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Almost one in seven children breathing heavily toxic air &#8211 UNICEF report

31 October 2016 – About 300 million children in the world are living in areas with outdoor air so toxic – six or more times higher than international pollution guidelines – that it can cause serious health damage, including harming their developing brains, a new United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report has revealed.

“Pollutants don’t only harm children’s developing lungs – they can actually cross the blood-brain barrier and permanently damage their developing brains – and, thus, their futures,” said UNICEF’s Executive Director Anthony Lake in a news release today announcing the agency’s new report ‘Clear the air for children.’

“Air pollution is a major contributing factor in the deaths of around 600,000 children under five every year – and it threatens the lives and futures of millions more every day,” he added. “No society can afford to ignore air pollution.”

These findings come a week ahead of the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP 22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Marrakesh, Morocco, where UNICEF is calling on world leaders to take urgent action to cut air pollution in their countries.

Using satellite imagery, the report further shows that around two billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution, caused by factors such as vehicle emissions, heavy use of fossil fuels, dust and burning of waste, exceeds minimum air quality guidelines set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

South Asia has the largest number of children living in these areas, at 620 million, with Africa following with 520 million children, and the East Asia and Pacific region with 450 million children living in areas that exceed guideline limits.

Around 2 billion children live in areas where outdoor air pollution exceeds international limits. Source: UNICEF

Children more susceptible to air pollution than adults

In the news release, UNICEF further stressed that children are more susceptible than adults to both indoor and outdoor air pollution as their lungs, brains and immune systems are still developing and their respiratory tracks are more permeable.

It added that young children also breathe faster than adults, and take in more air relative to their body weight.

In particular, the most disadvantaged, who already tend to have poorer health and inadequate access to health services, are the most vulnerable to the illnesses caused by polluted air.

The UNICEF report also examines the impact of indoor pollution, commonly caused by the use of fuels like coal and wood for cooking and heating, which mostly affects children in low-income, rural areas.

“Together, outdoor and indoor air pollution are directly linked to pneumonia and other respiratory diseases that account for almost one in 10 under-five deaths, making air pollution one of the leading dangers to children’s health,” noted the news release.

UNICEF further added that it is asking world leaders attending COP 22 to take four urgent steps in their countries to protect children from air pollution, these include: reducing pollution to meet WHO global air quality guidelines; increasing children’s access to healthcare; minimizing children’s exposure to sources of pollution such as by locating sources of pollution such as factories away from schools and playgrounds as well as by use of cleaner cookstoves; and monitoring air pollution.

Underscoring that children are protected when the quality of the air that everyone breathes is protected, UNICEF’s Executive Director Lake added: “Both are central to our future.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55439

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Ban welcomes steps by UN maritime agency to limit carbon emissions from international shipping

28 October 2016 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki moon has welcomed the steps agreed upon today by the members of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

According to a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson, the steps include: efforts to limit sulphur emissions; a mandatory data system for fuel consumption; strengthened implementation of energy-efficiency regulations; and a road map for developing by 2023 a comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

“Welcoming these important steps, the Secretary-General calls for urgent and ambitious action to limit the greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping [which] are projected to rise significantly given the critical role that shipping plays in the global economy,” said the statement.

Further to the statement, Mr. Ban called on IMO members, in partnership with the maritime industry, to promote further progress on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships to contribute to the objective of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which enters into force on 4 November 2016.

For its part, the IMO, which, as a specialized UN agency, is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping, called the new mandatory requirements important milestone on the road to controlling greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping.

The requirements were adopted by the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, (MEPC) meeting in London for its 70th session (24-28 October). IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said the new requirements sent a clear signal that IMO was ready to build on the existing technical and operational measures for ship energy efficiency.

“The data collection system will equip IMO with concrete data to help it make the right decisions, as well as enhancing its credentials as the best placed and competent forum for regulating international shipping,” Mr Lim said.

According to IMO, the new mandatory data collection system is intended to be the first in a three-step approach in which analysis of the data collected would provide the basis for an objective, transparent and inclusive policy debate in the MEPC.

