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On International Tiger Day, UN calls for urgent action against illegal wildlife trade

29 July 2016 – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific today marked International Tiger Day with a call for urgent action to protect tigers and combat illegal trade in wildlife.

With only a few thousand of the species remaining in the wild, mainly in Asia, the UN is reiterating its call for zero tolerance for wildlife crime as part of its 2016 Wild for Life campaign, which aims to mobilize millions of people around the world to take personal action to end the illegal trade in wildlife.

“Today, as we mark the International Tiger Day, the United Nations is calling on everyone to stop wildlife trafficking, through the Wild for Life campaign,” said Isabelle Louis, Acting Regional Director and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

“Everyone has a role to play in stopping the shameful illegal trade in wildlife, be they police, customs officials, lawmakers, community leaders, prosecutors, judges, businesses or citizens. Decisive action against the illegal trade in wildlife is needed to support the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” she added.

Observed annually on 29 July, International Tiger Day – also known as Global Tiger Day – seeks to promote the protection and expansion of wild tiger habitats and to gain support through awareness for tiger conservation. Some 97 per cent of all wild tigers have been lost in just over 100 years. As few as 3,000 tigers live in the wild today, and a number of tiger species have already become extinct.

The biggest threat to the tiger is illegal trade, with the animal’s body parts sought for trophies and medicinal purposes. Their shrinking habitat, human-wildlife conflict and climate change are also growing threats.

The threat posed by illegal trade was highlighted by the discovery of 70 dead tiger cubs, tiger skins, talismans and other wildlife parts in a Buddhist temple in Thailand in June. Wildlife crime undermines national development by diverting billions of dollars of resources to organized international crime cartels, UNEP stressed.

Addressing the trade will require coordinated action, working across source, transit and destination countries, in the most strategic hotspots across the supply chain, the agency said. It added that greater public awareness is essential for bringing pressure on governments to enforce laws and reduce the demand for illegally traded wildlife and wildlife products.

“The commendable action by authorities in Thailand that led to the discovery of the dead tiger cubs showed the need for constant vigilance by wildlife law enforcement authorities to the threat posed by traffickers,” UNEP said.

Launched at the second UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-2) in Nairobi in May, the Wild for Life campaign is run by 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).

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54586

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UN warns of more heatwave deaths as climate change pushes up temperatures

28 July 2016 – Warning of a possible rise in heatwave deaths due to climate change, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) today called for measures to reduce mortality from this natural hazard.

The warning came days after the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) announced that global temperatures for the first six months of this year reached new highs, setting 2016 on track to be the hottest-ever on record, and the temperature hit 54 degrees Celsius in Kuwait last week.

“Millions of people around the world should be receiving heat-related warnings and advisories if we are to avoid a repeat of the thousands of deaths which occurred last year from heatwaves notably in Asia and Europe,” said Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction.

From 2005 to 2014, an average of 25 major heatwaves were recorded each year resulting in an annual average death toll of 7,232. In 2015, the hottest year on record, there were 3,275 reported deaths from heatwaves in France, 2,248 in India, and 1,229 in Pakistan.

“Climate change is amplifying the impact of many extreme weather events including heatwaves,” he added, stressing the need for disaster risk management to focus more on extreme heat to reduce mortality from this particular natural hazard.

He called for greater effort to ensure that the poor and vulnerable including refugees, children, older persons and persons living with disabilities are reached with early warnings, and that they have access to water and adequate shelter and protection from the heat and the sun.

The theme of this year’s International Day for Disaster Reduction on 13 October is reducing mortality.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54576

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With planting season weeks away, millions in drought-hit southern Africa need support &#8211 UN

28 July 2016 – Some 23 million people in southern Africa are in need of urgent support to be able to produce enough food to feed themselves and avoid being dependent on humanitarian assistance until mid-2018, the United Nations agricultural agency has warned.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), if farmers are not able to plant by October, the result will be another reduced harvest early next year, severely affecting food and nutrition security as well as livelihoods in the region.

“The main way people are able to access food is through what they themselves produce. Assisting them to do this will provide lifesaving support in a region where at least 70 percent of people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods,” David Phiri, FAO Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, said in a news release issued by the agency.

