Advancing multilateralism goes ‘hand-in-hand’ with work of the UN
Convinced that “revitalizing the UN and advancing multilateralism go hand-in-hand”, Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces said that she was engaging with world leaders in New York and abroad, “to promote this objective”.
She also vowed to work on revitalizing the General Assembly, as well as on reforming the UN Security Council and aligning the UN’s objectives to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Calling the 2030 Agenda “a cornerstone of the success of multilateralism”, she stressed the importance of building greater public understanding and support for it.
Her second priority was on implementing two new global accords on refugees and migrants, for which she had appointed two co-facilitators to consult with Member States on arrangements for the International Migration Review Forums – the primary intergovernmental platform for States to discuss implementing and share progress on the Global Compact.
“I will also continue raising awareness about the importance of an informed debate on international migration, which is based on facts and figures, to help Member States develop their own policies and support the implementation of Global Compact for Migration” she stated.
I am committed to strive towards gender parity within the General Assembly and gender equality in its outcomes – UN General Assembly President
As a Gender Champion, Ms. Espinosa’s third priority focuses on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“I am committed to strive towards gender parity within the General Assembly and gender equality in its outcomes, starting with my Office where gender equality is a reality”, she emphasized, noting her newly established Group of Gender Equality Leaders.
Fourth, under the priority related to the creation of decent work opportunities, she spotlighted the need to build on the momentum created around the review of Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG 8) in the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July as well as the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
Protecting the environment is Ms. Espinosa’s fifth priority.
Nearing the first milestones of the 2030 Agenda, she committed to encouraging all participants to work collectively on climate and environmental action, as “more needs to be done to prevent dangerous levels of global warming.”
“We need to see climate change response as an opportunity to set a course for a better future for human beings and towards a greener, cleaner and more sustainable world”, she maintained, particularly as it “is accelerating faster than our efforts to address it”.
On plastic pollution, she asked for partners in “walking the talk” by reducing single use plastics within missions and at UN facilities.
Under the rights of persons with disabilities, her sixth priority, she said that a Steering Committee on Accessibility at the UN had been launched in December on the eve of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities.
Moreover, she plans to launch the campaign for the Universal Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this month and host a High-Level Event on Persons with Disabilities in June.
For her final priorities, peace and security, the Assembly President said she would seize on, or take advantage of, all existing mandates and events” to promote issues related to conflict prevention, peacebuilding and sustaining peace” to build more “peaceful and resilient societies.”
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FROM THE FIELD: Liberia boosts efforts to guard against rising seas
It’s projected that a one-metre sea level rise could permanently inundate 95 square kilometres of land in Liberia’s coastal zone, which is already under threat of heavy seasonal rains and continuing erosion.
What’s more, eroding infrastructure is causing massive repercussions for housing, education and livelihoods, with fishing chief among them.
But the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has taken “28,000 steps in the right direction” during the second phase of its Coastal Defense Project to reduce vulnerabilities and build resilience. Here’s the full story.
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CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: Profiting from urban waste in Viet Nam
Hoi An, a city of 120,000, has become a significant tourist destination with around 21 million visitors in 2016. Those tourists are producing around 75 tonnes of solid waste every single day – waste which a group of underprivileged women is turning into a profit.
Plastic and metals are collected and sold to recycling facilities while biodegradable matter is composted and then passed on to local farmers. The authorities dispose of any waste which can’t be recycled.
Read more here, about the women of Hoi An and their contribution towards creating employment, reducing waste and creating a more livable and sustainable city.
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#TakeYourSeat at the UN Climate Change Conference: a way for all people to join the global conversation
Levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another new record high, according to a report issued on Thursday by the United Nations weather agency, which reveals that there is no sign of reversal of this trend, responsible for climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather.
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CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: Lake Chad trees keep deadly drought at bay
Lake Chad – which originally reached from Chad into Nigeria, Cameroon and Niger – has lost 90 per cent of its surface area due largely to unsustainable water management and climate change.
