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Nepal: UN continues to support sustainable post-disaster earthquake recovery

25 April 2016 – A year after a series of major earthquakes devastated large areas of Nepal, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners are continuing to support green and sustainable post-disaster recovery in the country.

“As the reconstruction effort continues, UNEP will promote a green, resource-efficient and sustainable reconstruction process in the country, focused on environmental recovery, restoration of life- and livelihood-supporting ecosystems, and promoting resource efficiency,” said Isabelle Louis, Regional Director and Representative, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, in a press release.

“The aim is to ensure that the rebuilding results in enhanced environmental resilience of the people of Nepal and its ecosystems,” she added.

The 25 April 2015 earthquake and its aftershocks killed more than 8,700 people, injured more than 22,000, and destroyed and damaged more than 250,000 houses. While 8.1 million people were directly affected, millions across the mainly rural nation were exposed to increased landslides. Major life-supporting ecosystems were also severely damaged.

UNEP said that a rapid environmental assessment undertaken by the Government of Nepal following the earthquake revealed significant destruction of forests and protected areas as well as damage to ecotourism infrastructure such as nature trails, trekking routes and camping sites.

The earthquake also destroyed renewable rural energy technology solutions such as improved cooking and biogas stoves. Water sources shifted in some areas, with reduced or no flows in places, and new sources starting to flow in others.

Freshwater ecosystems were also affected by increased sedimentation and some rivers were temporarily blocked by landslides. The economic cost of loss of ecosystems services from landslides has been estimated at nearly US$328 million, according to the agency.

Following the earthquake, UNEP worked with the Government of Nepal to mitigate the adverse environmental impacts of the disaster. This included the development of a comprehensive waste management strategy at national and sub-national levels to manage the estimated 3.9 million tons of earthquake debris, which included hazardous material.

With landslides becoming three times more frequent following the earthquake, UNEP facilitated the sharing of best global practices on landslide management. Working with the Government and development partners, UNEP also identified opportunities to green the reconstruction process.

The Asia and Pacific region accounts for nearly half of the world’s natural disasters. The five biggest disasters to strike Asia Pacific in 2013 caused some US$100 billion in economic loss and killed more than 19,000 people.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53770

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‘We are in a race against time,’ says Ban, as leaders sign landmark Paris climate accord

22 April 2016 – With their signatures of the landmark Paris climate accord, “governments made a covenant with the future,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the end of a United Nations ceremony that saw the largest single-day turn-out for such an event, and which puts the world on a path towards low-carbon growth and a more sustainable future.

Yet, while today’s signing is a “vote of confidence” in a new approach to climate change, it is imperative that the strong political momentum continues to grow, the UN chief stressed, in concluding remarks to the day-long Ceremony for the Paris Agreement.

Indeed, if all of the countries signing today joined the Paris Agreement at the national level, the world will have met the legal requirement for the Agreement to enter into force – 55 countries accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse emissions. In particular, he was pleased to hear several large emitter countries announce that they will ratify in 2016.

“I encourage all countries to raise their level of ambition,” Mr. Ban said. “I urge world leaders to continue to provide direct political oversight and guidance. And I will look to civil society and the world’s young people to hold Governments to account for the promises they made today,” he added.

While it has been a long journey to get to the present moment, the UN chief stressed that a long journey also awaits Member States.

“When I look out at the horizon, I see, more clearly than ever, the outlines of a new and better world,” the UN chief said.

In that regard, Mr. Ban reminded Member States that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a “major step forward” for people and the planet.

In addition, the World Humanitarian Summit he will be convening in Istanbul on 23 and 24 May will be a “critical opportunity” to enhance support to the most vulnerable and reaffirm “our common humanity,” Mr. Ban said.

“Let us continue to build on the historic progress of today – and move swiftly, with courage and determination, to usher in the new era we know can be ours,” he concluded.

The ceremony was opened this morning by a brass quintet from the Juilliard School in New York, which played Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Mr. Ban also introduced Getrude Clement, 16-year-old radio reporter from Tanzania and a UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) youth climate mapper, who focused on why climate action is crucial for children. They, she said, would feel its effects most acutely. “We expect action, action on a big scale, and we expect action today, not tomorrow,” she emphasized. “The future is ours, and the future is bright.”

In his remarks, the UN chief also underscored that while it is good news that States are breaking records at the UN – records are also being broken outside.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

John Kerry, United States Secretary of State, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Princess Lalla Hasna of the Kingdom of Morocco addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Alexander Khloponin, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Enele Sosene Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Zhang Gaoli, Special Envoy of the President and Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Evo Morales Ayma, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

oseph Kabila Kabange, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Ollanta Humala Tasso, President of Peru, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

François Hollande, President of France, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Getrude Clement, 16-year-old radio reporter from Tanzania and youth representative and climate advocate with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), addresses the opening segment of the signing ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Anand Mahindra, private sector representative, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (of Chad), representing civil society, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


“Record global temperatures. Record ice loss. Record carbon levels in the atmosphere. We are in a race against time,” Mr. Ban stressed.

Indeed, he emphasized that the window for keeping global temperate rise well below two degrees Celsius – let alone 1.5 degrees – is “rapidly closing.”

“The era of consumption without consequences is over. We must intensify efforts to decarbonize our economies. And we must support developing countries in making this transition. The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” the Secretary-General said.

