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In 2019, ‘reasons for hope’ in a world still on ‘red alert’: UN chief Guterres

Last year, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued “a red alert” over a range of dangers confronting the world, which “still persist” as 2019 looms: “These are anxious times for many, and our world is undergoing a stress test,” the UN chief said on Saturday in his message for the New Year.

He reiterated one of his clarion calls during 2018 over climate change, saying that it was still “running faster than we are,” and that deepening geo-political divisions are making conflicts more difficult to resolve.

Record numbers of people are moving in search of safety and protection, inequality is growing and “people are questioning a world in which a handful of people hold the same wealth as half of humanity,” he said.

Moreover, he stated that intolerance was on the rise while trust is declining.

‘Reasons for hope’

“But”, Mr. Guterres continued, “there are also reasons for hope”, notably in Yemen where breakthrough talks have created an opportunity at least, for peace.

The Secretary-General also cited the September agreement signed in Riyadh between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which has eased long-running tensions and brought improved prospects to an entire region as cause for optimism. 

Likewise, he pointed to the agreement between warring parties in South Sudan which has revitalized chances for peace, “bringing more progress in the past four months than in the previous four years.”

The UN was also able to bring countries together in Katowice, Poland, to agree on a programme to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

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At global call to action, Antigua and Barbuda PM : "Join us in banning the use of single use plastics"

The President of the UN General Assembly launched a new global call to action on Tuesday, to help end the scourge of plastic pollution in the ocean.

Maria Fernanda Espinosa told journalists at UN Headquarters in New York, that her Campaign Against Plastic Pollution – a priority during her year in office -  will hold both consumers and decision-makers accountable, urging the phasing out of single-use plastics such as water bottles, and raising awareness of the impact plastic pollution has on human and environmental health.

“It is estimated that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. Microplastics are now confirmed in table salt, in fresh water, each person on the planet is believed to have plastic in their bodies,” she cited in her statement

“I intend to leverage the capacity of the office of the President of the General Assembly, to support ongoing global campaigns to beat plastic pollution. This will include complementary efforts by UN Environment, Global Citizen and National Geographic, amongst others.”

She announced that in Spring 2019, the initiative to stamp out plastic will be highlighted by events across the globe; including one celebrating innovative progress in New York City, a concert in the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, and a photo exhibit at the UN General Assembly to coincide with World Environment Day.

Join us in groundbreaking plastics ban, urges PM

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Gaston Browne, announced that the concert was set for April 27th to coincide with Antigua ‘Sailing Week’.  It will include regional and internationally renowned musicians and artists and will highlight efforts to tackle the problem globally.

He noted that Antigua and Barbuda had been successful in the elimination of single use plastics. "During the past two years, we have introduced a ban, which has worked very well...Antigua and Barbuda is the first country in the Caribbean to do so. We need to protect our oceans and we are calling on all nations to join us in banning the use of single use plastics

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green, gender-focus, as UN's crucial climate change conference gets underway

COP24,  the two-week 24th conference of the parties of the United Nations Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC), started on Sunday in Katowice, Poland, with a special focus on carbon neutrality and gender equality. 

Days after the UN sounded the alarm on the unprecedented levels of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, the world is gathering to define how the 2015 Paris Agreement will be implemented and moved forward by its 197 parties. 

Under the agreement, all countries have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit the global average rise in temperature to well below 2°C, and as close as possible to 1.5°C.

Cycling for the planet:

Kicking off the two-week event in Katowice, a historically mining town in the south of Poland, a team of cyclists on electric bikes arrived from Vienna, having biked 600 km to demonstrate the value of renewable energy in reducing emissions. The expedition was supported by the UN Global Compact, a group of private sector companies committed to sustainable development. 

The cycling team, called “Moving for Climate NOW”, made up of about 40 people from different institutions and countries was welcomed by UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary, Ovais Sarmad, and Jakub Gibek, Head of the Climate Policy Unit of the Ministry of Environment of Poland.

“I commend the cyclists involved in this bike tour for inspiring the world to move in the right direction to fulfil the promise of the Paris Agreement. This is the most important COP since the signing of the agreement, and we need initiatives like yours to testify that governments, the private sector and individuals can work together to tackle climate change by committing to multilateralism.”

UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary, Ovais Sarmad

 

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Statement on the outcome of the G20 Summit in Argentina

Today’s G20 Declaration underscored three key messages. 

First, it reaffirmed support to the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, our global blueprint for a fair globalization that leaves no one behind; and pledged to use all policy tools to achieve strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth.

Second, G20 leaders, stressed the need to raise ambition in the fight against climate change and expressed their very strong support of countries that are signatories to implement their commitments set out in their nationally determined contributions. Agreement on the Paris Work Programme at COP 24 in Katowice – essentially the rule book for implementation – will significantly advance implementation. 

Third, G20 leaders recognized the importance of a multilateral approach to trade and of the reform of the World Trade Organization and renewed their commitment to a rules-based international order.

These agreements by the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies, which also contribute the largest share of global green-house gas emissions, can help rally the international community to make sure that climate change is a race we can win. Indeed, it is a race we must win.

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Caribbean to strengthen early warning systems and resilience to climate change

27 November - An initiative to strengthen multi-hazard early warning systems in the Caribbean was launched on November 20 during the dry season Caribbean Climate Forum (CariCOF) meeting in Barbados.

The Caribbean region is highly exposed to high-impact hydrometeorological hazards such as hurricanes and tropical storms, causing floods, landslides and storm surge. In 2017, Hurricane Irma caused massive destruction in Barbuda resulting in the subsequent full evacuation of the island while Hurricane Maria caused devastation Dominica. Barbados suffered from flooding as a result of Tropical Storm Kirk in September 2018.

“It is undeniable that Early Warning Systems are well-recognized as critical life-saving disaster risk reduction tools,” Honorable Edmund Hinkson, Barbados Minister of Home Affairs, told the launch.

The project titled “Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological and Early Warning Services in the Caribbean” will be led by the World Bank together with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). At the regional level the led implementers will be the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH).

Hinkson lauded the multifaceted approach being used by this initiative which brings global partners together with regional partners for the first time.  “The Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems Initiative (CREWS) brings comparative advantage of all agencies together,” Hinkson added. This approach intends to build community resilience through a functioning, gender-inclusive, cascading early warning systems for the region.  

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World simply ‘not on track’ to slow climate change this year: UN weather agency

The world is heading in the wrong direction to slow climate change after another year of near-record temperatures, the head of the UN’s weather agency said on Thursday.

“We are not on track to meet climate change targets and rein in temperature increases,” said Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“Greenhouse gas concentrations are once again at record levels and if the current trend continues we may see temperature increases 3-5 degrees centigrade by the end of the century. If we exploit all known fossil fuel resources, the temperature rise will be considerably higher,” he said.

Data from five independent global temperature monitors which formed the basis of the latest annual WMO Statement on the State of the Climate report, indicated that this year is on course to be the fourth highest on record.

Worryingly, the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the top four in the past four years.

“It is worth repeating once again that we are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it,” Professor Taalas said.

The WMO Secretary-General’s comments support the findings of another authoritative global body, The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In its report on Global Warming of 1.5°C, it concluded that the average global temperature in the decade prior to 2015 was 0.86 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

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Greenhouse gas levels in atmosphere break another record, UN report shows

Levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have reached another record high, according to a report issued on Thursday by the United Nations weather agency, which reveals that there is no sign of reversal of this trend, responsible for climate change, sea level rise, ocean acidification and extreme weather.

“The science is clear. Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gases, climate change will have increasingly destructive and irreversible impacts on life on Earth. The window of opportunity for action is almost closed,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that global concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrous oxide have been increasing steadily over the past years. In addition, the report notes a resurgence of a potent greenhouse gas and ozone-depleting substance called CFC-11, which is regulated under an international agreement to protect the ozone layer.
 
The WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin reports specifically on atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, which are what remains in the atmosphere, following a complex process of emissions and absorptions. 

Since 1990, there has been a 41 per cent increase in the warming effect by the various greenhouse gases on the climate – known as “radioactive forcing.” CO2 specifically accounts for about 82 per cent of the increase in radioactive forcing over the past decade, according to figures quoted in the WMO report. 
  
“The last time the Earth experienced a comparable concentration of CO2 was three to five million years ago, when the temperature was 2 to 3°C warmer and sea level was 10 to 20 meters higher than now,” said Mr. Taalas.
 
