Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’
Earth’s Ability to Support Us At Risk – An Indictment of Governments We Elected
By Stephen Leahy
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 19 2012 (IPS)
The science is crystal clear: humans are threatening Earth’s ability to support mankind, and a new world economy is urgently needed to prevent irreversible decline, said scientists and other experts at an event on the sidelines of the Rio+20 Earth Summit.
Yet the Global Environment Outlook report, or GEO 5, which was launched on June 6 and assessed 90 of the most important environmental objectives, found that significant progress had been made only in four in the 20 years since the first landmark summit in Rio in 1992.
Achim Steiner, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said the results of GEO 5 were “depressing, even to me”.
“This ought to have us shaking in our boots,” Steiner told TerraViva at the Fair Ideas conference that concluded Sunday. ”It is an indictment of our behaviour over the past 20 years and of the governments we elected. We need an honest conversation about why we are not turning things around.”
Instead, “what’s happening right now in the RioCentro (Rio+20 official site) is that science is being picked out of the text of the final agreement,” Johan Rockström, executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, told the conference.
Rockström said he had received updates from the negotiations that the United States and some of the world’s least developed countries were attacking the science showing humanity is pushing up against “planetary boundaries”.
Climate is only one of those “planetary boundaries”. Another is the ongoing decline of biodiversity, where so many plants and animals are going extinct that the Earth’s living systems, upon which humanity depends, are unravelling. Fresh water is another planetary boundary. Water is a limited resource, yet water use has increased six-fold in the past century.
“The science is absolutely clear: we are up against the edges of the planet’s ability to support us and approaching irreversible tipping points,” Rockström said. Read the rest of this entry »
How to Secure a Viable Future for All
By Stephen Leahy
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 16 (TerraViva)
Goals drive action, and that’s why establishing a set of Sustainable Development Goals is so important to put the world on a sustainable pathway, experts said Saturday under the tropical fig and palm forest that covers much of the ground at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro.
“Building a consensus on a set of goals will give the world community clarity about what needs to be done and a way to measure progress,” said Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow in the Climate Change Group at the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED).
Terms like “green economy” and “sustainability” have too many different meanings and too many different interpretations, Huq told TerraViva during a break at the two-day Fair Ideas conference organised by IIED and the Pontifical Catholic University.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have proven to be a useful tool even though some will not be achieved by the 2015 deadline, he said. The MDGs helped guide governments in setting their policies to try to meet the targets such as reducing poverty by half. The MDG target of having the number of people without access to safe drinking water was met early this year.
The MDGs have no environmental focus and they only applied to the developing world, Huq said.
“Sustainable Development Goals would be much broader covering pollution, environment impacts and consumption and apply to all countries rich and poor but in different ways.”
Saleemul Huq, Senior Fellow, Climate Change Group at the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED). Credit: Stephen Leahy/IPS
The governments of Colombia and Guatemala first proposed a framework for establishing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) be one of the main outcomes at the Rio+20 Summit on Sustainable Development.
“The SDGs are not about the environment, they are about securing a viable future for all people,” said Paula Caballero, director of economic, social and environmental affairs, Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores of Colombia.
“We need the public and policy makers to understand this,” Caballero told the conference. Read the rest of this entry »
Who will speak for future generations?
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jun 5, 2012 (Tierramérica)
The theme of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) is “The Future We Want”, but there is no official role for youth nor a spokesperson for future generations who will inherit that futur
Now there is a growing call for the creation of a United Nations High Commissioner for Future Generations to be one of the outcomes of the summit, which will take place Jun. 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“I was born in 1992, the year of the first Earth Summit in Rio. The world has changed a lot since then,” says Vincent Wong of Burlington, Canada.
Wong will be going to Rio+20 as part of a delegation from Students on Ice, a Canadian organisation that offers educational expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic for students, educators and scientists.
“We want to bring the voice of our generation. They will be making decisions on our behalf,” Wong told Tierramérica.
“Who can be opposed to protecting the rights of future generations?” asks Alice Vincent of the World Future Council (WFC) in London, UK.
“The proposed High Commissioner for Future Generations would act to balance the short-term nature of government electoral cycles by advocating for the interests and needs of future generations,” Vincent told Tierramérica.
According to Kathleen Dean Moore, distinguished professor of philosophy at Oregon State University, “The injustice of climate change, resource depletion, etc. is that those who will suffer the most terrible consequences – future generations – had no role in creating them.”
“They will gain nothing from the ransacking of the Earth that is going on all around us, but they will bear the consequences: the floods, the droughts, the disrupted food systems, shortages, and violent weather,” Moore told Tierramérica.
“A U.N. Commissioner for Future Generations can stand up against the unjust treatment of those not yet born, which future generations, of course, cannot do for themselves,” she added. Read the rest of this entry »
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 25 2013 (IPS)
Green energy is the only way to bring billions of people out of energy poverty and prevent a climate disaster, a new study reveals.