In that vein, the UN chief highlighted that climate action is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Today is a day that I have worked toward since day one as Secretary-General of the United Nations and declared climate change to be my top priority. Today you are signing a new covenant with the future,” he said.

The covenant must amount to “more than promises,” Mr. Ban stressed, and find expression in actions taken today on behalf of the current generation and all future generations.

“It must find expression in actions we take today on behalf of this generation and all future generations – actions that reduce climate risk and protect communities, and actions that place us on a safer, smarter path,” the Secretary-General said.

Mr. Ban highlighted that participants would be joined at the morning’s events by 197 children, representing the Parties that have adopted the Paris Agreement.

“Of course, they represent more than this. These young people are our future. Our covenant is with them,” he said.

“Today is a day for our children and grandchildren and all generations to come. Together, let us turn the aspirations of Paris into action. As you show by the very act of signing today, the power to build a better world is in your hands,” Mr. Ban concluded.

Also speaking at the opening ceremony was General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, who congratulated Member States, civil society and business leaders for “keeping the pressure on” and taking initiatives to “keep the momentum going.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second left), UNFCCC’s Christiana Figueres (left), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), and President François Hollande of France (right), celebrate historic adoption of Paris Agreement. Photo: UNFCCC

“This is a moment of great hope,” Mr. Lykketoft stressed.

“We must raise the level of ambition even further. We must take urgent and bold steps to make this transformation happen,” he added.

Today’s event coincides with International Mother Earth Day, and in his message on the Day, Mr. Ban said that the Paris accord, in conjunction with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, holds the power to transform our world.

The Paris Agreement was adopted by all 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris on 12 December 2015, widely known as COP 21. In the Agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

François Hollande, President of France, host of COP 21, recalled the spirit of solidarity expressed at the conference and stressed that the terrorist attacks on Paris had been the backdrop to the Agreement. World leaders had nevertheless demonstrated their ability to come together with a sense of partnership and responsibility to ensure that an agreement would be the fruit of the Paris meeting, as a symbolic act for the rest of the world.

President François Hollande of France addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Never in the history of the United Nations had it been possible to bring together 170 countries to sign an agreement, all together, on one day, he noted, emphasizing that there is no turning back now. The world must accelerate action to implement low-carbon policies.

Noting that some $100 billion is needed between now and 2020, he said every country must set an example, particularly developed countries, by stepping up contributions for combating climate change. “It is not just a question of States taking action, the entire world must come together,” he stressed. “Everyone must feel that they have a stake in this.”

Also addressing the ceremony, Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio said that as a UN Messenger of Peace, he had been travelling all over the world for the last two years, documenting how this crisis is changing the natural balance of our planet. He has seen cities like Beijing choked by industrial pollution; ancient boreal forests in Canada that have been clearcut; rainforests in Indonesia that have been incinerated; and unprecedented droughts in California.

UN Messenger of Peace Leonardo Dicaprio addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. UN Photo/Mark Garten

“All that I have seen and learned on this journey has terrified me […] I do not need to throw statistics at you. You know them better than I do, and more importantly, you know what will happen if this scourge is left unchecked,” he told the delegates, adding: “Now think about the shame that each of us will carry when our children and grandchildren look back and realize that we had the means of stopping this devastation, but simply lacked the political will to do so.”

Indeed, Mr. DiCaprio continued, the historic signing of the Paris Agreement is reason for hope, but evidence shows that will not be enough. “Our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong. An upheaval and massive change is required now – one that leads to a new collective consciousness. A new collective evolution of the human race inspired and enabled by a sense of urgency from all of you,” he said.

So, after 21 years of debates and conferences “it is time to declare no more talk. No more excuses. No more 10-year studies. No more allowing the fossil fuel companies to manipulate and dictate the science and policies that affect our future. This is the only body that can do what is needed. You, sitting in this very hall. The world is now watching. You will either be lauded by future generations, or vilified by them.”

Among the UN officials reacting to today’s events, Oh Joon, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) said: “With today’s historic signing of the Paris agreement, there is no going back on our commitment to combat climate change. Now is the time for taking action to shape a sustainable future for all.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53752

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‘Today is an historic day,’ says Ban, as 175 countries sign Paris climate accord

22 April 2016 – As 175 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement at United Nations Headquarters today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the next critical step is to ensure that the landmark accord for global action on climate change enters into force as soon as possible.

“Today is an historic day,” Mr. Ban told reporters at a press conference following the opening ceremony of the signing event. “This is by far the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.”

According to the UN chief, the participation by so many countries and the attendance by so many world leaders leaves “no doubt” that the international community is determined to take climate action. He also welcomed the strong presence of the private sector and civil society, saying they are “crucial to realizing the great promise of the Paris Agreement.”

Adopted in Paris by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as (COP21) last December, the Agreement’s objective is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius. It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification.

“If all the countries that have signed today take the next step at the national level and join the Agreement, the world will have met the requirement needed for the Paris Agreement to enter into force,” Mr. Ban highlighted, congratulating the 15 Parties that have already deposited their instruments for ratification.

These Parties include Barbados, Belize, Fiji, Grenada, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Palau, Palestine, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Somalia and Tuvalu.

Speaking alongside the Secretary-General, French President François Hollande applauded all those who made it possible to reach the second stage of the process – the signing of the document.

