UN peacekeeping operations will keep aiming to reduce their environmental impact – Security Council
21 December 2017 The Security Council on Thursday said that United Nations peacekeeping missions will continue to consider ways to reduce the environmental impact of their operations, in line with relevant UN resolutions and mindful of the goals set out in international accords on the environment, including the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Through an agreed press statement, the 15-member Council reaffirmed the basic principles of peacekeeping, while stressing that it remains cognizant of the possible environmental impact of the peacekeeping operations it mandates.
The Council underscored the importance that peacekeeping operations endeavor to minimize their impact on the sustainability of the ecosystems where they are deployed, based on sound consideration of the risks, benefits and costs.
Mindful of the goals set out by the international agreements on the environment, including the Paris Agreement, the members of the Security Council expressed willingness that UN peacekeeping missions, in full conformity with the established mandates, continue consideration for the reduction of their environmental impact.
The members of the Council underlined the importance to comprehensively address the environmental impact of peacekeeping operations, in close coordination with the relevant parties involved, including troop and police contributing countries, also through meetings of the Security Council’s Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations and of the relevant bodies of the General Assembly.
In addition, the Council recognized that consideration for environmental management includes taking into account the impact of peacekeeping operations on the historical and cultural heritage in the areas of deployment and how segments of the population may be differently affected by environmental degradation.
The Council encouraged UN Member States to incorporate, as appropriate, environmental guidelines into their national training programmes for military and police personnel in preparation for deployment to UN peacekeeping operations.
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Arctic forever changed by rapidly warming climate – UN weather agency
20 December 2017 The Arctic continued in 2017 to warm at double the rate of the global temperature increase, resulting in the second warmest air temperatures, above average ocean temperatures, loss of sea ice, and a range of human, ocean and ecosystem effects, according to the United Nations weather agency.
“While 2017 saw fewer records shattered than in 2016, the Arctic shows no sign of returning to the reliably frozen region it was decades ago,” said the Arctic Report Card, a peer-reviewed study that brings together the work of 85 scientists from 12 nations.
The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Tuesday that the Arctic Report Card shows that the warming trend is continuing to drive dramatic transformation in the Arctic region.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the first 11 months of the year were the third warmest on record, behind 2016 and 2015, with much-warmer-than-average conditions engulfing much of the world’s land and ocean surfaces.
This means that the 2017 global land and ocean temperature will likely end among the three warmest years on record, and is expected to be the warmest year without a warming El Niño.
“What is more important than the ranking of an individual year is the overall, long-term trend of warming since the late 1970s, and especially this century,” said WMO senior scientist Omar Baddour.
“Along with rising temperatures, we are seeing more extreme weather with huge socio-economic impacts,” he said.
A separate report, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), said that last year’s record global average temperatures, extreme heat over Asia, and unusually warm waters in the Bering Sea would not have been possible without human-caused climate change.
“This report marks a fundamental change,” says Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of BAMS. “For years scientists have known humans are changing the risk of some extremes. But finding multiple extreme events that weren’t even possible without human influence makes clear that we’re experiencing new weather, because we’ve made a new climate.”
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Electronic waste poses ‘growing risk’ to environment, human health, UN report warns
13 December 2017 The growing volume of electronic waste, including discarded products with a battery or plug, such as mobile phones, laptops, televisions, refrigerators and electrical toys, poses a major threat to the environment and human health, the United Nations warned on Wednesday.
“Environmental protection is one of the three pillars of sustainable development […] E-waste management is an urgent issue in today’s digitally dependent world, where use of electronic devices is ever increasing,” said Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The Global E-Waste Monitor 2017, released by ITU, the UN University (UNU) and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), highlights increasing levels of e-waste and its improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through burning or at dumpsites.
In 2016, 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated, an increase of 3.3 million metric tonnes, or 8 per cent, from 2014. Experts foresee e-waste increasing a further 17 per cent to 52.2 million metric tonnes by 2021.
E-waste contains $55 billion worth of recoverable materials
In 2016, only about 20 per cent, or 8.9 million metric tonnes, of all e-waste was recycled.