“We must make the most of this small window of opportunity and make sure that farmers are ready to plant by October when the rains start,” he added.

To respond to this developing humanitarian situation, FAO aims to ensure that seeds, fertilizers, tools, and other inputs and services, including livestock support, are provided to small-holder farmers, agro-pastoralists and pastoralists to cope with the devastating impact of an El Niño-induced drought in the region.

The agency has estimated that at least $109 million is required to provide this urgently needed support.

The precarious situation has been brought on by the worst drought the region has witnessed in 35 years, with widespread crop failures exacerbating chronic malnutrition. Vulnerable families in rural areas have been hit hardest by the ensuing increase in prices of maize and other staple foods.

Barren fields due to the impact of El Niño-induced drought in the Southern African nation of Lesotho. Photo: FAO

Furthermore, as the impact of El Niño continues to be felt in the region, FAO has projected that almost 40 million people could face food insecurity by the peak of the coming lean season, between January and March 2017, when the effects of the drought are expected to peak.

All countries in southern Africa are affected and more than 640,000 drought-related livestock deaths have been reported in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe alone due to lack of pasture and water as well as outbreak of diseases.

In the news release, FAO urged investments that equip communities with the ability to produce drought-tolerant seed and fodder, along with climate-smart agriculture technologies like conservation agriculture. The aim is to enable rural families to build resilience and prepare for future shocks.

Meanwhile, El Niño’s counter-phenomenon, La Niña, is likely to occur later this year and while it could bring good rains needed for agriculture, the agency noted that measures must be taken to mitigate the risk of floods which could destroy standing crops and threaten livestock. Such measures could include strengthening river banks and stockpiling of short-cycle crop varieties which can be planted after flooding subsides and still yield a decent crop

Separately, concluding a week-long visit to southern Africa, the Deputy UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang called for increased efforts to help mitigate the impact of the La Niña weather phenomenon.

Coordinated regional response

Given the complexity and scale of the crisis, FAO is working closely with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) an inter-governmental organization that is working to promote socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among its fifteen southern African member countries. FAO is also collaborating with other UN agencies, humanitarian partners, regional authorities and national governments.

The agency’s call for more funding comes on the heels of an SADC regional humanitarian appeal, launched in Gaborone on 26 July by the SADC Chairperson and President of Botswana, Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

The SADC appeal put the overall price tag of helping all sectors of the region’s economy recover from the 2016 El Niño at $2.7 billion, of which $2.4 billion is yet to be funded.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54578

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UN deputy aid chief calls for strengthened response to upcoming La Niña weather event

27 July 2016 – Following a week-long visit to southern Africa, the United Nations deputy humanitarian chief has called for increased efforts to help mitigate the impact of the La Niña weather phenomenon occurring towards the end of the year.

“The impact of the current El Niño is felt globally, affecting over 60 million people. Southern Africa is of particular concern as the region is facing its worst drought in 35 years, with an estimated 40 million people facing food insecurity, including some 23 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance,” said Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang at a press conference this afternoon at UN Headquarters in New York.

“The high probability of La Niña phenomenon towards the end of this year is likely to exacerbate the humanitarian situation, as coping capacity in most of these countries have been eroded,” she added.

After attending and co-chairing a 14 July international conference in London on responses to the impacts of El Niño in southern Africa, Ms. Kang visited Malawi and Madagascar from 16 to 22 July to see the situation first-hand.

El Niño is the term used to describe the warming of the central to eastern tropical Pacific that occurs, on average, every three to seven years. It raises sea surface temperatures and impacts weather systems around the globe so that some places receive more rain while others receive none at all, often in a reversal of their usual weather pattern.

El Niño, and its counterpart La Niña, which is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, occur cyclically, in recent years, mainly due to the effects of global climate change. Extreme weather events associated with these phenomena – such as droughts and floods – have increased in frequency and severity.

According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), El Niño-related conditions have compounded existing vulnerabilities, resulting in severe food shortages across southern Africa. Agricultural production has been crippled, and almost half a million drought-related livestock deaths have been reported while water sources and reservoirs are severely depleted.

Besides Malawi and Madagascar, the most severely affected countries include Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

During today’s press conference, Ms. Kang highlighted that at the donor meeting, she urged international donors and other development partners to join the UN in raising the profile of the El Niño crisis facing the region, and the urgency of the response needed.

