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On One-Year Anniversary of China’s Ivory Ban, New Campaign Targets Travelers Abroad

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More than one year after China implemented a full ban on commercial ivory sales, several surveys indicate Chinese travelers are still purchasing ivory at souvenir shops in neighboring countries. To counter this trend, China Customs and the National Forestry and Grasslands Administration (NFGA) are partnering with WildAid and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on a national campaign to remind travelers that their “souvenirs could be contraband.”

In the new public awareness campaign, popular Chinese actor Huang Xuan, dressed as a Customs officer, informs travelers that purchasing wildlife products is driving certain species toward extinction and reminds them that it is illegal to bring ivory into China, even as souvenirs.

The campaign comes as part of a three-year initiative by China Customs to tighten security at borders and halt imports of illegal wildlife products. Since 2018, Customs has made two trips to Africa to extradite Chinese nationals involved in wildlife smuggling.

Since domestic sales of ivory were banned in China, there’s been a clear decline in illegal sales and demand for ivory on the mainland, according to a survey released by TRAFFIC and WWF in September 2018. Twelve percent of respondents claim to have purchased ivory in the past 6 months compared to 26 percent of respondents who reported doing so in a similar 2017 pre-ban survey, a 54% decline.

Yet the same TRAFFIC and WWF study shows that more than 18 percent of outbound travelers bought ivory products on trips abroad, with Thailand and Hong Kong being the top two markets. Other destinations popular with Chinese travelers are also of concern. In Laos, more outlets are selling new ivory items to meet Chinese demand, according to a Save the Elephants investigation, with nearly all vendors in the market being Chinese and prices quoted in Chinese yuan. And just this month, more than 73 kilograms of ivory products were confiscated from a souvenir shop in Laos. The ivory products were hidden in secret drawers under the shop’s counters.

The new public awareness campaign will appear on public media and customs entry and exit points at airports, train stations, and border crossings, particularly where China borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.

“WildAid brings decades of experience delivering high-impact media campaigns to protect wildlife to this partnership,” CEO of WildAid Peter Knights said. “We’ve seen how these campaigns generate results in increased awareness and reduced consumption of wildlife products such as shark fin. This message with Huang Xuan will reach tens of millions of people, and will help build on the recent momentum to end the devastation caused by ivory consumption.”

“WWF’s goal is to reach Chinese travelers who have the means to buy ivory and access to it in popular destinations where ivory can still be found,” said Jan Vertefeuille, senior director for advocacy at WWF. “This campaign is the kind of collaboration we need between government agencies and conservation groups to get the word out that ivory is illegal to bring home and it’s not socially acceptable.”

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UN announces roadmap to Climate Summit in 2019

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2019 is a critical year, the “last chance” for the international community to take effective action on climate change, General Assembly President Maria Espinosa said on Thursday, during a briefing to announce the UN’s roadmap to the Climate Summit in September.

Ms. Espinosa was speaking alongside the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on the Climate Summit, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico, at UN Headquarters in New York.

Ms. Espinosa said that, with the deadline for achieving the first targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development fast approaching, described by Secretary-General António Guterres as “the UN’s blueprint for peace, justice and prosperity on a healthy planet”, the world stood at a crossroads.

Two-thirds of these targets, she said, depend on climate and environment goals, and a five-fold increase in commitments from their current levels is needed in order to meet the targets set at the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance, due to come into force in 2020.

The General Assembly President walked the representatives of Member States through some of the key events of 2019, leading up to, and following, the Climate Summit. All of the events, she said, share two goals: a doubling of commitments and ambition at a national level, and ensuring the inclusion of diverse groups in the process of climate action.

March will see the General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Climate and Sustainable Development for All, which is intended to build on the success of COP24, the 2018 climate conference in Katowice, Poland, which led to the establishment of a “rulebook” for the reporting of emissions and the progress made in cutting them, every year from 2024.

The March meeting will welcome representatives of the private sector, civil society and young people, and look to harness the enthusiasm of the latter group, who, said Ms. Espinosa, will be most affected by a warming world.

On the 30th of June, in the build up to the Climate Summit, a “stocktaking” event will take place in Abu Dhabi, followed by a High Level Political Forum under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council in July, which will see a review of the progress made in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 13 (“urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”).

