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UN agency, China open door to carbon financing for herders, grazers

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30 May 2014 – The United Nations agricultural agency today announced that with Chinese partners, it has developed a new methodology which relies on soil sampling or computer modeling to measure the impact that restored grasslands have in mitigating climate change, and to help farmers tap into carbon markets.

Farmers rely on grasslands to feed the livestock, yet poor land management has left large swathes of the world’s grasslands degraded – an environmental problem which also has direct implications for livestock-dependent communities, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) today said.

Measuring the impact of restoring grasslands – through more sustainable grazing practices and forage production – to link grasslands restoration with international climate financing schemes has been difficult. But this has been the focus of a partnership between the FAO and the Chinese Academy of Agriculture Science (CAAS), the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and China’s Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology (NWIPB).

The UN agency announced that the tool created through this partnership has now been sufficiently tested, and endorsed by the non-profit Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), a voluntary greenhouse gas accounting programme used by projects around the world to verify and issue carbon credits in voluntary emissions markets.

According to findings from the case study in Northern China, improved practices could help herders sequester an average of 3 tCO2 (tons of carbon dioxide) per hectare of grassland each year over the next 20 years.

These practices include, for example, reduction and rotation of grazing pressure on overstocked sites and the sowing of improved pastures and fodder crops.

“Now that the tool has won the certification needed for recognition by international carbon markets, project developers and farmers have a new opportunity to implement grasslands restoration projects at a meaningful scale, improving the productive potential of their grasslands and helping to reverse historic carbon losses,” said Henning Steinfeld of FAO.

Returns from the carbon finance and other mitigation funds can be invested in further restoring the long-term health of the lands upon which herders and grazers depend and in building up marketing associations to improve their incomes, raising families incomes and improving household food security,” Mr. Steinfeld added.

CAAS and FAO are continuing to work together to identify opportunities to pilot this methodology and upscale its use in China and beyond, according to the UN agency.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47932

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Mayors on frontline of battle against climate change – UN

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29 May 2014 – The head of the United Nations agency on human settlements today said he hoped thousands of cities around the world will join forces to sign a compact to strengthen cooperation in tackling climate challenges when the UN convenes a summit on the issue four months from now.

“We have seen that many countries’ mayors have taken the lead in taking practical steps towards containing greenhouse gas emission in urban scenarios,” Joan Clos, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), told reporters at UN Headquarters on the last day of a meeting that focused on sustainable urbanization.

“We hope to sign a compact between different networks…representing more than 10,000 cities around the world that have demonstrated already through everyday work how mayors are committed to [combatting] climate change,” Mr. Clos said at a press conference.

The Mayors of the cities of Paris and Kingston, Jamaica, and the Vice-President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which hosted the three-day meeting, joined Mr. Clos at an afternoon press conference during which they discussed about how cities can cities can be at the forefront of new initiatives that will help people prepare for impacts of climate change and strengthen their resilience.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who will be convening a climate summit in September when world leaders gather at UN Headquarters for the annual General Assembly meeting, addressed the opening session on Tuesday and applauded the innovative ways that cities are trying to meet the climate challenge.

Also at the opening, Michael Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and former Mayor of New York City, said because mayors had executive powers, they did not have to wait for Government actions, which enabled cities to play a critical and innovative role in addressing global challenges.

According to UN-Habitat, cities are major contributors to climate change: although they cover less than 2 per cent of the earth’s surface, cities consume 78 per cent of the world’s energy and produce more than 60 per cent of all carbon dioxide and significant amounts of other greenhouse gas emissions, mainly through energy generation, vehicles, industry, and biomass use.

At the same time, cities and towns are heavily vulnerable to climate change. Hundreds of millions of people in urban areas across the world will be affected by rising sea levels, increased precipitation, inland floods, more frequent and stronger cyclones and storms, and periods of more extreme heat and cold.

