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News from Earthwatch - 2005
Global Environmental Headlines
The dramatic and, in some cases damaging environmental changes sweeping Africa’s lakes are brought into sharp focus in a new atlas launched at World Lake Conference, which took place in Nairobi from 31 October - 4 November. The Atlas of African Lakes will be published in book form in 2006.
The Seventh Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 7) which also comprised the seventh session of the Committee on Science and Technology (CST 7) and the Fourth Session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 4) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was held in Nairobi, Kenya, from 17 to 28 October. COP7 aimed to take further concrete steps towards the implementation of the Convention.
UNEP release: Desertification
Among Central Challenges to Achieve MDGs
The High-Level Brainstorming Workshop on Creating Pro-Poor Markets for Ecosystem Services, held on 10-12 October, was one of the follow-up activities to the Workshop for MEAs on Mainstreaming Environment Beyond MDG 7 held in July 2005, in Nairobi, Kenya. Participants at this Workshop included heads of various MEA Secretariats, senior representatives of UNDP, the UN Millennium Project and internationally recognized experts in the field of environment and development. They agreed on concrete short-, medium-, and longer-term activities to help ensure that the objectives of the environment and development communities mutually support each other on the ground as well as at the international level.
UNEP release: "Natural
Accounting" Essential for Poverty Reduction
On the occasion of the International Day for Disaster Reduction, to held on 12 October, and to mark the International Year of Microcredit, the Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) launched a global debate on how microfinance can reduce the impact of natural disasters on vulnerable communities.
The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and more recently Hurricane Katrina in the United States and the earthquake in Pakistan and India demonstrated once again that the poor usually suffer most from disasters occuring from natural disasters, as they often live and work in highly vulnerable locations. Microcredit is a useful tool for poverty reduction, but its potential to reduce the impact of disasters needs to be further explored.
The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October each year as World Habitat Day to reflect on the state of human settlements, especially the living conditions of the urban poor and their basic right to adequate shelter. This year the theme of World Habitat Day on Monday 3 October is The Millennium Development Goals and the City.
World Habitat Day which is celebrated in cities around the world, was spearheaded this year from the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, to remind the world that countless thousands of homes were destroyed last December by the tsunami killer wave that so devastated Indonesia’s Banda Aceh coastline and other Indian Ocean countries.
UN-HABITAT release: Global Celebrations of World Habitat Day 2005 - MEDIA ADVISORY
A new assessment report finalized on 26 September by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that capturing and storing the carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by power plants and factories before it enters the atmosphere could play a major role in minimizing climate change.
UNEP release: CO2
Storage May Minimize Climate Change
Six case studies on the rice sector, released by UNEP on 20 September, underline that free trade without environmental considerations can lead to negative impacts on developing countries. The reports, published in advance of the crucial World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting to take place in Hong Kong, argue that economically costly soil degradation, water pollution, loss of biodiversity and destruction of forests can be the consequences of environmentally-insensitive trade liberalization.
Millions of volunteers around the world took to their local parks, waterways, streets and forests in a bid to clean up the environment and promote sustainable living. 625 members, mobilising over 35 million volunteers from 115 countries, took part in this year’s Clean Up the World Weekend, celebrated globally on 16-18 September.
The campaign, held in conjunction with UNEP has grown steadily since the inaugural event in 1993 and has recorded an estimated 18% increase in participation this year.
The signing of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer on 16 September 1987, is now celebrated every year as the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. This year’s Ozone Day theme is “Act Ozone Friendly – Stay Sun Safe”. Although levels of ozone depleting substances in the stratosphere now seem to be at or near their peak, the ozone layer will remain particularly vulnerable during the next decade or so. People must therefore be reminded to protect themselves and their children against the increased ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, which can cause skin cancer, cataracts and other illnesses.
The 2005 World Summit, taking place on 14-16 September in New York, aims to deliver a new and strengthened United Nations in areas from the security to human rights. It also takes stock of how we are faring on the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. These cover poverty eradication and the supply of safe and sufficient supplies of drinking water to the empowerment of women and reversing the spread of infectious disease.