This would allow a decision to be made on whether any further measures are needed to enhance energy efficiency and address greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping. If so, proposed policy options would then be considered.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55434

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Landmark accord agreed on world&#39s largest marine sanctuary for Antarctica&#39s Ross Sea &#8211 UN

28 October 2016 – The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) welcomed a unanimous decision today from the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to create the world’s largest protected area – land or marine – in the Antarctic’s Ross Sea.

“We are thrilled that this very special part of our planet’s oceans has been safeguarded for future generations,” said Executive Director of UN Environment Erik Solheim in a press release.

The area was declared a Marine Protected Area after five years of negotiations and “Speedo diplomacy” from endurance swimmer and UNEP’s Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh.

“We are especially proud of our Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh, who shuttled between the nations to help find consensus. Today’s result is a testament to his determined efforts,” added Mr. Solheim.

Mr. Pugh, an ocean advocate, maritime lawyer, and endurance swimmer said he was “overjoyed.” He was the first person to complete a long-distance swim in every ocean of the world, and he regularly swims in different ecosystems in order to draw attention to environmental concerns.

“The Ross Sea is one of the most magnificent places on Earth. It is one of our last great wilderness areas. This is a dream come true,” he added.

Lewis Pugh swimming in the Ross Sea, in 2015. Photo: UNEP

The Ross Sea is considered to be the last great wilderness area in the world and is known as the polar ‘Garden of Eden.’ It is 1.57 million kilometres in area – larger than the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy together – and will be protected from industrial fishing, which has had devastating effects on seas elsewhere around the world.

According to David Ainley, the American scientist who was the first to call for a marine protected area 14 years ago, “The Ross Sea is one of the most pristine marine ecosystems left on Earth, and home to many species found nowhere else.”

“The data collected from this ‘living laboratory’ helps us understand the significant changes taking place on Earth right now. The Ross Sea has much more value as an intact marine ecosystem than as a fishing ground,” he added.

The Ross Sea is home to 50 per cent of ecotype-C killer whales (the Ross Sea orca), 40 per cent of Adélie penguins, and 25 per cent of emperor penguins.

Mr. Pugh’s efforts as UNEP’s Patron of the Oceans and an ocean advocate have involved a series of swims in the Ross Sea in order to raise awareness about the need for conservation. He also visited Moscow in February 2015 in order to convince Russian officials to endorse the protected area. Previously, Russia had blocked the proposal five times. The media referred to Mr. Pugh’s work as “Speedo diplomacy” because of his ability to survive Antarctic waters with nothing more than a pair of swimming trunks.

“Today’s announcement marks an important moment in the history of conservation,” remarked Mr. Pugh. “The High Seas represent 45 per cent of the Earth’s surface. But they are largely unprotected and are facing rampant overfishing. This is a crucial first step in what I hope will be a series of marine protected areas around Antarctica, and in other parts of the High Seas around the world.”

He celebrated the fact that Russia, the United States, the European Union, and other CCAMLR nations were able to reach such an agreement during a period of strained political relations.

“In 1959 at the height of the Cold War,” he said, “Antarctica was set aside as a place for peace and science. Today’s announcement shows that Antarctica continues to be a place for peace and bridge building, a place where we can find common ground. My hope is that what has been achieved here can be used to foster dialogue and cooperation in other parts of the world.”

According to the Commission, Marine Protected Areas aim to provide protection to marine species, biodiversity, habitat, foraging and nursery areas, as well as to preserve historical and cultural sites. MPAs can assist in rebuilding fish stocks, supporting ecosystem processes, monitoring ecosystem change and sustaining biological diversity.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55421

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ISIL’s ‘scorched earth policy’ creating environmental and health havoc in Mosul, warns UN

27 October 2016 – Environmental pollution is adding “complexity and danger” to the humanitarian crisis sparked by the military offensive in Mosul, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today, warning that fumes from burning stockpiles of sulphur dioxide, and oil wells that have been set ablaze, have led to further suffering for civilians in northern Iraq.

Some civilians are experiencing near-suffocation and respiratory illnesses due to what UNEP calls the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) “scorched earth policy” as they retreat from the Iraqi city.

