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Major new UN report sets course towards ‘pollution-free planet’

28 September 2017 – While pollution has considerably negative impacts on human health and ecosystems, it is controllable and avoidable through political leadership, high-level champions and commitments, as well with local level action, says a new report launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report, Towards a pollution-free planet, was launched during the first Conference of Parties for the Minamata Convention, which addresses mercury issues and ahead of the annual UN Environment Assembly, to be held in early December.

Pollution is a universal challenge [but] the good news is that we already know what we need to do to prevent and reduce it,” UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim said, stressing that “now the responsibility is on governments, businesses, cities and local authorities, civil society and individuals around the world to commit to act to beat pollution in all its forms.”

Outlining the negative impacts pollution has especially on the poor and the vulnerable and its direct threat to human rights; limited responses by governments, business and citizens to existing pollution; and the challenges of the current actions, the report suggests five overarching actions.

  • A global compact on pollution would make pollution prevention a priority for all;
  • Environmental governance needs to be strengthened at all levels;
  • Sustainable consumption and production, through improved resource efficiency and lifestyle changes, should be promoted; waste reduction and management must be prioritized;
  • Investment in cleaner production and consumption will help to counter pollution; and
  • Multi-stakeholder partnerships and collaborations are vital for the innovation, knowledge-sharing and transdisciplinary research needed to develop technological and ecosystems- based solutions.

Also proposed in the report are 50 concrete actions to curb pollution in various forms, with a call for strong high-level political commitment and engagement of local government, civil society and other stakeholders.

The report stresses that although some forms of pollution have been reduced as technologies and management strategies have advanced, approximately 19 million premature deaths are estimated to occur annually as a result of the way societies use natural resources and impact the environment to support production and consumption.

“If consumption and production patterns continue as they are, the linear economic model of ‘take-make-dispose’ will seriously burden an already-polluted planet, affecting current and future generations,” the report’s foreword concludes.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57768

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In UN address, Venezuela decries effects of capitalism as enemy of Mother Nature

25 September 2017 – Echoing the sentiments of other speakers from the Latin American and Caribbean, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela told the United Nations today that countries in the region are suffering extreme weather and climate catastrophes due to rampant consumption and consumerism in which they played no part.

Calling for adherence to the principle of ‘shared and differentiated’ responsibility when tackling climate change, Jorge Arreaza Montserrat, voiced solidarity with those affected by recent natural disasters, noting that such events had made millions of people victims of “a war they did not choose; this is the war of the developed countries and their capitalist system against Mother Nature.”

Indeed, he said: “Let us not change the climate, let us change the system.” The responsibility must not fall on developing countries alone; it was especially unfair for the United States – the world’s largest emitter – to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

He went on to say that while the UN is a “noble instrument” intended to serve as a podium for discussion of pressing issues like the state of the planet, it nevertheless played host to “arrogant powers” such as the US, which “desecrated, disrespected and offended [this] house for peace.” He said Venezuela’s people had been directly threatened by President Donald Trump, including by military threats and the imposition of unilateral sanctions.

While Venezuela would always deal with the United States and other nations through mutual respect, it was nevertheless prepared to defend itself “in any way,” he stressed.

As for the situation in his country, Mr. Arreaza said democracy in Venezuela is “active and popular” and the “violence of the opposition” had been eased after the July 30 elections in which Venezuelans went to vote to choose to the members of the National Constituent Assembly.

“Total political peace returned to the country from July 31. Our National Constituent Assembly is [in line] with the rest of the constituted powers,” he explained, calling it an instrument for national dialogue and dealing with the most urgent problems of the country.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57741

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‘To deny climate change is to deny a truth we have just lived’ says Prime Minister of storm-hit Dominica

23 September 2017 – Pleading with all countries in the United Nations General Assembly – large and small, rich and poor – to come together to save our planet, the Prime Minister of Dominica, where the landscape, ravaged by back-to-back hurricanes “resembles a warzone,” said his and other islands in the Caribbean need help now to build their homelands back better.

