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27 Sep

Small island developing States, on the front lines of climate and economic shocks, need greater international assistance

  • 27 September 2019 |

More durable partnerships between island nations and wealthier countries can help achieve the SAMOA Pathway


New York, 27 September—Progress toward sustainable development in small island developing States will require a major increase in urgent investment, according to world leaders who gathered at the United Nations today for the High-level Midterm Review of the Small Island Developing States ( SIDS) Accelerated Modalities of Action, also known as the SAMOA Pathway. Already on the frontlines of climate change, sustainable development in many small island developing states is threatened by difficulties in achieving sustained high levels of economic growth, owing in part to their vulnerabilities to the ongoing negative impacts of environmental challenges and external economic and financial shocks.

Meeting in New York, Heads of State and Government are expected to adopt a political declaration that reaffirms their solidarity with these countries which remain a special case for sustainable development. “Today’s climate crisis threatens food security and livelihoods. Small island developing States are often the hardest hit by climate events. Yet, these islands produce less than one per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” said the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Tijjani MuhammadBande. He added, “It is only through global efforts such as the SAMOA Pathway that we can address
challenges including economic marginalisation encountered by Small Island Developing States in their pursuit of a safe, prosperous and sustainable future which we are all striving towards."

The SAMOA Pathway, adopted at the Third International Conference on small island developing states held in Apia, Samoa, in 2014, is a dedicated 10-year programme of action to promote international assistance to address the unique set of challenges these islands face. Five years
after the ambitious framework was adopted, the High-Level Midterm Review provides leaders with the opportunity to discuss progress on combating the devastating impact of climate change,building economic and environmental resilience, and other challenges facing small island developing states.

Leaders called on the international community to mobilize additional development finance from all sources and at all levels to support small island developing States and welcomed the ownership, leadership and efforts demonstrated by these States in advancing the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway. They expressed their concern about the devastating impacts of climate change, the increasing frequency, scale and intensity of disasters and called for urgent and ambitious global action in line with the Paris Agreement to address these threats and their impacts.

The High-level Review of the SAMOA Pathway comes one month after Hurricane Dorian devastated parts of the Bahamas, causing significant loss of life and property damage. Countries noted that the increasing frequency, scale and intensity of natural disasters will continue to claim lives, decimate infrastructure and remain a threat to food security. While some progress has been made in addressing social inclusion, poverty, and unemployment, inequality continues to disproportionately affect vulnerable groups, including women and girls, persons with disabilities, children and youth. More support is needed to strengthen public health systems in small island developing States and especially reduce the risk factors for noncommunicable diseases, and healthcare after disasters. Other areas identified as needing more effort include demographic data collection, trade opportunities, and economic growth and diversification.


After five years of the SAMOA Pathway implementation, world leaders acknowledged that small islands face significant challenges in accessing sufficient, affordable development financing,including concessional financing. Countries committed to exploring innovative and sustainable sources of financing, including private sources such as blue, green and diaspora bonds tailored to the specific circumstances of small island developing states. Leaders also expressed willingness to explore innovative financial instruments and mechanisms, such as debt for development and debt for climate adaptation swaps.


“The small islands have brought energy and commitment to their own economic and social development, and to the global debate around climate change,” said Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations and co-facilitator for the political declaration. “The summit provides an opportunity for the international community to respond in kind. The declaration sets out clearly areas we need to focus on, including financing, disaster relief, new partnerships and the fight against climate change.”


“The High-level Review of the SAMOA Pathway, in particular the endorsement by world leaders of its outcome document is a testament that multilateralism is alive and well,” said Ambassador Satyendra Prasad, Permanent Representative of Fiji, co- facilitator for the political declaration. Ambassador Prasad emphasized the need for further enhanced effort to explore and adopt innovative financial instruments and mechanisms to ease debt burdens in small islands. 

“Going forward, we also need to pay due consideration to the unique and particular vulnerabilities of small island developing States, especially those in the middle-income status,” Prasad added. “We cannot think of the political declaration as the ultimate outcome of our work, the SAMOA Pathway has five remaining years to deliver tangible results for small island developing States.”