“The Global E-waste Monitor serves as a valuable resource for governments developing their necessary management strategies, standards and policies to reduce the adverse health and environmental effects of e-waste,” said Mr. Zhao.
With 53.6 per cent of global households now having Internet access, national e-waste policies and legislation play an important role governing the actions of stakeholders who are associated with e-waste.
Currently 66 per cent of the world population, living in 67 countries, is covered by national e-waste management laws, a significant increase from 44 per cent in 2014.
Low recycling rates can have a negative economic impact. In 2016, it was estimated that e-waste contained rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and other high value recoverable materials, whose total value is estimated at $55 billion, a figure exceeding the gross domestic product of most countries in the world.
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Time running out for construction sector to cut energy use, meet climate goals – UN
12 December 2017 The clock is ticking on efforts to reform the buildings and construction sector’s energy performance and keep the Paris Agreement on track, new United Nations-backed research revealed on Tuesday.
The Global Status Report 2017, from the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction – first launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and France at the 21st Climate Change Conference – finds that the sector continues to grow, with the energy intensity per square meter of buildings needing to improve 30 per cent by 2030.
“Over the next 40 years, the world is expected to build 230 billion square metres in new construction – adding the equivalent of Paris to the planet every single week,” said Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), at a side event of the One Planet Summit in Paris.
“This rapid growth is not without consequences,” he warned.
In 2016, an estimated 235 billion square metres (m2) of total floor area was reached. Over the next 40 years, an additional 230 billion m2 buildings will be constructed – the equivalent of adding the floor area of Japan to the planet every year to 2060.
When upstream power generation is included, buildings and construction account for 39 per cent of energy-related CO2 emissions.
According to the IAEA-prepared, UNEP-coordinated report, the clock is ticking in part because more than half of building constructions expected by 2060 will be done in the next 20 years – two-thirds in countries that lack mandatory building energy codes.
However, the report highlights many opportunities to deploy energy-efficient and low-carbon solutions, and points to a number of global examples showing how the goals can be met with clear and concerted efforts.
To date, Paris Agreement pledges have fallen short – with CO2 emissions from buildings and construction having risen by nearly one per cent annually between 2010 and 2016, releasing 76 gigatonnes of Carbon Dioxide in cumulative emissions.
“Ambitious action is needed without delay to avoid locking in long-lived, inefficient buildings assets for decades to come,” he stressed.
Buildings with near-zero energy, zero-emissions need to become the global construction standard within the next decade for two per cent energy performance improvements to 2030, according to the report.
The rate of building energy renovations also needs to improve three per cent in the coming decade, particularly important in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, where roughly 65 per cent of the total expected 2060 buildings stock is already built today.
“Similar to many areas linked to the Paris Agreement, the building sector is seeing some progress in cutting its emissions, but it is too little, too slowly,” underscored Erik Solheim, UNEP Executive Director.
An energy savings potential from improved building envelope performance can be huge. Globally, high-performance construction and deep energy renovations of existing building envelopes represent a savings potential of more than all the final energy consumed by the G20 countries in 2015.
“Realizing the potential of the buildings and construction sector needs all hands-on deck – in particular to address rapid growth in inefficient and carbon-intensive building investments,” said Mr. Solheim.
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‘Invest in the future, not the past;’ green business key to winning war on climate change – UN chief
12 December 2017 Those who fail to bet on a green economy will be living in a grey future, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned Tuesday, calling for greater ambition by governments, civil society, the private sector and finance partners to help tackle the global climate challenge.
“Green business is good business,” the UN chief said, speaking at the opening of the One Planet Summit, in Paris, alongside French President Emmanuel Macron and Jim Yong Kim, the President of World Bank.
“Renewables are now cheaper than coal-powered energy in dozens of developed and developing countries […] we need to invest in the future, not the past,” he added.
The Summit, taking place on 12 December, the anniversary of the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement, is providing an opportunity to fast-forward action on climate change.
In his remarks, Mr. Guterres pointed to the large under-utilized global financial resources and called for ensuing that financing – which by its nature if forward-looking – is used future of people and the planet in addition to being used for profit.