The UN Development Programme project (UNDP) is helping hold back the advance of the Sahara desert and provide the conditions for local people to farm sustainably, boost the availability of food and carry out income-generating activities.
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CO2 emissions on the rise for first time in four years, UN agency warns
The report comes just days before the key UN climate change conference known as COP 24, taking place in Katowice, Poland, with the agency urging nations to triple their efforts to curb harmful emissions.
The UNEP report comes hot on the heels of the watershed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on global warming, released in October, which cautioned that emissions had to stop rising now, in order to keep temperature increases below 1.5°C, and reduce the risks for the well-being of the planet and its people.
“If the IPCC report represented a global fire alarm, this report is the arson investigation,” said UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director Joyce Msuya. “The science is clear; for all the ambitious climate action we’ve seen – governments need to move faster and with greater urgency. We’re feeding this fire while the means to extinguish it are within reach.”
Heat-trapping CO2 gas in the atmosphere is largely responsible for rising global temperatures, according to the overwhelming body of scientific evidence. UNEP’s 2018 Global Emissions Report, show global emissions have reached historic levels.
Total annual greenhouse gases emissions, including from land-use change, reached a record high of 53.5 Gigatons in 2017, an increase of 0.7 compared with 2016.
“In contrast, global GHG emissions in 2030 need to be approximately 25 per cent and 55 per cent lower than in 2017 to put the world on a least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to 2°C and 1.5°C respectively,” said the report.
What’s worse, the report notes that there is no sign of reversal of this trend and that only 57 countries (representing 60 per cent of global emissions) are on track to bridge their “emissions gap” – meaning the gap between where we are likely to be and where we need to be.
Increased emissions and lagging action means the gap published in this year’s report is larger than ever.
UNEP stresses that while “surging momentum from the private sector” and “untapped potential from innovation and green-financing” offer “pathways” to bridge the emissions gap globally, the “technical feasibility” of limiting global warming to 1.5°C “is dwindling”.
The authors of the report note that nations would need to triple their efforts on climate action without further delay, in order to meet the 2°C-rise limit by mid-century. To meet the 1.5°C limit, they would have to quintuple their efforts. A continuation of current trends will likely result in global warming of around 3°C by the end of the century, with continued temperature rises after that, according to the report findings.
“The kind of drastic, large-scale action we urgently need has yet to been seen,” said UNEP.
The report offers concrete ways for Governments to bridge their emissions gap, including through fiscal policy, innovative technology, non-state and subnational action, and more. This ninth UNEP emissions report has been prepared by an international team of leading scientists, assessing all available information.
“When governments embrace fiscal policy measures to subsidize low-emission alternatives and tax fossil fuels, they can stimulate the right investments in the energy sector and significantly reduce carbon emissions,” said Jian Liu, UNEP’s Chief Scientist.
“Thankfully, the potential of using fiscal policy as an incentive is increasingly recognized,” said Dr. Liu, referring to the 51 initiatives already in place or planned across the world to charge for carbon emissions (called “carbon pricing”).
“If all fossil fuel subsidies were phased out, global carbon emissions could be reduced by up to 10 per cent by 2030,” he added, explaining that “setting the right carbon price is also essential. At US$70 per ton of CO2, emission reductions of up to 40 per cent are possible in some countries.”
The 2018 Global Emissions Report report adds yet another building block of scientific evidence to inform decision-making at the upcoming UN climate change conference – the COP 24 in Poland – which starts on Sunday and will last for two weeks. The key objective of the meeting will be to adopt an implementation plan for the 2015 Paris Agreement.
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‘At risk’ Mediterranean forests make ‘vital contributions’ to development
The report observes that forest-based livelihoods not only benefit local villagers but also contribute to national tax bases, and overall well-being.
And while the Mediterranean diet and agricultural products are world-renowned, their survival depend on rural landscapes, resources and decent working conditions. Moreover, Mediterranean coastlines host 30 per cent of all international tourists, with budding cities and megacities that continue to push population growth and economic activity, putting a strain on the area.
As such, it is crucial that national and regional strategies better emphasize the role of forests and agroforestry.
