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FEATURE: UN’s mission to keep plastics out of oceans and marine life

27 April 2017 – There will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans by 2050 unless people stop using single-use plastic items such as plastic bags and plastic bottles, according to figures cited by the United Nations.

“Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables,” the agency known as UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has said.

In 1950, the world’s population of 2.5 billion produced 1.5 million tons of plastic; in 2016, a global population of more than 7 billion people produced over 300 million tons of plastic – with severe consequences for marine plants and animals.

“According to one estimate, 99 per cent of all seabirds will have ingested plastic by mid-century,” Petter Malvik, UN Environment Programme’s Communications Officer, told UN News.

Earlier this year, the UN declared war on ocean plastic. Launched at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, the #CleanSeas campaign urges governments to pass plastic reduction policies, targets industries to minimize plastic packaging and redesign products, and urges people to change their own habits.

VIDEO: United Nations Environment Programme warns for the consequences of polluting our ocean with plastic and says that over 8 million tons of plastic end up in oceans each year. The UN will convene the Ocean Conference in June to spur international action to safeguard oceans, seas and marine resources. Credit: UN News

Indonesia has committed to slashing its marine litter by 70 per cent by 2025; Uruguay will tax single-use plastic bags this year; and Kenya has agreed to eliminate them entirely.

Click on image for large. Graphic: UNEP

“The Clean Seas campaign has already achieved important wins for our oceans, but the job is far from done. By 2022, we aim to achieve a global ban on microbeads in personal care and cosmetic products and a drastic reduction in the production and use of single- use plastic,” said Mr. Malvik.

Microbeads are tiny pieces of plastic used in, among other things, some exfoliating products and toothpaste. They are listed in the ingredients as polyethylene or polypropylene.

Given the amount of plastic found today in oceans, much of marine life carries plastic that either entered them directly or by eating smaller marine creatures.

“These microplastics often carry toxic contaminants and pose a real risk to food security and human health if they enter the human food chain via the fish that we eat,” Petri Suuronen, Fishery Industry Officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), told UN News.

“With an estimated 9.7 billion people to be fed by 2050, the threat of fish stocks contaminated with microplastics and their associated toxins is clear,” Mr. Suuronen added.

In addition to dangers to humans, microplastics are a threat for fish and birds that mistake them as food and starve to death.

Microplastics are made one of two ways. Either they are manufactured – not only as microbeads, but even as microfibers that wash out of synthetic clothes during laundry – or they are created when waves and sunlight break down larger plastic pieces.

One of the biggest sources of this second type of microplastics is fishermen, who abandon, lose or discard fishing gear into seas and oceans.

A 2009 FAO report estimated there are 640,000 tons of abandoned fishing nets on the ocean floor throughout the world. Much of it continuing to trap marine animals in a practice referred to as “ghost fishing.”

UNEP Patron for Oceans, Lewis Pugh, is swimming the Seven Seas to urge policy makers to protect at least 10 per cent of the world’s seas. In the Arabian Sea off Oman, the seabed was a rubbish dump. No fish. No coral. Just tyres, plastic packets, bottles, cans. Photo: UNEP

“Fishing gear can persist for decades in the oceans, entangling wildlife and polluting marine ecosystems as it breaks down into smaller and smaller particles,” said Mr. Suuronen.

Aside from its harmful effects, discarded plastic has economic drawbacks. Plastic packaging material with a value of at least $80 billion is lost each year, according to a report by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, cited by the UN.

Click on image for large. Graphic: UNEP

The report also notes that if this trend continues, by 2050, oceans will contain more plastic than fish by weight.

Solving the issue of plastic pollution will require international agreements.

During the week of 5 June, Member States and civil society representatives will gather at UN Headquarters in New York for the Ocean Conference. Among its expected outcomes is a Call to Action – a global declaration that will set the course toward a more sustainable future for the world’s oceans and seas.

