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In Senegal, UN General Assembly President calls for sustainable management of marine resources

28 March 2017 – Visiting a traditional fishing community in Senegal, the President of the United Nations General Assembly has called on the countries in the region to prioritize conserving and sustainably managing their marine resources.

“I learned a lot today about how ocean issues like acidification, rising temperatures, overfishing and marine pollution affect the daily lives of fishermen,” said Assembly President Peter Thomson.

Mr. Thomson is currently in Senegal as part of his visit to several African countries to build momentum towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which specifically deals with the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources.

“Understanding and acting upon the perspectives and expectations of artisanal fishers is an important component of Sustainable Development Goal 14 (SDG 14) that will be covered in The Ocean Conference this June,” added the UN official.

Being held from 5 to 9 June at the UN Headquarters, in New York, the Conference aims to reverse the decline in the health of oceans for the benefit of the people and the planet.

Involving all relevant stakeholders, including Governments, intergovernmental organizations, financial institutions, non-governmental and civil society organizations as well as the academia and scientific communities, the Conference will also contribute to the follow-up and review process of the 2030 Agenda and provide input to the high-level political forum on sustainable development.

Also, while in Senegal, the Assembly President met with the country’s Minister of Fisheries and Maritime Economy and discussed the country’s response to challenges facing oceans such as overfishing, marine pollution, acidification and ocean warming.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56450

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Earth Hour 2017: UN joins iconic landmarks &#39going dark&#39 to support protecting the planet

25 March 2017 – The United Nations this evening dimmed the lights at its iconic Headquarters complex in New York and other facilities around the world in observance of the tenth annual ‘Earth Hour,’ global event to put the spotlight on the issues facing the planet and to inspire millions across the world to live more sustainably.

In a video message, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, said: “Climate change continues to imperil lives and livelihoods around the world. Last year was – again – the hottest on record. The landmark Paris Agreement gives us an unprecedented opportunity to limit global temperature rise, promote clean energy for all and create a sustainable future.”

Governments and businesses must step up. So must individuals. Building a sustainable tomorrow depends today on everyone, said the UN chief, asking the world to join him in turning off their lights on today at 8:30 p.m. local time.

“From the darkness, we can create a sustainable and inclusive world for all,” he said.

Organized by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Earth Hour encourages individuals, companies, organizations and Governments to switch off their lights for one hour at 8:30 p.m., local time worldwide, to focus attention on people-driven solutions to protecting the planet and building a bright, sustainable future.

First launched in 2007 in Australia, Earth Hour has become an annual event, mobilizing hundreds of millions of individuals to participate and growing to become the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment.

VIDEO: UN Secretary-General’s video message Earth Hour

According to the WWF, the UN family will join the thousands of homes, offices, skylines and monuments that will go dark on Earth Hour’s tenth anniversary to put the spotlight on the issues facing the planet, and to inspire millions across the world to live more sustainably.

Hundreds of landmarks – from New York to Uganda and Sweden to Malaysia – are confirmed and will be turning off on the night of Earth Hour, including iconic sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Taipei 101, the Empire State Building and the Acropolis.

To inspire more people to act, this year the Earth Hour movement is also inviting supporters to show their commitment to the cause on their Facebook timelines, in parallel to the lights out rolling across skylines.

People around the world can log onto earthhour.org/climateaction to donate five Facebook posts to Earth Hour and encourage their friends to be a part of local climate efforts. They can also use a new Facebook profile picture frame available on www.facebook.com/earthhour to celebrate Earth Hour on their own personal landmark – their Facebook page.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56433

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Environmental recovery key to post-conflict development in Colombia – UN agency

24 March 2017 – Concluding a mission to Colombia, a multi-disciplinary team of United Nations environment experts have highlighted that the country has a unique opportunity to promote sustainable and resilient livelihoods in which the nature serves as the foundation for long-lasting peace.

In a news release today, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said that different rebel groups and criminal gangs, which controlled large parts of the country for decades, illegally extracted and exploited natural resources leading to major environmental damage, including illegal cropping, deforestation and the unregulated use of hazardous chemicals.

The UN team’s visit and aerial inspection of the Quito and Atrato rivers uncovered the scale of environmental challenges brought by large scale and mechanized illegal operations.

“The environmental destruction in the Quito river basin is significant in terms of scope and magnitude, due to a combination of illegal mining and deforestation,” read the release.

