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COP23: An important step towards Paris Agreement implementation

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For the last two decades, the International Energy Agency has attended the annual UNFCCC Conference of Parties (COP) negotiations, underscoring the fact that meeting climate goals entails transforming energy systems. 

At COP23, held in Bonn, Germany, the IEA provided support with analysis, data, and policy guidance to countries working to make their commitments under the Paris Agreement – and their respective energy transitions – a reality.

COP23 was a transitional meeting, paving the way towards next year’s COP24 when countries aim to finalize the rulebook supporting full implementation of the Paris Agreement, including their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). COP23 saw key details emerge of next year’s Talanoa Dialogue, which will take stock of collective efforts towards the Paris Agreement’s long-term mitigation goal, and inform countries as they set their next round of NDCs.

The IEA is actively engaged in tracking various underlying indicators of energy transition, through Tracking Clean Energy Progress, World Energy Investment, Energy Efficiency Indicators and key statistics, and will further enhance tracking efforts to support the Talanoa Dialogue.

The IEA hosted 13 events at COP23, and IEA experts spoke in dozens of other forums. A series of key takeaways emerged from these meetings.

Energy remains at the heart of addressing climate change

Transforming the way we use and produce energy remains central to determining our collective success in meeting the climate challenge. Whether discussions revolved around renewable energy, technology innovation, energy efficiency, or energy access, it was clear that accelerating energy transition is a priority for countries around the world.

The energy-climate challenge is global and centrally focussed on real-world implementation

The adoption of the Paris Agreement signalled a global response to the climate challenge, with countries at all levels of economic development committing to take action. Two weeks ago, the IEA launched the Clean Energy Transitions Programme, a multi-year 30 million EUR initiative scaling up engagement with major emerging economies.

The IEA also took the opportunity at COP23 to meet with officials, policymakers and key stakeholders from the growing IEA family. The IEA was present in the pavilions of key Member and Association countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Germany, France, Japan, as well as the EU and Nordic pavilions.

Climate objectives can and must be aligned with broader goals

The IEA showcased an integrated approach to reaching climate, socioeconomic, and environmental objectives in the recently launched World Energy Outlook 2017 with the Sustainable Development Scenario. Critically, the scenario illustrates that reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with Paris Agreement goals doesn’t need to undermine the achievement of energy access and reduction of air pollution.

Parties at COP23 also adopted a gender action plan, which among other things, aims to advance women’s full, equal and meaningful participation in climate policy, a topic of critical importance since women are at the heart of solutions to increase access to electricity and clean cooking. The IEA is also keen to engage with and support implementation of the gender action plan, as invited to in the COP decision, through the Women in Clean Energy Technology Collaboration Programme.

IEA welcomes the progress of COP23 yet recognizes that where COP ends, much of the actual work begins. The IEA will support our members and partners as they accelerate efforts to implement and achieve NDC actions and targets, and for their longer-term transitions to sustainable energy systems.

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Guterres: Korean nuclear crisis, Middle East quagmire eroding global security

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Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“Conflicts are becoming more and more interrelated and more and more related to a set of a new global terrorism threat  to all of us,” Mr. Guterres said in his keynote address at the opening ceremony on Friday of the Munich Security Conference.

For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the world is facing the threat of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which he called “a development made in total contradiction to the will of the international community and in clear violation of several resolutions of the Security Council.”

He said that it was essential to maintain “meaningful pressure over North Korea” to create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement on the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean peninsula within a regional framework.

“The two key stakeholders in relation to this crisis, the United States and [DPRK]” must be able to “come together and have a meaningful discussion on these issues,” he said, adding that it is “important not to miss the opportunity of a peaceful resolution through diplomatic engagement as a military solution would be a disaster with catastrophic consequences that we cannot even be able to imagine.”

The situation in the broader Middle East, which the UN chief said had become a “Gordian knot,” was also eroding global security, with that are crises that are “crossing each other and interconnected.”

Pointing to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and wars in Syria, Yemen and Libya, among others, Mr. Guterres said the entire Middle East has “became a mess,” with varied and intersecting fault lines.

He warned of the absence of a common vision in the region and said that even if interests are contradictory, the threats these conflicts represent would justify some efforts to come together.

