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UN chief &#39adopts&#39 lion cub to support efforts against wildlife trafficking

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28 June 2014 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today adopted a lion cub in Nairobi National Park as a sign of support for efforts against the trafficking of animals around the world, following a week of high-level United Nations discussions on the environment.

“I adopted this lion cub with the hope that all human beings and animals can live in peace and harmony,” Mr. Ban told reporters in the Kenyan capital. “Human beings should know how to live harmoniously with our Mother Nature.”

Mr. Ban also said he adopted the six-month old cub, whose Kiswahili name Tumaini means “hope”, to show solidarity for the preservation efforts of the Kenyan people, and as a token of his concern for the Kenya Wildlife Service and park rangers.

“Wildlife crime is not simply a threat to animals,” Mr. Ban said. “With its links to organised crime and even insurgent groups, it is a major security issue.”

“The same routes used to smuggle wildlife and timber across countries and continents are often used to smuggle weapons, drugs and people,” he added.

During a meeting this afternoon with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Mr. Ban discussed international terrorism and security issues, particularly how the UN and the Kenyan Government can work together to reinforce and enhance the capacity of Kenyan security forces.

Noting also the continued abduction of Nigerian school girls, Mr. Ban said terrorism must be addressed comprehensively: “Not one single country or one single organization can handle this on its own. We have to have unity and solidarity among nations.”

Last night, Mr. Ban attended the closing ceremony of the inaugural UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which addressed illegal wildlife trafficking, as well as sustainable consumption and production, the green economy, and the links between environment, poverty and human well-being.

The first session of the UNEA concluded after five days with 16 decisions and resolutions and a ministerial outcome document to encourage international action on major environmental issues.

Climate change was a common theme in many discussions, Mr. Ban said, and will remain a top priority ahead of next year’s discussions towards a global deal on climate change at the Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.

To mobilize political momentum and catalyse ambitious action on the ground, Mr. Ban will convene a climate summit on 23 September in New York for leaders from Government, business, finance and civil society.

“To get the world on a trajectory to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius, we need more large-scale projects such as Kenya is backing,” Mr. Ban said, noting the country’s innovative development with solar, wind and geothermal renewable energy projects.

More than 1,200 high-level participants, including UN officials, diplomatic and civil society delegations, participated in the historic first session of the UNEA, held under the theme “A Life of Dignity for All.”

The body, created in answer to a call made by governments at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) for a more representative entity dealing with the issue, includes all 193 UN Member States sitting alongside major stakeholders. UNEA now plans to meet every two years, and will replace the Governing Council of the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48163

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Saying ‘change is in the air,’ Ban urges new UN body to galvanize global sustainability agenda

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27 June 2014 – With the close of the Millennium Development Goal era just months away, and work already beginning on a successor agenda to reign in poverty and put the planet on a sustainable course before it is too late, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today the “timing could not be better” for the launch of a strong UN body tackling all issues relating to the environment.

“We are now poised for the crucial next phase of human development – a universal post-2015 sustainable development agenda. That agenda needs a strong voice for the environment,” Mr. Ban said in his address to the closing session of the UN Environment Assembly (UThe air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil that grows our food are part of a delicate global ecosystem that is increasingly under pressure from human activities and as such, the decisions that will be made over the coming months will have profound implications for this generation and many to comeNEA), which held its inaugural meeting this week in Nairobi, Kenya.

More than 1,200 high-level participants, including UN officials, diplomatic and civil society delegations, have been taking part in the historic first session of the Environment Assembly, being held under the theme “A Life of Dignity for All.”

The body, created in answer to a call made by governments at the 2012 UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) for a more representative entity dealing with the issue, includes all 193 UN Member States sitting alongside major stakeholders. The Environment Assembly now plans to meet every two years and will replace the Governing Council of the Nairobi-based UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“With its augmented role as a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly, UNEA has the mandate and capacity to position the environment alongside peace and security, poverty reduction, global health, trade and sustainable economic growth as an issue of crucial importance to every government,” said Mr. Ban.

At UNEA this week, stakeholders deliberated on many important topics – including the sustainable development goals, consumption and production patterns, the environmental rule of law, and the illegal trade in timber and wildlife. “The message is clear: protecting humanity’s life support system is integral to sustainable development. And it is a duty for all,” the UN chief declared.

He went on to say that UNEP and the UNEA have a central role to play in the coming months and beyond, as 2015 marks the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and subsequently, the UN will a launch post-2015 sustainable development agenda. It is also when Member States have pledged to sign a meaningful new global climate agreement.

“The air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil that grows our food are part of a delicate global ecosystem that is increasingly under pressure from human activities,” said Mr. Ban, and as such, the decisions that will be made over the coming months will have profound implications for this generation and many to come.