Also, the release of Mercury (one of the most hazardous chemicals used in mining) into the environment has added significant challenges given the potential that the heavy, toxic, metal can reach the community through air, water and food chain.

The UN team was invited by the Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, to identify priority actions towards mitigating the health and livelihood risks from the environmental damage in priority areas for post-conflict development.

“Environment is at the heart of post-conflict development in Colombia,” said Leo Heileman, the Director of the UNEP Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean, noting that the UN agency “will unwaveringly stand by Colombia during the post-conflict phase.”

Initial support proposed by UNEP includes technical recommendations and training for the effective implementation of environmental peace-building projects; strategic environmental assessment of key post-conflict interventions; advice on measures to improve social, economic and environmental conditions for the extractive sector and to remediate damage caused by illegal operations; and strengthening of the institutional and technical capacities.

On its part, the Colombian Government emphasized the importance of strengthening the environmental dividends of peace and fostering green growth as pillars for sustainable development, noted the UNEP news release.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56419

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Faced with ‘clear science, real threats,’ countries must remain committed to Paris climate deal – UN

23 March 2017 – Climate change is an unprecedented and growing threat to peace, prosperity and development and addressing it presents an economic opportunity for Governments and business, senior United Nations officials said today.

“We are dealing with scientific facts, not politics. And the facts are clear. Climate change is a direct threat in itself, and a multiplier of many other threats,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres told a General Assembly High-Level action event aimed at invigorating political momentum on climate change, highlighting its deep links to the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development.

Mr. Guterres said his messages to the meeting are simple.

“First, climate change is an unprecedented and growing threat – to peace and prosperity and the same in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Second, addressing climate change is a massive opportunity that we cannot afford to miss,” he said.

The Paris Agreement on climate change adopted in December 2015 is unique in its universality, with every single government having signed it. The pact entered force in less than a year. To date more than 130 Parties have ratified it, and the numbers are growing monthly.

The countries that supported the Paris Agreement are the same that adopted the 2030 Agenda – they comprise all UN Member States.

The reason for this consensus is clear: all nations recognize that implementing the 2030 Agenda goes hand-in-glove with limiting global temperature rise and increasing climate resilience.

VIDEO: “We must act, urgently, and decisively, now” in the fight against climate change, UN chief António Guterres told a General Assembly high-level event today.

Mr. Guterres said that last year was once again the hottest on record. Sea ice is at a historic low and sea levels at a historic high. These trends are indisputable, he stressed, explaining that consequences of climate change include food insecurity, water scarcity, poverty and displacement.

Tackling climate change is a tremendous opportunity for Governments and business as there is no trade-off between a healthy environment and a healthy economy.

“We can have both. Green business is good business,” he said.

Climate action is a necessity and can advance the attainment of sustainable development goals.

“How we go about it can be the subject of scientific and political debate. But there is no question that we must act, urgently and decisively, now,” Mr. Guterres said. “And it remains the only viable way to safeguard peace, prosperity and a sustainable future.”

Also addressing the event, were Peter Thomson, President of the General Assembly, and Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

VIDEO:UN General Assembly President urges climate action for welfare of future generations

Still possible to bend curve on climate change trajectories

Mr. Thomson said that he had recently met with Petteri Taalas, the Secretary-General of the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), who confirmed that the world is currently on track towards a 3 to 4°C increase in global temperatures.

“I have always understood […] that once we reach the 3°C – 4°C range, humanity’s survival on this planet will be put in jeopardy,” he said.

Cyclone Winston and Cyclone Pam which devastated Fiji and Vanuatu in recent years were among the strongest tropical cyclones to ever make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere. Fiji, an island nation from which Mr. Thomson hails, has already begun relocating low-lying villages to higher ground, away from the encroaching shoreline and the rising threat of storm surges.

“While the prognosis is dire, the scientific community assures us it is possible to bend the curve on current trajectories, if we work together to curb the growth of global greenhouse gas emissions,” Mr. Thomson said, reiterating his call for all parties to the Paris Agreement to ratify it without delay and for those that have already done so to deliver on their commitments.

Secretary-General António Guterres addresses a General Assembly High-Level action event aimed at invigorating political momentum on climate change, highlighting its deep links to the UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Transformation opens door to sustainable future

Echoing Mr. Thomson’s statement, Ms. Espinosa said that it is a necessity to bend the emissions curve, build societies resilient to climate impacts and reduce risk by limiting warming to safe levels.

