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UN sees &#39worrying&#39 gap between Paris climate pledges and emissions cuts needed

31 October 2017 – Pledges made under the Paris Agreement are only a third of what is required by 2030 to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, pointing to the urgent need to boost efforts by both government and non-government actors, the United Nations environment wing said on Tuesday.

“One year after the Paris Agreement entered into force, we still find ourselves in a situation where we are not doing nearly enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future,” said UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Erik Solheim in a press release.

The Paris accord, adopted in 2015 by 195 countries, seeks to limit global warming in this century to under 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

“If we invest in the right technologies, ensuring that the private sector is involved, we can still meet the promise we made to our children to protect their future. But we have to get on the case now,” the UNEP chief added.

The eighth edition of UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report, released ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in in Bonn next month, warns that as things stand, even full implementation of current national pledges makes a temperature rise of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 very likely.

Should the United States follow through with its stated intention to leave the Paris accord in 2020, the picture could become even bleaker.

The pace of growth in carbon dioxide emissions have slowed, driven in part by renewable energy, notably in China and India, raising hopes that emissions have peaked, as they must by 2020, to remain on a successful climate trajectory.

To avoid overshooting the Paris goals, governments – including by updating their Paris pledges – the private sector, cities and others need to urgently pursue actions that will bring deeper and more-rapid cuts.

Source: The Emissions Gap Report 2017 | UNEP

The report also says that adopting new technologies in key sectors, such as agriculture, buildings, energy, forestry, industry and transport, at investment of under $100 per tonne, could reduce emissions by up to 36 gigatonnes per year by 2030, more than sufficient to bridge the gap.

However, it warns that other greenhouse gases, such as methane, are still rising, and a global economic growth spurt could easily put carbon dioxide emissions back on an upward trajectory.

Strong action on hydrofluorocarbons, through the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, and other short-lived climate pollutants such as black carbon – could also make a real contribution.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57999

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Carbon dioxide levels surge to new high in 2016, UN weather agency reports

30 October 2017 – Levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016, the United Nations weather agency announced on Monday.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), issued the warning in Geneva, at the launch of the organization’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

The report indicates that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 ppm in 2015.

“We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Mr. Taalas, telling journalists that it is time for governments to fulfil the pledges they made in Paris in 2015 to take steps to reduce global warming.

Emphasizing that the new figures reveal “we are not moving in the right direction at all,” he added that “in fact we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement and this all demonstrates that there is some urgent need to raise the ambition level of climate mitigation, if we are serious with this 1.5 to 2C target of Paris Agreement.”

The report’s findings are based on observations taken around the globe by the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch Programme. It found that rapidly increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases have the potential to initiate unprecedented changes in climate systems, leading to “severe ecological and economic disruptions.”

Population growth, intensified agricultural practices, increases in land use and deforestation, industrialization and associated energy use from fossil fuel sources have all contributed to increases in concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere since the industrial era, beginning in 1750.

Oksana Tarasova Chief of Atmospheric Environment Research Division at WMO, explained that last year’s elevated CO2 levels happened because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Niño event.

The climatic phenomenon is associated with warmer-than-average sea temperatures that is believed to be responsible for triggering droughts in tropical regions, as well as unprecedented hurricanes and wildfires elsewhere around the globe.

Atmospheric change occurring 10 to 20 times faster than ever observed in the planet’s history

However, at 3.3 parts per million, the 2016 increase in carbon dioxide levels was significantly higher than an El Nino-influenced spike in 1998, which was measured at 2.7 ppm.

To put that into perspective, WMO says that before the industrial era, a CO2 change of 10 parts per million took between 100 and 200 years to happen.

“What we are doing now with the atmosphere is 10 to 20 times faster than ever been observed in the history of the planet,” Ms. Tarasova said.

According to the WMO report, which covers all atmospheric emissions, CO2 concentrations are now 145 per cent of pre-industrial levels.

After carbon dioxide, the second most important greenhouse gas is methane; its levels rose last year but slightly less than in 2014.

Nitrous oxide is the third most warming gas; it increased slightly less last year than over the last decade.

The release of the WMO report coincides with Tuesday’s Emissions Gap Report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which tracks how governments are taking steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Together, both publications will serve as a scientific base for policy decisions at the UN climate change negotiations in Bonn, Germany, beginning Monday 7 November.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57988

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Wildlife conservation, sustainable development in spotlight at UN-backed conference

23 October 2017 – Unless the international community integrates wildlife conservation with sustainable development, it will not be able to protect the remaining animal species on Earth, the head of a United Nations-backed environmental treaty today said at the opening of a wildlife conference in the Philippines.