New partnerships for small islands

New partnerships were announced this week and registered on the SIDS Partnership database and as SDG Acceleration Actions. Notably, the Government of the Maldives will partner with Parley for the Oceans, American Express, AB InBev and Adidas to create a scalable, nationwide framework for solutions toward the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly on clean energy, industry, cities, consumption and production, climate action, the ocean and biodiversity.


Other new partnerships to help small islands include CONCAUSA, a programme to empower, connect and mobilize adolescents from the Americas, including the Caribbean islands, by América Solidaria, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and UNICEF. Jamaica is leading efforts to garner philanthropic and private sector support to achieve the SDGs in the Caribbean through the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance. And small island developing states themselves announced at the Climate Action Summit on Monday that they will make a collective commitment to raise the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020 and move to net zero emissions by 2050, contingent on assistance from the international community. They intend to move to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and provide support for initiatives that aim to address immediate adaptation needs and the transitionto climate resilience.


“By engaging all stakeholders, at the local, national and global level, small island developing states continue to show us that the only way that we can achieve our collective ambition is through genuine and durable partnerships. This was the cornerstone of the SAMOA Pathway,”
said Mr. Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.


“The SAMOA Pathway stands for the voices, priorities and hopes of small island developing States to build inclusive and sustainable societies,” said Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small
Island Developing States. She added, “It is a roadmap for action. This Midterm Review represents a strategic moment. It affords us the opportunity to review and to renew the international community’s commitments to small island developing states.”

 Further information: 

 

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Media contacts:

  • UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Ms. Ariel Alexovich, T: +1 917 367-6512 | E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • UN Department of Global Communications: Ms. Sharon Birch-Jeffrey, T: +1-212-963-0564 |E: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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25 Sep

Time to step up: UN summit to push for development finance breakthrough

  • 25 September 2019 |

A sustainable global economy – one that preserves the planet and improves lives everywhere – is also a huge opportunity to create new jobs and market opportunities worth trillions of dollars, says the UN. But to make it happen, the international community needs to rapidly scale up investment.

In a bid to convince nations to spend their money in areas that support the 17 comprehensive Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN is bringing leaders from governments, business and the financial sector together in New York on Thursday, for the first High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development since the adoption of the ground-breaking Addis Ababa Action Agenda in 2015, which set out a series of bold measures to overhaul global finance practices and direct funds towards tackling a range of economic, social and environmental challenges.

The UN estimates that achieving the SDGs could generate some $12 trillion of value across the global economy, and create 380 million new jobs by 2030. But realizing this objective will take annual investments, across all sectors, of 5 to 7 trillion dollars: currently, investment levels are falling far below that level.

Several reasons have been put forward to explain the shortfall, including uneven economic growth, and increasing inequality. Other factors include trade-restrictive measures, rising debt levels, and falling foreign direct investment, which are hampering the ability of many countries to invest in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Liu Zhenmin, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, told UN News in a text interview that given the transformational changes required, and the vast financing needs, private resources will have to complement the public money that represents the backbone of available resources. “In light of the significant challenges we face, the sustainability transition in financial systems is not happening at the required scale, nor at the required pace”, he warned.

The Under-Secretary-General recognized that interest and investment in the Goals are rising: the financial industry is increasingly factoring climate-related risks into its investment decision making processes, and digital tools and financial innovation are unlocking new sources of financing for sustainable development.

Projects underway in Africa

In Africa, projects supported by the World Bank are demonstrating the positive impacts that sustainable development can have on communities. The island nation of  São Tomé and Príncipe, highly vulnerable to floods, coastal erosion and natural disasters, is benefiting from the West Africa Coastal Areas Management Program, which is helping the government to incorporate climate risks when planning infrastructure such as roads and public buildings, and ensure that they are built at a safe distance from the shoreline.

Morocco, one of the countries on the frontline of climate change, is facing severe coastline erosion, rising temperatures, and reduced rainfall. World Bank-supported programs have helped the Moroccan government to factor in the impacts of climate policies on different sectors of the economy, and major energy savings have been made by using renewable energy systems and improving energy efficiency.

“Achieving sustainable development requires a long-term perspective”, said Mr. Zhenmin. “Public and private incentives need to be aligned with sustainable development, so that all financing decisions incorporate sustainability as a central concern“.

It is expected that the conference will serve as a call for collective action to spur Member States and the private sector, to announce fresh measures and concrete actions that will increase financing for sustainable development.

