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From anger to laughter: what happens when three top comedians walk into the UN?

29 March 2016 – What happens when three top comedians leave their Hollywood comfort-zone and walk into the United Nations to talk climate change and sustainability?

You’ll hear the comical results on the latest episode of UN Radio’s podcast series, The Lid Is On.

Self-described “chuckleheads”, Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, and Maya Rudolph, are well-known to moviegoers and television audiences in the United States. But what’s not so well known is their commitment to join in the UN campaign for mitigating the harmful effects of climate change, and promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The trio were at UN Headquarters in the middle of March to help young people step up their actions to address climate change, in partnership with Angry Birds. With perfect timing, it was also an event in honour of the International Day of Happiness.

All three star in The Angry Birds Movie which will be released in May, and they were on hand at the UN to help ‘Red,’ the main character from the movie – and the iconic Angry Birds mobile game – become an Honorary Ambassador for Green, in a special ceremony with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In between their official events, the comedy stars took time to sit down in the UN Radio studio with producer Dianne Penn, to talk about the power of laughter to change minds, and make light of a very serious subject: preserving the planet for future generations.

“This interview was definitely a deviation from the ones we normally do,” said Ms. Penn. “Getting the chance to talk about climate issues but with three of the funniest people ever was certainly unusual but enjoyable!”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53565

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Major milestones reached on renewable energy investments, UN reports

25 March 2016 – Coal and gas-fired electricity generation last year drew less than half the record investment made in solar, wind and other renewables capacity – one of several important firsts for green energy recently announced in a United Nations-backed report.

“Renewables are becoming ever more central to our low-carbon lifestyles, and the record-setting investments in 2015 are further proof of this trend,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a press release. “Importantly, for the first time in 2015, renewables in investments were higher in developing countries than developed.”

Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016, the 10th edition of the annual publication issued by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), says the annual global investment in new renewables capacity, at $266 billion, was more than double the estimated $130 billion invested in coal and gas power stations in 2015.

The report, launched today by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), highlights that all investments in renewables, including early-stage technology and research and development as well as spending on new capacity, totalled $286 billion in 2015, some three per cent higher than the previous record in 2011. Since 2004, the world has invested $2.3 trillion in renewable energy (unadjusted for inflation).

Just as significantly, developing world investments in renewables topped those of developed nations for the first time in 2015, the report indicates.

Helped by further falls in generating costs per megawatt-hour, particularly in solar photovoltaics, renewables excluding large hydro made up 54 per cent of added gigawatt capacity of all technologies last year. It marks the first time new installed renewables have topped the capacity added from all conventional technologies.

The 134 gigawatts (GW) of renewable power added worldwide in 2015 compares to 106GW in 2014 and 87GW in 2013. Were it not for renewables excluding large hydro, annual global CO2emissions would have been an estimated 1.5 gigatonnes higher in 2015.

“Access to clean, modern energy is of enormous value for all societies, but especially so in regions where reliable energy can offer profound improvements in quality of life, economic development and environmental sustainability. Continued and increased investment in renewables is not only good for people and planet, but will be a key element in achieving international targets on climate change and sustainable development,” said Mr. Steiner.

“By adopting the Sustainable Development Goals last year, the world pledged to end poverty, promote sustainable development, and to ensure healthier lives and access to affordable, sustainable, clean energy for all. Continued and increased investment in renewables will be a significant part of delivering on that promise,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Advisory Board at BNEF, Michael Liebreich, said global investment in renewables capacity hit a new record in 2015, far outpacing that in fossil fuel generating capacity despite falling oil, gas and coal prices.

“It has broadened out to a wider and wider array of developing countries, helped by sharply reduced costs and by the benefits of local power production over reliance on imported commodities,” he noted.

As in previous years, the report shows the 2015 renewable energy market was dominated by solar photovoltaics and wind, which together added 118GW in generating capacity, far above the previous record of 94GW set in 2014. Wind added 62GW and photovoltaics 56GW. More modest amounts were provided by biomass and waste-to-power, geothermal, solar thermal and small hydro.