“Development without a regard for the environment is not sustainable. Their future is our future,” said the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Brandee Chambers, in a press conference on the opening day of the Twelfth Meeting of countries that have joined CMS. He spoke alongside Ibrahim Thiaw, Deputy Executive Director, UN Environment and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassadors, Nadya Hutagalung and Yann Arthus-Bertrand, among others.

The week-long event is being billed as “the year’s largest wildlife conference,” and is for the first time being convened in Asia since the treaty was adopted in Germany in 1979.

More than 1,000 delegates from 120 countries are expected for the five-day conference that will focus on protecting some of the most vulnerable animals in the world, such as the whale shark, which is the world’s largest fish with a rapidly declining population due to fishing, illegal poaching, and other human activity.

Among other animals that the hundreds of governments, civil society and private sector representatives, and experts will discuss are ten species of vultures and the Steppe Eagle, which are threatened with extinction, and the giraffe, which is not safeguarded by any convention.

Participants are also expected to strengthen their work with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), to conserve African carnivores, such as the African lion, the cheetah, the leopard, and the African wild dog.

These proposals are among the 31 to discussed at the conference, affecting at least 35 distinct species.

The theme of this year’s conference is the “Their Future is Our Future – Sustainable Development for Wildlife People,” and links to the Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to alleviate poverty and hunger, while improving health and education, and protecting oceans and forests.

Addressing the opening of the conference, John Scanlon, the Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, noted the importance of the CITES and the CMS, and other conventions in the family of biodiversity-related conventions that “go to the very heart of international environmental governance” and stressed that “their successful implementation is critical to ensuring the survival of wildlife and to our own quality of life.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57939

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INTERVIEW: Hurricane-hit Caribbean nations can build back better, says UN development official

19 October 2017 – Mere mention of the Caribbean conjures up images of pristine waters, beautiful beaches and fun in the sun. However, the images emanating from the region over the past couple of months have painted a very different picture.

“A paradise turned into hell,” was how United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres described Barbuda earlier this month after visiting the island that was ravaged by Hurricane Irma. During a two-day visit to the Caribbean, he also witnessed the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria on the small island nation of Dominica.

Mr. Guterres was accompanied by Stephen O’Malley, the UN Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

“People want to live here for very good reason – they’re beautiful islands, it’s where people have lived for centuries, their families have lived here for centuries,” Mr. O’Malley said in an interview with UN News on the side lines of the Secretary-General’s visit. “So how do you make sure that you use the right techniques to keep yourself as safe, and your country as safe, as possible?”

Mr. O’Malley, whose remit includes Barbados and nine other countries in the region, describes what it was like for him to see the aftermath for the first time, what the priority needs are, and what countries can do to mitigate the risks as well as build back better following such disasters.

UN News: What were your initial impressions when you saw the aftermath of the recent hurricanes?

Stephen O’Malley: Dominica, maybe I’ll start there because I’ve been to Dominica probably 10 times over the last four years. It’s a country that I feel I know quite well. When we were flying in and you were looking down at this ‘nature isle’, as it’s called, and it was totally brown… you could see the trees blown over and hardly any green at all. We came in to land at this small airport and there are all these logs which had come down from the hillsides. They were all along the waterfront. We started driving into the city and, literally, it was like going… I’m from Canada… it was like going into a city after there’d been a snowstorm but the storm was mud and not snow. It had all been pushed up to the banks, on the sides of the street. You had galvanized sheeting, you had plastic, you had mattresses, all kinds of stuff. I had seen the pictures and I have to say it was still very emotional for me to see the effect.

VIDEO: Stephen O’Malley talks about the UN helping storm-ravaged Caribbean countries as well as reducing disaster vulnerability in the region.

UN News: Can you give us a brief overview of the current situation in Barbuda and in Dominica?

Stephen O’Malley: They’re very different places. Barbuda is part of a twin-island State – Antigua and Barbuda – and is a relatively small island. There’s about 1,600 people there. So they were very badly affected… I mean the infrastructure was very badly hit and then we had another storm coming, another hurricane right behind that. So the Government took the decision, I think wisely, to evacuate the population. Their houses were destroyed. They had nowhere to properly shelter. So they were evacuated to Antigua by plane and by boat in one day, which was really pretty amazing.

