Launching scientific advisory board, Ban urges bridging gap between science, policy
30 January 2014 The United Nations must use science and technology to strengthen its policy-making on sustainable development, reducing inequality and eradicating extreme poverty, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today said launching his advisory board of scientists.
“For too long we have sought to burn and consume our way to prosperity. That model is unsustainable,” Mr. Ban said in remarks at the inaugural meeting of the Scientific Advisory Board in Berlin.
Composed of 26 eminent scientists in varied natural, social and human disciplines, the Board is meant to strengthen ties between the UN and the global scientific community so that science can be more effectively integrated in policy-making processes.
“We have entered a new era, which has been given the name ‘Anthropocene,’” he said, referring to a newly coined term for the current geologic epoch defined by humans’ impact on the planet.
“We need science to understand our environment, to protect it and use it wisely,” he noted, adding that science is also needed to tackle hunger and food security, growing inequalities, disaster prevention, urbanization, sanitation and sustainable energy for all.
The launch of the Board, whose Secretariat is within the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), comes as Mr. Ban is pushing to catalyse action and strengthen political will towards a global legal climate agreement by the end of 2015.
Ahead of those discussions, Mr. Ban will host a climate summit on 23 September at UN Headquarters in New York for global leaders from Government, business, finance, and civil society.
Environmental sustainability is one of the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The international community is currently in the 700 day countdown to the deadline for achieving those targets and amidst defining a post-2015 development agenda.
While in Germany, Mr. Ban will address the 50th Munich Security Conference where he will stress that global security ultimately depends on sustainable development.
Earlier today, he met with Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, Economic and Cooperation Development Minister Gerd Müller, and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
In a press conference alongside Mr. Steinmeier, the Secretary-General highlighted Germany’s role in the peaceful settlement of disputes, peacebuilding and disarmament, enhancing respect for human rights, and support for international development efforts.
He will travel to Bonn tomorrow to meet with UN staff members and local authorities.Back to Top
Securing crop biodiversity is key to feeding world’s growing population
30 January 2014 Seeking to ensure that the world can feed a fast growing population, expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, the United Nations today published voluntary international standards to improve conservation of the crops that are crucial to food security by preserving biodiversity in gene banks and in the field.
“As the world’s population grows and continues to face a wide range of climate, environmental and other challenges, maintaining a healthy variety of seeds and other plant genetic resources for the benefit of people in all countries will be essential to keeping agricultural and food systems sustainable and resilient, generation after generation,” UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Assistant Director-General Ren Wang said.
The FAO publication,
Genebank Standards for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, outlines voluntary, international standards for the many repositories – or genebanks – around the world that store seeds and other materials used to reproduce plants, as well as for living plants in the field.
More than 7 million samples of seeds, tissues and other plant-propagating materials from food crops, along with their wild relatives, are safeguarded in about 1,750 genebanks.
“Plant genetic resources are a strategic resource at the heart of sustainable crop production,” Mr. Ren writes in a foreword. “Their efficient conservation and use is critical to safeguard food and nutrition security, now and in the future. Meeting this challenge will require a continued stream of improved crops and varieties adapted to particular agro-ecosystem conditions.
“The loss of genetic diversity reduces the options for sustainably managing resilient agriculture, in the face of adverse environments, and rapidly fluctuating meteorological conditions.”
The standards are designed to guide users in implementing the most appropriate technologies and procedures for the collection, conservation and documentation of crop diversity. Their wide application also supports research that could stem the loss of biodiversity and boost sustainability in agriculture, both necessary for feeding the world’s burgeoning population.
“Genebanks help bridge the past and the future by ensuring the continued availability of plant genetic resources for research and for breeding new varieties that meet the consumers’ continually evolving needs and a changing climate,” said Linda Collette, Secretary of FAO’s Intergovernmental Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.
“They help us to conserve plant genetic resources and to improve them; they also help countries to share and exchange genetic resources with each other.”
The standards address a wide range of issues, including techniques for collecting samples; consistent labelling; protection from fungi, bacteria, pests and physical stress factors; viability and genetic integrity testing; and, developing strategies for the rapid multiplication of samples for distribution.
The world’s genebanks differ greatly in the size of their collections and the human and financial resources at their disposal. The Standards will help genebank managers strike a balance between scientific objectives, resources available, and the objective conditions under which they work, FAO says.