“And the policies that accomplish these goals must be developed with a focus on the sustained wellbeing of people, sound stewardship of the planet and responsible economic growth,” she said, noting that such a transformation opens the door to a future where growing human needs are reconciled against the need for a stable climate and healthy ecosystems.
“This challenge is immense. Inaction or insufficient action will destabilize the natural systems that underpin all social and economic development,” she said, urging concerted effort to overcome this challenge.
“We have truly entered the era of implementation. It is up to us, collectively as one community of nations, to accelerate action that builds a better future for all,” she said.

AUDIO: UN chief António Guterres made clear during High-Level SDG Action event that climate change is an “unprecedented and growing threat” to “peace, prosperity” and the Sustainable Development Goals. Credit: UN News

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56405

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World Meteorological Day celebrates importance of clouds for weather, climate and water

23 March 2017 – Clouds inspire art and thought, but few natural phenomena are as important to weather, climate or water, the United Nations meteorological agency today said, launching a digital cloud atlas to celebrate World Meteorological Day.

“If we want to forecast weather we have to understand clouds. If we want to model the climate system we have to understand clouds. And if we want to predict the availability of water resources, we have to understand clouds,” said said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

World Meteorological Day commemorates the coming into force on 23 March 1950 of the convention establishing the WMO. This year’s theme is “Understanding Clouds.”

In conjunction with the Day, WMO today launched for the first time a primarily on-line digital edition of the International Cloud Atlas, which features hundreds of images and information about clouds, as well as meteorological marvels, such as rainbows and halos.

The new Atlas “combines 19th century traditions with 21st century technology,” the UN agency said, noting that the International Cloud Atlas was first published some 200 years ago.

It contains pictures, definitions, and explanations that are accepted and used by all of WMO’s 191 members, as well as all types of measurements from space and through remote sensing.

For example, the Atlas includes “volutus, a roll cloud; clouds from human activities such as the contrail, a vapour trail sometimes produced by airplanes; and asperitas, a dramatic undulated cloud which captured the public imagination,” according to WMO.

In his message for the Day, Mr. Taalas noted the importance of understanding weather and climate changes in protecting people and property, and assisting communities to become more resilient.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56404

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Wastewater should be recognized as a valuable resource, UN says on World Water Day

22 March 2017 – In a world where the demand for water continues to grow and the resource is finite, a new United Nations report argues that wastewater, discarded into the environment every day, once treated, can help meet the needs for freshwater as well as for raw materials for energy and agriculture.

Needless to mention, treating wastewater and removing pollutants can also remarkably reduce the impact on the environment as well as on health.

“Improved wastewater management is as much about reducing pollution at the source, as removing contaminants from wastewater flows, reusing reclaimed water and recovering useful by-products [as it is about increasing] social acceptance of the use of wastewater,” noted Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General in her foreword to the World Water Development Report 2017 – Wastewater: An untapped resource.

The report, launched today in Durban, South Africa, on the occasion of World Water Day, also highlights that improved management of wastewater is essential in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“It’s all about carefully managing and recycling the water that runs through our homes, factories, farms and cities,” said Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Chair of UN-Water, urging for reducing and safely reusing more wastewater.

“Everyone can do their bit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase safe water reuse by 2030.”

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) has specific targets on halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally (target 6.3) as well as supporting countries in wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies (target 6.a).

Wastewater in the water cycle

Health and environmental dimension – particularly stark for low-income countries

The report also revealed that low-income countries are particularly impacted by the release of waste water into the environment without being either treated or collected, where, on average, only 8 per cent of domestic and industrial wastewater is treated, compared to 70 per cent in high-income countries.

As a result, in many regions of the world, water contaminated by bacteria, nitrates, phosphates and solvents is discharged into rivers and lakes ending up in the oceans, with negative consequences for the environment and public health.

For instance, in Latin America, Asia and Africa, pollution from pathogens from human and animal excreta affects almost one third of rivers, endangering the lives of millions of people.

Furthermore, growing awareness on the presence of hormones, antibiotics, steroids and endocrine disruptors in wastewater poses a new set of complexities as their impact on the environment and health have yet to be fully understood.

These set of challenges underscore the need for urgent action on collection, treatment and safe use of wastewater.

Wastewater as a source of raw materials

In addition to providing a safe alternative source for freshwater, wastewater is also a potential source of raw materials, noted the report.

