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Asia-Pacific nations at UN call for urgent global approach to mitigate climate change

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28 September 2013 – Asia-Pacific countries, some of them threatened with extinction from rising sea levels, took to the podium of the United Nations General Assembly today to call for an urgent global approach to mitigate climate change, voicing concern at the lack of progress so far.

“Climate change is no longer an environmental or political issue,” said Deputy Prime Minister Vete Palakua Sakaio of Tuvalu, a low-lying country of atolls in the direct line of onslaught from rising oceans.

“It is a borderless human security issue. Everybody must act to urgently reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and provide adaptation,” he added, echoing concerns already expressed by other leaders of small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs) at this year’s 68th Assembly General Debate.

On a new post-2015 development agenda to succeed the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cycle, the theme of this year’s 68th Assembly, he stressed the importance of partnerships. “The UN continues to be a beacon of hope and through strategic advocacy, and awareness-campaigns, brings the real issues and current events into the consciousness of the public and membership to propel action and redress,” he said.

“The scale of challenges can only be addressed by reforming ourselves, the UN and each member country.”

Manasseh Maelanga, Deputy Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga of the Solomon Islands called for a new spirit of partnership to reform the global economic architecture. “Climate change remains a global issue that needs a global solution,” he said.

“We join all SIDS and LDCs in conveying our concern on the slow progress of climate change negotiations. The alarming pace of climate change is posing unprecedented threats to humanity’s survival.”

Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion of Papua New Guinea called for SIDS to remain a special case for sustainable development as the UN draws up a post-2015 blueprint for long-term sustainable development for the decades following the end of the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cycle.

Leo Dion, Deputy Prime Minister for Papua New Guinea. UN Photo/Sarah Fretwell

“The adverse impacts of climate change continue to be of serious concern to the global community but especially for small island developing States,” he said. “While contributing the least to this threat, small island countries are not only suffering the most from the serious impacts of climate change but also run the risk of being submerged by rising sea levels…

“We therefore reiterate the challenge to the international community to accept its responsibility and leadership role.”

The Pacific countries received support from another small island but highly developed State – Singapore, which called for the views and concerns of small nations to be incorporated in the post-2015 development agenda as a priority.

Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam of Singapore. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

“Many, especially small island developing States are among the more vulnerable members of the UN family,” Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said. “Singapore identifies closely with our fellow SIDS countries’ urgent concerns.”

He also cited two other priority areas: allowing countries flexibility in which goals they choose to prioritize and how they will achieve them; and emphasizing urban management and the intertwined issues of water and sanitation.

“The UN has a critical role in the evolution of the post-2015 development agenda,” he declared. “Only the UN, with its universal membership and access to global data, has the standing to establish a new global development agenda that is inclusive, effective and adaptable.”

Thongloun Sisoulith, Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. UN Photo/Ryan Brown

Lao People’s Democratic Republic also highlighted the UN’s important role in establishing the new development blueprint. “It is more crucial than ever for the international community to redouble its efforts in enhancing development cooperation based on sincere and mutual assistance for the benefits of all and for a secured world,” Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith told the Assembly.

“As the world today becomes increasingly inter-dependent, no single country can develop and survive on its own without engagement and cooperation of the international community. In this context, the global institutions, like the United Nations, have an important duty to fulfil in advocating international development cooperation.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46125&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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UN urges global response to scientific evidence that climate change is human-induced

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27 September 2013 – United Nations officials today called for a global response to combat climate change, following new findings by a scientific panel stating it is “extremely likely” that humans have been the dominant cause of unprecedented global warming since 1950.

“The heat is on. Now we must act,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a video message to the launch of the report of the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“This new report will be essential for Governments as they work to finalize an ambitious, legal agreement on climate change in 2015,” Mr. Ban said. “The goal is to generate the political commitment to keep global temperature rise below the agreed 2-degree Celsius threshold.”

The IPCC report, released today in Stockholm, Sweden, calls global warming “unequivocal,” and confirms that there is a 95 per cent probability that most of the warming since 1950 has been caused by human influence.