“I come to you straight from the front line of the war on climate change,” Roosevelt Skerrit said in an emotional address to the General Assembly’s annual general debate. He said he made the difficult journey from his storm-battered country “because these are the moments for which the United Nations exists!”

Just two years after powerful tropical storm Erika had ripped through the region – leaving his country, known as ‘nature island’ a land of dirt and dust – he said Dominica, the Bahamas and others had been ravaged by perhaps the worst hurricane season on record, with Irma and Maria leaving loss of lives and livelihoods, and as yet untold damage.

Mr. Skerrit said that warmer air and sea temperatures have permanently altered the climate between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. Heat is the fuel that takes ordinary storms – “storms we could normally master in our sleep – and supercharges them into a devastating force.

The most unfortunate reality, he said, is that there is little time left to reverse damages and rectify this trajectory. “We need action and we need it now,” he said.

“The stars have fallen, Eden is broken. The nation of Dominica has come to declare an international humanitarian emergency.”

He concluded by urging ownership and responsibility for perpetuating harm that desperately begs attention: “Let it spark a thousand points of light, not shame.”

Darren Allen Henfield, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

In an equally impassioned address, Darren Allen Henfield, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas, expressed his concern with the effects of environmental degradation and climate change on small island developing States, which are “threatening their survivability.”

“With what we have witnessed just recently with the passage of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and now Maria, I cannot underscore sufficiently the importance the Bahamas attaches to combating climate change, and the preservation and protection of the environment,” he said.

Stressing that “climate change is global,” he emphasised the damage that hurricane Irma had in the Bahamian archipelago. Indeed, while the Bahamas had not suffered a direct hit, it was not totally spaced. The southern islands experienced serious damage. Additionally, tornadoes inflicted considerable damage on the northern islands of Bimini and Grand Bahama.

Highlighting the election of a new Government for his country the past May, the Minister spoke on its intention of creating the first fully green island in the region, out of the destruction of Ragged Island, which became uninhabitable.

“For the first time in its history, The Bahamas evacuated whole communities to safe quadrants ahead of Hurricane Irma. What’s next: wholesale evacuation of the entire Caribbean?” he asked, calling on the international community to act fast and in a co-ordinated way.

In his address, the Foreign Minister also highlighted the “need to re-evaluate of the measurements used to determine economic well-being” in the country, to allow them to receive development assistant.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57704

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In a globalized world, ‘we must live in each other’s shelter, not shadow,’ Ireland tells UN

23 September 2017 – Expressing his faith in the United Nations and its commitment to responding to challenges such as the disasters presently plaguing Latin America and the Caribbean, Denis Naughton, Minister for Environment of Ireland, said that and other issues require the UN to “move from debate to action.”

Strong partnerships, he told the General Assembly, would remain at the core of Ireland’s approach in working together for a peaceful and prosperous future, and he stressed that as international issues – from climate change to migration – increasingly intersect, “there are not unilateral solutions to these problems.”

The key to tackling global issues collaboratively, he continued, lies in the 2030 Agenda and its attendant Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which together have the power and potential to transform the world.

Turning to efforts to reduce threats of violence and nuclear weapons, Mr. Naughton said Ireland unreservedly condemns the series of missile tests by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), urging the country to de-escalate the conflict between the DPRK and the United States.

Part of peacekeeping means providing humanitarian assistance and contributing to international efforts, Conveney said, and explained how investing in youth will ensure a sustainable future. “We have a phrase in Irish […] which, broadly translated, states “praise the youth and they will come.”

He highlighted the prominence of this statement, particularly relevant to Africa, and expressed commitment to building a partnership with that continent, as well as pursuing other international relationships.

Mr. Naughton concluded his speech with a message on coexistence: “In today’s globalized world we must live in each other’s shelter, not shadow.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57706

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Small island nations in Pacific urge global action to fight climate change

23 September 2017 – Leaders from Pacific island nations addressing the United Nations General Assembly today urged Governments to implement the Paris Agreement, and contribute to fighting climate change and supporting sustainable development efforts.

