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Amid ‘steady rise’ in rhino poaching and elephant killings, UN urges action to tackle illegal wildlife trade

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30 July 2015 – Recognizing that wild animals and plants are an “irreplaceable part of the natural systems of the Earth,” the United Nations General Assembly today urged its Member States to take decisive steps to prevent, combat and eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife, “on both the supply and demand sides.”

Through the new resolution, the Assembly expressed serious concern over the steady rise in the level of rhino poaching and the alarmingly high levels of killings of elephants in Africa, which threaten those species with local extinction and, in some cases, with global extinction.

“Illegal wildlife trafficking not only threatens species and ecosystems; it affects the livelihoods of local communities and diminishes touristic attractions. It compromises efforts towards poverty eradication and the achievement of sustainable development,” said the President of the 69th session of the Assembly, in remarks read by Vice-President Denis G. Antoine.

Adopting a consensus text resolution, the 193-Member body encouraged Governments to adopt effective measures to prevent and counter the serious problem of crimes such as illicit trafficking in wildlife and wildlife products, including flora and fauna and poaching.

The resolution suggests “strengthening the legislation necessary for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of such illegal trade, as well as strengthening enforcement and criminal justice responses, acknowledging that the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime can provide valuable technical assistance in this regard.”

The General Assembly also calls upon Member States to make illicit trafficking in protected species of wild fauna and flora involving organized criminal groups a “serious crime.”

Member States are equally encouraged to harmonize their judicial, legal and administrative regulations to support the exchange of evidence, as well as to establish “national-level inter-agency wildlife crime task forces.”

“The adoption of this resolution today and its effective implementation will be crucial in our collective efforts to combat illicit trafficking in wildlife worldwide,” adds the President’s statement.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51536

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New UN-backed plan sets disaster resilience standards for hotels in Asia and Pacific

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29 July 2015 – A United Nations-backed plan to develop and pilot disaster risk management standards for the hotel industry in Asia and the Pacific, home to 80 per cent of the world’s disaster events, has been announced today.

“The hotel industry in hazard prone areas of the world is very vulnerable to major setbacks from floods, storms and earthquakes. Such events can result in closure of resorts and have a significant impact on tourism and employment. The hotel industry has a very important role to play in encouraging disaster risk management at the local level,” the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Margareta Wahlström, said.

A joint study carried out by UNISDR, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM) has found significant interest in setting standards among hoteliers, tour operators, tourism bodies, government agencies and insurance companies in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and the Maldives.

The study was carried out for the Hotel Resilient Initiative which aims to develop internationally recognized standards for hotels and resorts that will assist them in reducing business risk and the risk of tourism destinations to natural and technological hazards, while demonstrating the level of preparedness and safety of their premises to potential clients, insurers and financers.

“The report is telling us that there is concern about the lack of universal standards for disaster risk management across the hotel industry,” Mr. Wahlström added. One incentive is that insurance companies could envisage premium reductions for hotels that demonstrate that they are investing in disaster resilience in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which has been adopted with enthusiasm by governments across the region. The standards will be developed at the end of this year.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51522

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Orangutans face extinction on Borneo where deforestation is ‘simply unsustainable’ – UN

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29 July 2015 – The massive conversion of Borneo’s forests for the production palm oil together with the impact of climate change is driving to extinction the orangutan on Asia’s largest island, making it “clear that a future without sustainable development will be a future with a different climate and, eventually, without orangutans, one of our closest relatives,” a new United Nations report revealed today.

This, according to Achim Steiner, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), who wrote the foreword of the report, The Future of the Bornean Orangutan: Impacts of Change in Land Cover and Climate, released today.
And the report’s lead author Dr. Serge Wich declared: “The current policies for land conversion on Borneo are simply unsustainable” not just for orangutans but for the human population as well.

According to the report published by UNEP and Liverpool John Moores University in collaboration with the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP), “the massive conversion of Borneo’s forests for agricultural development – primarily oil palm – will leave the endangered orangutans fragmented and facing extinction in a number of areas.”

