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8 October, 2008


Experts at a meeting convened by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today agreed on a plan of action to create guidelines on the impact of climate change on human health.

Over 80 top researchers from around the world met in a three-day event in Madrid, Spain, that wrapped up today, and their new plan builds on what is
already known about the health risks stemming from global warming.

WHO’s 193 Member States asked the agency to strengthen the evidence base for policy action to be taen on the issue. “This plan provides the framework for doing just that,” said WHO Director-General Margaret Chan.

The amount of scientific research into the links between climate change and health lag far behind studies on such issues as air pollution and smoking.

The new plan announced today identifies five priority research areas: the interaction of climate change with other factors including economic development and urbanization; the impact of long-term changes such as increasing drought; comparing the effectiveness of short-term responses; the implications of mitigation and adaptation policies on non-health sectors; and boosting public health systems’ ability to address climate change-related risks.

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19 September, 2008


A new online tool will track environmental protection activities across the planet as part of the annual Clean Up the World Weekend, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

The website, developed with the support of Google, will allow communities participating in this weekend’s clean-up campaign to share their projects worldwide.

On the website, individual environmental projects are marked on a map of the world, and a click of the mouse provides users with a project’s name, location and description.

Many of this year’s activities will focus on limiting the impact of climate change under the campaigns theme “Start today… Save tomorrow – Clean Up Our Climate”.

Participating organizations and their volunteers will take part in a range of activities designed to improve the environment such as waste reduction and recycling, water and energy conservation and revegetation projects.

“Climate change is the number one issue facing humanity at the turn of the 21st century,” said UNEP Director-General Achim Steiner.

“Lives are threatened as is the very fabric of all countries and communities. So let’s all start today to save tomorrow,” he added.

The Clean Up the World campaign, founded by Australian environmental campaigner Ian Kiernan 16 years ago and partnered with UNEP, is launching the website http://activities.cleanuptheworld.org.

“All over the world people are seeing the devastating effects of climate change. Clean Up the World provides every person and every community with the opportunity to do something about it,” Mr. Kiernan said.

“Now, thanks to Clean Up the World’s use of Google Maps, we have the tool to visually show the extent of the environmental action being undertaken around the world and motivate new communities to get involved in the campaign,” he added.

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8 February, 2008


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged hundreds of business leaders gathered in Chicago to help usher in a new era of ‘green economics,’ where addressing the problem of climate change becomes not a cost but an opportunity for growth.

“As businesspeople, you will appreciate the power of markets and innovation to change the world. In this, the UN is your partner,” said Mr. Ban in an address Thursday evening to the Economic Club of Chicago.

He stressed that any solution to climate change should involve shaping the world’s economic future. “We have experienced several great economic transformations: the industrial revolution, the technology revolution, our modern era of globalization. We’re now on the threshold of another – the age of green economics.”

The Secretary-General cited a report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) estimating that global investment in zero-greenhouse energy will reach $1.9 trillion by 2020. This can serve as “seed money for a wholesale reconfiguration of global industry,” he said.

“With the right financial incentives and a global framework, we can steer economic growth in a low-carbon direction. This is the bottom-line. Done right, our war against climate change is an economic opportunity, not a cost,” Mr. Ban.

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7 November, 2007


A planned partnership between the European Union and developing countries will help millions of the world’s poorest to tackle the effects of climate change, the head of the leading United Nations agency on weather and climate issues said today.

“Climate change is a global issue, but the world’s least developed and other poor countries are the most vulnerable to the possible effects of climate change,” said Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“Therefore, a partnership with the European Union, like the Global Climate Change Alliance, can indeed be a way forward, since its benefits will also be global,” he told participants at the European Development Days event in Lisbon, Portugal.

Mr. Jarraud welcomed the Initiative to establish a Global Climate Change Alliance between the European Union and poor developing countries most vulnerable to climate change, which was proposed by European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Assistance Louis Michel.

Projections show that least developed and vulnerable countries, along with small island developing States, will be the hardest hit by climate change.

“These countries have much fewer resources to prepare accordingly,” Mr Jarraud said. “If their populations must leave their livelihoods behind due to sea level rises or a lack of drinking water for example, millions will be forced to migrate to other regions of the world, including Europe.”

The new initiative can help millions in the developing world respond to the impacts of climate change, such as water shortages and migration.

As part of its mandate, WMO is tasked with helping countries, particularly in the developing world, mitigate and adapt to climate change and prevent related extreme weather events from turning into natural disasters.

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15 October, 2007


Thousands of online voices worldwide will join forces to push for environmental protection to mark the United Nations-backed first-ever Blog Action Day.

More than 12 million readers have viewed the 15,000 blogs – ranging from those promoting gardening such as “gardenrant.com” to sites providing tips for those interested in web businesses such as “entrepreneurs-journey.com” – participating in the event, supported by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

By uniting to raise awareness of environmental issues, the global blogging community hopes to reach millions of people and spur debate, the Nairobi-based agency said in a news release.

Topics touched upon by bloggers include the announcement of the Nobel peace prize being awarded to Al Gore and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the safety of household cleaning products, and what people can do to contribute to the effort to reversing climate change.

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24 September, 2007


World leaders have demonstrated the political will necessary to make a breakthrough on climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today as he wrapped up the largest-ever meeting of heads of State or government on the issue.

“This has been a groundbreaking, historical event,” he told reporters following the conclusion of the gathering at United Nations Headquarters in New York, which he also characterized as a “sea-change in the response to climate change.”

Mr. Ban convened the event in an effort to forge a coalition to accelerate a global response to climate change and build international momentum for the major summit to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in December.

That meeting seeks to determine future action on mitigation, adaptation, the global carbon market and financing responses to climate change for the period after the expiration of the Kyoto Protocol – the current global framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – in 2012.

“Today I heard a clear call from world leaders for a breakthrough on climate change in Bali,” Mr. Ban said in his closing remarks at the day-long event, which drew top officials from over 150 nations, including 80 heads of State or government. “And I now believe we have a major political commitment to achieving that.”

Stressing that a post-Kyoto agreement must be in force by the end of 2012, he called for “comprehensive and inclusive” negotiations to take place in Bali.

“We have come a long way in building understanding and a new consensus this year. More remains to be done, but this event has sent a powerful political signal to the world, and to the Bali conference, that there is the will, and the determination, at the highest level, to break with the past and act decisively.”

Four plenary sessions on the themes of adaptation, mitigation, technology and financing were held simultaneously at the event, entitled “The Future in our Hands: Addressing the Leadership Challenge of Climate Change.”

In summarizing the adaptation session, Mr. Ban said that participants voiced solidarity with the most vulnerable nations – in particular, the so-called small island developing states and least developed countries – to the consequences of climate change. Such nations have contributed least to the state of the planet, and yet are most impacted by it.

