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UN online platform gives experts access to vital data on global forest health

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28 June 2013 – A new online platform launched today by the United Nations agriculture agency allows scientists and climate change experts to calculate crucial data for bioenergy strategies, including forest volume, biomass and forest carbon.

The web platform, GlobAllomeTree, was jointly developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the French Research Centre CIRAD and Tuscia University of Italy, and seeks to assist policymakers in making informed decisions that mitigate climate change.

“This is the first time that countries have access to an extensive database of tree models used to evaluate forest resources worldwide. It allows them to get a clear picture on their These efforts will help countries obtain more accurate data on the status of forest resources and forest carbon stocks and changes and support implementation of national and international forestry policies.forests’ capacities to store carbon,” said FAO Forestry Officer Matieu Henry.

In forestry, allometry refers to the statistical relationships between various characteristics of tree size. Allometric equations can be used to assess many forest services, as timber production but also climate change mitigation through forestry sector for example.

The FAO-backed online tool enables users to assess stem volume, tree biomass and carbon stocks from tree characteristics such as trunk diameter, height and wood specific gravity, for various types of trees and ecological zones.

As of now, the platforms covers 61 tree species in seven different ecological zones in Europe, 263 tree species in 16 zones in North America, and 324 species in nine ecological zones in Africa. The calculation tools for South Asia, South-East Asia and Central and South America will be uploaded to the platform soon, FAO said in a news release.

GlobAllomeTree will be particularly useful for countries taking part in the UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD), as they will be able to accurately assess forest carbon stocks and carbon stock changes.


GlobAllomeTree is an international web platform for tree allometric equations to support volume, biomass and carbon stock assessment.

A few countries participating in the programme have already advanced their approaches to forest monitoring by using tree calculation models. For example, national institutions in Vietnam supported have conducted field measurements to develop new calculation models in a number of forest types throughout the country.

Indonesia has produced and adopted a national standard for developing tree databases, and in Mexico, national forest authorities have developed a national database and new calculation tools.

“These efforts will help countries obtain more accurate data on the status of forest resources and forest carbon stocks and changes and support implementation of national and international forestry policies,” FAO concluded.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45302&Cr=forest&Cr1=climate+change

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UN climate change official applauds US climate change strategy

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25 June 2013 – President Barack Obama’s climate action plan can be a critical move forward on the path towards a new, global climate agreement, the head of the United Nations climate change body said in reaction to today’s announced strategy by the United States leader.

“When the United States leads action, it also encourages more rapid international efforts to combat climate change by strengthening political trust, building business momentum and driving new technology solutions,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, said in a statement.

She said that the plan is a necessary next step to meet an “immediate, worrying shortfall in action,” and if implemented to the fullest extent to which it is intended, the new strategy will show the US leading serious action to deal with climate change, both at home and abroad, and she urged that the plan be seen as a positive for the US economy and the economies of other countries.

“I applaud the fact that the US intends to play a leading role by helping to forge a truly global solution to climate change that galvanizes international action to significantly reduce emissions, prepares for climate impacts, and drives progress through the international negotiations,” Ms. Figueres noted.

Mr. Obama presented his national plan in a major speech at Georgetown University in the capital city, Washington DC. It includes proposals to cut carbon pollution in country, prepare for impacts of climate change, and galvanize international action.

“It is significant that the new plan aims to start up rapidly and covers the full menu of solutions to climate change: clean energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency and the many actions that all countries need to take to adapt to accelerating climate change,” the top UN climate change official said.

The US announcement comes amid ongoing UN-led negotiations on a universal treaty on climate change by 2015, which would enter into force starting in 2020. One of the goals is to keep global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The plan is “a necessary next stop” to meet a downfall in action and must be “leveraged into fresh, high-level political consensus among countries” to smooth the way for faster progress in the climate change talks, Ms. Figueres said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45270&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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UN climate change body applauds US climate change strategy

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25 June 2013 – President Barack Obama’s climate action plan can be a critical move forward on the path towards a new, global climate agreement, the head of the United Nations climate change body said in reaction to today’s announced strategy by the United States leader.