The report stresses that evidence for this has grown “thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models.”

“The IPCC report demonstrates that we must greatly reduce global emissions in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change,” said the Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Michel Jarraud. “It also contains important new scientific knowledge that can be used to produce actionable climate information and services for assisting society to adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

In its report, the IPCC notes that continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. It adds that limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Climate change is a long-term challenge but one that requires urgent action, not tomorrow but today and right now, given the pace and the scale by which greenhouse gases are accumulating in the atmosphere and the rising risks of a more than 2-degree Celsius temperature rise,” said the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

To add momentum to the global response, Mr. Ban intends to convene a Climate Summit in September 2014 for leaders at the highest level – from government, business, finance, civil society and academia.

“As the results from the latest and best available science become clearer, the challenge becomes more daunting, but simultaneously the solutions become more apparent. These opportunities need to be grasped across society in mutually reinforcing ways by governments at all levels, by corporations, by civil society and by individuals,” said the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres.

Under the UNFCCC, governments have agreed to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. They have also agreed to assess the adequacy of this limit and progress towards this goal using the best science, including the IPCC report.

“Thankfully, momentum to fight climate change is building. We know that success is possible. We have the technology, funding and ability to respond. The many successes at domestic, international and private sector levels to build a low-carbon society shine light on the way forward, but we do need to quickly go to scale,” Ms. Figueres added.

It has been six years since the IPCC, which brings together the world’s leading climate scientists and experts, released its previous report. Back then, scientists stated it was “very likely” that humanity’s emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other greenhouse gases have caused most of the global temperature rise observed since the mid-20th century.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46069&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Marking World Tourism Day, UN highlights role of travel sector in protecting waterways

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27 September 2013 – The important relationship between recreational travel and the world’s water resources is the focus of this year’s United Nations observance of World Tourism Day, which aims to raise awareness of tourism’s social, cultural, political and economic value.

“World Tourism Day offers a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on water both as an asset and as a resource and on the actions needed to face up to the water challenge,” Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), said in a statement on the 2013 theme, “Tourism and Water: Protecting our Common Future.”

“I urge all those involved in the tourism sector to join our global World Tourism Day campaign and continue to devise innovate solutions to ensuring tourism contributes to sustainable access to water resources worldwide,” he added.

In his message on the occasion, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that unsustainable consumption and climate change were threatening global water and stressed the responsibility of the tourism industry to safeguard and intelligently manage the resource.

“In this International Year of Water Cooperation, I urge tourism establishments to cut consumption and improve waste management, and I call on individuals to play their part by making environmentally conscious choices when they travel,” Mr. Ban said.

As part of the worldwide observance of the Day, in the Maldives, a conference on tourism and water will bring together public and private sector tourism stakeholders, experts on water preservation and media experts today, according to the UNWTO.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46076&Cr=tourism&Cr1=water

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Major reductions of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock within reach

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26 September 2013 – Wider use of available best practices and technologies could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the livestock sector by as much as 30 per cent, according to a new study released today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The report, “Tackling climate change through livestock: A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities,” represents the most comprehensive estimate to date of livestock’s contribution to global warming, as well as the sector’s potential to help tackle the problem.

“The potential for achieving emissions reductions lies in enabling all livestock producers to change to practices already being used by the most efficient operators,” FAO stated in a news release.

According to the agency, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with livestock supply chains add up to 7.1 gigatonnes (GT) of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) per year – or 14.5 per cent of all human-caused GHG releases.

The main sources of emissions are: feed production and processing (45 per cent of the total), outputs of GHG during digestion by cows (39 per cent), and manure decomposition (10 per cent). The remainder is attributable to the processing and transportation of animal products, the agency stated in a news release.

It went on to say that wider adoption of existing best practices and technologies in feeding, health and husbandry, and manure management – as well as greater use of currently under-utilized technologies such as biogas generators and energy-saving devices – could help the global livestock sector cut its outputs by becoming more efficient and reducing energy waste.

