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Central Africa’s iconic mammals threatened by poachers, armed groups – UN environment wing

19 January 2018 – Elephants, giraffes, rhinos and other magnificent mammals targeted in wildlife conservation areas of Central Africa are under threat of extinction, caught in the crosshairs of armed groups and highly-militarized poachers, the United Nations environment wing warned on Friday.

“The importance of engaging local communities in fighting poaching, and of enhancing their alternative livelihoods, has now been widely recognized across various national, regional and global fora” said Bianca Notarbartolo of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“But such commitments have yet to be matched by enough effective implementation,” she added.

UNEP’s warning comes in the wake of the release last month by the non-governmental organization Traffic of a report reflecting the grim reality the negative impact of armed groups on wildlife in Central Africa.

As recently as three decades ago, thousands of elephants strode majestically across the wildlife conservation areas of Central Africa. Today, their population has been decimated, according the 2017 report.

In the 1980s, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Garamba National Park was home to 20,000 elephants. That number has dwindled to an estimated 1,100 – 1,400 today.

The situation appears even grimmer for the giraffes. In many African societies, the flywhisk, usually made from the animal’s tail, is a symbol of authority. The flywhisk from the Kordofan giraffe is particularly prized, putting this species in danger from poachers and other armed groups. Consequently, only about 40 giraffes remain in the Garamba Park.

Some of the armed non-State groups and militia operating in the restive region include Sudan’s Janjaweed militia, Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, Central African Republic’s rival Anti-Balaka and Seleka fighters, as well as Sudan’s People’s Liberation-In Opposition and poachers – making conservation a dangerous undertaking.

Chimpanzees have also not been spared from the onslaught. The population of eastern chimpanzees in eastern the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) has declined by 80 to 98 per cent, mainly because of poaching for bushmeat – attributed to demand for protein, particularly intense around artisanal mining and logging camps.

The dual effect of insufficient nutrition, coupled with mining pollution is likely to exacerbate the threat to the region’s biodiversity, resulting in a downward spiral that could jeopardize future livelihoods of numerous local communities.

In May 2016, UNEP and other UN partners launched the Wild For Life campaign, which has been raising awareness, promoting the enactment and enforcement of laws, and increasing support for efforts by local communities to halt the illegal trade in wildlife. Elephants and Rhinos are among the species targeted by the campaign.

“Strengthening the role of local communities in wildlife management should be at the centre of any strategy to combat illegal trade in wildlife and to secure wildlife and biodiversity for the future,” stressed Ms. Notarbartolo.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58449

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Near-record warm temperatures fuel deadly, costly weather events in 2017 – UN

18 January 2018 – The upward trend in global temperatures marked by record-shattering warmth in 2015 and 2016 kept pace last year, with the United Nations weather agency warning Thursday that continued pressure on the Arctic in 2017 will have “profound and long-lasting repercussions on sea levels, and on weather patterns in other parts of the world.”

“The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one,” Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said.

A WMO analysis showed that while measuring 1.2°C above the preindustrial era that 2016 holds the warmest year record, 2017, which measured approximately 1.1° C above the pre-industrial era, was the warmest year without an El Niño, which can boost global annual temperatures.

Describing the accelerating pace of climate change as “an existential threat to the planet,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Robert Glasser, said, “A three-year streak of record hot years, each above 1° Celsius, combined with record-breaking economic losses from disasters in 2017 should tell us all that we are facing an existential threat to the planet which requires a drastic response.

“We are getting dangerously close to the limit of the 2°C temperature rise set out in the Paris Agreement and the desired goal of 1.5° will be even more difficult to maintain under present levels of greenhouse gas emissions,” he underscored.

Recording the same global average temperatures, 2017 and 2015 were virtually indistinguishable because the difference is less than one hundredth of a degree, which is less than the statistical margin of error.

Source: World Meteorological Organization (WMO)

“Seventeen of the 18 warmest years on record have all been during this century, and the degree of warming during the past three years has been exceptional,” Mr. Taalas pointed out, stressing: “Arctic warmth has been especially pronounced and this will have profound and long-lasting repercussions on sea levels, and on weather patterns in other parts of the world.”

The globally averaged temperature in 2017 was about 0.46°C above the 1981-2010 long-term average of 14.3°C – a 30-year baseline used by national meteorological and hydrological services to assess averages and variability of key climate parameters, which are important for climate-sensitive sectors, such as water management, energy, agriculture and health.

Climate also has a naturally occurring variability due to phenomena such as El Niño, which has a warming influence, and La Niña, which has a cooling influence.

We need increased levels of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions combined with concrete actions to reduce disaster risk especially in least developed countries which contribute little to climate change Petteri Taalas

“Temperatures tell only a small part of the story. The warmth in 2017 was accompanied by extreme weather in many countries around the world,” Mr. Taalas continued, saying that the United States had its most expensive year ever in terms of weather and climate disasters, “whilst other countries saw their development slowed or reversed by tropical cyclones, floods and drought.

In March, WMO will issue its 2017 full Statement on the State of the Climate, which will provide a comprehensive overview of temperature variability and trends, high-impact events, and long-term indicators of climate change such as increasing carbon dioxide concentrations, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice, sea level rise and ocean acidification.

The final statement will include information submitted by a wide range of UN agencies on human, socio-economic and environmental impacts as part of a drive to provide a more comprehensive, UN-wide policy brief for decision makers and the Sustainabel Development Goals (SDGs).

Mr. Glasser expressed concern that climate change, combined with poverty, eco-systems destruction and inappropriate land use are pushing more people to leave home.

“We need increased levels of ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions combined with concrete actions to reduce disaster risk especially in least developed countries which contribute little to climate change,” he underscored.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58442

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Taking on environmental health risks, UN agencies aim to protect &#39foundations for life&#39 on Earth

10 January 2018 – Two United Nations agencies are teaming up in a major new initiative taking on the herculean task of combatting environmental health risks, which claim an estimated 12.6 million lives a year.

The partnership, announced Wednesday, between the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO), includes specific action to address air pollution, climate change and antimicrobial resistance as well as improve coordination on waste and chemicals management, water quality, and food and nutrition issues.

“Our health is directly related to the health of the environment we live in. Together, air, water and chemical hazards kill some 12.6 million people a year. This cannot and must not continue,” said Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, in a news release announcing the undertaking.

“There is an urgent need for [us] to work more closely together to address the critical threats to environmental sustainability and climate – which are the foundations for life on this planet. This new agreement recognizes that sober reality,” added Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of UNEP.

The new collaboration has a particular focus on the developing world as the worst impacts of environmental pollution and the related deaths occur in developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The initiative also includes joint management of the BreatheLife advocacy campaign to reduce air pollution for multiple climate, environment and health benefits.

The two UN agencies have been cooperating in a range of health and environment areas.

This latest partnership, is however, the most significant formal agreement on joint action across the breadth of environment and health issues in over 15 years, the agencies added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58401

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