“Genebanks play a key role in the conservation, availability and use of a wide range of plant genetic diversity for crop improvement for food and nutrition security,” the publication stresses in its preface. “An efficient management of genebanks through application of standards and procedures is essential for the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources.”
FAO experts consulted with a wide range of partners, including those at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global partnership whose research is carried out at 15 centres worldwide, in particular Bioversity International; genebank managers; relevant academic and research institutions; and national focal points for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.Back to Top
Human cause of global warming is near certainty, UN reports
30 January 2014 Global warming is unequivocal, human influence has been the dominant cause since the mid-20th century, and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, already at levels not seen in at least 800,000 years, will persist for many centuries, the final version of the latest United Nations report on climate change warned today.
“Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system,” according to the report, which finalizes a summary of findings by the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued in September, outlining a litany of threats from the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to rising oceans to extreme weather events such as cyclones and heat waves.
“Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions,” it stresses, using the term “extremely likely” for human causality since the mid-20th century, meaning there is a 95 to 100 per cent probability that humankind, and not naturally occurring phenomena, are to blame, a 5 percent increase from the 90 to 100 per cent “very likely” probability of if the IPCC’s last report in 2007.
Even if emissions of global warming carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are stopped, most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries. “This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2,” the report warns.
“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes,” it says.
“This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4 (the last IPCC report). It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”
The report says it is extremely likely that more than half the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010 was caused by the increase in greenhouse gas caused by humans and other human causes. Some of the major warming emissions caused by humankind since the birth of the industrial era 250 years ago – CO2, methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) – have all increased since 1750 due to human activity.
“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century,” the report stresses.
“Concentrations of CO2, CH4, and N2O now substantially exceed the highest concentrations recorded in ice cores during the past 800,000 years. The mean rates of increase in atmospheric concentrations over the past century are, with very high confidence, unprecedented in the last 22,000 years.”
It notes that each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850, changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950, the frequency of heat waves has likely increased in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia.
There are also likely more land regions where the number of heavy precipitation events has increased than where it has decreased and the frequency or intensity of heavy precipitation has likely increased in North America and Europe. Likely means a 66 to 100 per cent probability.
On the cryosphere (cold regions) the report notes that annual mean Arctic sea ice decreased over the period 1979 to 2012 at a rate very likely in the range 3.5 to 4.1 per cent per decade and in the range 9.4 to 13.6 per cent per decade the summer sea ice minimum (perennial sea ice).
There is very high confidence that the extent of Northern Hemisphere snow cover has decreased since the mid-20th century, decreasing by an average 1.6 per cent per decade for March and April, and 11.7 per cent per decade for June, over the 1967 to 2012 period.
There is also high confidence that permafrost temperatures have increased in most regions since the early 1980s. Observed warming was up to 3° Celsius in parts of Northern Alaska and up to 2°C in parts of the Russian European North, where a considerable reduction in permafrost thickness and areal extent has been observed over the period 1975 to 2005.
As for the sea level, the rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia, its global mean level rising 0.19 metres over the period 1901 to 2010.
Global surface temperature change for the end of the 21st century is likely to exceed 1.5°C relative to 1850 to 1900 for most scenarios studied by IPCC, and likely or “more likely than not” to exceed 2°C for some of them. Warming will continue beyond 2100 under all scenarios except one, will continue to show inter-annual-to-decadal variability and will not be regionally uniform.
It is very likely that Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin and that Northern Hemisphere spring snow cover will decrease during the 21st century as global mean surface temperature rises. Global glacier volume will further decrease, the report adds.
Global mean sea level, meanwhile, will continue to rise during the 21st century, very likely exceeding the rate observed during 1971 to 2010 due to increased ocean warming and increased loss of mass from glaciers and ice sheets.Back to Top
At Davos Forum, Ban again urges business sector to help tackle climate change
24 January 2014 Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon kept up the drumbeat for business to play its full part in tackling climate change and promoting sustainable development for a second day today, telling the World Economic Forum in Davos that investments now will generate major savings for tomorrow.
“The finance community is a key player. We need trillions of dollars of investment to move from the brown to the green economy,” the United Nations chief told a session on Climate, Growth and Development, citing four areas for action.