“The environmental impact of climate change exacerbated by the deforestation of Borneo could result in severe floods, temperature rises, reduced agricultural productivity and other negative effects,” the report said.

While native to Indonesia and Malaysia, a century of deforestation, illegal logging, hunting and expansion of agro-industrial plantations, have combined to isolate orangutans to only the rainforests of Borneo – the world’s third largest island – and Sumatra, says UNEP.

Borneo’s deforestation rate has been among the world’s highest for over two decades and 56 per cent of the protected tropical lowland forests – an area roughly the size of Belgium – was lost between 1985 and 2001.

The report goes on to say that if deforestation in the Southeast Asia continues, a staggering 75 per cent of the original forest cover will be lost by 2030.

The Future of the Bornean Orangutan, according to a UNEP press release examines different climate and land-cover scenarios for the years 2020, 2050 and 2080 and models the individual and combined effect of both factors on the orangutan habitat.

In each scenario, “dramatic rises” in temperature brought on by deforestation and the loss of land cover cause serious damage to the island’s biodiversity, with the combined model showing an even more pronounced impact than either factor alone, the report said.

UNEP’s top official, Mr. Steiner, urged adoption of programmes that measure the natural capital of a region and offer payment for ecosystem services to mitigate these threats.

“Now, it is time to utilize these approaches and divert from an unsustainable pathway to development,” he wrote. “It is clear that a future without sustainable development will be a future with a different climate and, eventually, without orangutans, one of our closest relatives.”

An estimated 55,000 Bornean orangutans remain in the wild, according to UNEP.

“But orangutans’ solitary nature and slow reproductive rates leave them particularly vulnerable to forest loss,” the agency said. “Models incorporating projected changes to climate and to land cover indicate that 68-81 per cent of the current orangutan habitat might be lost by 2080.”

Among the 59-page report’s eight recommendations to curb the impact of agricultural conversion are: immediate identification and protection of priority orangutan populations and habitats; connection of key orangutan sites through the creation of corridors, so as to ensure the species’ mobility and viability; conversion to more sustainable methods of agricultural use for palm oil and other crops; and support forest protection programmes.

GRASP is an alliance of 100 national governments, conservation organizations, research institutions, UN agencies, and private companies committed to ensuring the longterm survival of great apes in Africa and Asia.

The report was presented at the GRASP Regional Meeting – Southeast Asia on Borneo in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51525

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A new UN-backed plan sets up disaster resilience standards for hotels in Asia and Pacific

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29 July 2015 – A United Nations-backed plan to develop and pilot disaster risk management standards for the hotel industry in Asia and the Pacific, home to 80% of the world’s disaster events, has been announced today.

“The hotel industry in hazard prone areas of the world is very vulnerable to major setbacks from floods, storms and earthquakes. Such events can result in closure of resorts and have a significant impact on tourism and employment. The hotel industry has a very important role to play in encouraging disaster risk management at the local level,” the Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Margareta Wahlström, said.

A joint study carried out by UNISDR, the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) and the Global Initiative on Disaster Risk Management (GIDRM) has found significant interest in setting standards among hoteliers, tour operators, tourism bodies, government agencies and insurance companies in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and the Maldives.

The study was carried out for the Hotel Resilient Initiative which aims to develop internationally recognized standards for hotels and resorts that will assist them in reducing business risk and the risk of tourism destinations to natural and technological hazards, while demonstrating the level of preparedness and safety of their premises to potential clients, insurers and financers.

“The report is telling us that there is concern about the lack of universal standards for disaster risk management across the hotel industry,” Mr. Wahlström added. One incentive is that insurance companies could envisage premium reductions for hotels that demonstrate that they are investing in disaster resilience in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction which has been adopted with enthusiasm by governments across the region. The standards will be developed at the end of this year.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51522

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First half of 2015 ‘hottest six months on record’ – UN

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21 July 2015 – From January to June 2015, the globally averaged temperature over land and ocean surfaces was the hottest for such period on record, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported today, citing new highs across the planet in June, with heatwaves across South Asia, Europe and pockets of the United States.