The focus of the conference is Sustainable Development Goal 14, which aims to alleviate poverty and inequality, while preserving the earth. ‘SDG 14’ calls for efforts to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

“Humanity is only just waking up to the extent to which it is harming itself and the planetary environment through the plague-proportions of plastic it is dumping into the ocean,” said Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly.

“The Ocean Conference must take the first steps to reverse the growing curse of marine plastic pollution. We have all played a part in this problem; we must all work on the solutions.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56638

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Chernobyl 31 years on: International cooperation still needed to address consequences, says UN

26 April 2017 – The United Nations today commemorated the International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day recalling the devastating explosion of 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant which spewed radioactive material to an area stretching 155,000 square kilometres across Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

Underscoring the need to strengthen international cooperation to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the disaster, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December last year in which it designated 26 April as the International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day.

In the resolution, the Assembly recognized that “three decades after the Chernobyl disaster, the still-persistent serious long-term consequences thereof, as well as the continuing related needs of the affected communities and territories.”

It also acknowledged “the need for continuing international cooperation on Chernobyl under the auspices of the UN that can contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030.”

About 8.4 million people across four countries were exposed to radiation, including some 600,000 “liquidators,” who were involved in fire-fighting and clean-up operations.

Also, agricultural areas covering nearly 52,000 square kilometres were contaminated with Cesium-137 and Strontium-90, with 30-year and 28-year half-lives respectively. Nearly 404,000 people were resettled, but millions continued to live in an environment where continued residual exposure created a range of adverse effects.

As any radioactive decay is on an exponential scale, it can take many decades and even centuries for the material to become inert fully.

UN efforts to aid the recovery from the disaster started in 1990 when the global Organization’s General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for international cooperation to address and mitigate the consequences of the explosion.

Since the disaster, UN programmes and agencies have, together with non-governmental organizations have launched more than 230 different research and assistance projects in the fields of health, nuclear safety, rehabilitation, environment, production of clean foods and information.

Also today, at the UN Headquarters in New York, the Permanent Mission of Belarus together with partners organized a roundtable discussion on identifying and mitigating the long-term consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster entitled ‘Building the Case for Continued International Cooperation’.

This photo was made on the territory of Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in the middle of May in 1986, less then a month after the catastrophic nuclear disaster. After the accident at the nuclear plant, thousands of Soviet soldiers assist with the cleanup. Repair crews made up of chemical defence troops mobilize for work throughout the 30 kilometre zone around the plant, including highly contaminated areas near the damaged reactor. UN Photo/Oleg Veklenko

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56634

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UN agency and Chinese bike-share firm team up to raise awareness about climate change

25 April 2017 – The United Nations development agency is teaming up with ofo, a China-based bike sharing platform, to raise public awareness about climate change, it was announced today.

“This is an innovative partnership which will make real strides towards protecting our precious environment,” said Michael O’Neill, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Director of External Relations at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Ofo, which is recognized by yellow bicycles in China, Singapore and the United States, will also donate its income on the 17th of the month to celebrate the universally approved 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a to-do list to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030.

The funding will be used to provide financial support “to innovative projects that address urban environmental challenges,” according to a press release.

The includes creating campaign messages about how each and every person can reduce CO2 emissions.

UNDP and ofo have also said that they will establish a scholarship program for environment research and start-ups offering green products and technologies.

In addition, ofo will share abandoned bikes with children in rural areas to improve their access to education.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56627

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Mother Earth Day: Environmental and climate literacy vital for a cleaner, greener planet, says UN

22 April 2017 – Environmental and climate literacy is the engine not only for creating green voters and advancing environmental and climate laws and policies but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs, the United Nations is emphasizing on Mother Earth Day.

International Mother Earth Day, marked annually on 22 April, is celebrated to remind everyone that the Earth and its ecosystems provide us with life and sustenance.

It also recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the landmark 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity.