The three-day ECOSOC meeting is part of the so-called Integration Segments designed to enhance the coherence of the three pillars of development – economic, environmental and social – in the run up to 2015 when new UN development goals will be established to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which will have run their course.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47924

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&#39Time running out&#39 to stop rising CO2 levels as average hits new high, UN reports

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26 May 2014 – Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have crossed a new threshold, the United Nation’s weather agency today confirmed, warning that time is running out to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions.

In April, monthly concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million (ppm) throughout the northern hemisphere, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported.

“This threshold is of symbolic and scientific significance and reinforces evidence that the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are responsible for the continuing increase in heat-trapping greenhouse gases warming our planet,” the WMO continued.

CO2 levels first reached 400 ppm in April 2012, but this is the first time the monthly average passed the threshold. The agency predicts the global annual average CO2 concentration will cross this threshold in 2015 or 2016.

“Time is running out,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in the statement.

“This should serve as yet another wake-up call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change. If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we need urgent action to curb new emissions of these heat-trapping gases.”

The UN is leading the effort towards an international, legally binding climate agreement by the end of next year.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is convening a climate summit on 23 September with leaders from Governments, businesses and civil society to raise the level of ambition, catalyze action on the ground and increase political momentum towards such an agreement.

The overall goal of these efforts is to limit the average temperature increase to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported in April that to keep global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius, means lowering global greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 per cent compared with 2010 by mid-century, and to near-zero by the end of this century.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47892

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&#39Time running out&#39 to stop rising CO2 levels as average hits new high, UN reports

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26 May 2014 – Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have crossed a new threshold, the United Nation’s weather agency today confirmed, warning that time is running out to curb rising greenhouse gas emissions.

In April, monthly concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere topped 400 parts per million (ppm) throughout the northern hemisphere, the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported.

“This threshold is of symbolic and scientific significance and reinforces evidence that the burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are responsible for the continuing increase in heat-trapping greenhouse gases warming our planet,” the WMO continued.

CO2 levels first reached 400 ppm in April 2012, but this is the first time the monthly average passed the threshold. The agency predicts the global annual average CO2 concentration will cross this threshold in 2015 or 2016.

“Time is running out,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in the statement.

“This should serve as yet another wake-up call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change. If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we need urgent action to curb new emissions of these heat-trapping gases.”

The UN is leading the effort towards an international, legally binding climate agreement by the end of next year.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is convening a climate summit on 23 September with leaders from Governments, businesses and civil society to raise the level of ambition, catalyze action on the ground and increase political momentum towards such an agreement.

The overall goal of these efforts is to limit the average temperature increase to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (ICCC) reported in April that to keep global mean temperature to two degrees Celsius, means lowering global greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 70 percent compared with 2010 by mid-century, and to near-zero by the end of this century.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47892

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INTERVIEW: ‘Bright spots’ can help islands navigate towards sustainable future, says UN biodiversity chief

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22 May 2014 – Tiny though some may be, islands play a huge role in sustaining life on the planet – making up less than 5 per cent of Earth’s landmass, they are home to 20 per cent of all bird, reptile and plant species – and protecting their fragile ecosystems from ill-considered development, polluted waters and invasive species is the main focus of this year’s International Day for Biodiversity.

While islands and their surrounding near-shore marine areas face immense challenges, especially those triggered by a rapidly warming planet, the head of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) is convinced there are “bright spots;” that the innovation, experience and knowledge of islands and the communities that thrive among them can contribute significantly to the conservation and sustainable use of Earth’s biodiversity and natural resources.

“That’s the big agenda this year,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the Convention’s Executive Secretary, in an interview with the UN News Centre. On the International Day and throughout 2014, the CBD Secretariat will aim to boost overall support for islands party to the Convention and States parties that have island territories to make better use of existing solutions, enhance partnerships and mobilize more global attention to the threats islands face.

Along these lines, the UN will be convening the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States from 1 to 4 September in Apia, Samoa, to focus worldwide attention on the sustainable development of this unique group of countries.


Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias (left), Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, speaks at special event on the occasion of the International Day for Biological Diversity (22 May), on the theme “Water and Biodiversity”. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

“We plan to keep up the momentum generated by the [spotlight cast on] islands and oceans at the 2012 Rio+20 conference,” said Mr. Dias, referring to the culmination of a series of landmark UN meetings on sustainable development. Rio+20 was preceded in 2002 by the Johannesburg World Summit, which itself was preceded by the historic 1992 Earth Summit, where nations agreed on what have become known as the “Rio conventions:” the UN Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC); the Convention on Desertification; and the CBD itself.


Sunset in Havana. UN Photo/Milton Grant

Noting the inextricable link between the fate of island biodiversity and islands themselves, under pressure as they are from many of the same threats, he said: “Islands are isolated and they have precious biodiversity that is unique to them; if we lose this biodiversity…it its gone forever,” he said, explaining why it is so vitally important to keep the issue at the top of the development agenda.

“[They] are fragile ecosystems, facing threats from desertification, as well as unsustainable fishing, forestry and agriculture. Increasingly, with the onset of climate change, they are also being threatened by sea-level rise and ocean acidification,” he added.

Major drivers of biodiversity loss are invasive alien species – both animals and plants ¬– that colonize an island, out-compete the native fauna and flora and destroy them. For a species to become invasive it must “arrive, survive and thrive,” according to the CBD.


Mangroves Cut in Hera, Timor-Leste. UN Photo/Martine Perret

And while it may be hard to imagine, surrounded as they are by water, islands are often negatively impacted by desertification. “Some are in regions with less rainfall. Some have poor irrigation [systems] or manage ecosystems unsustainably. But generally, it’s driven by climate change: it’s getting hotter and drier in many island regions,” Mr. Dias said.

This led him to make a passionate plea for stepping up protection for the world’s coral reefs: “[They] are like the ‘rainforests of the oceans.’ Coral reefs are the richest ecosystems in the oceans, and islands are where they are concentrated.”


Fishing off Atauro Island, Timor-Leste. UN Photo/Martine Perret

Unfortunately, coral reefs are under serious threat –“perhaps the most threatened ecosystems on Earth” – from overfishing, pollution and of course, climate change. “As the water gets warmer, sea levels rise, and as we put more CO2 into the atmosphere, the water filters that,” he said, underscoring that reefs can be seriously damaged if their food sources are disrupted or the waters around them become too acidic. “It’s a huge challenge,” he lamented.

Against this backdrop, the CBD will be working with all countries to promote the aims of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including Aichi Biodiversity Targets, adopted in Nagoya, Japan and bolstered by the General Assembly’s decision in 2010 to declare the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.


Marine Wildlife off Atauro Island, Timor-Leste. UN Photo/Martine Perret

“We will be making a big push for partnerships and capacity-building so that all countries can enhance their implementation of the strategy” said Mr. Dias, explaining that the Strategy’s 20 targets are grouped in five goals: reducing underlying causes of biodiversity loss by tackling socio-economic drivers such as unsustainable production and consumption; addressing “direct drivers” such as deforestation, pollution, and unsustainable fisheries; boosting conservation efforts; enhancing benefits to society; and enhancing instruments to help implement the agenda.

As part of efforts on the International Day, the CBD along with the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA) are launching the Island Bright Spots in Conservation and Sustainability report, which affirms that even though islands are more at risk than ever before, leaders of island countries and countries with islands have made visionary commitments at local, national, regional and global levels.


Aerial views of the approach to Dili, Baucau. UN Photo/Martine Perret

“The whole idea is to bring together and disseminate solutions to help islands deal with threats. That’s the ‘bright spot.’ We don’t only want to [highlight] the challenges, we want to show that there are some good solutions,” he said, echoing the report’s focus on inspiring projects to create or expand land and marine protected areas; tackle invasive species; and address the impacts of climate change.

The report highlights, among other examples, the 2005 Micronesia Challenge –¬ calling on the region to conserve 30 per cent of coastal waters and 20 per cent of land by 2020 ¬– which demonstrates how inspired political momentum leads to diverse initiatives on the ground. The similar Caribbean Challenge Initiative, launched 2008, provides a model for leveraging large-scale public and private sector commitment towards common goals.