Over the past six months, the average temperature was 0.85°C above the 20th century average of 15.5°C, WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis told a press briefing in Geneva today, adding that the major concern was about the ocean heat that was constantly rising, according to the figures provided by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Indeed, the average global sea surface temperature of +0.65°C (+1.17°F) for the year-to-date was the highest for January–June on record, surpassing the previous record of 2010 by 0.04°C (0.07°F), points out a press release. Records date back to 1880.

June 2015 marks the third month this year that has broken its monthly temperature record, along with March and May. The fresh high’s set off warm weather alerts as heatwaves gripped places such as Austria, Spain and Australia. Moreover, the soaring temperatures killed hundreds of people in India and Pakistan last month.

WMO notes that the other months of 2015 were not far behind: January and February were each second warmest for their respective months and April was fourth warmest.

“Most of the world’s land areas were much warmer than average. These regions include nearly all of Eurasia, South America, Africa, and western North America, with pockets of record warmth across these areas. All of Australia was warmer than average,” states the WMO press release.

The Balkans and Southern Europe remain in the grips of a heatwave, Ms. Nullis said, explaining that there were red alerts in Hungary, parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia and southern Switzerland. In the United States, the heat wave that had been gripping southern and eastern parts of the country would continue today, with heat index values between 37.8 to 43.3 degrees Celsius.”

The very high temperatures that characterized the previous six months as the hottest on record had occurred ahead of the development of El Niño, which had an overall impact on temperatures. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology today indicated that El Niño was likely to strengthen, and expected to persist into early 2016.

US National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center on 9 July said there was a greater than 90 percent chance that El Niño would continue through Northern Hemisphere in winter 2015-2016 and around an 80 percent chance that it would last into early spring 2016.

WMO uses a combination of datasets to compile its annual Statement on the Global Climate. The provisional statement for 2015 will be released in November 2015.

Just about three weeks ago, WMO joined with the World Health Organization (WHO) to issue a new series of guidelines aimed at addressing the health risks posed by the increasing number and intensity of climate change-related heatwaves affecting the planet.

The guidelines, entitled Heatwaves and Health: Guidance on Warning-System Development, will seek to alert decision-makers, health services and the general public through the systematic development of so-called heatwave early warning systems which, in turn, will hope to trigger timely action in reducing the effects of hot-weather extremes on health.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51463

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UN-backed action plan to improve study of weather and climate in Polar regions takes shape

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16 July 2015 – An international action plan to improve predictions of weather, climate and ice conditions in Polar regions has been agreed in an effort to minimize the risks and maximize the opportunities associated with rapid changes in the Arctic and Antarctic environments, according to the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“Advances in Polar prediction will lead to improvements in weather forecasts, climate predictions and, ultimately, better services for those who live and work in these higher latitudes as well as those living in the lower-latitude regions,” said WMO President David Grimes in a press release issued by the agency today.

A conference held in Geneva from 13-15 July, which grouped operational weather and climate prediction centres, environmental experts, researchers, funding agencies and the shipping and tourist sectors, finalized plans for a Year of Polar Prediction. The Year will take place from mid-2017 to mid-2019, in order to cover an entire year in both the Arctic and Antarctic, and will seek to accelerate and consolidate research, observing, modelling, verification and educational activities as part of a wider Polar Prediction Project.

There is growing interest in the Polar Regions, fueled by concerns about the rapid pace of climate change, WMO said. The Arctic is heating at roughly twice the global average rate, with consequent reductions in ice and snow cover and melting of glaciers and permafrost. The impact of this is not confined to the Arctic, but is felt in other parts of the globe – as exemplified by rising sea levels and changing weather and climate patterns.

Polar regions which were previously difficult to access are now opening up to economic, transportation and tourism activities, leading to more demands for better predictions. However, the agency said that lack of observations and scientific understanding currently makes weather, water, ocean, wave and sea ice forecasting very challenging.

“Climate change comes with opportunities, such as reduced maritime transport time from Europe to Asia, and risks such as oil spills and ship accidents. We need improved predictive capacity to manage both the opportunities and the risks,” said Thomas Jung, of Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz-Centre for Polar and Marine Research, and chair of the Polar Prediction Project steering committee.