“First, we need investors, banks and other financial service providers to increase finance flows into low-carbon energy and climate-resilient infrastructure, including through setting portfolio targets and increasing the deployment of climate bonds. Second, we need to decrease the flow of finance to carbon-intensive and obsolete technologies and business practices.
“Third, investors and banks should work to increase transparency regarding greenhouse gas emissions from the assets and businesses that they finance. Finally, investors and banks and regulators should work together to ensure that rules that govern financial markets are conducive to sustainable development.”
As he did yesterday at several events on the margins of the Forum, Mr. Ban stressed that the summit on climate change that he is convening at UN Headquarters in New York in September will be an opportunity for global leaders from Government, business, finance, and civil society to initiate ambitious joint actions on the ground to reduce emissions and strengthen climate resilience, mobilizing the political will for a meaningful global legal climate accord by 2015, when States parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will meet in Paris.
He highlighted the interdependence between sustainable development based on a low-carbon economy and climate change generated by high-carbon global warming emission.
“Addressing climate change is also a great opportunity to support all our sustainable development goals. At the same time, the actions we take on sustainable development can help tackle climate change,” he stressed.
“Investment now will result in major savings in the future, and can propel economic growth today. It can support universal energy access, sustainable cities and well-being for people and the planet.”
At a Forum session on Catalyzing Green Investment Mr. Ban told business leaders the September summit “is your opportunity to show what you can and will do, and to work with governments at the highest level to address climate change.”
He underscored the essential role private investment has to play in meeting the growing demand for energy in the developing world. “We need in particular to win over institutional investors that collectively manage more than 70 trillion Euros of assets,” he said.
“The bulk of these investments are high-carbon assets. These investors have the power – and I believe the responsibility — to help transform the global economy.”
He also highlighted the importance of the Green Climate Fund, agreed on in 2010 by States Parties to the UNFCCC as a financial mechanism for promoting a shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways by providing support to developing countries.
“The Fund cannot be the exclusive conduit for climate finance, but it will be an important part of a public-private framework that supports low-carbon investment and fair access to climate financing in developing countries,” he said. “We need to bring it into operation as soon as possible.
“We need more public finance, more private finance and better mechanisms for channelling investments to where they are most needed. I urge public and private actors to rise to the challenge in the coming months and rally around a key number of concrete action-oriented solutions for the climate summit.”Back to Top
Growing demand for cropland threatens environment, UN agency reports
24 January 2014 If demand for new land on which to grow food continues at the current rate, by 2050, high-end estimates are that area nearly the size of Brazil could be ruined, with vital forests, savannahs and grassland lost, the United Nations today warned in a new report.
Up to 849 million hectares of natural land may be degraded, according to report, “Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply”, produced by the International Resource Panel, a consortium of 27 internationally renowned resource scientists, 33 national Governments and other groups, hosted by the UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP).
“Recognizing that land is a finite resource, we need to become more efficient in the ways we produce, supply and consume our land-based products,” said Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.
The need to feed a growing number of people has resulted in widespread environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity, affecting an estimated 23 per cent of global soil.
Authors attribute the increasing demand for land to more protein-rich diets in developing countries and a growing demand for biofuels and biomaterials, especially in developed countries.
They attempt to answer the question: how much more land can be used to serve the growing demand for food and non-food biomass while keeping the consequences of land use change at a tolerable level?
The report outlines the need and options to balance consumption with sustainable production, focusing on land-based products – such as food, fuels and fibre – and describes methods to enable countries to determine whether their consumption levels exceed sustainable supply capacities.
Its release comes amidst the final 700 days towards reaching the deadline for the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and as the international community defines the sustainable development goals post-2015.
“Recommendations from the report are meant to inform policy and contribute to ongoing discussions on targets and indicators for sustainable resources,” Mr. Steiner said.
The report authors argue that the key causes of global challenges are linked to unsustainable and disproportionate consumption levels.
Meanwhile, in high-consuming countries, only a few policy instruments address excessive consumption habits and the structures that encourage them, according to the report.
Among its recommendations, the report pushes for measures that improve land management and land use planning, investment in restoration of degraded land, and a reduction in food waste and shift towards more vegetable diets.
Earlier this month, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) said the current food production system is not sustainable today, or in 2050, when it will have to provide food for a population of 9.6 billion people.
In addition to degraded soils, pollution and reduced biodiversity, intensive farming systems – combined with food wastage on a massive scale – have also contributed to greenhouse gas emissions.