“Micronesia expresses grave concern that some countries have chosen to break with the international community and neglect the Paris Agreement, contrary to all of the best scientific advice,” the country’s Vice President, Yosiwo George, said in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York.

Agreed by 195 nations, the 2015 Paris Agreement seeks to combat climate change and unleash actions and investment towards a low carbon, resilient and sustainable future. Its main aim is to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

In addition to implementing the Agreement, Mr. George urged world leaders to support the Green Climate Fund which aims to finance “green” investments in developing countries.

He voiced concerns about lack of ambition in face of mounting threats to the health of the oceans, urging a special provision to be created for small island developing states within the UN Law of the Sea Convention on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological areas.

Fishing rights in exclusive economic zones are of particularly concern, Mr. George said, urging the international community “to remain steadfast in our efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in all its forms.”

Prime Minister Peter Paire O’Neill of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Ariana Lindquist

The head of Government in Papua New Guinea expressed similar concerns, noting that the global fish stocks are being “decimated” and “people are being forced to abandon their traditional homes because they have to jobs or food.”

Peter O’Neill told the UN General Assembly that the problem of unsustainable use of natural resources is part of the bigger issue of climate change and its adverse impacts, which include seawater flooding in coastal communities, extreme tropical storms and severe droughts.

“In Papua New Guinea, and around the world, our people are dying as a consequence,” Mr. O’Neill said. “Living standards are being eroded and opportunity denied.”

“The world needs increased action now, to make further commitments to reduce emissions, and to help communities respond effectively to the climate change challenges,” he added.

Noting the challenges facing refugees and migrants around the world, Mr. O’Neill also called for a “more sensible and humane” approach to mobility, noting that more people will be dislocated in the future by natural disasters and the loss of livelihoods.

John Silk, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

In the same vein, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands underscored that the science behind climate is very real and urged that global confidence in the Paris Agreement must not waver in the face of any short-term challenges.

“The Paris Agreement is only as strong as the political confidence which stands behind it – and it is beyond imperative that, even in these early moments, committed nations are starting the challenging task of pushing ourselves to do even more,” said Minister John Silk.

In his address, the Minister also underscored the importance of the Sustainable Development Goal, and in particular, Goal 14, on the conservation and sustainable use the oceans, seas and marine resources.

Also in his remarks, Mr. Silk expressed condemned the recent nuclear and missile tests conducted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), adding that he is appalled by the threat of an atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57711

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Cluster of extreme weather events leave no doubt climate change is real, Caribbean nations tell UN

23 September 2017 – The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, echoing other senior government officials today and throughout the General Assembly’s annual general debate, questioned how, after the spate of recent catastrophic events in the Caribbean, South Asia and elsewhere, one could deny that “climate change is real, and it is upon us.”

Shifting weather patterns, global warming and rising sea levels are impacts of climate change and, extending his nation’s condolences and solidarity to those affected, emphasized that resources, cooperation and collaboration of the international community will be required to help rebuild and build back better.

“The events of the last months in the Caribbean once more remind us all that small island developing States remain at the forefront of the impact of climate change,” Mr. Moses stated. Yet, in light of their re-categorization based on out-dated formulae of gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, Caribbean countries will not qualify for aid and development assistance.

“I join my Caribbean colleagues in calling for a multidimensional approach that takes into consideration real national needs and priorities, “as well as these extraordinary circumstances,” to provide access to development assistance, aid and debt relief, as the Caribbean region embarks on the arduous task of recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction together,” Mr. Moses stressed.

Noting that oceans cover three-quarters of the earth’s surface and contain over 95 per cent of its water, he called “indisputable” the critical importance of its conservation. As an island State, Trinidad and Tobago is highly vulnerable to the unprecedented rate of marine biodiversity loss and the impacts of unsustainable practices on the marine environment.

He also highlighted that Trinidad and Tobago supported multilateralism and is committed to working collectively to find enduring and sustainable solutions to the many global challenges facing the world today. “We must all do our part in this noble endeavour for the good of humanity!” he concluded.

Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

After expressing her country’s condolences and support for the Caribbean nations affected by the recent national disasters, Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, told the Assembly that for her region, climate change is an existential issue that requires urgent and effective action.

