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Agriculture support ‘critical’ for Horn of Africa as region braces for another hunger season

20 December 2016 – In the wake of the multiple droughts that hit the Horn of Africa over the past year, countries in the region will face rise in hunger and further decline of local livelihoods in the coming months, while also dealing with the growing number of refugees, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) reported today.

According to the agency, nearly 12 million people across Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia face harsh food conditions, and are in need of emergency assistance. Families in the region also experience rising debt, low cereal and seed stocks, and low milk and meat production.

Farmers need urgent support to recover from consecutive lost harvests and to keep their breeding livestock healthy and productive at a time that pastures are the driest in years. Production outputs in the three countries are grim.

“We’re dealing with a cyclical phenomenon in the Horn of Africa,” said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO’s Emergency and Rehabilitation Division, stressing that timely support to farming families can significantly boost their ability to withstand the impacts of these droughts and soften the blow to their livelihoods.

The agency has already begun allocating funds to Kenya and Somalia to support emergency feed, repairs of water points, vaccinations for breeding and weak animals, and seeds and tools to plant in the spring season.

A parched field in Kenya where drought has been especially devastating to sub-Saharan agriculture. Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano

FAO is also cooperating with local officials to help countries prepare for emergencies, “especially in those areas where we know natural hazards are recurring,” said Mr. Burgeon, adding that working with the Government to further build up the ability to mitigate future shocks is a smart intervention that can significantly reduce the need for humanitarian and food aid further down the line.

Kenya currently has nearly 1.3 million people that are food insecure, and the number could increase in early 2017 due to an expected drought. To help the livestock, FAO is providing feed, water, and veterinary support and good management skills training for local officials.

Somalia has also seen two poor rainy seasons this year, with a 50 per cent below average drop in Gu cereal harvest this spring. About five million Somalis are food insecure through December 2016, including 1.1 million people in Crisis and Emergency conditions of food insecurity, a 20 per cent increase in just six months.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia is still recovering from the 2015 El Niño-induced drought, with 5.6 million food insecure people, and millions more depending on livestock herds. FAO and more than 25 non-governmental organizations and agencies reached 1.5 million households with drought-resistant seeds.

FAO reports that Somalia and Kenya are among the first to benefit from its new Early Warning Early Action Fund (EWEA), which ensures quick activation of emergency plans when there is a high likelihood of a disaster that would affect agriculture and people’s food and nutrition security.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55844

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Governments make strong commitments to biodiversity at UN conference in Mexico

19 December 2016 – Countries attending the United Nations Biodiversity Conference in Mexico reached agreements on actions to integrate biodiversity in forestry, fisheries, agriculture, and tourism sectors and to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

The 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), also known as COP 13 saw governments from 167 countries agree upon a range of measures that are expected to accelerate the implementation of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets by 2020, as well as generate action for protected areas, ecosystem restoration, sustainable wildlife management, and a range of other themes.

“Governments demonstrated their commitment to achieving the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and showed that the biodiversity agenda is central and essential to the global sustainable development and climate change agendas,” announced CBD Executive Secretary Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias as the conference nearly three week Conference wrapped up over the weekend in Cancun.

“With the integration of three meetings addressing the Convention and its two Protocols, the world community also realized the importance of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing in effectively contributing to the Targets and sustainable development,” he added.

Together, the protocols help to ensure that modern biotechnology and other uses of genetic resources are practiced safely and that they take into account potential adverse effects on biological diversity. Countries who participated in the conference have committed to develop legislation, policies, and actions over the next four years that will support the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Credit: Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

“We applaud and support the global community’s commitment made during this COP to integrate biodiversity considerations into the activities of other critical sectors of our economies: agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and tourism; and value its natural capital for sustainable development, as expressed in the Cancun Declaration,” said Naoko Ishii, Chief Executive Officer of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

She added that the GEF was “encouraged by the strong support of many donor and recipient countries to maintain consistency with our current biodiversity programming strategy with integrated approaches in response to the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, while seeking out new innovation and creating financing opportunities.”

During the Conference, stakeholders deliberated about pollination management and its relationship to sustainable food production systems and agriculture, agreed to establish additional protected areas, reviewed opportunities to reverse biodiversity loss, and identified biologically significant marine areas to be protected.