Noting that the “heavy hand” of humankind is now visible everywhere – from tropical deforestation to depleted ocean fisheries and from growing freshwater shortages, and the rapid decline of biodiversity to the growing menace of climate change – he recalled that on 23 September, he will convene a climate summit meeting in New York to mobilize political will and catalyze ambitious action on climate change.

“I urge you all to ensure that your Heads of State and Government and your leaders from business and civil society attend. We need all sectors and all nations to work together to combat climate change and promote sustainable development,” declared the Secretary-General.

Emphasizing that decisive action is needed “to change humanity’s relationship with our planet,” he said: “This forum has the power – and the responsibility – to promote a global transformation of attitude and practice.”

Yet he stressed that the UNAE’s job will not be easy, “as there are many vested interests and entrenched attitudes that will stand in your way. You will have to advocate hard with your counterparts in finance, energy, agriculture and trade.

“But whenever you need inspiration, just look at the advances of the past four decades; the arguments for environmental sustainability are compelling – and they are winning, in the minds of people, in boardrooms and in the corridors of power,” said Mr Ban, telling the Assembly: “Change is in the air. Solutions exist. It’s time to lead.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48154

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New UN high-level body on environment opens inaugural session in Nairobi

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23 June 2014 – A United Nations body that focuses on the environment and has representatives from all 193 UN Member States is meeting for the first time today in Nairobi, to discuss issues such as illegal wildlife trade, chemical waste and air pollution, and new universal development goals.

The UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) “places environmental concerns on the same footing with those of peace, security, finance, health and trade for the first time,” the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a news release from its headquarters in Kenya. “For many, the creation of UNEA is the coming of age of the environment as a world issue.”

Given the wide reach into legislative, financial and development arenas, UNEP has said the body “presents a ground-breaking platform for leadership on global environmental policy.”

More than 1, 200 high level participants, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and UN General Assembly President John Ashe, are taking part in this week’s meeting of the UNEA, being held under the theme of “A Life of Dignity for All.”

“We must seize this historic opportunity here in Nairobi – so close to the Rift Valley, the cradle of mankind – to unite the world in its effort to achieve a course correction and shape a new, more sustainable future for humanity, one in which we live in harmony with the natural world and create a life of dignity for all,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

For the UN system, the Environment Assembly – which currently plans to meet every two years – embodies the notion that challenges are best addressed and opportunities realized when the community of nations and citizens of the world join forces to promote economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability in a holistic manner, Mr. Steiner added in his message on the opening.

“As such, UNEA is not just an expanded UNEP Governing Council, but symbolizes a fundamental change of scope as the new body plays its newly defined role of serving as the world’s authoritative voice on environmental matters across the UN System,” he said, adding: “Every Member State has a voice in the Environment Assembly on environmental sustainability.”

Today’s discussion focused on worsening air quality in African cities, as a result of increasing population, urbanization and motorization, and on sustainable development.

Participants throughout the week will discuss a new post-2015 development agenda to succeed the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Goals, 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. These targets will not be reached in many countries and areas, and will be incorporated in an even more ambitious post-2015 agenda.

“Hopefully this week is a week in which key decisions will be made but also an opportunity for debate, for dialogue, for the presentation of cutting edge science, cutting edge research – all of which is crucial in terms of informing policy – innovations, the voice of stakeholders, civil society, the private sector,” Naysan Sahba, UNEP Director for Communications and Public Information told UN Radio in Nairobi. “You get the holistic sense of just what it means to advance the environmental agenda in a meaningful way.”

At the assembly, UNEP will launch a new report on South-South Trade and the Green Economy, which the UN agency said will explore the growing movement of development “for the South, by the South.” In addition, a strategic paper on sustainable consumption and production indicators will also be presented this week.

The Assembly will also focus on illegal trade in wildlife. UNEP has said it wants to move the discussions past the current attention provided to the poaching crisis facing African elephants and rhinos, particularly in Kenya where the meeting is being held, to addressing a wider range of threats from illegal harvesting and trafficking including timber, fish, tigers, great apes, and a broad range of birds, reptiles, and plants.

A joint UNEP-INTERPOL Rapid Response Report is expected to be launched this week, “highlighting the links between environmental crime, insecurity and threats to sustainable development.”

Tomorrow, participants will join a global symposium on environmental law, which will include chief justices and attorney generals, as well as civil society. The goal is to raise awareness of environmental law as an indispensable tool on the path towards sustainable development and a Green Economy, according to the UNEP website, and to identify how further development and implementation of environmental law could help to ensure a more just and sustainable society.

There will also be a global symposium on financing green economy, with a focus on capital markets and how to mobilize finance for sustainable investments.

