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UN forum spotlights cities, where struggle for sustainability ‘will be won or lost’

Although cities are often characterized by stark socioeconomic inequalities and poor environmental conditions, they also offer growth and development potential – making them central to the 2030 Agendafor Sustainable Development and a main focus of the third day of the United Nations High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Wednesday.

Through the inherently integrated nature of urban development, the 11th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) impacts a wide range of 2030 Agenda issues from sustainable consumption and production to affordable and clean energy along with health, sustainable transportation, clean water and sanitation. Basically, life on land.

According to the UN, cities are where the struggle for global sustainability “will either be won or lost.”

“Urbanization is one of the most important issues when it comes to sustainable development,” Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York.  “We must make sure we do it right if we are to achieve the SDGs and move towards a world where we see an end to poverty, the protection of our planet and everyone enjoying peace and prosperity,” she added.

While SDG 11 pledges to make cities and human settlements safe, inclusive, resilient and sustainable by 2030, local and national authorities are making uneven progress towards achieving that goal, according to the UN.  A new report by UN-Habitat and partners tracking SDG progress since their 2015 adoption coincides with the first review of SDG 11 at the HLPF.

At the current rate of expansion, over 700 cities will have populations of more than one million by 2030.

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New UN study links trees in drylands with sustainable development

19 July 2016 – For the first time, a new United Nations report details the number of trees, forests and how the land is used in the world’s drylands, and the findings could be used to track progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and help fight climate change.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today issued in Rome the preliminary findings of the first ever statistical sampling-based assessment of land use in the world’s drylands, amid its World Forest Week.

Using freely available satellite images and a newly developed survey method, FAO found that drylands cover about 41 per cent of the world’s land surface – an area twice the size of Africa. Of that land, 1.1 billion hectares are forest, accounting for more than one-quarter of the global forest area.

The leaves and fruit of trees are sources of food for people and fodder for animals; their wood provides fuel for cooking and heating and can be a source of income for poor households; trees protect soils, crops and animals from the sun and winds, while forests are often rich in biodiversity.

The UN agency cites recent studies which point to the need to restore drylands to better cope with the effects of drought, desertification and land degradation.

Drylands are divided into four aridity zones. The least arid of the four is the dry sub-humid zone, such as the Sudanian savanna in West Africa, the grasslands in South America, the steppes in southern Siberia and the Canadian prairie. Most dryland forests occur in this zone, as do some large irrigated, intensively farmed areas along perennial rivers.

07 19 fao drylands

At the other extreme, the driest is the hyper-arid zone, which is dominated by deserts, including the Sahara and the Arabian.

More than 200 experts with knowledge of the land and land uses in specific dryland regions conducted the assessment, which will be released in full later this year.

The FAO Global Drylands Assessment is expected to provide Governments, donors and other stakeholders in sustainable development with a valuable tool to guide policy-making and investments to aid people already threatened by climate change.

The baseline information is being already used for the baseline assessment and monitoring in the FAO-implemented project, “Action Against Desertification”, an initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).

It is expected to further enhance Governments’ abilities to track progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 15on sustainably managing forests, combating desertification, halting and reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss.


Report Demonstrates Benefits from Protecting Biodiversity

Montreal/Kolkata, 13 February 2015 - A ground-breaking report on biodiversity and health, launched today at the 14th World Congress on Public Health, in Kolkata, India, shows the significant contribution of biodiversity and ecosystem services to better human health.

The report, Connecting Global Priorities: Biodiversity and Human Health, demonstrates that the relationship between biodiversity and human health is extensive and complex. It outlines the ways that the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity has positive impacts on human health, including through impacts on water and air quality, nutrition, non-communicable and infectious diseases, and medicines, among others.

Prepared by the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (SCBD) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the report features contributions from numerous partners and over 100 experts, including Bioversity International, COHAB Initiative, EcoHealth Alliance, Harvard School of Public Health, United Nations University, Wildlife Conservation Society's Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages and many others.

"We hope this joint report will increase awareness and understanding not only of the intrinsic value of biodiversity, but also as a critical foundation for sustainable development, and for human health and well-being," said Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. "In particular, it should serve as a useful reference for the definition of the sustainable development goals and the post-2015 development agenda, which represent a unique opportunity to promote integrated approaches to protect human and planetary health."

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, said "Despite the clear role that biodiversity plays for human health, and thus for the Sustainable Development Goals, this linkage is not being made in policy forums. Hopefully this new report will help shed some light on this critical issue."

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Green economy transition promises benefits for small island states

Nairobi, 24 February 2014- Creating the enabling conditions for a Green Economy transition in Small Island Developing States (SIDS)from improved public investment to reliable market instruments and better governance will help the estimated 50 million SIDS residents build climate resilience, achieve economic growth and enjoy better standards of living.

The transition will offer opportunities for SIDS to better manage natural capital, protect the environment, create green jobs and achieve sustainable development, according to studies by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)


UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, "For many Small Island Developing States future development is dependent on a very narrow resource base that is constantly challenged by the high-risk impacts of climate change and natural disasters. In our lifetime, there may be small island developing nations that will cease to exist as a result of sea level rise."


"From economic growth to climate change and food security, the issues facing SIDS are multi-dimensional and require integrated action to address them. An inclusive Green Economy approach offers opportunities for SIDS to better manage natural capital, protect the environment, create green jobs and achieve sustainable development. For this end, it is vital that the right enabling conditions are provided to generate and stimulate both public and private sector investments that incorporate broader environmental and social criteria," he added

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Jamaica calls for Caribbean action on sustainable development

( originally posted by Caribbean News Now  - 10 February 2015)

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Jamaica’s minister of water, land, environment, sustainable development and climate change, Robert Pickersgill, has issued a call to all Caribbean Community (CARICOM) stakeholders to shape the sustainable development agenda of the region.

“Governments, the private sector and civil society must all work together in shaping this agenda, particularly in 2015 when the global community will tackle several issues that will greatly influence the sustainable development roadmap of the globe.

“It is imperative that the Community speaks with ‘one voice from the same script’ in key international fora to ensure that the interest of the Community and that of small island developing states are represented”, he emphasized.

The minister was addressing the opening of the 53rd special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on the environment and sustainable development at the CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters, on Friday, 6 February. 

Pickersgill drew attention to three pivotal processes, in which the region is actively involved, for their critical importance to sustainable development: the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, in March; the Third International Conference for Financing Development, in July; and the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change, in December.

Noting that the linkages between disaster risk management and climate change cannot be overstated, he urged greater collaboration and coordination between the two sectors to ensure policy coherence and harmonised efforts at both national and regional levels.

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ILO head: "No jobs on a dead planet"

October 2014 -  Guy Rider, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) commented on a number of issues facing the world, on the UN body's blog site - Work in Progress;    Some of them were  - inequality, job insecurity and climate change that was destroying jobs and livelihoods in every corner.

His article also addressed the challenges ("grim realities") that decision makers have to face as global green house gas emissions now  exceed fifty four billion tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide) per year.  Guy recalled at the recently concluded Climate Change Summit  100 chief executives of multinationals active in sectors from energy to food to transport and finance echoed that “there are no jobs on a dead planet,” acknowledging that “business cannot succeed on a planet that fails.”

The economic opportunity that can come from proactive climate policies was not only stressed by political and business leaders along with civil society and trade unions. It is also the main message of a new report “Better Growth – Better Climate” presented by a high-level panel of distinguished politicians and scientists, including two Nobel prize-winning economists.

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