“These new findings show that the potential to improve the sector’s environmental performance is significant – and that realizing that potential is indeed do-able,” said Ren Wang, FAO Assistant Director-General for Agriculture and Consumer Protection.

“These efficiency gains can be achieved by improving practices, and don’t necessitate changing production systems. But we need political will, better policies and most importantly, joint action.”

He added that it is imperative that the sector begin working now to achieve these reductions, given the strong growth in demand for livestock products in almost all developing countries, so as to help offset the increases in overall emissions that future growth in livestock production will entail.

FAO noted that many of its recommendations for improving efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions would also boost production – providing people with more food and higher incomes, with benefits for food security and poverty reduction.

The agency added that any effort to put the livestock sector on a different path will require a broad-based and inclusive effort. “Only by involving all stakeholders – the private and public sector, civil society research and academia and international organizations – will we be able to implement solutions that address the livestock sector’s diversity and complexity,” said Mr. Wang.

Toward this end, FAO has engaged with the public and private sector, producers, research and academia, civil society, non-governmental organizations, and inter-governmental organizations to establish the Global Agenda of Action in Support of Sustainable Livestock Sector Development.

The Agenda targets three priority areas where improving practices can potentially bring large gains: promoting more efficient practices, improved grassland management and better manure management.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46028&Cr=greenhouse&Cr1=

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World leaders inaugurate new UN forum to boost sustainable development efforts

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24 September 2013 – World leaders at the United Nations today inaugurated a High-level Political Forum that aims to inject new energy into the global effort to boost development for all the world’s peoples in a manner that is sustainable for future generations.

The Forum replaces the UN’s Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), which concluded its work on 20 September. The Commission was formed after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to generate action on a range of issues, including energy, oceans and sustainable consumption and production.

At the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development – known as Rio+20 – Member States called for the change from the CSD to the High-level Political Forum to ensure that sustainable development tops the agenda of the highest levels of government and is embraced by all actors.

Countries at Rio+20 agreed that progress in prosperity and social well-being – and simultaneous protection of the environment – had not been sufficient at a time when many global challenges threaten to roll back successes in fighting poverty and severe environmental threats such as climate change loom.

At the inaugural launch today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that the establishment of the Forum is a significant step towards realizing the vision adopted by Member States at Rio+20.

“Your forum is a key platform for examining today’s challenges in a holistic and integrated manner,” he said. “This forum can be the catalyst for a strengthened global partnership for sustainable development, providing political leadership grounded in solid science,” he added.

To further strengthen that effort, the Secretary-General said, he had decided to create a Scientific Advisory Board, including major researchers in varied natural, social and human disciplines. The Board will be established by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

General Assembly President John Ashe pointed out that the international community had made for itself this new High-level Political Forum, or HLPF, just as the 68th session began its discussions on laying the groundwork for the post-2015 development agenda.

“We have created this HLPF for the express purpose of delivering more effectively on our aspirations and agendas at a time when we realize that the practice of sustainability provides the only real bridge from our past to our present and our future, and from our planet to our peoples and our prosperity,” Mr. Ashe said.

The Forum will bring heads of State and Government together every four years under the auspices of the General Assembly to address the challenges of sustainable development. It will also meet annually at the ministerial level, under the auspices of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Starting in 2016, the Forum will also review implementation of sustainable development by all countries and the UN system, in order to bring about accountability and a focus on action on the ground.

The President of ECOSOC, Ambassador Néstor Osorio of Colombia, stressed that the Forum “could not and should not go it alone,” but should be integrated into the full UN structure. Such coordination was the responsibility of his Council, he said.

“People have a right to expect real results from the new Forum,” said UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo. “There are real challenges that must be faced.

“People need jobs, health care and education. And they also need food security, clean air and clean water. They need development that is sustainable, and the Forum has to deliver progress in all of these areas,” he added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45974&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=

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Ban says measured progress needed to halt and reverse land degradation

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23 September 2013 – Urging a global paradigm shift towards land stewardship, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the need to work with countries and local communities to protect and sustain the world’s fragile drylands and restore degraded land.