“It is a fact that fossil fuels remain heavily subsidized – meaning we are investing in our own doom,” he emphasized, noting cities, regions, states and territories across the globe along with thousands of private enterprises – including major oil and gas companies – are already taking climate action, resulting in new industries and markets as well as in healthier environments and more jobs.
“I have heard it said that the stone age did not end because we ran out of stones. We don’t have to wait to run out of coal and oil to end the age of fossil fuels,” he stated, adding: “The message is simple: those who fail to bet on a green economy will be living in a grey future.”
The UN chief stressed that it is not funds but trust that is lacking. “We need to fix it. This means, first and foremost, ensuring that rich countries honor their commitment and provide $100 billion a year through 2020 for developing countries.”
It also means that the Green Climate Fund must become an effective and flexible instrument, especially for the most vulnerable countries such as small island States and least developed countries. “These two conditions are essential for trust between developed and developing countries,” he emphasized.
“We need to build trust and reduce risk, make the best use of available resources, and find innovative ways of financing, such as green bonds whose viability and success are already realities,” the Secretary-General said.
Also at the summit, Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank Group, announced that the Group will no longer finance upstream oil and gas after 2019 and that it would be mobilizing finance for climate change impact mitigation and resilience.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) a subsidiary of the World Bank Group will invest up to $325 million in the Green Cornerstone Bond Fund, a partnership with the asset management company, Amundi, to create the largest ever green-bond fund dedicated to emerging markets.
“This is a $2 billion initiative aiming to deepen local capital markets, and expand and unlock private funding for climate-related projects. The fund is already subscribed at over $1 billion,” read the announcement.
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On International Day, UN agency urges greater investment for sustainable agriculture in mountains
11 December 2017 On International Mountain Day, the United Nations food security agency has called for greater focus on sustainable agriculture in highland regions around the globe to better respond to climate change impacts and migration challenges.
“Investing in sustainable agriculture in mountain regions is central to the response to climate and migration challenges as it promotes the adaptation to and mitigation of climate change and reduces other root causes of migration such as rural poverty and food insecurity,” said Maria Helena Semedo, the Deputy Director-General at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in a news release marking the International Day.
Across the world, some one billion mountain people – about 13 percent of the global population – are increasingly being impacted by the effects of climate change and climate-induced disasters. Furthermore, living in often geographically isolates areas and on the political and economic margins of their countries, they are more prone to hunger and poverty.
As mountain people become more vulnerable, migration to urban areas and abroad increases. Those who remain are often women, left to manage the farms but with little access to credit, training and land tenure rights, added FAO in the release.
In the release, the UN agency further noted that in an effort to address these challenges, some 60 countries and over 200 civil society organizations today pledged to strengthen mountain people’s and their environments’ resilience to climate change, hunger and migration as well as to bolster the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The commitments include reviews and updates by Governments to their development policies, integrating strategies and international development cooperation policies for sustainable mountain development and mountain ecosystem conservation.
The pledge, made by members of the Mountain Partnership – an alliance founded in 2002 by Italy, Switzerland, FAO, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and over 300 members from other Governments, and intergovernmental, civil society and private sector organizations – also includes a focus on raising awareness on the importance of sustainable mountain development and mountain ecosystem conservation in all relevant international forums.
Recognizing the importance of mountain watersheds
Also in the news release, FAO announced the launch of its publication, Watershed Management in Action, which recognizes the role of well managed mountain watersheds in supplying freshwater to humankind and reducing the risk of natural disasters for downstream communities.
The publication presents lessons learned and recommendations based on a comparative review of 12 FAO-supported projects testing new watershed management approaches over the past decade in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Ecuador, the Gambia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Tanzania and Zambia.
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UN designates 2021-2030 ‘Decade of Ocean Science’
6 December 2017 The United Nations today designated the years 2021 to 2030 as the ‘Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development’ to boost international coordination and cooperation in research and scientific programmes for better management of ocean and coastal zone resources and reducing maritime risks.
The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will be leading the campaign.
“The ocean is a new frontier – it covers 71 per cent of the globe [but] we have explored less than 5 per cent. The Decade will ensure greater coordination of research,” said Audrey Azoulay, the Director-General of UNESCO, urging all stakeholders to join the endevour.