Conservative institutions like the World Bank, the International Energy Agency and accounting giant Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) all warn humanity is on a path to climate catastrophe unless fossil fuel energy is replaced by green energy.
The U.N.’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative intends to bring universal access to modern energy, doubling the share of renewable energy globally, and doubling the rate of improvement in energy efficiency by 2030.
If those targets are met and similar efforts undertaken to reduce deforestation, then climate disaster can be avoided, said Joeri Rogelj of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Zurich who headed the analysis published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
“Poverty eradication, sustainable development and the transition away from fossil fuel energy go hand in hand,” Rogelj told IPS. Read the rest of this entry »
Countries cannot afford to miss the green wave of Rio+20
No alternative to low-carbon, resource-efficient economies
By Stephen Leahy
UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 25, 2012 (IPS)
Think of Rio+20 as the hothouse to grow the green ideas and values humanity needs to thrive in the 21st century.
No one is expecting, or even wants, a big new international treaty on sustainable development said Manish Bapna, interim president of the World Resources Institute, a global environmental think tank based in Washington, D.C.
“The important action will be on the sidelines of the formal negotiations,” Bapna told IPS in an interview.
Blocs of countries, civil society organisations and representatives of business will meet, create coalitions and make commitments on specific issues and on regional concerns.
“There could be some exciting specific commitments coming out of Rio,” Bapna said.
Perhaps the most important outcome from Rio+20 would be to put to rest the erroneous belief that protecting the environment comes at the cost of economic growth when it is in fact the opposite. Without a healthy, functioning environment, humanity loses the benefits of the environment’s “free products”: air, water, soil to grow food, stable climate and so on.
“One of the big hurdles to a sustainable future is that officials in many countries think they can’t afford to move onto a more sustainable pathway,” he said.
Bapna hopes Rio+20 will generate a “new narrative” – a wider understanding that there is no viable alternative to the transition to low-carbon, resource-efficient economies that alleviate poverty and create more jobs. Read the rest of this entry »
by Stephen Leahy
The planet is in peril, 3,000 scientists and other experts concluded at the recent Planet Under Pressure conference in London. Climate change, overuse of nitrogen and loss of biodiversity are just three of the perils threatening to make much of our home uninhabitable.
World leaders will meet in Rio de Janeiro June 20-22 to address this at the Rio+20 Conference, 20 years after the very first Earth Summit.
Rio+20 needs to be the moment in human history when the nations of the world come together to find ways to ensure ‘the very survival of humanity,’ environmentalists and scientists have said.
A “Green Economy” will be one of the main ideas under discussion in Rio. The idea is to make a transition to an economic system that maximizes human well-being while operating within the planet’s environmental limits. Exactly how this could be accomplished has yet to be defined.
The current economic system rewards those who exploit and destroy nature, said Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Executive Director, Tebtebba (Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education).
The current system hinders and even blocks Indigenous peoples from practicing their traditional ways of living that actually represent “a real green economy” that can be sustainable, achieve well being and are climate-friendly, said Tauli-Corpuz, a member of the indigenous Kankana-ey Igorot community in the Philippines.
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Keep Agriculture for Food, not Carbon$$
By Stephen Leahy
DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 2 2011 (IPS)
Civil society has warned of the danger of turning Africa’s food-producing lands into “carbon farms” so that rich countries can avoid making cuts in their carbon emissions.
On Friday, they called on host country South Africa to refrain from forcing so-called “climate smart” agriculture into the United Nations climate treaty negotiations known as the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17).
South African President Jacob Zuma has stated that agriculture should be part of a new climate treaty. South African officials have previously told IPS they want it included so there will be “specific funds and specific actions” for agriculture under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Putting agriculture into a future climate treaty is supposedly a consolation prize to Africa for failure by rich countries to agree to legally binding targets,” said Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation, an international non-governmental organisation based in London.
“This consolation prize is a poisoned chalice. It will lead to land grabs and deliver African farmers into the hands of fickle carbon markets,” Anderson told IPS.
Agriculture is a major source of global warming gases like carbon and methane – directly accounting for 15 percent to 30 percent of global emissions. When the entire food production system is included, total agriculture emissions represent nearly half of all emissions. For those reasons there have been previous efforts to incorporate agriculture under a new climate treaty.
Changes in agricultural practices can greatly reduce emissions. However, the best way to do that is through regulations, not a climate treaty and carbon credits, said Anderson.
“Why are markets now seen as the only solution when less than 10 years ago they weren’t a focus at all?” Read the rest of this entry »
By Stephen Leahy
CHANGWON, South Korea, Oct 25, 2011 (IPS)
Every six seconds a child dies of hunger-related causes.
That disturbing reality seems as remote as the moon here in the ultra-modern Changwon Convention Centre, where delegates struggled to create effective ways to stem the ongoing decline of food-producing lands.
