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Promoting biodiversity across all agricultural sectors ‘fundamental’ — FAO chief

With large swathes of the planet’s surface used to grow food, raise animals or produce products such as timber; the agricultural sector — if managed sustainably — can make significant contributions to protecting biodiversity, said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Addressing a three-day international dialogue on mainstreaming the key issue into agricultural policies and practices, he called for transformative changes in food production, aimed at producing healthy and nutritious food while simultaneously safeguarding the planet’s biodiversity.

“Biodiversity is essential for safeguarding global food security and nutrition, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities,” he said in keynote remarks.

However, planetary biodiversity — at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels — faces a number of threats, the FAO Director-General noted, adding that food production “is a big part of the problem”.

“Biodiversity is essential for safeguarding global food security and nutrition, improving rural livelihoods, and enhancing the resilience of people and communities” — FAO chief, José Graziano da Silva

Pointing out that the world still produces food based mainly on 50-year-old principles, often using environmentally unfriendly chemicals, he also described how the loss of agricultural biodiversity poses a direct risk to food security.

“Only three staple crops — rice, maize and wheat — and three animal species — cattle, pigs and chicken — provide the majority of food energy intake in the world,” he said.

Diversifying food sources could play a critical role in ensuring food security; such as genetically diverse plants which are more tolerant to hotter and drier conditions, he said. Similarly, more diverse livestock would allow farmers and pastoralists to breed animals which could adapt to changing environmental conditions.

“This is especially important nowadays in the face of emerging challenges such as the impacts of climate change, rapid urbanization and also a growing population with changing diets,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

At the farm level, implementing production practices that prioritize safeguarding biodiversity can also ensure that food can be produced sustainably.

To that end, this week’s FAO conference gathers together people from across the whole sector, to consider real-world examples of how agriculture, fisheries and forestry have been successfully managed to safeguard biodiversity.

A series of working groups will also focus on avenues for mainstreaming biodiversity in agriculture, including global governance; national policies and legislation; financial incentives and investments; and supply chain measures.
 

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/05/1010891

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Rich variety of life on earth essential says UN chief Guterres, marking biological diversity day

Since December 1993, when the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force, its parties have acted to conserve the earth’s flora and fauna, in a sustainable and fair way, said the UN chief.

“Achieving these objectives is integral to meet our goals for sustainable development,” Mr. Guterres stressed, underscoring the importance of protecting, restoring and ensuring access to ecosystems to eradicating extreme poverty and hunger: Goals 1 and 2 of what are known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To mitigate climate change, he notes that deforestation and land degradation must be reduced while at the same time, enhancing carbon stocks in forests, drylands, rangelands and croplands. 

He said it was also critical to protect the biodiversity of forests and watersheds to support clean and plentiful water supplies.

Yet, despite these and other benefits, biodiversity continues to decline globally.

“The answer is to intensify efforts and build on successes,” stated Mr. Gutteres. He explained that in 2018, Parties to the Convention will begin work on a new action plan to ensure that, by 2050, biodiversity is preserved to the best of our abilities. 

“The entire world needs to join this effort,” he emphasized: “I urge governments, businesses and people everywhere to act to protect the nature that sustains us.  Our collective future depends on it,” concluded the Secretary-General.

In her message, Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), noted that biodiversity is at the heart of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Its decline compounds other challenges, including climate change, water and food security, and public health, which “can potentially lead to catastrophic outcomes for human existence on this planet,” she warned.

“It is therefore, imperative to do everything in our power to halt the destruction of nature,” she emphasized.

“We have two more years to go to redouble our efforts, […] to design a new deal for nature that will take us from 2020 to the middle of this century,” she said, adding: “We don’t have much time. But we have a lot of power if we work together, in a collaborative manner to change the way we use nature and biodiversity.

Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, drew attention to wetlands as being among the most biodiverse ecosystems on earth – from which almost all freshwater supplies are drawn.

“Given the increasing human population and its dependence on water and wetlands, we must work together in a collective, concerted and sustained effort to conserve wetlands for the planet’s biodiversity and human wellbeing,” she said.

For his part, David Morgan, from the UN-administered Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), reiterated that “biodiversity loss has an enormous impact on our planet, for both the natural environment and human beings.”

“Safeguarding biodiversity is among the key elements of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said. 

“While we are still facing tremendous challenges, with the political will of the world’s governments, we can protect the world’s biological diversity,” he asserted, affirming CITES’ continued collaboration with CBD “to save our common heritage for this and future generations.”

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/05/1010342

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Climate change: An ‘existential threat’ to humanity, UN chief warns global summit

Both leadership and innovation are essential for climate actionSecretary-General António Guterres said in his keynote address to the global gathering, known as the R20 Austrian World Summit – a long-term initiative to help regions, States and cities implement the Sustainable Development Goals and meet the Paris Agreement targets. 

Mr. Guterres spelled out: “We must use all our resources to build a sense of urgency”, to raise ambition, while keeping temperature rises in the years ahead, as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible.

