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UN Drylands Ambassador calls for greater efforts to fight desertification

With land degradation and desertification affecting 1.5 billion people across the globe, 75 per cent of them among the world’s poorest, the United Nations’ most recently-appointed Drylands Ambassador today called for greater efforts to combat the problem.

“I want us all to agree that we will become a society that is free of land degradation,” said Leila Lopes, also the holder of the Miss Universe 2011 title, at a press conference at UN Headquarters. “I want us to agree on a goal that will help us to reduce land degradation, rehabilitate more land than is being degraded. I truly believe that we can come together and create awareness about this important environmental issue.”

Drylands, or ecosystems characterised by a lack of water, cover some 40 per cent of the world’s terrain, ranging from cultivated lands and grasslands to savannas and deserts. They are home to 38 per cent of the world’s population or 2.7 billion people, and account for half of global livestock production.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) appointed Ms. Lopes as one of its Drylands Ambassadors, charged with helping raise international awareness about desertification, land degradation and drought, causes and possible solutions. Miss Lopes comes from the African region where desertification is the foremost environmental challenge – part of her home country of Angola is threatened by desertification.

In her remarks to the press, Ms. Lopes stressed that “drylands are not wastelands,” noting that they can be restored, and pledged to work hard to create awareness on the threat of land degradation. She added that she will travel to Brazil in June to participate in activities leading up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20.

Speaking at the press conference, the UNCCD Executive Secretary, Luc Gnacadja, pointed out that 75 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost every year as a result of land degradation. He added that land degradation and drought in drylands causes the loss of about 12 million hectares of productive land every year on which 20 billion tonnes of grains could grow.

“This is equal to 23 hectares of land transformed into man-made desert every minute,” Mr. Gnacadja said. “Sustainable land use for all and by all is an imperative. It should be the cornerstone for the green economy for sustainable development and poverty eradication, and I hope that the Rio+20 Conference in Brazil will live up to this imperative.”

He highlighted two mechanisms which he said can help halt the shrinkage of fertile land. The first of these entails the management of non-degraded fertile lands in ways that do not cause degradation, thus halting further loss; while the second method calls for the restoration of already degraded lands.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41635&Cr=environment&Cr1=

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UN relief chief highlights cooperation with South-east Asia on disaster management

The United Nations relief chief today highlighted the importance of working with South-east Asian countries to implement measures to manage and reduce the risk of disasters, which affected more than 176 million people in the region last year.

During her visit to Cambodia, Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, met with government officials and national disaster response agencies to discuss their recent experiences in disaster management.

Both Thailand and Cambodia were affected last year by floods, and Ms. Amos stressed that the international community can learn from their experiences.

“I was encouraged by the response of the national authorities in Cambodia and Thailand and I have asked if we can be part of their lessons learned process so that the international humanitarian system can improve its support in future large scale disasters,” said Ms. Amos.

She also underlined the leading role Indonesia and Singapore have played as supporters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in disaster management.

“Indonesia and Singapore have been instrumental in driving forward an ASEAN regional agenda for disaster response to support national governments in their increasingly active and central role,” she said.

During her tour, Ms. Amos met with senior ASEAN officials and visited the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA) in Jakarta, Indonesia, where she emphasized the importance of UN-ASEAN cooperation in responding to disasters.

“We are keen to support the new AHA centre so it can be up and running as soon as possible. We have offered our knowledge and expertise to help support its initiatives, which will ultimately ensure the most effective response when the next disaster strikes,” she said.

In 2011, there were 107 natural disasters in Asia and the Pacific, almost half of the worldwide total, with regional economic losses amounting to $296 billion.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41618&Cr=Disaster&Cr1=Risk

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UN spotlights role of weather and water services in addressing climate change challenges

The role of weather, climate and water services to help countries achieve sustainable development is being highlighted today by the United Nations during this year’s World Meteorological Day.

“Knowledge about our weather, climate and water has made great strides in recent years and is fundamental to food security, disaster risk reduction, water management, energy supplies and health, to name but a few examples,” said the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Secretary-General, Michel Jarraud, in a press release.

World Meteorological Day, observed on 23 March, celebrates the creation of WMO in 1950 to promote international cooperation in the field of weather, climate, water and other related sciences. This year’s theme, “Powering our Future with Weather, Climate and Water,” focuses on the importance of investing in national meteorological and hydrological services to address challenges that have risen as a result of climate change.

“We need to strengthen the international knowledge base and ensure that the information reaches all socio-economic levels, from government decision makers and captains of industry to farmers and local community leaders,” said Mr. Jarraud.

“There has been great progress in improving the accuracy and usefulness of weather forecasts. We now need to improve the performance of climate predictions, for seasons, years and even decades ahead, and to increase our knowledge about how global climate is changing at regional, national and local level,” he added.

WMO is developing a Global Framework for Climate Services with its partners that will focus on 70 countries that currently lack or have few weather services. The framework will seek to ensure that weather and climate information reaches all levels of decision-making to influence choices like the construction of dams and the use of land.

As part of World Meteorological Day, WMO also released its annual statement on the status of global climate which reveals that last year was the eleventh warmest year on record, and the warmest with a La Niña phenomenon, which is supposed to have a cooling effect on the Earth.

“This 2011 annual assessment confirms the findings of the previous WMO annual statements that climate change is happening now and is not some distant future threat,” Mr. Jarraud said. “The world is warming because of human activities and this is resulting in far-reaching and potentially irreversible impacts on our Earth, atmosphere and oceans.”

WMO will also release preliminary findings of a global climate assessment for 2001-2010, providing information on temperatures, precipitation, sea ice and extreme events over this period.

Article source: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=41619&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=

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