Climate Change (67)

PAMACC News (NAIROBI, Kenya)

The world today committed to a pollution-free planet at the close of the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi, with resolutions and pledges promising to improve the lives of billions across the globe by cleaning up our air, land and water.

If every promise made in and around the summit is met, 1.49 billion more people will breathe clean air, 480,000 km (or around 30 per cent) of the world’s coastlines will be clean, and USD 18.6 billion for research and development and innovative programmes to combat pollution will come online.

“The science we have seen at this assembly shows we have been so bad at looking after our planet that we have very little room to make more mistakes,” said Dr. Edgar Gutiérrez, Minister of Environment and Energy of Costa Rica and the President of the 2017 UN Environment Assembly.

“With the promises made here, we are sending a powerful message that we will listen to the science, change the way we consume and produce, and tackle pollution in all its forms across the globe.”

Over 4,000 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, UN officials, civil society representatives, activists and celebrities gathered at the summit in Nairobi, which ran for three days.

For the first time at a UN Environment Assembly, environment ministers issued a declaration. This declaration said nations would honour efforts to prevent, mitigate and manage the pollution of air, land and soil, freshwater, and oceans – which harms our health, societies, ecosystems, economies, and security.

The declaration committed to increasing research and development, targeting pollution through tailored actions, moving societies towards sustainable lifestyles based on a circular economy, promoting fiscal incentives to move markets and promote positive change, strengthening and enforcing laws on pollution, and much more.

The assembly also passed 13 non-binding resolutions and three decisions. Among them were moves to address marine litter and microplastics, prevent and reduce air pollution, cut out lead poisoning from paint and batteries, protect water-based ecosystems from pollution, deal with soil pollution, and manage pollution in areas hit by conflict and terrorism.

“Today we have put the fight against pollution high on the global political agenda,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We have a long struggle ahead of us, but the summit showed there is a real appetite for significant positive change.

“It isn’t just about the UN and governments, though. The massive support we have seen from civil society, businesses and individuals – with millions of pledges to end pollution – show that this is a global challenge with a global desire to win this battle together.”
A large part of the impact from the assembly comes from global support. UN Environment’s #BeatPollution campaign hit almost 2.5 million pledges during the event, with 88,000 personal commitments to act.

Chile, Oman, South Africa and Sri Lanka all joined the #CleanSeas campaign during the Nairobi summit, with Sri Lanka promising to implement a ban on single-use plastic products from 1 January 2018, step up the separation and recycling of waste, and set the goal of freeing its ocean and coasts of pollution by 2030. There are now 39 countries in the campaign.

Colombia, Singapore, Bulgaria, Hungary and Mongolia joined 100 cities who were already in the #BreatheLife campaign, which aims to tackle air pollution. Every signatory has committed to reduce air pollution to safe levels by 2030, with Singapore promising to tighten fuel and emissions standards for vehicles, and emissions standards for industry.

The global momentum comes not a moment too soon, as the UN Environment report, The Executive Director’s Report: Towards a Pollution-Free Planet, lays out.

Overall, environmental degradation causes nearly one in four of all deaths worldwide, or 12.6 million people a year, and the widespread destruction of key ecosystems. Air pollution is the single biggest environmental killer, claiming 6.5 million lives each year.

Exposure to lead in paint causes brain damage to 600,000 children annually. Our seas already contain 500 “dead zones” with too little oxygen to support marine life. Over 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is released into the environment without treatment, poisoning the fields where we grow our food and the lakes and rivers that provide drinking water to 300 million people.

There is also a huge economic cost. A recent report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health says that welfare losses due to pollution are estimated at over USD 4.6 trillion each year, equivalent to 6.2 per cent of global economic output.

“We had two missions at this assembly,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, UN Environment’s deputy head. “One [agreeing on action] is accomplished. The second we must start tomorrow.”

 

BONN, Germany (PAMACC News) 2018 will herald the launching of a new platform that will harmonise and coordinate multiple programmes and actors in Africa’s environment sector.
                                                                                                      
Estherine Fotabong, Programmes director of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) disclosed this today on the side-lines of the ongoing UN climate talks in Bonn also known as COP 23.
 
