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Prospects for climate agreement boosted by survey of national laws


28 February 2014 – Sixty-six countries have legislation governing climate mitigation and adaptation plans, revealed a newly released United Nations-supported study that aims to boost progress towards a new universal agreement on climate change.

Results of the study, co-authored by the UN and World Bank-supported Global Legislators Organisation (GLOBE) and the Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics (LSE), were disclosed yesterday to legislators and senior UN officials in Washington DC.

The new study covers countries responsible for 88 per cent of global carbon emissions. It shows that of those 66 countries, 64 “have progressed or are progressing” on climate change, according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

“It is no exaggeration to say that the clean revolution we need is being carried forward by legislation,” said UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. “Domestic legislation is critical because it is the linchpin between action on the ground and the international agreement.”

The meeting comes 18 months ahead global legal climate accord to be signed in Paris. To build momentum and mobilize political will for those talks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will convene a climate change summit this September at UN Headquarters in New York. That meeting 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.

At the meeting, held earlier this week, in addition to reviewing the study, participants also discussed how national laws will be recognized within a 2015 international climate change agreement.

“At the national level, it is clear that when countries enact clean energy policies, investment follows. At the international level, it is equally clear that domestic legislation opens the political space for international agreements and facilitates overall ambition,” Ms. Figueres noted.

In addition to Ms. Figueres, the UN was also represented by the head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner and the UN Assistant Secretary-General, Robert Orr.

Among the 66 countries covered in the study, two began processes to reverse legislation. In Australia, the new Government proposed to repeal aspects of the Clean Energy Act, while Japan announced a lowering of its ambition on climate change in response to its reduced reliance on nuclear energy following the Fukushima accident.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47248&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Journey to the centre of the earth: UN peacekeepers aid volcanologists in DR Congo


25 February 2014 – Breaking through clouds of smoke, a United Nations helicopter flying a team of scientists over eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) dipped near the mouth of Nyamuragira, one of Africa’s most active yet least studied volcanoes, which threatens to potentially turn Goma into Pompeii.

The expedition, conducted earlier this month, is a different facet of “civilian protection” for the UN Mission in the country, known by its French acronym MONUSCO. It aims to understand if the increasing plume of the volcano is also related to an increase of available volumes of magma at the surface. If so, the greater the chance of the volcano erupting.

“In case the two volcanoes would erupt without the warning by the local scientific institution, it would surely [be] the most dramatic natural disaster catastrophe in recent years,” said Dario Tadesco, the lead scientist on the UN-supported visit, which included a stop at nearby Mount Nyiragongo, which, together with Nyamuragira are responsible for the majority of Africa’s historical volcanic eruptions.

“This is the reason why most actors, UN and European Union (EU) above all, are helping and increasing technical and scientific capacities of local researchers.”

The study – carried out in partnership with the Goma Volcano Observatory (GVO) and UN partnering International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Second University of Naples in Italy with which Mr. Tadesco is affiliated – is one of several in which MONUSCO aids in gathering data for use by humanitarian agencies and provincial authorities about Nyamulagira and Mount Nyiragongo.

“This situation is making it difficult, even impossible, to work next to the volcanoes and led us to quit most of the surveillance points in order to avoid possible looting as occurred in 2007,” Mr. Tadesco said, referring to ongoing fighting in and around flashpoint city of Goma, which lies at the feet of the volcanos.

Scientists have expressed concern about potential dangers not just to Goma but the land under it and Lake Kivu adjacent to it. The lake conceals underwater concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane. If the Nyamuragira blows, it could release a lethal cloud of gas across the area that would kill anyone who managed to escape the volcanic eruption.

In addition to assisting with logistics for the scientific visit, MONUSCO has also been working with local authorities to create a contingency plan in the the event that the wider area has to be evacuated quickly.

Nyiragongo, which means “the smoker” in the local language, and Nyamulagira, “the commander”, also have a mythical significance as ancestral home of the dead that strive to stir up the flame of the mountain, according to local beliefs.

