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DPI/NGO: Environmental challenges – a forceful argument for global citizenship

31 May 2016 – While global citizenship means many things to many people, discussions at the sixty-sixth United Nations/Non-Governmental Organizations Conference maintained that cultivating empathy, a scientific appreciation for the natural world and responsibility towards future generations must be at the core of education for global citizenship.

During a roundtable discussion entitled ‘Global Citizens as Stewards of the Planet: Energy, Environment and Climate Change,’ Alexander Leicht, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) section chief of Education for Sustainable Development, saw challenges posed against the environment as a strong argument for global citizenship.

“Political agreements, technological solutions or fiscal incentives are not enough. We need a change of mindsets and actions that only education can bring about,” he said from the dais.

In today’s era of global pollution, natural resource depletion and threats to biodiversity, societies are reassessing the value placed on the natural environment and exploring how formal and informal education, training and grassroots advocacy can strengthen humankind’s capacities to exist on the planet.

Mr. Leicht underscored the importance of understanding the scientific facts of climate change and the economic processes that bring it about. He urged all to “participate in societal and political processes that address climate change, and take steps in the local environment to mitigate it.”

While global education has, for years, been taught in schools under the social sciences, the voices and teachings of indigenous cultures are helping to identify the values and skill sets necessary for sustainable production and consumption to protect all life.

According to Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad, indigenous peoples can impart vital knowledge on protecting the environment. She considered Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, on taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, as the most important of the 17 SDGs , because it serves as the basis for all the others.

“Indigenous peoples have used their knowledge to keep their communities healthy. They have been properly managing natural resources for centuries with ideologies that have been developed over generations,” Ms. Ibrahim pointed out.

She explained that the rules defined by indigenous populations can help. “People must respect Mother Nature first. They must respect the water, respect the trees, respect the animals.”

Indigenous teachings affirm reverence for all relations, the kinship of all life.

“Our elders and we have been observing changes in the planet for a long time – sadly of our own making. We noticed that the glaciers in the Andes were disappearing and that animals in the north were moving to the south because of the changing weather,” said Leonzo Barreno, a Guatemalan Mayan, who moderated the discussion.

Mr. Barreno expressed gratitude that the UN is leading the combat against climate change.

“Now people around the world can see nature as part of themselves. When we indigenous used to say ‘Mother Earth’ or ‘Father Sun’ people would laugh, but for us it was real. This is why so many indigenous people around the world would defend the land with their lives. There was no disconnection between us and the earth, between us and the animals, between us and the lakes and the rivers.”

Youth Ambassador for Native Children’s Survival Ta’Kaiya Blaney shared a similar perspective.

“Having a deep connection of belonging and a kinship with both each other and the land is a founding principle of indigenous ideology,” she said. “This concept is severely lacking in our current society and there are many untold indigenous stories that are crucial in changing the narrative, which can change the mainstream perspective of the truth of this world.”

Ms. Blaney also asserted that indigenous peoples had a valuable part to play in combating climate change, since the majority of corporate industrial operations – most likely to contribute to climate change – were on indigenous territory.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54091

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World Heritage sites at risk from climate change – joint UN report

27 May 2016 – Some 31 natural and cultural World Heritage sites in 29 countries across the world are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, a new report released by the United Nations has found.

The World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate report documents climate impacts including increasing temperatures, melting glaciers, rising seas, intensifying weather events, worsening droughts and longer wildfire seasons, at iconic tourism sites such as Venice, Stonehenge and the Galapagos Islands.

It also covers other World Heritage sites such as South Africa’s Cape Floral Kingdom; the port city of Cartagena, Colombia; and Shiretoko National Park in Japan, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a press release.

“World governments, the private sector and tourists all need to coordinate their efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to protect the world’s most treasured cultural and natural resources from the impact of tourism activities,” said Elisa Tonda, head of UNEP’s Responsible Industry and Value Chains Unit.

“Policies to decouple tourism from natural resource impacts, carbon emissions and environmental harm will engage a responsible private sector and promote change in tourists’ behaviour to realize the sectors’ potential in some of the world’s most visited places,” she added.

In addition to UNEP, the report was prepared by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Because World Heritage sites must have ‘Outstanding Universal Value,’ the report recommends that the World Heritage Committee consider the risk of prospective sites becoming degraded by climate change before they add them to the list.