The UN Secretary-General’s call to action on financing:

    • Policy-makers and regulators to create a long-term investment environment allowing sustainable development which seeks to promote the health and well-being of people and planet.
    • Implementation by the finance industry of sustainable investment strategies, scaling-up ‘green’ financial instruments, and measurable impacts.
    • Action by shareholders and citizens to increase demand for greener, more sustainable investments of their assets, and for greater sustainability disclosure to increase accountability and transparency.
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23 Sep

Summit delivers major step up in national ambition and private sector action on pathway to key 2020 climate deadline

  • 23 September 2019 |

Climate Action Logo Horizontal EN T

 New York, 23 September—Major announcements by government and private sector leaders at the United Nations Climate Action Summit boosted climate action momentum, and demonstrated growing recognition that the pace of climate action must be rapidly accelerated.

Seventy-seven countries committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, while seventy countries announced they will either boost their national action plans by 2020 or have started the process of doing so.

Over one hundred business leaders delivered concrete actions to align with the Paris Agreement targets, and speed up the transition from the grey to green economy, including asset-owners holding over $2 trillion in assets and leading companies with combined value also over $2 trillion.

Many countries and over one hundred cities - including many of the world’s largest - announced significant and concrete new steps to combat the climate crisis.

Many smaller countries, including Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries, were among those who made the biggest pledges, despite the fact the they have contributed the least to the problem.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in closing the Summit, said “You have delivered a boost in momentum, cooperation and ambition. But we have a long way to go.” 

“We need more concrete plans, more ambition from more countries and more businesses. We need all financial institutions, public and private, to choose, once and for all, the green economy.”

Youth leaders including Greta Thunberg drove home the urgency of greater action by leaders, and their determination to hold leaders to account.

Among the major announcements today:

  • France announced that it would not enter into any trade agreement with countries that have policies counter to the Paris Agreement.
  • Germany committed to carbon neutrality by 2050
  • Twelve countries today made financial commitments to the Green Climate Fund, the official financial mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change.  This is in addition to recent announcements from Norway, Germany, France and the United Kingdom who have recently doubled their present contributions.
  • The United Kingdom today made a major additional contribution, doubling its overall international climate finance to £11.6 billion for the period from 2020 to 2025
  • India pledged to increase renewable energy capacity to one hundred and seventy-five gigawatts by 2022 and committed to further increasing to four hundred and fifty gigawatts, and announced that eighty countries have joined the International Solar Alliance.
  • China said it would cut emissions by over twelve billion tons annually, and would pursue a path of high quality growth and low carbon development. 
  • The European Union announced at least twenty-five per cent of the next EU budget will be devoted to climate-related activities.
  • The Russian Federation announced that they will ratify the Paris Agreement, bringing the total number of countries that have joined the Agreement to one hundred and eighty-seven.
  • Pakistan said it would plant more than ten billion trees over the next five years.

On unprecedented levels of private sector action:

  • A group of the world’s largest asset-owners -- responsible for directing more than $2 trillion in investments -- committed to move to carbon-neutral investment portfolios by 2050.
  • Eighty-seven major companies with a combined market capitalization of over US$ 2.3 trillion pledged to reduce emissions and align their businesses with what scientists say is needed to limit the worst impacts of climate change—a 1.5°C future.
  • One hundred and thirty banks – one-third of the global banking sector – signed up to align their businesses with the Paris agreement goals

On transitioning from brown to green energy:

  • Michael Bloomberg will increase the funding and geographic spread of his coal phase out efforts to thirty countries. Already, his work has helped to close two hundred and ninety-seven out of five hundred and thirty coal plants in the US.
  • Countries, including France and New Zealand, announced that they will not allow oil or gas exploration on their lands or off-shore waters.
  • Heads of State from Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland,  Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, and Slovakia, are among those that announced that they will work to phase out coal. The Republic of Korea announced it would shut down four coal-fired power plants, and six more will be closed by 2022, as well as the doubling of its contribution to the Green Climate Fund.
  • The Summit also delivered critical platforms for improving energy efficiency and reducing the growing energy needs for cooling, with the “Three Percent Club” coalition working to drive a three percent annual global increase in energy efficiency and the Cool Coalition setting ambitious national cooling targets for its members with the potential to deliver up to one degree celcius on the pathway to a 2050 net zero carbon world.