Egrets gliding over the small body of water in Tasi-tolu, Dili. UN Photo/Martine Perret

“We need to disseminate these lessons learned and encourage countries and civil society organizations to make better use of them,” said Mr. Dias. “We hope all countries will be able to make good use of this information and develop initiatives to highlight the relevance of biodiversity for their sustainable development.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47861

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UN launches partnerships, tools to tether economic investment to disaster risk planning

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19 May 2014 – Launching an initiative to mainstream disaster risk management into business investment, the United Nations today showcased a digital globe that viscerally lays out current and possible future effects of climate change and other threats, to help stem rampant economic loss from geographic events.

The initiative, called R!SE, “provides a new formula for averting economic losses from disasters, which are a major brake on economic growth and development,” UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said at the launch, organized in New York by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

“Because R!SE brings together businesses, investors, insurers, public bodies and educators, it can be the catalyst we need to bring lasting change to how we approach risk,” Mr. Eliasson added, ahead of a demonstration of the Tangible Earth digital globe, that, among other functions, has been used to engage the private sector to play its part in reducing disaster risk.

A response to ten years of record-breaking economic losses and disruption from disasters, which Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called “out of control,” the R!SE partnership will develop and promote global standards on risk metrics and voluntary industry standards for disaster risk-sensitive investment, UNISDR said in a press release.

Margareta Wahlström, head of UNISDR, explained that “disaster risk is not natural but is produced by investment decisions and the range of factors that influence those decisions.” In other words, she added, “There are consequences for ignoring the principles of good land-use and building regulations in any business.”

So far, the partnership includes PricewaterhouseCoopers, The Economist Intelligence Unit, Florida International University, Principles for Responsible Investment, the design and construction firm AECOM and global insurance broker Willis, according to UNISDR.

A minimum of 1,000 asset owners and investment managers, 200 insurers and re-insurers and 100 global businesses in at least 50 cities and 20 countries are targeted for engagement by the R!SE initiative by 2020.

Demonstrating the Tangible Earth globe at the R!SE launch, its inventor Professor Shinichi Takemura showed how the globe portrays the planetary effects of climate variations, earthquake, air pollution and settlement patterns.

Credit: UNIFEED-UNTV

Built with the participation of UNISDR to a 1:15 million ratio, compared to the actual earth, the globe can show the real time reverberations of seismic events around the world, or project the population centres flooded by a few metres’ rise in sea level.

It spins at the flick of a finger on its surface, like a schoolroom globe, but is many times more powerful, zooming in on specific areas and graphically revealing innumerable trends and data-sets.

“I am very sorry that children in 21st century are still learning geography, geology and global warming using two-dimensional maps invented in 16th century,” Mr. Takemura told the UN News Centre. “We really need a global medium that will represent what is really going on our planet – that is why we created this thing.”

He added: “We are the first generation who came to understand exceptional beauty, dynamism and rareness of our planet in the context of the universe. We need to convey this message.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47833

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On Migratory Bird Day, UN taps tourists to help protect world&#39s original long-distance travellers

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10 May 2014 – On this year’s World Migratory Bird Day, the United Nations is spotlighting the role sustainable tourism can play in conserving one of the world’s true natural wonders: the spectacular movements of migratory birds along their flyways.

Thanks to an innovative new project being led by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and promoted through this year’s Day, marked on 10 and 11 May, some of the world’s estimated 50 billion migratory birds should soon be able to benefit from sustainable tourism development.

The theme of the 2014 commemoration, “Destination Flyways – Migratory Birds and Tourism,” echoes the UNWTO-led project Destination Flyways. Currently in its preliminary phase, the initiative aims to develop sustainable tourism at destinations along the world’s major migratory bird routes.