Central to conservation and sustainable use of ecosystems are the contributions made by indigenous peoples and local communities, particularly with regards to their traditional knowledge. This year’s Conference recognized this through Article 8(j) of the Convention, which obliges Parties to “respect, preserve, and maintain knowledge, innovations, and practices of indigenous and local communities” who support conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

COP 13 also included a decision to work with pledges from the Paris Agreement. Going forward, parties are to consider biodiversity as they undertake climate change mitigation, adaptation, and disaster risk reduction measures. The Convention also reiterated the importance of reducing anthropogenic emissions and increasing the removal of greenhouse gases.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55835

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More than five per cent of world’s oceans now protected – UN Environment

14 December 2016 – Since April, an unprecedented 3.6 million square kilometres of ocean – an area larger than India – have been designated as marine protected areas (MPAs), meaning for the first time, more than 5% of the world’s oceans are now protected.

“The establishment of so many new protected areas is tremendous news and should give those fighting tirelessly to conserve the world’s oceans and seas an enormous sense of achievement,” announced Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Meanwhile, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is meeting this week in Mexico, is calling for the world to protect 10 per cent of its coastal and marine areas by 2020. That goal is part of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and has now been exceeded.

Thanks to the recent creation of five “mega MPAs,” off the coasts of Chile, Palau, Hawaii, and the Pitcairn Islands and St. Helena’s in the South Atlantic, the global total percentage of protected seas is now 12.7 per cent.

Mr. Solheim urged stakeholders to remember that “the Aichi Biodiversity Targets also call for countries to focus their conservation efforts on the areas of greatest biodiversity. It is not just about the size of the area under protection, but also about where these zones are located and how strong that protection really is.”

As part of the effort to emphasize the importance of protecting the Antarctic seas, during the conference, UNEP Patron of Oceans and endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh announced his campaign, Antarctica 2020, which aims to secure MPAs in vulnerable areas of Antarctica over the next three years. The campaign builds off the momentum of the recent Ross Sea victory, which together with the three targeted areas would bring the total protected area in the Antarctic to nearly 7 million square kilometres – an area the size of Australia.

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

“We have entered a new area of uncertainty, with many hard-fought conservation achievements now under threat. It’s time to build on our recent success in the Ross Sea. With public support, I believe we can achieve the most ambitious ocean protection plan in history,” said Mr. Pugh as he spoke from Antarctica’s Bellingshausen Sea, where he is undertaking a swim in freezing waters to bring global attention to oceanic protection.

During the UN Biodiversity Conference in Cancun, Mexico pledged to preserve an additional 650,000 square kilometres of land and sea – roughly 25 per cent of its territorial waters. The commitment includes establishing the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, an area of 57,000 square kilometres.

Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, president of the conference, hailed the country’s decision: “Mexico wants to send a clear signal on the urgency to meet the Aichi Targets by taking unprecedented actions to preserve marine and terrestrial ecosystems.”

He added that the country had “surpassed its commitment to achieve the Aichi goals for marine areas and is on track to achieve land protected areas.”

Other pledges from the conference included Cambodia’s commitment to nearly double its number of protected areas, which now include one-third of the country’s land. The United Arab Emirates also indicated its intention to declare 18 new protected areas, four of which are marine.

According to new figures released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, today there are 14,859 MPAs covering 18.5 million square kilometres of ocean and sea.

However, both organizations warned that there is an unequal representation of ecosystems and areas rich in biodiversity; according to the 2016 Protected Planet report, only one third of the world’s marine ecoregions offer more than 10 per cent of their areas protection.

More than three billion people depend on marine and coastal diversity for their livelihoods. When managed correctly, MPAs can boost the abundance of fish and increase biodiversity.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55798

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More than 5 per cent of world’s oceans now protected – UN Environment

14 December 2016 – Since April, an unprecedented 3.6 million square kilometres of ocean – an area larger than India – have been designated as marine protected areas (MPAs), meaning for the first time, more than 5% of the world’s oceans are now protected.

“The establishment of so many new protected areas is tremendous news and should give those fighting tirelessly to conserve the world’s oceans and seas an enormous sense of achievement,” announced Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Meanwhile, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is meeting this week in Mexico, is calling for the world to protect 10 per cent of its coastal and marine areas by 2020. That goal is part of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and has now been exceeded.