On scaling up financing and unlocking barriers to funds:

  • Many countries announced new contributions to the Green Climate Fund, the official financial mechanism to assist developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change, with several countries, including France, Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom, announcing that they would double their present contributions.
  • Further, the Climate Investment Platform was officially announced today. It will seek to directly mobilize US$ 1 trillion in clean energy investment by 2025 in twenty Least Developed Countries in its first year.  
  • Summit initiatives were designed to ensure the actions undertaken would be fair for all, supporting jobs and clear air for better health, and protect the most vulnerable, as well as new initiatives on adaptation, agriculture and early warning systems that will protect five hundred million additional people against the impacts of climate change.

New initiatives announced today have been designed to be scaled up to deliver impact at the global scale needed. The Secretary-General urged governments, businesses and people everywhere to join the initiatives announced at the Summit, and promised to “keep pushing” for greater ambition and action.  The Secretary-General committed the UN system to support implementation of plans presented at the Summit, with an initial report to be delivered at COP25 in Santiago, Chile.

A full list of the announcements and commitments made at the Climate Summit can be found at www.un.org/climatechange

 

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22 Sep

Ahead of Climate Action Summit, UN Secretariat adopts plan to slash own emissions by almost half by 2030

  • 22 September 2019 |

 

New York, 22 September — The United Nations Secretariat has adopted a new 10-year Climate Action Plan aimed at transforming its operations to achieve a 45 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and sourcing 80 per cent of electricity from renewable energy by 2030.

The Plan was adopted just ahead of the Climate Action Summit, which is hosted by the UN Secretary-General to help increase global ambition and vastly increase action to limit climate change.

The global operations of the UN Secretariat represent approximately 58 per cent of the reported greenhouse gas emissions from the entire UN system, according to the latest Greening the Blue report, issued on Friday by the United Nations Environment Programme.

The UN Secretariat is the largest entity within the UN system and include peace operations faced with difficult security, logistic and political conditions in the most fragile regions of the world. It therefore plays a critical role in the UN achieving its internal sustainability goals.

The Secretary-General has committed the Organization to lead by example and has called for transformative action to address the climate crisis, including on the part of the UN system and Secretariat itself.

The new Climate Action Plan has been designed to transform UN Secretariat operations to align with the goals of the 2018 IPCC report that found there were clear benefits to limiting climate change to 1.5 °C. The Plan follows the IPCC recommendations on carbon emissions reduction.

To drive its action to 2030, the Secretariat is setting bold quantitative and performance targets. The Plan aims to achieve absolute and per capita greenhouse gas emission reductions of 25 per cent by 2025 and 45 per cent by 2030. It would do this through per capita reductions in electricity consumption of 20 per cent by 2025 and 35 per cent by 2030 and sourcing 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy before 2025 and 80 per cent by 2030. Other quantitative targets address the climate impact of commercial air travel and events.

The Plan also commits the Organization to ongoing climate neutrality for its global operations. According to the Greening the Blue report, the UN Secretariat is climate neutral this year ahead of the UN System goal of 2020 using UNFCCC certified carbon credits. The UN emitted 2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) in 2018 – or 7 tCO2eq per capita.

The report found that a total of 55 UN entities were climate neutral for 2018, representing 95 per cent of the System's reported greenhouse gas emissions – a significant increase from 39 per cent for the previous year. The UN entities generated 45 per cent of its greenhouse gas emissions from its facilities, such as headquarter offices, field offices, and logistic centers, 42 per cent from air travel, and 13 per cent from other modes of travel.

The targets of the UN Secretariat Climate Action Plan will be achieved by intensifying existing environmental management efforts, fostering innovative solutions, changing the organizational culture and partnering with external stakeholders. Intensification is estimated to bring a significant carbon reduction in the 30 per cent range. Innovative interventions to complete an energy transition with a broad range of partners will lead the Organization towards the goal of 45 per cent reduction.

Among these interventions, the UN Secretariat is seeking to catalyze the development of new climate smart infrastructure in difficult operational areas to meet its peace operations and local communities’ energy needs in partnerships with other climate champions that share its vision.