In 2015, more attention was drawn to battery storage as an adjunct to solar and wind projects and to small-scale PV systems. UNEP highlighted that energy storage is of significant importance as it is one way of providing fast-responding balancing to the grid, whether to deal with demand spikes or variable renewable power generation from wind and solar. Last year, some 250MW of utility-scale electricity storage (excluding pumped hydro and lead-acid batteries) was installed worldwide, up from 160MW in 2014.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53550

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World Meteorological Day: as extreme weather becomes &#39the new normal,&#39 UN urges bold climate action

23 March 2016 – Observing the World Meteorological Day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned today that extreme weather events are becoming “the new normal” and bold climate action is needed to “face the future now.”

“Only by responding decisively to the climate challenge can we avoid the worst impacts of climate change and lay the foundations of a world of peace, prosperity and opportunity for all,” the UN chief said in a message on the Day.

The window of opportunity for limiting global temperature rise to well below two degrees Celsius – the threshold set under the Paris Agreement adopted last December – is narrow and rapidly shrinking, Mr. Ban warned, noting that the effects of a warming planet will be felt by all, including rising sea levels, and extreme weather events, which are becoming “the new normal.”

Next month, on 22 April, world leaders will gather in New York to sign the Paris Agreement. “But, even before the Agreement comes into force, every country, every business and every citizen has a role to play in combating climate change and building a sustainable future for this and future generations,” he said.

Message from World Meteorological Organization

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said in his message that today the Earth is already one degree Celsius hotter than at the start of the twentieth century, indicative of this year’s theme of the Day: ‘Hotter, drier, wetter: face the future.’

“Climate change is affecting our natural and human environment. Our emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, and the temperature of the lower atmosphere and the ocean is increasing, he said, adding: “The international community has unanimously recognized the need for bold action.”

Citing the Paris Agreement to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees,” he stressed that WMO and the national meteorological and hydrological services are playing an essential role in building climate-resilient societies.

Health risks related to heat can be reduced through multi-hazard early warning systems that provide timely alerts to decision-makers, health services and the general public, he said, also underscoring the need to improve access to scientific knowledge and share best practices for coping with drought.

The WMO community will continue to support countries in pursuing sustainable development and tackling climate change by providing the best possible science and operational services for weather, climate, hydrology, oceans and the environment.

According to the WMO Statement on the Status of the Climate in 2015, the year made history, with shattered temperature records, intense heatwaves, exceptional rainfall, devastating drought and unusual tropical cyclone activity.

“Our planet is sending a powerful message to world leaders to sign and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and cut greenhouse gases now before we pass the point of no return,” Mr. Taalas said earlier this week in a press release, emphasizing that the worst-case scenarios can be averted by taking urgent and far-reaching measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53525

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World Water Day: UN calls for ‘better water and better jobs’

22 March 2016 – With nearly half of the world’s workers employed in water-related sectors, sustainable access to safe water can change lives and livelihoods, the United Nations today said, underscoring the link between water and jobs, this year’s theme for World Water Day.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that despite its paramount importance, water as a sector does not generally receive the attention it deserves.

“Water is central to human survival, the environment and the economy,” the Secretary-General said on the Day, an opportunity for everyone to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference.

Mr. Ban pointed out in his message that people with the least access to water and sanitation often also lack access to health care and stable jobs, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

“The basic provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services at home, at school and in the workplace enables a robust economy by contributing to a healthy and productive population and workforce,” he said, expressing concern in gaps in accessing water and sanitation between men and women, cities and countryside, and the rich and the poor.

He called for bold action to address water inequality, as parts of effort to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development whose Goal 6 aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

The importance of water in the job sector is marked with an official World Water Day event at the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, convened on behalf of the UN inter-agency mechanism on all freshwater-related issues, UN-Water.

In his video message, Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General and Chair of UN-Water, calls for “better water and better jobs.” He highlighted the situation of some 1.5 billion people who work in water-related sectors, many of whom are not recognized for the work they do, nor protected by basic labour rights.

Guy Ryder highlights the situation of the 1.5 billion people who work in water, many of whom are not recognized for the work they do, or protected by basic labour rights. Credit: ILO

As an example, he spoke about a woman from The Gambia who would spend much of her day fetching water, when she could have been working in the formal sector, had that water delivery been provided.

“Water is work,” Mr. Ryder said. “It requires workers for its safe and clean delivery, and at the same time, it can create and improve conditions of work.”

As part of the celebration, the UN today is launching the UN World Water Development Report, focused on the advancement of the prospect of decent work for all.

Among its findings, the report estimated that some 2 billion people require access to improved sanitation, particularly women and girls.