And since then they’ve been sheltering here, and the Government has been working on cleaning up the island. What does that mean? It’s pumping out all the standing water. When I went there two weeks ago, you were just covered in clouds of mosquitoes because of the breeding. So clean up the standing water… and then clean up dead farm animals and other animals… and establish a health post… and try and make it a place where, as people are able to, they can come back and they can start working on their homes bit by bit to restore them. They’ve lifted the mandatory evacuation order but for now, people go back and forth during the day.

Understandably, the people who are here [Antigua], who were evacuated, the Barbudans, like people everywhere else, they want to go home. They have one thought in mind – how can I go home? When can I go home? And so in the meantime they’ve been in shelters, and the United Nations – UNICEF, UNFPA, UN Women, IOM – we’ve been supporting them in those shelters. So has the Government, of course. And then some people are with family or friends. But, people want to go home. So, how can that be done in a safe way? What are the minimum conditions that people need? And of course, there wouldn’t be any operational schools there. So what do you do if you have school-age children?

The biggest challenge is that the storms are getting stronger.

Dominica, I was there two weeks ago, and I was just there the beginning of this week as well. You could see the change. You could see that there was actually some green on the hillsides and the roads were clear. There’s a bit more order to things. Civil servants were coming back to work because they were able to get into the city. But you know they still have some very big challenges. I mean we’ve managed to help the Government distribute 60 metric tonnes of food in the last week. We have to keep that up so that people feel safe and secure, that they do feel like ‘okay I’m being properly taken care of, I have enough food, I have enough water, I have enough shelter, things are getting better.’ People have to believe that and if they believe that, that’s a very important psychological boost. They can get the medical care they need, etc.

So, it’s getting better but we have a long, long way to go, and there’s still parts of the country we’ve only maybe been to once or twice because the access has been so difficult. We were very fortunate that we had support from a number of different foreign militaries and they airdropped via helicopter or took boats in and dropped stuff off to a range of coastal communities. More than 50 different coastal communities received some kind of food and/or water drop from, primarily, the Dutch and French military but also the Americans, the Canadians, the Brits and the Venezuelans.

UN News: What are the most immediate needs right now?

Stephen O’Malley: I think the most immediate thing is to keep that good flow of relief aid to people so that they feel comfortable and they feel they’re being properly taken care of. I mean, the water system is coming back up slowly, electricity is coming back up slowly but that’s still mostly in the capital city of Roseau. It’s people in the rural areas who we have to reach in one way or the other. So we need to make sure they have the food and the water, then they can start to shelter themselves. But we still have two more months in this hurricane season left.

Scene from Codrington town in Barbuda during the Secretary-General’s visit to survey the damage caused by recent hurricanes. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UN News: What will be the main challenges going forward?

Stephen O’Malley: I think it will be expensive to rebuild. Two years ago, there was a tropical storm over Dominica – Tropical Storm Erica. It was mostly heavy rainfall… In six hours, it did about $480 million worth of damage. Even two years later, in some places the country’s still recovering from that. So now we have damages which are clearly going to be higher than that. And so where do you get the money, as a small island developing State, to redevelop? So we have the money part.

I think the other big piece… and this is where I think the Government in Dominica is working hard… is what’s the strategy? You need to have a way to get money back into people’s hands. You want to get the economy going again, and then you want to start building real climate-resilient infrastructure.

On Barbuda, I think it’s how do people get back and start rebuilding their lives there. Here you have people who are displaced and they want to go home. How can they do that in a way that’s safe and in a way that contributes in a positive way to the redevelopment of the country? Again, you need a good strategy and certainly there’ll be some funding requirements as well.

UN News: What have you heard from the people you’ve met who have been uprooted?

Stephen O’Malley: I think the biggest thing was the sense of shock at how fierce the storm was. I know people across the region. I know people who were in Dominica, people who told me ‘you know I was sitting in a house’ – a concrete house, we’re not talking about a flimsy, wooden building or a tin-walled shack, we’re talking about concrete-block wall houses – and people telling me ‘I thought I was okay. I was in this house, and then the wind just ripped the roof off.’ It was a terrifying experience for a lot of people.

Aerial view of Salybia, Dominica, where swathes of forests were left bare following the category-5 hurricanes that struck the region. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

UN News: In a region that has seen its share of natural disasters, what can countries do to mitigate the risks, as well as build back better?