The UN agency urged consumers to make healthier food choices, and called on political leadership to focus in agricultural research and development on nutrition, as well as local biodiversity and diversified farming systems.
Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47002&Cr=&Cr1=Back to Top
UN-backed website aims to aid ‘green’-minded governments
22 January 2014 As the international community lays the groundwork for sustainable development goals after 2015, the United Nations environment agency today backed a new website that compiles hundreds of technical and policy resources to help decision-makers transition to green economic growth.
“The Green Growth Knowledge Platform provides a much needed tool to bridge knowledge gaps, exchange information and deliver policy guidance to accelerate and support the transition towards green economic development,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“A transformation towards a green economy is not just about the environment. It must be a priority across all facets of the post-2015 development agenda in order to deliver growth and prosperity and improved livelihoods,” he added, stressing the need for “a holistic and far-sighted approach.”
The website features a searchable e-library with over 600 technical and policy resources, as well as dashboards with data and policies for 193 countries.
It is part of the Geneva-based Green Growth Knowledge Platform (GGKP) founded in 2012 by UNEP, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank and the Global Green Growth Institute.
Based on the idea that green growth knowledge and suitable policies could be shared and applied by different countries, the platform collects and processes theoretical knowledge and practical experience and makes it available to interested countries interested in implementing green economic policies.
As of this month, the GGKP confirms agreements with 29 knowledge partners, including international organizations, research institutes and think tanks. It will work with these partners to promote collaboration and coordinated research on a number of priority themes, including green growth indicators and measurement, trade and competitiveness and green technology and innovation, according to the news release.
UNEP will host the GGKP’s next Annual Conference this September in its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.Back to Top
Time for investors to move out of high-carbon assets, says UN climate change official
15 January 2014 The top United Nations climate change official today urged investors to accelerate the greening of their portfolios as a crucial step towards a low-carbon economy that can better cope with the threats, and seize the opportunities from, climate change.
Specifically, Christiana Figueres called on investors to move out of high-carbon assets and into assets built on renewable energy, energy efficiency and more sustainable ways of business that green global supply chains.
“The pensions, life insurances and nest eggs of billions of ordinary people depend on the long-term security and stability of institutional investment funds. Climate change increasingly poses one of the biggest long-term threats to those investments and the wealth of the global economy,” said Ms. Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
“Institutional investors who ignore the risk face being increasingly seen as blatantly in breach of their fiduciary duty to their beneficial owners – men and women who have worked hard all their lives to put away something for their retirement and for their children,” she said.
The call comes as hundreds of financial, corporate and investment leaders with more than $20 trillion in combined assets gathered at UN Headquarters for a day-long summit to discuss the implications of climate change for capital markets and their portfolios.
The biennial Investor Summit on Climate Risk aims to catalyze and scale-up investor action, while underlining the risks to investments, including pensions and nest-eggs worldwide from business as usual.
Ms. Figueres told a news conference on the margins of the summit that policy on climate change at the international level, and at the national level, is by now inevitable, owing to the “pounding and compounding” impacts of climate change. Governments are moving forward with efforts to reach a global climate agreement by 2015.
She stated that there is an “inverse relationship” between the pace of policy and the scale of risk. “The longer we take on achieving final clarity on policy, the more the risk goes up for investors and it is in the investor community interest to have policy sooner rather than later.”
Ms. Figueres also called on investors to ask the companies they are invested in to not use shareholder funds to influence policy against climate change.
Ignorance of climate change impact on any investment portfolio is no longer an excuse, she added. “Those days are over and we need to stand up now and make the necessary shifts in capital to come on board with the new opportunities that we heard this morning that are actually opening up for those capital shifts.”
According to the International Energy Agency, $36 trillion of global investment in clean energy will be required by 2050 to meet the internationally agreed goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius. This means the world needs to invest an average of $1 trillion per year in clean energy for the next 36 years.
“The continued and dangerous rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is in large part the direct result of past investments in energy and mobility systems based on the use of fossil fuels,” noted Ms. Figueres.
“New investments must now assist in reversing this unsustainable trend, and quickly if the world is to have a chance of staying under a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise.”
The summit is co-organized by CERES – a coalition and network of over 130 pension funds, investors and non-profit organizations, the UN Fund for International Partnerships and the UN Foundation.