“In a context of rapid climatic, societal and lifestyle changes in the Mediterranean, forest and tree-based solutions are critical to the region overall sustainability, with an expected impact well beyond forested areas,” asserted Ms. Lemaitre-Curri of UNEP.
The report covers 27 countries: Albania, Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Palestine, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia and Turkey.
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CLIMATE CHANGE FOCUS: Cutting emissions, one bog at a time
Peat is made up of decaying organic matter and, crucially, is able to absorb harmful carbon deposits which would otherwise add to carbon dioxide emissions, if released into the atmosphere.
Many of the bogs in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, have been drained so the land can be used for commercial development, but when dry, the peat becomes highly combustible. If it catches fire, then dangerous levels of greenhouse gasses are released.
Now, local people with the support of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and European Union, are restoring the peatlands and setting up small businesses which can operate sustainably alongside.
It’s estimated that the 30 million tons of carbon has been kept in ground thanks to their efforts, the equivalent, UNDP says, of closing 140 coal-fired energy plants.
Read more here about how the conservation of peatlands is contributing to fighting climate change, and go here to our new UN.org climate change website, for the latest information across the UN, including the crucial upcoming COP 24 climate conference, in Katowice, Poland.
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‘Global trust’ declining, ‘our world needs stepped-up global leadership’
In a press briefing on Wednesday, Mr. Guterres said that the meetings, both of which he is attending, come at a crucial moment: “Our world is obviously facing a crisis of confidence. Those left behind by globalization are losing trust in governments and institutions,” he told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.
“Inequality is pervasive and increasing, especially within nations. Trade disputes are escalating. And an undercurrent of geopolitical tensions is adding further pressure to the global economy.”
The UN Chief outlined some examples of the stark, climate-related challenges the world is facing, such as Tuesday’s UN Environment report – calling for a five-fold increase in climate action to limit global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century – and the World Meteorological Organization’s announcement that carbon dioxide levels have increased to levels not seen in 3 million years.
Mr. Guterres made a passionate call for immediate action, pointing out that the social, economic and environmental costs of climate change dwarf the costs of acting now: “Failure to act means more disasters and emergencies and air pollution that could cost the global economy as much as US$21 trillion by 2050.”
“On the other hand,” he added, “ambitious climate action will not only slow temperature rise, it will be good for economies, for the environment and for public health. Climate solutions represent opportunity, and technology is on our side. They are wise investments in an equitable, prosperous and sustainable future. Green business truly is good business.”
Turning to the funding needed for climate change mitigation and adaptation, the Secretary-General recalled the pledge to mobilize $100 billion per year for climate action in support of the developing world by 2020, and welcomed Germany’s Wednesday announcement to donate $1.5 billion to the Green Climate Fund: “the members of the G20 (group of industrialized nations) are responsible for more than three-quarters of greenhouse emissions. Yet it is equally true that G20 members have the power to bend the emissions curve. They also have the resources to provide the financing needed for both mitigation and adaptation.”
Ahead of the opening of the G20 on Friday in Buenos Aires, Mr. Guterres has sent a letter to the Heads of State taking part, in which he warns of the “increasingly acute” threats to human prosperity posed by climate-change and rising inequality, and underlines the need to preserve and renew multilateralism in order to “redirect globalization towards sustainable development for all.”
To achieve the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, the UN’s blueprint to transform the world for the better, the Secretary-General outlines 7 areas for G20 leaders to prioritize: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Financing for Sustainable Development, Climate Action, Sustainable Food Future, Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, The Future of Work, and Migrants and Refugees.
The letter ends with an appeal to the leaders to conclude with an ambitious communiqué that “responds to the challenges of our time and upholds the spirit of cooperation.”
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COP24: UN climate change conference, what’s at stake and what you need to know
Thousands of world leaders, experts, activists, creative thinkers, and private sector and local community representatives will gather to work on a collective action plan to realize critical commitments made by all the countries of the world in Paris, three years ago.