He said there was reason to hope, declaring that “the world is seeing a groundswell of climate action”,  citing examples, including Morocco’s building of a solar farm “the size of Paris, that will power over a million homes by 2020” and China’s achievement in already passing it’s 2020 goal of producing 105 gigawatts of solar power capacity.

 

“We must build on this,” the UN chief emphasized, calling renewable energy – which already produces a fifth of the world’s electricity – power that also delivers significant health benefits.

The World Health Organization reports that more than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas are exposed to poor-quality air that is damaging human health. 

Financing to accelerate climate action is necessary if we are to bend the emissions curve Secretary-General António Guterres

“Investments in clean, green infrastructure need to be scaled up globally,” he explained. “For that, we need leadership from the finance and investment community and by local, regional and national governments who will decide on major infrastructure plans over the coming years.”

Mr. Guterres encouraged private sector leaders attending the UN General Assembly-backed summit in the Austrian capital, to announce new financing for clean energy projects. 

While the 30-member independent International Energy Agency estimates that 2017 investments in renewable electricity amounted to $242 billion, said the UN chief, that was still far less than the funds invested in new fossil fuel development. Billions of dollars more needs to be invested in renewables if we are to see a “full-scale transition to clean energy” by 2020, said Mr. Guterres.

Moreover, some 75 per cent of the infrastructure needed by 2050 has still not been built. 

“Mobilizing and equipping local governments with the capacity and financing to accelerate climate action is necessary if we are to bend the emissions curve,” he maintained. 

Noting that climate change continues to move faster than climate action, Mr. Guterres quoted the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change saying: “The more we disrupt our climate, the more we risk severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.” 

“But,” he added, “it does not have to be that way,” pointing to solar, wind and cutting-edge technologies, such as electric vehicles or energy from algae in the ocean, which promises a new era of clean air. 

“Let’s join a race to the top, a race where there are only winners,” concluded the Secretary-General.

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/05/1009782

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Save our planet by protecting migratory birds and their ‘epic journeys,’ urges UN chief

That’s one of the key messages from United Nations chief Antonio Guterres, for World Migratory Bird Day, celebrated on Saturday, with the soaring message: “Unifying Our Voices for Bird Conservation.”

“Migratory birds connect people, ecosystems and nations. They are symbols of peace and of an interconnected planet,” Secretary-General António Guterres said in a statement to mark the Day.

“Their epic journeys inspire people of all ages, across the globe,” he continued, adding: “World Migratory Bird Day is an opportunity to celebrate the great natural wonder of bird migration – but also a reminder that those patterns, and ecosystems worldwide, are threatened by climate change.”

The Day highlights the need to conserve migratory birds and their habitats by raising awareness of the threats they face, their ecological importance and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.

Migratory birds fly hundreds and thousands of kilometres, along historic routes, to find the best habitats available for feeding, breeding and raising their young. The perilous journeys involve a wide and diverse array of threats.

Of the 11,000-bird species on the planet, one-in-five is considered migratory. Forty per cent of them are in decline, with one-in-eight under threat of global extinction. Major threats include habitat-loss and degradation, caused by agricultural and coastal development; collision with badly placed wind turbines and powerlines; unsustainable harvesting, and illegal killing and taking.

Migratory birds are also greatly affected by poisoning, such as through ingesting lead released into the environment, through spent ammunition, or toxic weights used for fishing.

 “Migratory birds are under threat from every corner: they are losing their habitats, subjected to illegal killing and suffering from the impacts of climate change,” said Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, UNEP, adding that we all have a responsibility to “save such a precious component of the natural world.”

By protecting them, we protect our planet.

Key supporters and partners globally, are adamant that successful migratory bird conservation can only be achieved through a united effort.

Beginning this year, World Migratory Bird Day will be observed annually each May and October, to coincide with the cycle of migration, making it possible to organize events in countries around the world at peak migration times.

“I urge Governments and people everywhere to take concerted conservation action that will help to ensure the birds’ survival – and our own,” the Secretary-General concluded.

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/05/1009552

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UN forum to coordinate global efforts to address worsening water shortages

The problem has been further complicated by a lack of comprehensive water supply data and monitoring systems which is making it harder to respond to the growing crisis.

We cannot manage what we do not measure,” said Harry Lins, the President of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Commission for Hydrology.

“And yet the systems and data collection which underpin these vital services to society are under real pressure,” he added, underscoring that informed decision-making must be based on comprehensive facts and figures.

This sums up the key challenge underlying the agency’s HydroConference, taking place in Geneva from 7-9 May, is seeking to address.

It brings together the full gamut of so-called “water stakeholders” – decision makers, meteorological and hydrological services; the private and academic sector; non-governmental organizations, and UN entities – around the same table to coordinate efforts as well as leverage individual knowledge and collective expertise to maximum effect.

WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said it was important for all actors to cope with the scale of the challenges that lie ahead, citing the two extremes of droughts and floods.