According to UNWTO, each year, millions of migratory birds set out to travel the world, flying along the same routes, known as flyways. Spanning continents and oceans, and used by myriad bird species, the flyways represent one of the most spectacular and valuable assets of the world’s natural heritage.

The initial phase of the project will focus on eight key sites for migratory birds in Africa, Asia and Europe. By providing an adequate framework for sustainable tourism management and diversifying the tourism offer along the routes, Destination Flyways will aim to generate revenue for improved management of biodiversity and spread the benefits of tourism to local communities, while creating attractive experiences for tourists.

“I fully support the global campaign to raise awareness about the threats to migratory birds from habitat destruction, overexploitation, pollution and climate change,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, calling for greater international efforts to restore and preserve migratory birds and the network of sites they need to survive as an important part of the environment on which we all depend.

The annual World Migratory Bird Day campaign is organized by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) – two intergovernmental wildlife treaties administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Tourism has a major responsibility in advancing biodiversity protection. Every year, millions of tourists are wondered by the world’s wild flora and fauna while travelling,” UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai said, adding that without such enriching experiences, tourism could not be the vehicle for sustainable growth, job creation and poverty alleviation that it is today.

“Many people want to experience nature when they travel and there are millions of people around the world who are particularly interested in observing birds in their natural surroundings,” said Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of CMS.

“Bird-watching is an important component of a global multi-million dollar wildlife-watching industry and provides a significant source of income and employment for a growing number of communities, especially in developing countries,” he added.

By providing an adequate framework for sustainable tourism management, diversifying tourism and channelling its revenue back into the conservation of the project sites and the communities around them, Destination Flyways will work to safeguard the birds’ habitats, while creating job opportunities for local communities along the flyways.

One of the eight project sites selected for the Destination Flyways project is Lake Natron, in the remote north of Tanzania near the Kenyan border. Home to 75 per cent of the world’s population of the Lesser Flamingo, Lake Natron is the only breeding ground for this species in East Africa.

For Lake Natron, tourism can be a solution for conservation, provided that local communities are involved in its development and implementation and derive tangible benefits from it. It is, therefore, critical to make sustainable tourism a true long-term alternative to other economic activities, such as the proposed mining of soda ash from the lake, about which serious concerns have been raised because of the potential danger to the flamingo population.

“The UNWTO-led Destination Flyways Project, the inspiration for the 2014 World Migratory Bird Day campaign, is a perfect example of how tourism and biodiversity can benefit from each other. On this World Migratory Bird Day, we invite all to help us turn one billion tourists into one billion opportunities to protect the world’s original long-distance travellers,” said Mr. Rifai.

“As tourism continues to grow, so too will the pressures on the environment and wildlife. Without proper management and protection, as well as investments in greening the sector, thousands of magnificent species will suffer,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

He said that the agency has identified tourism as one of the 10 economic sectors best able to contribute to the transition to a sustainable and inclusive green economy. “The Flyways initiative will help to accelerate the transition to the green economy while protecting tourism – a major source of revenue for many communities – and the thousands of species it spotlights,” he added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47767

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‘Enveloped in dirty air’, most cities fail to meet UN agency’s new pollution guidelines

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7 May 2014 – Many of the world’s cities are “enveloped in dirty air” that is dangerous breathe, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said today, warning that urban dwellers are being exposed to excessive air pollution and are at a risk of respiratory diseases and other long-term health problems.

Air quality in most urban areas worldwide that monitor outdoor air pollution fails to meet WHO safety guidelines, putting people at additional of serious health problems, the agency said in a press release issued along with its 2014 urban ambient air quality database.

The agency says the new information calls for greater awareness of health risks caused by air pollution, implementation of effective air pollution mitigation policies, and close monitoring of the situation in cities worldwide.

The WHO database covers 1600 cities across 91 countries – 500 more cities than the previous database (2011), revealing that more cities worldwide are monitoring outdoor air quality, reflecting growing recognition of air pollution’s health risks.