Meeting the challenge of creating and preserving decent jobs in the face of climate change and water scarcity will require far greater investments in science, technology and innovation, said Irina Bokova, the head the UN agency that leads water sciences and education—the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In her message for the Day, Ms. Bokova called for Governments, civil society and the private sector to work together to promote “high-quality jobs, while preserving the environment and ensuring sustainable water management will help to eradicate poverty, promote growth and craft a future of decent work for all.”

To mark the Day, UNICEF kicked off its #ClimateChain Instagram campaign, highlighting the link between water, climate change and the environment. The campaign will run until 22 April, when the Paris Agreement will open for signature.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53513

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UN calls for ‘better water and better jobs’ on World Water Day

22 March 2016 – With nearly half of the world’s workers employed in water-related sectors, sustainable access to safe water can change lives and livelihoods, the United Nations today said, underscoring the link between water and jobs, this year’s theme for World Water Day.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that despite its paramount importance, water as a sector does not generally receive the attention it deserves.

“Water is central to human survival, the environment and the economy,” the Secretary-General said on the Day, an opportunity for everyone to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference.

Mr. Ban pointed out in his message that people with the least access to water and sanitation often also lack access to health care and stable jobs, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

“The basic provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services at home, at school and in the workplace enables a robust economy by contributing to a healthy and productive population and workforce,” he said, expressing concern in gaps in accessing water and sanitation between men and women, cities and countryside, and the rich and the poor.

He called for bold action to address water inequality, as parts of effort to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development whose Goal 6 aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

The importance of water in the job sector is marked with an official World Water Day event at the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, convened on behalf of the UN inter-agency mechanism on all freshwater-related issues, UN-Water.

In his video message, Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General and Chair of UN-Water, calls for “better water and better jobs.” He highlighted the situation of some 1.5 billion people who work in water-related sectors, many of whom are not recognized for the work they do, nor protected by basic labour rights.

As an example, he spoke about a woman from The Gambia who would spend much of her day fetching water, when she could have been working in the formal sector, had that water delivery been provided.

“Water is work,” Mr. Ryder said. “It requires workers for its safe and clean delivery, and at the same time, it can create and improve conditions of work.”

As part of the celebration, the UN today is launching the UN World Water Development Report, focused on the advancement of the prospect of decent work for all.

Among its findings, the report estimated that some 2 billion people require access to improved sanitation, particularly women and girls.

Meeting the challenge of creating and preserving decent jobs in the face of climate change and water scarcity will require far greater investments in science, technology and innovation, said Irina Bokova, the head the UN agency that leads water sciences and education—the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In her message for the Day, Ms. Bokova called for Governments, civil society and the private sector to work together to promote “high-quality jobs, while preserving the environment and ensuring sustainable water management will help to eradicate poverty, promote growth and craft a future of decent work for all.”

To mark the Day, UNICEF kicked off its #ClimateChain Instagram campaign, highlighting the link between water, climate change and the environment. The campaign will run until 22 April, when the Paris Agreement will open for signature.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53513

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&#39The future is happening now,&#39 warns UN, calling for urgent measures to cut carbon emissions

21 March 2016 – The Earth is already one degree Celsius hotter than at the start of the 20th century, halfway to the critical two-degree threshold, and national climate change plans adopted so far may not be enough to avoid a three-degree temperature rise, the UN weather agency warned today upon the release of its 2015 annual report on the status of the climate.

“Many people now think that the problem is solved since we reached a nice agreement in Paris last year… but the negative side is that we haven’t changed our behaviors,” Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), told reporters in Geneva.

He argued that carbon dioxide concentrations in the air would be five times the current level in 500 years if no limits are placed on fossil fuel, meaning that the planet would be seven to eight degrees Celsius warmer at that time. It would then take up to 100,000 years to restore the normal level, he added, stressing the urgency of substantially cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the coming few decades.

According to the WMO Statement on the Status of the Climate in 2015, the year made history, with shattered temperature records, intense heatwaves, exceptional rainfall, devastating drought and unusual tropical cyclone activity.

“Our planet is sending a powerful message to world leaders to sign and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change and cut greenhouse gases now before we pass the point of no return,” Mr. Taalas said in a press release, emphasizing that the worst-case scenarios can be averted by taking urgent and far-reaching measures to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

The statement shows that the global average surface temperature in 2015 broke all previous records by a wide margin, at about 0.76 degree Celsius above the 1961-1990 average, because of a powerful El Niño and human-caused global warming. With 93 per cent of excess heat stored in the oceans, ocean heat content down to 2,000 meters also hit a new record.