Owing to developments in treatment techniques, certain nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrates, can now be recovered from sewage and sludge and turned into fertilizer. It is estimated that nearly 22 per cent of the global demand for phosphorus (a depleting mineral resource) can be met by treating human urine and excrement.

Use of treated wastewater has long been practised by astronauts, such as those on the International Space Station who have been reusing the same recycled water for over 16 years

Similarly, organic substances contained in wastewater can be used to produce biogas, which could power wastewater treatment facilities as well as contribute to energy needs of local communities.

In addition, use of treated wastewater is growing for agricultural irrigation. At least 50 countries around the globe are now using treated wastewater for this purpose, accounting for an estimated 10 per cent of all irrigated land.

Lastly, the report also mentioned that treated wastewater can augment drinking water supplies, although this is still a marginal practice. Cities such as Singapore, San Diego (United States), and Windhoek (Namibia) have been treating wastewater to supplement drinking water reserves.

A great example is use of treated wastewater, long practised by astronauts, such as those on the International Space Station who have been reusing the same recycled water for over 16 years.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56397

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FEATURE: Humanity at the core as UN readies for first-ever Ocean Conference

22 March 2017 – Over a year ago, on 20 February 2016, Tropical Cyclone Winston made a category 5 landfall along the north coast of Fiji’s largest, most populous island, Viti Levu, killing at least 44 people, and grounding flights to and from the Pacific Island nation.

“It was one of the strongest cyclones to have hit any country in the Southern Hemisphere,” recalls Mr. Semi Koroilavesau, Fijian Minister for Fisheries. “That was quite catastrophic for Fiji and we are still recovering from it,” he adds, sombrely.

Mr. Koroilavesau was speaking recently at a panel discussion on the margins of the first preparatory meeting – convened by the President of the United Nations General Assembly at the UN Headquarters in New York – for the first-ever UN Ocean Conference, to be co-hosted by the Governments of Fiji and Sweden, from 5 June to 9 June 2017.

“Our ocean is warming up and changing the pattern of our main product, which is tuna,” said Mr. Koroilavesau underlining the significance of the ocean to the Fijian people.

“The migratory pattern has changed because of the conditions of the water. The degradation of the water is also depleting our resources and creating a lot of havoc in our ocean,” he told the high-level panel, which included Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, Isabella Lövin, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, and Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General and head of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).

“Fiji has about 320 islands. Ocean is quite an important item to us both in our daily lives and… also as transportation between the islands,” said Mr. Koroilavesau.

A fishermen in Grenada haul’s his net ashore hoping to catch fish from the Caribbean ocean. Photo: UNEP/ Kadir van Lohuizen / NOOR

In the run-up to the June Conference, four themes will shape the focus of the preparations – discussions, networks and partnerships – which, according to the President of the UN General Assembly, “will lay the foundations upon which the Oceans Conference will stand.”

“Our efforts at this time and in the years ahead, will determine whether our children, and those who come after them, will know the joy and the sustenance of the oceans bounty that was provided to us in our youth. Let’s not deny them that bounty,” Mr. Thomson had said earlier, in a message that resonated strongly with the theme for the month of February, which is People and Oceans, with a focus on livelihoods, tourism, food security, maritime transport and trade.

“Whether you look at the declining fish stocks that are reaching a tipping point, or the ocean acidification level or whether you look at the level of plastics in our oceans, I think any sensible person can conclude that time is running out fast and we need to take action fast,” said Mr. Thomson, during the preparatory meeting.

SDG14 and the whole development agenda

Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo underlined the nexus between oceans and people, especially in the context of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, which has to do with conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.
“When we talk about SDG 14, we are thinking about navigation in the sea, we think about catching fish in the sea for food, we are thinking about doing tourism, but that is not all. Health of the sea and sustainable use of marine resources have a direct impact in the implementation of the many SDGs,” noted Mr. Wu, calling for voluntary commitments to implement Goal 14.

VIDEO: Ahead of the UN Ocean Conference in June 2017, UN chief of Economic and Social Affairs, Wu Hongbo says the Conference will be a ‘game changer’ and a chance for the international community to raise awareness about the importance of the oceans.

Noting that SDG 14 is one of the vanguards for the whole Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, Mr. Wu also makes the connection between oceans and the goal to eliminate hunger. “We are actually receiving a lot of nutrition and the food from the sea so we have to protect the sea,” said Mr. Wu.

Besides food and nutrition, Mr. Wu pointed out the significant contribution of the ocean to people’s overall wellbeing and in mitigating the effects of climate change.