Each year, 12 million hectares of land are lost where 20 million tonnes of grain might have been grown, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. And that loss of food-producing lands is unlikely to change in the near future, even as the final gavel fell in the early morning hours of Oct. 22 at the end the two-week biannual 10th Conference of the Parties (COP 10).
“This conference has been highly successful,” said Lee Don Koo, minister of the Korean Forest Service and COP 10 president and host.
It was certainly the largest international gathering on land degradation, with 6,450 participants from 161 countries, including 83 ministers and deputy ministers. Lee Don Koo said this meeting sent a strong message to the world community about the need for strong, sustainable land management and for the pressing need to set targets to reduce land degradation.
“Our goal is to build a land-degradation-neutral world,” said Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the UNCCD. The target date to reach that goal is 2030, Gnacadja told IPS.
Gnacadja would like countries to officially adopt this goal at the RIO+20 conference in June 2012 in Brazil.
It has taken nearly 20 years to get to the point where there is agreement on 11 scientific indicators to measure land degradation and its impacts. Development and implementation of those indicators will take some years yet. The Convention has yet to address the economic and policy drivers of land degradation, acknowledged Antonio Rocha Magalhães, chair of the Committee on Science and Technology. Read the rest of this entry »
The Quiet Crisis: Lost Foodlands Cover Area Larger Than Canada and China Combined – Two Billion People Affected
12 Million Hectares Lost Every Year to Desertification
Dealing with desertification has a long history of failure.
By Stephen Leahy
CHANGWON, South Korea, Oct 13, 2011 (IPS)
Degradation of land is the world’s quiet crisis, undercutting food production, increasing water scarcity, impoverishing hundreds of millions of people and affecting two billion overall. Nearly 20 million square kilometres of the earth’s arable lands – an area twice the size of Canada – have already been degraded.
Each year, 12 million hectares of land, where 20 million tons of grain could have been grown, are lost to desertification. Unless this trend is reversed soon, feeding the world’s growing population will be impossible, experts say. However, the global community has failed for over two decades to address this serious challenge.
Now, delegates from 193 countries are meeting in South Korea under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to review progress on a ten-year plan to reverse the ongoing decline in the quality and quantity of land in food-producing regions.
During the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP 10) under the UNCCD, delegates will also consider creating a scientific body like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to serve as the global authority on desertification and land degradation.
“The UNCCD will take bold steps towards delivering critical services to the two billion people that face negative impacts of desertification, land degradation and drought,” Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the UNCCD, told delegates during the opening session of COP 10 that began Oct. 10 and concludes Oct. 21.
Land degradation is mainly the consequence of poor land management in conjunction with changes in rainfall. Erosion and degradation most often result from ploughing fields, removing crop residues after harvest and overgrazing. It is akin to tire wear on cars – a gradual, less noticeable process with potentially catastrophic consequences if ignored for too long.
Humanity faces unprecedented challenge of climate change combined with food, water and energy shortages
“Markets are preconditioned on inequality and will only make matters worse”
By Stephen Leahy
THE HAGUE, Jul 5, 2011 (IPS)
Avoiding the coming catastrophic nexus of climate change, food, water and energy shortages, along with worsening poverty, requires a global technological overhaul involving investments of 1.9 trillion dollars each year for the next 40 years, said experts from the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) in Geneva Tuesday.
“The need for a technological revolution is both a development and existential imperative for civilisation,” said Rob Vos, lead author of a new report, “The Great Green Technological Transformation”.
Absent in the U.N. report is a call for the other necessary transformation: what to do with the market-driven economic system that has put humanity on this catastrophic collision course? Attempts to “green” capitalism are failing and will fail, according to many of the more than 200 social science researchers at a groundbreaking international conference in The Hague titled “NATURE INC? QUESTIONING THE MARKET PANACEA IN ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY AND CONSERVATION“ Jun. 30 to Jul. 2.
“We must start tackling and questioning some core capitalist dictums, such as consumerism, hyper-competition, the notion that ‘private’ is always better, and especially economic growth,” says Bram Büscher, the conference co-organiser and researcher at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at Erasmus University in The Hague, Netherlands.
Governments, the World Bank, the United Nations and development agencies, international conservation organisations and others have all come to see markets as the only way to mobilise enough money to end deforestation, increase the use of alternative energy, boost food production, alleviate poverty, reduce pollution and solve a host of other serious and longstanding problems.
Started as a small gathering of academics, Nature Inc? became a major event as hundreds of experts from around the world wished to participate. Büscher believes the main reason for this is that many are actively doing research on environmental and conservation issues and are increasingly running into new market schemes like carbon credit trading, payments for ecosystem services, biodiversity derivatives and new conservation finance mechanisms, and so on.
“Payments for ecosystem services are the newest tropical ‘miracle’ crop,” said Kathleen McAfee of San Francisco State University.
The market is putting new values on tropical forests as carbon sinks, reservoirs of biodiversity or ecotourism destinations, McAfee said during the conference. Read the rest of this entry »