Pod of female Steller sea lions at the Shiretoko National Park in Japan. Photo: ©UNESCO/Eiichi Kurasawa

In particular, the report highlights the urgent need to identify the World Heritage sites that are most vulnerable to climate change, and to implement policies and provide resources to increase resilience at those sites.

In addition, the report urges increased global efforts to meet the Paris Agreement
climate change pledges in order to preserve World Heritage sites for future generations.

“Globally, we need to better understand, monitor and address climate change threats to World Heritage sites,” said Mechtild Rössler, Director of UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre. “As the report’s findings underscore, achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global temperature rise to a level well below 2 degrees Celsius is vitally important to protecting our World Heritage for current and future generations.”

The report also recommends engaging the tourism sector in efforts to manage and protect vulnerable sites in the face of climate change, and to educate visitors about climate threats.

“Climate change is affecting World Heritage sites across the globe,” said Adam Markham, lead author of the report and Deputy Director of the Climate and Energy Program at UCS.

“Some Easter Island statues are at risk of being lost to the sea because of coastal erosion. Many of the world’s most important coral reefs, including in the islands of New Caledonia in the western Pacific, have suffered unprecedented coral bleaching linked to climate change this year. Climate change could eventually even cause some World Heritage sites to lose their status,” he added.

The report includes a complete list of World Heritage sites that are at risk.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54071

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‘Old habits die hard,’ UN deputy chief tells Environment Assembly, urging action towards sustainability

26 May 2016 – United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson stressed today the need for Member States to redouble efforts at prevention – whether to combat climate change, build resilience or address potential conflict flashpoints before they reach a tipping point.

“The decisions you will take are critical for the well-being of this and future generations,” he said at the opening of the high-level segment of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2).

He said that the cost of crossing critical-level environmental thresholds would far exceed the amount spent to prevent such disasters.

He also said that environmental concerns must be addressed in a much more integrated and horizontal way as they are inextricably connected to economic considerations, to social development, to human rights, to the rule of law and matters of peace and security.

Moving away from fossil fuels will be difficult even though promising alternatives exist. People still think that they must choose between economic growth and environmental protection. “Old habits die hard and old powerful interests do not cede ground willingly,” he said.

“I have mediated in many conflicts. You now have an opportunity to mediate peace with nature, an historic negotiation,” he said.

Held in Nairobi at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UNEA is the world’s most powerful decision-making body on the environment. This year, leaders will seek to pass a raft of resolutions, including those on food waste, the fading health of oceans, the world’s natural capital, and sustainable consumption and production.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner (left) and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya arrive for the opening of the high-level segment of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: UNEP

“We are proud to have seen thousands of actions, people and initiatives congregate here over the years,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. “At Rio+20, Heads of State called for a new era in environmental governance, for a new environment assembly. You are that dream come true.”

More than one thousand delegates from across the world – including business and civil society representatives – are attending attend UNEA-2.

“Over the last two decades, we have seen, across the world, a movement emerge saying that the environment can no longer be a tertiary concern, that building a sustainable future cannot be an afterthought,” said Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Many of the speakers at the opening promised to back the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife and welcomed Kenya’s decision to earlier this month burn over 100 tonnes of poached ivory – the largest burn in history.

Negotiations on draft resolutions will continue until late Friday evening. The resolutions will set the path for much of UNEP’s work for the next few years and provide momentum to early actions on achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54062

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At Security Council, climate change citied among factors impacting stability in Sahel

26 May 2016 – At a meeting today in the United Nations Security Council on the situation in the Sahel region of sub-Saharan Africa, senior UN officials stressed that climate change plays a direct role in the region’s security, development and stability by increasing drought and fuelling conflict.

Speaking via videoconference from Niger, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa and Head of the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), Mohamed Ibn Chambas, said that he had just met President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger as part of a tour of Sahelian countries on the frontline of humanity’s struggle against climate change.

The envoy also noted that Boko Haram had galvanized attention to the effects of climate change. Another regional example of the effects of climate change included the situation of the Niger River, some sections of which had already begun to dry up, he said.

In addition to climate change, the special representative cited the renewed insurgency in the Niger delta, terrorist activities in northern Mali, deadly conflicts over resources, as well as organized crime, trafficking and violent extremism as threats affecting the region.

Mr. Chambas emphasized that while the fight against terrorism in the region was beginning to yield tangible results, more efforts were needed to support the military campaign against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin area.