The creation of UNEA was supported at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil in 2012, where world leaders agreed to strengthen and upgrade UNEP through universal membership, increased resources and greater involvement with civil society.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48104

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Ahead of Samoa conference, island nations gather in New York to discuss partnership opportunities

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23 June 2014 – Preparations are well underway for a United Nations conference on the challenges and opportunities of partnering with small island developing States, a top UN organizing official today said as representatives are gathering in New York to agree on what will be the outcome of the conference.

“By attending the meeting in Samoa, delegates will exercise and experience the reality of a small island developing States, its vulnerabilities as well as its resilience,” the Conference’s Secretary-General, Wu Hongbo, told journalists in New York.

Representatives of attending Member States are meeting at the UN Headquarters this week for the preparatory meeting ahead of the Third UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, to be held in the Samoan capital, Apia, starting 1 September.

The Conference will be a “unique opportunity for world leaders to focus the world’s attention on a group of countries that remain a special case for sustainable development,” Mr. Hongbo said, adding that what happens to small islands has a global impact and is central to the post-2015 agenda.

The group of States shares 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.

At the same time, these nations are also at the forefront of finding innovative solutions to global challenges like climate change, access to energy and environmental degradation.

The Conference is meant to give countries an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity and partnership with small island developing nations, said Mr. Hongbo, who is also UN Under- Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. He added that the conference would offer a platform for launching new and concrete partnerships in areas of sustainable tourism and disaster risk reduction, for example.

The Permanent Representative of Samoa to the UN, Mr. Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia, said that his Government, as well as those of other similar island nations, are looking for partnerships that are specific to their contexts, able to be implemented within a timeframe, and reportable.

“No partnership is insignificant,” Mr. Elisaia told the press. “Everything is relative.”

The UN has said it expects more than 200 “concrete partnerships” to be announced at the Conference “for lifting islanders out of poverty and braving challenges such as rising sea levels, overfishing, and typhoons and tsunamis.”

In addition to partnerships, the Conference outcome, which representatives are meeting this week to draft, will outline the main challenges and priorities for small island developing states.

Among topics to be discussed this week will be tourism, food security and sustainable energy alternatives. Side events will be organized at the UN headquarters by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.

A photo exhibit featuring images submitted by islanders through social media is also on display. Images can be viewed at http://ow.ly/yeFP6.

The Conference in Samoa will take place during the same month that the UN 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).

It is also during this time that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will host a climate summit to raise the level of ambition towards a universal legal agreement in 2015.

This year is also the International Year of Small Island Developing States, the first time that the General Assembly designated an international year for a group of countries.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48108

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Plastic waste causes $13 billion in annual damage to marine ecosystems, says UN agency

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23 June 2014 – Concern is growing over widespread plastic waste that is threatening marine life – with conservative yearly estimates of $13 billion in financial damage to marine ecosystems, according to two reports issued at the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly.

“Plastic contamination threatens marine life, tourism, fisheries and businesses,” underscores the eleventh edition of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Year Book, which updates 10 issues previously highlighted over the past decade and provides mitigation steps for each.

“Plastics undoubtedly play a crucial role in modern life, but the environmental impacts of the way we use them cannot be ignored,” added Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director.

Valuing Plastic, a UNEP-supported report produced by the Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP) and Trucost, makes the business case for managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer goods industry.

“Over 30 per cent of the natural capital costs are due to greenhouse gas emissions from raw material extraction and processing,” says the report, adding “marine pollution is the largest downstream cost, with the $13 billion figure most likely a significant underestimate.”

Calculating the negative financial impact of issues, such as marine environment or air pollution caused by incinerating plastic, the report reveals that the overall natural capital cost in the consumer goods sector each year is $75 billion.

A large and unquantifiable amount of plastic waste enters the ocean from littering, poorly managed landfills, tourist activities and fisheries. Some of this material sinks to the ocean floor, while some floats and can travel over great distances on ocean currents – polluting shorelines and accumulating in massive mid-ocean gyres.

“These reports show that reducing, recycling and redesigning products that use plastics can bring multiple green economy benefits: from reducing economic damage to marine ecosystems and the tourism and fisheries industries – vital for many developing countries – to bringing savings and opportunities for innovation to companies while reducing reputational risks,” advocated Mr. Steiner.

There have been many reliable reports of environmental damage due to plastic waste that include mortality or illness when ingested by sea creatures such as turtles; entanglement of animals, such as dolphins and whales; and damage to critical habitats, such as coral reefs.

There are also concerns about chemical contamination, invasive species spread by plastic fragments and economic damage to the fishing and tourism industries in many countries by, for example, fouling fishing equipment and polluting beaches.