“When the United States leads action, it also encourages more rapid international efforts to combat climate change by strengthening political trust, building business momentum and driving new technology solutions,” UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretary, Christiana Figueres, said in a statement.

She said that the plan is a necessary next step to meet an “immediate, worrying shortfall in action,” and if implemented to the fullest extent to which it is intended, the new strategy will show the US leading serious action to deal with climate change, both at home and abroad, and she urged that the plan be seen as a positive for the US economy and the economies of other countries.

“I applaud the fact that the US intends to play a leading role by helping to forge a truly global solution to climate change that galvanizes international action to significantly reduce emissions, prepares for climate impacts, and drives progress through the international negotiations,” Ms. Figueres noted.

Mr. Obama presented his national plan in a major speech at Georgetown University in the capital city, Washington DC. It includes proposals to cut carbon pollution in country, prepare for impacts of climate change, and galvanize international action.

“It is significant that the new plan aims to start up rapidly and covers the full menu of solutions to climate change: clean energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency and the many actions that all countries need to take to adapt to accelerating climate change,” the top UN climate change official said.

The US announcement comes amid ongoing UN-led negotiations on a universal treaty on climate change by 2015, which would enter into force starting in 2020. One of the goals is to keep global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The plan is “a necessary next stop” to meet a downfall in action and must be “leveraged into fresh, high-level political consensus among countries” to smooth the way for faster progress in the climate change talks, Ms. Figueres said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45270&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Extreme flooding must be ‘turning point’ on disaster response

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25 June 2013 – A United Nations senior official today stressed that this year will be a “turning point” in how governments view and respond to extreme weather events, and floods in particular, which are currently affecting several countries across the world.

“India, Nepal, Canada and many countries in Europe have experienced huge losses over the last two months due to intense precipitation events which have triggered extreme flooding affecting millions of people’s well-being and livelihoods,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström.

Monsoon rains in India this year are believed to be the heaviest in 80 years, according to media reports, which noted that some 7,000 people are still stranded in the mountains after flash floods and landslides. More than 600 people are confirmed dead so far, while 80,000 have been rescued.

“The shocking loss of life in India underlines how vitally important it is that we start planning for future scenarios far removed from anything that we may have experienced in the past,” Ms. Wahlström said.

In the Canadian province of Alberta, more than 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes this month as floods triggered by torrential rains hit the region. The floods have washed away roads and bridges, cut off electricity and submerged hundreds of homes.

“When we look at the worldwide escalation in economic losses from disasters over the last five years, it is clear that our exposure to extreme events is growing and this trend needs to be addressed through better land use and more resilient infrastructure as we seek to cope with population growth and rapid urbanization.”

According to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), some 250 million people have been affected annually by floods over the last 10 years, and floods are the single most widespread and increasing disaster risk to urban settlements of all sizes.

Major contributing factors include poor urban planning which increases flood hazard due to unsuitable land use change, increases in paving and other impermeable surfaces, poorly maintained drainage, sanitation and solid waste infrastructure.

“Flood management systems need to be designed so that even if they are overwhelmed by floodwaters, the failure is not catastrophic,” Ms. Wahlström said, adding that UNISDR emphasizes the need for early warning systems, reduction of social vulnerability through land use planning and leadership at local government level.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45261&Cr=flood&Cr1=

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UN chief saddened by loss of life, damage caused by torrential floods in India

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24 June 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced his sadness at the loss of life, and the damage to homes and infrastructure, in India due to torrential floods in the northern state of Uttarakhand over the last week.

“He extends his sincere condolences to the people and Government of India, especially the families of those who have died, been injured or otherwise affected in this disaster,” said a statement issued by the Secretary-General’s spokesperson.

Monsoon rains in India this year are believed to be the heaviest in 80 years, according to media reports, which noted that some 7,000 people are still stranded in the mountains after flash floods and landslides.

Reports added that the death toll in Uttarakhand is expected to pass 1,000. More than 600 people are confirmed death so far, while 80,000 have been rescued.