According to the database, only 12 per cent of the people living in cities reporting on air quality reside in cities where that air quality complied with WHO guideline levels. About half of the urban population being monitored is exposed to air pollution that is at least 2.5 times higher than the levels WHO recommends – putting those people at additional risk of serious, long-term health problems.

In most cities where there is enough data to compare the situation today with previous years, air pollution is getting worse. Many factors contribute to this increase, including reliance on fossil fuels such as coal fired power plants, dependence on private transport motor vehicles, inefficient use of energy in buildings, and the use of biomass for cooking and heating.

“Too many urban centres today are so enveloped in dirty air that their skylines are invisible,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Children and Women’s Health.

“Not surprisingly, this air is dangerous to breathe. So a growing number of cities and communities worldwide are striving to better meet the needs of their residents – in particular children and the elderly.”

Some cities are making notable improvements – demonstrating that air quality can be improved by implementing policy measures such as banning the use of coal for “space heating” in buildings, using renewable or “clean” fuels for electricity production, and improving efficiency of motor vehicle engines.

“We can win the fight against air pollution and reduce the number of people suffering from respiratory and heart disease, as well as lung cancer,” said Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

“Effective policies and strategies are well understood, but they need to be implemented at sufficient scale. Cities such as Copenhagen and Bogotà, for example, have improved air quality by promoting ‘active transport’ and prioritizing dedicated networks of urban public transport, walking and cycling,” she adds.

The report notes that individual cities can take local action to improve air quality and thus go against regional trends. And good air quality can go hand in hand with economic development, as indicated by some major cities in Latin America which meet, or approach, the WHO air quality guidelines.

“We cannot buy clean air in a bottle, but cities can adopt measures that will clean the air and save the lives of their people,” said Dr. Carlos Dora, Coordinator, Interventions for Healthy Environments, WHO Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47740

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UN partners with private sector to help local communities map disaster risk

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5 May 2014 – The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has announced that it will partner with a California-based supplier of global geographic data to make available new technologies that can help communities and cities visualize disaster risk and take action.

Esri, a world leader in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, and the UNISDR announced their new partnership at the “Abu Dhabi Ascent”, a high-level meeting, co-hosted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with the Government of the United Arab Emirates to generate momentum ahead of the UN chief’s September 23 climate summit in New York.

The Ascent, which began Sunday and wrapped up earlier today two-day brought together Government representatives and leaders from business, finance and civil society to develop proposals for action on climate change.

The new initiative will support the efforts of the 1,800 cities of UNISDR’s Making Cities Resilient Campaign to improve land use and urban planning by providing access to the very latest mapping technology and encouraging the development of new apps for urban resilience.

Responding to Mr. Ban’s call for world leaders to mobilize their most ambitious plans for climate action, the initiative leverages the same technology platform unveiled by the United States Government for American cities last month, UNISDR says in a press release. The maps provided through the partnership establish the foundation for mobilizing larger tangible commitments to disaster risk reduction that will be announced the UN climate talks in September.

“Land use and location of critical infrastructure such as schools and hospitals are key to good planning for all communities, large and small,” said Margareta Wahlström, the head of UNISDR, adding that planners must deal with spatial information for they are to reduce risk and build resilience to disasters.

“This partnership with Esri can help bridge the gap between aspiration and implementation by putting the latest science and technology at the disposal of those who have joined the Making Cities Resilient Campaign,” she concluded.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47726

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In Abu Dhabi, UN chief warns still ‘too many sitting on the fence’, urges bold leadership on climate change

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5 May 2014 – With the ominous and costly impacts of climate change profoundly evident, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today that too many stakeholders are still “sitting on the fence”, and he challenged participants at a climate conference in Abu Dhabi to help him build persuasive political arguments to convince policymakers that the time for bold action is now.

“Climate change is an issue for all. I need you all to help us push back against sceptics and entrenched interests,” said the United Nations chief, wrapping up the “informative and inspiring” two-day “Abu Dhabi Ascent”, which heChange is in the air. I challenge you to be part of that change – to be at the head of the race. co-hosted with the United Arab Emirates Government to build commitment ahead of his Climate Summit, set for 23 September in New York.