Those who attended this session also agreed on the need to reduce disaster risk and bolster community resilience to extreme weather events through planning and capacity-building, he said.

Speakers at the mitigation plenary noted the need for long-term plans of action, with many participants calling for legally binding emission targets.

“There is a broad recognition of the need to tackle the root causes of the problem and reverse its effects through decisive action,” the Secretary-General noted. “The current level of effort will not suffice.”

On technology, Mr. Ban said that many participants pointed out that technological solutions for pushing forward the goals of adaptation and mitigation already exist. “Effective policy frameworks and cooperation mechanisms can greatly accelerate the deployment of these solutions between and within the North and the South,” he said.

Global collaboration must be urgently increased to help developing countries to move towards low carbon and renewable energy, which can in turn spur economic growth, he noted.

Additionally, since fossil fuels will be ongoing sources of energy for the foreseeable future, energy efficiency must be improved and new technologies – such as carbon capture and storage – must be sought out.

Finally, regarding financing, many participants suggested that tackling climate change need not curtail economic development, the Secretary-General said. Developing countries should be provided with resources for investment and for cultivating their ability to identify and implement the necessary policies to promote sustainable growth.

Several speakers called for an enhanced carbon market in developed nations that offers flexibility, allows for a cost-effective transition to low-emissions economies and ultimately provides incentives to developing countries.

Mr. Ban also said that the attendees noted that the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the only forum to devise solutions to the challenges posed by climate change. “All other processes or initiatives should be compatible with the UNFCCC process and should feed into it, facilitating its successful conclusion.”

Also speaking at the event’s closing, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia, which is hosting the upcoming summit, noted that the plenary sessions were “marked by a strong sense of commitment and urgency.”

Regarding the upcoming Bali meeting, Mr. Yudhoyono said “there is a public demand for concrete and bold action. Thus, we are looking forward to their principal outcome: a bold global decisions addressing climate change without significantly jeopardizing development efforts.”

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18 May, 2007


Parties to United Nations-backed agreements on climate change today concluded a preparatory session on stemming the emission of greenhouse gasses and mitigating their effects ahead of a major world conference on the issue in December in Bali, Indonesia.

“This meeting has served to resolve a number of issues ahead of the Bali conference,” Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the close of the discussions in Bonn, Germany, which were attended by around 1,800 participants, including the 191 Parties to the Convention and 173 Parties to its Kyoto Protocol, which contains legally binding targets for reducing emissions through 2012.

Topics covered included methods for increasing the transfer of clean technologies, adapting to the inevitable effects of climate change and preventing deforestation, estimated to account for more than 20 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The conference was also the first opportunity for delegates to react to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released in early May, which maintained that climate change can be mitigated at relatively low cost with the right policies and incentives.

The current high level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere was caused by industrialized countries, said developing countries at the meeting, advocating for their own right growth and poverty alleviation, according to Mr. de Boer.

“This is why the issue of economic incentives to green investments in developing countries is so important,” he said, adding that these would probably involve carbon trading schemes.

“The fact that European, American and Australian business groups here in Bonn have been calling on governments to adopt long-term, legally binding emission reduction targets is as strong signal that they feel the carbon market will be an important part of any 2012 agreement, “ said Mr. Boer.

The talks will resume in Vienna this August.

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07 May, 2007


Amid growing global concern about climate change, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged experts meeting in Geneva to address the need for warning systems to mitigate the damage from extreme weather.

“At no other time in history have there been so many expectations from the sciences of meteorology and hydrology,” Mr. Ban said in a message to the 15th World Meteorological Congress meeting in Geneva.

“I urge you to continue your efforts to promote enhanced applications of science and technology, including the use of climate and weather information, and to improve predictions and early warnings on impending weather and climate hazards,” he said.

Mr. Ban said the session, which “takes place at a time of unprecedented public awareness of the importance of weather, climate and water and their relation to sustainable development.” He praised the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for its work in promoting sustainable development and for its “important role in promoting scientific understanding of the global climate at a time when climate change is rising on the international agenda.”

The WMO is a UN specialized agency dealing with the state and behaviour of the Earth's atmosphere, its interaction with the oceans, the climate it produces and the resulting distribution of water resources.

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13 April, 2007


The United Nations audiovisual family will offer ‘green’ stories and projects to major international broadcasters as they join MIPTV (Marché international des programmes de television), the leading international television programming marketplace, next week in Cannes, France.

“We invite TV broadcasters to discover the wealth of material and media services which exists within the United Nations system that they can use to produce a variety of formats from the small screen to mobile devices,” said Caroline Petit of the UN Department of Public Information (DPI), who will be attending MIPTV along with representatives of several other UN agencies.

Through its award-winning series “UN in Action,” UN Television has produced short documentaries on numerous environmental subjects, including stories on the future of the Aral Sea, the prevention of natural disasters in Kazakhstan, and cleaning up radioactive waste in Serbia.

“21st Century,” a newly launched 26-minute monthly magazine, combines narrative storytelling and news reporting from around the world, while DPI also furnishes stories from field missions through its UNifeed satellite transmission.

Among the UN system’s many new green projects to be featured is “So You Think You Know About... Climate Change,” a documentary series produced by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the award-winning United Kingdom-based back2back productions in association with BBC World.

“Bling: A Planet Rock” is a 90-minute documentary produced by VH1 Rock Docs, Article 19 Films and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Featuring hip-hop artists from the United States and Sierra Leone, it spotlights millions of diamond diggers to help disadvantaged communities and promote conscious consumerism, encouraging the purchase of ‘clean’ diamonds through the power and influence of popular music.

Also providing products will be the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Bank and the Millennium Campaign.

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10 April, 2007


Some of the world’s most renowned natural and cultural sites, from the Great Barrier Reef to Kilimanjaro National Park to the city of Venice, are at serious threat from climate change, according to a report released today by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, increased risks of flooding and reduced marine and land biodiversity could all have potentially disastrous effects on the 830 sites inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the report said.

UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura called for “an integrated approach to issues of environmental preservation and sustainable development,” warning that climate change will constitute an enormous challenge over the next century.

The report, which featured 26 case studies, focused on five areas: glaciers, marine biodiversity, terrestrial biodiversity, archaeological sites, and historic cities and settlements.

One of the at-risk sites is the Great Barrier Reef, off the north-eastern coast of Australia. The report found that rising sea temperatures and increasing oceanic acidification mean that corals are more and more likely to bleach and turn white, jeopardizing the numerous fish species which rely on the reef.