“[We are] proud to be at the forefront of this effort,” she added.
Across the world, close to three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity to meet their needs.
Oceans – critical for survival of all people across the planet – absorbs around a third of the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by humans and reduces the impact of climate change.
The importance of oceans was also underscored at a major conference this June at the UN Headquarters, in New York.
However, the cumulative effects of human activities on this vital important, including the impact of pollution, warming and acidification are yet to be fully evaluated scientifically and surveying the ocean requires costly ships and equipment, satellite imaging, underwater robots and remotely controlled vehicles.
It also requires thousands of scientists collecting and analysing the data, either in laboratories or in marine environments.
“One of the priorities of the Decade will be to strengthen and diversify financial sources, particularly for small island developing States and least developed countries,” said UNESCO.
“This Decade, will provide a framework for international coordination and partnership to reinforce research capacities in marine sciences and the transfer of technology,” it added.
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Caring for the planet starts with ‘the ground we walk on;’ UN says on World Soil Day
5 December 2017 Soil is a major carbon storage system, essential for sustainable agriculture and climate change mitigation, the United Nations agriculture agency said Tuesday, launching on World Soil Day a comprehensive global map showing the amount of carbon stocks contained in soil.
“Maintaining the soil’s important functions and ecosystem services to support food production and increase resilience to a changing climate calls for sustainable soil management practices,” she added.
Soil organic matter, with carbon as its main component, is crucial to soil health and fertility, water infiltration and retention as well as food production.
The world’s soils act as the largest terrestrial carbon sink, reducing greenhouse gases. Intensifying its role could significantly offset the rapid rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In an historic decision on agriculture, the 2017 UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn (COP23 ) recognized the need for improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility.
The Global Soil Organic Carbon Map, the most comprehensive to date, illustrates the amount of organic carbon stock in the first 30 cm of soil – revealing natural areas with high carbon storage that require conservation along with regions where further sequestration would be possible.
This information can prove a powerful tool to guide decision-making on practices aimed to preserve and increase the current soil carbon stocks – helping win the fight against climate change.
The map shows that globally the first 30 cm of soil contains around 680 billion tons of carbon – almost double the amount present in our atmosphere.
The degradation of one third of the world’s soils has already prompted an enormous release of carbon into the atmosphere. Restoring these soils can remove up to 63 billion tons of carbon, significantly reducing the effects of climate change.
FAO’s Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils supported the map’s development, including by putting together the national carbon maps of more than 100 countries, making a concrete contribution towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, Life on Earth.
The next step is for countries to monitor their national soil information systems for organic carbon levels to make evidence-based decisions on how to manage and monitor their soils.
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Careless disposal of antibiotics could produce ‘ferocious superbugs,’ UN environment experts warn
5 December 2017 Growing antimicrobial resistance linked to the discharge of drugs and some chemicals into the environment is one of the most worrying health threats today, according to new research from the United Nations that highlights emerging challenges and solutions in environment.
“The warning here is truly frightening: we could be spurring the development of ferocious superbugs through ignorance and carelessness,” said Erik Solheim, chief of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), on Tuesday.
He added that studies have already linked the misuse of antibiotics in humans and agriculture over the last several decades to increasing resistance, but the role of the environment and pollution has received little attention.
As such, the Frontiers Report, launched on the second day of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA), which is running through 6 December at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, looks at the environmental dimension of antimicrobial resistance in nanomaterials; marine protected areas; sand and dust storms; off-grid solar solutions; and environmental displacement – finding the role of the environment in the emergence and spread of resistance to antimicrobials particularly concerning.
“This needs priority action right now, or else we run the risk of allowing resistance to occur through the back door, with potentially terrifying consequences,” stressed Mr. Solheim.
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when a microorganism evolves to resist the effects of an antimicrobial agent. Globally about 700,000 people die of resistant infections every year because available antimicrobial drugs have become less effective at killing the resistant pathogens.