Stephen O’Malley: I think that’s a very important question. The countries know their location. The biggest challenge is that the storms are getting stronger. And that seems to be the consensus of scientists, that these storms are going to get stronger for a variety of interrelated reasons – the warming Caribbean Sea and other things. We may get more frequent storms but the storms we get will be stronger. So, what do you require to have a house or an office building that can withstand that? It’s interesting, you know you can go to communities and you can see three or four houses that are really badly affected and another one that isn’t. You can look at that house and you can say, ‘well I can see that this house was constructed to building code.’ How do you make sure everybody has the resources they need, because not everybody has the money to build to code. And then, those houses that already exist that need to be retrofitted, again you have to help people with that.

So for me, the technologies are not difficult. They’re not complex. People know them. It’s how do we enforce the building codes. And then, it’s the reality of some of these islands… I mean Dominica is a mountainous island. You have these very steep hillsides and a coast road running along there. In the best of times, you’re getting rock fall and other debris coming down the mountains. So what can you do about that so that every time you have a serious storm, you don’t have your entire road network go down for a week to two weeks? What are some of the other things you can do with the power systems? Now they have one interconnected power system, one interconnected transmission grid, and the electrical company is looking at the question of ‘well, maybe we should split this grid into different pieces so that it might be less vulnerable.’ You can bury the lines. You can see that in the Caribbean, you still have a lot of lines that are strung on poles. And that’s another question – could we bury more of the lines and that would stop the electricity from going down.

So there are things we can do. People want to live here for very good reason – they’re beautiful islands, it’s where people have lived for centuries, their families have lived here for centuries. So how do you make sure that you use the right techniques to keep yourself as safe, and your country as safe, as possible.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57923

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UN and partners launch campaign to tackle new fungus strain threatening world’s bananas

The world’s most traded fruit is being threatened by a new, “insidious” fungus strain that poses risks to banana production and could cause vast commercial losses or even greater damage to the 400 million people who rely on bananas as a staple food or source of income, the United Nations agriculture agency warned Wednesday.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched with its partners – Bioversity International, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and World Banana Forum – a global programme requiring $98 million to contain and manage the new Tropical Race 4 strain (TR4strain) of Fusarium wilt, an insidious disease that can last for years in soils and can hitchhike to new fields and destinations through various means, such as infected planting materials, water, shoes, farm tools and vehicles.

“This is a major threat to banana production in several regions of the world,” said Hans Dreyer, Director of FAO’s Plant Production and Protection Division, in a news statement.

Fusarium wilt TR4 was first detected in Southeast Asia in the 1990s and has now been identified at 19 sites in 10 countries – including the Near East, South Asia and Mozambique in sub-Saharan Africa.

“We need to move quickly to prevent its further spread from where it is right now and to support already affected countries in their efforts to cope with the disease,” he emphasized.

Without a coordinated intervention, scientists estimate that by 2040, the disease could affect up to 1.6 million hectares of banana lands, representing one-sixth of the current global production, valued at about $10 billion annually. The programme is initially targeting 67 countries, aiming to reduce the potentially affected area by up to 60 per cent.

“The long-term resilience of banana production systems can only be improved through continuous monitoring, robust containment strategies, strengthening national capacities and enhancing international collaboration to deploy integrated disease management approaches,” Mr. Dreyer explained.

The five-year programme is designed to build on existing initiatives tackling the disease and strengthen local technical capacities. It will also support developing science-based technologies and tools through researching the fungus’ biology and epidemiology, its detection and the development of resistant cultivars, among other things.

For areas where the disease is not present or first appears, inspection, surveillance and rapid response measures will be developed. Where it already occurs, improved and integrated disease management techniques will be developed along with the search for and deployment of resistant varieties.

If effectively rolled out, it is estimated that every dollar invested in the programme today will produce benefits of between $98 and $196 in 20 years’ time, according to FAO.

More on Fusarium wilt TR4

The fungus is caused by a new variant of the disease that had decimated Gros Michel banana type plantations in the early 20th century, causing more than $2 billion in damages and leading to its replacement with the Cavendish variety, which though resistant to the earlier strain has now succumbed to the new TR4 race.

The TR4 – which so far has impacted nearly 100,000 hectares according to estimations of scientists, which accounts for around half the bananas grown today, but also other cultivars that constitute key nutritional staples.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57914

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On International Day, UN highlights rural women&#39s participation in sustainable, climate-resilient agricultural

15 October 2017 – Women and girls are central to the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing, but their role and significance is often overlooked, the head of the United Nations entity for women’s empowerment today said.

In her statement for International Day of Rural Women – marked annually on 15 October – Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka noted that women farmers are “just as productive and enterprising” as male counterparts, but often lack equal access to land, credit, agricultural inputs, markets and high-value agrifood chains.