The Italian city of Venice and its surrounding lagoon face the threat of more frequent flooding because of rising sea levels, the report noted, while rising water levels could endanger the historic areas of many other famous cities, including London and Prague. The decorative surfaces of many of the buildings in these cities are considered to be at particular risk.

In Tanzania, the rapidly diminishing glaciers on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak, could lead to the complete disappearance of its ice fields within the next 15 years.

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3rd April, 2007


The most recent El Niño, the periodic weather pattern that can have repercussions around the world from torrential rains and floods in the Americas and Africa to droughts and brush fires in Australia and Asia, has now ended and a transition to its mirror image, La Niña, is a substantial possibility, according to the latest United Nations forecast.

Both phenomena refer to large-scale changes in sea-surface temperature across the central and eastern tropical Pacific, with a warm pool located in the central and western Pacific expanding to cover the tropics during El Niño but shrinking to the west during La Niña. Thus La Niña (or cold episodes) produces the opposite climate variations from El Niño.

For example, parts of Australia and Indonesia are prone to drought during El Niño but are typically wetter than normal during La Niña.

“The observed rate of cooling has been more rapid than most models predicted,” the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said in its latest update. “Currently, several, but not all, models indicate the likelihood of an emerging La Niña over the next several months.”

WMO cautioned that forecasts made at this time of year “notoriously lack skill” and the March-May period is often referred to as the “spring barrier” in the predictability of El Niño and La Niña, but there are indications that cooler than normal waters may prevail over the next several weeks in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific such that a La Niña event becomes established. In such an event, given the timing in the year, the phenomenon would likely persist for much of the remainder of the year.

Experts have noted the presence of a substantial pool of cooler than normal water just beneath the surface of the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific and this is expected to reinforce, over the next few weeks, the already cooler than normal waters at the surface.

“The system at this time of the year is finely balanced and can be quite easily deflected from an apparent track, but the pre-requisite conditions appear to be in place for the development of a La Niña event,” WMO said. “The next 2-3 months will be crucial for determining whether neutral conditions continue, or a La Niña event does indeed transpire.”

El Niño conditions, which in December were forecast as likely to persist until at least March, dissipated rapidly during January and February. Prior to that climate patterns over several months displayed many characteristics usually associated with El Niño, including drier than normal conditions across many parts of Australia, Indonesia and Fiji, unusually heavy rains and flooding across parts of eastern Africa, and extended dry spells across many south-western parts of southern Africa.

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2nd April, 2007


An essential tool in efforts to reduce global warming gas emissions is on track for completion with testing in the coming months of a mechanism allowing countries that cut emissions below their targets to sell surplus allowances to others that have deficits, the United Nations body overseeing the project announced today.

The International Transaction Log (ITL) allows industrialized countries that have signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, which seeks to curb global warming, to link their national registries to the central hub of a settlement system that will deliver traded allowances from sellers to buyers.

The Protocol requires 35 industrialized countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions below levels specified for each of them, amounting overall to reductions of at least 5 per cent below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.

In addition to the implementation of climate-friendly policies at home, the 1997 Protocol allows industrialized countries to meet their emission targets through trading emission allowances on a newly-created carbon market. Companies investing in climate friendly projects can obtain additional carbon credits for every tonne of emissions saved through Kyoto’s project-based mechanisms (Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation). These can then be freely traded on the carbon market.

The registries of Japan and New Zealand have already linked their test environments to the ITL and have successfully conducted trial transactions.

Registry administrators, gathered in Bonn, Germany, on 29 and 30 March at the invitation of the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), were given a live demonstration of registries using their high security links to the ITL to conduct transactions.

“The secretariat is now undertaking final testing with a number of registries to verify that the ITL meets both the policy objectives and rules of the Kyoto Protocol and the expected demands of carbon market trading,” UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer said. “European registry developers are next in line and have begun linking in their test systems.”

ITL will become fully functional once national registries have successfully established operational links. All registries must pass an official set of tests to ensure they meet the necessary standards before they commence operation. “National registries are at various stages of readiness, with some of them scheduled to begin official testing of their systems against the ITL in late April and May this year,” Mr. de Boer added.

Some registries have been concerned about raising their security levels to the standards required to join the ITL. “With billions of euros at stake on the carbon market, it is critical that registry security is on a par with systems in equivalent markets,” he said.

The fact that individual countries join the ITL later does not prevent the ITL from becoming operational. European registries are currently working together under the European trading scheme and will join the ITL en masse later this year, according to the UNFCCC. Most registries belonging to Kyoto Parties within the European Union are expected to begin testing against the ITL from May onwards.

“Despite what some market rumours would say, it is well within European abilities to link to the ITL well before the critical date of 1 December 2007 to meet delivery of CDM future contracts,” Mr. de Boer said.

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06 March, 2007


The head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has applauded the findings of a new study that calls for a “parallel push” to fight climate change and also to decrease chemicals harming the ozone layer which shields the Earth from harmful ultraviolet light.

“I believe the study,” released yesterday, “underscores the simple fact that well-devised action to address one area of environmental concern can have multiple environmental benefits across numerous others,” said UNEP’s Executive Director Achim Steiner.

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, now entering its 20th year, is one of the most successful environmental agreements to date. It has succeeded in phasing out ozone depleting chemicals (ODS) in developed countries, led to the closure of many plants producing ODS and discouraged the creation of industries that use them.

“The climate dimension of the Montreal Protocol is a story that is not widely known, but one that deserves more consideration by the communities involved in ozone and climate protection,” he said.

This study, by scientists from the Netherlands and the United States, is the first to calculate in detail how the phasing out and reduction of chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) assist in protecting the climate. CFCs were once very commonly used in products such as refrigerators, but contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer.

In a related development, Mr. Steiner also lauded yesterday’s launch of a report on managing Brazil’s water resources, a collaborative effort combining the work of the Government, UN agencies and Brazilian institutions and specialists.

Welcoming the Global Environment Outlook (GEO) on Water Resources in Brazil report, Mr. Steiner noted that the “inclusiveness” involved in producing the study is “mirrored in Brazil’s evolving water management initiatives such as those on river basins, where the Federal and state level to the private sector and non- governmental organizations are represented.”

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29 January, 2007


Mountain glaciers around the world melted from 2000 to 2005 at 1.6 times the average loss rate of the 1990s and three times that of the 1980s, with much of the accelerated change attributable to human-induced climate change, according to tentative figures in a new United Nations-backed report released today.

“This is the most authoritative, comprehensive and up-to-date information on glaciers world-wide and as such underlines the rapid changes occurring on the planet as a result of climate change,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said, noting their importance as sources for many rivers upon which people depend for drinking water, agriculture and industrial purposes.

“The findings confirm the science of human-induced climate change, confirmation that will be further underlined when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change unveil their next report on 2 February. These findings should strengthen the resolve of governments to act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and put in place the medium to longer term strategies necessary to avert dangerous climate change,” he added.