Clear evidence shows that antimicrobial compounds from households, hospitals, pharmaceutical facilities and agricultural run-off released into the environment, combined with direct contact between natural bacterial communities and discharged resistant bacteria, is driving bacterial evolution and the emergence of more resistant strains.
Once consumed, most antibiotic drugs are excreted un-metabolized along with resistant bacteria – up to 80 per cent of consumed antibiotics, according to the report. This is a growing problem, as human antibiotic use this century has increased 36 per cent and livestock antibiotic use predicted to increase 67 per cent by 2030.
Evidence shows that multi-drug resistant bacteria are prevalent in marine waters and sediments close to aquaculture, industrial and municipal discharges.
Solving the problem will mean tackling the use and disposal of antibiotic pharmaceuticals as well as the release of antimicrobial drugs, relevant contaminants and resistant bacteria into the environment, the report says.
Other evolving issues
The report also considers other emerging issues, such as nanomaterials in which little is understood about their long-term effects. According to UNEP, past lessons reveal that “no evidence of harm” does not equal “evidence of no harm,” meaning that research into nanomaterials is essential.
Another area it highlighted was in securing Marine Protected Areas as one excellent option for maintaining or restoring the ocean’s and coastal ecosystems health, and a potential driver for economic benefits derived from them.
The Frontiers Report also noted that sand and dust storms, which impoverish arid landscapes soils, and can cause economic losses, indicted that strategies promoting sustainable land and water management must be integrated with measures addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Pointing out that nearly one billion people live without electricity, the report emphasized the importance of bridging the off-grid energy gap as a possible key to achieving the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for universal access to affordable, reliable energy services.
Finally, in an era of unprecedented mobility, the report points out that migration produces environmental changes that include pollution, deforestation and biodiversity loss, saying that unless we deal with long-term environmental vulnerability and build resilience, environmental displacement will become a new normal.
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Rapid, large-scale, coordinated action needed to beat pollution – UN chief
4 December 2017 Noting the severity of the threats posed by pollution to both people and the planet, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres highlighted the need for rapid, large-scale and coordinated action by all actors to make the world pollution-free.
“We already have much of the knowledge and technical solutions we need to prevent, mitigate and manage pollution,” said the Secretary-General, in a message to the UN Environment Assembly, currently under way in Nairobi, Kenya.
“Beating pollution will help reduce poverty, improve public health, create decent jobs, address climate change and protect life on land and sea,” he added.
Being held from 4 to 6 December, the UN Environment Assembly brings together Governments, entrepreneurs, activists and others to share ideas and commit to action to protect on environment.
In his remarks, Mr. Guterres noted the assembly’s focus this year on tackling pollution and said that important successes have been achieved towards that target, including the entry into force of the Minamata Convention on Mercury (a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury), as well as the announcement that the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer will enter into force on in January 2019, having obtained the required threshold of 20 ratifications.
“Making our planet pollution-free is a long-term necessary endeavour. The world counts on this Assembly to show strong leadership by sounding the alarm and calling on all Governments to act to beat pollution,” he said.
Discussions at the Environment Assembly are focused on a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report, Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, that urges greater political leadership and partnerships at all levels; strengthened environmental governance ; improved resource efficiency and lifestyle changes; low-carbon tech investments; and advocacy to combat pollution in all its forms.
According to UNEP, environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and the widespread destruction of key ecosystems.
In addition to the impact on health and environment, pollution also extracts a high economic cost – estimated at over $4.6 trillion (equivalent to 6.2 per cent of global economic output) each year in welfare losses due to pollution.
Opening of the plenary of the third United Nations Environment Assembly. Photo: UNEP/Natalia Mroz
Opening of the plenary of the third United Nations Environment Assembly. Photo: UNEP/Natalia Mroz
Erik Solheim, the head of UNEP, speaks at the UN Environment Assembly opening. Photo: UNEP/Cyril Villemain
“Given the grim statistics on how we are poisoning ourselves and our planet, bold decisions from the UN Environment Assembly are critical,” said Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of UNEP.
“That is as true for threats like pollution as it is for climate change and the many other environmental threats we face,” he added, noting that all global processes linked to the environment, such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change distil to one simple message, “we must take care of people and planet.”
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