It takes place ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, slated for this September and which is anticipated to build momentum for a strong global climate agreement in 2015.Back to Top
UN urged to recognize benefits derived from mountain regions as essential for sustainable development
8 January 2014 As United Nations-led talks on outlining the future global development agenda continue to progress, UN agency officials joined representatives of mountain countries and organizations today at Headquarters to encourage mountain-specific policies in sustainable development strategies, with a particular focus on plans for adaptation and mitigation of climate change.
In connection with 7th session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, under way in New York since Monday, the UN Mountain Partnership Secretariat held an event on “Building resilience to climate change in mountain areas,” at which participants considered two major policy papers urging action to ensure that goals, targets and indicators are set to improve the livelihoods of mountain people and to conserve mountain ecosystems.
The Open Working Group is tasked with identifying the international development agenda that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals – the anti-poverty targets agreed at a UN summit in 2000 and set to expire next year. The UN has stressed sustainable development – environmental, social and economic well-being for all – as the way forward.
Today’s side-event stressed the vital importance of mountains to ensuring a comprehensive post-2015 agenda, especially as diverse mountain ecosystems provide freshwater to half of the world’s population and are home to half of all global biodiversity hotspots. At the same time, climate change is severely impacting mountain areas and posing threats to the livelihoods of mountain people.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) along with the missions of Argentina, Italy, Kyrgyzstan and Peru were co-organizers of the event, which featured a keynote speech by Ivan Ramirez, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health and the New York-based New School.
According to the UN, many scientists believe that mountains can act as early warning systems, as the changes occurring in mountain ecosystems may provide an early glimpse of what could come to pass in lowland environments. The keynote address echoed that belief, which was also highlighted in the policy papers, respectively on “Mountains and the Sustainable Development Goals” and “Why Mountains Matter for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction.”
The paper on disaster risk reduction notes specifically that mountain communities have a wealth of knowledge and strategies, accumulated over generations, pm how to cope with harsh environment and adapt to climate variability.
“Mountain communities should not be viewed simply as vulnerable, the also have rich experiences and indigenous solutions,” says the paper, emphasizing that traditional knowledge should be coupled with advances in technology, including early warning systems for hydro-meteorological disasters. It stresses that when mountain ecosystems are managed sustainably, they can continue to provide regulating services that act as buffers against climate change and natural disasters, for example, preventing soil erosion and maintaining mountain meadows can protect people in downstream areas from landslides and flash floods.Back to Top
UN agency praises China’s destruction of ivory stockpile
6 January 2014 The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today applauded China for its first public effort to crackdown on illegal ivory trade, calling the Government’s destruction of six tonnes of confiscated ivory a “milestone event”.
“International cooperation is paving the way towards improved law enforcement and increased efforts to reduce demand,” UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner said.
“The largest remaining land mammal on the planet is facing one of the greatest crises to hit the species in decades,” Mr. Steiner added, calling for stronger efforts to curb the illegal trade in so-called ‘white gold’, which can reportedly fetch up to $2,000 per kilogram.
Some 47,000 animals were killed in Africa in 2011 and 2012, according to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
Elephant poaching doubled and illegal ivory trade tripled in the last decade, endangering already fragile populations in Central Africa, as well as previously secure populations in West, Southern and Eastern Africa, according to UNEP’s ‘Elephants in the Dust – The African Elephant Crisis’.
The report, released last March, warned that criminal networks are increasingly involved and entrenched in the trafficking of ivory between Africa and Asia, where demand is high, particularly in countries with a growing economy such as China.
The report recommends improving law enforcement across the entire illegal ivory supply chain, and increasing collaboration among transit and consumer countries through international organizations such as CITES, the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Interpol and the World Bank. It also highlights the need to combat corruption and reduce demand for ivory.
The report was jointly produced by UNEP, CITES, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network (TRAFFIC) and released at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CITES convention in Bangkok, Thailand.
Today’s crushing of ivory ornaments, tusks and carvings in Dongguan in southern Guangdong province was described as the first public destruction of ivory in China.
“We have also seen the destruction of ivory stockpiles across range, transit and demand States,” Mr. Steiner said citing the Philippines, the Gabon and the United States. “As well as create critical public awareness, such actions send a clear message that wildlife crime will not be tolerated.”
Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=46878&Cr=China&Cr1=Back to Top