Since the 2011 UNEP Year Book last reviewed plastic waste in the ocean, concern has grown over microplastics (particles up to 5 mm in diameter, either manufactured or created when plastic fragments), which have been ingested by marine organisms – including seabirds, fish, mussels, worms and zooplankton.

“One emerging issue is the increasing use of microplastics directly in consumer products, such as ‘microbeads’ in toothpaste, gels and facial cleansers,” explains the UNEP Year Book. “These microplastics tend not to be filtered out during sewage treatment, but are released directly into rivers, lakes and the ocean.”

Communities of microbes have been discovered thriving on microplastics at multiple locations in the North Atlantic – where the “plastisphere” can facilitate the transport of harmful microbes, pathogens and algal species.

The Yearbook affirms that “microplastics have also been identified as a threat to larger organisms, such as the endangered northern right whale, which is potentially exposed to ingestion through filter-feeding.”

Production trends, use patterns and changing demographics are expected to cause increasing plastic use, and both reports call for companies, institutions and consumers to reduce their waste.

Valuing Plastic finds that while consumer goods companies currently save $4 billion each year through good plastic management, such as recycling, plastic use disclosure is poor. Less than half of the 100 companies assessed reported any data relevant to plastic.

“The research unveils the need for companies to consider their plastic footprint, just as they do for carbon, water and forestry,” said Andrew Russell, Director of the PDP. “By measuring, managing and reporting plastic use and disposal through the PDP, companies can mitigate the risks, maximize the opportunities, and become more successful and sustainable.”

Initiatives such as the PDP and UNEP-led Global Partnership on Marine Litter have helped raise awareness of, and begun to address, the issue. However, much more needs to be done.

Recommendations of the reports include that companies monitor their plastic use and publish the results in annual reports; and commit to reducing the environmental impact of plastic through clear targets, deadlines and efficiency and recycling innovations.

Since plastic particles can be ingested by marine organisms and potentially accumulate and deliver toxins through the food web, efforts should be stepped up to fill the knowledge gaps and better understand the capacity of various plastics to absorb and transfer persistent, toxic and bioaccumulating chemicals.

“By putting a financial value on impacts – such as plastic waste – companies can further integrate effective environmental management into mainstream businesses,” asserted Trucost Chief Executive Richard Mattison. “By highlighting the savings from reuse and recycling, it builds a business case for proactive sustainability improvements.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48113

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UN officials call for restoration of ecosystems to reduce climate change disasters

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17 June 2014 – Marking the World Day to Combat Desertification, United Nations officials today emphasized the importance of restoring degrading lands to avoid or soften the potentially disastrous impacts of climate change.

“Land degradation, caused or exacerbated by climate change, is not only a danger to livelihoods, but also a threat to peace and stability,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the World Day, observed annually on 17 June.

He noted that recovering land that is degrading will have multiple benefits. “We can avert the worst effects of climate change, produce more food and ease competition over resources. We can preserve vital ecosystem services, such as water retention, which protects us from floods or droughts.

“And a comprehensive and large-scale approach to land recovery can create new jobs, business opportunities and livelihoods, allowing populations to not only survive, but thrive,” he stated.

The theme of this year’s World Day is “Land belongs to the future, let’s climate-proof it.” Studies show that 24 billion tons of fertile soil are being eroded each year, and 2 billion hectares of degraded land have potential for recovery and restoration.

As Member States continue efforts to elaborate a global development agenda beyond the Millennium Development Goals deadline of 2015, General Assembly President John Ashe encouraged them to work together to mitigate patterns of desertification in order to meet the daily needs of the world’s inhabitants, especially to produce food.

“Climate change can profoundly alter the relationship between water and the land. The amount and quality of the land we have today will be very different from what we will have in the future,” he said in his message.

“Unless we act swiftly to ensure all the land we have can withstand soil erosion and to prevent the loss of underground fresh water and the intrusion of salt water into underground fresh water, we will not have enough arable land to feed the world’s population,” he stated.

Mr. Ashe also stressed that a “land-degradation neutral world” should be a global norm. “Let us, the global community pursue it relentlessly, because each flood, drought, landslide, tornado, heat wave or coastal submersion robs us of an invaluable natural asset – productive land.”

Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said that climate change is changing the dynamic between water and the land.

“Our focus on the future impacts of climate change has blinded us to the crucial fact that the status of the land is already changing… Soil formation takes many years, but just one flood can sweep it all away,” she stated.

The UNCCD is holding a global observance today at the World Bank headquarters in Washington D.C. with high-level participation, where the winners of the Land for Life Award, for excellence in sustainable land management, will be announced.