But potential economic benefits come at a price – and not just the negative implications of climate change for global society. An increase in Arctic shipping might result in more oil spills. “A large spill in the Arctic would present a massive challenge,” warned Petter Meier Deputy Director General of Norway’s Ministry of Transport and Communications.

“None of the Arctic States currently have the capacity to respond to an oil spill. We need effective preventive measures because we simply cannot afford to jeopardize the marine environment,” said Mr. Meier, stressing that toxic effects of Arctic oil spills may last longer because there are fewer organisms to break down the oil.

More accurate weather forecasts and predictions are also needed in Antarctica to provide better logistical support for research activities and tourism, adds WMO.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51440

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ADDIS: new UN-backed report details ways to boost finance for sustainable energy

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13 July 2015 – A new United Nations-backed report launched today at a conference in Addis Ababa details concrete ways to boost crucial investment in sustainable energy by some $120 billion a year.

‘Scaling Up Finance for Sustainable Energy Investments,’ launched at the Third International Conference on Financing for Development that opened today in the Ethiopian capital, was produced by the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative.

According to the latest estimates, investment from both the public and private sectors will need to triple to more than $1 trillion per year to meet SE4All’s ambitious goal of sustainable energy for all by 2030.

“A trillion-dollar investment need is also a trillion-dollar investment opportunity,” said Kandeh Yumkella, the Secretary General’s Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All and CEO of the SE4All initiative.

“This report shows in detail how we can start driving that investment in really practical ways, by mobilising new sources of finance and encouraging investors by helping them to manage their risks.”

The report identifies four broad ‘investment themes’ where action could help drive increased investment: developing the Green Bond market; using the de-risking instruments of the development finance institutions to mobilize private capital; exploring insurance products that focus on removing specific risks; and developing aggregation structures that focus on bundling and pooling approaches for small-scale projects.

Speaking at the high-level event at which the report was launched, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called sustainable energy “the golden thread that links economic growth, increased social equity and a healthy environment.”

He went on to note that transition of global energy systems is clearly a challenge, but also an unprecedented opportunity, citing a number of examples, including in Ethiopia, one of many African countries currently developing action agendas and investment prospectuses to ensure sustainable energy for all.

Strong leadership was also shown during the recent launch of the West African Energy Leaders Group in Côte d’Ivoire, he said.

Mr. Ban also recalled that the second UN Sustainable Energy for All Forum in May showed that commitments to date make halving of energy poverty realizable by 2030, through initiatives like the European Union’s ElectriFI, the United States’ Power Africa, and increased public investments.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51404

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Small farmers can be major actors in reducing agriculture&#39s carbon footprint

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8 July 2015 – Helping farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change can also significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, finds a new study released today by one of the agricultural agencies of the United Nations system.

“What this report shows is that smallholder farmers are a key part of the solution to the climate change challenge,” said Michel Mordasini, Vice President of International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). “With the right investments, smallholders can feed a growing planet while at the same time restoring degraded ecosystems and reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint.”

IFAD chose UNESCO’s Our Common Future under Climate Change Science Conference in Paris to release details of its latest research with the Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

The study finds reducing emissions may not be as big a burden as some may believe and could be another benefit of adaptation activities. The study, released today, examines IFAD’s portfolio of projects focused on making smallholder agriculture more resilient to climate change.

The Mitigation Advantage Report shows that thirteen IFAD-supported adaptation projects could reduce CO2e emissions by 30 million tons. This represents about 38 per cent of IFAD’s target to reduce 80 million tons of CO2e by 2020 under its Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme. Launched in 2012, this program has become the largest global financing source dedicated to supporting the adaptation of poor smallholder farmers to climate change.

Whilst IFAD’s investments are focusing on the key priorities of rural poverty reduction, climate change adaptation and food security, the mitigation target set by the organisation shows how resilient, climate-smart agriculture can make a substantive contribution to the global fight to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

IFAD’s climate change adaptation initiatives include improved agronomic practices, afforestation and rehabilitation of degraded lands. These practices help address farmers’ immediate needs, like dealing with unpredictable rains, and gradual shifts in crop suitability.