President François Hollande of France  signs the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at the United Nations. UN Photo/Mark Garten

“I want to underscore that in Paris, it wasn’t just a single agreement that was brought about and needs to be ratified,” Mr. Hollande told the press. “In Paris, there were also four initiatives that were launched: the International Solar Energy Alliance, the development plan for renewable energy, the innovation mission with [United States] President Obama, and finally the high-level coalition to set a price for fossil fuels and coal.”

He insisted that France needs to be role model and set the example, not just because it was the place where the accord was reached, but because the country contributed to the solution.

“France should be an example to show that it wants to be the first – or one of the first – not just to ratify but also to implement the contents of the Agreement,” Mr. Hollande stated, noting that his country will increase its annual financing for climate from three to five billion euros per year between now and 2020.

Meanwhile, in two weeks, the UN chief will co-host the Climate Action 2016 meeting in Washington D.C., which is expected to bring together leaders and experts from many fields, including government, business, civil society and academia, ahead of the next COP in Morocco in November.

Following the press conference, in remarks to an Informal High-Level event on promoting the early entry into force of the Agreement, Mr. Ban encouraged all countries to move forward quickly with their own domestic processes to accept and ratify the accord.

“As you are well aware, we need at least 55 countries and 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Having 55 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions may be a little bit shorter and easier if the United States and China […] ratify or join. Then it will add to almost 40 per cent. I call on the countries gathered here to use this opportunity to announce your timeline for joining the Agreement as soon as possible,” he said.

Mr. Ban said that it is imperative that strong political momentum continues to build, as the spirit of Paris is still continuing. “I will do all that I can this year to ensure that the Paris Agreement enters into force as soon as possible,” he said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53756

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Right to adequate housing in India a matter of ‘urgency’ – UN expert

22 April 2016 – Expressing grave concern over a number of issues regarding the right to housing in India, an independent United Nations human rights expert today called on the Government for immediate attention and implementation of the right to ensure adequate housing for the most disadvantaged.

“I am extremely concerned for the millions of people who experience exclusion, discrimination, evictions, insecure tenure, homelessness and who lack hope of accessing affordable and adequate housing in their lifetimes,” Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing, warned at the end of her two-week official visit to the country.

Discrimination and social exclusion, urban homelessness, and evictions are among some most complex housing issues, according to the UN rights expert.

“I have been told that evictions are most often carried out against the most vulnerable populations, most of whom are living below the poverty line,” said Ms. Farha, adding that “forced evictions are often implemented without any consultation with residents, without sufficient or any notice, and commonly result in homelessness.”

While recognizing India’s efforts to address disparities and the living conditions in slums throughout the country, as well as ensuring water, sanitation and electricity in some rehabilitation and redevelopment sites, Ms. Farha stressed that much more needs to be done to improve mounting inequality in urban areas.

“A two-track policy response is urgently needed, one that addresses the backlog of housing shortage, and the other that prepares India for upcoming housing needs,” she said.

The UN expert further urged the Government to adopt national housing legislation based in both its national and international human rights commitments.

A moratorium on evictions, immediate obligations to adequately address homelessness, and that is in line with some of its most progressive state plans for in situ rehabilitation for slum dwellers are of great urgency and priority, Ms. Farha noted.

Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53760

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&#39We are in a race against time,&#39 says Ban, as leaders sign landmark Paris climate accord

22 April 2016 – As world leaders gathered at United Nations Headquarters in New York this morning to officially sign the Paris Agreement on climate change – the landmark accord that sets outs a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous global warming – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Member States to move quickly to join the accord at the national level so that it can enter into force as early as possible.

“Let us never forget – climate action is not a burden; indeed, it offers many benefits,” the UN chief said as he opened the High Level Signature Ceremony for the Paris Agreement in the GenerThe era of consumption without consequences is over. We must intensify efforts to decarbonize our economies. And we must support developing countries in making this transition. The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create.al Assembly Hall.

“It can help us eradicate poverty, create green jobs, defeat hunger, prevent instability and improve the lives of girls and women,” he added.

Mr. Ban underscored that while it is good news that States are breaking records at the UN – records are also being broken outside.

“Record global temperatures. Record ice loss. Record carbon levels in the atmosphere. We are in a race against time,” Mr. Ban stressed.

Indeed, he emphasized that the window for keeping global temperate rise well below two degrees Celsius – let alone 1.5 degrees – is “rapidly closing.”

“The era of consumption without consequences is over. We must intensify efforts to decarbonize our economies. And we must support developing countries in making this transition. The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” the Secretary-General said.

In that vein, the UN chief highlighted that climate action is essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Today is a day that I have worked toward since day one as Secretary-General of the United Nations and declared climate change to be my top priority. Today you are signing a new covenant with the future,” he said.

The covenant must amount to “more than promises,” Mr. Ban stressed, and find expression in actions taken today on behalf of the current generation and all future generations.

“It must find expression in actions we take today on behalf of this generation and all future generations – actions that reduce climate risk and protect communities, and actions that place us on a safer, smarter path,” the Secretary-General said.

Mr. Ban highlighted that participants would be joined at the morning’s events by 197 children, representing the Parties that have adopted the Paris Agreement.

“Of course, they represent more than this. These young people are our future. Our covenant is with them,” he said.

“Today is a day for our children and grandchildren and all generations to come. Together, let us turn the aspirations of Paris into action. As you show by the very act of signing today, the power to build a better world is in your hands,” Mr. Ban concluded.

