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PAMACC News (17/08/2017) - The world’s first Convention to protect the environment and human health in close to a decade, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, enters into force on 16th August 2017, committing its 74 Parties to reducing the risks to human health and the environment from the harmful release of mercury and mercury compounds. Mercury is recognized to be particularly harmful to unborn children and infants.

Governments that are party to the Convention are now legally bound to take a range of measures to protect human health and the environment by addressing mercury throughout its lifecycle. This includes banning new mercury mines, phasing-out existing ones, and regulating the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining, manufacturing processes, and the production of everyday items such as cosmetics, light bulbs, batteries and teeth fillings.

The convention also seeks to reduce emissions as side effects from other industrial processes, such as coal-fired power stations, waste incineration, cement clinker production, and contains measures on the interim storage of mercury, on mercury waste and on measures to reduce the risks of contaminated sites.  

“The Minamata Convention shows that our global work to protect our planet and its people can continue to bring nations together. We did it for the Ozone layer and now we're doing it for mercury, just as we need to do it for climate change – a cause that the Minamata Convention will also serve. Together, we can clean up our act," said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

There is no safe level of exposure to mercury nor are there cures for mercury poisoning, which at high levels causes irreversible neurological and health damage. Unborn children and babies are the most vulnerable, along with populations who eat fish contaminated with mercury, those who use mercury at work, and people who live near a source of mercury pollution or in colder climates, where the dangerous heavy metal tends to accumulate.

A 2017 study comparing mercury levels among women of child-bearing age in the Asia and Pacific regions revealed high traces of mercury in 96 percent of the women tested from Pacific communities who have high fish diets.

"I am delighted to join others in the international community and celebrate the entry into force of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. It is an honor for the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to be tasked with providing grants for projects and programs to reduce and eliminate the use of mercury. We are ready to continue to help countries conducting inventories, implementation plans, and investments in technology to make mercury history,” said Naoko Ishii, GEF CEO and Chairperson.

Up to 8,900 tonnes of mercury are emitted each year. It can be released naturally through the weathering of mercury-containing rocks, forest fires and volcanic eruptions, but significant emissions also come from human processes, particularly coal burning and artisanal and small-scale gold mining. Mining alone exposes up to 15 million workers in 70 different countries to mercury poisoning, including child labourers.

Other human activities that may be sources of mercury pollution include the production of chlorine and some plastics, waste incineration and use of mercury in laboratories, pharmaceuticals, preservatives, paints and jewelry. Since the element is indestructible, the Convention also stipulates conditions for interim storage and disposal of mercury waste.

Like other heavy metals, mercury persists in the environment and builds up in human and animal tissue, particularly in fish. Because it is easily vaporized, mercury can be transported through the air over long distances far removed from its original emission source, polluting air, water and soil.

Signed by 128 countries, the Convention takes its name from the most severe mercury poisoning disaster in history, which came to light in Minamata, Japan in May 1956, after sustained dumping of industrial wastewaters into Minamata Bay, beginning in the 1930s. Local villages who ate fish and shellfish from the bay started suffering convulsions, psychosis, loss of consciousness and coma. In all, thousands of people were certified as having directly suffered from mercury poisoning, now known as Minamata disease.

LIBREVILLE, Gabon (PAMACC News) - Ahead of the writing of the Paris rulebook and preparations for the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, Major Groups attending this year’s Pre-AMCEN sessions have called on African governments to take stock of the current status of implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and identify barriers that need to be addressed with a view to enhancing ambition beyond what currently exists as NDCs.
 
Speaking at the African civil society workshop heralding the 16th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in Libreville, Gabon, Sam Ogallah of the Pan African Justice Alliance (PACJA) stressed the need for the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue (FD2018) to specifically highlight potential opportunities where countries can increase their ambition.
 
“The FD2018 process, should as matter of priority recognize that collective ambition in current NDCs remains inadequate to pursue effort to limit warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. It should enhance ambition and commitment from Parties to make new pledges and submit updated or new NDCs ahead of 2020 which should be sufficiently ambitious to close the emission gap, and identify what further work is needed to enable countries to enhance their ambition, especially in countries with lower capabilities” he said.
 