Nyiragongo and Nyamulagira have gone through several eruptions since 1880. On 17 January 2002, the two-mile high Nyiragongo spilled more than 15 million cubic yards of lava into Goma, destroyed an estimated 14,000 homes and forcing some 350,000 people to flee.

GVO researchers, accompanied by Mr. Dario, landed on the Nyamuragira and spent four hours collecting rocks and gas samples which will be analyzed in Italy.

The DRC has been torn apart by civil wars and factional fighting since it became independent from Belgium in 1960, but with the support of a series of UN missions a measure of stability has been restored to much of the vast country over the past decade.

Recent fighting between the Government and a variety of rebel and sectarian groups continues to devastate the eastern regions, particularly North and South Kivu provinces. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 2.9 million people are currently displaced by conflict within DRC, more than 60 per cent of them in North and South Kivu.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47227&Cr=democratic&Cr1=congo

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UN kicks off International Year to raise profile of small island developing countries


24 February 2014 – While drawing attention to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, the International Year of Small Island Developing States – which kicked off today at the United Nations – is also a chance to address increasing environmental degradation, and social and economic marginalization in those countries.

“This Year takes place at a time when the vast majority of islands are combating the ravages of climate change, and some, like the Maldives are literally sinking because of it,” the current UN General Assembly President, John Ashe, said during a ceremony that included singing, dancing and story-telling.

The Year – the first time the General Assembly designated an international year for a group of countries – is an opportunity for the international community “to share the many reasons why the global family of nations can and must act to support, protect, preserve and ensure the sustainable development of SIDS,” Mr. Ashe noted referring to the acronym for Small Island Developing States.

Today’s launch at UN Headquarters in New York coincides with a preparatory meeting for the Third International Conference on SIDS, which will be held in Apia, Samoa in September.

The Conference will take place during the same month that the General Assembly will devote its annual high-level segment to deliberations on the sustainable development agenda beyond 2015, the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Under the theme of “sustainable development of small island States through genuine and durable partnerships,” the conference in Samoa will seek to ensure economic growth and social development while protecting the environment and increasing countries’ resilience. There are also side events planned on issues such as youth, national debt and environmental protection.

“The challenges that small island developing States are facing are challenges that all countries should be concerned about,” said the Secretary-General of the Conference and head of the UN Department of Economic and social Affairs, Wu Hongbo, who also participated in today’s launch. But because of their unique locations, small islands are particularly vulnerable, he added.

For example, the hurricane season has devastating impacts on lives and property, particularly in countries which see an increasing number of cycles and decreasing rainfall.

In Samoa, the 2012 Cyclone Evan caused about $400 million worth of damage, or roughly a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“When you come to Samoa, we will show you the new communities of people who were shifted up from the coastal communities inland,” Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi told journalists in a briefing alongside Maxine Pamela Ometa McClean, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Barbados.

“Our greatest fear this year is that we do not have a repetition before the Conference,” the Prime Minister said.

“Climate change represents a grave threat to the survival and viability of a number of low-lying nations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his address at the launch of the International Year, adding that he has brought the call for global environmental stewardship to officials at the UN and in capitals around the world.

To galvanize support for addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mobilizing political will, Mr. Ban will convene a Climate Summit on 23 September in New York. “I invite all leaders to attend the Summit and announce bold actions,” he said.

UN Member States agreed two years ago to support the 51 highly vulnerable small island developing States (SIDS) – a group that was politically recognized at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, underscored at a major international conference in Barbados in 1994 and again at a follow-up meeting in Mauritius in 2005.

The group of States share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments.

Its economies face challenges from high costs in communication, energy and transportation, as well as lacks of infrastructure and little to no opportunity to create economies of scale.

In an earlier in-depth interview with the UN News Centre, Gyan Chandra Acharya, who in his role as a UN Under-Secretary-General officially represents SIDS in the UN system, stressed the importance of conferences, such as the upcoming one in Samoa, in “sensitizing the international community to the challenges these countries face.”

“It is first and foremost the responsibility of the countries concerned to have strong leadership and good governance, as well as to mobilize domestic resources for these purposes. But in today’s interrelated and globalized world, they cannot do everything on their own,” Mr. Acharya said. “They have to look for international support because of their lack of capacity, lack of institutions, and of course, lack of resources.”