Leaders of a number of countries addressing the United Nations Summit in New York called for action against global warming, urging all concerned to ratify international treaties designed to stem the problem.
UNEP release: Nature’s
Capital at Centre of Poverty Eradication
Two years after its adoption in Washington DC, CITES entered into force in 1975 with a challenging mission: to ensure that the international trade in thousands of plant and animal species is sustainable and does not lead to population declines or extinction. As CITES celebrates 30 years of action on 1 July, it has proven itself to be up to the task. But in today’s rapidly changing world, CITES will need to continue evolving in order to adapt to 21st century needs and maintain its dynamism over the next 30 years.
UNEP release: Managing Wildlife Trade & Conservation: CITES at 30
A new project aimed at helping the Amazon Basin and its 10 million inhabitants conserve and better manage the region’s economically important waters, forests and wildlife was announced on 25 June.
Pollution hot spots and damaged habitats and ‘ecosystems’ are to be identified. Measures will be drawn up to reduce the threats and restore the damage. Other aims include moving to harmonized laws covering the management of the Amazon Basin.
UNEP release: Amazon Waters Project Gets Green Light
UNCTAD launched the BioFuels Initiative in Paris on 21 June. The aim of the initiative is to help developing countries make the most of their renewable energy potential. It was presented at a press conference organized during a seminar of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on "Assessing the bio-fuels option".
The BioFuels Initiative focuses on these new trade and investment opportunities for developing countries, on implications for poverty reduction, on the supply-side constraints of increasing the production, use and trade of bio-fuels.
UNCTAD release: UNCTAD LAUNCHES THE BIOFUELS INITIATIVE
Sound and solid investment in the environment will go a long way towards meeting international targets on poverty reduction, the supply of drinking water and fighting the spread of infectious diseases the head of UNEP said on 17 June.
“The goods and services delivered by nature including the atmosphere, forests, rivers, wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs are worth trillions of dollars,” UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer said in Nairobi, Kenya, at a regional launch of a new report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that seek to halve many of the worlds ills, such as extreme poverty and hunger, by 2015.
UNEP release: “Natural
Capital” at Centre of Poverty Eradication
"Women & Desertification" is this year's theme to celebrate the World Day to Combat Desertification on 17 June. The theme recognizes the unique role played by women in regions affected by desertification and drought.
This year, the international community marks the 11th anniversary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which plays a key role in the world’s efforts to eradicate poverty, achieve sustainable development and reach the Millennium Development Goals. This year’s celebration will constitute a special occasion for awareness raising on the issue of desertification as the international community prepares for the forthcoming celebration of the "International Year of Deserts and Desertification" in 2006.
Expanding livestock production is one of the main drivers of the destruction of tropical rain forests in Latin America, which is causing serious environmental degradation in the region, FAO said on 8 June. For the first time, FAO published a map showing the projected expansion of crop and pasture land use into tropical forests in the region up to 2010.
The dramatic and, in some cases, damaging environmental changes sweeping planet Earth are brought into sharp focus in a new atlas launched to mark World Environment Day (WED), on 5 June.
Produced by UNEP, "One Planet Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment" compares and contrasts spectacular satellite images of the past few decades with contemporary ones, some of which have never been seen before.
Basic sanitation must reach 138 million more people every year through 2015 – close to 2 billion in total - to bring the world on track to halve the proportion of people living without safe water and basic sanitation, WHO and UNICEF warn in a new report: "Water for life: Making it happen", launched on 3 June.
Meeting this Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target would cost US $11.3 billion per year, a minimal investment compared with the potential to reduce human illnesses and death and invigorate economies. The report finds that every dollar invested in improved water supplies and basic toilets pays for itself many times over. .
WHO/UNICEF release: Almost
2 billion more people need access to basic sanitation by 2015 to
meet millenium target
World Environment Day, commemorated each year on 5 June, is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.
The World Environment Day theme selected for 2005 is Green Cities and the slogan is Plan for the Planet! The main international celebrations of the World Environment Day 2005 will be held in San Francisco, California, USA, and UNEP is honoured that the City of San Francisco will be hosting this important United Nations day.
The UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) will review the effectiveness of the International Arrangement on Forests (IAF) and deliberate on next steps at its fifth session, from 17 through 27 May. The Forum was established in 2000 and is the IAF's convening body. More than 300 government officials, including 40 ministers responsible for forests are expected to attend the meeting.
The meeting's guiding document will be Secretary-General Kofi Annan's latest report, which reveals that despite substantial progress in the formulation and implementation of national forest policies, deforestation and forest degradation continue at an alarming rate.
The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) made its debut on the world stage in Punta del Este, Uruguay from 2-6 May at a meeting of 800 government officials and observers committed to ridding the world of some of the most dangerous chemicals ever created.
The Convention, which entered into force on 17 May 2004, targets 12 hazardous pesticides and industrial chemicals that can kill people, damage the nervous and immune systems, cause cancer and reproductive disorders and interfere with normal infant and child development. The conference established a POPs Review Committee that will be responsible for evaluating additional chemicals that could be added to the initial list of 12 POPs.
Four years ago, a truly inspiring group of scholars and environmental leaders embarked on an unprecedented effort: the first comprehensive global evaluation of the world’s major ecosystems. The report launched on 30 March, the work of over 1,300 experts, claims that intact and healthy ecosystems are often worth more than altered, damaged and degraded ones.
Approximately 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth – such as fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests – are being degraded or used unsustainably. Scientists warn that the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years.
SECRETARY-GENERAL MESSAGE: Secretary-General's
video message to launch the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
The ‘Water for Life’ Decade, launched on World Water Day (22 March 2005), calls upon the international community to strengthen efforts to increase access to water and sanitation for all. This is the second international decade on water-related issues under the auspices of the United Nations.
The United Nations System Chief Executive Board for Coordination (CEB), on the recommendation of its High-level Committee on Programmes (HLCP), endorsed UN Water in 2003 as the new official United Nations system-wide inter-agency mechanism for follow-up of the water-related decisions reached at the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002 and the Millennium Development Goals. UN Water is responsible for organizing the annual United Nations World Water Day (22 March) and choosing each year's theme.
International cooperation on forest fires, combating deforestation and the role of the forest sector in post-tsunami rehabilitation and in achieving the Millennium Development Goals were among key issues discussed at the FAO Ministerial Meeting on Forests and the Committee on Forestry in Rome from 14-19 March.
The ministers decried the state of global forest degradation and reconfirmed their commitment to sustainable forest management and to improved coordination of economic, environmental and social policies for enhanced contribution of forests to development and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The committee on Forestry meets every two years in Rome to debate key global forestry issues and give advice to FAO on its work programme on forests. The State of World's Forests 2005, a biennial FAO publication, was launched during the committee meeting.
FAO Publication: State
of the World's Forests 2005
The International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March. This year marks a milestone in the movement for gender equality and the advancement of women -- the 10-year review of the Beijing Conference and Platform for Action. In 1995, women gathered in Beijing and took a giant step forward on behalf of humankind.
UNEP, on this particular occasion is celebrating women as custodians of the environment. Women and girls have a special relationship with the environment in other ways. They are often the custodians of indigenous knowledge and promoters of biodiversity and environmentally-friendly management.
UNEP release: Celebrating
Women As Custodians of the Environment
Rebuilding depleted wild fish stocks is a "challenging necessity" says the newest edition of FAO's biennial report, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), released on 7 March.
According to FAO, there has been a consistent downward trend since the 1950s in the proportion of marine fish stocks with potential for expanded production, coupled with an increase in the proportion classified as overexploited or depleted. Seven of the top ten marine fish species -- which together account for about 30 percent of all capture fisheries production -- are fully exploited or overexploited, today's report said. This means that major increases in catches cannot be expected from them, and serious biological and economic drawbacks are likely if fishing capacity for these stocks is further increased.
The destruction caused by the Asian tsunami to the environment offers an opportunity to rebuild in a manner that preserves natural resources for the benefit of the local communities who were hardest hit by the disaster, a new report by UNEP on 22 February says.