Thanks to the recent creation of five “mega MPAs,” off the coasts of Chile, Palau, Hawaii, and the Pitcairn Islands and St. Helena’s in the South Atlantic, the global total percentage of protected seas is now 12.7 per cent.

Mr. Solheim urged stakeholders to remember that “the Aichi Biodiversity Targets also call for countries to focus their conservation efforts on the areas of greatest biodiversity. It is not just about the size of the area under protection, but also about where these zones are located and how strong that protection really is.”

As part of the effort to emphasize the importance of protecting the Antarctic seas, during the conference, UNEP Patron of Oceans and endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh announced his campaign, Antarctica 2020, which aims to secure MPAs in vulnerable areas of Antarctica over the next three years. The campaign builds off the momentum of the recent Ross Sea victory, which together with the three targeted areas would bring the total protected area in the Antarctic to nearly 7 million square kilometres – an area the size of Australia.

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

“We have entered a new area of uncertainty, with many hard-fought conservation achievements now under threat. It’s time to build on our recent success in the Ross Sea. With public support, I believe we can achieve the most ambitious ocean protection plan in history,” said Mr. Pugh as he spoke from Antarctica’s Bellingshausen Sea, where he is undertaking a swim in freezing waters to bring global attention to oceanic protection.

During the UN Biodiversity Conference in Cancun, Mexico pledged to preserve an additional 650,000 square kilometres of land and sea – roughly 25 per cent of its territorial waters. The commitment includes establishing the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, an area of 57,000 square kilometres.

Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, president of the conference, hailed the country’s decision: “Mexico wants to send a clear signal on the urgency to meet the Aichi Targets by taking unprecedented actions to preserve marine and terrestrial ecosystems.”

He added that the country had “surpassed its commitment to achieve the Aichi goals for marine areas and is on track to achieve land protected areas.”

Other pledges from the conference included Cambodia’s commitment to nearly double its number of protected areas, which now include one-third of the country’s land. The United Arab Emirates also indicated its intention to declare 18 new protected areas, four of which are marine.

According to new figures released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, today there are 14,859 MPAs covering 18.5 million square kilometres of ocean and sea.

However, both organizations warned that there is an unequal representation of ecosystems and areas rich in biodiversity; according to the 2016 Protected Planet report, only one third of the world’s marine ecoregions offer more than 10 per cent of their areas protection.

More than three billion people depend on marine and coastal diversity for their livelihoods. When managed correctly, MPAs can boost the abundance of fish and increase biodiversity.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55798

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More than 5 per cent of world’s oceans now protected with more commitments underway – UN environment wing

14 December 2016 – Since April, an unprecedented 3.6 million square kilometres of ocean – an area larger than India – have been designated as marine protected areas (MPAs), meaning for the first time, more than 5% of the world’s oceans are now protected.

“The establishment of so many new protected areas is tremendous news and should give those fighting tirelessly to conserve the world’s oceans and seas an enormous sense of achievement,” announced Erik Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Meanwhile, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which is meeting this week in Mexico, is calling for the world to protect 10 per cent of its coastal and marine areas by 2020. That goal is part of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and has now been exceeded.

Thanks to the recent creation of five “mega MPAs,” off the coasts of Chile, Palau, Hawaii, and the Pitcairn Islands and St. Helena’s in the South Atlantic, the global total percentage of protected seas is now 12.7 per cent.

Mr. Solheim urged stakeholders to remember that “the Aichi Biodiversity Targets also call for countries to focus their conservation efforts on the areas of greatest biodiversity. It is not just about the size of the area under protection, but also about where these zones are located and how strong that protection really is.”

As part of the effort to emphasize the importance of protecting the Antarctic seas, during the conference, UNEP Patron of Oceans and endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh announced his campaign, Antarctica 2020, which aims to secure MPAs in vulnerable areas of Antarctica over the next three years. The campaign builds off the momentum of the recent Ross Sea victory, which together with the three targeted areas would bring the total protected area in the Antarctic to nearly 7 million square kilometres – an area the size of Australia.

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

“We have entered a new area of uncertainty, with many hard-fought conservation achievements now under threat. It’s time to build on our recent success in the Ross Sea. With public support, I believe we can achieve the most ambitious ocean protection plan in history,” said Mr. Pugh as he spoke from Antarctica’s Bellingshausen Sea, where he is undertaking a swim in freezing waters to bring global attention to oceanic protection.