If smallholder adaptation can help reduce global emissions, there could be new opportunities, according to Sonja Vermeulen, Head of research at the CGIAR program.

“Currently over 90 per cent of public and private climate funds go to mitigation, not adaptation. For future food security it would be very helpful if the majority of the world’s farmers, who are smallholders, could access those funds,” she said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51358

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Alarmed by melting glacier in Norway, Ban says world must &#39act now&#39 to curb climate change

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8 July 2015 – At the site of a rapidly shrinking glacier in the Norwegian Arctic, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed the need for the international community to “take action now” to fight climate change.

“I am just close to 250 metres to the glacier. It looks magnificent. But at the same time, I am alarmed that there are so many cracks that will soon break. They are melting very rapidly, and I fully agree with what scientists have been projecting. Unless we take action now, we will have to regret. We have to keep global temperature rise below two degrees as soon as possible.”

Preparing for the upcoming meeting of thUnless we take action now, we will have to regret. We have to keep global temperature rise below two degrees as soon as possible.e States parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will take place in Paris in 2015, the UN chief was in Norway this week to attend a number of high-level events. On board the research vessel RV Lance, he seized that opportunity to see first-hand the changes in the Blomstrandbreen glacier since he last visited in 2009.

“The fjord behind us has been open every winter, throughout the winter because the ocean is warmer. So we have seen a lot of change since the Secretary-General was here last time,” said Kim Holmén, International Director of Norwegian Polar Institute.

“Glaciers on land are also a very visible example of the change in climate. Every year they are retreating and here in this area we have a lowering of the surface of approximately one meter per year, due to melting,” added the Director of Norwegian Polar Institute, Jan-Gunnar Winther, who travelled with the Secretary-General on board the research vessel RV Lance.

Besides taking an excursion to Blomstrandbreen, Mr. Ban today received briefings at the Kings Bay Marine Lab and the Svalbard Satellite Station, both in Norway.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon makes a trip to the Blomstrandbreen glacier to see first-hand the dramatic changes to the ice. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51360

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Widespread and early heatwaves impact northern hemisphere, UN weather agency warns

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6 July 2015 – Many parts of Europe have been impacted by a severe and unusually early heatwave since 27 June, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has said, warning of record-breaking temperatures and wildfires in North America and torrential downpours and widespread flooding in southern China.

“The heatwave is still ongoing and it is premature to say whether it can be attributed to climate change or whether it is due to naturally occurring climate variability,” stated Omar Baddour, who coordinates WMO’s World Climate Data and Monitoring Programme.

“But climate change scenarios predict that heatwaves will become more intense, more frequent and longer. It is notable that the time between major heatwaves (2003, 2010, and 2015) is getting shorter,” he pointed out.

In a press release issued over the weekend, WMO noted the extreme weather events currently taking place in the northern hemisphere.

An initial analysis conducted by WMO’s Regional Climate Centre in Europe shows that many parts of the continent will continue to see above normal temperatures and dry conditions. The heatwave is unusual because it is so early and so widespread, drawing comparisons with the 2003 and 2010 summers, during which tens of thousands of people died.

The difference is that the 2015 heatwave is much earlier and Europe much better prepared with heat-health action plans. WMO and the UN World Health Organization (WHO) on 1 July issued joint guidance on heat-health early warning systems, drawing to a considerable extent on the expertise and experience gained in Europe since the 2003 heatwave.

Many parts of the Western United States are also suffering from high temperatures, further drying out soils and increasing the risk of wildfires. This ranges from California to the states of Washington and Oregon in the northwest, parts of Washington State having seen temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in the past week.

No less than 623 climatic stations broke daily maximum high records in the last seven days, and 17 broke all-time records for maximum temperatures, noted the press release.

The wildfire season in North America has gotten off to a very early start because of a number of factors including dry conditions, heat and lightning. In a 29 June report, the Alaska Wildland Fire Information said “June 2015 isn’t quite over, but our totals with one day left in the month are sobering: 399 fires have burned some 1,600,000 acres.”