Mr. Ban welcomed the swift response by India’s disaster management authorities, and said the United Nations stands ready to lend its assistance to emergency recovery and rebuilding efforts, if needed.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45257&Cr=flood&Cr1=

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UN official calls for urgent action to improve air quality in Asia-Pacific region

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21 June 2013 – With smog levels hitting all time highs in cities across the Asia-Pacific region, a senior United Nations official there is calling on Governments to do more, with greater urgency, to tackle the myriad challenges associated with worsening air quality.

“The ongoing problem of air pollution between Indonesia and Singapore is symptomatic of a much wider challenge for the countries of [the region],” said Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), urging Governments in the region to prioritize critical issues oCross-boundary pollution is politically complex, but it must be urgently addressed. We need more effective frameworks to manage ecosystem services, such as air and water, which transcend administrative and political boundaries.f air quality and human health.

“Cross-boundary pollution is politically complex, but it must be urgently addressed. We need more effective frameworks to manage ecosystem services, such as air and water, which transcend administrative and political boundaries,” she said, adding that such matters are regional issues which must be tackled at the regional, as well as national and local levels.

According to ESCAP, urban air pollution generated by vehicles, industries, and energy production causes an estimated 500,000 premature deaths in Asian cities every year.

With more than 1.7 billion people across the region still reliant on dung, wood, crop waste, and coal to meet their basic energy needs, indoor air pollution from solid fuel use is estimated to be responsible for more than 1.6 million deaths. Exposure rates are especially high amongst women and children, who spend the most time near domestic hearths.

“Health is the single most important enabler of development,” said Ms. Heyzer, stressing that efforts to build a more sustainable region must prioritize preventing “pollution of our air, our water, our food, and other common regional goods.”

Indeed, there is little point in investing in healthcare systems and ensuring access if, at the same time, the cost of the region’s growth is the destruction of the most basic environmental resources on which human health depends, she said.

In the context of increasingly severe climate change, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have dominated regional and global air quality discussions. But Ms. Heyzer stressed that: “We must also remember that one of the most serious and directly damaging issues of air pollution, especially in our rapidly urbanizing regions, is the concentration of particulates, which greatly increases the risk of heart and lung diseases and cancers.”

Calling on the governments of the region to do more to tackle issues of worsening air quality, she said that the nexus of air, water, food, energy, and land is not simply an environmental one – it is where social, economic, and environmental concerns converge.

“Our commitment to sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific will ultimately stand or fall on our response to these issues,” she said, explaining that it is through strengthening existing mechanisms, and through inclusive intergovernmental platforms, such as ESCAP, that the challenges could be best addressed to the benefit of all the people of the region.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45239&Cr=pollution&Cr1=

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UN disaster management team closely monitoring India floods

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20 June 2013 – The United Nations Disaster Management Team in India is closely monitoring the situation in the north, where torrential rains have triggered floods and landslides that have reportedly killed at least 70 people and left thousands stranded.

In the state of Uttarakhand, rising river levels have resulted in the collapse of buildings and bridges. Some 45 people were reportedly killed and 50 people are missing, UN spokesperson Eduardo del Buey told reporters in New York.

A large number of people are trapped around the holy town of Kedarnath, located in a valley, according to media reports.

Flooding has also affected other parts of India – where the monsoon season generally lasts from June to September – including Haryana, Mumbai, New Delhi and Pune.

Mr. del Buey said that the UN team is monitoring the situation through its field offices.

“No request for international assistance has been made,” he noted.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45232&Cr=flood&Cr1=

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More must be done to prepare pacific small islands for droughts, UN official warns

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19 June 2013 – With thousands of people in the Marshall Islands without access to safe drinking water, the head of the United Nations office for disaster risk reduction today warned that Pacific small islands are threatened by drought and need to incorporate mitigation measures into their national planning and risk assessments.

“The worsening situation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands is a strong warning for the whole of the Pacific of the potential suffering that drought brings, particularly as many [of the region’s] islands have limited water supplies,” said the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s (UNISDR) Asia-Pacific head, Jerry Velazquez.