“Rural women are highly capable and knowledgeable custodians of their land, and can move further ahead to more fully and effectively participate in green value chains, including by profitably and sustainably linking rural and urban markets,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka saidExecutive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in her statement for the Day.

Globally, women comprise 43 per cent of the agricultural workforce, according to UN figures, with smallholder agriculture farmers producing nearly 80 per cent of food in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and support the livelihoods of some 2.5 billion people.

According to some estimates, closing the gender gap in access to land and other productive assets could increase agricultural outputs by up to 20 per cent in Africa.

Noting this year’s theme for the Day, which focuses on opportunities and challenges in climate-resistant agriculture, the head of UN Women called for more training and skills development for rural women and girls so that they can play a greater role in the development of green food and agricultural value chains.

In addition, she highlighted the role that women farmers can play in protecting biodiversity through the use of indigenous crops and agro-ecological farming methods that are environmentally friendly and free of toxic chemicals.

All this relies on the Governments, however, “providing the social and physical infrastructure that enables rural women’s participation in sustainable, climate-resilient agricultural production, processing, transport and marketing.”

But she stressed that life in a rural setting should not automatically lead to agriculture.

“Rural girls have an equal right to their urban peers to a good education, careers in STEM and a thriving role in the digital revolution,” Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka said referring to the acronym for vocations related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

She added that girls should also not automatically end up in unpaid positions caring for family members.

“Only once these inequalities are purposefully levelled, will both women and girls, whether rural or urban, be able to take their place at the heart of the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and the growth of a better future for us all,” the senior UN official said.

International Day of Rural Women is marked one day before World Food Day, which will focus this year on investing in food security and rural development in the context of migration, and on 17 October, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57893

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INTERVIEW: Few global issues as urgent as tackling climate and disaster risks – UN official

12 October 2017 – Recent devastating natural events – from hurricanes in the Caribbean to floods in South Asia and earthquakes in Mexico – have again shone a spotlight on the importance of efforts to reduce disaster risk, and how impossible it is to achieve global development goals without addressing such hazards.

“If you look into countries that are exposed to hurricanes and cyclones – for example, those hit by recent dreadful cyclones in the Caribbean – you see the entire GDP, or huge percentage of it, being wiped out,” said Robert Glasser, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, in an interview with UN News.

The UN and its Member States have many priority issues, but “there are very few that are as urgent as addressing climate risk and disaster risk,” he added.

Ahead of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, annually observed on 13 October, Mr. Glasser spoke about this year’s campaign objectives, and more broadly about how reducing disaster risk can contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and how climate change adaptation and disaster risk management must go hand in hand.

UN News: The International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction is around the corner. Last year, the Day was about reducing mortality, but this year, the focus is on reducing the number of people affected by the disasters – why is that?

Robert Glasser: We have a major campaign to raise awareness of the increasing costs, including loss of life and economic costs, of disasters. We model our campaign on seven global targets in the Sendai Framework – an international agreement that UN Member States have signed, in which they have committed to reduce disaster risk. Sendai ‘Seven’ Campaign incorporated these seven targets. The first target is about the loss of life. And the second, which we are featuring this year, is about reducing the number of people whose homes and livelihoods are affected.

A family along with their cattle and possessions stranded atop small islands formed due to massive floods, Sindh province, Pakistan. Photo: IFAD/EPA/Nadeem Khawer

UN News: What is the status of implementation of the Sendai Framework?

Robert Glasser: Well, this is a remarkable agreement because in it countries have committed to achieving really remarkable goals – reducing significantly loss of life, reducing number of people affected, and reducing the economic impact of disasters. They are committed to do this because they are seeing huge costs – economic, social and environmental costs – of these disasters that are growing rapidly. Each country is exposed to a different range of hazards. They understand the impacts these hazards have on sustainable development. So, this agreement puts in place these seven global targets, and an accountability framework at the global level, for which we can monitor the progress Member States are making as they reduce disaster risk.

UN News: How important is disaster reduction to the achievement of the SDGs?

Robert Glasser: Well, it is hugely important. Let me give you a couple of examples. There are some estimates that the annual cost of disasters is something like $500 billion, and that 26 million people fall into poverty each year as a result of disasters – a lion’s share of the people displaced from natural disasters. If you look into countries that are exposed to hurricanes and cyclones – for example, those hit by recent dreadful cyclones in the Caribbean – you see the entire GDP, or huge percentage of it, being wiped out. The average annual loss from these disasters in some countries equates to something like 60 per cent of their annual social expenditure.