In his message to the eleventh Conference of Parties of the UN Convention on Desertification, Mr Ban said: “You meet as Namibia faces severe drought. The United Nations system stands ready to continue to support your efforts to mitigate its effects and build resilience.”

More broadly, he said desertification and land degradation threaten the livelihoods, well-being and sustainable development of at least 1 billion people. Further, climate change is already having an impact in the drylands of Africa.

Some areas have already seen temperature rise by 2 degrees Celsius. Long periods of drought, famine and deepening poverty continue to impoverish and depopulate vast areas.

In defining the post-2015 development agenda, the international community must make measurable progress “to halt and reverse land degradation, which threatens the livelihoods, well-being and sustainable development of at least 1 billion people,” read Mr. Ban’s message, which was delivered by Ms. Veerle Vanderweerd, head of delegation of the UN Development Programme.

During the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, world leaders acknowledged the threat of desertification, land degradation and drought in all regions, and especially for developing countries.

“Healthy land is a prerequisite for food and water security and necessary to avert political instability and to support climate change resilience and preserve valuable biodiversity,” Mr. Ban said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45941&Cr=desertification&Cr1=

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After 20 years, UN commission on sustainable development holds final session

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20 September 2013 – Marking an important milestone, the United Nations commission on sustainable use of the world’s resources today concluded two decades of work, paving the way for the incoming High-level Political Forum to boost efforts to tackle global economic, social and environmental challenges.

“The Commission’s seminal work both gave us a working definition of sustainable development and inspired the very first international conference to address both the environment and economic development simultaneously, the Rio Earth Summit,” said General Assembly President John W. Ashe in a statement delivered by his Deputy Chef-de-Cabinet, Noel Sinclair.

The UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) was formed after the 1992 Summit and helped to generate action on a range of issues that led to international agreements or treaties on energy, oceans, sustainable consumption and production, and others.

Its work also led to the establishment of the UN Forum on Forests, which has advanced progress on sustainable forestry through the adoption of the non-legally binding instrument on all types of forests in 2007.

Mr. Ashe, a former President of one of the CSD sessions and a national of Antigua and Barbuda, said the Commission also gave the world’s small island developing States, and other countries in special circumstances, a “voice in this all-important conversation.”

According to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s report on the lessons learned from the Commission, the contributions achieved by the CSD were also accompanied by a number of shortcomings, including the failure to fully integrate the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

The Commission, the report found, was also weak on its review and impact on the implementation of sustainable development.

In June, the UN General Assembly established the High-level Political Forum, which will be launched on Tuesday at the high-level General Assembly debate in New York.

The meeting is due to chart the course for implementing outcomes of the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio+20, as well as accelerate progress on the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and define a new development agenda post-2015.

The creation of the Forum emerged from Rio+20’s outcome document “The Future We Want,” to ensure that sustainable development tops the agenda of the highest levels of Government and is embraced by all actors.

“Rio+20 overhauled UN institutions for sustainable development,” Bektas Mukhamedzhanov, Kazakhstan Vice-Minister of Environment Protection, said. “We must effectively use the new High-Level Political Forum to ensure that sustainable development continues to be implemented and is integrated into the heart of the post-2015 development agenda.”

The Forum is due to convene annually at the ministerial level under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and it will, every four years, bring together heads of State to provide added momentum for sustainable development.

“One distinct benefit of the new forum is that it is designed to attract participation from representatives of all three dimensions of sustainable development, rather than chiefly from members of the environmental community,” Mr. Ashe said in today’s statement.

In an event marking the closure, the head of the United Nations environment agency (UNEP), Achim Steiner, said while the closing feels melancholy, it should be an occasion to celebrate.

“It’s an affirmation of evolution,” Mr. Steiner said, not the equivalent of extinction, as CSD is replaced by its next articulation.