According to the figures, the 2000-2005 period saw an average thickness loss for a set of reference glaciers of 0.6 metre water equivalent, confirming the trend in accelerated ice loss during the past two and a half decades and bringing the average reduction since 1980 of the 30 reference glaciers of nine mountain ranges to about 9.6-metres water equivalent. On average, one metre water equivalent corresponds to 1.1 metre ice thickness.

The results come from glacier mass balance measurements collected by scientists all over the world and published by the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) in Zurich, Switzerland. The WGMS collects standardized glacier data which are considered to be among the best natural indicators of climate change.

Scientific measurements relate to the so-called ‘net mass balance’ of glaciers, which can be seen as their overall ice thickness change. The long-term monitoring of glacier mass balance produces one of the most essential variables required for the regular assessment reports on global climate monitoring. As such, the glacier mass balance data are an important contribution to UNEP’s Global Environment Outlook (GEO) report.

The preliminary data on glacier change for the year 2005 from 80 glaciers was reported to the WGMS from the majority of the glaciated mountain ranges of the world. Of these, 30 glaciers have continuous mass balance measurement series since 1980.

Comprehensive data for the year 2006 are not yet available, but as it was one of the warmest years in many years in many parts of the world, it is expected that the downward trend will continue.

“Today, the glacier surface is much smaller than in the 1980s, this means that the climatic forcing has continued since then,” Michael Zemp, a glaciologist and research associate at the WGMS said. “The recent increase in rates of ice loss over reducing glacier surface areas leaves no doubt about the accelerated change in climatic conditions.”

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14 November, 2006


Progress has been made on a number of issues at a United Nations conference in Nairobi aimed at forging responses to global warming, including efforts to promote projects in developing countries that will help people adapt to threats posed by the phenomenon, the head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) said today.

Agreement was reached today on an Adaptation Fund for these projects, according to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer, and agreement is likely on a five-year workplan on adaptation. Countries have also reached an agreement to promote technology transfer to developing countries.

“The Adaptation Fund is crucial to developing countries,” Mr. de Boer said, “because it allows them to really begin working on activities to adapt to climate change. This is a very encouraging step forward, especially for developing countries.”

The Adaptation Fund, Mr. de Boer said, will receive a share of the proceeds from the Clean Development Mechanism as well as voluntary contributions.
“The number of projects that are launched under the Clean Development Mechanism will determine how much is going into the Fund.”

The Clean Development Mechanism allows industrialized countries that are members of the Kyoto Protocol to invest in sustainable development projects in developing countries.

Mr. de Boer said there were still a number of unresolved issues at the conference that will be left for the ministers that will be attending the high-level part of the meeting that starts tomorrow.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, President of the Swiss Confederation Moritz Leuenberger and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will address the more than 100 ministers who are expected to attend.

One issue that remains unresolved concerns commitments by industrialized countries for the period after the 2012 expiration of the Kyoto Protocol, which contains binding targets for emissions. While an agreement on the issue is not expected at the Nairobi conference, countries will need to resolve a plan on how they will address the matter so that there is no gap between Kyoto and the commitment period.

Mr. de Boer has said that from the Kyoto experience, in takes two years to negotiate a pact and two years for ratification, so that talks on a new set of commitments should begin in 2007 or 2008 at the latest.

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27 September, 2006


Better balance is needed between liberalizing trade and protecting natural resources, the head of the United Nations environment agency has said, warning that such “natural capital” is being exhausted at an alarming rate and calling for “intelligent” globalization that guarantees sustainability for future generations.

“Money may make the world go round. But we know what makes a significant amount of that money is natural capital – the goods and services provided by nature. We also know… that a great deal of this capital is being run down,” Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) told the World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday.

“It is clear that a better balance is needed that capitalizes on the benefits of trade liberalization with the absolute necessity of maintaining and re-investing in the global natural resource base… what we really need is ‘intelligent’ rather than benevolent globalisation – one that produces sustainable markets through sustainable trade.”

He acknowledged that the challenges of making international trade work sustainably for everyone is a key goal of the WTO, as well as for UNEP, while also emphasizing that environmental policy, far from being a brake on trade, is “emerging as a powerful new force generating new kinds of trading opportunities.”

Citing various examples of environmental agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, he said that these were expanding the notion of trade as a powerful force for sustainable development, pointing out for example that the Kyoto agreement has triggered new flows of funds from developing to developed countries.

“Poverty is not only a challenge to the environment and sustainable development; it is an obstacle to trade. So environmental treaties like Kyoto can, by bringing development and wealth to the poor, create billions of new consumers on continents like Africa, Asia and Latin America who can genuinely participate in the global market place.”

Mr. Steiner also highlighted the sustainability and trade aspects of other initiatives, as well as raising the possibility of payments for ecosystem services, noting that some economists argue that the amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere by tropical forests may be worth up to hundreds of billions of dollars per year but the countries whose forests remove this pollution are paid nothing.

“So why do we not pay communities in the tropics for maintaining forests and the ecosystem services they provide in terms of carbon removal? Could we extend payment for ecosystem services further or develop flexible trade-related mechanisms – like those developed for Kyoto – further to more sustainably manage other natural resources.”

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13 September, 2006


Some 35 million volunteers from 122 countries are expected take part this weekend in rubbish-clearing efforts at sites across the globe as part of the annual Clean Up the World Weekend, which is held in conjunction with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“Clean Up the World mobilizes people around a powerful idea – taking the challenge of environment and sustainable development to our front doors, our backyards, and everywhere else around the globe,” said UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a statement.

Volunteers will pick up trash on beaches, in villages and at various other sites around the world, among them Australia’s Sydney Harbour, the Nile River in Egypt, Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach, and the Chinese city of Shaoxing.

Additionally, there will be environmental parades, and community implementation of recycling and educational programs, as well as water and energy conservation projects.

Since its launch in 1993, the Clean Up the World Weekend campaign has collected an estimated 3.5 million tonnes of rubbish, enough to fill 5,710 Olympic size swimming pools. Plastic, glass, metal and cigarette butts are among the most commonly found items.

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12 September, 2006


Some 50 countries attending a United Nations meeting on aquaculture have welcomed a series of non-binding international principles for responsible shrimp farming which offer guidance on how to reduce its environmental damage while boosting its ability to alleviate poverty.

Shrimp farming is often criticized for its environmental impacts, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (said that men and women of faith are crucial to the world body.

“As teachers and guides, you can be agents of change and inspire people to new levels of public service,” Mr. Annan said on Monday in remarks at the Holy Family Church in New York. “You can help bridge the chasms of ignorance, fear and misunderstanding that plague our world. You can set an example of interfaith dialogue, cooperation and respect,” he said.