Armed groups set 19 oil wells on fire near Al Qayyarah, a town just southeast of Mosul. As a result, citizens and armed forces have been exposed to toxic fumes. The burning crude oil is releasing a wide range of pollutants, including soot and gases that cause skin irritation and shortness of breath.

Together with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), UNEP connected responders and hazardous materials experts, who provided technical assistance in dealing with the fire.

On 23 October, a chlorine gas leak originated from a water plant affected by the fighting, for which some 100 civilians sought medical treatment.

And, last week, a toxic cloud plume spread for dozens of kilometres after stockpiles of sulphur dioxide stored at the Mishraq Sulphate Factory caught fire. The Directorate of Health, with the support of the World Health Organization (WHO), treated more than 1,000 cases of suffocation in Qayyarah, Ijhala, and Makhmour.

A young internally displaced Iraqi girl stands on a dusty path at the edge of Debaga camp, near Mosul in northern Iraq. Smoke from oil fires can be seen in the background. Photo: UNHCR/Ivor Prickett

“This is sadly just the latest episode in what has been the wholesale destruction of Iraq’s environment over several decades – from draining of the marshlands to the contamination of land and the collapse of environmental management systems,” said UN Environment chief Erik Solheim in a press release.

UNEP is working closely with partners in Iraq such as OCHA, WHO, the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and the UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) to respond to the urgency of environmental damage from armed conflict. UNOSAT has provided support in mapping smoke plumes during the offensive, which can help minimize harmful impacts of chemical hazards during the humanitarian response.

But Mr. Solheim warned that “this ongoing ecocide is a recipe for a prolonged disaster. It makes living conditions dangerous and miserable, if not impossible. It will push countless people to join the unprecedented global refugee population. That’s why the environment needs to be placed at the centre of crisis response, conflict prevention, and conflict resolution.”

In all this, UNEP recalls that UN General Assembly’s 1992 resolution on ‘Protection of the environment in times of armed conflict’ (A/RES/47/37) urges States to take all measures to ensure compliance with existing international law to protect the environment during armed conflict.

Additional resolutions holding Member States accountable are the text that declared International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict (6 November) and the recent resolution adopted by the Environment Assembly, ‘Protection of the environment in areas affected by armed conflict’, which emphasizes UNEP’s role in supporting Member States throughout these challenges.

UNEP will continue to address the environmental health impacts that are part of humanitarian action and crisis responses during the 2017 Environment and Emergencies Forum to take place in Nairobi next June.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55411

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El Niño drives concentration of C02 in atmosphere to new high – UN weather agency

24 October 2016 – Globally averaged concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surged again to new records in 2016, and, based on readings of the longest-established greenhouse gas monitoring station at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, the United Nations weather agency predicts that carbon dioxide concentrations will not dip below pre-2015 levels for many generations.

“The year 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action with the Paris climate change agreement. But it will also make history as marking a new era of climate change reality with record high greenhouse gas concentrations,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Mr. Taalas says that ‘without tackling carbon dioxide emissions, we cannot tackle climate change and keep temperature increases to below 2 degrees Celcius above the pre-industrial era. “It is therefore of the utmost importance that the Paris Agreement does indeed enter into force well ahead of schedule on 4 November and that we fast-track its implementation,” he added.

The weather agency had warned earlier this year that the Earth is already one degree Celsius hotter than at the start of the 20th century, halfway to the critical two-degree threshold, and national climate change plans adopted so far may not be enough to avoid a three-degree temperature rise.

CO2 levels had previously reached the 400 parts per million barrier for certain months of the year and in certain locations but never before on a global average basis for the entire year.

The growth spurt in carbon dioxide was fuelled by the El Niño event, which started in 2015 and had a strong impact well into 2016. This triggered droughts in tropical regions and reduced the capacity of “sinks” like forests, vegetation and the oceans to absorb CO2. These sinks currently absorb about half of CO2 emissions but there is a risk that they may become saturated, which would increase the fraction of emitted carbon dioxide which stays in the atmosphere, according to the Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

Between 1990 and 2015 there was a 37 per cent increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of long-lived greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (N2O) from industrial, agricultural and domestic activities.