During the UN Biodiversity Conference in Cancun, Mexico pledged to preserve an additional 650,000 square kilometres of land and sea – roughly 25 per cent of its territorial waters. The commitment includes establishing the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, an area of 57,000 square kilometres.

Rafael Pacchiano Alamán, president of the conference, hailed the country’s decision: “Mexico wants to send a clear signal on the urgency to meet the Aichi Targets by taking unprecedented actions to preserve marine and terrestrial ecosystems.”

He added that the country had “surpassed its commitment to achieve the Aichi goals for marine areas and is on track to achieve land protected areas.”

Other pledges from the conference included Cambodia’s commitment to nearly double its number of protected areas, which now include one-third of the country’s land. The United Arab Emirates also indicated its intention to declare 18 new protected areas, four of which are marine.

According to new figures released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre, today there are 14,859 MPAs covering 18.5 million square kilometres of ocean and sea.

However, both organizations warned that there is an unequal representation of ecosystems and areas rich in biodiversity; according to the 2016 Protected Planet report, only one third of the world’s marine ecoregions offer more than 10 per cent of their areas protection.

More than three billion people depend on marine and coastal diversity for their livelihoods. When managed correctly, MPAs can boost the abundance of fish and increase biodiversity.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55798

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UN rights expert calls on countries to comply with laws that protect environment defenders

8 December 2016 – Governments must abide by the existing laws that protect indigenous and local communities who are stewards of key natural resources from which all humankind benefits, a United Nations human rights expert told the UN Conference on Biological Diversity today.

“The law is clear. Governments do have obligations to protect the environment and human rights. The norms themselves are fairly well established, but there is an implementation gap,” said John Knox, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment at an event being held on the sidelines of the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), also known as COP 13, in Cancun, Mexico.

“The laws exist, but the problem is that many governments simply do not comply with their obligations towards indigenous peoples. They don’t do enough to protect and promote their rights,” he added.

Mr. Knox also noted that governments should also respect the rights of local communities that are not indigenous groups. He stressed that these communities need to be consulted and should participate in decision-making that affects them, but pointed out that many times they are marginalized.

“The law for non-indigenous local communities can sometimes be unclear because their rights are not as clearly set out in binding instruments and this creates problems,” he said, adding that this issue would be featured in his next report to the Human Rights Council. “Their livelihood, subsistence and territories should not be taken away.”

Mr. Knox was speaking at a side event where various experts highlighted the crucial role that indigenous peoples and local communities play in conserving biodiversity. Their traditional knowledge and skills is considered invaluable in ensuring food security, creating medicines, and sustainably managing the world’s resources.

He emphasized that while it makes social and economic sense to protect this communities, governments should also do this because it is the law.

In addition, he highlighted the need to protect the rights of indigenous and local communities that are opposing projects supported by their governments, adding that more than 100 have been killed this year alone defending their land and resources.

“We’re really living through a global crisis when it comes to protecting the rights of environmental defenders,” he said. “It is simply unacceptable that we’re doing a terrible job in protecting the lives of those protecting the environment of which all of our lives depend on.”

He added that international organizations and civil society must amplify their voices and work together to shine a light on the plight of these communities.

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

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55757

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Countries urged to prioritize protection of pollinators to ensure food security at UN biodiversity conference

6 December 2016 – Bees, butterflies and other pollinators are increasingly under threat from human activities and countries must transform their agricultural practices to ensure global crop production can meet demand and avoid substantial economic losses, the United Nations Conference on Biological Diversity heard today.

“Pollinators affect all of us. The food that we eat like our fruits and vegetables, our coffee and chocolate, all rely on pollinators. However, pollinators are facing many challenges, from intensive agriculture, pesticides, climate change, which are putting a lot of pressure on them,” said Simon Potts Professor at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom, who is the co-chair of a major report on pollinators being discussed in Cancun, Mexico, today at the 13th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), also known as COP 13.

“There are many solutions and policies that countries can adopt to protect pollinators, so the trick here in Cancun is for countries to take these ideas and really make them work,” he added.

According to the global assessment on pollinators produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), 75 per cent of our food crops and nearly 90 per cent of wild flowering plants depend to some extent on animal pollination, which is the transfer of pollen between the male and female parts of flowers to enable fertilization and reproduction.