Noting that the Lake Chad Basin region was home to up to 50 million people – a population expected to double by 2030 – Mr. Chambas also said the region directly provided livelihoods to about 2 million people and supplied nearly 13 million with food.

For its, part, the UN was committed, within the parameters of its mandate, to help the region address its challenges, the special representative stressed, highlighting that cooperation was needed in that regard. Although tackling climate change and insecurity was the primary responsibility of the region’s Governments, their budgets were already stretched, he said.

In addition, he noted that humanitarian needs continued to grow in the Sahel, with some 9.2 million people needing assistance. Only a small percentage of the $535 million requested for humanitarian assistance had been met, the special representative said.

A wide view of the Security Council Chamber as Mohammed Ibn Chambas (shown on screen), Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), addresses via video teleconference. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Also speaking at today’s meeting was Jean-Paul Laborde, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), who emphasized that climate change was an “aggravator” of conflict and violent extremism in the region, in addition to poor governance, economic instability and unemployment.

Mr. Laborde also noted that few organized crime cases had been prosecuted in the region, stressing that although criminal groups and terrorists might have different objectives, they shared common ground in their recruitment techniques and other activities. In addition, he noted that porous borders and corruption also worked alongside climate change to exacerbate the region’s challenges.

He also said that while concerted action by the region’s countries had weakened Boko Haram, it continued to affect the civilian population. Terrorism was also a complex and constantly evolving threat in the region, he stressed, noting that the UN must ensure that perpetrators of terrorism were punished.

For her part, Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) said the opportunity for coherent action in the Sahel “appears to be closing quickly,” as immense challenges press in and the population grows at annual rates of up to four per cent. For the bulk of the population there, “life is already tough and will get tougher,” creating a breeding ground for disillusionment, crime, radicalization and conflict.

With up to 80 per cent of the region’s people eking out a living from the land, climate change and the accompanying land degradation would further destabilize the situation, she said, warning that tensions over land and water shortages could spiral out of control, as they had done in Darfur.

She recalled her visits last April, with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, to two towns in northern Niger that used to be tourist hubs and trading centres but hich are now major transit points for migrants and where people smuggling has become the only viable economic activity. With desperation increasing, it was estimated that close to 60 million people could migrate to North Africa and Europe by 2035, due to the desertification of sub-Saharan Africa, she said.

She went on to say that interventions to improve the situation in rural areas of the Sahel should prioritize employment and income- generating opportunities, adding that they and should also include clearly-defined land- and water-use and access rules as well as equitable land tenure systems. Calling for rapidly accelerated investment in land rehabilitation and sustainable land management, she said that a land-based approach would build resilience of rural communities to climate change, enhance food and water security and help stabilize much of the region.

“We are not claiming it is a silver bullet, but it would definitely be cheaper and more effective than investing in walls, wars and relief,” said Ms. Barbut.

The day’s final briefer, Hindou Omuarou Ibrahim, Coordinator of the Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad, said climate change and desertification have become part of the daily lives of the Sahel’s peoples and are a major cause of instability and insecurity. She said many species of animals and plants have disappeared since she her childhood. Competition over resources was leading to “the survival of for the fittest,” she stressed.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54065

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UN launches campaign to urge &#39smart&#39 transition to sustainable cities

26 May 2016 – Two United Nations entities have launched a global initiative to advocate for public policy that will promote use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as a catalyst for the transition to smart sustainable cities.

The initiative, the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC), will assist the response to Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

Led by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the initiative is open to all UN agencies, municipalities, industry, academia and other relevant stakeholders, and will focus on the integration of ICTs in urban operations and build on existing international standards and key performance indicators.

Many UN bodies have expressed their intention to join the Advisory Board of the U4SSC global initiative.

“ICTs have become central to innovation in almost every sphere of social and economic activity, making collaboration essential in maximizing the contribution of ICTs to sustainable development,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

“We live in a connected world and we see new fascinating markets and products where physical products and services and digital technologies merge and move together,” said ECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach.

“The digital revolution can help us create intelligent transport, smart energy systems, resource efficiency and transparent and open societies. It can help us create sustainable development. However, to achieve this we need trust and predictability, and we need common and neutral standards that can work across borders and technologies,” he added.

The U4SSC was launched at the ITU-ECE Forum on “Shaping smarter and more sustainable cities: striving for sustainable development goals” held in Rome, Italy, 18-19 May.