“This must include more investment in development and more joint humanitarian-development programming,” she said.

She also noted that she was very encouraged by the commitment of donors at the London conference to assist the people worst affected by the humanitarian crisis. Yesterday, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched a regional appeal, covering 13 countries and seeking funding for 10 Member States that have asked for international support.

To complement the appeal, the Regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee – consisting of the UN and non-governmental partners – has prepared a regional plan of action, seeking $1.2 billion to support 12.3 million people across seven countries.

Ms. Kang said that during her mission to Malawi and Madagascar, it was clear that El Niño-related conditions have compounded existing vulnerabilities, resulting in severe food shortages.

In Malawi, nearly 40 per cent of the population – about 6.5 million people – are projected to face a lack of food and inadequate cash to meet basic survival needs at the peak of the lean season in January, which means they will be unable to meet their annual food requirements.

“I spoke to mothers and children affected by malnutrition about the support that they are receiving. I also met with communities receiving help to improve their agricultural production. Despite the challenges, I was glad to see that communities are participating in projects that will help them take their livelihoods into their own hands and build resilience to better mitigate the impact of any future crisis,” Ms. Kang said.

“But this crisis is not only about food insecurity: humanitarian response also needs to also focus on health, water and sanitation, protection, education and other kinds of support,” she added.

In Madagascar, in the Grand Sud region at the southern tip of the island country, the scale of the drought has devastated the coping capacities of communities barely surviving on subsistence farming, Ms. Kang said.

“Hard-won development gains and even minimum coping mechanisms hang in the balance. Chronic poverty resulting from decades of marginalization and lack of development investments has meant that humanitarian assistance has had to fill the gap,” she emphasized.

However, she noted that she was also able to see some positive outcomes from the efforts of UN agencies and their partners.

For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) is piloting a health surveillance application, using funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) as part of its support to the health centre.

In addition, to encourage people to stop the custom of open defecation, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is helping communities to design and build community-led total sanitation toilets, which use local materials and training. About 65,000 of these have so far been built in the region.

She also noted that she met with the political leadership in both countries and discussed ways of strengthening the response to the drought and the need to build the resilience of affected communities to mitigate the recurrent impact on lives and livelihoods.

“I would like to acknowledge the efforts so far of the Governments of Malawi and Madagascar. With the increasing probability of La Niña occurring towards the end of the year we will need to work even harder in the months before the event to help mitigate its impact,” Ms. Kang said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54574

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On first International Day, UNESCO calls for protection of mangrove ecosystems

26 July 2016 – Mangroves are rare and vital ecosystems that help to protect coastlines and mitigate the effects of climate change, but their survival is being jeopardized, the United Nations cultural agency said today, calling for greater preservation efforts as the international community marks the first ever International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem.

“Mangroves are rare, spectacular and prolific ecosystems on the boundary between land and sea. They ensure food security for local communities. They provide biomass, forest products and sustain fisheries. They contribute to the protection of coastlines. They help mitigate the effects of climate change and extreme weather events,” said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in a message to mark the Day.

“This is why the protection of mangrove ecosystems is essential today. Their survival faces serious challenges – from the alarming rise of the sea level and biodiversity that is increasingly endangered. The earth and humanity simply cannot afford to lose these vital ecosystems,” she added.

Mangroves – ecosystems located on the interface of land and sea in tropical regions – can play an important role in reducing vulnerability to natural hazards and increasing resilience to climate change impacts, by acting as a form of natural coastal defense. However, mangroves are disappearing three to five times faster than overall global forest losses, with serious ecological and socio-economic impacts, UNESCO said.

The proclamation of the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem – which was adopted in November 2015 by the General Conference of UNESCO – underlined the importance of the mangrove ecosystem as a “a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem, providing by virtue of their existence, biomass and productivity substantial benefits to human beings, providing forestry, fishery goods and services as well as contributing to the protection of the coastline and being particularly relevant in terms of mitigation of the effects of climate change and food security for local communities.”