The report indicates that the environment was both a victim of the tsunami but also that it often played its part in reducing the impact. Where healthy and relatively intact features like coral reefs, mangroves and coastal vegetation were in place there is evidence that the damage was reduced. The report also makes it clear that handling the rubble and other wastes generated by the damage is a key issue for many of the countries concerned.
Dramatic environmental changes now sweeping the planet, such as the loss of forests and the spread of cities are promoting conditions for a rise in new and previously suppressed infectious diseases, including malaria and bilharzias, according to the UNEP latest yearbook, released on 21 February.
GEO Year Book 2004/5, is the second in the annual GEO series. The report highlights significant environmental events and achievements during the year, raises awareness of emerging issues from scientific research and presents indicators of progress towards environmental sustainability. In particular there is a chapter in response to the Tsunami disaster and the potential effects on the environment.
The importance of a healthy environment for realizing the Millennium Development Goals took centre stage at the UNEP's 23d Governing Council, where more than 100 environment ministers met in Nairobi, from 21-25 February. Well over 1,000 delegates attended from close to 140 countries including Wangari Maathai, the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner and assistant environment minister of Kenya. Action on heavy metals were among key GC decisions. Governments also agreed to strengthen UNEP’s finances and work in areas from water and gender equality to disaster preparedness and scientific assessment.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is to host the next Special Session of UNEP's Governing Council.
UNEP press release: 23rd
Governing Council To Focus on Environment and the MDGs
The Kyoto Protocol will enter into force on 16 February 2005. To mark this date, some Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, as well as institutions and organizations, are planning events and other activities. Japan will hold a commemorative symposium and a global video conference to celebrate the entry into force of the Kyoto Protocol. These events will take place in the historic city of Kyoto where the Protocol was originally adopted in 1997.
On 18 November 2004, Russia deposited its instrument of ratification with the United Nations. This marked the start of the ninety day count down to the entry in force of the Kyoto Protocol, an international and legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gases emissions world wide.
Ten years after an earthquake killed nearly 6,500 people and injured 40,000 in 20 seconds in Kobe, Japan, 4,000 delegates from 150 countries have gathered at ground zero this week for a United Nations conference on disaster reduction, its deliberations given added urgency by nature's latest assault, the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami.
In an opening address to the world gathering, Jan Egeland, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Humanitarian Relief Coordinator, urged conference participants to turn commitments into action in order to make societies more resilient when confronted by natural hazards. “All disaster prone countries should adopt clear, goal-oriented disaster reduction policies and actions plans underpinned by dedicated structures and resources”, he said.
Conference URL: www.unisdr.org/wcdr/
Making operational a tsunami early warning system in the Indian Ocean must be one of the key outcomes of an international disaster reduction conference taking place in Japan, UNEP announced on 15 January.
Since the tragedy of 26 December, UNEP along with other UN bodies and the international community, has been assisting the countries affected including small islands such as the Seychelles and the Maldives. An initial assessment or ‘screening’ of the environmental damage, including damage to natural sea defenses such as coral reefs and mangrove swamps and chemical and waste installations, is expected from UNEP teams by mid to late February when UNEP will hold its Governing Council at its Nairobi, Kenya, headquarters.
The International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, which concluded its works on 14 January in Port-Louis, Mauritius, was attended by 18 Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Prime Ministers, some 60 ministers and nearly 2000 delegates, civil society representatives and journalists from 114 countries, and by 15 UN or multilateral agencies. This five-day conference hosted by the Republic of Mauritius was held in an impressive new conference centre built with the assistance of India.
The major outcome document of the conference, the Mauritius Strategy for further implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action, emphasizes that small island developing States, or SIDS “are located among the most vulnerable regions in the world in relation to the intensity and frequency of natural and environmental disasters and their increasing impact, and face disproportionately high economic, social and environmental consequence,” as highlighted by the tragic impacts of the 26 December Indian Ocean tsunami and the recent hurricane/cyclone/typhoon season in the Caribbean and Pacific. The Strategy proposes to use the opportunity of the Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe (Japan) to consider the specific concerns of SIDS, including in the areas of insurance and reinsurance arrangements.