“Effective flood and drought policies can be implemented only with data and models for assessing the frequency and magnitude of extreme events,” he said, adding that the same also holds for other goals related to water and its efficient use; including those in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) explicitly calls for sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Water is also a key component for other Goals including those on eliminating extreme poverty (SDG 1); as wells as Goal 2, to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, as well as Goal 13 on mitigating climate change.

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/05/1009062

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UN experts urges Poland to ensure unrestricted ‘civic space’ during climate talks

The latest round of United Nations climate change negotiations began on Monday in Bonn, Germany, to further develop the “operating manual” for implementing the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement, which aims to keep temperature rises this century, well below 2 degrees Celsius.

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/05/1009002

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Hottest April day ever recorded

Amid flash-floods in the East and Horn of Africa – and sand and dust storms in the Arabian Gulf – Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) told journalists at UN headquarters in Geneva that this week’s storms in northern India had reportedly left more than 100 dead.

” We’ve never seen a temperature above 50 degrees C in April.” – Clare Nullis (WMO)

What may well be the hottest temperature ever recorded for April, was registered this week in Pakistan, she added. A weather station in the city of Nawabshah registered 50.2 degrees Celsius on Monday; or 122.4 degrees Fahrenheit. 

“This is April – not June and July – this is April,” she exclaimed. “We don’t normally see temperatures above 50 degrees: in fact, as we’re aware, we’ve never seen a temperature above 50 degrees C in April.”

Moving considerably further south, to another climatic region of the world, A WMO committee of experts also announced on Thursday that a record high temperature recorded for the Antarctic which was set back in in March 2015, still stands.

The record high reading, was under threat of being surpassed by a temperature recorded at a nearby weather station, in the same period of warm weather, and in more or less the same location.

The existing record of 17.5 degrees Celsius was recorded at the Argentine Research Base Esperanza, near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, on 23 March.

The rival reading which, if verified, would have set a new record, was registered a day earlier in the same area, at an automatic weather station established by the Czech Republic on Davies Dome. But polar meteorology experts examined the data closely and made their long-awaited announcement on Friday that the existing record still stands.

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/05/1008922

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Hottest April day ever recorded

Amid flash-floods in the East and Horn of Africa – and sand and dust storms in the Arabian Gulf – Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) told journalists at UN headquarters in Geneva that this week’s storms in northern India had reportedly left more than 100 dead.

” We’ve never seen a temperature above 50 degrees C in April.” – Clare Nullis (WMO)

What may well be the hottest temperature ever recorded for April, was registered this week in Pakistan, she added. A weather station in the city of Nawabshah registered 50.2 degrees Celsius on Monday; or 122.4 degrees Fahrenheit. 

“This is April – not June and July – this is April,” she exclaimed. “We don’t normally see temperatures above 50 degrees: in fact, as we’re aware, we’ve never seen a temperature above 50 degrees C in April.”

Moving considerably further south, to another climatic region of the world, A WMO committee of experts also announced on Thursday that a record high temperature recorded for the Antarctic which was set back in in March 2015, still stands.

The record high reading, was under threat of being surpassed by a temperature recorded at a nearby weather station, in the same period of warm weather, and in more or less the same location.

The existing record of 17.5 degrees Celsius was recorded at the Argentine Research Base Esperanza, near the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, on 23 March.

The rival reading which, if verified, would have set a new record, was registered a day earlier in the same area, at an automatic weather station established by the Czech Republic on Davies Dome. But polar meteorology experts examined the data closely and made their long-awaited announcement on Friday that the existing record still stands.

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/05/1008922

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Nations begin drafting ‘operating manual’ for climate action at UN conference in Bonn

“We are witnessing the severe impacts of climate change throughout the world”, said the Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, at a press conference. 

“Every credible scientific source is telling us that these impacts will only get worse if we do not address climate change and it also tells us that our window of time for addressing it is closing very soon,” she added. 

“We need to dramatically increase our ambitions,” stressed the UNFCCC chief, outlining three priorities.  

First, all stakeholders – including governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses, investors and citizens – must accelerate climate action by 2020.  

Second, she said, the international community must complete the Paris Agreement guidelines, or operating manual, to unleash the potential of the accord. 

Third, conditions must be improved to enable countries to be more ambitious in determining their own national policies to slow down global warming.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP23) held last November under the leadership of Fiji, nations agreed to accelerate and complete their work to put in place the guidelines – officially known as the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP) –  at COP24 in Katowice, Poland next December. 

At this Bonn meeting, which will run through 10 May, Governments will start drafting texts to be finalized at COP24.

Finishing off the operating manual is also necessary to assess whether the world is on track to achieve the goals of the historic Paris Agreement limiting greenhouse gas emissions, while pursuing efforts to keep the temperature rise to less than 1.5°C.

Throughout this year, countries will also focus on how they can scale up their climate ambition and implementation in the pre-2020 period. All countries share the view that climate action prior to 2020 is essential.  
 

Article source: https://news.un.org/feed/view/en/story/2018/04/1008572

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