While spiritual and religious practices differ widely, “at heart we are dealing in universal values: to be merciful, to be tolerant, to love thy neighbour,” he pointed out.

“No tradition can claim a monopoly on such teachings; they are ingrained in the human spirit and enshrined in international human rights law. They animate the United Nations Charter and lie at the root of our search for global harmony and peace.”

Mr. Annan, whose second and final five-year term as Secretary-General ends this year, hailed the annual event. “As someone who believes in the power of prayer, I am grateful for all your prayers these past 10 years,” he said.

Meanwhile in Astana, Kazakhstan, a senior UN official echoed these views in remarks to the Second Congress of World and Traditional Religions.
"Together, you can help chart a path of moderation for the devout, showing them that they can remain true to their convictions and beliefs while engaging fully in the changing world around them," Sergei Ordzhonikidze, head of the UN Office at Geneva, told participants in a message delivered on Mr. Annan's behalf.

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21 August, 2006


Following assurances from Israeli authorities of safe passage for its flights, the UN’s Environmental Programme (UNEP) is swiftly moving to begin aerial surveys of the massive oil spill that affected some 150 kilometres of Lebanese and Syrian coastline.

An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 tons of oil spewed into the sea after Israeli missiles struck a power utility south of Beirut between 13 and 15 July but because of the recent conflict between Israel and Hizbollah, comprehensive aerial surveillance has not been possible until now.

On Friday UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner, wrote to Israel’s Minister of Environmental Protection, Gideon Ezra, requesting assurances of safe passage for the flights. Mr. Steiner says he received a reply today offering such guarantees.

“I would like to acknowledge the response by the Israeli authorities giving safe and secure passage of aerial surveillance flights,” said Mr. Steiner. “It is absolutely vital that these are swiftly undertaken to establish the quantity of oil still floating on the sea and to thus tailor the appropriate clean-up response.”

Computer models estimate that some of the oil has evaporated and significant amounts are on shore, but experts are uncertain how much remains at sea.

Last week UN agencies, Mediterranean environment ministers and experts meeting in Athens approved a $64 million action plan to clean up the spill. Among the priorities identified in the plan were aerial surveys to help determine the operation’s next steps.

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16 August, 2006


An International Assistance Action Plan has been drawn up to deal with the oil spill off the Lebanese coast caused by Israel’s bombing of the Jiyyeh power station last month, a spokesman for the United Nations announced today.

The plan has been put together by experts under the supervision of the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Centre for the Mediterranean Sea – which is partly administered by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

A high level meeting to finalize the Action Plan will take place in Athens tomorrow, spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

On 8 August, two UN experts arrived in Syria to evaluate the consequences of the oil spill that has already polluted over 140 kilometres of Lebanese and Syrian coastline.

UNEP said the quantity of oil spilled in Lebanon is already comparable to the disaster caused in 1999 off the coast of France when the Erika tanker spilled an estimated 13,000 metric tonnes of oil into the Atlantic Ocean.

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7 August, 2006


Reduce, reuse and recycle are the watchwords of a new initiative announced today by the United Nations and key Asian institutions aimed at promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and environmental efficiency.

Jointly established by the Asian Development Bank, Asian Institute of Technology, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the new “knowledge hub” will function as a think tank on technology, good practices, policy strategy and management.

Located at the Institute, it will also focus on issues related to the “3R”
– shorthand for reduce, reuse and recycle – which UNESCAP said in a press release “promotes sustainable production and consumption of limited natural resources, and improved economic and environmental efficiency.”

Towards this end, the initiative will facilitate research, promote information sharing, and liaise with academic, scientific and technical institutions, the private sector, and civil society. The hub will also produce new information products on 3R, including periodicals, website, newsletters, workshops and training courses, UNESCAP said.

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31 July, 2006


The head of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has expressed grave concern over the environmental situation unfolding in the waters off of Lebanon, where an oil slick, caused by Israeli bombardment, is now reported to be affecting vast stretches of the Lebanese coastline and threatening the Syrian one as well.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said requests for assistance from the Government of Lebanon were being responded to by the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Center for the Mediterranean Sea, which is administered by the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) and forms part UNEP’s Regional Seas Network.

The Center is giving advice to the Lebanese Ministry of the Environment on how to tackle the heavy fuel oil slick and has requested assistance for equipment and personnel from States parties to the Barcelona Convention, the regional Mediterranean environment treaty.

Several countries have already responded positively, UNEP reported.

The Center is also putting together a team of leading experts ready to assist with the clean up when hostilities cease and has put its Mediterranean Assistance Unit on standby to mobilize key pollution control centers in the region, according to the agency.

Meanwhile the joint UNEP/OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs) Environment Unit in close collaboration with the IMO is also on standby to send a team and is closely monitoring the situation.

“The government of Lebanon has requested international assistance from the United Nations and we stand ready to do all we can as soon as it is possible to carry out this urgent work,” said Mr. Steiner. The oil slick followed Israel’s destruction of the Jiyyeh power utility 30 kilometres south of Beirut.

“We share the Lebanese authorities’ concerns over the impact on coastal communities who are being affected by an environmental tragedy which is rapidly taking on a national but also a regional dimension,” he added, drawing attention to the need to monitor impacts on the marine environment, “including the biodiversity upon which so many people depend for their livelihoods and living via tourism and fishing.”

Mr. Steiner said he was also concerned about the humanitarian and environmental impacts linked with strikes on other infrastructure like airports and sea ports and the likely pollution resulting.

“Other sites, from ports to industrial facilities, have been struck which may be leaking toxic chemicals into the environment putting at risk local populations and aid workers,” he observed.

Mr. Steiner added that longer-term reconstruction issues would be addressed by UNEP’s Post Conflict Assessment Branch, which has helped to formulate action plans in several other war-torn areas, from the Balkans to Afghanistan and Iraq.

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26 July, 2006


As the increasingly unbreathable atmosphere of cities in sub-Saharan Africa emerges as a key threat to the health, environment, economy and quality of life of millions of people, the head of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) today called for new partnerships to clear the air.

“Africa’s urbanization is the highest in the world and this, alongside a rise in the number of vehicles, are among the factors that are leading to a decline in air quality with all the health problems this entails,” Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNEP said as a conference entitled Better Air Quality for African Cities kicked off today at the agency’s headquarters in Nairobi.

Calling the effort to phase out leaded petrol in the region a partnership that has worked and a promise of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 that has been fulfilled, Mr. Steiner called for further commitments through various partnerships.