The International Day provides an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world to the challenges regarding the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports, says the UN.

The theme for 2017 is ‘Environmental and Climate Literacy.’ Education is the foundation for progress. A global citizenry must be built that is fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. Everyone must be empowered with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection, the world body stresses.

Recognizing that Mother Earth is a common expression for the planet Earth in a number of countries and regions, which reflects the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit, and noting that Earth Day is observed each year in many countries, the UN General Assembly, through a resolution adopted in 2009, decided to designate 22 April as International Mother Earth Day.

It invites all Member States, the organizations of the United Nations system, international, regional and subregional organizations, civil society, non-governmental organizations and relevant stakeholders to observe and raise awareness of International Mother Earth Day, as appropriate.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56606

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Mother Earth Day: Environmental and climate literacy vital for building cleaner, greener planet, says UN

22 April 2017 – Environmental and climate literacy is the engine not only for creating green voters and advancing environmental and climate laws and policies but also for accelerating green technologies and jobs, the United Nations is emphasizing on Mother Earth Day.

International Mother Earth Day, marked annually on 22 April, is celebrated to remind everyone that the Earth and its ecosystems provide us with life and sustenance.

It also recognizes a collective responsibility, as called for in the landmark 1992Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, to promote harmony with nature and the Earth to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations of humanity.

The International Day provides an opportunity to raise public awareness around the world to the challenges regarding the well-being of the planet and all the life it supports, says the UN.

The theme for 2017 is ‘Environmental and Climate Literacy.’ Education is the foundation for progress. A global citizenry must be built that is fluent in the concepts of climate change and aware of its unprecedented threat to our planet. Everyone must be empowered with the knowledge to inspire action in defense of environmental protection, the world body stresses.

Recognizing that Mother Earth is a common expression for the planet Earth in a number of countries and regions, which reflects the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit, and noting that Earth Day is observed each year in many countries, the UN General Assembly, through a resolution adopted in 2009, decided to designate 22 April as International Mother Earth Day.

It invites all Member States, the organizations of the United Nations system, international, regional and subregional organizations, civil society, non-governmental organizations and relevant stakeholders to observe and raise awareness of International Mother Earth Day, as appropriate.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56606

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UN agency uses satellite data to aid farmers in Africa, Middle East boost water efficiency

20 April 2017 – The United Nations agricultural agency created an online database that uses satellite data and Google Earth images to figure out how much water is being used to irrigate crops, focusing on parts of Africa and the Middle East that are facing water scarcity.

“Water use continues to surge at the same time that climate change – with increasing droughts and extreme weather – is altering and reducing water availability for agriculture,” said Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Climate Change and Natural Resources.

“That puts a premium on making every drop count, underscoring the importance of meeting growing food production needs from efficiency gains.”

Known as WaPOR, the open-access database measures evapotranspiration – how water evaporates and returns to the atmosphere, according to FAO.

“Evapotranspiration thus provides a direct measure of the water consumed by a crop during a growing season and, when related to the biomass and harvestable crop yield, allows for calculating the crop water productivity,” the UN agency said presenting WaPOR at a high-level meeting in Rome on “ “Coping with water scarcity in agriculture: a global framework for action in a changing climate”.

WaPOR sifts through data to produce maps that who much food is produced for every cubic meter of water consumed.

FAO, with support from the Government of the Netherlands, is currently focusing on African and the Middle East, with detailed data expected in October for pilot areas in Ethiopia, Lebanon and Mali.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56590

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Iraq: UN assessment reveals extensive destruction in western Mosul

13 April 2017 – Using satellite imagery and local researches, the most recent evaluation confirms that western Mosul has undergone extensive destruction, “far greater than in the east,” according to a senior United Nations aid official in the country.

“The level of damage in western Mosul is already far greater than in the east, even before the battle to retake the Old City begins,” said Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, in a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

With more than 1,140 housing sites having been destroyed across the city, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) confirms that damage to houses in western Mosul is two and a half times greater than in the eastern districts with one-third of the residential devastation reported to have occurred in the Al Jadeda neighbourhood.