Record-breaking trend continuing in 2016

The record-breaking trend has continued in 2016. January and February 2016 set yet more new monthly temperature records, with the heat especially pronounced in the high northern latitudes. Arctic sea ice extent was at a satellite-record low for both months, according to NASA and the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Greenhouse gas concentrations crossed the symbolic and significant 400 parts per million threshold.

“The startlingly high temperatures so far in 2016 have sent shockwaves around the climate science community,” said David Carlson, Director of the World Climate Research Programme, which is co-sponsored by WMO. He added that it is premature to determine that 2016 would extend a record-breaking streak.

The WMO Statement was released ahead of World Meteorological Day, on 23 March.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53509

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‘Investing in forests is an insurance policy for the planet,’ says UN chief

21 March 2016 – On the International Day of Forests, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on governments, businesses, civil society and other partners to adopt holistic policies and practices to protect, restore and sustain healthy forests.

“Investing in forests is an insurance policy for the planet,” said Mr. Ban in a message on the day, marked annually on 21 March.

Despite their critical importance, forests continue to be razed and damaged. The UN estimates that every year seven million hectares of natural forests are lost and 50 million hectares of forest land are burned.

“The world’s forests are essential to realizing our shared vision for people and the planet. They are central to our future prosperity and the stability of the global climate. That is why the Sustainable Development Goals call for transformative action to safeguard them,” the UN chief noted.

2016 theme: supporting water systems

This year, the theme focuses on forests’ role in supporting water systems. Forested catchments reportedly provide three-quarters of all the freshwater used for farms, industry and homes.

“City dwellers in Bogota, Durban, Jakarta, Madrid, New York, Rio de Janeiro and many other major cities rely on forested areas for a significant portion of their drinking water,” Mr. Ban highlighted. “When we protect and restore forested watersheds, we can save on the cost of building new infrastructure for water purification.”

As the global population grows and demands for water escalate, the UN is warning that safeguarding the water-providing capacity of forests is becoming more urgent. By 2025, nearly 1.8 billion people will live in areas with absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world population could face water-stressed conditions.

Improving water quality and water supplies

Responding to this threat, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today launched a new programme aiming to enhance the critical role of forests in improving water quality and water supplies.

The programme, focused specifically on the close relationship between forests and water, will start off by looking at ways to improve water security in eight West African countries: Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra-Leone.

The agency will work with local communities to raise their awareness of the interactions between forests and water and help them to integrate forest management in their agricultural practices to improve water supplies.

“The challenges are many, but the goal is very clear: to ensure the sustainable management of forest and water resources on the planet,” said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva at a ceremony marking the international day in Rome.

“Promoting forest restoration and avoiding forest loss will require a significantly increased level of funding and innovative financing, including from private funds and traditional investors, in the coming years,” he added, noting that FAO is committed to providing a neutral platform for negotiations and dialogue.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53500

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Earth Hour 2016: UN goes dark to spotlight climate change

19 March 2016 – The United Nations will go dark later this evening as the Organization shuts off the lights at its iconic Headquarters complex in New York and other facilities around the world in observance of ‘Earth Hour,’ an annual global event to put the spotlight on the issues facing the planet and to inspire millions across the world to live more sustainably.

In a video message, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said: “This year’s Earth Hour comes at a pivotal moment. Last December, all the world’s Governments came together to adopt the Paris Agreement on climate change. This is a historic achievement for people and the planet – but only if we follow through on the promises made.”

Organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Earth Hour encourages individuals, companies, organizations and Governments to switch off their lights for one hour at 8:30 p.m., local time worldwide, to focus attention on people-driven solutions to protecting the planet and building a bright, sustainable future.

Mr. Ban notes that the world is now entering a new era of opportunity. “Together, we can create the low-emissions future the world needs for sustainable development and a life of dignity and stability for all. Earth Hour reminds us that we all have a role to play.”

First launched in 2007, Earth Hour has become an annual event, mobilizing hundreds of millions of individuals to participate and growing to become the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment.

According to the WWF, the UN family will join the thousands of homes, offices, skylines and monuments that will go dark to put the spotlight on the issues facing the planet, and to inspire millions across the world to live more sustainably. At least 178 countries and territories are expected to take part in this year’s celebrations.