“Let us begin to make some more promises and to meet these too,” he said, noting that there was already a promise to tackle the high level of sulphur in Africa’s transport fuels that contribute to particle pollution. “Let us forge ones on other vehicle-related pollutants and make ones to end the appalling illness and death rates linked with indoor air pollution,” he added.

To achieve these goals, Mr. Steiner maintained that new and wider partnerships must be developed, bringing together fuel and car companies with town planners, urban managers and the full spectrum of civil society.
Such partnerships should include environment ministers, but also the ones responsible for health, energy, transport and finance, he said.

Along with UNEP, the lead agency in the phase-out of leaded fuel, the four-day conference is jointly organized by the World Bank’s Clean Air Initiative for Africa (CAI-Africa), the Air Pollution Information Network for Africa (APINA), the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

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11 July, 2006


With the world’s polar regions playing on a global scale the role of a canary in a coal mine – providing early warnings on human-induced climate change, the thinning of the ozone layer and the impact of persistent chemical pollution – the United Nations is supporting a two-year scientific mission to the Arctic that gets underway today.

“They are helping relay the message that what happens at the poles should be of utmost concern to us all,” UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said of the Tara Expeditions and the Arctic Drift project, Tara Arctic 2007-2008.

As part of the International Polar Year that begins in March 2007), the polar schooner Tara leaves Lorient, France, today for the Arctic where it will be locked in the ice and drift across the region, providing an unprecedented platform for scientific observations and research on how the Arctic environment is changing.

Two years ago, the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), an unprecedented four-year scientific study by an international team of 300 scientists, provided clear evidence that the Arctic climate is warming rapidly now and, of even greater concern, that much larger changes are projected for the future.

ACIA predicted that Arctic vegetation zones and animal species will be affected. Retreating sea ice is expected to reduce the habitat for polar bears, walrus, ice-inhabiting seals, and marine birds, threatening some species with extinction.

Such changes will also affect many indigenous communities who depend on such animals, not only for food, but also as the basis for cultural and social identity,UNEP noted.

And, beyond the region, as the Arctic glaciers melt and the permafrost thaws, it will be developing countries, with limited means to adapt to environmental change that suffer most.

Tara’s progress can be followed on the UNEP web site http://www.unep.org

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10 July, 2006


United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today called for next week’s Group of Eight Summit in Russia to focus on what energy security means for people living in developing countries and also to address the environmental consequences of energy consumption – especially the current “overwhelming and deeply entrenched reliance on fossil fuels.”

Mr. Annan, speaking in Berlin at an event hosted by the UN Association of Germany and the Bertelsmann Foundation, also highlighted that “the scientific consensus is overwhelmingly clear: climate change is happening, and humans are contributing to it.”

He drew attention to energy security as it relates to people living in developing countries. “More than a billion and a half of them live with no electricity at all, while many of those who do have access have to endure frequent power outages,” Mr. Annan noted, pointing out that “without more reliable energy supplies, these people are condemned to perpetual poverty.”

Energy security cannot be achieved without recognition of the environmental consequences of energy consumption, “especially our currently overwhelming and deeply entrenched reliance on fossil fuels,” he said. “By producing greenhouse gases and other pollutants, these fuels affect the sustainability of life itself. Our reliance on them puts the very future of humanity at risk.”

Mr. Annan said the need to increase energy supplies in order to fight poverty could entail a vicious circle but added that this does not need to happen, pointing out that fossil fuels can “become cleaner, or even clean,”
and highlighting among other things that energy efficiency can improve significantly, in transport, buildings, appliances and manufacturing.

“Collectively, we do have the knowledge and resources both to conquer the poverty that blights so many lives, and to safeguard our planet and its climate. What we lack, so far, is the will to deploy that knowledge and those resources in the right way. Next week’s summit is when that can, and must, begin to change,” he said, referring to the meetings that will take place from 15 to 17 July in St. Petersburg.

Mr. Annan also emphasized trade during his speech, in particular the need for developing nations to truly benefit, and he linked his remarks to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a time-bound set of eight targets for tackling poverty, illiteracy and other global ills.

He described next year as a “defining moment” for Germany, as it assumes the presidency of both the European Union and the Group of Eight, and he also pointed out that 2007 would mark the mid-point for the MDGs, which fall due in 2015, warning that while much progress has been made, more work needs to be done.

“Certainly, there has been a great deal of progress,” he said, pointing to advances in Asia and Africa. “But staggering obstacles remain to meeting the Goals by 2015,” he warned, citing studies showing that in sub-Saharan Africa, there are some 140 million more people enduring extreme poverty today than there were 15 years ago.

While in Germany, the Secretary-General met a number of senior officials, including President Horst Köhler, with whom he discussed developments in Africa.

Mr. Annan also travelled to the Henning von Treskow barracks, the location of the EU Operations Headquarters, where he attended a working lunch hosted by the Federal Defence Minister, Franz-Josef Jung.

Speaking to reporters later, the Secretary-General hailed Germany for its leadership of the European Force (EUFOR) which will be supporting security during the election process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Force, he said, “shows the solidarity and commitment of Germany, and Europe, to the operations in Africa.”

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20 June, 2006


The United Nations regional commission for development in Asia today announced it had reached an historical agreement with the national water utility of the Republic of Korea to promote regional cooperation in water resources and risk management in natural disasters.

In the resulting Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-water) agreed to identify opportunities for direct investment and training related to water resources within the region.

“This is the first MOU to be signed between UNESCAP and a national enterprise from a member country of UNESCAP,” said UNESCAP Executive Secretary Kim Hak-Su.

The agreement, which was signed by Kim Hak-Su and the President of K-water, Kwak Kyul-ho, at the Commission’s Headquarters in Bangkok, also covers regional risk management to reduce the impact of disasters such as floods, droughts, typhoons in the Asia-Pacific region.

The risk management activities are expected to build on existing collaborative projects, such those within the UNESCAP alliance with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on typhoons as well as with the Network of Asian River Basin Organizations.

The MOU comes four days after UNESCAP signed an MOU with Microsoft Corporation for the UN’s first information and communications technology training centre for government officials in the Asian and Pacific region in Incheon, Republic of Korea.

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15 June, 2006


The new head of the United Nations environmental agency assumed office today, taking a metaphor from the soccer field to call on all nations to team up together to score a goal for Planet Earth by putting ecology at the heart of economic policies and ending the rivalry between the two.

“For too long economics and environment have seemed like players on rival teams,” said UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner, whose home country, Germany, is currently hosting the World Football Cup.

“There have been a lot of nasty challenges and far too many own goals. We need to make these two sides of the development coin team players, players on the same side,” he added.

Mr. Steiner, 45, former Director-General of the World Conservation Union
(IUCN) which has over 1,000 members that include States, government
agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in 140 countries,
succeeds fellow-countryman Klaus Toepfer, who stepped down after two
four-year terms.