The ocean and the sea are the natural regulator of our climate and they are good for sanitation,” noted the UN Under-Secretary-General. “People are saying that the oceans sink one third of greenhouse gas emission. If we lose the sea and oceans, just imagine what kind of situation we are going to have,” warned Mr. Wu, who also made a connection between oceans, employment and economic growth.

I think the best or sustainable use of marine resources would really have a big boost to the economic growth and create a lot of jobs,” said Mr. Wu.

Taveuni residents helping to unload food rations that were delivered to affected villages of southern part of Taveuni island by private donors. Southern part of Taveuni Island of Fiji is among the areas most affected by Cyclone Winston. Some villages were completely destroyed and people were left without food for about a week, as access to the island was cut. After the runaway and roads were cleared, people in affected villages started to receive food rations, but most of them are still in shock after they lost everything they had. Photo: UNICEF/ Sokhin

Transformative commitments to drive Conference outcomes

The outcomes of the Oceans Conference will, according to the President of the UN General Assembly, include a call to action and a conference report that will constitute the global body’s work plan for implementing the SDG 14.

“We must keep our vision clear. We must universalise our efforts. We must maintain the momentum towards the transformative commitments that will emerge from the Oceans Conference in June,” underscored Mr. Thomson during the first preparatory meeting.

Mr. Thomson places particular significance to the outcomes of the Ocean Conference which, he noted, would constitute “a turning point in history.”

“This is the opportunity for any human being to be a part of the recovery of the ocean. For any human being who cares about the health of the ocean,” said Mr. Thomson, during the meeting.

Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin sees the Ocean Conference as an opportunity to “share experiences, share best practices,” she told the high-level panel. “This Ocean Conference will be the hub where we can actually share this knowledge, also transfer technology, and support developing countries so they will have access and the capacity to share the way that is needed for the oceans because the oceans connect us all,” she said.

VIDEO: In preparation for June’s Ocean Conference that aims to help safeguard the planet’s oceans, UN General Assembly President said it’s time to ‘take action fast’ and the June conference will be a ‘turning point’ in history for protecting the ocean.

Ms. Lövin also expressed concerns about unsustainable exploitation of ocean resources and pollution, warning, “If these trends continue, with the overfishing, with more and more plastic pollution in our oceans, we will have more plastics than fish in our oceans by 2050.”

Like her fellow panellists, she made an urgent call to action. “It’s really, really serious so this is what we have to do now in order to leave our planet with good conscious to our children and grandchildren,” she said, adding, “We need to take action now and we can do it. We don’t have any excuses for not doing it.”

The UN has called for voluntary commitments to implement Goal 14 and established an online commitment registry. The voluntary commitments, according to Under-Secretary-General Wu, “underscore the urgency for action and for solutions.”

Other themes in focus every month ahead of the Ocean conference include: Ocean Pollution (marine litter, land-based water pollutants, shipping waste, oil spills); Marine Biodiversity (overfishing, marine habitat loss, species loss); and Oceans and Climate Change (sea-level rise, ocean warming, ocean acidification, coral bleaching).

VIDEO: Ahead of the first-ever UN conference on oceans, Swedish Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin says the international community should share knowledge, technology and support developing countries on issues related to oceans.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56401

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Warming earth threatens to release huge amounts of carbon – UN agency

21 March 2017 – Rising temperatures could release massive amounts of carbon trapped in the Earth’s soil, the United Nations agricultural agency today reported, warning that soil management could make or break climate change response efforts.

Plants and organic residues take in carbon and then sequester it into soil, creating a vast reservoir of carbon. But when soil is disturbed or degraded, trapped carbon and other greenhouse gases resulting from decay are re-released back into the atmosphere, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) explained in a press release.

“This means that the Earth’s soil carbon reservoir could either release massive amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, or sequester more of them, depending on the management decisions we make going forward,” according to the report, Soil Organic Carbon: The Hidden Potential.

The report is being presented today at the start of the Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon, in Rome.

Speaking at the event, the FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said that beyond its role as carbon sinks, healthy soils are the foundation for global food security.

“Soils with high organic carbon content are likely to be more fertile and productive, better able to purify water, and help to increase the resilience of livelihoods to the impacts of climate change,” Mr. da Silva said.

