Access to low-cost energy vital in fight against poverty
The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, today underlined the urgent need to provide sufficient and low-cost energy to people across the world who lack access, stressing that making energy readily available can boost efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.
“More than a billion people continue to live without access to electricity,” said Mr. Al-Nasser in an address to a conference organized by the Foreign Policy Association on the topic of ‘The Future of Energy.’
“It is clear that the basic energy needs of their daily lives are not being met. Today, more than any time in the past, there is an urgent need to ensure the sustainable use of energy and to address the challenge of energy poverty,” he added.
Mr. Al-Nassir noted that it is widely acknowledged that the more energy is available to communities, the greater the impact on food security, health, education, transport, communications and water and sanitation.
“Energy has therefore become an important component, if not an essential means, of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unfortunately, over the past decade, the international community has not managed to agree on meaningful action to tackle the challenge of climate change, including energy poverty,” he stated.
The Assembly President called for the adoption of a new paradigm of consumption and production designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions; develop mechanisms to improve energy efficiency and ensure clean technologies are applied to fossil fuels; build capacities; facilitate access to renewable energy; and transfer technology.
Mr. Al-Nasser emphasized that international collaboration in boosting energy availability is a crucial way to ensuring success, adding that the cooperation should be between governments, academia, private sector and civil society.
“I would call for leaders in policy technology and business to work together, to develop new ways to shape the future of renewable energy, while also focusing on sustainability. Environmentally friendly means of using clean fossil fuels, including natural gas, must be found,” he said.
Mr. Al-Nasser also stressed that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro next month, will be “a once-in-a-generation opportunity to secure a sustainable future and a more equitable world.”
“My hope is that the international community will formulate global strategies for increasing access to clean energy, improving energy efficiency, and accelerating the spread of renewable energy technologies throughout the world,” he added.Back to Top
New UN website fosters sharing of successful sustainable development projects
The United Nations today launched a new online database to strengthen partnerships between sustainable development projects in developing countries and enable communities to better manage their natural resources and local environment.
The first online portal of its kind, the South-South Cooperation Exchange Mechanism will feature a host of initiatives – such as a biomass project at a Kenyan sugar factory and sustainable mining in Sierra Leone – and provide a forum where various actors working on environmental issues in developing countries can submit content, as well as share their expertise and experiences with peers.
“This new initiative is the latest development in UNEP’s ongoing efforts to support South-South cooperation and capacity-building,” the Deputy Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Amina Mohamed, said at the launch of the mechanism at UN Headquarters in New York.
“Central among these is UNEP’s Green Economy initiative, which has assisted and encouraged developing countries to embed sustainability within their national economies – from organic agriculture in Cuba to solar energy in Barbados,” she added. “These are projects which have the potential to be scaled-up and replicated elsewhere in the global South.”
South-South cooperation refers to the exchange of technology, skills, resources and information between governments, organizations and individuals in the developing world.
Currently, around 30 case studies from Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean can already be consulted on the website, available at: www.unep.org/south-south-cooperation.Back to Top
On biodiversity day, UN chief calls for greater protection of world’s oceans
Marking the International Day for Biological Diversity, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today highlighted the fragile state of the world’s oceans, urging greater protection for marine biodiversity.
“Oceans cover almost three-quarters of the surface area of the globe. They are home to the largest animal known to have lived on the planet – the blue whale – as well as billions upon billions of the tiniest of microorganisms. From sandy shores to the darkest depths of the sea, oceans and coasts support a rich tapestry of life on which human communities rely,” Mr. Ban said in a message to mark the Day.
“Yet, despite its importance, marine biodiversity… has not fared well at human hands,” he added.
The General Assembly proclaimed 22 May as the International Day for Biological Diversity, to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme for this year’s observance is marine diversity.
In his message, Mr. Ban noted the impact of commercial over-exploitation of the world’s fish stocks, with more than half of global fisheries exhausted and a further third depleted, and between 30 and 35 per cent of critical marine environments – such as seagrasses, mangroves and coral reefs – estimated to have been destroyed. As well, plastic debris continues to kill marine life, and pollution from land is creating areas of coastal waters that are almost devoid of oxygen.
“Added to all of this, increased burning of fossil fuels is affecting the global climate, making the sea surface warmer, causing sea level to rise and increasing ocean acidity, with consequences we are only beginning to comprehend,” he noted.
According to the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the survival of marine and coastal ecosystems and biodiversity is essential to the nutritional, spiritual, societal and religious well-being of many communities, and not just those in coastal areas. Amongst its findings, it notes that fisheries provide more than 15 per cent of the global dietary intake of animal protein; oceans and coastal areas provide invaluable ecosystem services, from tourism to protection from storms; and, minuscule photosynthesizing plants called phytoplankton provide 50 per cent of all the oxygen on Earth.
Amidst the concerns over the future of marine biodiversity, Mr. Ban said, “there is hope.” He pointed to a 2011 scientific review which showed that, despite all the damage inflicted on marine wildlife and habitats over the past centuries, between ten and 50 per cent of populations and ecosystems have shown some recovery when human threats were reduced or removed.
“However, compared to the land – where nearly 15 per cent of surface area is under some kind of protection – little more than one per cent of marine environments are protected,” the UN chief said. “Lately, some progress is being made, particularly with the establishment of large-scale marine reserves and documenting areas of ecological or biological significance in open-ocean and deep-sea habitats.”
Mr. Ban said the upcoming UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, next month, will provide an opportunity to recommit to building on advances made so far.
“Rio+20 must galvanize action to improve the management and conservation of oceans through initiatives by the United Nations, governments and other partners to curb overfishing, expand marine protected areas and reduce ocean pollution and the impact of climate change,” Mr. Ban said. “By taking action at the national, regional and global levels, including enhancing international cooperation, we can achieve the Aichi Biodiversity Target of conserving 10 per cent of marine and coastal areas by 2020, a crucial step in protecting marine biodiversity for the future we want.”
The CBD entered into force in December 1993, with three main objectives: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources.Back to Top