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Amplifying Possibilities: Sustainability Highlights from December 2012

woman wading through water with her belongings31 December, 2012 – "The United Nations helped to lay foundations for progress on the top challenge of the 21st century: sustainable development," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in his end of year statement. Significant challenges remain in the years ahead, but in taking a step back to reflect on 2012, he said, the world exhibited that progress is possible and a sustainable future is attainable with global private-public partnerships.

The Rio+20 Conference on Sustainability in June 2012 and the recent Doha Climate Change Conference, Mr. Ban said, generated ripple effects for partnerships and commitments from around world by the private sector, civil society groups, and governments.

Below, find a snap shot of some of the December highlights from the UN and partners on sustainable development. It is a review of latest developments reported on agencies’ websites such as UN Environment Programme, UN Development Programme, and the UN News Centre.

Climate Change

Doha Climate Change Conference

At the recent climate change conference in Doha, countries confirmed their commitment and outlined the steps to reach global agreement on climate change applicable to all by 2015. The new agreement, which would have legal force, would enter into force in 2020. Ministers from nearly 200 countries successfully agreed on the details for a new commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol that will run to 2020. As part of the new commitment period, 37 countries adopted legally binding emission reduction targets bringing them collectively to a level 18% below their 1990 baselines over the next 8 years.

While noting that the international efforts from Doha are a step in the right direction, Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres in a recent Op-Ed says "the UN is the venue for global decision-making, but it is not the driver of domestic decisions. Domestic interests in resource sustainability, stability and competitiveness are the powerful drivers of action on climate change. The UN process is the center of international engagement, but it is not the circumference of action on climate change."

For updates from Doha, visit: http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/climatechange/gateway/

Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, GHGs:

According to the World Meteorological Organization, the years 2001–2011 were all among the warmest on record, and, the first ten months indicate that 2012 will most likely be no exception. WMO also reported that the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a new record high in 2011 and that between 1990 and 2011 there was a 30 per cent increase in radiative forcing – the warming effect on our climate – because of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping long-lived gases. To assist countries in developing strategies for reducing GHGs emissions, the European Commission and Germany contributed €10 million to UNDP’s work on curbing emission of GHGs.

For more information, visit: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/pressreleases/2012/12/20/the-european-commission-and-germany-donate-10-million-to-undp-to-help-countries-reduce-greenhouse-gas-emissions/

Assisting communities affected by droughts in Africa:

Unprecedented droughts in the Sahel in 2012 and the Horn of Africa in 2011 have affected people's ability to access to land, water, and food.

According to a 2011 UN study, increased competition for freshwater and land among fishermen and farmers has led to tensions and conflict. Such shocks contribute to increased food prices and population displacement.

This year, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), launched the Africa Adaptation Knowledge Network (AAKNet). This innovative network, "Builds on ongoing efforts around the continent to mobilize existing knowledge and provide robust solutions to the major impact of climate change on lives and livelihoods in Africa," the UN agency stated in a news release.

For more information on this story and related developments from the Doha conference, visit: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43703&Cr=climate+change&Cr1=#.UNNMHax7_To

Protecting marine environment

In Moscow, the Russian Federation and the five Caspian states have reaffirmed their strong commitment to protect the Caspian marine environment and pledged to maintain close cooperation in addressing common environmental challenges.

For more information, please visit: http://www.unep.org/newscentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=2700&ArticleID=9356&l=en

Forest Protection

6th Forest Day convened during the UN Climate Change Conference

Protecting the world’s forests remains an important task for preserving biodiversity but also local dependent on forests for jobs and prosperity. At the 6th Forest Day conference held during the UN climate change conference, Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted that cash contributions of forests to developing economies are at $326 billion. This is more than twice the size of total Official Development Assistance (ODA) flows, according to DESA. The significance of forest protection increases when considering that over 80% of total energy consumption in many developing countries comes from fuelwood. "We need to balance the economic, social and environmental values of forests. We must take a broader system-wide perspective. We must embrace the inter-connections between agriculture, forests, energy, water, biodiversity, people and their livelihoods," Mr. Wu said.

Just how is the UN leading in efforts to protect our forests? One example is the UN-REDD Programme, which is the United Nations collaborative initiative on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) in developing countries. The UN-REDD Programme's 46 partner countries account for more than half the world's tropical forests. In December, new funding commitments were announced to bolster developing countries' efforts to conserve their forests.

Read the Forest Day 6 statement from Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/usg/statements/forest-day-6.html


One of the Millennium Development Goals is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water. To assist in this target, UNEP has initiated a water scheme in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that aims to protect the Lukaya river basin that supplies almost 380,000 Kinshasa residents with safe drinking water.

For more information, please visit:http://www.unep.org/NewsCentre/default.aspx?DocumentID=2700&ArticleID=9361&l=en


Coasts and oceans are essential for feeding and employing millions of people worldwide. Marine and coastal resources directly provide at least $3 trillion annually in economic goods and services, notes a recent report titled "Catalysing Ocean Finance." Yet, oceans and coasts remain exposed to increasing pollu¬tion, overfishing, and species loss. The report, co-authored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the GEF, offers a range of strategic planning tools aimed at assisting governments to transform ocean markets towards sustainability. "The key finding of this publication, however, is that it is still possible to restore and sustainably develop the ocean's full potential for present and future generations," (Catalysing Ocean Finance Volume I).

For more information, please visit: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/environment-energy/water_governance/ocean_and_coastalareagovernance/catalysing-ocean-finance/

Public Engagement on sustainability, post-2015

While the UN works on accelerating progress of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, efforts are underway to develop a global development framework beyond the 2015 target date of the MDGs. The UN, governments, and civil society partners are hosting development consultations on a platform known as the World We Want, which enables citizens to engage and participate in the post-2015 development process. On the World We Want platform, people from across the world are submitting their ideas addressing issues related to sustainable development, namely: Growth and Employment, Water, Energy, and Environmental Sustainability. These consultations are being co-led by agencies such as: UN-Energy and the Secretary-General’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative, UNDP, UNEP, UNIDO, UNDESA, and the World Bank.

Participate in this innovative platform here:www.wordlwewant2015.org

To view Sustainability Highlights from last month, visit: http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/stories_sdhighlight.shtml