Ms. Smith pointed out that the region’s catastrophic events have diminished its ability to strengthen resilience, adaptation and mitigation. Noting that limited resources are dwarfed by the huge sums required for recovery and reconstruction measures, she called on the UN to establish a mechanism to provide support and compensation to vulnerable countries affected by natural disasters.

In recognition of the vulnerabilities of small island developing States and the attendant complexities of their status as middle-income countries, Jamaica supports calls for a climate change vulnerability index to provide a standardized method for characterizing vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change. “This would enable international financial institutions and bilateral donors, to better channel financial and technical resources, towards countries most susceptible to loss and damage from climate change,” she said.

Ms. Smith announced that last April Jamaica ratified the Paris Agreement, adding that island States were at the forefront of the negotiations.

Noting that while contributing the least carbon emissions, islands bear the brunt of the damage, pointing to the risks climate change poses to tourism, which plays a critical role in ensuring sustainable and inclusive economic growth and job creation for Jamaica. “We implore all Member States to abide by the commitments of the Agreement,” Ms. Smith said.

Mark Anthony Brantley, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Aviation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Also taking the podium, Mark Anthony Brantley, Minister for Foreign Affairs for Saint Kitts and Nevis, spoke in depth about ensuring a sustainable planet – offering thoughts and prayers for those impacted by the three hurricanes in the Caribbean and the two recent earthquakes in Mexico.

He highlighted the various countries and territories that suffered devastation, noting unimaginable destruction in a wide swathe of the Caribbean. Lives have been lost; homes and infrastructure destroyed; economies reduced to tatters; and years of development wiped out. “Hurricane season for 2017 is not over yet,” he warned.

He condemned the “sterile analysis” of GDP per capita that puts the island States in middle and high income countries, locking them out of accessing developmental assistance or affordable financing.

“It is a travesty and a tragedy for the world community to witness such destruction caused by forces entirely outside the control of Caribbean nations and then refuse to allow those nations access to the necessary resources to rebuild,” he criticized, demanding that a vulnerability index be developed as part of the matrix for accessing developmental assistance.

Pointing to “irrefutable” science, Mr. Brantley stated: “Our oceans continue to get warmer due to our continued abuse of our Planet Earth.” He advocated for treating these phenomena not as natural disasters but as the man-made disasters they are, appealing for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and all other actions that aggravate the effects of climate change. “We cannot continue to abuse our Planet and expect to remain unscathed,” he emphasized.

Elvin Nimrod, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Legal Affairs of Grenada, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Also speaking today, Elvin Nimrod, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Grenada told the Assembly, “our hearts and prayers go out to all the victims in our Caribbean region, Mexico and across the world, who are presently suffering adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters.”

Based on recent activities in the Atlantic, he underscored “we just cannot dispute that the climate is changing,” adding: “For those that question the veracity of this science, the cluster of extreme weather events over the last few weeks ought to suffice in sounding the alarm.”

Stressing that such events disproportionately affect the most vulnerable, he advocated that special attention to be paid to women, children, elderly and disabled.

He reiterated Grenada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, and speaking as Chair of the World Bank’s Small States Forum last June, Mr. Nimrod lamented the withdrawal of key partners from the accord, saying: “We do not know these partners to be unreasonable and, therefore, we encourage them to see their own self-interest within the framework of a successful Paris Agreement.”

Yldiz Pollack-Beigle, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Suriname, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

On her part, Yldiz Pollack-Beighle, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Suriname, stressed that in addition to humanitarian aid, the international community must assist in restructuring socio-economic and physical infrastructure for future resilience, saying that “combining forces at a global scale has become crucial.”

The Foreign Minister also joined others expressing concern that Caribbean nations are being graduated into ‘Middle Income Country’ status, with a zero option to obtain concessional loans opening them up to foreseeable natural disasters. “I add my voice to the lamentation regarding the fact that the vulnerability of these countries should be taken into account when classifications are applied,” she stated.