The Climate Summit will be followed by the first-ever High Level Political Forum on Climate Action, sponsored by the General Assembly on September 24. The year will be rounded off by the 2019 Climate Conference COP25, which will take place in Chile.

Multilateralism, said Ms. Espinosa, is the only effective to combat climate change, which is one of the main challenges facing the world and can only be overcome with constructive input from all. She concluded with a proverb: “’If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you wish to go far, go together.’ Let’s travel this road together.”

Ambassador de Alba, following Ms. Espinosa, confirmed that the world is falling well behind targets for combating climate change, with only around a third of the necessary work currently completed. He reminded delegates that there are only between 10 and 12 years left to achieve the goals, and called for a ramping up of ambition.

The Special Envoy added that, despite the challenges, an optimistic signal must be given: that it is possible to counter climate change, enjoy economic growth and eradicate poverty. “We can also meet social needs, healthcare needs and human rights needs,” he said, and bring about a “win-win situation to answer the doubters.”

2019 needs to see action, continued Ambassador de Alba, including partnerships with the private sector and civil society, and a huge mobilization of resources ( a target of 1 trillion dollars per year to support developing countries has been set), to invest “in our future, for jobs in a green future.”

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2018 Declared Fourth Hottest Year on Record

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In response to data released today by NASA and the U.S National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declaring 2018 as the fourth warmest year on record globally,  World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued the following statement from Shaun Martin, senior director of climate change adaptation and resilience:

“This is yet another reminder that our future will not resemble our past. Even if we dramatically curb emissions in the coming years, things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. We’ve already locked in certain levels of warming which will continue to harm millions of people and nature in the US and worldwide.

“It’s incredibly risky not to prepare communities for these looming impacts. The sooner we’re able to systematically apply the latest climate science to redesign our infrastructure, cities, and policies and rethink how we manage our natural resources, the better off all Americans will be. We need to build communities that can weather the superstorms of the future, not storms of the past.”

“Government leaders have an opportunity to step up this year by submitting new and stronger national climate goals. Those plans must be clear on how governments will help communities adapt to increasingly severe weather and pledge stronger emissions cuts. Continuing to ignore the reality of current and growing risks associated with climate change would be a failure of political and moral leadership and completely out of step with our current climate emergency.”

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Albania steps up fight against climate change

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photo: UNIDO

Albania has ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. It will reduce use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), powerful greenhouse gases used mainly in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump equipment, which are thousands of times more harmful to the climate than CO2. The Kigali Amendment, which entered into force in January 2019, amends the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to include substances – including hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) – which do not damage the ozone layer but are known to have high global warming potential.

“The Kigali Amendment is a new way of dealing with global environmental issues,’’ explained Fukuya Iino, Industrial Development Officer at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which helped the Albanian authorities prepare for the phasedown of HFC use. “Albania’s ratification shows that the country is proactively committed to addressing future problems by preventing an increase in the use of HFCs and promoting the use of climate-friendly alternatives.”

By phasing down the use of HFCs, the Kigali Amendment aims to avoid an increase in global atmospheric temperature of 0.5°C by the end of the century.

The Kigali Amendment is in line with the Albania’s national strategies, which aim to contribute to the protection of the environment and to tackle climate change. The ratification process was facilitated by the previous implementation of targeted activities by the National Ozone Unit (NOU) as well as by several projects supported by UNIDO which have helped prepare legislation and institutional assessments, convened high-level meetings, and created a platform for knowledge sharing among key national stakeholders.

The ratification of the Kigali Amendment paves the road for Albania to set its HFCs baseline, freeze its consumption amount, and establish a schedule for phase-down of HFCs. This will provide Albanian importers and users of HFCs with more business stability, giving them an opportunity to prepare for the changes that will be coming to the international market once the Amendment’s provisions to prohibit trade with non-parties enter into force in 2033.

“Blendi Klosi, the Minister of Tourism and Environment of Albania played a pivotal role in the ratification process,” said Mimoza Vokshi, National Ozone Officer, while underlining the essential contribution of all stakeholders involved, including UNIDO and UN Environment.

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