In undergoing its own transformation and energy transition in a multi-stakeholder effort, the Secretariat aims to achieve direct economic and sustainable development co-benefits, with long-term operational efficiencies, improved integration of UN climate action at the country level, and a positive impact for the vulnerable communities where the UN Secretariat operates and which it serves.

Building on existing efforts in field missions and throughout the Secretariat, the Organization has already accelerated environmental sustainability in its operations in recent months. The Organization promulgated an environmental policy in September 2019 and committed to climate neutrality for its global operations ahead of the UN 2020 climate neutrality goal. This momentum will continue, and the Organization welcomes interested partners in its 10 year journey to a climate smart Secretariat.

For further information, please contact Dan Shepard, UN Department of Global Communications: E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Tel: 1 212-963-9495

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20 Sep

Climate emergency ‘a new danger’ to peace, youth activists hear ahead of World Day

  • 20 September 2019 |

Among the efforts to build a sustainably peaceful world, “urgent climate action is needed” to curb environmental threats to all our well-being and security, the Secretary-General told the annual peace gathering in New York on Friday, addressing a largely youthful crowd.  

Every 21 September, the General Assembly-mandated International Day of Peace is observed, devoted to “strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples”, with this year’s theme spotlighting climate action as key to that aim.  

“Today peace faces a new danger: the climate emergency, which threatens our security, our livelihoods and our lives”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message.  

Speaking to some seven hundred high school and college student leaders, he explained that peace “is not only about peace among people, but peace between people and the planet”, lamenting that “we have been at war” with nature. 

Climate change has posed clear threats to international peace and security, with natural disasters displacing three times as many people as conflicts; forcing millions to flee their homes in search of refuge.  

Growing tensions over resources, mass movements of people, and endangered food security are escalating and “affecting every country on every continent” according to the UN.  

On Friday morning Mr. Guterres commenced celebrations by ringing the Peace Bell at Headquarters in New York, and observing a minute of silence in the UN’s Peace Garden.  

He was joined by the UN Messengers for Peace, Yo-Yo Ma and Midori Goto, and hundreds of high school and college student guests, who represent the growing number of young people stepping up to meet the climate challenge - close to half a million world-wide the UN estimates.   

This year, the UN’s recognition of the Day showcased the power of young voices by hosting a Peace Student Observance - a platform for young people to share projects they have undertaken to nurse a healthy planet while promoting peace.   

To mobilise ambition, the Secretary-General is convening a Climate Action Summit on 23 September, with “concrete and realistic plans to accelerate action” as urged by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, and put forward ambitious plans outlined in the landmark Paris Agreement. A special climate summit for youth on Saturday, the first of its kind, will bring young leaders and innovators together to further address the climate emergency.  

The shift toward a safer and greener future “will be backed by passionate voices of young women and men around the world, who understand their future is at stake” Mr. Guterres said in the 100-Day countdown to the International Day back in June, deeming this challenge “the battle of our lives.” 

“We are at war with nature” the UN chief said, “nature doesn’t forgive, and nature is striking back.” 

Form farming, to how we mobilise ourselves, to power supply, we need “huge transformations” the Secretary-General urged.  

Commending the young attendees, he said: “Your leadership is essential, to make sure that my generation does the right thing…Good luck in your very committed engagement towards peace among people, and people with mother nature.”

Source: UN News

  

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18 Sep

UN summits urge ‘ambition and action’ on climate change, sustainable development: Guterres

  • 18 September 2019 |

There are five key United Nations summits taking place next week to spur action on the climate crisis and other global concerns, which will showcase the UN as a “driver for meaningful, positive change”, according to the man at the helm of the Organisation.

For UN Secretary-General António Guterres, there is no time to lose in the face of climate change, rising inequality, increasing hatred and intolerance; and what he described as an “alarming” number of peace and security challenges.

“The biggest challenge that leaders and institutions face is to show people we care – and to mobilise solutions that respond to people’s anxieties with answers. The upcoming high-level week is designed to do precisely that,” he told journalists in New York on Wednesday,

“There will be dozens of summits, meetings and side events. But I can distill the significance of all these discussions into two words: ambition and action. I see the high-level week as an excellent opportunity to showcase the United Nations as a centre for solutions and a driver for meaningful, positive change in people’s lives.”