Rescuers at work in Sankhu, a town in north-western Nepal badly affected by the earthquake. Photo: Laxmi Prasad Ngakhusi/UNDP Nepal

So, we put all these costs together and see that they are escalating rapidly, particularly the economic costs. You see that in many, many places, it would be impossible to achieve the SDGs unless we address these disaster risks. And, of course, with climate change, the speed in which these hazards are increasing in severity and frequency is really daunting.

UN News: People still question the validity of a view that climate change is causing disasters. Does climate change play a crucial role in causing natural disasters?

With climate change, the speed in which these hazards are increasing in severity and frequency is really daunting

Robert Glasser: This is such an important issue. Let’s say, the doctor says you have cancer. You go to seek a second opinion, and you were told you have cancer. You go to five, six doctors and they all say you have cancer. At some point, you have to listen to the experts, and this is what has happened with climate change. Those people who doubt that climate change is happening are not doubting it on the basis of any solid scientific consensus. Using multiple ways of demonstrating these lines of evidence, scientists are absolutely convinced that human activity is increasing the average global temperature of the planet. And the connection between rising temperature and natural disasters is very clear and is highlighted also by these scientists.

We would expect changes in the distribution, frequency, and severity of disasters. We have seen sea-level rise and bleaching of coral reefs. That’s a disaster – an economic disaster, a tourism disaster – for many countries. If that continues and reefs still do not recover, it affects fisheries. In the hurricanes we have just seen this year in the Caribbean, we saw how sea-level rise can contribute to storm surges that resulted in much more severe damage in cities in Texas and elsewhere. We’ve seen floods in South Asia. In the Horn of Africa, people say drought only happened every 20 years or so, but now it’s every couple of years, or even consecutive years.

A flood control dam inTianjin Eco-city, Tianjin, China. Photo: World Bank/Yang Aijun

Of course, you can’t scientifically attach any one event directly to climate change, but these are exactly the things the science suggests are going to happen, and happening now. You can also increasingly do statistical analyses that say ‘well, you can’t say that we are 100 per cent certain that this is climate change, but it is 3,000 times more likely to have happened as a result of climate change.’ So, you start seeing one-in-500-years events happening every 200 years, or seeing multiple events like this. The evidence is really becoming overwhelming.

UN News: Many people are alarmed by a recent wave of disasters, such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, and earthquakes in Mexico. So, there is probably new awareness about the importance of doing something on disaster risk reduction. What should we do?

A major disaster also serves as a huge opportunity for countries to begin building back better

Robert Glasser: Well, two things. I hope that particularly the climate-related disasters raise people’s awareness about the urgency of action to reduce greenhouse gases. Because, if we do not reduce greenhouse gases, so much of everything else we are trying to do to reduce disaster risk will be overwhelmed by rising seas, stronger storms, droughts and alike. So, that is number one. Second thing is that, it’s a sad thing to say, but we find that if you look back historically, a major disaster also serves as a huge opportunity for countries to begin building back better from the previous disaster, and to begin thinking, ‘okay, we do not want this to happen again.’ There is a lot of political energy for legislation to be enacted, for changes to be put in place in government, for disaster management agencies to be given more authority, or even to be moved into the Prime Minister’s Office – these are the reflection of the central importance of addressing this. You have seen this actually in Mexico. It was an earlier earthquake decades ago that actually triggered the formulation of the current National Disaster Management Office that is now putting in place a lot of measures – first of all, responding to this disaster, the recent earthquake, but also to prevent future disasters.

At the Africa Regional Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction meeting in Mauritius, UNISDR chief Robert Glasser meets the youngest participant, Chilal, and her mother, Oumie Sissokho, Director of Operations with the National Disaster Management Agency of Gambia. Photo: UNISDR

UN News: What is the role of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and more broadly the UN system, in disaster risk reduction?

Robert Glasser: I am so grateful to so many of my colleagues and agencies in the UN that are working on various aspects of reducing disaster risk – starting with climate change and the huge efforts that Patricia Espinosa and the UNFCCC [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] is working on; Petteri Taalas at WMO [World Meteorological Organization] and the amazing scientists there that are working on early warning systems, multi-hazard warning systems. UNISDR has great collaboration with WMO and the World Bank to do that.