“The wildfire situation this summer has mainly been triggered by repeated lightning storms tracking across an abnormally dry state. The lightning has been astonishing; on June 21-23, some 50,000 lightning strikes were recorded in Alaska.”

In Pakistan, the heatwave which caused more than 1,200 deaths in Karachi recently was aggravated by a low pressure system off the coast, which meant that the usual cooling coastal breeze was replaced by hot air coming from interior. According to the authorities, temperatures remain high, but the situation has stabilized. Parts of Pakistan have seen the onset of the monsoon.

Finally, southwest China has witnessed a heatwave with temperatures over 35 degrees for a widespread area, accompanied by exceptionally heavy rainfall and widespread flood, prompting the Chinese authorities to issue level 4 emergency alert, the press release stated.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51341

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First-ever heatwave warning guidelines issued by UN as global temperatures soar

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1 July 2015 – Two United Nations agencies have unveiled a series of new guidelines aimed at addressing the health risks posed by the increasing number and intensity of climate change-related heatwaves affecting the planet, as warm weather alerts spread across Europe following soaring temperatures that killed hundreds of people in India and Pakistan last month.

The set of guidelines, jointly produced by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and entitled Heatwaves and Health: Guidance on Warning-System Development, will seek to alert decision-makers, health services and the general public through the systematic development of so-called heatwave early warning systems which, in turn, will hope to trigger timely action in reducing the effects of hot-weather extremes on health.

“Heatwaves are a dangerous natural hazard, and one that requires increased attention,” said Maxx Dilley, Director of the WMO’s Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch, and Maria Neira, Director of the WHO’s Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health, in their foreword to the publication. “They lack the spectacular and sudden violence of other hazards, such as tropical cyclones or flash floods, but the consequences can be severe.”

According to the two agencies, heatwaves are becoming more frequent and intense on a global scale, largely due to the acceleration of climate change. In recent weeks, they have already caused hundreds of deaths across India and Pakistan. Meanwhile, the heatwaves in the northern hemisphere’s summer of 2003 were responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people across the European continent.

The publication’s launch also follows the WMO’s recent revelation that 14 of the 15 hottest years recorded have all been in the 21st century, confirming a dangerous trend in global warming amid devastating weather patterns and increasing temperatures.

The guidance provided by the WHO and WMO takes into consideration a number of factors, including who is most at risk from heat, outlines approaches to assessing heat stress and surveys heat-intervention strategies, all the while building upon the “lessons learned” from the implementation of the first-ever Heat-Health Warning System, rolled out in the United States city of Philadelphia in 1995.

In addition, the authors noted, the WMO-WHO joint publication is expected “to provide effective climate services and save lives in vulnerable communities around the world.”

“Growing concerns over climate change have brought to the fore three important aspects: adaptation, disaster-risk reduction and the need for climate information and services to support these,” Mr. Dilley and Dr. Neira concluded. “Heat-Health Warning Systems bring together these three facets and exemplify an effective demonstration of climate-risk management in practice.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51318

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INTERVIEW: "Climate change is in everybody’s backyard" – Robert Redford

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1 July 2015 – Actor and environmental activist Robert Redford paid his first visit to the United Nations Headquarters in New York this week.

The reason for his visit: to address the UN General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on Climate Change, which aimed to energize multilateral cooperation on the issue ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year. In the French capital, countries will discuss an agreement intended to succeed to the landmark Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Redford has been heavily involved in environmental issues for decades, renowned for his commitment to it and for speNow climate change is in everybody’s backyard. The question is to make people aware of it, to make people aware not only of the dangers but what the positive move would be, and bring it to their attention that it’s already in their own backyard.aking out on various issues affecting the environment, in addition to serving as a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York City-based non-profit organization, since 1975.


After his speech to the General Assembly, Mr. Redford spoke with the UN News Centre about his visit, his experience in the environmental movement and his thoughts on the need to fight climate change.

UN News Centre: What brings you to UN Headquarters this week?