In parallel, Ms. Pollack-Beighle pledged Suriname’s full support and cooperation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Calling its implementation a “formidable challenge,” she expressed her country’s belief that in addition to domestic resource mobilization, a wide array of financing mechanisms must be accessible to finance development, capacity building, and innovation.

On other matters, she stressed that only through political will, can more women in society excel to the highest echelons of political decision-making and reiterated the importance of youth involvement in decision-making processes.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57720

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Global challenges ‘a litmus test’ for leadership, Nepal Prime Minister tells UN Assembly

23 September 2017 – Noting that amid a complex and polarized environment, the global community faces challenges that include terrorism, climate change and mass migration, the Prime Minister of Nepal called for a greater display of wisdom, knowledge and capacity to address pressing issues.

“As we embark upon a path of implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, [the] challenges are the litmus tests for our leadership,” said Sher Bahadur Deuba, the Prime Minister of Nepal, addressing the 72nd annual general debate at the United Nations General Assembly.

Recalling his country’s contributions to UN peacekeeping efforts around the world, he said that troop and police contributing countries must be given fair opportunities to serve in leadership positions both in the field and at headquarters. Also on peacekeeping, he stressed the protection of civilians must be prioritized and that the UN must move “from zero tolerance to zero case scenario” on sexual exploitation and abuse.

Also in his address, the Nepali leader urged for greater security for migrants and, in the context of increasing frequency and destruction by natural disasters, called for greater cooperation and coordination in prevention, mitigation and recover efforts.

He also spoke of his country’s commitment to human rights, noting that Nepal’s Constitution bans death penalty in all circumstances. He also spoke of strengthening of the country’s human rights commission as well as protection of the rights of women and other disadvantaged sections of the society.

Prime Minister Deuba also highlighted the recent local elections in his country – the first in 20 years –and said that preparations are underway to hold provincial and federal elections.

Also in his address, he deplored the actions of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) which he referred to as the “continued defiance” by it of repeated calls by the Security Council and the international community, and urged it abide by all relevant Council resolutions.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57703

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Hurricane Irma erased ‘footprints of an entire civilization’ on Barbuda, Prime Minister tells UN

21 September 2017 – The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Alphonso Browne, told the United Nations General Assembly today that after the largest storm ever in the Atlantic Ocean, “the island of Barbuda is decimated; its entire population left homeless; and its buildings reduced to empty shells.”

As all its inhabitants were evacuated to Antigua in the wake of Hurricane Irma, in addition to providing shelter and basic necessities to the residents, the social services on Antigua are under great strain – providing places for 600 additional children; medical services for the elderly; and a means of income for the able-bodied.

“For the first time in over 300 years, there is now no permanent resident on Barbuda. The footprints of an entire civilization have been emasculated by the brutality and magnitude of Irma,” he said.

Mr. Browne stressed that Barbuda is not only a natural disaster, it is a humanitarian crisis that now consumes Antigua. “Whatever position on climate change any nation takes, the evidence of global warming is now irrefutably stronger,” he underscored. “We are the least of the polluters, but the largest of the casualties. The unfairness, injustice and inequality are painfully obvious,” he added.

He pointed out that according to preliminary estimates, rebuilding would cost Barbuda about $250 million – representing 15 per cent or more of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) of approximately $1.5 billion. “Antigua and Barbuda urgently requires the assistance of the international community, including the international development and finance institutions, to accomplish this vital task of rebuilding Barbuda,” he said.

Caribbean islands need to construct more resilient buildings and infrastructure, requiring international developmental and financial institutions to provide financing at concessionary rates without artificial impediments – or cost in lives and property would be “too frightening to contemplate.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57667

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‘Season of natural disasters’ calls for action to address extreme weather events – Dominican Republic

20 September 2017 – Amid a “devastating season of natural disasters” in the region – widespread catastrophe that extends to Mexico, hit by two destructive earthquakes, and to the southern United States, viciously punished by Hurricane Harvey – the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic today called on the United Nations to consider “new actions we must take, urgently, to counteract extreme climatic phenomena.”