Also addressing the participants, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo said the transition starts a new period in history.

“There is a realization that sustainable development—the integration of policies and actions that promote economic and social well-being that also protect the environment—have to have a prominent place on the international agenda at the highest levels,” Mr. Hongbo said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45901&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=

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Ban offers condolences, UN assistance as hurricanes pummel Mexico

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20 September 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced his sadness at the loss of life and damage in Mexico caused by Hurricanes Ingrid and Manuel, and offered the assistance of the United Nations.

Some 1.2 million people have been affected by the hurricanes since 17 September. Mexican authorities also report that 97 people have been killed.

“The Secretary-General extends his sincere condolences to the Mexican Government and people, particularly the families of those who have been killed,” his spokesperson said in a statement. “He extends his solidarity to all those affected in this disaster.”

The UN stands ready to lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs resulting from the disaster and to mobilize any international support needed, he added.

A state of emergency has been declared in hundreds of municipalities along the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Coast, as further severe storms are expected.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45899&Cr=hurricane&Cr1=

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FEATURE: UN teams with ‘Revolution’ TV show to highlight real challenges of a world without power

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18 September 2013 – The fictional concept at the heart of the television series ‘Revolution’ – which picks up 15 years after the start of a worldwide blackout – is the day-to-day reality for billions of people living without power, a reality United Nations field staff helped flesh out for the show’s writers ahead of its second season, which premiered last night at UN Headquarters in New York.

Portrayals of endless tents at “Savannah Refugee Camp” and war lords offering hostages sweet tea at the beginning of a meeting are taken directly from experiences UN workers have had in places like Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Sudan, and Syria.

“We spent a lot of the first season talking about ‘what ifs’ and that has become ‘what can we use,” said actor Billy Burke during a post-screening panel that brought together some of the cast and crew, and the UN experts who had collaborated on the second season of the show.

‘Revolution’ is a post-apocalyptic science fiction television drama series that takes place in the United States 15 years after the start of a worldwide blackout, according to NBC.

Series creator Eric Kripke said it was “surreal” when the UN reached out to ask for help in highlighting the global energy crisis to the show’s audience in a meeting that included Under-Secretary-Generals Valerie Amos, who heads the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal at the Department of Public Information (DPI).

Worldwide, almost 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, and about 1.2 billion have no access to electricity, according to UN figures.

Lack of electricity impacts every aspect of life ranging from how people store food, to how they learn, to their sanitation and access to medical aid, Mr. Launsky-Tieffenthal said in his welcoming remarks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched in 2011 the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative. It 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.

Speaking on the panel, UN Development Programme (UNDP) energy policy specialist Bahareh Seyedi stressed that living without power is not just a developing country issue.

“We are all interconnected. We all rely on the same ecosystem that sustains life on earth. Our actions in New York affect a woman in rural Bangladesh,” Ms. Seyedi said, adding that Manhattan on its own consumes as much energy as all of Kenya.

She suggested a greater emphasis in future episodes on sustainable energies, such as wind turbines and solar panels that use the power of sun and wind.

The opportunity to work with UN field experts such as Derk Segaar, who had spent several years in South Sudan and Darfur providing humanitarian support with OCHA, and to get stories directly from people on the ground is “ideal” for the show, said Steve Tao, head of TV for J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production house which is responsible for “Revolution.”

It was the UN Foundation that initially approached Good Robot, the philanthropic arm of Bad Robot, about collaborating.

“The United Nations is sometimes bad about getting its messages out to the world, particularly in a way that makes sense to the general public,” said Mr. Segaar, OCHA Chief of Communications in New York.

Following a screening of the season premiere, he said the portrayal of a warlord, whose character emerged fully from conversations between the show writers and the UN, was realistic.

“We were a week’s travel in the middle of nowhere to meet one of the most notorious war lords and spread under a tree was a picnic with little tea cups,” Mr. Segaar told the panel recollecting negotiations for safe passage of food convoys in Darfur.

