how they utilize and invest their resources can mean the difference between life and death.

He added that disaster risk reduction is essential to reach the anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.

“There can be no sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation if water sources and latrines are vulnerable to natural hazards. Hospitals and other community structures must be resilient. It is not acceptable that so many people die in disasters because of shoddy building standards. We have seen several such tragic disasters in recent times.”

He urged participants to build on the achievements of the Hyogo Framework – a global blueprint for disaster risk reduction efforts that was adopted by Governments in 2005 and aims to substantially reduce disaster losses by 2015.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44959&Cr=disaster+risk&Cr1=

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At UN conference, countries boost protection against hazardous chemicals and waste

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13 May 2013 – Representatives from 170 countries have adopted a series of measures to strengthen protections against hazardous chemicals and waste during a United Nations conference in Geneva.

The conference, organized by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), brought together three UN conventions – the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm treaties – that together regulate chemicals and hazardous waste, and sought to promote synergies among them.

The three autonomous Conventions convened the joint meeting to strengthen cooperation and collaboration between the Parties to the treaties, with a view to enhancing the effectiveness of their activities on the ground. Each Convention then continued individually over the two-week period to deal with its own specific topics of the global chemicals and waste agenda before returning in a joint session at the end of the week to finalize their outcomes.

In a press conference, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said the meeting was “a unique historic event coming at a time of unprecedented change and progress in the arena of global environmental governance. The strengthening of UNEP and the synergies process of chemicals and waste multilateral environmental agreements are complementary parts of the ongoing reform to fortify the environmental dimension of sustainable development.”

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva noted that countries need to find more sustainable ways to produce food while using chemical pesticides responsibly.

“Around 70 per cent of the chemicals addressed by the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions are pesticides, and many are used in agriculture,” he said. “It is in the best interest of all countries to ensure that the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions can work together, effectively and efficiently, to address various aspects of the chemical life-cycle.”

Mr. Steiner and Mr. Graziano da Silva, along with Global Environment Facility CEO Naoko Ishii also pledged to deepen cooperation and collaboration as part of a broader effort to raise the profile of chemicals and waste issues, promote green growth and alleviate poverty.

On Friday, the conference hailed the “Geneva Statement on the Sound Management of Chemicals and Waste” which welcomed the UNEP-led consultative process on financing options for chemicals and waste.

“The Parties have agreed to strengthen capacity building and technical assistance for countries by investing the savings realized over the past two years into an enhanced technical assistance programme that better meets the needs of developing countries and countries with economies in transition” said Jim Willis, Executive Secretary of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions. “In an era of financial austerity, we have learned through synergies how to deliver more to parties while living within the economic limits faced by governments today.”

The Parties also adopted a framework for the environmentally sound management of hazardous wastes and other wastes, and agreed, over the next two years, to develop technical guidelines on movements across borders of electronic and electrical wastes.

The Basel Convention regulates the export and import of hazardous waste and waste containing hazardous chemicals. It was adopted in 1989 and entered into force in 1992. It currently has 180 Parties.

The Rotterdam Convention regulates information about the export and import of 47 hazardous chemicals listed in the Convention’s Annex III, 33 of which are pesticides and 14 of which are industrial chemicals. It was adopted in 1998 and entered into force in 2004. It currently has 152 Parties.

Adopted in 2001, the Stockholm Convention regulates 23 toxic substances that are persistent, travel long distances, accumulate in organisms and are toxic. The treaty entered into force in 2004. It currently has 179 Parties.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44892&Cr=waste&Cr1=

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Ahead of June climate change talks, UN body urges coordinated response to CO2 ‘danger zone’

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13 May 2013 – In the face of “clear and present danger,” the United Nations climate change body is warning that a stepped-up coordinated response is needed to fend off the impacts of climate change after the world’s carbon-dioxide concentrations surpassed their highest level in 4 million years.

“The world must wake up and take note of what this means for human security, human welfare and economic development,” said the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres.

“In the face of clear and present danger, we need a policy response which truly rises to the challenge,” she continued urging a “greatly stepped-up response across all three central pillars of action: action by the international community, by government at all levels, and by business and finance.”

The statement follows the announcement that global concentrations of heat-trapped carbon dioxide in the atmosphere last week passed the 400 parts per million mark, which impacts efforts to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre- industrial levels.

The new measurement came from Mauna Loa, a volcano on the big island of Hawaii that has been monitoring the worldwide trend on carbon dioxide.

According to media reports, the last time was during an epoch called the Pliocene when the daily temperature was much warmer, the ice caps smaller and the sea level as much as 80 feet higher.