Addressing the General Assembly’s annual general debate in the wake of the massive destruction caused in the region by Hurricane Irma and as Puerto Rico was being battered by Hurricane Maria, Miguel Vargas Maldonado expressed solidarity with all countries that had suffered these back-to-back extreme weather events and said that the deaths and material losses have been immense.

He said one thing was clear, that the damage caused during this hurricane season alone far exceeded the Dominican Republic’s gross domestic product(GDP). Moreover, the “lethal power” of these recent storms – which had been intensified by climate change – had eroded more than roads and beaches, it had shattered lives and destroyed dreams.

“Our economies, our way of life, and our development potential are in danger. The Caribbean vulnerability and that of our Dominican Republic pose a risk that we cannot face alone,” stated Mr. Vargas Maldanado, and although his country had been fortunate not to suffer human losses during the catastrophic passage of Irma, “we are aware that, like every other Caribbean island, we will always be vulnerable to this type of phenomenon.”

Indeed, this reality has led him to raise once again to the General Assembly, the imperative need to join forces to confront these threats. “It compels us to act in a responsible, cohesive way for the sake of our people’s lives,” he said, stressing that it is not enough to send messages of solidarity or humanitarian aid after natural catastrophes have caused death and devastation.

“And it is absolutely not enough to sign agreements on climate change; It is critical for these agreements to be coherent, move forward a joint agenda, and develop concrete action plans,” said the Foreign Minister proposing the creation of a special fund to deal with natural catastrophes, to foster awareness, prevention, and resilience strategies, which will allow us to preserve life.

“We must act on this or otherwise the future will judge us for our total lack of responsibility,” he warned.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57627

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Healthy oceans, safe climate imperative for small islands to survive, Pacific island leaders tell UN

20 September 2017 – As the high-level segment of the United Nations General Assembly continued today, Baron Divavesi Waqa, President of Nauru, expressed deep sorrow and condolences to those who have suffered from the recent successive hurricanes in the Caribbean and United States and earthquakes in Mexico, stressing that “your suffering and grief is shared by us all.”

Mr. Waqa agreed that the full implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) be at the centre of the coming year’s work, underscoring that the five words – ‘people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership’ – which guide the goals, are broad enough to encompass collective ideals, while accommodating tremendous diversity.

“In the case of Nauru, our status as a small island developing State underlies every aspect of the lives of my people,” he said.

Noting that Nauru was among the first countries to ratify the Paris Agreement, the President pointed out that “more than most, our prospects depend on a stable planet, including a safe climate and healthy oceans.”

“Climate change will be the defining security challenge of the century and we are simply not prepared for life on a hotter planet,” Mr. Waqa asserted. For that reason, Nauru supports the appointment of a UN Special Representative on Climate and Security.

He also urged that the mounting threats to the health of the world’s oceans be tackled ambitiously. Pointing to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing as a great threat and economic loss to his country’s small economy, he emphasized that “security of our Oceans is a problem which must also be tackled by us all.”

Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama of the Republic of Fiji addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session. UN Photo/Cia Pak

Also taking the podium, the Prime Minister of Fiji, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, said his people share a special sense of solidarity with those affected by the recent hurricanes and earthquakes, recalling that Fiji lost 44 individuals and a third of its economy last year when struck by the biggest cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere.

As the incoming president of the 23rd session of the States parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Mr. Bainimarama is deeply conscious of the need to lead a global response to the underlying causes of these events. “The appalling suffering in the Caribbean and the United States reminds us all that there is no time to waste,” he said.

“Unless we tackle the underlying causes of climate change, we already know that some places will become unlivable and others will disappear altogether,” he stressed, noting that Fiji has offered refuge to the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu, its neighbours at risk.

Climate change affects Fijian lives, whether it is entire villages being moved away from rising seas; the loss of ancestral burial grounds; salinity affecting crops; or the constant threat of destruction to homes and infrastructure.