ITU and ECE presented a set of key performance indicators they have developed to measure the “smartness” and “sustainability” of cities, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Dubai, Singapore, Manizales, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Valencia, Rimini and other selected cities have already agreed to trial these key performance indicators.

The forum concluded with the Rome Declaration, which presents a 10-point manifesto for the transition to smart sustainable cities. The declaration promotes the use of internationally agreed key performance indicators and technical standards in service of sustainable development objectives in the urban context, and highlights the value of inclusive e-governance models and peer-learning among city leaders.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54052

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With busy bees in the lead, ‘pollinator-friendly’ approach vital for healthy agricultural ecosystems – UN

25 May 2016 – As bellwethers for ecosystem health and biodiversity, bees play a crucial role in agriculture and ending hunger, and “pollinator-friendly” approaches are therefore highly encouraged, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“A world without pollinators would be a world without food diversity – and in the long run, without food security,” José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General, said late last week during a visit to Slovenia’s national beekeepers’ festival.

FAO, as well as some 53 countries, has supported Slovenia in the promotion of declaring May 20 as the World Bee Day at the last regional Conference of Europe.

The technical committees of FAO and the FAO Conference in 2017 would be one of the first concrete actions in achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate change, according to Mr. Graziano da Silva.

Honeybees, he noted, are the world’s most famous pollinators, a group of species whose members fly, hop and crawl over flowers to allow plants – including those that account for over a third of global food crop production – to reproduce. Their absence, however, would remove a host of nutritious foods from our diets, including potatoes, strawberries, carrots, apples, almonds, tomatoes and cocoa.

Moreover, ecosystem health and biodiversity also depend on more than 20,000 species of wild bees which have links to specific flowering plants and are more vulnerable to climate change.

“Bees are a sign of well-functioning ecosystems,” said Mr. Graziano da Silva, adding that “to a great extent the decline of pollinators is also a sign of the disruptions that global changes are causing to ecosystems the world over.”

Land-use change, pesticide use, monoculture agriculture and climate change are some facts that have threatened bee populations.

Fostering robust pollinator communities ensures a diversity of environmental homes for them and supports traditional agricultural practices that benefit them, he noted.

“Pollination is one of the most visible ecosystem services that make food production even possible,” said the FAO Director-General.

Improving pollinator density and diversity have direct and positive impact on crop yields. In this regard, the FAO-backed International Pollinators Initiative – knowledge, guidelines and protocols – has been supporting countries in monitoring pollinators and better understand threats, information needs and data gaps since 2000.

Welcoming Slovenia’s leadership in apiculture, Mr. Graziano da Silva also urged all countries to take up “pollinator friendly” approaches towards farming and appreciate the important role of bees and other pollinators, and make their pollinator-friendly choices, he added.

“Without bees, it would be impossible to achieve FAO’s main goal, a world without hunger,” he said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54048

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Amid ‘bad year’ for coral, UN launches tool and report outlining ways to protect threatened reefs

25 May 2016 – At the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) taking place in Nairobi this week, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) was among a group of agencies launching a new tool and report that recommends ways to protect threatened coral reefs.

“Humans have left an indelible mark on the marine environment that has led to almost 20 per cent of coral reefs disappearing. But coral reefs are an invaluable natural asset we can’t afford to lose,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a press release.


“To give them a fighting chance, we need early and effective action on climate change,” he said.

UNEP noted that there has been unprecedented coral bleaching on the northern and central Great Barrier Reef, one of the world’s most iconic reefs and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bleaching in the central Indian Ocean is also severe, in the Maldives, Sri Lanka and in the Lakshadweep islands of India, where up to 100 per cent of corals are bleached in some locations. Many will not survive.

A dataset by UNEP, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center of the United States Geological Survey provides a new tool to prioritize reef management in the face of climate change.

By downscaling climate model projections for coral bleaching conditions, the time when severe bleaching conditions can be expected at a frequency of twice per decade, and when bleaching can be expected annually, has been identified, for all the world’s coral reefs, at a resolution of 4 kilometres, UNEP said.

The new report, Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems: A Lifeboat for Coral Reefs, examines what we know – and don’t know – about submerged reefs, and shows that coral ecosystems that live in low light conditions come to the rescue in some situations.

The report found that bleaching is chief among the threats of climate change to coral reefs. When bleaching occurs frequently, reefs become more vulnerable to erosion and lose their structure, which in turn means that their productivity and provision of ecosystems services diminish.