UNESCO noted that it has always been on the frontline of promoting new and harmonious relations between humanity and nature, where the preservation of mangrove ecosystems carries “special importance.” To this end, the agency is working with partners on an open initiative on mangroves and sustainable development.

“On this first International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, UNESCO’s message is clear. Taking forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development means forging new sustainable pathways to development in harmony with the earth. This means preserving all mangrove ecosystems,” said Ms. Bokova.

UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves has 86 sites out of 669 that include areas of mangroves. Many are in developing countries and Small Island Developing States – such as La Hotte Biosphere Reserve in Haiti and the island of Principe in Sao Tome and Principe, as well as the Can Gio Mangrove in Viet Nam.

In addition, the UNESCO World Heritage List includes the Sundarbans, the largest unbroken mangrove system in the world, shared between Bangladesh and India and home to the iconic Royal Bengal Tiger.

The UNESCO Global Geoparks Network also has mangrove sites, such as the Langkawi Global Geopark of Malaysia.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54555

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Temperature in Kuwait hits 54 Celsius, sets possible record amid Middle East heatwave &#8211 UN

26 July 2016 – The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a United Nations specialized agency, will set up a committee to examine whether a 54 degrees Celsius temperature recently recorded in Kuwait, has set the new highest temperature for Asia, as well as for the entire Eastern hemisphere.

The region saw unusually high temperatures with Mitrabah, Kuwait, reporting a temperature of 54 degrees Celsius (129.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on 21 July, and the city of Basra in Iraq reporting 53.9 degrees Celcius (128 Fahrenheit) on Friday 22 July. Southern Morocco also saw temperatures of between 43 degrees and 47 degrees Celsius.

“The Kuwait investigation, as with all WMO official investigations, will consist of meteorologists and climatologists,” the agency said in a news release today.

“They will examine the instrumentation used, the quality of observations, the microclimate of the location, the representativeness of the [weather monitoring] station to its surroundings and to its own record,” it added.

Large parts of the Middle East and North Africa have been affected by heatwaves since last week, with temperatures exceeding the seasonal averages by a large margin, and over a sustained period. The conditions have prompted to issue health warnings.

The refugee population in the Middle East has been hard hit by the spiking temperatures. Their fragile situation has been further exacerbating by the high temperatures, said WMO.

According to the World Weather and Climate Extremes official archives, that WMO is responsible for, the hottest temperature ever recorded on the planet was in Furnace Creek, Death Valley, California at 56.7 Celsius on 10 July 1913.

“However, these records are subject to regular review,” noted the agency.

Record widespread warmth

Meanwhile, central and eastern United States have also been affected by widespread heatwave. Temperatures have been recorded in the range of 95-100 degrees (35-38 Celsius), and heat index values reached 110 degrees (43 Celsius), with some areas reaching 115 degrees (46 Celsius), WMO noted referring to figures from the US National Weather Service.

At the heatwave’s peak on July 22, almost 124 million people were under heat-related warnings or advisories. Additionally, high overnight low temperatures, a unique feature of these heatwaves, meant little relief from the oppressive heat and above average temperatures are forecast to continue along much of the eastern US through the middle of the week.

The agency highlighted that the latest heatwaves come as Earth has just witnessed the hottest six month period on record with temperatures shattering even the record levels seen in 2015.

From January to June 2016 was characterized by warmer- to much-warmer-than-average conditions engulfing most of the world’s land and ocean surfaces.

Record warmth was widespread across Alaska, western Canada, southern Mexico, northern South America, central Africa, Indonesia, northern and eastern Australia, North Indian Ocean, and across parts of north-central Russia, western Asia, central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, the southwestern Pacific Ocean, and the north-western Atlantic Ocean.

A number of countries saw new national temperature records, for instance, India saw a new national temperature record of 51°C in its state of Rajasthan in May.

Climate change attribution

“The length, frequency and intensity of heatwaves will likely increase further during this century, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” said the agency. “The science of attribution is making it possible to analyse individual events and assess the role of climate change played, rather than natural variability,” it added

It explained that scientific assessments have found that many extreme events in the 2011 to 2015 period, especially those relating to extreme high temperatures, have had their probabilities substantially increased as a result of anthropogenic climate change – by a factor of 10 or more in some cases.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54559

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In Skype video chat, Ban applauds Solar Impulse pilot on remarkable journey

25 July 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon today hailed the determination and courage of the Solar Impulse team as the aircraft completes its around-the-world, solar-powered journey.