Today’s event coincides with International Mother Earth Day, and in his message on the Day, Mr. Ban said that the Paris accord, in conjunction with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, holds the power to transform our world.

John Kerry, United States Secretary of State, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Princess Lalla Hasna of the Kingdom of Morocco addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Alexander Khloponin, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Enele Sosene Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Matteo Renzi, Prime Minister of Italy, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Zhang Gaoli, Special Envoy of the President and Vice Premier of the People’s Republic of China, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Evo Morales Ayma, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

oseph Kabila Kabange, President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Ollanta Humala Tasso, President of Peru, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Mogens Lykketoft, President of the seventieth session of the General Assembly, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

François Hollande, President of France, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Getrude Clement, 16-year-old radio reporter from Tanzania and youth representative and climate advocate with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), addresses the opening segment of the signing ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Anand Mahindra, private sector representative, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim (of Chad), representing civil society, addresses the opening segment of the signature ceremony. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


The Paris Agreement was adopted by all 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris on 12 December 2015. In the Agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Thus far, the latest assessment indicates that at least 171 countries will sign the accord, setting a record for the most countries to sign an international agreement on one day. The previous record was set in 1982, when 119 countries signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

All of the world’s largest economies, and the largest greenhouse gas emitters, have indicated that they will sign the Agreement. The signing is the first step towards ensuring that the agreement enters into force as soon as possible. After signing, countries must take the further national (or domestic) step of accepting or ratifying the agreement.

Some 13 countries, mostly small island developing States, are expected to deposit their instruments of ratification immediately after signing the agreement today.

The Paris Agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the Secretary-General.

The opening ceremony will be followed by a signing ceremony, which is a legal formality where only Heads of State or Government, foreign ministers, or other representatives with “formal powers” from their Governments may sign the agreement.

After signing the agreement, leaders will deliver their national statements, having been asked by the Secretary-General to, among other things, provide an update on how their Governments will implement their national climate plans and integrate them into their overall sustainable development plans; and indicate their Governments’ timetable for ratifying the Agreement.

In the afternoon, there will be a High-Level Event on Implementation, which will focus on highlighting how all actors of society and economy can accelerate action, learn from one another, and replicate and scale successful initiatives and activities that will deliver the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The session will be moderated by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and French Environment Minister and COP 21 President Ségolène Royal. The session will feature a link-up with the Solar Impulse aircraft that is attempting to be the first airplane to circumnavigate the world using only renewable energy.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53752

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UN guidelines and new technologies boost efforts to help curb &#39ghost fishing&#39

21 April 2016 – International guidelines being developed by a United Nations agency and new technologies are expected to boost efforts to cut down levels of abandoned fish gear, which often continues to carry out the capture process, entangling fish and other marine animals in its nets, a phenomenon known as “ghost fishing.”

What is known as abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear makes up a significant portion of all debris in the oceans, accounting for about one-tenth of all marine litter, translating into hundreds of thousands of tonnes annually.

Growing concern over this problem, coupled with the increasing availability of new technologies, has led the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to begin developing international guidelines on the effective tagging of fishing gear as a way to cut down levels of troublesome sea trash.

Guidelines in the works

Past efforts to develop international guidelines have been largely fragmented. There are few systematic requirements by Governments for ownership marking of gear, and no international regulations, guidelines or common practices exist for marine areas outside of national jurisdictions. But that is starting to change, due to growing concerns of congestion in coastal waters, risks to safe navigation and accidental deaths of marine life.

In early April, an initial set of draft guidelines was discussed during a meeting of experts held at FAO’s Headquarters in Rome. The results will be presented to FAO’s Committee on Fisheries in July for review and direction regarding next steps.

“What we need is a simple and affordable system that permits easy identification of ownership of gear, fishery of origin and position of gear in the water,” said FAO Fishery Industry Officer Petri Suuronen. “The development of internationally recognized standards on marking all fishing gear will help us to better understand the reasons for gear loss and identify appropriate preventive measures.”

New technologies for tracking lost gear

Today, advances in marking technology are offering new possibilities for efficient tracking and recovery of lost gear and are changing the way the problem is being tackled.

“The effective marking of fishing gear in busy multi-user sea areas is key to preventing its loss and protecting marine ecosystems,” Mr. Suuronen said. “Fishers can also benefit from the use of new gear tagging technologies which will allow them to minimize loss of potential catch and expensive equipment, and save time searching for lost gear.”

Coded wire tags (CWTs) are being tested as a potential tool for reducing entanglements of marine mammals, turtles and other large marine animals. The nano-sized, laser-etched CTWs are implanted in fishing ropes with no effect on fishing performance but making them detectable to special sensors.

Satellite buoys with solar power are now commonly used in industrial purse seine operations, providing unlimited range and extra-long operating time. Other sensors, like GPS receivers, can be attached to a radio buoy and used to transmit data.

Acoustic technology, which takes advantage of the sound transmission properties of seawater, also has applications in locating lost gear. Active pingers emit sounds at certain frequencies once in the water, whereas passive sonar reflectors capture and reflect sound energy back to its source.

Lights have long been an integral part of fishing gear markers for the night but today energy-efficient LEDs are being fitted with solar panels, amplifying their effectiveness.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53742

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UN says Paris Agreement on climate change must aim for long-term environmental stability

21 April 2016 – As global leaders prepare to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change tomorrow at United Nations Headquarters in New York, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction today called on signatories to go beyond their existing commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions if the world is to avoid catastrophic future weather events.