Improving the health of the planet’s soils and boosting their organic carbon content is critical to achieving several of the international development goals established by the Sustainable Development Goals, including those related to eradicating hunger and malnutrition, he added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56386

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Greener energy for a third of the world bodes well for all, says UN on International Forest Day

21 March 2017 – Cautioning the impact of human activity such as practices use of woodfuel on world’s forests, the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today called for better wood-energy conversions technologies and more sustainable management of forests so that everyone benefits.

“This is an area where we can make a real difference,”
saidWu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

“Sustainably managed forests are productive and resilient ecosystems, providing people with livelihoods and renewable energy, along with timber, food, shelter, clean air, water and climate benefits,” he added.

At the same time, fuel wood – the primary source of energy for nearly a third of the world’s population and a product derived from forests – is also an important part of the energy equation.

However, current fuel production practices (such as production of charcoal) are not only contributing to degradation of forests and soils, they are estimated to cause up to seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.

Most of the emissions is largely due to unsustainable forest management and inefficient charcoal manufacture and fuelwood combustion, FAO said in the report, The Charcoal Transition, which was launched coinciding with the International Day of Forests .

“This is especially important for poor people in rural areas of developing countries, where wood is often the only energy source available [and its] conversion to charcoal is often done using rudimentary and polluting methods,” noted FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva announcing the report at a ceremony marking the International Day in Rome.

Forests, energy, climate change and sustainable development

Forests and energy are also linked to sustainable development and can help combatting climate change.

According to estimates, about a third of the world’s population (about 2.4 billion people) still rely on the traditional use of woodfuel for cooking, and many small enterprises use fuelwood and charcoal as the main energy carriers for various purposes such as baking, tea processing and brickmaking.

Efficient charcoal manufacture and use can help mitigate climate change. A man arranging bags of charcoal to a temporary holding area in Ntendesi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Of all the wood used as fuel worldwide, about 17 per cent is converted to charcoal, however the production often relies on inefficient technologies and unsustainable resources and in some cases the emission of greenhouse gas can be as high as nine kilograms of carbon dioxide-equivalent per kilogram of charcoal produced.

“Ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) [and it is] fundamental for addressing the impacts of climate change and eliminating extreme poverty and hunger,” explained the head of FAO.

“We need, for instance, to adopt improved technologies for energy conversion,” he noted, referring to the UN agency’s programmes to deliver fuel-efficient stoves, especially for poor people in Latin America and Africa.

Greening the charcoal value chain and applying sustainable forest management practices can, therefore, mitigate climate change and further efficiencies can be gained by reducing charcoal waste, for example, by transforming charcoal dust into briquettes, adding a new iteration to the energy cycle.

Economic benefits and environmental improvements

The FAO report also argues that although the transition from unsustainable to sustainable sourcing could impose costs on the charcoal value chain, a greener charcoal sector would have an overall positive economic impact.

For instance, a cost-benefit analysis in Kenya estimated that a transition to efficient charcoal production would require an investment of $15.6 million per year excluding upfront costs. However, it would generate $20.7 million in benefits.

At the same time, demand for sustainable charcoal production can provide opportunities for afforestation and reforestation. And providing local people with greater tenure security can increase their willingness and ability to invest in sustainable approaches.

Furthermore, fostering an enabling political environment and an attractive investment climate for transition to a greener charcoal sector can also help increase government revenue collection and investments in sustainable forest management and efficient wood conversion technologies.

A win-win for all concerned, including for the forests.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56393

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Record-breaking weather in 2016 pushes world into ‘truly uncharted territory’– UN agency

21 March 2017 – Global temperatures set yet another record last year and the world witnessed exceptionally low sea ice, and unabated sea level rise and ocean heat, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said today, warning that the extreme weather and climate conditions have continued into 2017.

According to the agency’s Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2016, while global temperatures hit a remarkable 1.1 degree-Celsius above the pre-industrial period, global sea-level touch record highs and the planet’s sea-ice coverage dropped more than four million square kilometres below average in November – an unprecedented anomaly for that month.

“This increase in global temperature is consistent with other changes occurring in the climate system,” explained WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“With levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere consistently breaking new records, the influence of human activities on the climate system has become more and more evident.”

Each of the year since 2001 has seen at least 0.4 degree-Celsius above the long-term average for the 1961-1990 base period, used by the UN agency as a reference for climate change monitoring.

The 2016 heating was further boosted by the powerful 2015/2016 El Niño weather system, during which global sea-level also rose very strongly.

