Disasters cost billions in agricultural losses, poor farmers bear brunt – UN report
“The agriculture sectors – which includes crop and livestock production as well as forestry, fisheries and aquaculture – face many risks, such as climate and market volatility, pests and diseases, extreme weather events, and an ever-increasing number of protracted crises and conflicts,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In collaboration with FAO, Viet Nam launched the report, 2017: The impact of disasters and crises on agriculture and food security, Thursday at a regional conference in Hanoi.
The report points out that between 2005 and 2015 natural disasters cost the agricultural sectors of developing country economies a staggering $96 billion in damaged or lost crop and livestock production, $48 billion of which occurred in Asia.
Drought, which has battered farmers globally, was one of the leading culprits.
FAO documented that 83 per cent of all drought-caused economic losses were absorbed by agriculture – to the tune of $29 billion.
“This has become the ‘new normal,’ and the impact of climate change will further exacerbate these threats and challenges,” Mr. da Silva warned.
The report also details how multiple other threats are taking a heavy toll on food production, food security, and people’s livelihoods.
“Disaster risk reduction and management must, therefore, become an integral part of modern agriculture,” stressed the FAO chief.
Disasters, natural and otherwise
While floods and storms had the largest impacts in Asia, their agricultural systems were also heavily affected by earthquakes, tsunamis and extreme temperatures.
For both Africa as well as for Latin America and the Caribbean, drought was the costliest disaster, resulting in crop and livestock losses of $10.7 and $13 billion, respectively, between 2005 and 2015.
African farmers notched up more than $6 billion in losses in that period from crop pests and animal diseases.
small island developing States are particularly vulnerable to tsunamis, earthquakes, storms and floods. Their economic losses from disasters jumped from $8.8 billion for the period 2000-2007 to over $14 billion between 2008-2015, the report shows.
The report also includes ‘food chain crises’ sparked by animal diseases, like Rift Valley Fever and also addressed conflict.
A first case study done on the impacts of conflict in Syria found that the overall financial cost of damage and loss in that country’s agriculture sector over the 2011-2016 period was at least $16 billion.
All told, nearly a quarter of all financial losses caused by natural disasters between 2005 and 2015 were borne by the agricultural sector, according to FAO’s study.
Given the increasing scale and intensity of threats to agriculture, it is critical to develop adequate disaster and crisis governance structures, which must be grounded on data and evidence detailing the ways that disasters affect farmers and food producers, the report says.
“Building a more holistic and ambitious disaster-resilience framework for agriculture is crucial to ensuring sustainable development, which is a cornerstone for peace and the basis for adaptation to climate change,” concluded Mr. da Silva.
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Major reports on biodiversity, ecosystem services to be launched at UN-backed meeting in Medellin
“Literally, all Governments around the world should be looking at [the reports] to see what are we saying,” Sir Robert Watson, Chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) told UN News ahead of the body’s sixth plenary session which will run in Colombia’s second largest city from 18-24 March.
“That will be the basis for informed decisions,” said the IPBES Chair.
Established in 2012, IPBES is the global science-policy platform tasked with providing the best-available evidence to inform better decisions affecting nature — by everyone from Governments and industry to non-governmental organization (NGOs) and the general public — towards strengthening services for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, long-term human well-being and sustainable development.
The IPBES assessment reports are intended to provide decision makers with comprehensive, credible, evidence-based policy options to help reverse the unsustainable use of irreplaceable natural resources.
Prepared by more than 550 leading international experts and peer-reviewed by experts from both government and academia, the reports took three years to develop at a cost of more than $6 million. IPBES will present the reports to representatives of its 128 member States for approval at the upcoming plenary.
The reports to be presented comprise four regional assessments of biodiversity in Africa; the Americas; Asia and the Pacific; and Europe and Central Asia; as well as an assessment of land degradation and restoration, both regionally and globally.
Each regional assessment will evaluate the status of biodiversity in its respective region and subregions, identifying progress, drivers of change and threats, as well as the policy-relevant issues affecting them.
In addition, the regional assessments will present lessons learned and progress (or lack thereof) on the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 and its Biodiversity Targets, agreed by States parties to the UN Convention on Biodiversity at their meeting in Aichi, Japan.
