Devastating ‘season of natural disasters’ demands action to address extreme weather events – Dominican Republic
20 September 2017 Amid a “devastating season of natural disasters” in the region – widespread catastrophe that extends to Mexico, hit by two destructive earthquakes, and to the southern United States, viciously punished by Hurricane Harvey – the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic today called on the United Nations to consider “new actions we must take, urgently, to counteract extreme climatic phenomena.”
Addressing the General Assembly’s annual general debate in the wake of the massive destruction caused in the region by Hurricane Irma and as Puerto Rico was being battered by Hurricane Maria, Miguel Vargas Maldonado expressed solidarity with all countries that had suffered these back-to-back extreme weather events and said that the deaths and material losses have been immense.
He said one thing was clear, that the damage caused during this hurricane season alone far exceeded the Dominican Republic’s gross domestic product(GDP). Moreover, the “lethal power” of these recent storms – which had been intensified by climate change – had eroded more than roads and beaches, it had shattered lives and destroyed dreams.
“Our economies, our way of life, and our development potential are at in danger. The Caribbean vulnerability and that of our Dominican Republic pose a risk that we cannot face alone,” stated Mr. Vargas Maldanado, and although his country had been fortunate not to suffer human losses during the catastrophic passage of Irma, “we are aware that, like every other Caribbean island, we will always be vulnerable to this type of phenomenon.”
Indeed, this reality has led him to raise once again to the General Assembly, the imperative need to join forces to confront these threats. “It compels us to act in a responsible, cohesive way for the sake of our people’s lives,” he said, stressing that it is not enough to send messages of solidarity or humanitarian aid after natural catastrophes have caused death and devastation.
“And it is absolutely not enough to sign agreements on climate change; It is critical for these agreements to be coherent, move forward a joint agenda, and develop concrete action plans,” said the Foreign Minister proposing the creation of a special fund to deal with natural catastrophes, to foster awareness, prevention, and resilience strategies, which will allow us to preserve life.
“We must act on this or otherwise the future will judge us for our total lack of responsibility,” he warned.
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French initiative to create global environment pact deserves support, says Secretary-General
19 September 2017 United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today urged global support for France’s initiative to create the first international legally binding document on the environment, at an event held on the margins of the annual leaders’ summit of the General Assembly.
“It is about our duty of care to provide an environment that supports the health, well-being, dignity, and prosperity of everyone on this planet,” Mr. Guterres said. “Let us support this worthy initiative.”
According to the Permanent Mission of France to the UN, which organized the event, threats to the environment are increasingly impacting the survival of mankind and the planet. It is, therefore, urgent to act and build a sustainable future.
However, experts have highlighted a clear legal challenge: international environment law is fragmented in many conventions and international declarations, the Mission noted.
As such, the Global Pact for the Environment will be the first international legally binding document that gathers and harmonizes all environmental laws in one single document.
The objective of today’s event, which drew many world leaders, was to launch an important consultation to elaborate the instrument.
Mr. Guterres stressed that the realization of aspirations for peace, prosperity and sustainable development hinges on the health of the planet.
He noted that there will soon be more plastic than fish in the seas and biodiversity is disappearing at a rate one thousand times faster than the natural rate. In addition, 90 per cent of the population is breathing polluted air.
“Our only hope to solve these problems is to join forces to protect the environment,” he said, adding that this understanding is already common to both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in 2015, and the Paris Agreement on climate change, which entered into force in 2016.
Also addressing the event was General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcák, who said that this proposal deserves consideration and deliberation among Member States and other stakeholders.
Member States need to consider appropriate options for an eventual Global Pact to fit with the more than 500 existing multilateral environmental agreements, he said, while also stressing the need to give due attention to the three pillars of sustainable development, namely the economic, the social and the environmental, in a balanced, indivisible and comprehensive manner.
He also said that the UN system, civil society, the private sector, academia and other relevant stakeholders need to be involved in this ambitious initiative as inclusiveness is key to delivering an outcome that achieves the needed transformation at all levels.
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Leaders meeting at UN underscore need to fast-track climate action
19 September 2017 Leaders from various levels of government, the private sector and civil society highlighted the need for climate action as they convened at United Nations Headquarters, where Secretary-General António Guterres warned that current pledges and plans are insufficient to keep global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees.
“Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and Maria and the massive floods in South Asia are just the most recent demonstration of the urgency of tackling climate change ,” said Mr. Guterres in his remarks to the Leaders’ Dialogue on Climate Change, held today on the margins of the high-level session of the General Assembly.
“Such events will only become more frequent and more savage, with more dramatic humanitarian and economic consequences,” he added.
In 2020, parties to the Paris Agreement on climate change, which entered force in 2016, will review progress made to date.
“By then, we need to make sure that we have substantially raised the bar of ambition,” Mr. Guterres said, outlining six issues to focus on: investment in clean technology; carbon pricing; the energy transition; risk mitigation; augmenting the contribution of sub-national actors and business; and mobilizing finance.
“Momentum is growing. Now let’s make it grow even more,” he said.
Yesterday, the Secretary-General addressed a gathering of global leaders from local governments, the private sector and civil society, which was also attended by California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr; UN Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change Michael R. Bloomberg; and former US Vice President Al Gore.
Secretary-General António Guterres, speaks at the High-Level Stakeholders Meeting on Climate Change, as Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (left), and Al Gore (right), Chairman of the Climate Reality Project listen. UN Photo/Kim Haughton
“Climate change is not a distant problem for future generations,” he told them. “It is here, now, and we need to deal with it.”
Both meetings were held to forge alliances for implementing the Paris Agreement in the run-up to a Climate Summit Mr. Guterres plans to hold in 2019.
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