The leader was well-educated and polite, “and then in the middle of the picnic he takes out his gun,” Mr. Segaar said.

He also made reference to portrayals of refugee camps, “Just imagine the scale. In every single tent there is a family that doesn’t want to be there. It is a history of broken dreams times a thousand.”

The relationship with the UN also impacted filler dialogue. At one point, one of the main characters offhandedly remarks that someone he had gone to school with came down with polio, a reference to lack of vaccinations and re-emergence of long eradicated diseases – also priority themes for the UN’s work.

“Power is literal and metaphorical,” said Mr. Kripke about ‘Revolution.’ “Financial power doesn’t matter. Political power doesn’t matter. It is about how fragile our society really is.”

Actors Giancarlo Esposito and Tracy Spiridakos also participated on the panel, which was moderated by director and producer Fisher Stevens.

Season two of ‘Revolution’ premieres on 25 September on NBC in the United States, as well as on Foxtel in Australia and CityTV in Canada. It will also air on 27 September on Syfy in Spain; 2 October on Star in India, TVNZ in New Zealand and SOHU and IQIYI online outlets in China; 5 November on Cinemax LATAM (HBO) in Latin American countries and February 2014 on NOTTV in Japan.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45884&Cr=energy&Cr1=

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UN ‘Champions of the Earth’ prize honours individuals fighting for the environment

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18 September 2013 – Entrepreneurs, policymakers, activists and academics from around the world are among the winners of the United Nations ‘Champions of the Earth’ award, which recognizes those whose work has had a positive impact on the environment.

Recipients of the award took action to combat some of the most pressing environmental issues, ranging from deforestation and food waste to climate change and poverty.

“Leadership and vision will be the hallmarks of a transition to an inclusive green economy in developed and developing countries alike. That transition is under way and has been given fresh impetus by the outcomes of last year’s Rio+20 Summit,” said the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

“This year’s Champions of the Earth are among those who are putting in place the actions, policies and pathways to scale-up and accelerate such transformations. As such they are lightning rods towards a sustainable 21st century.”

Among the laureates is the Vice President of Google Earth, Brian McClendon, who is being recognized for providing a powerful tool to monitor the state of the environment, allowing researchers to detect deforestation, classify land cover and estimate forest biomass and carbon. Google Earth was also used to help rescue workers save more than 4,000 people after Hurricane Katrina hit the state of New Orleans and, in Australia, a scientist used the tool to discover a previously unknown coral reef in a region that had been identified for oil and gas development.

The Brazilian Minister of Environment, Izabella Teixeira, is being recognized for her role in reversing deforestation in the Amazon. According to Government figures, Brazil has cut deforestation by 84 per cent over eight years. In addition, the land use planning policies implemented by Ms. Teixeira resulted in 250,000 square kilometres of conservation areas – the equivalent of 75 per cent of global forest protected areas.

The European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potocnik, will receive the award for his work to reduce food waste, including setting 2020 targets for the European Union (EU) to halve food waste and eliminate the need for landfills.

Carlo Petrini, the Founder of the Slow Food movement which seeks to improve sustainability of the world’s agriculture, is also a recipient as his work, which has supporters in over 150 countries, embraces local food traditions and protects local biodiversity.

Environmental activist Martha Isabel Ruiz Corzo, is being recognized for her work in the Sierra Gorda region of Central Mexico, which demonstrates how a broad range of advocacy, public education and income-generation approaches can produce support healthy ecosystems and alleviate poverty. Through her work and advocacy, 33 per cent of the Mexican state of Querétaro is now protected as a Biosphere Reserve, and hundreds of families in Sierra Gorda now receive a total of over S$2 million from the sale of carbon credits.

Jack Dangermond from the Environmental Systems Research Institute is being honoured for his commitment to ensuring that international, research, education and non-profit organizations working in the fields of conservation and development have access to analytical and visualization technologies.

A professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, will be recognized for his research into how cutting black carbon can significantly mitigate climate change. A member of the Science Advisory Panel on the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, he is now running Project Surya, which aims to reduce soot emissions from bio fuel cooking in rural India.