Robert Redford: I’m here because I was asked to come – which was an honour – and also here because I think climate change has moved up the register of issues to be considered, and it’s done that because it’s a current issue and it’s a current danger unless it gets addressed. I thought any voice that could be lent to the effort should be used and so I’m here for that.

UN News Centre: Syria, Central African Republic, Yemen – these are just a few of the pressing concerns on the global agenda. Given so many other urgent topics, how hard is it to get the international community to pay attention to climate change?

Robert Redford speaks about how he first became part of the environmental movement and the importance of combatting global climate change for future generations. Credit: United Nations

Robert Redford: I think you can get them to pay attention if you place climate change where it belongs. It’s usually way down at the bottom. The environment, I’ve experienced over the years, gets little attention compared to other things. But I think because of what’s happened now – change is in the air, you can feel it – we’re in a period of change that’s positive with also some negative. Positive: you see what the Pope said. Positive: you see what happened this week with same-sex marriage; you see what’s happened with [US] Supreme Court decisions.

From my point of view those are all pretty positive things. But what sits behind and on top of all this is the bigger problem that concerns everybody’s health – every country, every nation, every person. They’re all under the umbrella of climate. And because climate change is such a harsh topic with very little time to correct it – there’s been so much damage done over the years to the planet – that if we don’t do something sooner rather than later, then I don’t know what kind of planet we’re going to have to live on.

Robert Redford addresses UN Member States at the General Assembly’s High-Level Climate Change meeting. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

UN News Centre: No negotiations were due to take place at the meeting you addressed on Monday, so what exactly can the global public expect to come out of this meeting?

Robert Redford: What can they expect? I don’t know. I don’t know what the consensus is here, this is a first time for me so I don’t have any experience knowing how they operate, how they think, how they vote – I can only hope. But I think that because every nation is affected, this issue gets their attention.

UN News Centre: What would it take to get everybody’s attention on this issue?

Robert Redford: Years ago there used to be a saying, they called it “NIMBY,” which is an abbreviation of “Not in My Back Yard.” People would not get interested or focus on anything, particularly if it was a danger, unless it was in their backyard. It was somebody else’s problem – they didn’t have to think about it, or worry about it, or address it. But now climate change is in everybody’s backyard. The question is to make people aware of it, to make people aware not only of the dangers but what the positive move would be, and bring it to their attention that it’s already in their own backyard. Look at the drought in California, the flooding, what’s happened in New York – it’s pretty clear that something is happening.

Nukunonu Atoll seaside is one of the regions of the world vulnerable to the impact of the climate change. UN Photo/Ariane Rummery

UN News Centre: The Pope recently spoke out about the dangers of climate change. Yet there are those who say the Pope is not an expert on science… your thoughts?

Robert Redford: Please, that’s insulting. The fact is what he’s saying is so much in need – I salute him, on many fronts, particularly that one because he’s placing it where it belongs, as a moral issue, and therefore there’s a spiritual component to that. And thank God that he’s placing it that way.

It’s not about politics. The moral issue of climate change should transcend politics. If it’s reduced to politics, we’re going to have the same old yin-yang, the same old problems, the same old fighting, the same old narrow-minded bickering between ideologies. It’s going to be a mess. Let’s get above it and take advantage of change and make it positive.

UN News Centre:  One of the General Assembly speakers was a teenage activist who later said that adults are having a party with the environment and the next generation are stuck with cleaning it up. What are you views on that and the role of youth in climate change?

Robert Redford: I would start with an apology to the new generation. The new generation – focusing on the role of women and politics, focusing on youth – to me I see that as an enormous plus, whereas maybe 15 years ago, no, because I think America’s youth was focused more on other issues, like how to get ahead, how to make money, and the environment was not on their minds.

On the sidelines of the General Assembly meeting, Robert Redford meets Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has also spoken of the importance of fighting climate change. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

But now it is. I’m very encouraged by this new generation. They’re better informed, they’re more knowledgeable, and the more knowledgeable they are, the more they get concerned, because it’s going to be their future. Our time is kind of done. We should apologize for what’s being left for them to work with – they don’t have a lot.