“The 400 parts per million threshold is of great symbolic importance,” said the previous WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud in 2014. “It should serve as yet another wakeup call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change and acidifying our oceans,” he said.

For thousands of year’s carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing the earth to warm further. The lifespan of carbon dioxide in the oceans is even longer. It is also the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. According to the WMO it is responsible for 85 per cent of the warming effect on our climate over the past decade.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second from left) in discussion with Petteri Talaas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), at the WMO Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas.

Post-Paris climate action

“The recent agreement in Kigali to amend the so-called Montreal Protocol and phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) used in air conditioners and refrigerators, which act as strong greenhouse gases, is good news. WMO salutes the commitment of the international community to meaningful climate action,” said Mr Taalas.

The landmark deal to reduce the emissions of potent chemicals, signed by nearly 200 countries, was hailed by The UN Environment Programme as the single largest contribution the world has made towards keeping the global temperature rise “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.

The deal to curb HFCs comes amid a flurry of climate-related action, as a couple of weeks ago, two key events occurred: Member States of the UN civil aviation agency, known as ICAO, agreed on a new standard to control global greenhouse gas emissions from international airline flights; and the Paris Agreement on climate change cleared the final threshold of 55 countries representing 55 per cent of global emissions required for the accord to enter into effect, now set for early November.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55387

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Protecting people and planet from ‘invisible killer’ is focus of UN health campaign to tackle air pollution

20 October 2016 – The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the Coalition for Climate and Clean Air (CCAC) and the Government of Norway has launched a global awareness campaign on the dangers of air pollution – especially ‘invisible killers’ such as black carbon, ground-level ozone and methane – for the health of individuals and the planet.

Titled BreatheLife: Clean air. A healthy future, the campaign aims to mobilize cities and their inhabitants on issues of health and protecting the planet from the effects of air pollution. Moreover, By WHO and CCAC joining forces, ‘BreatheLife’ brings together expertise and partners that can tackle both the climate and health impacts of air pollution.

According to WHO, air pollution kills nearly seven million people each year, nearly 12 per cent of deaths worldwide. It is responsible for 35 per cent of deaths due to lung disease, 27 per cent of deaths from heart disease, 34 per cent of deaths from stroke, and 36 per cent of deaths from lung cancer.

Urban air pollution levels also tend to be higher in many low and middle-income cities and in poor neighbourhoods of high-income cities. This means reductions in pollutants can have particularly large health benefits for lower income groups as well as for children, elderly, and women, the agency explains.

The campaign seeks to cut in half the number of deaths from air pollution by 2030 – the target year for the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015.

‘Breathe Life’ highlights the practical policies that cities can implement to improve the air quality through better housing, transport infrastructure, managements of waste and energy systems. It also educates individuals and communities about the measures they can take daily to achieve cleaner air, such as stopping the incineration of waste, development of green spaces and the choice of walking or cycling.

Nine in ten people breathe air that is not safe. Air pollution is an invisible killer that we may face on a simple walk home or even in our homes.

Improved vehicle standards, prioritization of clean public transport, and the adoption of stoves and more efficient alternative fuel for cooking, lighting and heating are also part of the actions put forward by the campaign the goal of saving more lives and protect the environment.

For WHO and its partners, this series of measures to achieve a reduction of pollutants could significantly reduce the number of annual deaths from air pollution.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55356

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HABITAT III: UN conference agrees new urban development agenda creating sustainable, equitable cities for all

20 October 2016 – A major conference on the future of the world’s cities and towns, known as Habitat III, has wrapped up in Quito, Ecuador, with delegations adopting a new framework that will set the world on a course towards sustainable urban development by rethinking how cities are planned, managed and inhabited.

“We have analyzed and discussed the challenges that our cities are facing and have [agreed] on a common roadmap for the 20 years to come,” Joan Clos, the Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), told the closing plenary of the conference, which has drawn around 36,000 people from 167 different countries to the lush equatorial capital of Quito for the past six days.

He said that the action-oriented outcome document, known as the New Urban Agenda, enshrined now in the ‘Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All,’ should be seen as an extension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by 193 Member States of the UN in September 2015.