Ms. Grande pointed out that nearly 300,000 civilians have already fled western Mosul and “hundreds of thousands more may in the days and weeks ahead.”

She stressed that homes are being destroyed, schools and health centres damaged and that crucial public infrastructure, including electricity and water stations, are in ruins.

“Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians and limit damage to civilian infrastructure. Nothing is more important,” concluded the Humanitarian Coordinator.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56560

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UN announces first-ever World Ocean Festival

11 April 2017 – With global leaders heading to the United Nations for a major conference in June on the protection and sustainable use of the planet’s oceans, the UN today announced that the inaugural World Ocean Festival will kick off the week-long event, with activists and enthusiasts taking to the streets – and waterways – of New York City to raise their voices to reverse the declining health of our oceans.

At a joint press briefing at UN Headquarters today, Penny Abeywardena, the Commissioner of the (New York City) Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, joined Peter Thompson, President of the UN General Assembly, to announce the first-ever Festival which will be held on Sunday, 4 June, the day before the opening of The Ocean Conference, which will run from 5 to 9 June.

The Festival, organized by the Global Brian Foundation, will galvanize people across the world to bring public attention to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 14, on conservation and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, “right here in New York City, a premier coastal city,” said Ms. Abeywardena.

“Through these gatherings, people will come together to catalyze specific steps we can take as a community to preserve our oceans and engage our citizens and in particular, our young people,” she said, adding that, with 520 miles (about 835 kilometres) of coastline, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration recognizes the need for cities to lead on protecting the planet from degradation through sustainable consumption and effective management of the world’s natural resources and mitigating the worst impacts of climate change.

For his part, Assembly President Thomson said New York City is a model not only in the United States but around the world of what cities can do in integrating the SDGs with their urban development planning, drawing attention to Mayor de Blasio’s ‘One NYC’ initiative.

An opportunity to address major woes humanity has put upon the ocean

As for the Conference, he said “the ocean is in deep trouble,” facing threats such as marine pollution; fishery subsidies at a time when fish stocks are collapsing; and degraded coastal ecosystems planet-wide. “The Ocean Conference is [a timely opportunity] to address these major woes humanity has put upon the ocean,” he continued, adding that it also will provide an opportunity to think about the impacts of climate change.

“With ocean acidification, we’re already seeing the effects of this; its serious business in Oregon and Washington state and its spreading around the world and is also serious business for the tropics, where because of rising temperatures life is leaving our waters because it is too hot,” explained Mr. Thomson, noting that 40 per cent of the cause of rising sea levels is due to the fact that oceans are heating up.

UN Photo/Martine Perret

And yet “all human problems have human solutions and that’s what the Ocean Conference is about, working to find what the solutions are,” he emphasized, noting that UN Member States are currently making good progress on the ‘call to action’ that would be agreed by the Conference. Further, in addition to a plenary, the Conference would also feature seven partnership dialogues focused on SDG 14.

Mr. Thomson went on to highlight the registry of voluntary commitments, to which the UN was urging all stakeholders and “everybody who gives a hoot about the ocean” to register to between now and the Conference “so that you stand and be counted in our call to action to reverse the cycle of decline in which the ocean has been caught.” The roll of the media is important in all this, to get the word out about the state of the planet’s oceans “but also that we’re doing something about it.”

Natalia Vega-Berry, founder of the Global Brain Foundation and Executive Producer of the World Ocean Festival said the event will aim to show world leaders gathering for the UN conference the urgency for taking action. “Our ocean is a connective tissue for the world’s entire population. It makes planet Earth and us all one, as we are surrounded by shores. At the same time, our ocean is at great risk of pollution, overfishing, climate change and more.”