The new UNEP chief has previously served as head of the World
Commission on
Dams, chief technical advisor of a programme for sustainable management of Mekong River watersheds, and Senior Policy Advisor of IUCN’s Global Policy Unit, where he developed partnerships between the environmental community, the World Bank and the UN system.

“We then have a chance to achieve the fundamental shift of values and reach a new understanding of what really makes the world go round,” he said at today’s installation ceremony at UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.

“Until recently the goods and services provided by nature have been paid only lip service by traditional economic accounting. Thus the land, the air, the biodiversity and the world’s waters have been frequently treated as free and limitless,” he added.
UNEP’s mission statement mandates it to “provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.”

Noting that far too many of the “enormous wealth of nature’s services” are becoming limited as a result of abuse, poor management and over-exploitation, Mr. Steiner said one of his main challenges was to end this “antagonism between economic and environmental policy.”

He stressed that he would be focusing on how markets and economic incentives and international treaties and agreements can be made to work in a way which is “pro environment, pro poor and thus pro sustainable development.”

“Economic issues that touch on the environment are all too often pushed out of environmental conventions,” he declared. “Meanwhile, environmental issues are generally left standing on the touch line, little more than spectators and rarely asked to play a real role in the great economic game. Everyone, not just those in the developing but also those in the developed world, stand to lose out if this continues.”

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5 June, 2006


The United Nations today marked World Environment Day by shining the spotlight on the world’s deserts, from appeals to curb the desertification of dry-lands to a major report on the dramatic impact of climate change to a list of do’s and don’ts for tourists and a children’s painting competition.

From Norway’s most northerly city of Tromsø, way above the Arctic Circle, to the burning heat of Algeria, co-home to the world’s largest desert, UN agencies joined in the observation, from the major sponsoring body, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to the UN refugee Agency and even one of the specialized experts on human rights.

“Desertification is hard to reverse, but it can be prevented,”
Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a call to all government to rise to the challenge. “Protecting and restoring drylands will not only relieve the growing burden on the world’s urban areas; it will contribute to a more peaceful and secure world.

“It will also help to preserve landscapes and cultures that date back to the dawn of civilization and are an essential part of our cultural heritage,” he added.

In a landmark report issued today, UNEP notes the threats and opportunities in the world’s 12 desert regions ranging from the Sahara in North Africa, the planet’s largest, to the Atacama in Chile in South America to the Sonora in the United States to the Kizil Kum in Afghanistan to the Gobi in China and the Great Victoria desert in Australia.

“The world’s deserts are facing dramatic changes as a result of global climate change, high water demands, tourism, and salt contamination of irrigated soils,” the Agency said in a statement summarizing the report - Global Deserts Outlook.

Global and regional instability, leading to more military training grounds, prisons and refugee holding stations, may also be set to modify the desert landscape, the report stresses.

“These intrusions import many people into deserts, generate considerable income and help upgrade infrastructure, but have large environmental footprints particularly with respect to water. In an insecure and competitive world, this kind of investment will continue, even grow,” it says.

“Better management of water supplies will be the key challenge for the future of deserts but could, if successful, be a beacon of hope and good practice for other water-short parts of the globe,” UNEP notes.

“There are many popular and sometimes misplaced views of deserts which this report either confirms or overturns. Far from being barren wastelands, they emerge as biologically, economically and culturally dynamic, while being increasingly subject to the impacts and pressures of the modern world,” UNEP Officer in Charge and Deputy Executive Director Shafqat Kakakhel said.

“They also emerge as places of new economic and livelihood possibilities, underlining yet again that the environment is not a luxury but a key element in the fight against poverty,” he added, citing growing interest in deserts as prime locations for aquaculture and the source of novel drugs, herbal medicines and industrial products derived from the plants and animals adapted to arid areas as well as the huge solar-power potential.

With the Arctic region like to suffer some of the greatest impact from global warming, UNEP chose Tromsø as one of the host sites for the Day.

“The Polar Regions are some of the most hauntingly beautiful places on Earth. They are also nature’s early warning systems where human-induced climate change, the thinning of the ozone layer up to the impacts of persistent chemical pollution continue to be registered first,” Mr. Kakakhel said.

Joining in the observance, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted that this year’s theme is Desert and Desertification and the slogan is ‘Don't Desert Drylands!’ But to make the theme more applicable and relevant to most refugee situations, UNHCR has chosen to use the slogan ‘Combat Land Degradation in Refugee-Hosting Areas.’

“World Environment Day is an opportunity to draw attention to the dependence of refugees and the internally displaced on natural resources and to urge everyone to be considerate in the use and protection of these resources," the head of UNHCR's Division of Operational Services, Arnauld Akodjenou, said.

Meanwhile UNEP issued guidelines for the increasing numbers of desert tourists to preserve the environment, from drinking purified, as opposed to mineral water in plastic bottles, taking old batteries back home, and using gas rather than firewood for cooking.

“Tourism based around desert nature can, if sensitively managed, deliver new prospects and perspectives for people in some of the poorest parts of the world,” Mr. Kakakhel said.

Meanwhile in the Algerian capital of Algiers, host of the main observances, sophisticated images of water and life, desert biodiversity and deforestation dominated this year's UNEP International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment. First prize went to 9-year-old Lau Tsun Ming from China whose painting contained two contrasting scenes of Earth, one desertified, the other keeping natural beauty.

And the Special UN Rapporteur on adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, Okechukwu Ibeanu, called on all countries to take “effective and concrete measures” to end impunity for violators dumping toxic wastes “resulting in unmitigated deterioration of the environment, particularly inthe developing countries.”

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26 May, 2006


Countries today agreed on a wide range of recommendations to promote sustainable fishing on the high seas as a conference to review the implementation of a landmark treaty on managing and conserving valuable fish stocks concluded today at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

The recommendations call on States to take greater steps to crack down on illegal fishing, to eliminate subsidies that contribute to overfishing, to cut down the size of fishing fleets, and to increase efforts to conserve and manage fish stocks through regional fisheries management organizations.

The concluding document also recognized that significant steps were needed to assist developing countries in implementing the 1995 Agreement on the Conservation and Management of Straddling and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks.

The review noted that the pact had helped, but that those engaged in illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing have managed to find ways to escape detection or avoid compliance.

The recommendations contained in the document could play a major role in setting the agenda for countries and for the regional fisheries management organizations, according the Conference’s Chair, David Balton of the United States.

“The status of fish stocks is not where we want it to be and more needs to be done,” Mr. Balton said. “For the industry, for consumers and for the marine environment, this meeting brings us a step closer to achieving sustainable fisheries worldwide.”