The preparatory meetings for the Conference will continue in New York through Wednesday.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47211&Cr=climate&Cr1=

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Valuing natural resources critical to Africa&#39s &#39green economy&#39 growth


23 February 2014 – The next wave of investment and innovation in Africa will be driven by the need for new energy resources, wealth generation and job creation, the head of the United Nations environment agency told regional leaders, making a case for the need to place value on natural resources.

“As the continent undergoes such unprecedented development, wealth accounting and the valuation of ecosystem services are critical to Africa’s future growth,” Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, told the high-level African ministerial conference on green economy in Oran, Algeria.

Natural accounting and valuation in not a fringe activity, he stressed, but a cornerstone of wealth upon which sustainable, equitable and prosperous societies will be built.

Natural capital, which encompasses resources from trees to water to fish, is a critical asset in low-income countries where it makes up around 36 per cent of wealth, according to recent World Bank estimates.

“An inclusive green economy has the potential to improve human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities,” Mr. Steiner told the political leaders yesterday.

In a green economy, growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investment that reduces carbon emissions and pollution, enhances energy and resource efficiency, and prevents the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

“These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes,” Mr. Steiner told an audience that included actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the founding Chair of the non-governmental organization, R20 Initiative.

The conference is being held as the international community is crafting a new post-2015 development agenda to succeed the eight anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The meeting also comes ahead of the first global conference on Partnerships for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in early March to support and promote the adoption of the green economy at the international level.

Also Saturday, the UN-backed Green Climate Fund agreed on guidelines that will shape its work and activities. The Fund is intended to be central tool to finance climate change action, both adaptation and mitigation, in developing countries.

Among the decisions made at the meeting in Indonesia, its Board agreed that the Fund would aim for a 50-50 balance between adoption and mitigation; would aim for a floor of 50 per cent of the adaptation allocation for vulnerable countries; to maximize engagement with the private sector; and to define its gender action plan in October 2014.

The Board, comprised of 24 members from developing and developed countries, also discussed how to shape its worn on low-carbon and climate-resilient development, among other topics.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47207&Cr=green+economy&Cr1=

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Former NYC Mayor’s leadership on climate change vital to success of UN summit


21 February 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today hailed former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s efforts on the environment, adding that the leadership of the new United Nations Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change will be vital for an upcoming summit on the issue.

“I am sure that we will be able to benefit a lot from his experience, his global visibility and global leadership,” Mr. Ban said as the two men met at UN Headquarters, adding that the world body needs such “dedicated and visionary leadership” to address the climate change challenge.

Mr. Bloomberg, who left the Mayor’s Office in December after 12 years in the job, currently serves as the President of the Board of the C40 Climate Leadership Group, a network of large cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally.

The Secretary-General appointed him as Special Envoy last month to galvanize urban action to reduce greenhouse emissions ahead of the UN climate summit slated for 23 September.

Mr. Ban noted that, in addition to his many philanthropic efforts, Mr. Bloomberg is also well known for his “strong stewardship” on environment and climate change.

“He has made this great city of New York a carbon-free city. It has been his hallmark, and as President of the C40 Mayors Group for Climate Change, he has been making a great contribution to a global effort, together with the United Nations, to make this Planet Earth and our world environmentally sustainable,” said the Secretary-General.

Recalling how seriously New York was affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Mr. Ban noted that such megacities are very vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

At the same time, places such as New York can offer lessons on how to make cities more resilient against the impacts of climate change, including through measures dealing with land use, transit, building codes and sustainable energy.

Mr. Bloomberg has been tasked with assisting the Secretary-General in his consultations with mayors and related key stakeholders to raise political will and mobilize action among cities as part of his long-term strategy to advance efforts on climate change, including bringing concrete solutions to September’s climate summit.

“I really count on your strong support and leadership,” Mr. Ban told his envoy.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47192&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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Tackling water, sanitation, energy nexus key to sustainable future


18 February 2014 – The water, sanitation and sustainable energy crises are the among the world’s pre-eminent development challenges, senior United Nations officials warned today, urging Member States to adopt coherent integrated policies and innovative strategies to tackle these issues, which take a tragic toll on the lives of millions of poor people, especially women and young girls.