The assessment on land degradation and restoration will identify threats to land-based ecosystems, offering evidence from around the world and a range of best-available solutions to reduce the environmental, social and economic risks and impacts of land degradation.
The findings of the five IPBES reports will also be key inputs to a new comprehensive IPBES global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services, due for release in 2019. IPBES has previously issued a large-scale thematic assessment on global and regional pollination.
IPBES meets annually at a date and venue decided at the prior session. The Platform is placed under the auspices of four United Nations entities — the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) — and administered by UNEP.
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UN launches Environmental Rights Initiative
“Those who struggle to protect planet and people should be celebrated as heroes , but the sad fact is that many are paying a heavy price with their safety and sometimes their lives,” Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said Tuesday, launching the UN Environmental Rights Initiative in Geneva.
“It’s our duty to stand on the side of those who are on the right side of history. It means standing for the most fundamental and universal of human rights,” he added.
By helping people to understand how to defend their rights, and by assisting governments to safeguard environmental rights, UNEP maintains that the initiative will bring environmental protection nearer to the people.
Although, since the 1970s, environmental rights have grown more rapidly than any other human right and are enshrined in over 100 constitutions, in January the international non-governmental organization (NGO) Global Witness documented that almost four environmental defenders are being killed weekly – with the true total likely far higher.
Many more are harassed, intimidated and forced from their lands. Moreover, around 40-50 per cent of the 197 environmental defenders killed in 2017 came from indigenous and local communities.
“Violations of environmental rights have a profound impact on a wide variety of human rights, including the rights to life, self-determination, food, water, health, sanitation, housing, cultural, civil and political rights,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said, recounting recent visits to Papua New Guinea and Fiji where he was made keenly aware of the impact of extractive industries and climate change on individual rights.
“It is crucial that those most affected are able to meaningfully participate in decisions relating to land and the environment,” he stressed.
Two disturbing counter-trends are underway. The first is the escalating intimidation and murder of environmental defenders, and the second is some countries’ attempts to limit NGO activities.
“States have a responsibility to prevent and punish rights abuses committed by private corporations within their territory, and businesses have an obligation to avoid infringing on the human rights of others,” Mr. Zeid continued. “I hope this new Initiative will be able to encourage States and businesses to comply with these obligations.”
Leo Heileman, UNEP director for the office in Latin America and the Caribbean called it “an opportunity to give environmental rights the same legal standing as human rights at the global level.”
Among other things, the initiative will help governments strengthen institutional capacities to develop and implement policy and legal frameworks protecting environmental rights, and assist businesses to better understand their environmental rights obligations and provide guidance on how to advance beyond a compliance culture.
“I am proposing to the UN Human Rights Council that the UN should join countries in recognizing a global right to a healthy environment,” said John Knox Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment . “The time has come to recognize this formal interdependence of human rights and the environment, not only at national level but at the UN level too.”
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UN sees ‘worrying’ gap between Paris climate pledges and emissions cuts needed
“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.
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.Back to Top
Hunger rates remain high amid conflict, climate shocks, warns UN food security report
According to the Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, issued Monday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the need for external food assistance in 37 countries – either affected by conflict or adverse climate shocks – remains unchanged compared to the situation three months back.
“Civil war and insecurity are direct reasons for high hunger rates in 16 of those countries, ranging from Burundi to Yemen,” said FAO in a news release announcing the findings.
“Conflict is displacing millions of people, hampering agricultural activities and, in many cases, also driving basic food prices up sharply,” it added.
At the same time, inadequate and erratic rainfall is also posing a growing threat to food security in southern and eastern Africa, where many rural households have suffered from four consecutive drought-affected agricultural seasons.
In Somalia, aggregated cereal production for the country’s “deyr” rainy season is estimated at 20 per cent below average, and similar pattern in rainfall and yields has been observed in north-eastern Tanzania.
Furthermore, prices of staple cereals such as wheat, millet or sorghum continued to remain high as a result of removal of subsidies, increased demand, and weakening of currencies.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, for instance, inflation pushed prices to more than double in 2017 to a 42 percent annual rate.
Another factor driving up prices was the disruption of traditional trade routes due to violence, such as in and around the Sahel, as a result of which countries dependent on these routes (such as Libya) witnessed much higher prices as well as facing food shortages.