The high-level week kicks off on Monday with the Climate Action Summit. Mr. Guterres said several plans to dramatically reduce emissions over the next decade, and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, should be unveiled there.

The Secretary-General added that the UN is doing its part. This includes the announcement today of the Climate Action for Jobs initiative by the International Labour Organization (ILO), alongside Spain and Peru.

The four other summits will address universal health coverage, the Sustainable Development Goals, financing for development and support to Small Island Developing States.

Mr. Guterres promised that his message throughout will be simple: “Put people first. Their needs. Their aspirations. Their rights.”

 

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14 Sep

In the Bahamas, Guterres sees impact of ‘Category Hell’ hurricane, ‘powered by climate change’

  • 14 September 2019 |

The UN chief saw for himself the deadly power of Hurricane Dorian on the shattered islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama on Saturday, describing it as more like a “Category Hell” disaster, than the official Category 5 designation used by meteorologists. 

 Dorian was “Category Hell”, said Secretary-General António Guterres, “but he was not powered by a devil. We have always had many hurricanes, but now they are more intense, and more frequent, and they are powered by climate change.” 

He said it was key for the international community to learn two things from the monster storm which struck on 1 September, killing at least fifty people, while around one thousand, three hundred are still reported missing: 

“We need to stop climate change, we need to make sure that we reverse the present trend when climate change is running faster than we are, and second, that countries like The Bahamas that do not contribute to climate change - but are in the first line of the devastating impacts of climate change - deserve international support, to be able to fully respond to the humanitarian emergency, but also for the reconstruction and the building resilience of the communities on the islands.”

Although Tropical Storm Humberto brought ominous new rainfall to the island nation over Friday night, before moving away, the UN chief – who spent much of the day talking to Bahamians and showing solidarity with those affected – was able to visit what one Government minister later described as their “ground zero”, of Abaco and Grand Bahama, on Saturday morning.  

Taking to Twitter, he said he was “horrified” by the level of devastation. “I’ve never seen anything like this” he noted, despite spending 10 years in some of the most crises-ridden parts of the world, as head of UN refugee agency, UNHCR

‘This kind of systematic destruction is unique’ 

Mr. Guterres spoke after surveying the scene, to international emergency responders and Bahamians involved in the Government relief effort in Abaco: “I have to say that I have seen in my life in different capacities, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, cyclones, I don’t remember seeing such a systematic level of devastation. Even when I came two years ago to Dominica...This kind of systematic destruction is unique.” 

Thanking all of the search and rescue workers from nations far and wide, international NGOs and UN agencies on the ground, he said that the destruction he had witnessed was “a demonstration of how dramatic natural disasters are becoming, increasing in intensity and in frequency and how vulnerable countries like the Bahamas are in relation to these natural disasters.” 

“It is clear that this acceleration is very much linked to human activity, triggering climate change and of course the Bahamas are not contributing much to climate change...So this solidarity is absolutely essential, and the international community needs to be able to express it very strongly.” 

He thanked them all for working “with an enormous determination, and enormous solidarity, and enormous generosity” in “very tough conditions.” 

The UN chief noted that although some sceptics of the aid effort expressed a view that middle-income countries like The Bahamas should not be supported in the face of disasters like Dorian, “it’s a wrong idea, especially with middle income countries that have high levels of vulnerability to external shocks, they are not responsible for.” 

Now is obviously still the emergency phase, he said, “but then there will be reconstruction, resilience, recovery; and this will require massive investments, from the Government, and international support of course will be absolutely essential”. 

The expectations of all Bahamians would need to be carefully managed, he noted, praising the extraordinary effort on the part of the Government and people, to deal with the devastation that will impact the economy and society for months to come. The international community has a “huge responsibility to support the Bahamas”, adding that as Secretary-General, he would be “saying that “everywhere I go”. 

As the UN chief left the capital of the island nation later on Saturday, one Government minister thanked him for speaking to the world about the reality Bahamians now find themselves in: “I really thank you on behalf of the Prime Minister and the people of our country, for taking the time, and coming and looking at ‘ground zero’ for yourself.” 