“We mainly think about sea level rise and cyclone risks when we talk about small island developing states (SIDS) but drought is also threatening thousands of communities,” he added, urging better use of weather forecasts and improve rain water harvesting.

The recommendation is in line with the UN 2013 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction focusing on how climate change will magnify the disaster risk in SIDS around the world.

Some 6,700 people in the Marshall Islands are without safe water leading authorities to declare a “state of drought disaster.” Major rain water supplies have been exhausted, according to UNISDR. Well water has become so salty that it is unusable and crops have started dying off.

The drought will be among the issues discussed by delegates gathering for the Joint Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Nadi, Fiji, 8-11 July.

Around 250 delegates, including representatives from various Pacific Islands, are scheduled to attend the Joint Meeting in Fiji to pave the way for a successor to the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA). 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.

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.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45219&Cr=disaster&Cr1=

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East Rennell region in Solomon Islands placed on UN list of world heritage in danger

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18 June 2013 – The East Rennell area in the Solomon Islands was inscribed today on the United Nations Scientific, Cultural, and Educational Organization’s (UNESCO) list of endangered sites due to logging that is affecting the island’s ecosystem.

The UNESCO World Heritage Committee determined that “logging is threatening the outstanding universal value of East Rennell,” and asked the national authorities to provide an impact assessment study of this activity, which is taking place outside the site’s core area, UNESCO said in a news release.

East Rennell is the largest raised coral atoll in the world and its dense forest has a canopy averaging 20 metres in height. The forests, which cover most of the land area of the 37,000-hectare site, are an essential component of the atoll, which is considered to be a natural laboratory for scientific study.

Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1998, the site makes up the southern third of Rennell Island, the southernmost island in the Solomon Island group in the western Pacific.

The List of World Heritage in Danger is designed to inform the international community of threats to the outstanding universal values for which a property has been inscribed, and to encourage corrective action.

In other news, the Committee yesterday removed the Iranian World Heritage site of Bam and its cultural landscape from the list of sites in danger citing improvements in the management and conservation of the site.

Bam was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2004, shortly after it was struck by a major earthquake. Damage caused by the quake warranted the site’s simultaneous inscription on the List of Heritage in Danger.

The Committee, which is currently holding its 37th session in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, noted that remains of the desert citadel had been sufficiently stabilized and its management was sound enough for the site to be declared safe.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45212&Cr=unesco&Cr1=

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UN General Assembly set to explore impacts of ocean acidification

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17 June 2013 – The United Nations General Assembly will begin today its consideration of the impacts that the increasing acidification of the world’s oceans will have on the marine environment and on people.

This year’s informal Consultative Process on oceans, which opens today and runs through 20 June, will provide a forum for countries to discuss the challenges posed by rising ocean acidity due to increased carbon emissions from human activities.

By absorbing increased amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide caused by human activities, oceans are becoming more acidic— by more than 30 per cent—since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution 250 years ago, according to data cited in a report by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the General Assembly.

It is predicted that by 2050 ocean acidity could increase by 150 per cent, a rate of increase that is 100 times faster than any change in acidity experienced in the marine environment over the last 20 million years.

In a message for the recently observed World Oceans Day, Mr. Ban said: “If we are to fully benefit from the oceans, we must reverse the degradation of the marine environment due to pollution, overexploitation and acidification.”

He added, “Let us work together to create new waves of action for ocean sustainability – for people and the planet.”

The General Assembly’s Open-ended Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea will be co-chaired by Ambassador Milan Jaya Nyamrajsing Meetarbhan of Mauritius and Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand. The Process, established in 1999, aims to identify areas where international coordination and cooperation on ocean issues should be enhanced.

Over the course of four days, the meeting will focus its discussions on the scientific and technical aspects of oceans acidification. Participants will hear presentations from more than a dozen scientists and researchers about the process of ocean acidification, its impacts and activities to address these impacts, and about how the issue may be more effectively addressed.

There is currently no global international instrument specifically dedicated to addressing ocean acidification. However, elements of the existing legal and policy framework are relevant, including first and foremost, the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012 and requires States to protect and preserve the marine environment.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45191&Cr=oceans&Cr1=

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UN climate change talks in Bonn see concrete progress towards new agreement

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14 June 2013 – The United Nations climate change body said it has made concrete progress towards a new universal agreement on climate change during its latest round of talks which wrapped up today in Germany.