“I welcome the fact that over 160 countries have declared they are signing up to the Paris Agreement but we are in real danger of being overtaken by the rapid pace of global warming if signatories do not significantly scale up the level of their ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Robert Glasser, the UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“It is clear that weather and climate are implicated in 90 per cent of major disaster events attributed to natural hazards. Droughts, floods, storms and heatwaves have the potential to undermine many developing states’ efforts to eradicate poverty. Climate change is adding to pre-existing levels of risk fuelled by exposure and socio-economic vulnerability,” he added.

Indeed, in order to keep the global spotlight focused on climate change and build on the strong momentum generated by the Paris Agreement, global leaders will participate tomorrow in a signature ceremony hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The Paris Agreement was adopted by all 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris on 12 December 2015. In the Agreement, all countries agreed to work to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Thus far, the latest assessment indicates that more than 165 countries will sign the landmark accord, setting a record for the most countries to sign an international agreement on one day. The previous record was set in 1982, when 119 countries signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The event coincides with International Mother Earth Day and in his message on the Day, Mr. Ban said the Paris accord, in conjunction with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, holds the power to transform our world.

All of the world’s largest economies, and the largest greenhouse gas emitters, have indicated that they will sign the agreement on Friday. The signing is the first step towards ensuring that the agreement enters into force as soon as possible. After signing, countries must take the further national (or domestic) step of accepting or ratifying the agreement.

“The momentum achieved by so many signatures on one day sends a clear signal of solidarity and resolve. Now we must unleash the full force of human ingenuity and ensure low-emission growth and improved climate resilience, the UN chief noted in his Earth Day message.

“Leadership from the top is crucial. But each of us has a role to play. We can make energy-efficient choices, stop wasting food, reduce our carbon footprints and increase our sustainable investments,” said the Secretary-General, stressing that small actions, multiplied by billions, will bring about dramatic change, bolstering the Paris Agreement “and setting us on a trajectory to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for at least 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the Secretary-General.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second left), UNFCCC’s Christiana Figueres (left), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), and President François Hollande of France (right), celebrate historic adoption of Paris Agreement. Photo: UNFCCC

There are 13 countries, mostly small island developing States, which are expected to deposit their instruments of ratification immediately after signing the agreement on Friday.

Events tomorrow will begin with an opening ceremony starting at 8:30 a.m., which will include music from students of New York’s Julliard School and a short video bringing the “gavel moment” from Paris to the signature ceremony.

This will be followed by the signature ceremony, which is a legal formality where only Heads of State or Government, foreign ministers, or other representatives with “formal powers” from their Governments may sign the agreement.

After signing the agreement, leaders will deliver their national statements, having been asked by the Secretary-General to, among other things, provide an update on how their Governments will implement their national climate plans and integrate them into their overall sustainable development plans; and indicate their Governments’ timetable for ratifying the Agreement.

In the afternoon, there will be a High-Level Event on Implementation, which will focus on highlighting how all actors of society and economy can accelerate action, learn from one another, and replicate and scale successful initiatives and activities that will deliver the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The session will be moderated by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and French Environment Minister and COP 21 President Ségolène Royal. The session will feature a link-up with the Solar Impulse aircraft that is attempting to be the first airplane to circumnavigate the world using only renewable energy.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change, told reporters that the signing of the Paris Agreement is crucial because achieving progress in relation to climate change is central to the broader effort of achieving the SDGs.

“Most people who looked at the global situation say that if we don’t succeed in maintaining the world under a 2 degrees Celsius rise, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to realize the Sustainable Development Goals,” he warned. “And so implementing the Paris agreement is important for promoting prosperity, improving people’s wellbeing, and protecting the environment.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53749

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With Global Goals agreed, UN focuses on what it will take to achieve sustainability targets by 2030

20 April 2016 – In a watershed moment for international cooperation, global political, business and civil society leaders are headed to New York where they will pledge fast action on the new United Nations sustainable development agenda and the landmark Paris climate agreement, to build on momentum from 2015 to create a better future for people and the planet.

“From a historical perspective, this will be a great day for the United Nations,” Selwin Hart, the Director of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, recently said in reference to this coming Friday, when leaders from more than 160 countries are expected at UN Headquarters to sign the Paris Agreement, adopted last December at the UN climate change conference (COP21).

The event is being preceded on Thursday by a High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 global goals to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. These are the basis of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by UN Member States last September.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change, told reporters that the signing of the Paris Agreement is crucial because achieving progress in relation to climate change is central to the broader effort of achieving the SDGs.

“Most people who looked at the global situation say that if we don’t succeed in maintaining the world under a 2 degrees Celsius rise, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to realize the Sustainable Development Goals,” he warned. “And so implementing the Paris agreement is important for promoting prosperity, improving people’s wellbeing, and protecting the environment.”

The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the Secretary-General.

