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Extreme weather hit 60 million people in 2018, no part of the world spared

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With some 60 million people affected by extreme weather in 2018, according to a new study, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) called for better management of the issue worldwide, in a statement published on Thursday.

The study cited by the agency, from the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) –  showed that earthquakes and tsunamis claimed more lives than any other type of hazard, with over 10,000 lives lost in the last year; whilst floods, droughts, storms and wildfires affected more than 57 million.

Floods affected the largest number of people – over 35 million – with 23 million in the Indian State of Kerala alone. Storms are expected to be the costliest type of disaster once final economic losses are compiled: the cost of the damage caused by Hurricane Michael, which inundated the eastern seaboard of the United States, is estimated to reach around $16 billion.

2018 was a record-breaking year when it came to wildfires, with the US experiencing its deadliest outbreak in over a century (it was also the costliest on record), and Greece suffering a record number of casualties from wildfires, with 126 losing their lives.

As for drought, over 9 million people were affected worldwide, with the Kenyan population accounting for a third of the total, followed by Central American countries (2.5 million people), including migration hotspots Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua.

The head of CRED, Debarati Guha-Sapir, acknowledged that the human impact of all disasters, particularly drought and extreme temperatures, is poorly reported, especially in low-income countries. Innovative approaches that measure progress and report on specific Sustainable Development Goal targets need to be urgently addressed by appropriate UN agencies, she added.

Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and head of UNISDR, said that, with time running out to limit global warming to 1.5˚C or even 2˚C, climate change adaptation needs to be a high priority, citing measures such as “reducing disaster risk in our cities, avoiding the creation of new risk by better land use, stronger planning regulations and building codes, safeguarding protective eco-systems, reducing poverty, and taking active measures to reduce exposure to rising sea levels.”

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Milestones in National and Global Commitments to Tackling Deforestation

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The World Economic Forum’s Tropical Forest Alliance annual meeting, which has concluded in the Colombian capital, Bogotá, has seen a number of commitments that will contribute to the Alliance’s goal of protecting the world’s tropical rainforests.

The meeting took place the same week world scientists warned that deforestation was one of the key drivers of ecological collapse, with up to 1 million species at risk of extinction (according to the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – IPBES report).

The meeting convened over 200 leaders from government, business and civil society and was co-hosted by the Colombian government. With over 50% of its land area forested, Colombia has the second-highest biodiversity density in the world after Brazil.

Important outcomes from the meeting included:

The launch by the Colombian government of a $20 million BioCarbon Fund aimed at reducing deforestation and degradation, promoting smart agriculture and sustainable land use – the funding corresponds to commitments by the governments of Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom

The Colombian government’s successful conclusion of an agreement with the meat and dairy industries to eliminate deforestation – the two strategic sectors complement existing agreements on cocoa and palm oil in the country

The German government, through the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), joined the Tropical Forest Alliance

Among other outcomes from the meeting were agreements to promote South-South cooperation at the national and sub-national level. These groups, along with business and civil society leaders, have agreed to hold a special meeting during the UN Climate Action Summit 2019 in September.

In his address to the Alliance, the President of Colombia, Iván Duque, expressed strong commitment to stop tropical deforestation. The actions and commitment of the Colombian government mark an important milestone in the global fight against deforestation. Deforestation has actually increased in the country since the peace agreement was signed and, in response, the government has developed an integrated strategy that involves fighting illegality, advancing deforestation-free supply chains, promoting restoration and implementing an innovative carbon tax.

Colombia will join a growing list of countries determined to champion the role of nature-based solutions to address climate change in New York in September.

“It’s quite simple. Life on earth isn’t possible without forests because they are integral to ecosystems and livelihoods around the world. While the original commitment was to eliminate deforestation from commodity supply chains by 2020, companies and governments have made important progress to enhance transparency and clean up supply chains over the last decade. It is only by coming together and harnessing the power of the full Alliance to force through real systemic change that protecting our forests for future generations can be achieved,” said Justin Adams, Director, Tropical Forest Alliance.