But I’m looking forward to them taking the reins because not only do they deserve it, but I think it’s time, and also I think it’s a good time because the new generation is just different than before. It’s more active. I think it has the quality and the qualifications to take the reins and move things forward with what little we have left of our planet. I’m just sorry we didn’t leave them much.

UN News Centre:  You have been involved in the environmental movement for decades. What first got you involved?

Robert Redford: I think if you ran it all the way back, it started when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles. When I was a child, my memories really began at the end of the Second World War. It was a beautiful city, the air was fresh, it was clean, there were green spaces in between communities. I had a paper route on a bicycle. I rode around different neighbourhoods, it was fresh and clean. I loved it.

Then suddenly, when the war ended, everything changed. It’s like Los Angeles became something at the end of a rainbow and everybody clamoured to get in there. And suddenly everything changed. Suddenly there were skyscrapers, there were freeways, there was pollution. So I saw a city that I really loved sort of disappear under my feet and I moved away. I moved to the mountains. I spent time in the Sierras and worked at Yosemite National Park, and when I did that, that connection to nature hit me like a ton of bricks – I said this is where I want to be. I want to be in and around nature. I want to preserve it, if I can, because I could see that we were already a development-oriented society, I knew that. But the question for me was: if we only have that, we won’t have anything of nature left. So I guess I got committed at an early age to do whatever I could.

Robert Redford addresses UN Member States at the General Assembly’s High-Level Climate Change meeting. UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

And then in 1970, I was at a conference in Vale, Colorado, and I remember there was a picture of renewable resources and non-renewable resources, extractable resources – oil, gas, coal – and all the politics, all the money, was going into non-renewables. And over here, where you had wind, solar, geothermal – that was new then, very new, so it wasn’t getting much attention – but there was nothing there. I thought well, if this continues, there won’t be anything left. It might make some short-term money for someone, but there won’t be anything left for future generations. But over here, look at all the possibilities for alternative energy and what’s happening. So I guess at that time I made a commitment to myself to do whatever I could, raise whatever small voice I had in that direction and so I have.

UN News Centre: What have been the greatest changes you have seen over the past 40 years or so of environmental activism?

Robert Redford briefs the press on his participation at the General Assembly’s high-level climate change meeting. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Robert Redford: There was little to no change for much of that 40 years. Things don’t change quickly. You have to work hard, you have to wait, you have to be patient. I’m sorry that it didn’t happen soon because I think we would have been better off had it happened sooner. But you have to live with what you got. I think what is happening now is that it’s dawning on people, the value of alternative energy, and the jobs and industry that could be created from it. And as soon as you talk about industries and jobs then that changes the whole picture, because before the argument was always “oil and gas, that produces energy but also jobs and this doesn’t.” But now people are realizing that not only does alternative energy do this, but in a much better way that is sustainable for our planet.

UN News Centre: In your speech to the General Assembly, you said that you are an actor by trade, but an activist by nature. Where role does your environmental work play in your life?

The environment, I’ve experienced over the years, gets little attention compared to other things. But I think because of what’s happened now – change is in the air, you can feel it.

Robert Redford: My artistic life used to be just painting and then it became theatre and film, so that’s my artistic life. And then there’s my civic life, and that is the environment and the role that nature can play in the continuation of our society. So it’s divided into two sections: art and nature. I guess you can boil it down to that.

UN News Centre: In a nutshell, what message would you give to the international community on the importance of fighting climate change?

Robert Redford: First of all, pay attention. Put it out there as a topic. Once it’s out there as a topic, request that others pay attention to the topic and then see how, if they look around, how they can see why it is such a topic. If you talk about climate change, all you have to do is look around. Unfortunately, I declared some negative examples: flooding, drought, wildfires. But all you have to do is open your eyes and pay attention and you’ll look this way or that way, and you’ll see fire, flood, tornadoes, hurricanes, and if that’s the case, you can’t tell me it’s not going to affect people. So I would say pay attention and look at how climate change is being evidenced around you.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=51321

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