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At UN-backed conference, African countries adopt sustainable development measures

14 September 2012 – Environment ministers and representatives from over 40 African countries today adopted a set of programmes to boost sustainable development on the continent, agreeing to fully engage with the implementation of the outcome document of the United Nations Rio+20 Conference which was adopted in June.

For three days, government officials at the 14th regular session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) in Arusha, Tanzania tackled some of the challenges that threaten the future of the region such as land degradation, climate change, deforestation, low agricultural productivity and poverty.

The Conference marked the first time that African environment ministers met since the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil in June, in which more than 100 heads of state and government, along with thousands of parliamentarians, mayors, UN officials, chief executive officers and civil society leaders sought to shape new policies to promote prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.

At AMCEN, Ministers adopted documents which will promote an inclusive green economy as well as strengthen the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The ministers requested additional measures beyond the Rio+20 agreement, including upgrading regional UNEP offices and establishing five sub-regional offices in Africa, as well as establishing a universal membership body known as the Environment Assembly, with a ministerial segment called the Ministerial Conference on Environment.

The Director of UNEP’s Regional Office for Africa, Mounkaila Goumandakoye, said UNEP would support all the decisions adopted by the ministers.

“In addition to the provision of secretariat services, our support will focus on scientific and technical advisory services as we increase assistance to African countries in the implementation of the Rio+20 outcomes, taking into account the threat that climate change continues to pose,” he said.

“Our collaboration with AMCEN will also focus on programmatic support in the design and implementation of programmes, in line with the regional flagship programmes identified at this session, that respond to the needs and priorities of countries in the areas of sound environmental management,” he added.

Other agreements included a commitment to engage in the promotion of sustainable development, the initiation of an African Green Economy partnership to eradicate poverty and create decent jobs, and an agreement to halt soil degradation in the Sahel region.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42897&Cr=sustainable+development&Cr1=

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Ahead of Doha gathering, concrete progress made at Bangkok climate talks

5 September 2012 – A week of informal climate talks in Bangkok has allowed Member States to make concrete progress on key issues, providing a positive momentum for the upcoming United Nations Climate Change Conference in November in Doha, Qatar, a UN senior official said today.

“The investment in Bangkok has paid off. Government negotiators have pushed forward key issues further than many had expected and raised the prospects for a next successful step in Doha,” said the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres.

“There are still some tough political decisions ahead, but we now have a positive momentum and a greater sense of convergence that will stimulate higher-level political discussions ahead of Doha and set a faster pace of work once this year’s conference begins,” she added.

During the previous UNFCCC conference, in Durban, South Africa, 194 parties to the UNFCCC agreed on a package of decisions – known as the Durban Platform – which include the launch of a protocol or legal instrument that would apply to all members, a second commitment period for the existing Kyoto Protocol, which legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets, and the launch of the Green Climate Fund, which was created to help developing nations protect themselves from climate impacts and build their own sustainable futures.

Nations also set specific objectives for the meeting in Doha, which will take place from 26 November to 7 December. These objectives include triggering a new phase of climate action and filling in the gaps in the international policy response to climate change.

According to UNFCCC, the Bangkok climate talks began to address these objectives, and produced a document outlining what needs to be done to resolve differences of opinion among countries.

The talks also made progress in various areas, including plans for a mechanism to boost international cooperation on climate action, financing for the initiative to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and identifying points where negotiating groups might need additional decisions in Doha in order to close successfully.

During the Bangkok talks, countries also discussed the necessary steps to negotiate a global climate change agreement that could be adopted in 2015 and enter into force in 2020, as well as ways to raise global ambitions to cut greenhouse gas emissions faster.

There are now 195 Parties to the Convention on Climate Change, which sets an overall framework for intergovernmental efforts to tackle the challenge posed by climate change. The treaty also recognizes that the climate system is a shared resource whose stability can be affected by industrial and other emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42810&Cr=&Cr1=

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UN calls for action to reduce health and environmental risks posed by use of chemicals

Governments must urgently act to reduce the health and environmental hazards posed by the increase in use of chemicals in industries worldwide, says a United Nations report launched today, which stresses that more sustainable management policies are needed to address this growing risk.

Produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the Global Chemicals Outlook report argues that a shift in the production, use and disposal of chemical products from developed to developing countries has made it essential to establish better management policies to avoid diseases and pollution caused by weak regulations.

“Communities worldwide – particularly those in emerging and developing countries – are increasingly dependent on chemical products, from fertilizers and petrochemicals to electronics and plastics, for economic development and improving livelihoods,” said UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner, in a news release.

“But the gains that chemicals can provide must not come at the expense of human health and the environment. Pollution and disease related to the unsustainable use, production and disposal of chemicals can, in fact, hinder progress towards key development targets by affecting water supplies, food security, well-being or worker productivity,” Mr. Steiner said, adding that improving chemicals management is a vital component for countries to transition into a green economy.

The report highlights not just the damaging consequences to the environment and human health, but also the economic burden of treating chemical poisoning for many countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the estimated costs of poisonings from pesticides now exceeds the total annual overseas development aid given to the region for basic health services, excluding HIV/AIDS.

From Sudan and Ecuador, to bigger economies such as China and the United States, the costs of pesticide poisoning, water pollution, and toxic waste, among other issues, are not being borne by manufacturers and industries, but by social welfare systems and individuals, the report notes. It calls for sustainable chemical management policies not just to combat these costs, but also to improve livelihoods and develop green technologies.

“The economic analysis presented in the Global Chemicals Outlook demonstrates that sound chemicals management is as valid an area as education, transport, infrastructure, direct health care services and other essential public services,” said the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director for Public Health and Environment, Maria Neira, in a news release. “This could foster the creation of many green, decent and healthy jobs and livelihoods for developed and developing countries.”

Some of the recommendations put forward by the report include the integration of chemicals management into national social and economic plans, the development of policies focused on risk prevention and promotion of safer alternatives, and encouraging the private sector to play a more active role in development safety policies in conjunction with governments.

“To harness the economic benefits of sound chemicals management, closer cooperation and better planning is required between government ministries, public and private sectors, and others in the chemicals supply chain,” Mr. Steiner said.

“This requires broad and ambitious efforts, underpinned by strategic financing. Such action can elevate chemicals management to the top of the international policy agenda and help deliver inclusive sustainable development,” he added.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42803&Cr=Sustainable+Development&Cr1=

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