Many countries are also holding national events to mark the World Day, while several will name their Dryland Champions, local heroes who have made a significant practical contribution to sustainable land management.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48067

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UN applauds decision by oil firm to halt exploration in DR Congo national park

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12 June 2014 – The United Nations agency that advocates for the protection of irreplaceable natural and cultural resources today welcomed as “a step in the right direction” the decision of British oil company Soco to halt oil exploration in ecologically rich but endangered Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In a press release today, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) welcomed the announcement that Soco now joins Shell, Total and the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) in pledges not to undertake extraction activities within the agencies’ World Heritage Sites.

“The World Heritage Committee has always taken a very clear position that oil and mining exploration and exploitation are incompatible with the World Heritage status of natural sites on the World Heritage List,” said UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre Director Kishore Rao.

“It is encouraging that this position is now more and more accepted in the oil and mining industry and is also used as a criterion for several large investment banks.

“We hope that the Government of DRC will follow up on this commitment by SOCO and cancel all the oil exploration permits granted within the Virunga National Park, as requested also by the World Heritage Committee.”

Soco, in a joint statement with the World Wildlife Fund agreed “not to undertake or commission any exploratory or other drilling within the legendary park unless UNESCO and the DRC Government agree that such activities are not incompatible with its World Heritage Status.”

Soco further announced it would not conduct any operations in any other World Heritage site and would ensure that any current of future operations in buffer zones adjacent to World Heritage sites do not jeopardize the Outstanding Universal Value for which these sites are listed, UNESCO said.

Famous as a home for the rare mountain gorilla, Virunga National Park was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979 for its exceptional diversity of ecosystems, ranging from snow-capped Ruwenzori Mountains to the wetlands of Lake Edward.

The site was seriously impacted by the past years of conflict in the DRC. The site has also been on the List of World Heritage in Danger since 1994 due to the impact of the conflict in the Great Lakes region, and UNESCO recently condemned violence against wardens there, some 150 of whom have been attacked since 1996.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=48030

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‘One planet, one ocean – together, we must protect them,’ urges UN on World Oceans Day

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8 June 2014 – To commemorate World Oceans Day, the United Nations family is encouraging the international community to reflect on the multiple benefits of oceans and commit to keeping them healthy and productive for current and future generations.

“We have to ensure that oceans continue to meet our needs without compromising those of future generations,” stressed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message marking the Day, adding “their depths hold current and future solutions to humanity’s energy needs.”

Oceans regulate the planet’s climate while providing a significant source of nutrition and essential passage for global trade. World Oceans Day is an opportunity to celebrate the importance of the oceans for life on earth and to stand up for their protection.

Oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe, absorb a large share of carbon dioxide emissions, and are important economically for countries that rely on tourism, fishing and other marine resources for income, and serve as the backbone of international trade.

Unfortunately, human pressures, including overexploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, alien species, climate change and ocean acidification are taking a significant toll on the world’s oceans and seas.

In her message, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), emphasized that “at a time of rising threats, ‘business as usual’ is no longer acceptable – we must change how we understand, manage and use ocean resources and coastal areas. For this, we need to know more about the ocean and draw on stronger science to craft sustainable, ecosystem-based policies for the ocean and coasts.”

The UN General Assembly has recognized oceans and seas as an important part of sustainable development – as envisioned by the Millennium Declaration and it landmark anti-poverty Goals (MDGs). Looking now to craft a successor post-2015 sustainable development agenda, Member States have identified protecting oceans as one of the keys to creating a better, cleaner future for the planet.

“Billions of humans, plants and animals depend on our oceans each and every day,” said General Assembly President John W. Ashe in his message. “I call on Member States and other stakeholders to continue to take action to protect our oceans by reducing pollution, and protecting marine life for present and future generations.” he added.

Since 2009, the UN family has come together each year, urging communities to ensure that our oceans remain clean and healthy. This year’s theme “Together we have the power to protect the ocean!” underscores the power of collaboration.

This year, the observance coincides with the 20th anniversary of the entry-into-force of the landmark UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – known as “Constitution for the Oceans” – that provides a comprehensive legal regime for all ocean activities. It is also the International Year of Small Island Developing States.

The ocean is essential to our well-being and the future of our planet. World Oceans Day is an occasion for all Governments and societies to join forces in ensuring its protection.

“One planet, one ocean – together, we have the power to protect them both,” exhorted Ms. Bokova.

Nuclear Science and Ocean Acidification. Credit: UNTV

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47989

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&#39One planet, one ocean &#8211 together, we must protect them&#39, urges UN on World Oceans Day

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8 June 2014 – To commemorate World Oceans Day, the United Nations family is encouraging the international community to reflect on the multiple benefits of oceans and commit to keeping them healthy and productive for current and future generations.