With this in mind, Governments will meet for two-weeks starting on 3 June in Bonn, Germany, for the next round of climate change talks under the umbrella of the UNFCCC.

A central focus of the talks will be negotiations to build a new global climate agreement and

to drive greater immediate climate action.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44894&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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On World Migratory Bird Day, UN calls for greater protection of habitats

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11 May 2013 – As an estimated 50 billion birds commence their annual migrations, the critical staging areas they need to complete these journeys continue to be degraded or are disappearing completely, the United Nations today warned on this year’s World Migratory Bird Day.

In his message marking the Day, celebrated each year in over 65 countries on 11 and 12 May, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underscored the need for greater international action in protecting the winged fauna and saving their natural habitats. With the stepping stones to their migration under increased pressure, some bird species could face extinction within a decade.

“I fully support the global campaign to raise awareness about the threats to migratory birds from habitat destruction, overexploitation, pollution and climate change,” Mr. Ban said in a news release in which he added his call for “greater international efforts to restore and preserve migratory birds and the network of sites they need to survive as an important part of the environment on which we all depend.”

Initiated in 2006, the Day is an annual campaign organized by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) – two intergovernmental wildlife treaties administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which also backs the campaign – and devoted to celebrating migratory birds and promoting their conservation worldwide.

In particular, through numerous bird festivals, education programmes, presentations, film screenings and birdwatching trips held in the participating countries, the Day highlights “the importance of ecological networks for the survival of migratory birds, the important human networks dedicated to their conservation, the threats migratory birds face, and the need for more international cooperation to conserve them,” reported a UNEP news release.

This year’s Day, however, will mark the importance of the African-European Flyways where a regional event, to be held on the shores of Kenya’s Lake Elementaita, will pay tribute to the 11 globally threatened bird species which are supported by the Kenya Lakes System.

“There are many reasons why migratory birds should be conserved – their beauty and behaviour are a source of joy and inspiration for millions upon millions of people,” UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner, noted.

“But they also are part of the web of life that underpins nature’s multi-trillion-dollar ecosystem services, while being in some countries, including Kenya, part of the nature-based tourism that generates 10 per cent of the nation’s GDP,” he continued.

Many migrating birds – including cranes, storks, shoebirds and eagles – travel thousands of kilometres across flyways that span countries and continents. Nevertheless, pressures resulting from rapid urbanization, pollution and climate change have caused the steady loss of their natural habitats.

According to UNEP, the migratory waterbird species that depend on the intertidal habitats along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway – which stretches from Russia to New Zealand and encompasses some 22 countries – are showing “rapid decline” and are among the planet’s “most-threatened migratory birds.”

“The decline is mainly caused by the fast pace of coastal land reclamation occurring in this densely populated region, particularly around key coastal staging areas in the Yellow Sea,” the UNEP press statement added.

However, with 19 per cent of the world’s 10,000 bird species migrating annually around the globe, the UN environment agency pointed out that the responsibility of protecting their habitats was not just a regional one, but required a network of international assistance.

“Migratory birds and the challenges they face in many ways underline the ambition of multilateralism in a globalized world,” Mr. Steiner stated. “It is only when countries work together in common cause that the survival and conservation of these species be ensured.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44878&Cr=UNEP&Cr1=

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UN disaster assessment team arrives in drought-affected Marshall Islands

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10 May 2013 – A United Nations disaster assessment team has arrived in the Marshall Islands to help the Government respond to a severe drought affecting its northern islands, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Assessments are ongoing in the country, where a state of disaster was declared on 7 May, according to a report issued by the OCHA Regional Office for the Pacific.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, OCHA spokesperson Jens Laerke said assessments from four atolls, with an estimated population of 1,500 people, found that most of the domestic water tanks were completely empty and water from wells was unsafe to drink due to bacterial contamination and high levels of salt.

Most of the installations for water purification and desalination were operating below capacity, he added.

In addition, food crops, which were mainly breadfruit and banana, were also reportedly “devastated” due to the drought.

“The lack of clean drinking water is of acute humanitarian concern, and children are particularly vulnerable,” said Mr. Laerke.

Two Government ships to the north-east and north-west of the Marshall Islands had begun transporting full water containers, hygiene kits and other relief items to nearly 600 families in the worst-affected communities.

“There is a high likelihood that drought conditions will remain through July,” Mr. Laerke stated. “It will take several months of normal rainfall for groundwater to be replenished and longer still for food crops to recover.”

The Government will receive an initial OCHA emergency cash grant of $50,000 to assist with the immediate response efforts.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=44871&Cr=drought&Cr1=

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