That Agenda’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognized the power of cities and towns, which will constitute up to 70 per cent of the world population by 2050, to be the engine for sustainable growth in the future.

Habitat III brought together mayors, local and regional authorities, civil society and community groups, and urban planners. Mayors said the conference advanced the participation of local authorities in the global effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Dennis Codere, Mayor of Montreal, said: “We know that without the involvement of cities and local governments, the world will not be able to address the global challenges of our times.

‘New Urban Agenda’ for green, clean, inclusive cities

“The New Urban Agenda is an ambitious agenda which aims at paving the way towards making cities and human settlements more inclusive,” said Mr. Clos, who also served as the Secretary-General of the Conference, adding that it would ensure “everyone can benefit from urbanization, paying particular attention to those in those in vulnerable situations.”

UN-Habitat Executive Director Joan Clos. Photo: UN-Habitat/Julius Mwelu

The Agenda stresses that tackling air pollution in cities is good both for people’s health and for the planet and through it, leaders have committed to increase their use of renewable energy, provide better and greener public transport, and sustainably manage their natural resources. The Agenda’s ‘shared vision’ aims to create conditions for communities and policy makers to create that are engines of sustained and inclusive economic growth, social and cultural development, and environmental protection.

Among the key provisions are a call for equal opportunities for all; an end to discrimination; cleaner cities; strengthening resilience and reducing carbon emissions; fully respecting the rights of migrants and refugees regardless of their status; improving connectivity and green initiatives, and promoting “safe accessible and green public spaces.”

Above all, he said, it was a “commitment that we will all together take the responsibility of one another and the direction of the development of our common urbanizing world.”

The agenda does not bind Member States or city governments to specific targets or goals, but is rather a “shared vision” that set standards for transforming urban areas into safer, resilient and more sustainable places, based on better planning and development.

In signing onto the declaration, UN Member States are committing to action over the next 20 years, to improve all areas of urban life through the Quito Implementation Plan, in support of the outcomes of Habitat III and the New Urban Agenda.

Mr. Clos reminded the world gathering of national leaders; Mayors, civil society representatives; non-governmental organizations (NGOs), urban development experts, and other stakeholders that “we will have to act for these commitments.”

In an interview with the UN News Service to mark the end of Habitat III, Mr. Clos said the hard work of making the New Urban Agenda a reality needs to begin immediately. “If we don’t implement, it’s going to be useless,” he stressed.

The conference had helped establish “who needs to do what. This is the real question […] What the conference is saying is there’s a need to walk back to the fundamentals of urbanization,” he added.

“I encourage national, sub-national and local governments to use the New Urban Agenda as a key instrument for planning and policy development for sustainable urbanization,” he said, in his remarks during the closing plenary, adding that national reports were already being sent to the Habitat III Secretariat, prepared by governments, “some of which have been delivered to us at this conference.”

The Quito Declaration lays out steps for action, and for government accountability to try and ensure that the New Urban Agenda becomes a reality.

An “evidence-based and independent assessment” of UN-Habitat is due to take place next year under the auspices of the UN Secretary-General, and a two-day High Level Meeting of the General Assembly is being convened by assembly President, Peter Thomson, to discuss effective implementation.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55360

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Put ‘people, not cars’ first in transport systems, says UN Environment chief

20 October 2016 – Lack of investment in safe walking and cycling infrastructure not only contributes to the deaths of millions of people in traffic accidents on unsafe roads and poorly designed roadways, but also overlooks a great opportunity to boost the fight against climate change, a new UN Environment report said today.

In Global Outlook on Walking and Cycling, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) explained that greater investment in such infrastructure could help save millions of lives and reduce emissions of global warming gases from motorized transport.

The report noted that 1.3 million people die each year from traffic accidents, of which 49 per cent are pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Four African countries are among the most dangerous countries to walk and cycle. Some 66 per cent of all road fatalities were pedestrians and cyclists in Malawi; 61 per cent in Kenya; 53 per cent in South Africa; and 49 per cent in Zambia and Nepal.