Conference URL: www.sidsmauritius2005.mu
Despite recent improvements, the Desert Locust situation remains serious in Western Africa where vigilance and intensive control operations are still needed, according to FAO, as announced on 7 January.
Countries in West and Northwest Africa have made great efforts in controlling the swarms coming out from the Sahel, but only in March-April 2005 will it be possible to have clear indications on what scale breeding will occur and on what scale the Sahel will be reinvaded in summer. Hatching and the formation of small hopper groups and bands are expected to occur in some places along the Red Sea.
In order to review the locust situation in the countries affected by the upsurge, Senegal organized an international Scientific Locust Seminar in Dakar from 11 to 13 January 2005. Its main objective is to identify strategies for a sustainable management of Desert Locust populations.
Vulnerability to natural and man-made disasters including tsunamis and cyclones is among a range of emerging issues challenging the health and wealth of the world’s small island developing states. Other issues include pollution and discharge by ships in the Caribbean, over-fishing in the Pacific and the rising tide of household and other forms of waste on the Atlantic and Indian Ocean islands.
Some small islands, such as the Comoros in the Indian Ocean, are also facing serious freshwater shortages partly as a result of contamination and over exploitation. Unique animal and plant species are also under threat from habitat clearance and the introduction of alien, invasive species from other parts of the world. Dominica and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean are small islands with high levels of potentially damaging ‘invaders’.
These are among the findings from reports released on 6 January by UNEP in advance of an international meeting on small island developing states (SIDS) taking place 10 to 14 January in Mauritius. The reports were written before the devastating tsunami, which hit coastal areas and small islands in the Indian Ocean on 26 December 2004.
UNEP Release: Natural
and Man-made Disasters Threaten Stability of Small Islands
FAO launched on 6 January an urgent appeal for $26 million for farmers and fisher folk hit by the South-Asian tsunami disaster, the agency said on the occasion of the international disaster summit in Indonesia. Funds are needed to finance emergency rehabilitation projects over the next six months.
Fisheries and aquaculture are the sectors most seriously hit by the disaster with a devastating effect on many millions of mostly small-scale fishers who are dependent on a daily fish catch for food and sale.
FAO Release: FAO calls for $26 million to help tsunami victims
UNEP decided to create a Task Force in Geneva to coordinate all inputs from the UNEP system to identify and alleviate the environmental impacts of the Asian Tsunami disaster and to support the efforts of the affected countries and the UN. Urgent environmental concerns that threaten human health must be addressed, as announced on 30 December.
UNEP support echoes directly the requests from national authorities for environmental experts to assess and mitigate the urgent problems.
UNEP Release: Environmental
Issues Emerging from Wreckage of Asian Tsunami
The Tenth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 10), in Buenos Aires on 6-17 December, marked the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which served as a central theme for the meeting. In addition to the accomplishments of the past ten years and future challenges, discussions at COP 10 highlighted a range of climate-related issues including, the impacts of climate change and adaptation measures, mitigation policies and their impacts, and technology.
Figures released at the international climate change conference, show that for the first 10 months of 2004 natural disasters cost the insurance industry just over $ 35 billion, up from $ 16 billion in 2003.
In the face of growing evidence that climate change impacts can already be detected, the conference adopted the Buenos Aires Programme of Work on Adaptation and Response Measures.
UNEP Release: Climate
Change Convention, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 6-17 Dec. 2004
Despite the lessons learned from the Baia Mare catastrophe in January 2000, the Tisza river basin, its people and nature remain threatened by environmental insecurity, in particular from floods and accidental pollution risks, according to a new report from UNEP, released on 13 December. The report, Rapid Environmental Assessment of the Tisza River Basin, was presented to the first Ministerial Meeting of the Danube River Protection Convention, in Vienna .
The new report notes that the Tsiza river basin ecosystem is regenerating itself after the cyanide accident, with wildlife largely recovering. But, it says more concerted action is needed to address environmental threats or “insecurities”, and recommends an “Integrated Sustainable Development Strategy” for the entire catchment area of the river Tisza, which includes Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia and Montenegro.
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