Brain coral, partly damaged from illegal anchoring, Mu Ko Lanta Marine National Park, Thailand. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Peter Prokosch

This will have wide-ranging impact on coastal dwellers in more than 100 countries, including most small island developing States, affecting in particular people who depend on reefs for income or food, as well as industry sectors developed around reefs, such as tourism, UNEP stressed.

As the global climate heats up, shallow coral reefs will experience increasing levels of catastrophic bleaching and mortality. Even if emission reduction committed to by countries in the Paris Agreement are achieved, more than three quarters of all the world’s reefs will experience bleaching conditions annually within this century, UNEP said.

The agency noted, however, there is a glimmer of hope in the great variation within and among countries.

“Many reefs are projected to experience annual bleaching conditions more than 10 years later than reefs within the same country or territory,” said Ruben van Hooidonk, NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

These “relative refugia” are coral reef conservation priorities, and can be found within 16 of the 20 countries with the greatest reef area in the world, including, for example, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Australia.

“Until now we have not been able to identify such refugia on reefs because the spatial scale of climate models is too coarse. This dataset provides an important resource in prioritizing reef management, including establishment of marine protected areas and reduction of direct human stresses to support ecosystem resilience,” said Mr. van Hooidonk.

Impacts of human and natural disturbances tend to decrease with depth and distance from the coast, making shallow reefs generally more vulnerable than MCEs. Graphic: UNEP

Available through a newly developed coral reef theme on UNEP Live, the data can be freely downloaded and used for management or adaptation planning as well as outreach.

UNEP said that in order to buy coral reefs more time and to support recovery of reefs that have bleached severely, some researchers are looking deeper for answers. They are studying submerged, light-dependent reefs to see if they may serve as lifeboats for nearby, connected shallow reefs that have been damaged by repeated bleaching. Mesophotic coral reefs are one of the few remaining ecosystems on earth to remain largely unexplored.

Coral Reef. Photo: World Bank/Carl Gustav

“While they are deeper and more remote than shallow coral ecosystems, mesophotic reefs are still subject to some of the same effects such as bleaching and habitat destruction,” Mr. Steiner said. “We are just beginning to understand them, but in some locations they may resist the most immediate impacts of climate change, and may be able to help re-seed damaged or destroyed surface reefs and fish populations.”

The report’s main recommendations include to locate where mesophotic reefs exist, with a priority in the equatorial Indo-West Pacific and eastern Atlantic; to increase understanding of how they are connected to shallow reefs in order to understand the extent to which they can be used as a refuge for, or to reseed, shallow reefs; and to raise awareness among managers and policymakers of the importance of their ecosystem service values and encourage measures to protect them.

These tools may support implementation of the proposed UNEA-2 resolution on coral reefs, UNEP said.

“There is truly no time to waste, and UNEA-2 is an opportunity to accelerate action on safeguarding our planet,” said Mr. Steiner.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54039

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UN launches unprecedented #WildforLife campaign to end illegal trade in wildlife

25 May 2016 – The United Nations today launched the #WildforLife campaign against illegal trade in wildlife, warning that such trade is pushing species to the brink of extinction, robbing countries of their natural heritage and profiting international criminal networks.

“Each year, thousands of wild animals are illegally killed, often by organized criminal networks motivated by profit and greed,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a press release.

“I call on all Governments and people everywhere to support the new United Nations campaign, Wild for Life, which aims to mobilize the world to end this destructive trade. Preserving wildlife is crucial for the well-being of people and planet alike,” he added.

The campaign, which was launched today at the second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi, aims to mobilize millions of people to make commitments and take action to end the illegal trade in wildlife.

The campaign is run by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The initiative is being backed by celebrities from across the globe, including UNEP Goodwill Ambassadors. These include Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, who is fighting for sea turtles; four-time African Footballer of the Year Yaya Touré (Manchester City, Côte d’Ivoire), who is backing elephants; and actor Ian Somerhalder (Vampire Diaries, Lost), who is rooting for pangolins.

They are being joined by major celebrities from China, India, Indonesia, Lebanon and Viet Nam battling to conserve species such as orangutans, tigers, rhinos and helmeted hornbills, and calling for citizen support to end the demand that is driving the illegal trade, the agencies said.

“It saddens me that in the 21st century, with all our knowledge and power, we are still hearing stories of wildlife facing the possibility of extinction at the hands of man,” said Ms. Bündchen.