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14 Sep

In visit to hurricane-ravaged Bahamas, UN chief calls for greater action to address climate change

  • 14 September 2019 |

World leaders attending the upcoming UN Climate Action Summit are being urged to show up armed not with speeches but with plans to achieve carbon neutrality, reduce emissions and improve adaptation.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued the charge on Friday during a visit to The Bahamas, which continues to reel from the onslaught of Hurricane Dorian. UN agencies are on the ground to support relief efforts in the affected islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama.

Speaking to journalists in the capital, Nassau, the UN chief expressed international solidarity with the Government and people of the island nation.

“In some areas, more than three-quarters of all buildings have been destroyed, hospitals in ruins or overwhelmed, schools turned into rubble. Thousands of people will continue to need help with food, water and shelter, and many more facing the uncertainties of the future after having lost everything,” he said.

Mr. Guterres noted that the climate crisis has generated “turbocharged” hurricanes and storms, which are occurring with greater intensity and frequency. And without urgent action, climate disruption will only get worse, packing what he described as “a triple punch of injustice.” 

“First, the worst impact is on countries with the lowest greenhouse emissions; The Bahamas are a very good example of that.  Second, it is the poorest and most vulnerable people in those countries who suffer most, and again, the same has happened with the communities in The Bahamas. And third, repeated storms trap countries in a cycle of disaster and debt.”

While the financial cost of Hurricane Dorian has not yet been determined, Mr. Guterres estimated it will be in the billions of dollars.

“The Bahamas cannot be expected to foot this bill alone. These new large-scale climate-related disasters require a multilateral response.  Climate financing is one element,” he said.  “We must reach the target of $100 billion per year from public and private sources, for mitigation and adaptation in the developing world, as rich countries have been promising for nearly a decade. And we must improve access to development financing. In cases like the Bahamas, I strongly support proposals to convert debt into investment in resilience.”   

Above all, Mr. Guterres called for greater global action.

“The entire international community must address the climate crisis through rising ambition and action to implement the Paris Agreement. The best available science, as reported by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, says we must ensure collectively that global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees.  And it says we have a window of less than 11 years to avoid irreversible climate disruption and that we must reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050,” he continued.

“And this is why I am asking all leaders to come to the climate summit with plans, not speeches, in New York in one week’s time.”

Shelter visit for evacuees from storm-hit islands

Visiting a shelter for hurricane evacuees later in the day, the UN chief met many who were also refugees from Haiti, and higlighted the generous support that had been given to them by the Bahamian Government and people.  The presence of so many vulnerable refugees showed how important international support was, " in order to help the Bahamas cope not only with the impact of the storm, but also with need to be able to assist populations that are very vulnerable of foreigners living in the country, many of them undocumented".

He reiiterated the need for climate action, now: " It is totally unacceptable that we go on subsidizing fossil fuels. It's totally unacceptable that such a large number of coal plants are being built in the world. It's totally unacceptable that we don't make an effort to put a price on carbon. If we don't reverse the situation we’ll see tragedies like this one multiplying and becoming more and more intense, more frequent."

Asked what the UN's key role is in response to the hurricane now, he said that intensifying the international effort was key, "because there is a lot of immediate aid that's necessary and there is reconstruction that will require also that solidarity. And at the same time, we all need to do everything we can to reduce the risks that have had such a tragic impact in the Bahamas and (the) means to fight climate change effectively."

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06 Sep

UN gears up emergency food aid for hurricane-struck region of Bahamas, as death toll rises

  • 06 September 2019 |

With initial assessments indicating that some seventy six thousand people in the parts of the Bahamas worst-affected by Hurricane Dorian need urgent support, the World Food Programme (WFP) is arranging for eight tons of ready-to-eat meals to be provided – part of a $5.4 million overall funding package.

In a statement released in Geneva on Thursday, WFP Spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel said that the UN agency has a team on the ground, assessing the full extent of the damage and identifying those in greatest need.

According to news reports, as of Thursday afternoon local time, twenty three deaths were confirmed, and officials fear that the total will rise considerably as search and rescue effort continues.

Mr. Verhoosel said that WFP is working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA), the government and partners, to “identify the most urgent needs and provide support in the vital areas of food, telecommunications and logistics”.

An airlift is being organised, from the UN hub in Panama, of storage units, generators, and offices for two logistics hubs to be established on the main islands, said Mr. Verhoosel, and WFP is also providing satellite equipment to ensure connectivity for emergency responders across the affected island group.