“People are risking their lives every time they leave their homes,” said UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim in a news release. “But it isn’t just about accidents. Designing transport systems around cars puts more vehicles on the road, increasing both greenhouse gas emissions and deadly air pollution. We must put people, not cars, first in transport systems,” he stressed.

A mother and her child ride a bicycle at Manama Mission, in Matebeland South Province, Zimbabwe. Photo: UNICEF/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi

The report said that motorized transport is responsible for 23 per cent of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the fastest growing sector in greenhouse gas emissions. It will be responsible for a third of CO2 emissions by 2050 at current rates.

Poor air quality, in part due to vehicle emissions, is estimated to cause around seven million premature deaths each year and is increasing health problems like bronchitis, asthma, heart disease and brain damage.

The global fleet of private cars is projected to triple by 2050, with most of this new vehicle growth expected to take place in the same developing countries that are already hardest hit by road fatalities and injuries.

In line with current trends, not only will this result in a staggering increase in road fatalities globally, but the increase in carbon-polluting cars will severely restrict the world’s ability to limit the global average temperature rise to less than 2°C.

UNEP calls on countries to invest at least 20 per cent of their transport budgets in walking and cycling infrastructure to save lives, reverse pollution and reduce carbon emissions, which are rising at more than 10 per cent a year.

“Unless we act to make our roads safe, in ten years, an estimated 13 million more people will have died on our roads – that is more than the entire population of Belgium. The human impact is horrific, but the impact on all of our survival must not be ignored,” Mr. Solheim added.

UNEP is also urging countries to draft national and local policies for non-motorized transport (NMT), pay particular attention to vulnerable NMT users, such as women, children, elderly and people with mobility challenges, and actively champion NMT as political will is needed not only for policies, but also for giving walking and cycling the equal status as private cars.

The report surveyed the progress towards safer walking and cycling infrastructure in 20 low- to middle-income countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, where compared with high-income countries, twice as many more people die in road traffic accidents.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55350

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Reforesting Kilimanjaro could ease East Africa’s severe water shortages – UN

19 October 2016 – There is a need to reforest Africa’s highest mountain to help protect vital water supplies that are under threat across large parts of East Africa, a UN Environment report urged today.

The loss of Mount Kilimanjaro’s forests could trigger water crisis as rivers begin to dry up, notes the report, entitled Sustainable Mountain Development in East Africa in a Changing Climate, which was launched at the World Mountain Forum in Uganda today.

The report stresses that climate change has already destroyed 13,000 hectares of the mountain’s forests since 1976 – equivalent to cutting off a year’s supply of drinking water for one million people.

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Mt. Kilimanjaro’s forests are a vital source of water for the surrounding towns and the wider region. Water from the mountain feeds one of Tanzania’s largest rivers, the Pangani, providing food, fuel and building materials to much of East Africa.

The report notes that higher temperatures as a result of climate change have increased the number of wildfires on the mountain and thus accelerated the destruction of forests. Because there are now fewer trees to trap water from clouds, the annual amount of dew on the mountain is believed to have fallen by 25 per cent.

As an example of the dire impact of this situation, UNEP notes that the town of Moshi, which is located in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, is already experiencing severe water shortages as rivers begin to dry up, starving farmland of water in an area already struggling to cope with a dramatic drop in rainfall.

The report urges Tanzania to protect Mt. Kilimanjaro’s water catchment area by reforesting the mountain, investing in early warning systems and making climate adaptation a top priority.

Elephants in Kenya with Mount Kilimanjaro in the distant background. Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

Protecting East Africa’s mountain ecosystems will also help safeguard the region’s vital tourism industry, which is worth $7 billion to East Africa. Mt. Kilimanjaro, for example, contributes over one third of Tanzania’s total revenue from tourism, the report adds.

Furthermore, the disastrous impact of climate change on East Africa’s mountains can be seen in the loss of its glaciers. Since the 1990s, the surface area of glaciers in the region has decreased by 80. These glaciers are expected to vanish completely within a few decades as temperatures increase, notes the report.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), East Africa can expect an average increase in annual temperature of 3.2 degrees Celsius by 2080.