“This has been an important meeting because Governments are moving faster now from the stage of exploring options to designing and implementing solutions,” said Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

During the two-week talks in Bonn, participants focused on how to transform the world’s energy systems quickly enough towards low-carbon, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and the consideration of carbon capture and storage.

With the longer-term goal of a universal UN treaty on climate change by 2015 which would enter force by 2020, this latest round of talks pave the way for ministerial-level UN Climate Change Conference (COP-19) in Warsaw, Poland, starting on 12 November.

“Over the past 12 months, solid foundations have been laid under the process both toward the 2015 agreement and in raising pre-2020 ambition,” the co-chairs of a working group tasked to design a new agreement and to raise near-term global ambition to deal with climate change, Jayant Moreshver Mauskar and Harald Dovland said in a joint statement.

“As a result of the constructive and flexible engagement amongst Governments, nations now have a clearer idea of how to move to achieve demonstrable progress at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Poland and beyond,” they said.

In Bonn, Governments also examined key elements for such a shift, including reducing investment risk for investors, public-private partnerships, a long-term, legally binding agreement and strong domestic institutions to deal effectively with finance in countries which receive support.

“To prevent our atmosphere turning permanently against us requires a continued, faster shift in those investment patterns and the policies and price signals that drive them,” said Ms. Figueres.

Participants also examined specific means to increase finance, technology and capacity-building for developing countries, and how this can link to the 2015 agreement.

Detailed and productive technical discussions took place under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), tasked to advise the UNFCCC.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45183&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Ban challenges youth to support action against climate change

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13 June 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today issued a call to action for the world’s youth to tackle climate threats, stressing that young people are “agents of change” that bring fresh and innovative ideas to address “this most pressing issue.”

“I am glad to have this chance to talk with you, to discuss the most important and most pressing issue which will increasingly feature in your lives and coming generations,” Mr. Ban told a group of youth delegates attending UN climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany, in a videoconference.

“Climate change is a threat to development, the stability of countries and economies, and the health of the planet. Extreme weather is costing trillions of dollars and endangering lives and livelihoods all around the world.”

Mr. Ban told the delegates that youth would play a key role in his Climate Change Leaders’ Summit in New York in September 2014, to catalyze ambitious action on the ground, to reduce emissions and to strengthen climate resilience.

“When I say “leaders”, I’m talking about Government leaders,” Mr. Ban said. “But I’m also talking about leaders from business, finance and civil society, including youth. It is imperative that the powers of all change-agents be harnessed to tackle climate change- no one group can do it alone.”

“Use your power as voters and consumers,” Mr. Ban said, encouraging youth to get involved by reminding their political leaders of their moral responsibility to them and future generations and by adopting measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strengthen resilience to climate shocks.

Mr. Ban, who was joined in the discussion by his Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, also heard messages from young people submitted for him via the online platforms of Twitter and Facebook.

Asked where he envisioned youth playing the biggest role in building the momentum needed to tackle climate change, Mr. Ban told the youth leaders that it was up to all youth to challenge their peers, leaders, prime ministers, mayors, congress people, senators, and professors to take action.

“You are in the middle of a great transition era. To address climate change, we need fresh and innovative ideas.” Too often, he said, adults work to preserve business as usual and the status quo. “Young people approach problems with new ideas and a new perspective.”

Mr. Ban added that he would continue to press for action on climate change until the end of his term, at which point he would “pass the torch to you. That’s your job.”

“Are you ready to take up the challenge?” Mr. Ban asked the youth representatives at the end of the discussion. The delegates responded with an enthusiastic wave of hands.

The youth delegates are part of a group known as YOUNGO in the climate negotiations, or youth non-governmental organizations. Liam Upson of the United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition moderated the discussion and said the group has been speaking for young people around the world since the round of climate talks in Copenhagen and ensures that “the voices of current and future generations are heard.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45169&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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