“Lack of access to water, sanitation and sustainable energy services is a compound magnifier of poverty, ill-health and mortality, and gender inequality,” said General Assembly President John Ashe as he opened the 193-member body’s thematic debate on the issue.

Today’s gathering is the first in the series of such debates and high-level events he will host this year to provide a platform for Member States and other stakeholders to set the stage for the post-2015 development agenda.

Mr. Ashe has made the effort to achieve a new post-2015 agenda to succeed the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) the hallmark of his year-long Assembly presidency, which ends in September.

The MDGs, agreed by world leaders at a UN summit in 2000, aim to slash extreme hunger and poverty, cut maternal and infant mortality, combat disease and provide access to universal education and health care, all by the end of 2015. But these targets will likely not be reached in many countries and areas, and they will be incorporated in an even more ambitious post-2015 agenda.

“Addressing this nexus of water, sanitation and sustainable energy is not just a matter of grave concern, it is a matter of moral imperative for the entire international community,” said Mr. Ashe, explaining that the magnitude of the problem is great: 783 million people live without clean water; 2.5 billion have no adequate sanitation; and 1.4 billion people are without access to electricity.

He said the international community is already in agreement that energy, water and sanitation are essential to the achievement of many development goals. “They are inextricably linked to climate change, agriculture, food security, health, gender and education, among others,” said Mr. Ashe, adding: “So today, I ask you to consider how we can develop a more integrated approach to problem-solving so that we can best address this development nexus.”

“Let us not forget that we are working on behalf of countless millions who are currently consigned to eking out a living in the dark, who watch their infants die of dehydration, and who are mothers and wives, fathers and sons suffering the adverse effects of indoor air pollution that accrues from the use of inefficient energy services,” he said.

Tackling such “complex and self-reinforcing problems” will require Member States to “dig deep, to express your creativity, to share your experiences and to provide your guidance and inputs in collaborating to achieve these goals, and in creating a post-2015 world that allows every member of the global family to live in dignity,” said Mr. Ashe.

That call for diligent and creative action was echoed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who said access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene must feature prominently in the post-2015 development agenda. “We must improve water quality and the management of water resources and wastewater. This is a matter of justice and opportunity.”

With that in mind, he recalled the UN’s launch in 2007 of the CEO Water Mandate to engage the international business community in water and sanitation. In a similar vein, the Organization launched a “Call to Action on Sanitation” last year to drive progress on sanitation and water goals towards the 2015 target date and beyond.

“Affordable and reliable modern energy services are essential for alleviating poverty, improving health and raising living standards,” Mr. Ban continued, explaining that this is why he launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative in 2011. The initiative has three goals: universal access by 2030; improve efficiency of energy and cut waste; and to increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.

“We need clean efficient energy to combat climate change,” he said, noting that with the global population now at 7 billion and rising, “by 2030 we will need 35 per cent more food, 40 per cent more water and 50 per cent more energy.”

Climate change will also exacerbate water stress and scarcity in many regions. If the current global warming trend is allowed to continue, all the international community’s efforts to provide universal and equitable access to water and energy will be undermined.

As such, he intends to convene a climate summit on 23 September for global leaders from government, business, finance, and civil society. “I want to catalyze ambitious action on the ground and mobilize greater political will for a meaningful legal climate agreement in 2015.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47165&Cr=development+agenda&Cr1=

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UN agency, EU partner to reduce risks from pesticides in Belarus


11 February 2014 – Over the next two and a half years, the United Nations food agency will provide technical assistance to Belarus in managing its stocks of obsolete pesticides, it was announced today.

The effort is part of a joint plan with the European Union, launched in 2012 throughout the former Soviet Union, to build capacity to minimize the threats from hazardous waste to human health and the environment, as well as to strengthen legislation and build capacity in the management of pesticide containers.

An estimated 200,000 tons of obsolete pesticides, around 40 per cent of the world’s stockpiles, can be found in Belarus and the 11 other former Soviet republics, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).