The mountains of East Africa are not only highly productive agricultural areas: the rivers they feed also have significant, but largely unexploited, hydropower potential for a region crippled by a lack of electricity.

Rivers in the Nile Basin, for example, could generate 20 gigawatts of electricity while the Mau Forest could generate a further 508 megawatts – enough to meet half of Kenya’s capacity.

The World Mountain Forum is taking place in Mbale, Uganda from 17-20 October under the theme ‘Mountains for our Future.’

Today’s report was co-authored by UNEP, GRID-Arendal, East African Community, the Albertine Rift Conservation Society and Nature-RIDD and is part of the Mountain Adaptation Outlook Series, which was launched by UNEP at the climate summit in Paris last year.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55336

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Tackling impacts of land degradation vital to achieving Global Goals – senior UN treaty official

18 October 2016 – The head of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification told delegations gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, to assess the treaty’s implementation, the impacts of land degradation affect the sustainability of the entire world, so a global effort is needed to tackle it, including through the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Monique Barbut, the Executive Secretary of the Convention, known by its acronym UNCCD, opened meeting by stressing: “Ignoring land degradation neutrality (LDN) could be political suicide.”

Moreover, she stressed that LDN remains a Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target – under Goal 15 – and populations will experience real benefits in terms of climate change, rural employment and food security.

The Committee for the Review of Implementation of the Convention was established as a subsidiary body to the Conference of the Parties (COP). LDN will constitute a part within the CRIC15 Strategic Framework, under the Convention from 2018-2030. It is scheduled to be adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD next year.

“Ten billion people on earth by 2050 will require food production to increase by 70 per cent, and that means expansion and exploitation of at least four million hectares of new land each year,” she said. However, there are only two billion hectares of degraded land at our disposal, 500 million of which can be restored, she added. In order to recover the ecosystems and feed the entire population, just 300 million hectares need to be restored.

“We would be able to sequester a significant amount of CO2 as well. It is the fastest and most cost-effective way to do so.” Ms. Barbut said.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55333

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HABITAT III: Sustainable, inclusive cities ‘can transform our world for the better,’ Ban tells UN conference

17 October 2016 – Opening today the United Nations Habitat III conference in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon told the gathered delegations that “transforming our world for the better” means re-making towns and cities through sustainable development.

The long-awaited global meeting, formally known as the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, takes place every 20 years, and its action-oriented outcome, known as the New Urban Agenda, was formally presented to delegations shortly after the conference got under way.

In his opening opening address, Mr. Ban thanked Ecuador for hosting the gathering, the first ever to be held in the Global South, where many of the biggest urban development problems are manifesting themselves.

Lying almost on the equator at close to 10,000 feet, the Latin American capital was one of the first to be declared a World Heritage Site by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in the late 1970s.

“It reflects both the challenges of sustainable development and many of the solutions the world will need in the years to come,” said the Secretary-General.

The New Urban Agenda sets new standards moving forward and is designed to re-think how the fast-growing urban population of the world can live more sustainably.

Since the first Habitat conference in 1976, the urban population has grown hugely, and will represent close to 70 per cent of the total population on Earth by 2050, according to UN estimates.

The Agenda demands action at all layers of government, civil society, business and the private sector, to help lift up the wider Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) geared towards 2030.

Cities are “remarkable engines of growth, centres of diversity and hubs of creativity” that will only get more important, said Mr. Ban.

The city of Quito, Ecuador, which was declared a World Heritage Site by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in the late 1970s. Photo: © UNESCO/Francesco Bandarin

At the same time, he emphasized that urban areas are expanding rapidly, especially in developing countries, and that expansion is frequently unplanned.

Indeed, approximately a quarter of urban dwellers live in slums or informal settlements. Increasing numbers of poor and vulnerable people live in precarious conditions. Many are isolated from opportunities for decent work and are vulnerable to crime, forced evictions and homelessness.

“The pollution that cities produce and the products they consume have dramatic consequences for the environment,” explained the UN chief adding that the energy cities use is a major contributor to climate change.

“So it is clear that transforming our world for the better means transforming our towns and cities. That means better urban governance, planning and design,” he added.