“We have to ensure that oceans continue to meet our needs without compromising those of future generations,” stressed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message marking the Day, adding “their depths hold current and future solutions to humanity’s energy needs.”

Oceans regulate the planet’s climate while providing a significant source of nutrition and essential passage for global trade. World Oceans Day is an opportunity to celebrate the importance of the oceans for life on earth and to stand up for their protection.

Oceans generate most of the oxygen we breathe, absorb a large share of carbon dioxide emissions, and are important economically for countries that rely on tourism, fishing and other marine resources for income, and serve as the backbone of international trade.

Unfortunately, human pressures, including overexploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, destructive fishing, as well as unsustainable aquaculture practices, marine pollution, habitat destruction, alien species, climate change and ocean acidification are taking a significant toll on the world’s oceans and seas.

In her message, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), emphasized that “at a time of rising threats, ‘business as usual’ is no longer acceptable – we must change how we understand, manage and use ocean resources and coastal areas. For this, we need to know more about the ocean and draw on stronger science to craft sustainable, ecosystem-based policies for the ocean and coasts.”

The UN General Assembly has recognized oceans and seas as an important part of sustainable development – as envisioned by the Millennium Declaration and it landmark anti-poverty Goals (MDGs). Looking now to craft a successor post-2015 sustainable development agenda, Member States have identified protecting oceans as one of the keys to creating a better, cleaner future for the planet.

“Billions of humans, plants and animals depend on our oceans each and every day,” said General Assembly President John W. Ashe in his message. “I call on Member States and other stakeholders to continue to take action to protect our oceans by reducing pollution, and protecting marine life for present and future generations.” he added.

Since 2009, the UN family has come together each year, urging communities to ensure that our oceans remain clean and healthy. This year’s theme “Together we have the power to protect the ocean!” underscores the power of collaboration.

This year, the observance coincides with the 20th anniversary of the entry-into-force of the landmark UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – known as “Constitution for the Oceans” – that provides a comprehensive legal regime for all ocean activities. It is also the International Year of Small Island Developing States.

The ocean is essential to our well-being and the future of our planet. World Oceans Day is an occasion for all Governments and societies to join forces in ensuring its protection.

“One planet, one ocean – together, we have the power to protect them both,” exhorted Ms. Bokova.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47989

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UN agency spotlights &#39climate-smart&#39 approach to galvanize rural renewal

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6 June 2014 – As the global farming community continues to curb climate change and food insecurity, the United Nations agriculture agency today spotlighted the best practices of its “climate-smart” approach to tackle those challenges and spark rural renewal.

“A shift to climate-smart agriculture will not only help shield farmers from the adverse effects of climate change and offer a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), stressing that it “can also improve farm yields and household incomes, leading to stronger, more resilient communities.”

The newly released FAO success stories on climate-smart agriculture, underscores the urgency of combating climate change, the magnitude and scope of which has a universal and critical impact on agricultural systems. Therefore, safeguarding global food security needs galvanize rural communities’ resilience and adaptation.

Rising temperatures and frequent weather extremes, according to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will have direct and negative consequence on crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture productivity. Of great risk are those vulnerable and farming-dependent populations in the developing world.

“We can no longer afford to separate the future of food security from that of natural resources, the environment and climate change – they are inextricably intertwined and our response must be as well,” Ms. Semedo warned.

However, this alarming situation has spurred an opportunity to gain traction on climate-smart agriculture, which includes the following three broad objectives: to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and incomes; to adapt and build resilience to climate change; and to reduce or remove greenhouse gas emissions where possible.

In its publication, FAO highlights the diversity of potential options across the globe and in various agricultural systems:

In China, for example, a pilot project has been launched to educate yak herders and provide tools to restore degraded grasslands, improving the productivity of their herds while sequestering atmospheric carbon.

In the highlands of Mount Kilimanjaro, FAO has partnered with farmers in Kenya and Tanzania to reboot an 800 year-old agroforestry system known as Kihamba, aiming to maximize the use of limited land, provide a large variety of foods throughout the year, and maintain groundwater health.

Along the north Pacific coast of Nicaragua, the UN agency has introduced an ecosystem approach to fisheries and aquaculture to boost food and income from fish products, while preserving ecosystem and increase resilience to climate change.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47984

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‘Raise your voice, not the sea level,’ urges UN on World Environment Day

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5 June 2014 – Barbados, a small Caribbean island at the cutting edge of the fight against climate change, will be hosting this year’s World Environment Day, leading United Nations-wide efforts to draw attention to the plight of the world’s small islands potentially in peril of being lost to sea-level rise.

“On World Environment Day, millions of individuals, community groups and businesses from around the world take part in local projects – from clean up campaigns to art exhibits to tree-planting drives,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, marked every year on 5 June.