UN News put together this guide to COP 24 to answer some of the biggest questions you may have and make sure you’re all caught up, with a ringside seat on the action.
1. The basics: UNFCCC, UNEP, WMO, IPCC, COP 24, Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement… can someone please make sense of all this?
These acronyms and place names all represent international tools and terms that, under the leadership of the UN, were created to help advance climate action globally. They all play a specific and different role in focussing us all on achieving environmental sustainability. Here’s how it fits together:
In this treaty, nations agreed to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere” to prevent dangerous interference from human activity on the climate system. Today, the treaty has 197 signatories. Every year since the treaty entered into force in 1994, a “conference of the parties” – a COP – is held to discuss how to move forward and, since there have been 23 COPs so far, this year’s will be the 24th, or “COP 24”.
Because the UNFCCC had non-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and no enforcement mechanism, various “extensions” to this treaty were negotiated during these COPs, including: the famous Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which defined emission limits for developed nations to be achieved by 2012; and the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, in which all countries of the world agreed to step up efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures and boost climate action financing.
Two agencies support the scientific work of the UN on climate change: the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Together, they set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, which is made of hundreds of experts, dedicated to assessing data and providing reliable scientific evidence for the climate action negotiations, including the upcoming ones in Katowice.
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World simply ‘not on track’ to slow climate change this year: UN weather agency
“We are not on track to meet climate change targets and rein in temperature increases,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
We are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it – WMO chief Petteri Taalas
“Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases 3-5 degrees centigrade by the end of the century. If we exploit all known fossil fuel resources, the temperature rise will be considerably higher,” he said.
Data from five independent global temperature monitors which formed the basis of the latest annual WMO Statement on the State of the Climate report, indicated that this year is on course to be the fourth highest on record.
Worryingly, the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years.
“It is worth repeating once again that we are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it,” Professor Taalas said.
The WMO Secretary-General’s comments support the findings of another authoritative global body, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In its report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, it concluded that the average global temperature in the decade prior to 2015 was 0.86 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.
‘Every fraction’ of warming ‘makes a difference to human health’
Between 2014-2018, however, this average has risen to 1.04 degrees centigrade above the pre-industrial baseline, IPCC’s experts said.
“These are more than just numbers,” said WMO Deputy Secretary-General, Elena Manaenkova, noting that “every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference to human health and access to food and fresh water”.
The extinction of many animals and plants also hinged on global warming, the WMO official insisted, along with the survival of coral reefs and marine life.
“It makes a difference to economic productivity, food security, and to the resilience of our infrastructure and cities,” Ms Manaenkova said. “It makes a difference to the speed of glacier melt and water supplies, and the future of low-lying islands and coastal communities. Every extra bit matters.”
WMO’s report adds to the scientific evidence that will inform climate change negotiations from 2-14 December in Katowice, Poland.
The key objective is to adopt the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which aims to hold the global average temperature increase to as close as possible to 1.5 degrees centigrade.
This target is possible, according to the IPCC, but it would require “unprecedented changes” in our lifestyle, energy and transport systems.
Highlighting the economic impact of higher global temperatures, WMO noted that many countries were increasingly aware of the potential problems.
This included in the United States, where a recent federal report detailed how climate change is already affecting the environment, agriculture, energy, land and water resources, in addition to transport, people’s health and welfare.
A just-published United Kingdom assessment also warned that summer temperatures could be up to 5.4 degrees centigrade hotter, and summer rainfall could decrease by up to 47 per cent by 2070.
In Switzerland, famed for its mountains and skiing, national weather experts warned earlier this month that the country is becoming hotter and drier. In addition, it is expected to struggle with heavier rainfall in the future – and less snow.
Check out our comprehensive explainer story ahead of the key COP24 UN climate change conference which starts this weekend. It’s got everything you need to know.
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G20 told crucial COP24 climate change conference ‘must succeed’: Guterres
10 years on, governments are experiencing collective amnesia towards of one of the biggest factors behind the 2008 global financial crash –the housing crisis – which has not been addressed and is only getting worse, said Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, in a statement on Thursday.
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