The FAO report lists the following 37 countries as currently in need of external food assistance: Afghanistan; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; Congo; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Guinea; Haiti; Iraq; Kenya; Lesotho; Liberia; Libya; Madagascar; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Myanmar; Niger; Nigeria; Pakistan; Sierra Leone; Somalia; South Sudan; Sudan; Swaziland; Syria; Uganda; Yemen; and Zimbabwe.
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UN chief appoints former New York Mayor as Special Envoy for Climate Action
“[Mr. Bloomberg’s actions have] has made an enormous difference, and makes us believe that we will soon be running faster than climate change, that we will soon be starting to defeat climate change, that the Paris Agreement [on climate change] can be fully implemented but with an enhanced ambition,” Secretary-General Guterres told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York.
“We need that enhanced ambition in order to make sure that we reach the end of the century with an increase in temperature of about 1.5 and below 2 [degrees Celsius],” he added, referring to the central aim of the three-year-old Paris Accord, which set the stage for all countries to take ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so.
According the UN chief’s spokesperson, Mr. Bloomberg – who earlier served as the UN Special Envoy on Cities and Climate Change – will support the Secretary-General’s climate strategy and efforts toward the planned 2019 Climate Summit at UN Headquarters, which seeks to mobilize stronger and more ambitious action towards 2020 climate targets.
The Special Envoy will leverage efforts in key areas of the Climate Summit to encourage rapid and enhanced implementation of the Paris Agreement in the context of sustainable development.
The note further stated that Secretary-General will be engaging and inviting leaders from Governments, businesses, finance and civil society organizations with a view to bending the emissions curve by 2020 and accelerating the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
“The Secretary-General and Mr. Bloomberg share the perspective that the emissions gap needs to be closed soon to limit global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius. Climate Action, including those by cities and sub-national actors, play an essential role in driving ambition on climate change,” it added.
In addition to having served as the former UN Special Envoy on Cities and Climate Change, Mr. Bloomberg was appointed by the Chair of the Financial Stability Board Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.
The Task Force – which has finished its work – has developed voluntary, climate-related financial disclosures for use by companies in providing information to lenders, insurers, investors and other stakeholders.
From 2002-2013, Mr. Bloomberg served as the 108th Mayor of the City of New York. He began his career in 1966 at Salomon Brothers, and launched the financial news and information company Bloomberg LP in 1981.
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UN launches new global data collection tool to help reduce disaster, losses taking ‘a huge toll’
Today’s young people are more connected, dynamic and engaged than ever and the Global Goals can’t happen without them, speakers told an annual United Nations forum, where young leaders called on the Organization keep its promise to ‘leave no one behind’ on the road to creating a prosperous wolrd for everyone on a clean planet.
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Taking on environmental health risks, UN agencies aim to protect ‘foundations for life’ on Earth
Almost 17 million babies live in areas where air pollution is at least six times higher than international limits, causing them to breathe toxic air and potentially risking their brain development, according to a new paper released on Tuesday by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).Back to Top
For Valentine’s Day, UN environment wing is urging everyone to ‘break up’ with single-use plastic
In It’s not me, it’s you, a short video for its #CleanSeas campaign, the UN environment wing takes a lighter look at the very serious problem of marine litter and urges everyone to give up the use of single-use plastic products such as disposable cutlery, water-bottles, food containers and shopping bags.
These environmentally unfriendly products ultimately end up in seas and oceans where they endanger fish, birds, turtles and other creatures who mistake it for food or become entangled.
Plastic waste has also entered the human food chain with health consequences that are not yet fully understood.
In addition to the impact on human and animal health, such pollution also hurt local businesses such as tourism, not only in areas where the pollutants originated but in far-away places, carried by ocean currents, and washing up on tiny Pacific islands and Arctic and Antarctic regions.
The UNEP’s #CleanSeas campaign aims to “turn the tide on plastic” by inspiring action from governments, businesses and individuals on ocean pollution.
A simple, conscious, switch to glass or metal tumblers or cups, or carrying a reusable shopping bag can have a lasting impact on ridding the planet from the menace.
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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.
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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.
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