Noting that 2018 will mark 40 years that Fiji has helped to make the world more secure through its contribution to UN Peacekeeping, Mr. Bainimarama expressed his determination that his country would make a successful contribution to the wider security of the planet through its leadership of the next climate change conference.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57624

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Devastating ‘season of natural disasters’ demands action to address extreme weather events – Dominican Republic

20 September 2017 – Amid a “devastating season of natural disasters” in the region – widespread catastrophe that extends to Mexico, hit by two destructive earthquakes, and to the southern United States, viciously punished by Hurricane Harvey – the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic today called on the United Nations to consider “new actions we must take, urgently, to counteract extreme climatic phenomena.”

Addressing the General Assembly’s annual general debate in the wake of the massive destruction caused in the region by Hurricane Irma and as Puerto Rico was being battered by Hurricane Maria, Miguel Vargas Maldonado expressed solidarity with all countries that had suffered these back-to-back extreme weather events and said that the deaths and material losses have been immense.

He said one thing was clear, that the damage caused during this hurricane season alone far exceeded the Dominican Republic’s gross domestic product(GDP). Moreover, the “lethal power” of these recent storms – which had been intensified by climate change – had eroded more than roads and beaches, it had shattered lives and destroyed dreams.

“Our economies, our way of life, and our development potential are at in danger. The Caribbean vulnerability and that of our Dominican Republic pose a risk that we cannot face alone,” stated Mr. Vargas Maldanado, and although his country had been fortunate not to suffer human losses during the catastrophic passage of Irma, “we are aware that, like every other Caribbean island, we will always be vulnerable to this type of phenomenon.”

Indeed, this reality has led him to raise once again to the General Assembly, the imperative need to join forces to confront these threats. “It compels us to act in a responsible, cohesive way for the sake of our people’s lives,” he said, stressing that it is not enough to send messages of solidarity or humanitarian aid after natural catastrophes have caused death and devastation.

“And it is absolutely not enough to sign agreements on climate change; It is critical for these agreements to be coherent, move forward a joint agenda, and develop concrete action plans,” said the Foreign Minister proposing the creation of a special fund to deal with natural catastrophes, to foster awareness, prevention, and resilience strategies, which will allow us to preserve life.

“We must act on this or otherwise the future will judge us for our total lack of responsibility,” he warned.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57627

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French initiative to create global environment pact deserves support, says Secretary-General

19 September 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today urged global support for France’s initiative to create the first international legally binding document on the environment, at an event held on the margins of the annual leaders’ summit of the General Assembly.

“It is about our duty of care to provide an environment that supports the health, well-being, dignity, and prosperity of everyone on this planet,” Mr. Guterres said. “Let us support this worthy initiative.”

According to the Permanent Mission of France to the UN, which organized the event, threats to the environment are increasingly impacting the survival of mankind and the planet. It is, therefore, urgent to act and build a sustainable future.

However, experts have highlighted a clear legal challenge: international environment law is fragmented in many conventions and international declarations, the Mission noted.

As such, the Global Pact for the Environment will be the first international legally binding document that gathers and harmonizes all environmental laws in one single document.

The objective of today’s event, which drew many world leaders, was to launch an important consultation to elaborate the instrument.

Mr. Guterres stressed that the realization of aspirations for peace, prosperity and sustainable development hinges on the health of the planet.

He noted that there will soon be more plastic than fish in the seas and biodiversity is disappearing at a rate one thousand times faster than the natural rate. In addition, 90 per cent of the population is breathing polluted air.

“Our only hope to solve these problems is to join forces to protect the environment,” he said, adding that this understanding is already common to both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015, and the Paris Agreement on climate change, which entered into force in 2016.

Also addressing the event was General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcák, who said that this proposal deserves consideration and deliberation among Member States and other stakeholders.

Member States need to consider appropriate options for an eventual Global Pact to fit with the more than 500 existing multilateral environmental agreements, he said, while also stressing the need to give due attention to the three pillars of sustainable development, namely the economic, the social and the environmental, in a balanced, indivisible and comprehensive manner.

He also said that the UN system, civil society, the private sector, academia and other relevant stakeholders need to be involved in this ambitious initiative as inclusiveness is key to delivering an outcome that achieves the needed transformation at all levels.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57565

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