Mr. Balton added that he was hopeful that countries that had not yet joined the treaty had received reassurances during the one-week conference that could pave the way toward their ratification.

“The treaty is quite good; what the treaty lacks is implementation,” he said. “There is a need to translate the Agreement into action.”

So far 57 countries have ratified the 1995 Agreement, which entered into force in 2001, and the Chairman said 14 other countries had indicated during the Conference that they expected to do so soon.

The head of the group that drafted the concluding document, Fernando Curcio Ruigomez of Spain, said the agreement reached would help regional fisheries management organizations – the main instruments for conserving and managing fishery resources.

Strengthening the regional fisheries management organizations, which are central to the implementation of the Agreement, figured prominently in the consensus, with countries calling for improved conservation and management measures, better communications among organizations, more equitable and transparent criteria for allocating fishing quotas, and efforts to promote the participation of non-members in fisheries organizations.

Countries agreed on a number of measures to target illegal fishing, which according to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) is worth up to $9.5 billion and makes up about 14 per cent of the value of marine catch globally. Up to 30 per cent of this fishing occurs on the high seas where there are fewer controls.

“Some of those most interested in cracking down on illegal fishing are the legal fishers,” Mr. Balton said. “They don’t like such competition.”

The measures recommended at the Conference include equipping all fishing vessels with satellite tracking devices, greater use of observers aboard fishing vessels to monitor catches, and steps that countries can take when fishing vessels come to port to make sure the catch has been take in accordance with international rules. There was also agreement that flag States should improve controls on vessels flying their flag on the high seas and that greater efforts have to be taken to deal with the problem of flags of convenience.

The consensus reached today also calls for establishing new regional fisheries management organizations in areas that are not presently regulated, eliminating subsidies that contribute to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and improving data on catches.

Mr. Balton said that while countries agreed that the size of the world’s fishing fleet should be reduced, it had to be done equitably, and that the needs of developing countries must be considered. “It is in the interest of all to give greater assistance to developing countries,” he said.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that about 30 per cent of tuna, more than 50 per cent of oceanic sharks and nearly two thirds of other ocean-going species are either overexploited or depleted.

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24 May, 2006


With climate change posing a potential threat to tourist resorts, the South Pacific islands nation of Fiji has been selected as a pilot country for a series of United Nations-backed projects aimed at helping the tourism sector to adapt to the effects of climate change, ranging from more frequent cyclones to beach-eroding higher sea levels.

Island destinations are particularly prone to the effects of climate change with many of them relying on warm waters and long hours of sunshine to attract tourists to their beaches, and a similar plan is being prepared for the low-lying Indian Ocean island nation of the Maldives, which could be threatened by rising sea levels.

Alterations in weather patterns can have a serious impact on the programming of trips, the comfort of tourists and their health. Extreme climatic events can affect natural attractions, with storm surges and rising sea levels eroding beaches and higher sea temperatures bleaching coral. There is also the increased risk of drought and the possibility of physical damage to both people and property.

The projects will be coordinated by the UN World Tourism Organization
(UNWTO) in conjunction with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and financed by the Global Environment Facility, an independent financial organization that provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods in local communities.

“Addressing the impact of climate change on Small Island Developing States has become a priority, given the heavy dependence of their economies on tourism, their high level of vulnerability and their relatively low adaptive capacity,” the Programme Officer in UNWTO’s Sustainable Development of Tourism Department, Gabor Vereczi told an Agency workshop in the Fijian capital of Suva earlier this month.

“Climate change should not be seen by tourism administrations and businesses as a distant phenomenon, but one that is already affecting destinations and the daily operation of the tourism sector.

“Basic adaptation measures, such as early warning systems and preparedness for cyclones, or the better use of climate information provided by national meteorological services can make a huge difference in preventing and mitigating climate-related risks and hazards,” he added.

UNWTO will be further addressing the challenges posed by climate change at a conference on “Building Tourism Resilience in Small Island Developing States (SIDS),” to be held in the Bahamas capital of Nassau from 7-9 June.

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22 May, 2006


Government representatives attending a conference in New York aimed at improving measures to preserve ocean fish stocks today called for more States to ratify a United Nations agreement aimed at reversing the dramatic declines seen in recent years.

Universal participation, participants said, was needed to halt rampant illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing that had decimated fish stock.
The decline in fish stocks was also attributed to the presence of too many government-subsidized fishing vessels trawling on the high seas.

The treaty, the 1995 Agreement Relating to the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, is considered a highly innovative international pact that sets strong standards for the conservation and management of valuable fish stocks.

Also known as the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, the treaty has been ratified by 57 States, but it is widely agreed that more need to join before it can reach its full potential.

“In the years since the Agreement entered into force, much has happened in the world’s fisheries, and the Agreement has played a powerful role in influencing these developments,” said the Chairman of the weeklong Conference, David Balton, the United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and Fisheries.

“This week’s meeting must generate ideas and commitments on ways to better address the status of these resources,” Mr. Balton said. “While the Conference has no mandate to amend the Agreement, it should consider a broad range of measures by which to strengthen its implementation.”

In the opening debate, various countries called for measures to reduce illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and for the establishment of regional fisheries management organizations in those areas in the high seas where no regulations are in place.

“We need what amounts to a temporary restraining order to protect our waters from destructive practices,” said the representative of Palau, Stuart Beck, noting that most of the ocean space was unregulated and lacked a governing fisheries management organization.

“These areas and resources are thus at the mercy of creeping distant water fishing fleets,” he said, adding that negotiations had begun for a South Pacific fisheries management organization and that this effort should also cover the North Pacific adjacent to Palau.

Asserting that the world fleet capacity was 250 per cent above sustainable fishing and was mainly constituted by “super-vessels” from developed countries, Carlos Duarte, the Brazilian delegate, called for a reduction of fishing capacity. Andres Couve of Chile, not a party to the Agreement, said that overfishing in unregulated waters outside its exclusive economic zone had caused the decline of many fish species in the area.

Wang Guangya of China, also not a party to the Agreement, said that it had implemented the provisions of the treaty through regional fisheries management organizations, and that it was now obtaining 67 per cent of its fish production from aquaculture.

Based on available data, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported that about 30 per cent of the stocks of highly migratory tuna and tuna-like species, more than 50 per cent of highly migratory oceanic sharks, and nearly two-thirds of straddling and other high seas stocks are overexploited or depleted.

The Conference is the first opportunity to formally review the Agreement since it entered into force in 2001. Participants are to assess the adequacy of the Agreement in conserving and managing the relevant stocks, as well as examine ways to strengthen the implementation of the Agreement’s provisions.

Issues to be addressed during the week include international cooperation, mechanisms for monitoring, control and surveillance, as well as the special needs of developing countries.

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