In addition, the annual value of global crops that depend on pollinators is estimated to be worth $577 billion.

Without pollinators, crops such as coffee, cacao and apples would drastically suffer, and changes in global crop supplies could increase prices to consumers and reduce profits to producers, resulting in a potential annual net loss of economic welfare of $160 billion to $191 billion globally.

Beyond food, pollinators also contribute directly to medicines, biofuels, fibres like cotton and linen, and construction materials.

“Pollination services are an ‘agricultural input’ that ensures the production of crops. All farmers, especially family farmers and smallholders around the world, benefit from these services,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the (FAO) in the report’s foreword.

“Improving pollinator density and diversity has a direct positive impact on crop yields, consequently promoting food and nutrition security. Hence, enhancing pollinator services is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as for helping family farmers’ adaptation to climate change.”

The majority of pollinator species are wild, including more than 20,000 species of bees, some species of flies, butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other vertebrates. Currently, 16 per cent of vertebrate pollinators, and more than 40 per cent of invertebrate pollinators, are facing global extinction.

The report, which was released earlier this year, offers a number of solutions to halt the decline in pollinators. Some of these include: the promotion of sustainable agriculture, creating greater diversity of pollinator habitats in agricultural and urban landscapes, crop rotation, using indigenous local knowledge and decreasing use of pesticides.

Recognizing that this is a pressing issue, 11 European countries have already announced a ‘Coalition of the willing’ at COP13, which seeks to implement national pollinator strategies, consistent with IPBES report and share new approaches, innovations and best practices, as well as establish new partnerships to safeguard these valuable creatures.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55734

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New UN report finds marine debris harming more than 800 species, costing countries millions

5 December 2016 – Marine debris is negatively affecting more than 800 animal species and causing serious losses to many countries’ economies, according to a United Nations report launched today.

The report, Marine Debris: Understanding, Preventing and Mitigating the Significant Adverse Impacts on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity found that the number of species affected by marine debris has increased from 663 to 817 since 2012. It also warned that this type of waste, which is mostly made of plastic, is an increasing threat to human health and well-being, and is costing countries billions of dollars each year.

“I hope that this report will provide governments and other stakeholders with the information needed to take urgent actions to address marine debris, one of the most prominent threats to marine ecosystems, and support healthy and resilient oceans as a critical aspect of achieving sustainable development,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, the Executive Director of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The report was launched in Cancun, Mexico, on the sidelines of the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Convention, known as ‘COP13,’ where governments and private sector delegations have been gathered since 2 December to discuss, among others, how to integrate biodiversity into policies relevant to agriculture, forestry, fisheries and tourism sectors. The meeting wraps up on 17 December.

Marine debris is usually defined as any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of, or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment. Three-quarters of all marine debris is plastic, a persistent and potentially hazardous pollutant, which fragments into microplastics that can be taken up by a wide range of marine organisms.

The most common types of marine debris are: food wrappers, bottle caps, straws, grocery bags, beverage bottles and cigarette butts. Five of these items are made of plastic.

Marine and coastal species – fish, seabirds, marine mammals and reptiles – are affected by marine debris mostly through ingestion or entanglement. According to the report, 40 per cent of cetaceans, and 44 per cent of seabird species are affected by marine debris ingestion. The effect of ingestion is not always understood, as many ingest microplastics – little pieces or fragments that are less than five millimetres in diameter.

Marine litter affects communities and seas in every region of the world, and negatively impacts biodiversity, fisheries and coastal economies. Photo: UNEP GRID Arendal/Lawrence Hislop

The problem with plastic

Plastic is a very common material in our daily lives – eight per cent of global oil production is used to make plastic items. However, it is hard to dispose of and many times is discarded after a single use – think of plastic bags to carry groceries, wrapping for packages, among many others.

Annual plastic production has substantially increased over the last 60 years, from 1.5 million tonnes in the 1950s to 288 million tonnes in 2012, with approximately two-thirds of production occurring in East Asia, Europe and North America. Current global estimates for plastic waste indicate that 192 coastal countries generated 275 million tonnes of waste in 2010, of which between 4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes (1.8 – 4.6 per cent) entered the marine environment.