According to Ogallah, “African leaders must use the FD2018 to leverage lessons and best practices, in identifying ways to overcome barriers and opportunities to enhance the enabling environment, and engage in win-win climate and sustainable actions for Africa.”
 
Robert Chimambo of the Zambian Climate Change Network (ZCCN) believes that the facilitative dialogue provides “a veritable opportunity to collectively look into options on how current NDCs can be revised and new ambition generated to strengthen individual Parties’ contributions by 2020.”
 
Chimambo called on African ministers and negotiators to identify ways in which Parties could implement climate action in areas not covered by their NDC or surpass the ambition level outlined therein while exploring ways of fast-tracking the implementation of NDCs and the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
Many of the stakeholders who addressed the workshop urged African leaders, mayors, negotiators, private sectors, and other non-state actors to engage fully into the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, and lead or champion specific actions and initiatives in various sectors.
They also called for the inclusion of non-Party stakeholders who are always at the front-lines of implementation in the facilitative dialogue’s examination of barriers and opportunities for greater ambition.
 
According to the African Major Groups, action from non-state actors can contribute to the achievement of NDCs, and can also increase their level of ambition.
 
2018 Facilitative Dialogue
 
The Conference of the Parties (COP) at its 21st session in Paris decided to conduct a Facilitative Dialogue in conjunction with the 22nd session of the COP to assess the progress in implementing certain COP decisions.
 
These decisions border on identifying relevant opportunities to enhance the provision of financial resources, including for technology development and transfer, and capacity-building support, with a view to identifying ways to enhance the ambition of mitigation efforts by all Parties, including identifying relevant opportunities to enhance the provision and mobilisation of support and enabling environments.
 
According to the UNFCCC, the first part of the Facilitative Dialogue will offer space for an assessment of progress made, with regard to the enhancement of pre-2020 ambition, and the provision of means of implementation.
 
It will also provide opportunities to exchange relevant information on all aspects to be addressed in this Facilitative Dialogue, and particularly provide the space to showcase specific case studies or initiatives related to ambition and the provision of support.
 
The FD2018 will be a focal point of COP23 in November this year as it is mandated to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties towards the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal in Article 4 and to inform the preparation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the next round of which are due by 2020.

LIBREVILLE, Gabon (PAMACC News) - Ahead of the writing of the Paris rulebook and preparations for the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, Major Groups attending this year’s Pre-AMCEN sessions have called on African governments to take stock of the current status of implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and identify barriers that need to be addressed with a view to enhancing ambition beyond what currently exists as NDCs.
 
Speaking at the African civil society workshop heralding the 16th session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment in Libreville, Gabon, Sam Ogallah of the Pan African Justice Alliance (PACJA) stressed the need for the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue (FD2018) to specifically highlight potential opportunities where countries can increase their ambition.
 
“The FD2018 process, should as matter of priority recognize that collective ambition in current NDCs remains inadequate to pursue effort to limit warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. It should enhance ambition and commitment from Parties to make new pledges and submit updated or new NDCs ahead of 2020 which should be sufficiently ambitious to close the emission gap, and identify what further work is needed to enable countries to enhance their ambition, especially in countries with lower capabilities” he said.
 
According to Ogallah, “African leaders must use the FD2018 to leverage lessons and best practices, in identifying ways to overcome barriers and opportunities to enhance the enabling environment, and engage in win-win climate and sustainable actions for Africa.”
 
Robert Chimambo of the Zambian Climate Change Network (ZCCN) believes that the facilitative dialogue provides “a veritable opportunity to collectively look into options on how current NDCs can be revised and new ambition generated to strengthen individual Parties’ contributions by 2020.”
 
Chimambo called on African ministers and negotiators to identify ways in which Parties could implement climate action in areas not covered by their NDC or surpass the ambition level outlined therein while exploring ways of fast-tracking the implementation of NDCs and the Sustainable Development Goals.
 
Many of the stakeholders who addressed the workshop urged African leaders, mayors, negotiators, private sectors, and other non-state actors to engage fully into the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, and lead or champion specific actions and initiatives in various sectors.
They also called for the inclusion of non-Party stakeholders who are always at the front-lines of implementation in the facilitative dialogue’s examination of barriers and opportunities for greater ambition.
 