For the Paris Agreement to go into effect, it must be signed and ratified by at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC which account at least an estimated 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions. Photographer Marko Korosec snapped this image of a tornado funnel in the United States, one of the top emitters that will participate in the 22 April signing ceremony. Photo courtesy of the World Meteorological Organization

What the Paris Agreement means for you depends on where you live. For citizens of Timor-Leste, pictured above, and other small island developing states which are concerned about rising sea levels and rely on environmental resources for survival, ratification of the Agreement is an urgent priority. But the Agreement is vital for all of humanity. UN Photo/Martine Perret

Emissions at a manufacturing complex in Toronto, Canada. The primary aim of the Paris Agreement is to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, and to strive for 1.5°C if possible. According to science, this is the maximum warming that humanity can tolerate before experiencing the most destructive and dangerous effects of climate change. UN Photo/Kibae Park

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed that 2015 was the hottest year on record with temperatures, for the first time ever, about 1°C above the pre-industrial era. In central Haiti, children cooling off in a waterfall in Saut d’Eau. UN Photo/Victoria Hazou

The record temperatures over both land and the ocean surface in 2015 were accompanied by many extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, flooding and severe drought. In South Africa, Alexius Van der Westhuizen photographed this extreme electric storm. Photo courtesy of the World Meteorological Organization

By signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement, Governments agree to work together so that climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions peak “as soon as possible,” followed by “rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.” Such science includes renewable energy technologies. Pictured, Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Thermo Solar Combined Cycle Power Plant in Morocco. Photo: World Bank/Dana Smillie

Cuts in emissions are to be made as a result of changes in human activity, such as cleaner energy production and more efficient farming, as well as through carbon-absorbing “sinks,” which include forests. Stacked timber in National Tapajos, the only forest in Brazil, with a management program for sustainable production of industrialized timber. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The Paris Agreement also unlocks opportunities for farmers, such as this one in Dacca, Bangladesh. The Agreement aims to curb the impact of climate change, without threatening food production. Safeguarding food security and eradicating hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change, are part of the Preamble of the Paris Agreement. UN Photo/John Isaac

Delivering on these goals will require support and international cooperation– including the scaling up of investments in renewable and clean energy, green bonds, low-emission transport – for nations to build clean, resilient futures. Pictured, the reflection of the United Nations Headquarters building in New York seen from the windshield of an electric car.

A United Nations peacekeeper from Nepal plants a tree in El Fasher, Sudan. The signing of the Paris Agreement on 22 April coincides with International Mother Earth Day. This year’s theme is Trees for the Earth. UN Photo/Albert González Farran


Also speaking at the press conference, Selwin Hart announced that approximately ten countries, mostly Small Island Developing States, will both sign and ratify the document. Turning to key greenhouse gas emitters, the UN official said China and India intend to ratify it in 2016, an announcement recently made in a joint presidential statement.

“So [we are] gathering momentum for an early entrance into force of the Agreement,” he underlined, noting that generating this momentum is one the UN chief’s key objective at the event, followed by wanting to demonstrate that all segments and sectors of society and the “real economy” are mobilizing in support of ambitious action.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the UN entity leading climate negotiations – today highlighted the record number of countries set to sign the Agreement, calling it “a critical juncture in a global effort to ensure lasting hopes for secure and peaceful, human development.”

“More carbon in the atmosphere equals more poverty,” said Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC. “We cannot deliver sustainable development without tackling climate change, and we cannot tackle climate change without addressing the root causes of poverty, inequality and unsustainable development patterns.”

According to UN records, the largest ever number of countries to sign an international agreement in one day was in 1982, when 119 countries signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Paris Agreement is expected to break a record in this respect, and ensure as soon as possible that a massive global transformation can begin towards a sustainable future for people everywhere.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53738

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UN guidelines and with new technologies boost efforts to help curb ‘ghost fishing’

21 April 2016 – International guidelines being developed by a United Nations agency and new technologies are expected to boost efforts to cut down levels of abandoned fish gear, which often continues to carry out the capture process, entangling fish and other marine animals in its nets, a phenomenon known as “ghost fishing.”

What is known as abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear makes up a significant portion of all debris in the oceans, accounting for about one-tenth of all marine litter, translating into hundreds of thousands of tonnes annually.

Growing concern over this problem, coupled with the increasing availability of new technologies, has led the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to begin developing international guidelines on the effective tagging of fishing gear as a way to cut down levels of troublesome sea trash.

Guidelines in the works

Past efforts to develop international guidelines have been largely fragmented. There are few systematic requirements by Governments for ownership marking of gear, and no international regulations, guidelines or common practices exist for marine areas outside of national jurisdictions. But that is starting to change, due to growing concerns of congestion in coastal waters, risks to safe navigation and accidental deaths of marine life.

In early April, an initial set of draft guidelines was discussed during a meeting of experts held at FAO’s Headquarters in Rome. The results will be presented to FAO’s Committee on Fisheries in July for review and direction regarding next steps.

“What we need is a simple and affordable system that permits easy identification of ownership of gear, fishery of origin and position of gear in the water,” said FAO Fishery Industry Officer Petri Suuronen. “The development of internationally recognized standards on marking all fishing gear will help us to better understand the reasons for gear loss and identify appropriate preventive measures.”

New technologies for tracking lost gear

Today, advances in marking technology are offering new possibilities for efficient tracking and recovery of lost gear and are changing the way the problem is being tackled.

“The effective marking of fishing gear in busy multi-user sea areas is key to preventing its loss and protecting marine ecosystems,” Mr. Suuronen said. “Fishers can also benefit from the use of new gear tagging technologies which will allow them to minimize loss of potential catch and expensive equipment, and save time searching for lost gear.”

Coded wire tags (CWTs) are being tested as a potential tool for reducing entanglements of marine mammals, turtles and other large marine animals. The nano-sized, laser-etched CTWs are implanted in fishing ropes with no effect on fishing performance but making them detectable to special sensors.