Virtually, every organization in the whole UN system – including the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which is increasingly playing an important role in these areas, and the economic commissions – is really increasingly focused on addressing these risks, embedding risk in the Sustainable Development Goals, which is our overall framework for development and for all the work we are trying to do now. Of course, there is a lot of work to do. There are huge gaps, and we have the UN reform that hopefully will help us become even more strategic in targeting how we address these challenges. So, I am very grateful to my UN colleagues for the impact they are having on this important problem.

A seven-year-old girl stands in the destroyed library of Nabau District School in Ra Province, Fiji. Photo: UNICEF/UN011701/Sokhin

UN News: What are your priorities for the remainder of this year?

Robert Glasser: Getting back to your original question about the link between the Sendai Framework and SDGs, one priority is to build the integration the SDGs call for – the coherence of our approach. To give you one example, we have, in many countries I visited, the environment ministry creating a climate adaptation plan, the disaster management agency producing a disaster management plan, but they do not come together even through probably 70 per cent of the disasters in the disaster management plan are climate-related. So, helping countries integrate two critical frameworks – Paris [Agreement] and Sendai Framework – in the context of their economic planning by embedding risk, by ensuring that they are not investing or building hospitals in flood zones, for example, is hugely important.

Something like $100 trillion is invested in infrastructure, including the Belt and Road Initiative in China. If all of these initiatives are resulting in infrastructure that produces more greenhouse gas, and is vulnerable to climate risk and disaster risk more broadly, then we will never achieve the Sendai Framework, let alone the SDGs. That would be a huge waste of money that could be spent on fighting poverty, on a whole range of other social benefits.

VIDEO: The 2017 International Day for Disaster Reduction focuses on reducing the number of people affected by disasters by 2030.

UN News: Anything to add?

Robert Glasser: There are many priorities in the UN system and Member States have many priority issues, [but] there are very few that are as urgent as addressing climate risk and disaster risk more broadly. They have a huge impact on people’s lives, taking people’s lives, and on wasting money that should be spent on more productive things.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57873

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UN chief lauds Dominica&#39s vision to become first climate-resilient nation after recent devastation

8 October 2017 – United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visited Dominica on Sunday, taking stock of the immense damage caused by Hurricane Maria last month and the relief efforts underway, as well as paying tribute to its leaders for their vision to not only rebuild but to become the world’s first climate-resilient nation.

The category-5 storm made landfall on 18 September, thrashing the country with extreme winds and rain. It left people without electricity and water, destroyed homes and health clinics and isolated communities on the mountainous island. The UN and its partners recently launched an appeal for $31.1 million to reach over 90 per cent of Dominicans – some 65,000 people – in the next three months.

“I have never seen anywhere else in the world a forest completely decimated without one single leaf on any tree,” said Mr. Guterres, who flew by helicopter over some of the most affected areas. “In every community, most of the buildings are destroyed or heavily damaged.”

Speaking at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit in the capital, Roseau, Mr. Guterres echoed concerns similar to those expressed yesterday during a visit to Antigua and Barbuda, where he witnessed the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma and met with displaced persons.

Secretary-General António Guterres tours Dominica in the aftermath of the devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

“One is to make sure the international community fully recognizes that the intensity of hurricanes and multiplication of hurricanes in the Caribbean in this season is not an accident. It is the result of climate change.”

Citing research by the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Secretary-General said that natural disasters had tripled, while the economic damaged caused by them has increased five-fold.

“Today, there is scientific proof that climate change is largely responsible for the dramatic increase in the intensity and devastation caused by the hurricanes in the Caribbean and by many other phenomena around the world.”

There is scientific proof that climate change is largely responsible for the dramatic increase in the intensity and devastation caused by the hurricanes in the Caribbean Secretary-General Guterres

In addition to seeing the destruction by air, Mr. Guterres, accompanied by the Prime Minister, visited Salybia in the Kalinago territory, where they met with local authorities and members of the community during a distribution of relief aid.

“We thank you for bearing witness today, bearing witness to the future of all humanity if we do not respond to climate change,” stated Prime Minister Skerrit, who just two weeks ago told the UN General Assembly in New York that he had come straight from “the front line of the war on climate change.

Aerial view of the devastation in Dominica following successive category five hurricanes in September 2017. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

“We thank you for taking the time to walk with us on this battlefield of shattered lives,” he added at today’s press conference.

“Our devastation is so complete that our recovery has to be total,” Mr. Skerrit said. “And so we have a unique opportunity to be an example to the world, an example of how an entire nation rebounds from disaster and how an entire nation can be climate resilient for the future.