So far over 366 landmarks are confirmed and will be turning off on the night of Earth Hour including iconic sites such as the Brandenburg Gate, Empire State Building, Sydney Opera House, the Roman Colosseum and Marina Bay Sands.

Amongst participating countries this year 90 are taking actions to achieve impact during Earth Hour through digital interactions, engaging local communities and raising awareness, adds the WWF.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53496

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IMAX launches ‘Big Picture’ initiative, partnering with UN to amplify action on environment issues

17 March 2016 – IMAX Corporation, the company that creates entertainment technology best known for its big-screen IMAX theatres, has partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to launch an ambitious corporate social responsibility initiative called ‘Big Picture,’ which aims to address the host of environmental, societal and economic issues.

According to UNEP, the campaign is an extension of IMAX’s core mission to educate, entertain and inspire movie audiences globally. It is expected to leverage the power of film to raise awareness and promote appreciation for the “big picture” – the understanding that actions we take in our daily lives can significantly impact the future of the planet.

“As an iconic storytelling platform and distribution network, IMAX brings entertainment and information to captive audiences across the world. Such an impact is immensely valuable,” said the Executive Director of UNEP, Achim Steiner, in a press release.

“IMAX has also made a commitment to corporate social responsibility in the form of its Big Picture initiative,” he added. “This work is just as important. Coupling the two in efforts to bring attention to the social, economic and environmental issues affecting our planet aligns with UNEP’s goals of engaging the public to better our world.”

With the launch of its documentary film A Beautiful Planet, which opens 29 April, IMAX hopes to showcase the power of film in addressing these issues. Through film, the IMAX-UNEP partnership intends to promote solutions against climate change as well as actions to achieve the 17 Goals of the2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted unanimously last September by all UN Member States.

The goals range from eradicating poverty, promoting gender equality and protecting the environment, to ensuring universal access to clean water, modern energy and quality education. Under the partnership, the organizations will encourage the production of sustainability-themed films on a wide array of issues that lie at the heart of the UN’s efforts to protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity for all.

As part of the agreement, IMAX will launch a series of educational screenings and charitable premieres called “In Feature” to showcase sustainability-themed films. It will also encourage the development of films and documentaries to promote the UN’s 2030 Agenda and to promote global action around World Environment Day, marked every 5 June, and the UN Campaign on the Illegal Trade in Wildlife.

“This global endeavour builds upon IMAX’s DNA and bridges to our legacy in advancing society’s understanding of and appreciation for mankind’s natural surroundings and co-habitants through documentary films,” said IMAX CEO Richard L. Gelfond. “We couldn’t think of a better partner than UNEP to help mobilize action and build on this foundation. Our hope is that by launching this campaign, we will change minds and hearts and make a greater impact across the world.”

As part of the ‘Big Picture’ campaign, IMAX also launched ‘In Focus,’ a program to shine a light on the work of young filmmakers and inspire them to pursue careers in filmmaking. Under this initiative, IMAX – in collaboration with UNEP – will establish an annual young filmmakers’ competition, challenging participants to create public service announcements or short films addressing issues like climate change and access to clean water and quality education.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53466

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&#39World has much to learn from Japan,&#39 UN chief says on anniversary of earthquake, tsunami

11 March 2016 – The world has much to learn from Japan if it is to make progress on saving lives and livelihoods, and reducing disaster losses, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon underlined on the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

“This was an unprecedented disaster which taught us all a great deal about the changing nature of exposure to risk and disaster,” the UN chief said in a message.

On 11 March 2011, more than 20,000 people were killed in eastern Japan when an earthquake and tsunami hit the country’s coastline. The tsunami also slammed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, located in Fukushima Prefecture, disabling cooling systems and leading to fuel meltdowns in three of the six units. The accident shook the nuclear industry, regulators and governments.

“After Fukushima, it became clear that we are in a new era in which technology and natural disasters can combine to create danger on a previously unimaginable scale. Our dependence on technology is a double-edged sword, if we do not reduce our exposure to natural hazards,” Mr. Ban stressed.

“The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami helped shape the Sendia Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which was adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction a year ago,” Mr. Ban highlighted. “The Framework extends the remit of disaster risk management to include both man-made and natural hazards, as well as related environmental, technological and biological hazards and risks.”

He further noted that “Japan has shown the world how important it is to pause for reflection, to examine the lessons learned from past calamities and to raise public awareness of the importance of prevention and mitigation.”