“You may be ending your journey, but the journey to a sustainable world is just beginning,” Mr. Ban said to the pilot of the aircraft, Captain Bertrand Piccard, via Skype, the global, online video conferencing tool.

Solar Impulse, a lightweight aircraft with the wingspan of a Boeing 747, is on a 27,000-mile (about 43,450-kilometre) journey around the world. It is entirely powered by sunlight through 17,000 solar cells built into its carbon fibre wings, with no fuel or polluting emissions. Captain Piccard, who is also a UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Goodwill Ambassador, and André Borschbergare are expected to complete their journey when the planes lands tonight in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, the same city where the historic voyage began more than a year ago.

The Secretary-General further said: “You are helping pilot us to that future through your vision, your determination, your courage, and your inspiration and also your great example.”

Thanking them for spreading the message of sustainability around the world, Mr. Ban added, “Now you have been flying more than 40,000 kilometres without fuel, but I know that you have much energy, much energy.”

The UN chief last met the airplane’s pilots, as well as Solar Impulse’s ground crew in June when the aircraft arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport as part of its worldwide voyage. At that occasion, Mr. Ban also had a quick look, in person, of the aircraft.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s call to Solar Impulse pilots. Credit: UN News Centre

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54549

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UN chief invites leaders to fast-track ratification of Paris climate deal

20 July 2016 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging world leaders to ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change and speed up the process to restrict greenhouse gas emissions.

The Secretary-General invited world leaders to a special event on 21 September to deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

“The next step in our collective journey to a low-carbon, climate-resilient future is to ensure the rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement,” Mr. Ban said of the September event, which will be held as part of the annual high-level General Assembly meeting at UN Headquarters.

“Doing so will create incentives for early implementation of nationally determined contributions and build support within markets and societies for increased climate ambition.”

The Paris Agreement, adopted by 195 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) this past December in Paris, calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future.

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.

Patricia Espinosa, the incoming Executive Secretary of UNFCC called the Agreement “a landmark and a milestone in our common pursuit of a safe and sustainable world.” But noted that “many more milestones need to be added over the months, years and decades to come in order to implement and to realize the full potential of the Paris agreement.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54517

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Trees contribute to reducing carbon footprints even after being cut down &#8211 UN report

20 July 2016 – Trees contribute to reducing carbon footprints even after being cut down – UN report

Forests can contribute greatly to the fight against climate change even after trees have been logged, according to a new United Nations report which looks at the impact of wood products on carbon storage.

“Forests are at the heart of the transition to low-carbon economies, not only because of their double role as sink and source of emissions, but also through the wider use of wood products to displace more fossil fuel intense products,” the Assistant Director-General for Forestry at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), René Castro-Salazar, said from Rome, where she is participating in the UN agency’s World Forest Week.

According to FAO, the report – Forestry for a Low-carbon Future: Integrating forests and wood products in climate change strategies – is aimed at highlighting a “virtuous cycle” that exploits the life-cycle of wood products to boost the ability of forests to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere.

Trees lock carbon in their leaves, branches and soils, while deforestation and forest degradation account for up to 12 per cent of worldwide gas emissions.

Promoting wood as a renewable energy source may seem counter-intuitive, but 1.86 billion cubic metres of wood – more than half the world’s wood output – is already used for that purpose, according to the report.

More directly, when wood is transformed into furniture, floors, doorways or beams to be used in construction, it does not instantly oxidize but continues to store the carbon it took in as a tree.

So the framing in a house might store carbon for up to 100 years, a dining room table less than 30, and paper a few years. The carbon is only released back into the atmosphere when the wood product is burnt or decays.

The report – the end result of collaboration among more than 100 experts – was designed primarily for policy-makers and experts, but is also tailored for architects and the energy industry.

Its guiding message is that optimal engineering of the carbon life-cycle of trees and wood products allows over the long-term – through technological advances and cleaner, greener methods of processing, the industrial use of wood – for sustainably harvested forests to complement and even enhance the climate mitigation benefits provided by conserved forests.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=54518

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