While coastal cities and island nations feel the most pressing burden of such threats, she said that the Festival will aim to bring together all people who care deeply about the oceans’ future to “raise their voices in support of the ocean and call on world leaders to take action to save it.”

She said that while the Festival will be held in New York, other cities could also be inspired to organize their own events.

New York’s festival will feature a first-of-its kind grand “ocean march,” which will be a parade of sailing vessels around lower Manhattan and along 10 nautical miles of Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfront from the Hudson to the East River. The second main event will be the Ocean Village, which will be set up at Gentry State Park in Long Island City as a “hub for all things ocean,” and will celebrate art, innovation and exhibits on ocean and climate action.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56544

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Cost of renewables fell in 2016, lowering global investment in clean energy &#8211 UN

6 April 2017 – The world added record levels of renewable energy capacity in 2016, even as investment in clean energy fell, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today reported.

Ever-cheaper clean tech provides a real opportunity for investors to get more for less,” said UNEP executive Director Erik Solheim. “This is exactly the kind of situation, where the needs of profit and people meet, that will drive the shift to a better world for all.”

The report,
Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2017, found that wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, small hydro and marine sources added 138.5 gigawatts to global power capacity in 2016, up from 127.5 gigawatts added the year before. According to the press release, this difference is roughly equals to the energy created from the world’s 16 largest existing power producing facilities combined.

Another key finding is the decreasing cost of clean energy, as compared with traditional fuels. For example, the average dollar capital expenditure per megawatt for solar photovoltaics and wind dropped by over 10 per cent.

This meant that investors got “more bang for their buck,” according to UN Environment, which published today’s report along with the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre and the Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuel generation,” the UN programme said.

While the capacity from renewables was equivalent to 55 per cent of all new power, the highest to date, total investment was $241.6 billion, the lowest since 2013.

Global new investment in renewable energy. Volume adjusts for re-invested equity. Total values include estimates for undisclosed deals. Developed country volumes are based on OECD countries excluding Mexico, Chile, and Turkey. Source: UN Environment, Bloomberg New Energy Finance

The authors noted drops in investment among developing countries, including in China where investment had been rising the past 11 years. Investment in offshore windmills in China, however, peaked at $4.1 billion.

Meanwhile, in Europe, investment rose, led by the United Kingdom and Germany. The continent’s investment in renewables overall rose three per cent to $59.8 billion.

The most hopeful sign last year for the future greening of the global electricity system was a succession of winning bids for solar and wind, in auctions around the world, according to the report. Records were set for solar power in Chile and onshore wind in Morocco.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56512

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Mali ratifies amendment to Montreal Protocol, first country vowing to slash HFCs – UN

4 April 2017 – Mali has become the first country to ratify the Kigali Amendment, a ground-breaking amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, the United Nations environment agency today announced.

“We urge more countries to follow suit in order to protect our climate,” said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment, in his congratulatory statement.

Countries that ratify the Kigali Amendment commit to cut the production and consumption of greenhouse gases hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), which are frequently used as substitutes for ozone-depleting substances (ODSs).

The goal is to cut HFCs by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years. According to preliminary studies, this could lead to a cut in 0.5 degrees Celsius if fully implemented.

The Kigali Amendment will enter into force on 1 January 2019, provided that it is ratified by at least 20 parties to the Montreal Protocol.

“Through the Kigali Amendment, the Montreal Protocol takes responsibility for HFCs and plays a leading role in working towards an environmentally sustainable world where no one is left behind, consistent with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” UN Environment said in a press release.

The 2030 Agenda includes 17 goals that the world governments universally agreed to try to attain, including one standalone goal on combatting climate change and its impacts.

The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by phasing out the production of a number of substances responsible for its depletion.

The ozone layer, a fragile shield of gas, protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the sun’s ultraviolet rays, thus helping to preserve life on the planet.