In addition, starting in 2016, World Tsunami Awareness Day will be commemorated on 5 November. It marks the day in 1854 when a tsunami struck the Japanese village of Hiromura; a farmer, who recognized the warning signs, set his rice sheaves alight to alert his neighbours to the coming danger.

“Acting for the common good is a frequent theme in Japanese culture and it infuses the country’s approach to disaster preparedness and risk reduction. The rest of the world has much to learn from Japan, if we are to make progress on saving lives and livelihoods, and reducing disaster losses,” the Secretary-General said.

“On this solemn day of remembrance, I would like once again to extend my condolences, and those of the whole United Nations system, to the people of Japan and especially to those who lost loved ones in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami,” he added.

Also today, Robert Glasser, Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), attended the 5th anniversary memorial service in Tokyo and extended sympathies to the bereaved and those who are still displaced from their homes.

“The earthquake, the tsunami and the nuclear emergency which unfolded on that day resulted in a multi-systems collapse as a result of an unprecedented combination of man-made and natural hazards,” he said in a press release. “This disaster has profoundly shaped our understanding of disaster risk in a world which is hugely dependent on technology for its smooth functioning.”

He recalled last year’s adoption by Member States of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which extends the remit of disaster risk management to include environmental, technological and biological hazards. “In many ways this shift in attitudes to go beyond a focus on natural hazards is due to events here in Japan five years ago,” he noted.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53419

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As &#39most disaster-prone region,&#39 Asia-Pacific needs risk-sensitive development, UN reports

10 March 2016 – The Asia-Pacific region continued to be the world’s most disaster-prone region in 2015, requiring a paradigm shift from a response-recovery governance to a risk-sensitive development approach, according to a new United Nations report.

The region accounted for over half the world’s 344 disasters in 2015, resulting in over 16,000 deaths with 59 million people affected, and the cost of economic damage was more than US$45 billion, excluding indirect losses, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said in a news release.

South Asia was the hardest hit, recording 52 disasters and more than 14,000 deaths, with most deaths attributed to the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in April.

Titled “Disasters in Asia and the Pacific: 2015 Year in Review,” the report warns that the region’s burgeoning cities may not be adequately equipped to tackle urban disasters that occur more frequently and with greater intensity. Over 700 million people in the region live in cities at ‘extreme’ or ‘high’ disaster risk, and by 2030 this number could reach one billion.

In many big cities in Asia-Pacific much of the infrastructure is outdated and built without adequate attention to disaster resilience, the report notes.

Asia-Pacific natural disasters in 2015

Source: EM-DAT International Disaster Database-www.emdat.be Reliefweb-reliefweb.int/disaster (Accessed 23 February 2016). Nepal earthquake data is from Nepal 2015, Post Disaster Needs Assessment. Tamil Nadu flood damage and loss data is from media.

Last year, the urban centres of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Japan were affected by severe floods, while Nepal’s capital city, Kathmandu, bore the brunt of the economic damage from the April earthquake.

Ecological buffers depleted by unplanned urbanization

Widespread floods in Chennai, India in December 2015 illustrate the common challenges faced by many big cities. With the ecological buffers depleted over time by rapid, unplanned urbanization, the floods inundated critical infrastructure, disrupted power networks and waterlogged major city roads. Economic damage and loss from the floods have been estimated at more than US$10 billion.

According to the report, a prolonged El Niño phenomenon last year drew attention to neglected and often forgotten slow-onset disasters by severely exacerbating effects of heat waves, forest fires, haze, and droughts. Last year was the hottest on record, with Pakistan and India reporting more than 3,400 fatalities from a searing heatwave.

Drought caused serious water and food shortages in much of South and South-East Asia and several fatalities in the Pacific. Rather than dealing with the drought only when it becomes an emergency, it should be addressed from a long-term perspective to protect livelihoods.

Use of drones for disaster management

To build a resilient Asia-Pacific, the report further calls for increased focus on risk-sensitive development, and stronger regional cooperation for managing trans-boundary disasters. It advocates capitalizing on emerging technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles for disaster management but stresses the need to establish regulatory standards for effective use of these technologies.

The report, commending the “Zero Casualty” policy implemented in Philippines as a regional good practice, concludes that disaster risk reduction cannot be achieved without political will and effective leadership at all levels of government.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53407

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