The economic cost

Marine debris has an adverse effect in the commercial fishing, shipping and tourism industries. The report also notes that previous research places the cost of pollution caused by marine debris at $13 billion.

Some of the cost includes repairing vessel damage, clean-up, and decrease in tourism revenues due to polluted beaches. There are also social impacts such as direct, short-term human health issues (injuries, entanglement and navigational hazards) and long-term impacts on quality of life.

The report makes recommendations for governments and citizens to reduce marine debris. Some of them include: reducing plastic packaging, introducing fees for single-use items, banning items like plastic bags and microbeads, and supporting innovation for new materials that are fully biodegradable. In addition, governments should increase awareness of the impacts of marine debris among their citizens, and facilitate recycling and reusing options, among other measures.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55724

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UN conference adopts ‘Cancun Declaration,’ ramping up efforts to protect world&#39s biodiversity

4 December 2016 – More than 190 countries at a major United Nations conference in Mexico have pledged to step up efforts to integrate biodiversity into the policies of their forests, fisheries, tourism and agriculture sectors.

On 3 December, countries adopted the Cancun Declaration, named after the Mexican city where the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known as ‘COP13,’ is being held. The Declaration represents an unprecedented recognition from the international community that biodiversity protection must involve different governmental and economic sectors and not just environment ministries.

“The Cancun Declaration, and the powerful commitments made here at the High Level Segment send a strong signal that countries are ready to achieve the Aichi Targets,,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the CBD, referring to the 20 biodiversity targets that Parties to the CBD are meant to achieve by 2020.

During the two-day High-Level Segment of the meeting known COP13, countries participated in roundtables discussing how the fisheries, tourism, forestry and agricultural sectors can take biodiversity into account and how they can contribute to its protection and conservation.

“For the first time, through the efforts of all parties, we are really speaking meaningfully to one another about the real value of biodiversity to tourism, to agriculture, to forestry, to fisheries – to the very lifeblood of our economies,” said Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

In addition to the Cancun Declaration, various countries announced on Saturday their own commitments to accelerate action to meet the Targets’ deadline in less than four years. These commitments included:

  • Presented by Guatemala, a commitment by the Like Minded Mega-Diverse Countries, which harbour over one third of all terrestrial biodiversity, to carry out over 200 actions to increase protected areas.
  • France and other participants in the International Coral Reef Initiative agreed to protect coral reefs and their ecosystems through the reduction of pollution from plastic microbeads and sunscreen and financing for projects and initiatives which help protect and restore coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses.
  • The Netherlands and 11 other European Union countries announced the creation of a “coalition of the willing” to protect pollinators which are curcial for food security.
  • Brazil pledged to bring under control at least three invasive alien species and to design an early warning system by 2020. It also committed that ensure that 100 per cent of threatened species will be under conservation tools by 2020, and 10 per cent of them shall have their conservation status improved by the same date.
  • Germany announced that it would increase its funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects through its International Climate Initiative to 500 million Euros per year.
  • Japan pledged $16 million to continue its support to capacity-building activities in developing countries.
  • New Zealand committed to bring together a broad coalition of actors from all levels to develop new initiatives, methodologies and techniques to increase the effectiveness control of invasive alien species.
  • South Africa said it will develop and implement species management plans for high value plant species through its BioPANZA programme and will set milestones for the cultivation of indigenous biological resources and community participation in product development.
  • Peru, Mexico, Ecuador and Guatemala, together with the Food and Agricultural Organziation (FAO), the Darwin Initiative, announced a coalition to encourage countries to preserve genetic diversity and safeguard both native varieties of crops and their wild relatives.
  • During the COP13 High-level Segment, which wrapped up last night, there was also a Business Forum, during which 113 companies made a collective commitment to take biodiversity considerations into account in their decision-making and invest in biodiversity protection, among other measures.

    “Many businesses have realized that investing in biodiversity makes sense,” said Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Ibrahim Thiaw. “The involvement of the private sector is something we need and we welcome.”

    “We all want the same thing: a healthy planet that provides for all our needs and those of future generations,” Mr. Dias said at a press briefing on Saturday evening. “We must use the conference to prepare for the transformation that is needed to achieve the Aichi Targets, the Sustainable Development Goals, and our long-term vision of living in harmony with nature.”

    The UN Biodiversity conference continues until 17 December 2016.

    Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55712

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    &#39We urgently need healthy soils to ensure essential services they provide,&#39 Ban says on World Soil Day

    5 December 2016 – Marking World Soil Day, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stressed the importance of healthy soils, adding that “sustainable management systems and practices will unlock the full potential of soils to support food production, store and supply clean water, preserve biodiversity, sequester more carbon and increase resilience to a changing climate.”

    In his message on the Day, Mr. Ban encouraged the international community to optimize the use of soil now and preserve and protect it in the long-term, because the sustainable soil management can also contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as the Paris Agreement on climate change.

    The theme of the 2016 edition of World Soil Day is Soils and pulses, a symbiosis for life. Pulses, such as dry beans, peas and lentils, can boost soil health while supporting healthier and nutritious diets, and can also fix atmospheric nitrogen in their roots. In addition, pulses combine with soil in a unique symbiosis that protects the environment, enhances productivity, contributes to adapting to climate change and provides fundamental nutrients to the soil and subsequent crops. Finally, pulses also reduce the need to apply external fertilizer.

    The Secretary-General also highlighted recommendations on ways to protect and sustainably manage soils in the recently endorsed Voluntary Guidelines for Sustainable Soil Management developed by the Global Soil Partnership. The guidelines will contribute to improving the health of the soil and increasing its potential to support mitigation and adaptation actions in a changing climate.

    “On World Soil Day, I call for greater attention to the pressing issues affecting soils, including climate change, antimicrobial resistance, soil-borne diseases, contamination, nutrition and human health,” concluded Mr. Ban, urging global efforts to build on the International Year of Soils (2015) and this year’s International Year of Pulses, and all the activities supporting sustainable soil management to generate more hectares of healthy soils everywhere.

    Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55713

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    Banning Europe’s ‘dirty’ fuels, West African countries put people’s health first – UN environment wing

    5 December 2016 – Five West African nations are banning ‘dirty’ European fuels – exported fuels with higher sulphur levels – in response to concerns over vehicle emissions and in an effort to bring safer, cleaner air to more than 250 million people, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said today.

    According to UNEP, last week, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire introduced strict standards that will ensure cleaner, low sulphur diesel fuels, and better emissions standards, thus effectively cutting off Europe’s West African market.

    Earlier this year, a report by the non-governmental organization Public Eye exposed how European trading companies are exploiting weak regulatory standards in West African countries, thus allowing fuels with sulphur levels that are up to 300 times higher than those permitted in Europe.

    “West Africa is sending a strong message that it is no longer accepting dirty fuels from Europe,” said Erik Solheim, head of UNEP. “Their decision to set strict new standards for cleaner, safer fuels and advanced vehicle emissions standards shows they are placing the health of their people first.”

    He hailed the move as an example for other countries, noting that air pollution kills millions annually.

    “We need to ensure that all countries urgently introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles to help reduce the shocking statistics,” stated Mr. Solheim.

    In addition to new fuel standards, the group of West African countries has agreed to upgrade their own public and private refineries to meet the same higher standards by 2020.

    Photo: World Bank/Curt Carnemark

    UN Environment has been working with countries in West Africa to develop policies and standards that will stop the import of fuels with dangerously high levels of sulphur, as well as to introduce cleaner fuels and vehicles. Reducing such emissions around the world is essential to ensure levels of urban air pollution and climate emissions come down.

    Combining low-sulphur fuels with advanced vehicle standards can lead to as much as a 90 per cent reduction in harmful emissions.

    According to Nigeria’s Environment Minister Amina J. Mohamed, “for 20 years, Nigeria has not been able to address the vehicle pollution crisis due to the poor fuels we have been importing. Today we are taking a huge leap forward: limiting sulphur in fuels from 3,000 parts per million to 50 parts per million. This will result in major air quality benefits in our cities and will allow us to set modern vehicle standards.”

    Today in The Hague, Mr. Mohamed will meet with Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation in order to take stock of the progress being made to improve the quality of fuels that have been exported from Dutch ports to countries in West Africa, as The Netherlands produces many of the exported dirty fuels.

    “The recent report from the NGO Public Eye made abundantly clear that coordinated action is needed to stop the practice of exporting dirty fuels to West Africa. I am very pleased West African governments quickly decided to introduce standards that will help accessing European standard quality fuels. Their people deserve cleaner air, better health, and a cleaner environment. I commend UN Environment for their excellent work,” announced Minister Ploumen.