“Knowledge is power and now is the time to set our minds to ending all illegal wildlife trade before the choice is no longer in our hands. Today, I am giving my name to change the game for sea turtles,” she added.

Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa. Three rhinos are killed every day, and the western black rhino has already become extinct. Pangolins – scaly anteaters – are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world. Great apes are already locally extinct in several African nations, the agencies stressed.

Between 2010 and 2012, 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in Africa. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Peter Prokosch

The campaign asks participants to find their kindred species and use their own spheres of influence to end the illegal trade, however it touches or impacts them.

Profits from the illegal wildlife trade sometimes go into the pockets of international criminal networks, threatening peace and security, and damaging the livelihoods of local communities who depend on tourism.

Stopping this trade is also crucial to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as it threatens countries’ biodiversity and people’s livelihoods, and disturbs peace. (SDG 15) in particular calls for the protection of wild fauna and flora, as well as the ecosystems that they depend on – including targets on combatting and addressing the supply and demand of illegal wildlife products, the agencies said.

Politicians, celebrities and business leaders will be making pledges during UNEA-2 and in the run-up to World Environment Day, which is observed on 5 June and whose theme this year is “Go Wild For Life” to tie in with the campaign. Angola, the global host of this year’s Day, will be making significant pledges to tackle the illegal ivory trade at the event.

John Kay, the lead singer of Steppenwolf, a Canadian-American rock group, donated the use of the group’s iconic 1968 hit song Born to Be Wild to the campaign.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54043

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Sri Lanka: Deadly tropical storm displaces more than 230,000, UN relief wing reports

24 May 2016 – The United Nations humanitarian wing has reported that at least 84 people have died, another 116 are missing, and more than 230,000 are displaced following a severe tropical storm this past week that caused widespread flooding and landslides in 22 districts of Sri Lanka.

On 15 May, Sri Lanka was hit by Tropical Storm Roanu, which caused widespread flooding and landslides, destroying homes and submerging entire villages. In addition, a landslide struck Aranayake, Kegalle district, on 17 May, followed by a second landslide in the same area four days later.

In a situation report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that as of 22 May, some 237,240 people are displaced from their homes and living in 376 ‘safe locations’, including camps, schools, temples, with host families and in other temporary accommodations.

At least 503 houses are reported to have been destroyed, with a further 3,793 partially damaged, although the extent of damage is likely to be higher, OCHA said.

The majority of the displaced people are in Colombo and Gampaha districts, in the south-west of the country, where floodwaters still remain high. Landslide warnings remain in place in nine areas of the country.

As a result of heavy rains, several major reservoirs overflowed and flood gates were fully opened to avoid a dam breach, causing flooding downstream. Areas downstream of two large rivers to the north and south of the capital city, Colombo – the Kelani River and the Kalu River – remain flooded, with the possibility of further floodwaters flowing from upstream areas should heavy rains persist, OCHA said.

It is expected to take several days for floodwaters to recede and, in some areas, water levels remain as high as the roofs of people’s houses, with access only possible by boat or by air.

“Many of the affected population, particularly in the rural areas, were already amongst the most vulnerable in the country and have now lost everything, including their homes, possessions, agricultural land and means of making a living,” the report said.

In the urban areas of the affected districts, there are growing health concerns related to the quantity of so much standing water in highly populated areas and the destruction of much of the water and sanitation infrastructure, which could lead to serious public health issues, according to OCHA.

While Tropical Storm Roanu has now passed over Sri Lanka, the Department of Meteorology predicts more rain over the island in the coming days as normal south-west monsoonal rains settle in. This could cause additional flooding and landslides in many of the same areas that are still waterlogged, with those who have lost their homes and who are living in temporary shelters the most vulnerable to the potential impacts, OCHA stressed.

The Government of Sri Lanka is leading the response to the floods, and UN agencies and non-governmental organizations are providing assistance. Priority needs are for water, sanitation and hygiene; health; shelter; and food assistance, OCHA said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54024

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UN report paints mixed picture of global responses to declining air quality

24 May 2016 – Noting that from 2008 to 2013, air pollution levels in urban areas increased by eight per cent, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) spotlights the need to support introduction of more renewable energies and clean cook stoves, some of the vital actions aimed at combating this public health emergency.

Air pollution kills seven million people each year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), with more than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits.

Actions on Air Quality, released today at the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) under way in Nairobi, Kenya, found that there is a growing momentum for change, such as improved access to cleaner cooking fuels and stoves, renewables, fuel sulphur content and public transport.

