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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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UN celebrates disaster preparedness of Australian capital city

The capital of Australia has been recognized as one of a group of global cities serving as role models in disaster risk management, the United Nations office tasked with disaster risk reduction announced today.

Due to its exposure to natural hazards such as flash floods, bush fires, severe thunderstorms and snowfalls, the city of Canberra developed the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan – an extensive organization and coordination mechanism to mitigate the city’s risk from calamities.

Speaking at the Sixth Session of the World Urban Forum, held in Naples, Italy, the head of the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), Margareta Wahlström, praised Canberra’s disaster risk reduction efforts and welcomed the city as an official Role Model for the ‘Making Cities Resilient Campaign’ – a UN-sponsored initiative which aims to reduce urban risks from climate-related disasters.

A series of devastating bushfires in January 2003 prompted the Australian Capital Territory – in which the city of Canberra is located – to initiate the Strategic Bushfire Management Plan, which includes community education and awareness, construction and upgrading of water points, helicopter landing pads, fuel breaks, infrastructure to facilitate grazing and prescribed burning for fuel management.

The initiative also established over 50 Community Fire Units in high bushfire risk areas providing residents with training, equipment and support.

“Canberra has shown us how important organizational capacity is when it comes to building resilience against a wide range of natural hazards in the most disaster-prone region of the world,” Ms. Wahlström said, adding that the ‘Making Cities Resilient Campaign’ now boasted over 1,000 members worldwide.

There are currently 25 partners working with UNISDR to support the campaign, which seeks to give cities a forum to share their experiences and expertise, especially given that risks are on the upswing due to increases in weather-related disasters.

One partner, the Local Governments for Sustainability, counts a global membership of over 1,200 cities, towns, counties, and their associations.

The World Urban Forum was established by the UN to examine one of the most pressing problems facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies, climate change and policies.

Held every two years, the Forum brings together a wide range of participants from around the world to discuss key urban challenges. The main theme of the Sixth Forum, in Naples, is ‘The Urban Future.’

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42798&Cr=Disaster+Risk&Cr1=

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