Mr. Ban was referring to activities and events taking place worldwide – ranging from a 45,000-strong clean-up campaign involving UN staff throughout Kosovo and the Baltimore Orioles baseball team raising awareness of the environment in Sarasota, Florida, to a bike ride around the lakeside in Geneva, Switzerland – all aiming to raise awareness of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the convening of a youth conference on “Eco-civilization and Green Development” in Shanghai.

In support of the UN designation of 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States, World Environment Day will focus on those countries in the broader context of climate change as its theme. Many of the events under way will also spotlight the upcoming Third International Conference on the Small Island Developing States, set to be held in Apia, Samoa from 1 to 4 September.

“Small island nations share a common understanding that we need to set our planet on a sustainable path,” said the Secretary-General, explaining that reaching that goal demands the engagement of all sectors of society in all countries.

“This year, I urge everyone to think about the plight of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and to take inspiration from their efforts to address climate change, strengthen resilience and work for a sustainable future,” said the UN chief. “Raise your voice, not the sea level.”

Home to 62.3 million people, these island nations play a crucial role in protecting oceans while contributing little to climate change – emitting less than 1 per cent of global greenhouse gases.

But they suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change owing to their small size, remote locations, and limited economic resilience. Research shows that by 2100, global warming could lead to a sea-level rise of up to 2 meters, making many of these island States, especially in the Pacific region, uninhabitable.

Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), warned that the very existence of low-lying nations, such as Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu is threatened by climate change-induced sea level rise.

While climate change adaptation was a top priority for island nations, the lack of financial resources is an obstacle, with, for example, the capital cost of sea-level rise in the Caribbean Community countries alone estimated to reach $187 billion by 2080.

“Investing now to head off such a massive economic impact makes sound business sense,” Mr. Steiner said in his message.

A new report by UNEP says that climate change-induced sea-level rise in the world’s 52 small island nations – estimated to be up to four times the global average – continues to be the most pressing threat to their environment and socio-economic development; with annual losses at the trillions of dollars due to increased vulnerability.

The “SIDS Foresight Report” identifies climate change impacts and related sea-level rise as the chief concern among 20 emerging issues impacting the environmental resilience and sustainable development prospects of SIDS – including coastal squeeze, land capacity, invasive alien species and threats from chemicals and waste.

UN General Assembly President John Ashe, in his message on the Day, also appealed for a global call to action for people across the world to support SIDS and low-lying coastal States endangered by rising sea levels, and disproportionately impacted by climate change, the loss of biodiversity and forests and overfishing.

“Only by transitioning together to a green economy can we ensure a sustainable prosperous future for all countries threatened by rising sea levels,” Mr. Ashe said.

In her message on the Day, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that while small islands faced many challenges, they are also leaders under that treaty “both morally and practically” in terms of reminding nations of the risks and collective responsibilities to act while driving ambitious national and international action.

She went on to site a host of SIDS-driven initiatives, from improved adaptation of water resources in the Comoros to wind power projects in Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica and methane capture in Papua New Guinea and Cuba, that have leveraged the UN Clean Development Mechanism to build their own clean energy futures. Many of these nations have undertaken National Adaptation Programmes of Action under the Convention.

“Our pathway is clear. Clean energy economies produce profits without pollution, better livelihoods in stable industries, restore health and wider wealth and preserve water and essential resources,” Ms. Said, calling on all raise their voices and their ambition now.

On 5 June 1972, the General Assembly formed UNEP to, “provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.”

That same day was also designated World Environment Day and has since been celebrated as a worldwide day of environmental awareness.

Over the years it has grown to be a broad, global platform for public outreach that is widely celebrated by stakeholders in over 100 countries. It also serves as the ‘people’s day’ for doing something positive for the environment, galvanizing individual actions into a collective power that generates an exponential positive impact on the planet.

During the global celebration in Barbados, UNEP designated Ian Somerhalder – an actor best known for his work on the international hit TV series, “The Vampire Diaries,” and on the critically acclaimed drama “Lost” – as a Goodwill Ambassador.

He joined fellow UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors Gisele Bündchen, Don Cheadle and Yaya Touré in sending an SOS to the world on behalf of SIDS. Their ‘message in a bottle’ is: “We are all connected. The challenges faced by islands will face us all. So, every action we take to reduce waste and mitigate climate change counts. Join one of our teams and pledge to make a difference by taking action for WED.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47965

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FEATURE: Partnerships, cooperation focus of UN sustainable energy summit

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5 June 2014 – “We need to form partnerships and investments on energy”, a senior official from Fiji said today at United Nations Headquarters, echoing calls from other diplomats, business partners and civil society who traveled to New York to do exactly that, as they also celebrated World Environment Day and the launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All.