However, action in other areas is less impressive and will not halt the increase in air pollution that is threatening to claim many more lives, the report warned.

“The current global response to pervasive poor air quality is inadequate,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Despite this lack of a holistic response, numerous countries and regions are coming up with effective – and cost-effective – measures to improve air quality. The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity to replicate those best practices globally, and bring about cleaner air, and social and economic benefits worldwide.”

While policies and standards on clean fuels and vehicles could reduce emissions by 90 per cent, only 29 per cent of countries worldwide have adopted ‘Euro 4’ vehicles emissions standards or above. Meanwhile, less than 20 per cent of countries regulate open waste burning, which is a leading cause of air pollution.

On the positive side, 97 countries have increased the percentage of households that have access to cleaner burning fuels to more than 85 per cent – a key move to tackle indoor air pollution, which claims over half of the seven million lives.

Indoor airpolution. Graph: UNEP

At least 82 countries out of 193 analysed have incentives that promote investment in renewable energy production, cleaner production, energy efficiency and/or pollution control equipment. Last year, for the first time, renewables accounted for a majority of the new electricity-generating capacity added around the world, at an investment of $286 billion, according to research by UNEP, Bloomberg and the Frankfurt School.

A Review of Air Pollution Control in Beijing: 1998-2013, which was also released today, analyzed measures implemented since Beijing began launching air pollution control programmes, which saw a steady downward trend in the concentrations of many harmful pollutants.

“Even though the air pollution control programmes in Beijing have made substantial progress, the environment quality is far from satisfactory,” said Chen Tian, Director General of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau. “We will continue to explore approaches that could work effectively for improving the environment in this region.”

Air Quality Laws/ Regulations. Graph: UNEP

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54026

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UN Environment Assembly opens in Nairobi aiming to ensure ‘healthy planet, with healthy people’

23 May 2016 – Hundreds of key global decision-makers are gathering in Kenya today for the second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA-2
), aiming to tackle some of the most critical issues facing our planet, from the air pollution that kills millions of people every year to an illegal trade in wildlife that is pushing species to the brink of extinction.

Held at the headquarters of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, UNEA is the world’s most powerful decision-making body on the environment. This year, leaders will seek to pass a raft of resolutions, including those on food waste, the fading health of oceans, the world’s natural capital, and sustainable consumption and production.

Addressing the opening session, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner noted that since the first UNEA held in 2014, “the environment has shifted from the margins of attention to the centre of global decision making.”

“It now runs through the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreementon climate change, establishing UNEA as the ‘World Parliament for the Environment,’ he said, stressing that UNEA is the only platform outside of the UN General Assembly to have universal representation.

UNEA also works with stakeholders and experts from the financial, legislative and scientific communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector and provides an interface between science, policy and action.

Mr. Steiner urged participants to focus on action and use this first global decision-making platform since the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement to review and accelerate progress.

He said UNEA-2, which will continue through 27 May, will feature a three-day Sustainable Innovation Symposium to garner private sector engagement, the launch of a new global campaign to end the illegal trade in wildlife, and the mid-term review of the Montevideo Programme on Environmental Law.

He urged UNEA to show “we can move fast enough and hard enough to create a healthy planet, with healthy people, which leaves no one behind – which means less talk, more action.”

Environmental impacts are responsible for the deaths of more than one quarter of all children under the age of five

A series of ground-breaking UNEP reports will also be released during UNEA-2. Published today, Healthy Environment, Healthy People warns that environmental impacts are responsible for the deaths of more than one quarter of all children under the age of five, the report states.

The report – compiled by UNEP, the World Health Organization (WHO), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer, and the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions – estimates that environmental degradation and pollution cause up to 234 times as many premature deaths as occur in conflicts annually, highlighting the importance of a healthy environment to achieving the 2030 Agenda.

The report finds that in 2012, an estimated 12.6 million deaths were attributable to deteriorating environment conditions, or 23 per cent of the total.

Climate change is exacerbating the scale and intensity of environment-related health risks. Estimates from the WHO indicate that 250,000 additional deaths could occur each year between 2030 and 2050, mostly from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress, as a result of climate change.

Mr. Steiner said, “By depleting the ecological infrastructure of our planet and increasing our pollution footprint, we incur an ever-growing cost in terms of human health and well-being. From air pollution and chemical exposure to the mining of our natural resource base, we have compromised our life support systems.