    UNEP hosts the Secretariat of the Partnership for Clean Fuels and Vehicles (PCFV), a global public-private partnership that supports a shift to cleaner fuels and vehicles worldwide. When PCFV began its work in 2005, not a single low or middle income country used low sulphur fuels. Today, 23 countries have made that shift. Another 40 are on their way to doing the same.

    In addition, UNEP is hosting the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which recently adopted a global strategy for moving the world to clean, low-sulphur fuels and advanced emissions standards. Experts estimate that this measure will save an annual 100,000 premature deaths by 2030.

    Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55719

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    At UN conference, countries adopt Cancun Declaration, ramping up efforts to protect world&#39s biodiversity

    4 December 2016 – More than 190 countries at a major United Nations conference in Mexico have pledged to step up efforts to integrate biodiversity into the policies of their forests, fisheries, tourism and agriculture sectors.

    On 3 December, countries adopted the Cancun Declaration, named after the Mexican city where the 13th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), known as ‘COP13,’ is being held. The Declaration represents an unprecedented recognition from the international community that biodiversity protection must involve different governmental and economic sectors and not just environment ministries.

    “The Cancun Declaration, and the powerful commitments made here at the High Level Segment send a strong signal that countries are ready to achieve the Aichi Targets,,” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the CBD, referring to the 20 biodiversity targets that Parties to the CBD are meant to achieve by 2020.

    During the two-day High-Level Segment of the meeting known COP13, countries participated in roundtables discussing how the fisheries, tourism, forestry and agricultural sectors can take biodiversity into account and how they can contribute to its protection and conservation.

    “For the first time, through the efforts of all parties, we are really speaking meaningfully to one another about the real value of biodiversity to tourism, to agriculture, to forestry, to fisheries – to the very lifeblood of our economies,” said Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

    In addition to the Cancun Declaration, various countries announced on Saturday their own commitments to accelerate action to meet the Targets’ deadline in less than four years. These commitments included:

  • Presented by Guatemala, a commitment by the Like Minded Mega-Diverse Countries, which harbour over one third of all terrestrial biodiversity, to carry out over 200 actions to increase protected areas.
  • France and other participants in the International Coral Reef Initiative agreed to protect coral reefs and their ecosystems through the reduction of pollution from plastic microbeads and sunscreen and financing for projects and initiatives which help protect and restore coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses.
  • The Netherlands and 11 other European Union countries announced the creation of a “coalition of the willing” to protect pollinators which are curcial for food security.
  • Brazil pledged to bring under control at least three invasive alien species and to design an early warning system by 2020. It also committed that ensure that 100 per cent of threatened species will be under conservation tools by 2020, and 10 per cent of them shall have their conservation status improved by the same date.
  • Germany announced that it would increase its funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation projects through its International Climate Initiative to 500 million Euros per year.
  • Japan pledged $16 million to continue its support to capacity-building activities in developing countries.
  • New Zealand committed to bring together a broad coalition of actors from all levels to develop new initiatives, methodologies and techniques to increase the effectiveness control of invasive alien species.
  • South Africa said it will develop and implement species management plans for high value plant species through its BioPANZA programme and will set milestones for the cultivation of indigenous biological resources and community participation in product development.
  • Peru, Mexico, Ecuador and Guatemala, together with the Food and Agricultural Organziation (FAO), the Darwin Initiative, announced a coalition to encourage countries to preserve genetic diversity and safeguard both native varieties of crops and their wild relatives.
  • During the COP13 High-level Segment, which wrapped up last night, there was also a Business Forum, during which 113 companies made a collective commitment to take biodiversity considerations into account in their decision-making and invest in biodiversity protection, among other measures.

    “Many businesses have realized that investing in biodiversity makes sense,” said Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, Ibrahim Thiaw. “The involvement of the private sector is something we need and we welcome.”

    “We all want the same thing: a healthy planet that provides for all our needs and those of future generations,” Mr. Dias said at a press briefing on Saturday evening. “We must use the conference to prepare for the transformation that is needed to achieve the Aichi Targets, the Sustainable Development Goals, and our long-term vision of living in harmony with nature.”

    The UN Biodiversity conference continues until 17 December 2016.

    Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=55712

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