The new platform is a response to the call for the creation of an African Environment Partnership Platform (AEPP) to “coordinate, mobilize resources, foster knowledge and align support for the implementation of the Environment Action Plan” made at the 14th Session of African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN).
 
The African Union Commission and NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency, in close collaboration with the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, RECs and other relevant partners have been mandated to develop modalities for the operationalization of this environment partnership platform.
Ms Fotabong says the platform will seek to deliver a paradigm shift in addressing environmental degradation in Africa, in both public and private sectors and to develop innovative models.
 
“The platform will engender the prerequisite political support, needed institutional structures and adequate human capacity at national and regional levels to ensure integrated environmental management” she added.
 
Multiple environmental schemes
 
Concerns, however, have been raised by experts over the multiplicity of interventionist schemes and the attendant lack of coordination in the management of Africa’s environment.
 
Is this platform coming up because there is shortage of interventions in the field of environmental management in Africa? What about the lack of coordination and partnership between the various players at regional, sub-regional and national levels?
 
NEPAD believes the new platform is an accurate response to these concerns.
 
It is of the view that the cross-border nature of natural resources and transboundary effects of climate change, land degradation and other natural disasters make it imperative for the mainstreaming of national and regional planning process which this platform will spearhead.
 
The environment, Ms Fotabong says, though a cross cutting sector, will remain distinct and adequately harmonized with other sectors and priorities like agriculture, infrastructure and energy. Climate related risks will increasingly be mainstreamed into development and adaptation actions will be carried out in priority regions and sectors.
 
The Africa Environmental Partnership Platform is expected to draw lessons from the success and challenges of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme Partnership Platform (CAADP PP) which provided a framework for developing African agriculture and rallying support for agricultural transformation.

 

BONN Germany (PAMACC News) Non-state actors following negotiations at the Bonn climate talks also known as COP 23 have deplored the resort to empty words on climate change by global leaders during the high-level segment of the two-week conference.
 
Fijian Prime Minister and COP 23 President Frank Bainimarama at the high-level segment called on the country representatives to remain focused to ensure a successful outcome to the conference. “Future generations are counting on us. Let us act now”, he said.
 
Sequel to Bainimarama’s speech, a young boy from Fiji recounted the story of how his home was destroyed in a recent natural disaster, asking government representatives in the room “What can you do?” to protect the climate. “Climate change is here to stay, unless you do something about it”, he told the delegates.
 
Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that recent extreme weather events have shown that time was pressing. “I have no doubt that this urgency warns us to make haste and act decisively”, he said.
 
The “historic climate agreement” reached in Paris in 2015 and “the path we have taken since” must remain irreversible. “Paris can only be called a breakthrough if we follow up on the agreement with actions”, said Steinmeier.
 
Hopes for a strong statement on Germany’s climate goals and the future role of coal were dashed as Chancellor Angela Merkel disappointed only called on the world to walk the talk on climate at the global conference in Bonn.
 
“This conference must send out the serious signal that the Paris Agreement was a starting point, but the work has only begun.” Today’s pledges in the nationally-determined contributions were not enough to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, she said. “Now it’s about walking the talk.”
 
Speaking after the chancellor, French President Emmanuel Macron, said that the summit should send the message that “we can all come together” to mobilise the necessary public and private funds to act on climate.
 
To guarantee quality science needed to make climate policy decisions, Macron proposed that the EU should fill the financing gap for the IPCC left open by the US administration’s decision to reduce funding.
 
“France will meet that challenge, and I would like to see the largest number of European countries by our side,” said Macron. “All together, we can compensate for the loss of US funding.”
 
Reacting almost immediately after the high-level segment, civil society groups from across the world described their statements as empty words with no concrete plan of action.
 
The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, (PACJA) accused the leaders of “playing hide and seek” with the lives of Africans who according to them are being cut short daily due to historic and ongoing actions of the developed world against the climate.
 
What we need, according to John Bideri, co-Chair of the Alliance, are “enhanced actions on the provision of $100 billion per year up to 2020 and a new finance goal which should reflect the scientific requirements and needs of African countries.”
 