Other reports include Marine Plastic Debris and Microplastics: Global Lessons and Research to Inspire Action and Guide Policy Change, which found that between 4.8-12.7 million tonnes of global plastic production ended up in the ocean as a result of inadequate solid waste management in 2014.

Gender and Plastic Management looked at the differing roles of men and women in plastic use and consumption, identifying women in wealthy regions as important stakeholders in reducing plastics in basic consumer goods.

2016 Global Report on the Status of Legal Limits on Lead in Paint found that efforts to tackle lead in paint are advancing. As of early 2016, 70 of 196 countries worldwide, or 36 per cent, had established legally binding limits on lead in paint.

UNEP Frontiers found that there has been a worldwide increase in emerging zoonotic diseases, outbreaks of epidemic zoonoses, a rise in foodborne zoonoses and a troubling persistence of neglected zoonotic diseases in poor countries.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54014

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On International Day, UN highlights biodiversity&#39s role in underpinning development

22 May 2016 – Biodiversity and the ecosystem services it supports are the foundations for life on Earth and the livelihoods and well-being of people everywhere, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today on the International Day for Biological Diversity, as he urged the international community to preserve and sustainably manage the variety of life on the planet.

“Protecting biodiversity and preventing further losses is an essential investment in our collective future,” Mr. Ban said in his message marking the Day.

“On this International Day for Biodiversity, I urge all Governments and stakeholders to preserve and sustainably manage the variety of life on Earth for the benefit of current and future generations,” he added.

The Day is marked around the world every year on 22 May. This year’s theme is ‘Mainstreaming Biodiversity; Sustaining People and their Livelihoods.’

In his message, the Secretary-General highlighted that biodiversity is an important cross-cutting issue in the message marking the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In addition, he noted that Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 explicitly recognizes the importance of halting biodiversity loss, and other SDGs recognize the importance of biological diversity for eradicating poverty, providing food and fresh water, and improving life in cities.

“It is critical that we make progress in mainstreaming biodiversity and transforming how societies value and manage it,” the UN chief said.

Mr. Ban noted that despite numerous commitments, biodiversity loss continues to accelerate in all regions. Only 15 per cent of countries are on track to achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by the agreed-upon date of 2020.

In addition, he said that the anticipated expansion of sectors that both depend on and affect biodiversity – including agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture – will pose a significant challenge to halting biodiversity loss in the coming decades.

Reversing these trends will require action by all sectors and stakeholders, from UN Member States and agencies to civil society, academia and business, the Secretary-General said.

“We need better research, and we need to act on the evidence that biodiversity is integral to achieving social and economic goals,” he stressed.

Mr. Ban also emphasized that the responsible use of natural resources is essential to sustainable development, as mainstreaming biodiversity will ensure that addressing development needs and protecting the environment are mutually supportive.

“Preserving biological diversity is a vital part of our compact with each other and the planet that nurtures us,” the Secretary-General concluded.

In his message on the Day, Achim Steiner, Executive director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said that while marvel at iconic species in other parts of the world and on our digital screens, such as elephants, tigers and pandas, many of us are much less familiar with the sheer magnitude of diversity of plants and animals on this planet or the habitats that support them.

“Awareness about our current global challenge of biodiversity loss is also low – a challenge that will expand along with the sectors affecting biodiversity, such as agriculture or forestry,” he said, stressing at the same time, that biodiversity provides us with the ecosystem services that are our

foundations for life, everywhere on this planet, from fishermen depending on coastal waters, to farmers depending on crops, to tropical communities depending on forests.

“We need to better integrate biodiversity into how we think and into everything that we do. And we all need to do more to prevent its loss,” the UNEP chief said, echoing the theme of this year’s Day.

In another message on the Day, the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Braulio F. de Souza Dias, stressed that addressing the indirect and direct drivers of biodiversity loss requires a focus on primary sectors, such as agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture.

“These sectors both impact biodiversity and are dependent on biodiversity,” he said. “The demand for the goods and services produced by these sectors is projected to increase over the coming decades as a result of population growth, increasing average wealth, and other demographic changes.”

He noted, for example, that demand for food, wood, water and energy is projected to increase 1.5 to two times by 2050 due to increasing population and average wealth, with a concomitant and negative effect on biodiversity.

Therefore, mainstreaming biodiversity considerations across these sectors is essential in ensuring

not only the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity but also the continued vitality of

these sectors, he said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54008

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