According to the African Major Groups, action from non-state actors can contribute to the achievement of NDCs, and can also increase their level of ambition.
 
2018 Facilitative Dialogue
 
The Conference of the Parties (COP) at its 21st session in Paris decided to conduct a Facilitative Dialogue in conjunction with the 22nd session of the COP to assess the progress in implementing certain COP decisions.
 
These decisions border on identifying relevant opportunities to enhance the provision of financial resources, including for technology development and transfer, and capacity-building support, with a view to identifying ways to enhance the ambition of mitigation efforts by all Parties, including identifying relevant opportunities to enhance the provision and mobilisation of support and enabling environments.
 
According to the UNFCCC, the first part of the Facilitative Dialogue will offer space for an assessment of progress made, with regard to the enhancement of pre-2020 ambition, and the provision of means of implementation.
 
It will also provide opportunities to exchange relevant information on all aspects to be addressed in this Facilitative Dialogue, and particularly provide the space to showcase specific case studies or initiatives related to ambition and the provision of support.
 
The FD2018 will be a focal point of COP23 in November this year as it is mandated to take stock of the collective efforts of Parties towards the Paris Agreement’s long-term goal in Article 4 and to inform the preparation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the next round of which are due by 2020.

KUMASI, Ghana (PAMACC News) - A new report has found that the complex risks arising from climate change, fragility and conflict can contribute to the emergence and growth of terrorist groups, like Boko Haram and ISIL.

The new report: “Insurgency, Terrorism and Organised Crime in a Warming World”, by Berlin-based think tank, Adelphi, found that climate change multiplies and interacts with existing threats, risks and pressures, like resource scarcity, population growth and urbanization.
Report author, Lukas Rüttinger, said these factors together could lead to fragility and violent conflict in which these groups can thrive.

“Already vulnerable areas could get pulled into a vicious cycle, leading to the rise of terrorist groups who will find it easier to operate, with consequences for us all,” Rüttinger said.

Terrorist groups are increasingly using natural resources – such as water – as a weapon of war, controlling access to it, further compounding and exacerbating resource scarcities. The scarcer resources become, the more power is given to those who control them, especially in regions where people are particularly reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods.

For example, around Lake Chad, climate change contributes to resource scarcities that increase local competition for land and water. This competition in turn often fuels social tensions and even violent conflict.

At the same time, this resource scarcity erodes the livelihoods of many people, aggravates poverty and unemployment, and leads to population displacement. Terrorist groups such as Boko Haram gain power in this fragile environment.

As climate change affects food security and the availability of water, and land, affected people will become more vulnerable not only to negative climate impacts but also to recruitment by terrorist groups offering alternative livelihoods and economic incentives.

Sometimes, terrorist groups try to fill the gap left by the state by providing basic services to build support among the local population. As climate impacts worsen, some states will increasingly struggle to provide services and maintain their legitimacy.

The report comes as famine, drought and war threaten millions in the region around Lake Chad, in Africa. On March 31, the UN Security

Council passed a resolution on the Lake Chad region – home to Boko Haram – outlining their concern about the interplay of factors leading to the crisis there and calling for better collaboration amongst UN armed to deal with the situation.

The resolution, which also calls for the UNSG to issue a report on the crisis, came after UNSC ambassadors visited the region recently.

The report echoes the UN’s findings. It finds that dealing with climate change, boosting development and strengthening governments will reduce the threat of terrorism.

It also says climate action, development, counter terrorism strategies and peace building should be tackled together holistically – rather than in isolation which they are often are at present and which risks making each of the factors worse.

Other recommendations include improving the rule of law and strengthening local institutions to help reduce the risk that climate change presents to the rise and growth of terrorist groups, as well as being a core component of adaptation and peace building writ large.

People who are vulnerable to recruitment by terrorist groups are often reliant on agriculture for their livelihoods, so development efforts should focus on ensuring those livelihoods are sustainable in a changing climate.

Lastly, cities are often the pressure valve when climate, conflict and fragility occur – building resilient cities will therefore minimize the chances of tensions spilling over.

“A broader perspective will help to better address the root causes of the rise and growth of non-state armed groups,” Rüttinger said.

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