“Advocacy-tainted speeches by leaders of polluter countries will not keep global temperatures from unprecedented levels, what is important now is a finance goal that will first and foremost help African countries to adapt, mitigate and cover loss and damage arising from climate change impacts,” Mithika Mwenda, PACJA’s Secretary General added
 
“This message from the host of a world climate conference must sound cruel to the poorest countries most strongly affected by climate change”, commented Oxfam Germany’s climate expert Jan Kowalzig.
 
Germany ran the risk of missing its climate goals, while in Berlin “three out of four parties to a potential Jamaica coalition’ block the measures needed to prevent such an embarrassing failure”.
 
Greenpeace Germany’s Managing Director Sweelin Heuss said that Merkel “avoided to give the only answer she had to give in Bonn: When will Germany fully exit coal?” Without a coal exit, Germany could not meet the pledge it made in Paris. “That's a disastrous signal coming out of this climate conference”, said Heuss.
 
Representatives from science, climate activists, and small island states appealed to Merkel to meet the country’s 2020 CO2 reduction target ahead of her much-anticipated speech.
 
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), said Germany had the ability to quit coal use but instead there was the “perverse” situation where it generated power from coal, which then was exported.
 
“Angela Merkel has been a great climate champion but her credibility is hanging in the balance,” Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, said.
 
President Hilda Heine, of the Marshall Islands, added: “We are just two metres above sea level. For Germany to phase-out coal and follow a 1.5°C pathway would be a signal of hope to us and all other nations in danger from climate change.”

As the COP winds to a close Friday, speculations are rife that the conference will end without substantially addressing relevant concerns on temperature limits, finance and other means of implementation for the Paris Agreement.

 

BONN, Germany (PAMACC News) African groups participating in the 23rd conference of parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have expressed their frustrations over the seemingly endless trail of negotiations.

Speaking at a press conference on the side-lines of the ongoing climate talks, leaders of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) and the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) expressed dismay over the slow progress of negotiations and inertia on the part of developed country parties.

“Time is up for negotiations,” Roger Nkodo Dang (MP), President of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) said.

“For 21 years we have negotiated, and now we have the Paris Agreement. There is nothing more to negotiate, its time to implement the Paris Agreement,” Nkodo Dang added. According to the Chair of the Pan African Parliament committee on Rural Economy and Agriculture, Hon. Jacqueline Amogine, “climate change in Africa has a gender imperative as women are the most affected when there is no food on the table and no water to drink.”

“If the COP must remain relevant, it has to move from talk to action especially on the implementation of the key aspects of the Paris Agreement,” Hon Amogine says. Evaluating the progress after one week of negotiations, the coalition of African civil society groups under the aegis of Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) expressed their concern over the little progress which brackets many issues regarding the means of implementation of the Paris Agreement.

“We are worried that the aspect of differentiation relating to climate finance is vanishing in the negotiations so far, PACJA’s Mithika Mwenda said.

“We are concerned about the fulfilment of the pre-2020 finance commitment on the provision of $100 billion per year up to 2020 and we urge the COP Presidency to initiate talks of the new finance goal here in Bonn to show urgency of the matter,” the PACJA Secretary General added.

African groups also expressed their strong support for adaptation to serve the Paris Agreement and they warned that the current discussions on the agenda should not be dragged to next year.

“The agreement should be concluded here at the COP23 and parties should maintain the current governance structure as well as ensure sustainability of funding sources,” the groups added.

Meanwhile, frustrated NGOs are again thinking of suing the governments of rich nations over their inaction in combatting climate change-induced loss and damage.

An abiding nightmare of many developed country governments, the thirdpole.net says, is a slew of lawsuits seeking compensation in the International Court of Justice, as these countries have been responsible for most of the build up of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere.

This is why developed country delegations pushed for legal liability to be removed from the Paris Agreement at the UN climate talks two years ago. The trade-off was that rich nations would “enable action and provide support to developing countries” to deal with the loss and damage.

Harjeet Singh, the global lead on climate change at ActionAid, says “there has been hardly any work on this”. An international mechanism to work on the issue of loss and damage – called the Warsaw International Mechanism – was set up at the 2013 climate summit in Poland.

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