All the ‘champions’ will receive their awards during a ceremony at the American Museum of Natural History in New York hosted by UNEP this evening. The awards will be presented by UNEP’s Goodwill Ambassador and renowned supermodel Giselle Bündchen.

Launched in 2005, the Champions of the Earth awards have recognized 59 individuals and organizations for their leadership, vision, inspiration and action on the environment.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45885&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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Four African nations agree to improve use of key water resource under UN-backed plan

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18 September 2013 – Four African nations today agreed to a United Nations-backed plan that seeks to optimize the use of a key underground aquifer system and improve the management of water resources.

The Strategic Action Programme, signed at the Vienna headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), commits Chad, Egypt, Libya and Sudan to ensure the equitable use of the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, a huge water resource that lies beneath the four nations.

It also commits the countries to strengthen and build on a previously existing regional coordination mechanism, in part by establishing a new Joint Authority for the Nubian Aquifer System, according to a news release issued by the IAEA.

“I congratulate all involved on this significant achievement,” said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. “Water is a key resource, and effective management and use of such water resources is essential for the future.”

The Programme lays the groundwork for improving cooperation among the four arid nations and for strengthening their capacity to monitor and manage the aquifer effectively, noted the Agency.

It added that, with growing populations and decreasing water availability from other sources in the region, the aquifer is under mounting pressure. “Removing water without a clear understanding of transboundary and other implications threatens water quality and has the potential to harm biodiversity and accelerate land degradation,” the IAEA pointed out.

The Programme resulted from a joint technical cooperation project of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the IAEA.

“UNDP would like to congratulate the Governments of Egypt, Libya, Chad and Sudan for achieving this important milestone towards the cooperative management of their shared sub-surface waters which will help to ensure maintenance of livelihoods and ecosystems dependent upon the aquifer,” said its Administrator, Helen Clark.

The Nubian aquifer is the world’s largest known ‘fossil’ water aquifer system, meaning that the water is ancient and non-renewable, according to the IAEA.

The joint technical cooperation project began in 2006 and has already completed a sophisticated model of the aquifer to assist the four countries in optimizing use of the aquifer to meet human needs, avoid transboundary conflict, and protect ecosystems dependent upon the resource.

The IAEA contributes to the project in part by employing isotopic hydrology techniques to monitor the quantity and quality of groundwater and how it moves underground.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45877&Cr=water&Cr1=management

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Ban spotlights need for international cooperation to preserve ozone layer, protect environment

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16 September 2013 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the international community to continue efforts that will preserve the world’s ozone layer and protect the environment.

In his message for the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, Mr. Ban pointed to the Montreal Protocol as an example of how Member States are capable to work for the common good.

“Extraordinary challenges require extraordinary responses,” he said. “A generation ago, the world’s nations agreed to act definitively to protect the ozone layer, initiating an intergovernmental process that blazed new trails.”

Signed on 16 September 1987, the Montreal Protocol aims to protect the ozone layer by taking measures to control total global production and consumption of substances that deplete it, with the ultimate objective of their elimination.

The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the rays of the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet. The Protocol has catalyzed innovation in the chemical and equipment manufacturing industry, resulting in more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly refrigeration systems.

Action under the Protocol has also had significant climate benefits. Many harmful substances have been phased out, such as chlorofluorocarbons once used in products such as hairsprays, which are significant greenhouse gases.

Mr. Ban called the Protocol a “remarkable success story” which provides a “beacon of hope,” and serves to chart a new vision beyond 2015, the deadline for the eight anti-poverty goals known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“Sustainable development – enabled by the integration of economic growth, social justice and environmental stewardship – must become our global guiding principle and operational standard,” Mr. Ban said.

“On this International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, I commend all who have made the Montreal Protocol such an outstanding example of international cooperation. I urge Governments, industry, civil society and all other partners to apply the same spirit to the other great environment and development challenges of our times.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45860&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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