“Kept in tens of thousands of unprotected sites, they pose a serious threat to peoples’ health and the environment,” FAO reported.

According to the World Bank, there is significant risk that pesticides could pollute the groundwater in parts of Belarus, affecting well water, along with rivers and other bodies of water in the entire region.

The UN agency will identify and assess the most highly contaminated sites in the country. In addition to also mobilizing resources for risk reduction, the plan also promotes alternatives to the most hazardous chemicals in use, and develops communication strategies to raise awareness among farmers and the public.

“This is an important project for FAO, where our organization has a unique experience,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General for Europe and Central Asia.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47124&Cr=belarus&Cr1=

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United Arab Emirates to host meeting ahead of UN chief’s climate summit


4 February 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have announced that the Gulf country will host a high-level meeting in May to generate momentum for concrete actions to be taken at a climate summit Mr. Ban will convene four months later in New York.

The summit will take place at Headquarters on 23 September, one day before the General Assembly begins its annual high-level debate. The Secretary-General has invited leaders of Government, business, finance and civil society to bring bold announcements and actions to address climate change. The summit will focus on solutions that demonstrate how early action can result in substantial economic benefits.

The special two-day meeting hosted by the UAE will be held on 4 and 5 May and will be called the “Abu Dhabi Ascent” after its host city. It will bring ministers as well as business, finance, and civil society leaders together to develop a range of proposals for action and determine how their countries, businesses and organizations may become more involved in various initiatives so that partnerships can be broadened and deepened to deliver concrete action at the summit.

Welcoming the UAE’s offer to host the meeting, Mr. Ban said the event will be a “critical milepost” on the way that will help build the momentum for a successful climate summit.

“I look forward to working with all leaders to ensure that the summit catalyzes major steps on the ground and towards an ambitious global climate agreement,” said the Secretary-General, who met with Dr. Sultan Al Jaber on Monday in New York.

The Special Envoy, who is also UAE’s Minister of State, said his country is at the forefront of international efforts to mitigate climate change. “As a key mitigation strategy, the UAE has made significant investments to develop and deploy clean energy technologies globally,” he added.

“The high-level meeting in Abu Dhabi will be integral in encouraging and enhancing commitments from the public-private sectors and ensuring the summit in New York is a success,” he said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47073&Cr=&Cr1=

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Former New York Mayor Bloomberg named Ban’s envoy for cities and climate change


31 January 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced the appointment of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change to galvanize urban action to reduce greenhouse emissions ahead of the United Nations climate summit this coming September.

“Mr. Bloomberg will assist the Secretary-General in his consultations with mayors and related key stakeholders, in order to raise political will and mobilize action among cities as part of his long-term strategy to advance efforts on climate change, including bringing concrete solutions to the 2014 Climate Summit that the Secretary-General will host in New York on 23 September 2014,” the announcement said.

Mr. Bloomberg, who left office as Mayor on 31 December after 12 years in the job, currently serves as the President of the Board of the C40 Climate Leadership Group, a network of large cities from around the world committed to implementing meaningful and sustainable climate-related actions locally that will help address climate change globally.

The Secretary-General has invited leaders from Governments, businesses, finance and civil society to bring “bold announcements and actions” to the September summit to raise the level of ambition through new and more robust action on climate change. Cities play an essential role in developing and implementing actions and driving ambition, significantly affecting climate change.

Mr. Bloomberg, who served as New York City’s 108th Mayor, began his career in 1966 at Salomon Brothers, a Wall Street investment bank, and launched Bloomberg LP in 1981, a financial news and information company. In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg addressed the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bali, Indonesia.

In April of that year, UN Director of Sustainable Development JoAnne DiSano warmly welcomed Mr. Bloomberg’s plans to reduce the strain on natural resources such as water, air and land by instituting a more energy-efficient city by rebuilding aging water mains, fostering greater support for mass transit, putting limits on vehicular congestion and creating more energy-efficient buildings.

“This is exactly the type of initiative that we would like more cities and communities to undertake,” she said then. “Real development has to allow for economic growth and social development in an environmentally balanced way. We are strongly encouraged by this proposal.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47055&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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