“It means more investment in adequate and affordable housing, quality infrastructure and basic services. And it means engaging women and girls in making towns and cities safer and more productive for all […] Cities and towns have an immense role to play in ending poverty and building inclusive societies that promote participation by all,” stated Mr. Ban.

The UN chief stressed that the success of the New Urban Agenda and this once-in-a-generation conference, depend on the collaboration of all countries and stakeholders.

Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, who is presiding over Habitat III, pointed to the Quito Implementation Plan, which defines “mechanisms, to follow-up on agreements that we are going to reach at this conference.”

He told the first plenary meeting: “We look forward to a decisive commitment by all Member States, to meet these goals in the next 20 years.”

He pointed to “erroneous concepts of development” in Latin America, which have now seen the continent become the most urban region of the world, thanks to uncontrolled “rural de-population.”

The Secretary-General of Habitat III, Joan Clos, who also heads up the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), has been leading the preparations towards Quito, and spoke of his excitement at the adoption of the New Urban Agenda, and what it meant for the overall pursuit of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

He described the agenda as a “vision for a better and greener urban future, where everyone has access to the benefits of urbanization.”

Surveying the main hall on the opening morning, President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson said “the many thousands of participants who have come to Quito […] are a testament of the importance of cities to our lives, of sustainable urban development to our world, and the New Urban Agenda to guiding humanity to a sustainable urban future.”

Secretary-General Ban also highlighted the “increasing numbers of poor and vulnerable people” making their lives in the expanding cities of the developing world in particular.”

A quarter of urban-dwellers live in slums conditions and lack access to basic services, he added.

This was an area of need where the SDGs clearly dovetailed with the Quito agenda he said: “To fulfil the promise of the 2030 Agenda, we must address the humiliation and exclusion of people living in poverty and empower their inclusion in building a better future,” he declared.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55319

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Sustainable food systems vital to achieving 2030 Agenda nutrition targets – UN Rome-based agencies

17 October 2016 – Opening its 43rd plenary session in Rome today in the wake of major global agreements on sustainable development and climate change, the main United Nations body focused on food security and nutrition, called for an urgent transformation of the world’s food system and nutrition to eradicate all forms of extreme poverty, hunger, and malnutrition by 2030.

In her opening remarks, Amira Gornass, the Chair of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), stressed the importance of establishing a “sustainable food systems is in essence working to achieve the food security and nutrition-related targets of the 2030 Agenda.”

According to José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), who also addressed the meeting, “there is a clear failure of food systems to deliver healthy diets to people,” as more than half of the world population suffers from one or more forms of malnutrition, including hunger, micronutrient deficiency and obesity.

As such, Mr. Graziano da Silva encouraged people to turn to CFS for answers, stating, however, that efforts to tackle nutrition and food systems will require extended partnership, including action from diverse stakeholders, as noted by Elisabeth Rasmusson, the Assistant Executive Director of the UN’s World Food Program (WFP).

“We must renew our efforts to build more sustainable food systems, which are better able to withstand changing weather patterns and extreme events and respond to nutritional needs — building resilience into our food systems, mitigating the risks, and ensuring we are more prepared for climate shocks in the future,” she added.

The key goals of the food system transformation must be achieved in “an increasingly adverse context where population growth, a shrinking resource base, climate change and urbanization will challenge our ability to find new ways of working and interacting,” added Mr. Graziano da Silva.

In addition, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Kanayo F. Nwanze stressed the urgency of the issue by saying: “We need to do more, do it better, faster and together […] to transform rural areas into places where people can live fulfilling lives, and plan for a bright future; where every one of the world’s three billion rural people is able to adapt to climate change; and were each day starts and ends with access to food that is nutritious and plentiful.’

In addition to acting as the UN system’s guiding body for food security and nutrition debates, CFS is structured to allow participants from civil society, the private sector, other UN agencies and international financial institutions, research bodies and other non-state actors a voice in policy decisions. This plenary, the 43rd, has set a record with more than 1,400 registered participants, according to FAO.

Delegates will also endorse two sets of policy recommendations, one regarding the role of livestock in sustainable agricultural development and another regarding the importance of connecting smallholders to markets.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55320

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