“Climate change is a threat to national security and a threat to the fabric of our society,” Ravinesh Nand, a senior energy analyst at the Fiji Department of Energy told the audience gathered for a panel discussion on small islands and clean energy. “The threat is not an issue for the future,” he warned, “it is now.”

Fiji is one of 52 countries and territories classified as Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by the UN and grouped to share characteristics such as fragile natural environments, high costs for energy and heavy dependence on remote, external markets.

The States are also heavily dependent on fossil fuels and conventional biomass which negatively impact the environment, which unfortunately, most island nations depend on to boost the lives and livelihoods of their people.

“November to April used to be the hurricane season. Now it is January through December,” Lord Ma’afu, Lands and Environment Minister of Tonga, told the panel. Cyclone Ian hit the South Pacific archipelago on January 10, bringing winds of up to 270kmh and causing almost complete destruction to the northern islands of Ha’apai. Thousands of people were displaced and more than 100 lost their homes. In addition, the majority of the fresh water drinking supply was lost.

“The things that Tonga is really looking at are finance and adaptation,” Lord Ma’afu told UN News Centre afterwards, stressing the need to start the process of accessing funding for mitigation and adaptation purposes.

“There is a lot of talk about billions and billions of dollars available. We are doing a lot in the Pacific, but all of talk fest of how much is available for adaptation and mitigation is not actually touching the ground. A lot of the money seems to be spent on an annual basis having another talk fest about having exactly that,” the Minister said walking by a model solar panel.

“My message would be – let’s stop talking, let’s start and let’s accelerate that start,” he continued, adding that there is a lack of political will from the Member States controlling the purse strings. “We want the political will from the other side that has the funding.”

Lord Ma’afu and Mr. Nand delivered their strong calls to action during a panel discussion to mark World Environment Day, as part of a three-day UN Sustainable Energy Forum, named after the initiative Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched in 2011 with the aim of making sustainable energy for all a reality by 2030.

This week’s summit is meant to draw attention to the initiative. It will also draw attention to Mr. Ban’s climate summit, which will be held in September in New York, to garner support for a legally-binding climate change treaty aimed at limiting warming to two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

This past April, while in the United Arab Emirates to address leaders weighting action on climate change at the “Abu Dhabi Ascent”, Mr. Ban met with representatives from the Global Fuel Economy Initiative, a network supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), to promote debate and discussion around better use of fuel economy.

“Energy efficiency is so unsexy,” said Sheila Watson, director of environmental issues at the FIA Foundation. “For years everyone wanted to talk about new technologies. But actually it’s crucial, it’s free money basically; $2 trillion dollars by 2013 is just free money that we’re throwing away. And I think Sustainable Energy for All has really pushed the whole thing on the agenda.”

The $2 trillion is the estimated amount that FIA says could be saved through 2025 using fuel economy improvements. The issue is particularly pertinent to SIDS, which are likely to increase their use of cars in the next few years.

Mauritius, also a small islands development State, doubled its car use between 2002 and 2012, Ms. Watson said. Based on this number of cars, the Government could save one billion liters of gasoline and decrease their carbon dioxide out by 2,500 kilotons, if they had fuel economy policies in practice.

“I don’t know if there is a politician alive who does not want to get money back. Certainly finance ministers can get pretty interested when you’re talking about savings,” she told the UN News Centre.

Ms. Watson spoke on the same panel as Lord Ma’afu and Mr. Nand, and afterwards, some officials approached her to discuss further partnerships.

“SIDS are just like everyone else in many ways. They face the same kinds of issues – lack of resources, a growing car fleet. It’s relevant to them because it is relevant to anyone,” she noted.

That is a bit of what the Forum is meant to encourage – the creation of partnerships between the different representatives, including the hundreds of businesses, academics and non-governmental organizations in attendance.

Harry Gregory, from Savannah State University, said he came to the Forum because he is a student and was impressed by Mr. Ban’s message that one person can have an impact. While waiting at the forum, he joined in a conversation with Negin Janati, whose focus at the UN is global health.

“The political will is there,” Mr. Nand told the UN News Centre following his presentation, pausing ever so often to shake hands and take pamphlets and cards from passersby.

“I think what is lacking is on the financial side. We need to form partnerships, [generate] investments,” he continued. “We have done our ground work in terms of feasibility studies and identification of gaps. We need some project developers and implementation partners.”

“Fiji is a small country, and in some areas, we do not have the technical capacity. For example, geothermal resources have big potential, but we do not have the technical capacity,” he said. “The UN and other international and regional agencies and provide the expertise to develop such projects.”

In early September, the Government of Samoa will host the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in its capital Apia. The focus will be sustainable development of SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47973

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