The spokesperson noted that the assessment teams carried out an initial aerial reconnaissance mission to the affected islands on Wednesday, with the aim of getting teams to the hardest-hit areas as soon as possible.

He added that the agency is making $5.4 million available, as part of a three-month Limited Emergency Operation (LEO), because of the severity of the situation. The operation will provide support to thirty nine thousand people and, in a first phase, WFP will focus on procuring and distributing up to eighty five tons of ready-to-eat meals for the most affected communities.

The WFP briefing comes a day after the UN’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, who travelled to the Bahamas on Wednesday, announced that he would release a million dollars from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to kick-start critical relief efforts for the response to Hurricane Dorian, which is being led by the Bahamas government.

Source: UN News

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03 Sep

UN ‘prioritizing needs’, ramping up aid, as Hurricane Dorian continued to batter the Bahamas

  • 03 September 2019 |

Renewed warnings of deadly destruction in the Bahamas caused by Hurricane Dorian have been issued by UN agencies and partners, who said on 3 September that they’re worried “for every single” person on two of the worst-hit Caribbean islands.

Briefing journalists in Geneva, Jens Laerke from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that initial assessments from Grand Bahama and the Abaco Islands - where the storm made landfall and is effectively stationary as of Tuesday morning, local time - were “rather catastrophic”.

He added: “As we heard, it made landfall in the Abaco Islands; the population there is a little more than seventeen thousand people, we are concerned for all of them. It is now over the Grand Bahama, the population there is about fifty-one thousand people and we are concerned for every one of them. The Prime Minister of the Bahamas has said already that five individuals have been confirmed killed as a result of this hurricane.”

Initially classified as a Category 5 hurricane at the weekend when it hit the Bahamas’ north-west with wind gusts of over three hundred and twenty kilometres per hour, Dorian has now been downgraded two notches.

But it still has the potential to be deadly, regardless of its rating, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“It was the strongest on record to make landfall in the Bahamas,” said WMO spokesperson Clare Nullis. “At its peak it had maximum sustained winds of two hundred and seventy kilometres an hour, which is absolutely huge, with gusts of up to three hundred and twenty one kilometres an hour. It’s life-threatening it’s devastating, it’s now weakened to the equivalent of a Category three hurricane. The winds are still devastating, the storm surge is still life-threatening and the rainfall is still torrential.”

Confirming the widespread damage from the high winds and amid reports of storm surges between five and seven metres high, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that more than thirteen thousand houses had been severely damaged or destroyed - about forty five per cent of all homes on the two islands.

“In terms of needs, we believe that Abaco Island has the most vulnerable population,” said IFRC spokesperson Matthew Cochrane. “There’s a large Haitian community on the island, who will need, we believe, a significant amount of assistance to recover from and rebuild after this storm. We also understand that about sixty two thousand people across the two islands will need access to clean drinking water.”

Thousands will need food support

Initial assessments carried out by the World Food Programme (WFP) with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and other humanitarian partners, indicate that Abaco will likely require food for more than fourteen thousand people and Grand Bahama for over forty seven thousand people.

With a handful of specialized staff on the ground to provide support in food security, emergency telecommunications and logistics, WFP spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel said that they would support the Government of the Bahamas in “rapidly assessing the damage from the hurricane and in prioritizing needs” over the next three days.

Meanwhile, in response to the “unprecedented storm”, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, Mami Mizutori, expressed her condolences to the people of the Bahamas.

“This is the fourth consecutive year that we have witnessed an extremely devastating Atlantic hurricane season including Category five hurricanes like Dorian”, said spokesperson Denis McClean from the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), reading from a statement.

“The sequence cannot be divorced from fact that these last five years have been the hottest ever recorded because of the continuing rise in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.”

Storm shows ‘existential threat’ facing small island States

Ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit in New York beginning on 23 September 2019, Mr. McClean insisted that Hurricane Dorian “crystallises the existential threat posed to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) by the ongoing climate emergency.

This is an enormous humanitarian and development challenge for the Bahamas. Within the past few years, the Bahamas has been seriously affected by at least three major hurricanes, all Category four storms or above. The impact of hurricanes Joaquin, Matthew and Irma on the Bahamas has been reported to have cost approximately eight hundred and twenty million dollars”, he said.

Source: UN News

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