Under the Protocol, Governments phased out nearly 99 per cent of close to 100 ozone-depleting substances. This “prevented adverse impacts on agriculture, animals, forests, marine life, natural ecosystems and materials. In addition, up to 2 million cases of skin cancer may be prevented each year by 2030,” according to UN Environment.

Developing countries that are parties to the Kigali Amendment will have access to financial and technical support provided under the Montreal Protocol.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56494

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Weather, existing socio-economic factors compounded Colombian landslide tragedy – UN agency

4 April 2017 – Very heavy rainfall triggered the landslides that hit Colombia over the weekend, but “exceptional” level of rains were not the sole cause, the United Nations weather agency said today, noting that many other factors, such as loss of forest cover, added to the devastation.

“The weather was not the only cause of the tragedy, many other socio-economic factors, including deforestation, came into play,” Clare Nullis, a spokesperson for the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), told the media at a regular press briefing at the UN Office at Geneva (UNOG).

March is typically a rainy month in the country, but the quantities of rainfall seen in the past week have been exceptional, she explained, adding that the municipality of Mocoa, hardest-hit by the landslides, saw 129 millimetres of rainfall within 24 hours on 31 March.

Of that amount, 80 per cent of the precipitation fell in just three hours, explaining the size of the tragedy.

According to a Flash Update by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (in Spanish), as of 2 April 254 people have been confirmed to have perished in the disaster, 262 have been injured and 441 are missing.

The casualty figures are approximate and are expected to rise.

Furthermore, as of 3 April, more than 500 municipalities are at the of risk of landslides in the country, and of those 182 had orange to red alerts, noted Ms. Nullis.

She added that while the national meteorological service is very strong and well-equipped, it faced considerable challenges.

“There are more than 700,000 rivers and bodies of water, and it is impossible to have monitoring stations at each one of them,” said the WMO spokesperson.

Further, clarifying that the cause of the disaster was not El Niño, crediting a senior official at the Colombian Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies, she said that climate variability and climate change would continue to produce rain and drought, and that prevention is the most important.

She also informed the briefing that in the short-term, Colombian Meteorological Agency weather forecasts indicate that there would be no or very light rainfall in the affected areas till 6 April.

The long-term predictions for the season were for above average rainfall in the area.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56498

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Follow China’s example, shut down ivory factories and shops, UN agency urges countries

3 April 2017 – Applauding the Chinese Government’s closure of many of its ivory factories and retail outlets, the United Nations environment wing has called on other countries and territories to follow China’s example and improve the survival prospects for elephants across the world.

The move, announced by the country’s State Forestry Administration, represents the first concrete steps in an “almost complete” ban on the domestic trade in ivory. It was announced last year and expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2017.

“This is an historic step and may well be a turning point in our fight to save elephants from extinction,” the Executive Director of UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Erik Solheim, said in a news release issued late last week.

“The true measure of the success of these new rules will be how well they are enforced,” he added.

According to UNEP, the closures on 31 March represent the end of business for around one-third of officially sanctioned ivory-carvers and licensed retailers in one of the world’s largest markets for the sale of ivory, where elephant tusks are used to make decorative objects and as traditional gifts or displays of wealth.

With 100,000 elephants killed in the last decade alone and only around 500,000 left worldwide, bans like this cannot happen soon enough.

Mr. Solheim also pledged to work closely with the Chinese government to ensure a healthy natural legacy remains for the world’s children and grandchildren.

Lower prices mean fewer poachers

Also, following the announcement of the ban, ivory prices have fallen by almost two-thirds and public awareness campaigns have played a key role in reducing the demand. These mean that the killing of elephants for their tusks and illicit trade of the ivory is not as lucrative as it once was.

Such legislation, enforcement and a change in public attitudes will not only protect wildlife but also benefit people who live in the countries where elephants are found.

Furthermore, combatting illegal trade in ivory helps the fight against corruption as well as helps curb the funding that finance the activities of criminal gangs.

What’s good for the elephants is good for everyone.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56484

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