Similarly, carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere reached the symbolic benchmark of 400 parts per millions in 2015 – the latest year for which WMO global figures are available – and will not fall below that level for many generations to come because of the long-lasting nature of CO2.

Rabi Island, Fiji. Rising sea levels and more extreme weather events pose an imminent threat to low-lying atoll islands across the Pacific. Photo: OCHA/Danielle Parry

The extreme climate conditions also added to human suffering: 2016 saw severe droughts, affecting millions in southern and eastern African and Central America. For example, in the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew – the first category 4 (CAT4) storm to make landfall since 1963 – tore a path of destruction in Haiti and inflicted significant economic losses in the region.

Vital that Paris Agreement on climate change is fully implemented

In the midst of such challenges, Mr. Taalas, underlined the importance of implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, which also entered into force last year.

“The entry into force of the Paris Agreement on 4 November 2016 represents a historic landmark,” he said, adding: “It is vital that its implementation becomes a reality and that the Agreement guides the global community in addressing climate change by curbing greenhouse gases, fostering climate resilience and mainstreaming climate adaptation into national development policies.”

He also called for continued investment in climate research and observations to allow scientific knowledge to keep pace with the rapid rate of climate change.

Extremes continue in 2017

The extreme weather patterns are continuing in 2017, said WMO.

At least three times so far this winter, the Arctic saw what can be called the Polar equivalent of a heatwave, with powerful Atlantic storms driving an influx of warm, moist air, meaning that at the height of the Arctic winter and the sea ice refreezing period, there were days which were actually close to melting point.

Antarctic sea ice has also been at a record low, in contrast to the trend in recent years, and some areas, including Canada and much of the United States, were unusually balmy, whilst others, including parts of the Arabian peninsula and North Africa, were unusually cold in early 2017.

In United States alone, 11,743 warm temperature records were broken or tied in February, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the UN agency.

“Even without a strong El Niño in 2017, we are seeing other remarkable changes across the planet that are challenging the limits of our understanding of the climate system,” said World Climate Research Programme Director David Carlson.

“We are now in truly uncharted territory.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56396

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Smarter use of natural resources can inject $2 trillion into global economy by 2050 – UN

17 March 2017 – The United Nations has found that smarter and more efficient use of the world’s natural resources today can yield an “environmental win-win’ by injecting $2 trillion into the global economy by 2050 while also offsetting the costs of ambitious climate change action.

Citing new research from the International Resource Panel in anews release today, Erik Solheim, Head the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), called it “an environmental win-win.”

The global population, which is set to grow by 28 per cent, is predicted to use 71 per cent more resources per capita by 2050. Without urgent steps to increase efficiency, the global use of metals, biomass, minerals – such as sand – and other materials will increase from 85 to 186 billion tonnes per year by 2050.

The report, “Resource Efficiency: Potential and Economic Implications,” which was commissioned in 2015 and released in Berlin at the G20 meeting, found that while investment in ambitious climate action would cause a 3.7 per cent fall in per capita gross world product by 2050, more sustainable use of materials and energy would not only cover the cost of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, but also add an extra $2 trillion to the global economy by 2050.

“By making better use of our planet’s natural gifts, we will inject more money into the economy to create jobs and improve livelihoods,” Mr. Solheim stressed. “At the same time we will create the necessary funds to finance ambitious climate action,” he added.

Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Erik Solheim. UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

The report analyzed four paths that countries could take over the next three decades, ranging from ‘business as usual’ to a scenario where they adopt both ambitious climate policies and improve resource efficiency.

For example, between 2005 and 2010, a programme in the United Kingdom recycled or reused seven million tonnes of trash destined for the landfill. This move saved six million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, close to 10 million tonnes of virgin materials and 10 million tonnes of water. It also increased business sales by £176 million, reduced business costs by £156 million and created 8,700 jobs.

Although other key findings point to uneven economic gains of resource efficiency and slower resource extractions, which would reduce revenues and affect jobs in some industries – such as mining and quarrying – countries still stand to gain more by implementing compensation and transfer policies to ease the transition to more efficient practices, than by continuing to support inefficient activities, according to the report.

In addition to economic benefits, the analysis illustrates that resource efficiency and climate action would reduce global resource use by around 28 per cent in 2050 compared to current trends.

For G7 countries, resource efficiency, coupled with ambitious climate action, would increase Gross Domestic Product by $600 billion in 2050 ($600 per person, or 1 per cent).

The International Resource Panel is a group of experts in natural resource management hosted by UN Environment.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56369

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