More than 1,000 participants, including 100 Government ministers, gathered in Abu Dhabi for the event, which opened yesterday, to chart new routes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening climate resilience.

The “Ascent” was the first international meeting to draw on the conclusions of the recent reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found its the consequences are already being felt, and that while present action is insufficient, there are still pathways towards a low carbon future that could minimize climate change impacts. Action now, said the report, is necessary in order to avoid much higher costs in the future.

“Now the hard work begins. In the coming months, I will count on the wisdom and initiative of all actors. Those who are prepared to lead can expect considerable returns,” the Secretary-General said, explaining that the business opportunities of the low-carbon economy are great and the social and environmental benefits for countries in all regions are yet to be realized.

“Now is the time for visionaries and those who are prepared to act to step forward. I am urging all to raise the level of ambition, he continued, and while Governments have to lead, business and finance, voters and consumers have a significant role to play.

Appealing to the participants to help craft the political arguments that will persuade leaders and policy makers in all areas of Government that now is the time for bold action, Mr. Ban said: “Too many are sitting on the fence, waiting for others to lead.”

He also called for the building of new alliances that will move climate action from the marketplace of ideas to the commercial marketplace.

“Change is in the air. I challenge you to be part of that change – to be at the head of the race,” declared the Secretary-General, warning that any Government or major business that doesn’t have a climate strategy is in trouble. “Don’t get left behind. Don’t be on the losing side of history.”

He encouraged the participants to take inspiration from what they have learned at the Ascent “so we can continue to climb” emphasizing that they should develop their own action portfolios, and build coalitions based on concrete deliverable.

“Empower and motivate your national leaders to bring bold announcements to the Climate Summit in September. That is how we will support progress at the climate talks in Lima this year so we may have a meaningful agreement in Paris in 2015,” he said.

As part of his activities in the afternoon, Mr. Ban toured the Shams 1 solar power plant to get un up-close look at the type of renewable resources that can help power an overhaul of the world’s energy supply.

Shams 1 is the largest solar power facility in the Middle East and the second largest in the world. The 100 megawatt plant, which can provide electricity for 20,000 households, is just over a year old, and its owners have deemed it a commercial success.

Touring the facility by bus, stopping on occasion to get a closer look at the rows of parabolic solar collectors, the UN chief said: “By harnessing the power of the sun, the United Arab Emirates is cutting greenhouse gas emissions, generating jobs and a laying the foundation for low-carbon economic progress.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47721

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&#39The race is on, it&#39s time to lead&#39, UN chief tells Abu Dhabi climate change event

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4 May 2014 – From the tropics to the poles, from small islands to large continents, and from the poorest countries to the richest, climate change impacts are already widespread, costly and consequential, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, urging stakeholders gathered in Abu Dhabi to consider concrete actions to tackle the phenomenon now – before it is too late.

“Climate change is the defining issue of our time. If we do not take urgent action, all our plans for increased global prosperity and security will be undone,” said the UN chief in opening remarks to the “Abu Dhabi Ascent”, which he is co-hosting with the United Arab Emirates Government to prepare for and build commitment ahead of his Climate Summit, set for 23 September in New York.

More than 1,000 participants, including 100 Government ministers, have gathered in Abu Dhabi for the two-day event to chart new routes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening climate resilience. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of State and Special Envoy for Energy and Climate Change, United Arab Emirates is expected to deliver remarks to the opening session, as is John Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly,

The “Ascent” is the first international meeting to draw on the conclusions of the recently issued reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found the consequences of climate change are already being felt, and that while present action is insufficient, there are still pathways towards a low carbon future that could minimize the phenomenon’s impacts. Action now, said the report, is necessary in order to avoid much higher costs in the future.

Thanking the UAE Government for being pioneers on the journey to a low-carbon future, Mr. Ban said: “It is the future we need and we have to lay the foundations today. We have little time to lose.”