The WMO report comes on top of the evidence presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on global warming issued in October, which sounded the alarm on the need to reach zero net emissions of CO2 by mid-century, in order to keep temperature increases to below 1.5°C. 

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Coral reefs can’t wait for world to take action, urges UN, as Biodiversity Conference gets underway

Sounding the alarm about the urgent need to protect coral reefs from extinction within decades, a new coalition of organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), was launched on Wednesday in Egypt during the UN Biodiversity Conference, to galvanize global leadership before it is too late.

 “It’s clear to anyone who puts their head below the waves that the fate of the world’s coral reefs is hanging in the balance,”. At the moment these undersea explosions of colour and life face an extremely bleak future.” 

 Erik Solheim, UNEP Chief

Coral reefs provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people around the world, support more than a quarter of all marine life, and protect communities and coastlines from natural disasters — and if urgent action is not taken, they could be lost forever.  

Eight international organisations have joined forces to advocate for decisive action to protect these natural wonders: UNEP, the International Coral Reef Initiative, the World Wildlife Fund, the Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Vulcan Inc., the Ocean Agency, and the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

“The expectations for this coalition could not be higher. Coral reef protection must become a global priority. Coral reefs need a better deal,” said Mr. Solheim, who unveiled the new partnership in the Egyptian coastal resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Dozens of ministers whose countries are party to the CBD are gathering there, together with experts and representatives of civil society organisations, to start a two-year process to adopt a global framework for protecting biodiversity, including coral reefs, around the world.

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UN report shows climate change causing ‘dramatic rise’ in economic losses

Climate-related and geophysical disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis have killed 1.3 million people over the last 20 years and left a further 4.4 billion injured, homeless or in need of emergency assistance, UN experts said on Wednesday.

 

The findings, published by the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), also show that people in low- and middle-income countries are seven times more likely to die from natural disasters than those in developed nations.

“This puts a big emphasis on the need to…make sure that we curb greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ricardo Mena, UNISDR chief, in charge of implementing the Sendai Framework.

Failing to do this, risks letting climate-related hazards get out of control, he told journalists in Geneva, before calling for greater investment in disaster risk-reduction measures, “so that we do not allow for countries to create new risk”.

In terms of the impact of disasters on the global economy between 1998 and 2017, affected countries reported direct losses of $2.908 trillion. That’s more than twice what was lost in the previous two decades.

Illustrating the growing threat from climate change, extreme weather events now account for 77 per cent of total economic losses, $2.245 trillion, the report notes.

This represents a “dramatic rise” of 151 per cent compared with losses reported between 1978 and 1997, which amounted to $895 billion.

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Global warming report, an 'ear-splitting wake-up call' warns UN chief

A special report on limiting global warming released on Monday by a UN scientific panel, should be heard around the world as an "ear-splitting wake-up call" said UN chief António Guterres. He said the long-awaited findings show that "climate change is running faster than we are - and we are running out of time."

The IPCC, or Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), issued the report from Incheon, Republic of Korea, where for the past week, hundreds of scientists and government representatives have been poring over thousands of inputs to paint a picture of what could happen to the planet and its population with global warming of 1.5°C (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit).

Limiting global warming will require “far-reaching and unprecedented changes” to human behaviour, according to the panel. "We are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of one of the IPCC Working Groups.

The landmark Paris Agreement adopted in December 2015 by 195 nations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), included the aim of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change by “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”

"it is not impossible to limit global warming to 1.5°C, according to the report. "But it will require unprecedented and collective climate action in all areas. There is no time to waste."
   -- UN Secretary-General António Guterres

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 Get the report and summaries .

logo for IPCC global report 2018

Qiuck Facts:

  • Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate
  • Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present, but lower than at 2°C
  • Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with 2°C

  

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Feature photos

  • ellaunfpa18
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  • ccacademy
  • muntraining011
  • UNFPA staff Ella presents a gift to a visitor at the UN booth on International Women's Day 2018
  • parent an students who attended in 2nd Climate Change workshop, with UNIC Director, Costa Rican Abassador, ASPnet Coordinator and guest presenter
  • Climate Change Academy students and organisers
  • MUN 2019 youth leaders and Lara Quantrall Thomas from Rotary