Satellite buoys with solar power are now commonly used in industrial purse seine operations, providing unlimited range and extra-long operating time. Other sensors, like GPS receivers, can be attached to a radio buoy and used to transmit data.

Acoustic technology, which takes advantage of the sound transmission properties of seawater, also has applications in locating lost gear. Active pingers emit sounds at certain frequencies once in the water, whereas passive sonar reflectors capture and reflect sound energy back to its source.

Lights have long been an integral part of fishing gear markers for the night but today energy-efficient LEDs are being fitted with solar panels, amplifying their effectiveness.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53742

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Fiji: humanitarian work ‘far from over’ two months after storm, UN reports

20 April 2016 – Marking two months since Tropical Cyclone Winston hit Fiji, the United Nations senior humanitarian official in the South Pacific has said that “work is far from over” and that there are significant needs for continued relief efforts.

“As planning begins for longer-term recovery and reconstruction, it is important to emphasize that humanitarian efforts must continue, particularly in locations hit by both the cyclone and subsequent flooding,” said Humanitarian Coordinator Osnat Lubrani.

Urgent needs include the distribution of agricultural supplies, construction of shelter and toilets, mosquito control and surveillance measures to stop the spread of disease, and the provision of psychosocial support, she said.

The recent flooding has eroded some of the gains made through early humanitarian action with many of the crops re-planted post-Winston now washed away.

“Our work is far from over,” Ms Lubrani said. “There is an acute need for the distribution of more seeds and seedlings to kick-start food production in areas hit by the cyclone and floods. This is vital to reducing the risk of food insecurity over the months ahead.”

Training to help people build back stronger, safer houses is also among the country’s most critical ongoing needs. In addition, there is continued demand for expert support to help the country cope with the psychosocial impacts of this traumatic event, especially among children, she said.

Fiji’s Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management, Inia Seruiratu, noted that emergency food, shelter, water, and medical supplies reached thousands of people in their hour of need.

“It has been an enormous effort but there is still a long road ahead and we will continue to work with the support of our international partners to ensure that no one is left behind,” he said.

The cyclone and a massive storm surge left a path of destruction across Fiji on 20 and 21 February, leaving more than 40 people dead, damaging or destroying more than 31,000 houses and wiping out life-sustaining food crops. Flooding over recent weeks has compounded the suffering of many who are still living without a permanent roof over their heads.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53736

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Milestone events at UN to kick-start action on new sustainability goals, climate pact

20 April 2016 – In a watershed moment for international cooperation, global political, business and civil society leaders are headed to New York where they will pledge fast action on the new United Nations sustainable development agenda and the landmark Paris climate agreement, to build on momentum from 2015 to create a better future for people and the planet.

“From a historical perspective, this will be a great day for the United Nations,” Selwin Hart, the Director of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, recently said in reference to this coming Friday, when leaders from more than 160 countries are expected at UN Headquarters to sign the Paris Agreement, adopted last December at the UN climate change conference (COP21).

The event is being preceded on Thursday by a High Level Thematic Debate on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a set of 17 global goals to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change over the next 15 years. These are the basis of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by UN Member States last September.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, David Nabarro, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change, told reporters that the signing of the Paris Agreement is crucial because achieving progress in relation to climate change is central to the broader effort of achieving the SDGs.

“Most people who looked at the global situation say that if we don’t succeed in maintaining the world under a 2 degrees Celsius rise, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to realize the Sustainable Development Goals,” he warned. “And so implementing the Paris agreement is important for promoting prosperity, improving people’s wellbeing, and protecting the environment.”

The universal agreement’s main aim is to keep a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The agreement will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the Secretary-General.

For the Paris Agreement to go into effect, it must be signed and ratified by at least 55 Parties to the UNFCCC which account at least an estimated 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions. Photographer Marko Korosec snapped this image of a tornado funnel in the United States, one of the top emitters that will participate in the 22 April signing ceremony. Photo courtesy of the World Meteorological Organization

What the Paris Agreement means for you depends on where you live. For citizens of Timor-Leste, pictured above, and other small island developing states which are concerned about rising sea levels and rely on environmental resources for survival, ratification of the Agreement is an urgent priority. But the Agreement is vital for all of humanity. UN Photo/Martine Perret

Emissions at a manufacturing complex in Toronto, Canada. The primary aim of the Paris Agreement is to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels, and to strive for 1.5°C if possible. According to science, this is the maximum warming that humanity can tolerate before experiencing the most destructive and dangerous effects of climate change. UN Photo/Kibae Park

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirmed that 2015 was the hottest year on record with temperatures, for the first time ever, about 1°C above the pre-industrial era. In central Haiti, children cooling off in a waterfall in Saut d’Eau. UN Photo/Victoria Hazou

The record temperatures over both land and the ocean surface in 2015 were accompanied by many extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, flooding and severe drought. In South Africa, Alexius Van der Westhuizen photographed this extreme electric storm. Photo courtesy of the World Meteorological Organization

By signing and ratifying the Paris Agreement, Governments agree to work together so that climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions peak “as soon as possible,” followed by “rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science.” Such science includes renewable energy technologies. Pictured, Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Thermo Solar Combined Cycle Power Plant in Morocco. Photo: World Bank/Dana Smillie

Cuts in emissions are to be made as a result of changes in human activity, such as cleaner energy production and more efficient farming, as well as through carbon-absorbing “sinks,” which include forests. Stacked timber in National Tapajos, the only forest in Brazil, with a management program for sustainable production of industrialized timber. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The Paris Agreement also unlocks opportunities for farmers, such as this one in Dacca, Bangladesh. The Agreement aims to curb the impact of climate change, without threatening food production. Safeguarding food security and eradicating hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change, are part of the Preamble of the Paris Agreement. UN Photo/John Isaac

Delivering on these goals will require support and international cooperation– including the scaling up of investments in renewable and clean energy, green bonds, low-emission transport – for nations to build clean, resilient futures. Pictured, the reflection of the United Nations Headquarters building in New York seen from the windshield of an electric car.