“That is why it is important that Governments complete a meaningful new climate agreement by 2015 that will rapidly reduce emissions and support resilience,” He continued, explaining that the upcoming New York summit is designed to shape a collective ambitious vision rooted in concrete action.

“I am inviting Heads of State and Government, along with mayors and senior representatives from business, finance and civil society, to join a ‘race to the top,’” said the Secretary-General, adding that he was also asking the participants to announce bold commitments and actions that will catalyze transformative change.

The UN chief said that his summit will focus on solutions. It will provide a high visibility platform for those who are ready to lead so they can invite others to follow.

“Our meeting here in Abu Dhabi is a major milestone on the ascent to the Summit. It gives you a chance to experience the wealth of opportunity that exists so you can leave here ready to join others in acting.”

Mr. Ban went on to set out the nine key areas he has identified with the greatest potential for fast, meaningful results. They include energy, cities and transport, finance, resilience, agriculture and short-lived climate pollutants.

He said that many of the solutions we need already exist. Many others are being rapidly developed.

“But we need to deploy them at a scale that matches the challenge. And we need to do it now, because we may not get a second chance,” he warned, adding that “we are rapidly approaching dangerous thresholds. The longer we delay, the more we will pay.”

He said that Governments have promised new climate agreement next year in Paris. But the Abu Dhabi Ascent could help by proving that climate action now means opening a world of opportunity.

The benefits of addressing climate change include reduced pollution, improved public health, fewer disasters, less poverty, cleaner, more efficient and affordable energy, better managed forests, liveable cities and increased food security, said the Secretary-General.

“This meeting is about that future. Over the next two days, you will share what you are doing and planning. You will forge new and broader partnerships. And you will return home with an important message for your political leaders, business and finance networks, consumers and voters,” said Mr. Ban.

“That message is clear and simple – climate action is feasible, affordable and beneficial. Change is in the air. Solutions exist. The race is on. It’s time to lead,” he declared.

Later at a press conference, the UN chief hailed the “Ascent” as an opportunity to demonstrate that people are ready to work together for a low carbon future. “I am asking all participants – including you, the media – to leave here inspired to urge leaders to act,” he told reporters.

He again called for “bold vision” and announcements of action that can make a difference, saying that is how political will would be mobilized for a meaningful global climate agreement in 2015.

“Our motto must be adopt and adapt. Adopt what works and adapt it for your nation, your business, your community,” the Secretary-General said, warning that “time is against us. Nature will not wait. The planet is sending us a message. We must listen.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47718

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Ban set to address leaders in Abu Dhabi weighting action on climate change

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3 May 2014 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will address a range of stakeholders from Government, business and civil society gathering this weekend in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to chart new routes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and strengthening climate resilience ahead of a UN climate change summit in September.

Mr. Ban, who has declared climate change one of the most pressing issues facing the international community, will attend the two-day “Abu Dhabi Ascent”, which opens Sunday and aims to build momentum ahead of his Climate Summit, set for 23 September at UN Headquarters in New York.

In Abu Dhabi, some 1,000 participants are expected to discuss how to take concrete action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance resilience to climate change. Mr. Ban will hold talks with Government officials and representatives from a wide range of groups, including business, finance and civil society. He is also expected to visit the Shams Solar Power Plant.

The Abu Dhabi Ascent is the only international meeting to prepare for the Climate Summit, which aims to mobilize political will for climate action and catalyze initiatives driven by Governments, the private sector and civil society that will target critical areas where climate action is needed.

This will be the first international meeting to draw on the conclusions of the recently issued reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found that the consequences of climate change are already being felt in every continent, and that while present action is insufficient, there are still pathways toward a low carbon future that could minimize the phenomenon’s impacts. Action now, said the report, is necessary in order to avoid much higher costs in the future.

Participants in the Ascent will learn about the various opportunities to engage in a range of initiatives aimed at expanding the use of renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, developing smart agricultural practices, cleaner transport, improving city infrastructure, reducing carbon pollutants, and increasing financing for climate action.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47717

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