Our devastation is so complete that our recovery has to be total Prime Minister Skerrit of Dominica

“We did not choose this opportunity. We did not wish it. Having had it thrust upon us, we have chosen actively and decisively to be that example to the world.”

He added that the UN has an important role in guiding Dominica on its journey to become the world’s first climate-resistant nation, with good analysis on how to achieve and monitor national climate resilience.

Together, the Secretary-General and the Prime Minister also met with UN staff and non-governmental partners, who have set up a coordination centre at a local hotel that suffered heavy damage during the hurricane.

Noting the difficult circumstances under which they are working, Mr. Guterres expressed his appreciation to the staff, adding: “I’m very proud to be your colleague in these circumstances.”

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57835

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UN chief urges world to implement Paris climate accord &#39with greater ambition&#39

4 October 2017 – Pointing to scientific evidence warning of increased extreme weather events, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, ahead of a trip to the storm-ravaged Caribbean, urged all countries to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change “with greater ambition.”

“We know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change, but we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future,” Mr. Guterres said at a press encounter at the UN Headquarters, in New York.

“Today and every day, I am determined to ensure that the United Nations works to protect our common future and to seize the opportunities of climate action,” he affirmed.

He said: “Today I am announcing that I will travel on Saturday to Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica to survey the damage and to assess what more the United Nations can do to help people recover, visiting of course also the operations that are taking place there.”

The islands were recently hit by back-to-back category 5 hurricanes.

Since the disasters struck, the UN and partners have delivered relief by both air and the sea, reaching thousands across the region with food, water purification tablets, water storage tanks, tents, school kits, mosquito nets and cash assistance. The Organization also launched a $113.9 million appeal to cover humanitarian needs for the immediate period ahead.

I will travel on Saturday to Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica to survey the damage and to assess what more UN can do to help people recover, visiting of course also the operations that are taking place there

Within a span of few weeks, the Caribbean region was struck by major hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Jose that left terrible destruction in their wake.

Noting that over the past 30 years, the number of annual weather-related disasters nearly tripled, and economic losses increased five-fold, Mr. Guterres said that with climate change warming the seas – resulting in more water vapor in the atmosphere – intensity of hurricanes has worsened considerably.

“Instead of dissipating, they pick up fuel as they move across the ocean,” he warned, cautioning also that the melting of glaciers and the thermal expansion of the seas would result in bigger storm surges and with more people living along coastlines and causing more damage.

Concluding his remarks, the UN chief underlined the Organization’s commitment to help all countries, in particular small island States to adapt to climate change and strengthen resilience, and called for innovative financing mechanisms to enable countries cope with external shocks.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57807

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UN chief urges world to implement Paris climate accord ‘with greater ambition’

4 October 2017 – Pointing to scientific evidence warning of increased extreme weather events, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, ahead of a trip to the storm-ravaged Caribbean, urged all countries to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change “with greater ambition.”

“We know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change, but we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future,” Mr. Guterres said at a press encounter at the UN Headquarters, in New York.

“Today and every day, I am determined to ensure that the United Nations works to protect our common future and to seize the opportunities of climate action,” he affirmed.

The UN chief also announced that this Saturday, he shall be travelling to the islands of Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica – which were recently hit by back-to-back category 5 hurricanes – to survey the damage and to assess what more the Organization can do to help them recover.

Since the disasters struck, the UN and partners have delivered relief by both air and the sea, reaching thousands across the region with food, water purification tablets, water storage tanks, tents, school kits, mosquito nets and cash assistance. The Organization also launched a $113.9 million appeal to cover humanitarian needs for the immediate period ahead.

I will travel on Saturday to Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica to survey the damage and to assess what more UN can do to help people recover, visiting of course also the operations that are taking place there

Within a span of few weeks, the Caribbean region was struck by major hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Jose that left terrible destruction in their wake.

Noting that over the past 30 years, the number of annual weather-related disasters nearly tripled, and economic losses increased five-fold, Mr. Guterres said that with climate change warming the seas – resulting in more water vapor in the atmosphere – intensity of hurricanes has worsened considerably.

“Instead of dissipating, they pick up fuel as they move across the ocean,” he warned, cautioning also that the melting of glaciers and the thermal expansion of the seas would result in bigger storm surges and with more people living along coastlines and causing more damage.

Concluding his remarks, the UN chief underlined the Organization’s commitment to help all countries, in particular small island States to adapt to climate change and strengthen resilience, and called for innovative financing mechanisms to enable countries cope with external shocks.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=57807

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