A United Nations peacekeeper from Nepal plants a tree in El Fasher, Sudan. The signing of the Paris Agreement on 22 April coincides with International Mother Earth Day. This year’s theme is Trees for the Earth. UN Photo/Albert González Farran


Also speaking at the press conference, Selwin Hart announced that approximately ten countries, mostly Small Island Developing States, will both sign and ratify the document. Turning to key greenhouse gas emitters, the UN official said China and India intend to ratify it in 2016, an announcement recently made in a joint presidential statement.

“So [we are] gathering momentum for an early entrance into force of the Agreement,” he underlined, noting that generating this momentum is one the UN chief’s key objective at the event, followed by wanting to demonstrate that all segments and sectors of society and the “real economy” are mobilizing in support of ambitious action.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – the UN entity leading climate negotiations – today highlighted the record number of countries set to sign the Agreement, calling it “a critical juncture in a global effort to ensure lasting hopes for secure and peaceful, human development.”

“More carbon in the atmosphere equals more poverty,” said Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of UNFCCC. “We cannot deliver sustainable development without tackling climate change, and we cannot tackle climate change without addressing the root causes of poverty, inequality and unsustainable development patterns.”

According to UN records, the largest ever number of countries to sign an international agreement in one day was in 1982, when 119 countries signed the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Paris Agreement is expected to break a record in this respect, and ensure as soon as possible that a massive global transformation can begin towards a sustainable future for people everywhere.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53738

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Deadly quakes in Japan and Ecuador spotlight need for rigorous structural safety standards – UN

19 April 2016 – The Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) said today that the deaths in Ecuador and the dozens of victims in Japan spotlighted a basic fact about earthquakes; that buildings, and not the shake itself, claim most lives.

“These earthquakes are a reminder of how important it is that we apply the highest standards possible when building in earthquake zones,” said Robert Glasser, UN Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction. “It is buildings and damaged infrastructure which kill people when an earthquake strikes,” he stressed.

That makes structural safety a matter of life and death in zones such as the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire,’ along which both Ecuador and Japan lie, in addition to the health risks posed by damaged water and sanitation systems and the hurdles that the impact on road networks can cause for relief operations.

Noting that earthquakes and tsunamis are relatively rare natural hazards but account for nearly 750,000 deaths over the last 20 years and significant economic losses, he said that “urbanization within highly seismic zones has accelerated significantly in recent years and it is vitally important that this is done in a way that is earthquake-resistant for future generations.”

Building codes must factor in earthquake risk

The existence – and, crucially, the implementation – of building codes that factor in earthquake risk is a critical factor in such regions, he stressed.

To improve safety even further, it is important to bring existing structures up to scratch, for example by retrofitting historic sites. Last April’s magnitude-7.9 Nepal earthquake, which killed 8,000 people, provided a grim illustration when it toppled the landmark Dharahara tower in Kathmandu.

The death toll in Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude temblor in Ecuador, the country’s strongest in decades, has already climbed to more than 400 lives. Rescue workers are still hunting in the rubble for survivors, and more than 2,600 people are listed as injured.

Damage assessment being undertaken following the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the coast of Ecuador on 16 April 2016. Photo: WFP

The quake destroyed 805 buildings and damaged more than 600 more, including scores of schools, according to data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

“Across Manabi and Esmeralda provinces, the earthquake has damaged or destroyed homes, hospitals, roads and businesses, power lines have been cut,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien.

The collapse of several hotels in the Pacific coast tourist region has also made international headlines.

In Japan, meanwhile, the authorities said that at least 44 people died and 1,000 were injured in the two powerful earthquakes in the southwest of the country: a magnitude 6.4 on Thursday and a magnitude 7.3 on Saturday. They are the biggest since the massive earthquake and tsunami of 2011, which left more than 19,000 people dead or missing.

Case study for strictly-enforced building codes

Japan is a case study for strictly-enforced building codes that prioritise seismic risk reduction and are reviewed regularly in the light of developments in construction technology and early warning. As a result, the regular earthquakes that hit the country usually cause minimal damage.

Ecuador has also been bolstering its own building rules. In January 2015, its Ministry of Urban Development and Housing released new regulations, capping a process that began in 2008 and saw Ecuadorian officials and the construction sector work together with foreign experts to share lessons and best practice.

The issue was given fresh global impetus in March last year when the international community adopted the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a 15-year blueprint for saving lives and livelihoods in the face of natural and man-made hazards.

Besides seeking better seismic safety, the Sendai Framework also calls on countries to avoid construction on land susceptible to liquefaction, landslides and subsidence in the event of an earthquake.

“We need to build better in the first place and not just build back better after the event,” said Mr. Glasser.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53728

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