Turning to cyber-security, Mr. Guterres called for a serious discussion about the international legal framework in which cyberwars take place.

“I can guarantee that the United Nations would be ready to be a platform in which different actors could come together and discuss the way forward, to find the adequate approaches to make sure that we are able to deal with the problem of cybersecurity,” he said, noting that artificial intelligence provides “enormous potential for economic development, social development and for the well-being for all of us.”

The Secretary-General said that Governments and others have been unable to manage human mobility. He warned that this had created mistrust and doubts about globalism and multilateralism.

“This is a reason why,” he said, “we need to be able to unite, we need to be able to affirm that global problems can only be addressed with global solutions and that multilateralism is today more necessary than ever.”

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Supporting tourism development in Africa through better measurement

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In an effort to better measure tourism growth and development in Africa, UNWTO signed a Cooperation Agreement with the Nigeria Tourism Development Corporation for the Strengthening of the National Tourism Statistical System of Nigeria and the Development of a Tourism Satellite Account.

UNWTO is committed to developing tourism measurement for furthering knowledge of the sector, monitoring progress, evaluating impact, promoting results-focused management, and highlighting strategic issues for policy objectives.

On the occasion of the meeting between UNWTO Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, and the Minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria, Mr. Lai Mohammed, the agreement to host the Sixty-First meeting of the UNWTO Commission for Africa and the Seminar on ‘Tourism Statistics: A Catalyst for Development’ in Nigerian capital, Abuja, from 4 to 6 June 2018, was signed.

The meetings will be open to the participation of UNWTO Member States and Affiliate Members, as well as invited delegations and representatives of the tourism and related sectors. Officials of immigration departments, national statistics bureaus, central banks and other relevant stakeholders will be invited to join.

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Causes of Rohingya refugee crisis originate in Myanmar- solutions must be found there

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“We are now in a race against time as a major new emergency looms,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi told the Security Council via videolink from Geneva, Switzerland.

He said that the Kutupalong area in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar is now the largest refugee settlement in the world, and with the monsoon season to start in March, 107,000 refugees are estimated to be living in areas prone to flooding or landslides.

“The [Bangladeshi] Government is steering a massive emergency preparedness effort, but international support must be stepped up to avert a catastrophe,” he said, stressing that “as we have repeatedly said, resolving this crisis means finding solutions inside Myanmar.”

He said that conditions are not yet conducive to the voluntary repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.

The refugee crisis erupted in late August when Myanmar armed forces launched a security operation in the north of Rakhine State, driving thousands of children, women and men to flee over the border to Bangladesh in search of safety.

“The causes of their flight have not been addressed, and we have yet to see substantive progress on addressing the exclusion and denial of rights that has deepened over the last decades, rooted in their lack of citizenship,” Mr. Grandi said.

“It is time to bring an end to this repeated, devastating cycle of violence, displacement and statelessness to invest in tangible, substantial measures that will start to overcome the profound exclusion that the Rohingya community have endured for far too long,” he added.

Also addressing the Council was UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca, who said that while there has been certain progress on the three priorities laid out by the Secretary-General, not all have been implemented thus far.

Turning first to the need to end violence and improve the security situation, he said that although large-scale acts of violence have subsided, concerns about threats and intimidation against the remaining Rohingya population from Bamar and Rakhine communities, as well as from militia and security forces in Rakhine state, persist.

Second, the UN does not have sufficient access to make a meaningful assessment of the humanitarian or human rights situation in Rakhine.

As for the third point, which is voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable return of refugees and internally displaced people to their places of origin or choice, Mr. Jenca said the Government has taken some high-level steps to advance this process, including the convening of an Advisory Board, whose recommendations include the inclusion of the UN at an early stage, soonest full humanitarian access, wider media access, and the formation of an independent fact-finding commission.

Mr. Jenca called on the authorities in Myanmar to release the arrested two Reuters journalists and respect the right to freedom of expression and information.

Reuters has now published the story these journalists were working on, a deeply disturbing account of the execution of 10 Rohingya men in Inn Din village (Maungdaw) in northern Rakhine state,he said, while the Associated Press (AP) has also published a report of five mass graves in Gudar Pyin village (Buthidaung).

“These and other shocking reports of grave abuses demand our attention and action, for the sake of lasting peace and justice,” he said.

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