“Colombia is proud to host this meeting to showcase how we are advancing to differentiate our production of palm oil and cocoa as deforestation-free on the world stage, and to take the beef and dairy supply chains along that same route. Currently we face a spike of deforestation in the Colombian Amazon and the TFA meeting provided an opportunity to involve companies in reversing these trends by understanding their supply chains and working to eliminate any trace of deforestation from them. Thus, the private sector can be part of the solution and help us tackle this complex problem,” said Roberto Esmeral,

Vice-Minister of Territorial Environmental Planning of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development of Colombia.

In 2010, members of the Consumer Goods Forum, including many major food and consumer goods companies, committed to end deforestation in key supply chains. Governments, businesses, civil society and indigenous people’s organizations further strengthened commitments in 2014 by endorsing the New York Declaration on Forests, which called for halving global deforestation rates by 2020 and ending it by 2030.

The Tropical Forest Alliance was brought into the World Economic Forum in 2015 to accelerate action on deforestation in the run-up to 2020 and beyond.

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Climate change: ‘A moral, ethical and economic imperative’ to slow global warming

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It is nothing less than a “moral, ethical and economic imperative” to take more action to mitigate the existential threat posed by climate change, said top executives from across the United Nations system on Thursday.

Calling on Member States to take “urgent action to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”, the leaders of more than 30 UN agencies and entities, issued a formal, joint appeal for governments everywhere to “step up ambition and take concrete action” ahead of the landmark Climate Action Summit, which has been convened by UN chief António Guterres this September.

The appeal noted that to keep rising temperatures down, countries had to strive to “fulfil their obligations on human rights, including the right to health, the right to food security, the right to development, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women, intergenerational equity, and decent work and a just transition for all, as stated in the Paris Agreement.”

 As set out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming, limiting global warming to 1.5°C “is necessary to prevent irreversible changes. Achieving this goal will require changes on an unprecedented scale at all levels, but it is still possible if we act now”, said the UN system-wide appeal.

“With great urgency we call upon Member States to come to New York in September with concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020 and in support to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The communique issued after consultations during a meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board for Coordination, called on countries to ensure that appropriate “adaptation measures” are taken to protect people, jobs and ecosystems, “particularly people in those regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including those at risk through forced displacement and migration.”

$100 billion per year by 2020, for climate action

On the crucial issue of paying for the ambitious measures which need to be taken, the appeal described climate finance as “critical to deliver action on the necessary scale to address climate change…developed countries must deliver on the goal of mobilizing governments and the private sector to achieve the goal of $100 billion per year by 2020, to support climate action in developing countries and further enhance their efforts on scaling-up financial resources.”

And in the race to innovate, the appeal calls for greater ambition, noting that “the Fourth Industrial Revolution offers tremendous potential for a paradigm shift to low-emission, climate-resilient development pathways.”

The UN system is supporting “the enhancement of capacity of Member States to develop and utilize relevant data and technological innovations, to find solutions for climate and sustainable development challenges and disaster risk reduction and management, including the use of new and emerging technologies, including information and communication technologies, data and tools.

And the UN is going to practice what it is preaching from the Secretariat and beyond. “We will present our system-wide efforts towards reaching climate neutrality in our internal operations by 2020 and enhancing environmental and social sustainability in all UN activities”, says the joint appeal.

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UN and African Union in ‘common battle’ for development and climate change financing

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for a “quantum leap” in funding for development and climate change for Africa, speaking to journalists on Monday, following the plenary meeting of the latest United Nations-African Union (AU) Conference, which took place in New York.

Mr. Guterres declared that the Organization’s work to promote peace and security, human rights, development and climate action, can only progress in Africa if the UN works hand in hand with the AU.

The UN chief emphasised the “alignment” between the UN’s and African Union’s respective plans to ramp up inclusive and environmentally responsible economic development: the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

The common battle they face, he continued, is to secure the necessary financing for development, particularly for Africa. Mr. Guterres said that development there is a “fundamental precondition” for a more peaceful world, and for well-managed migration, and, therefore, that improved funding is “in the interests of the whole international community.”

With regard to climate change, the Secretary-General warned that more ambition is needed, because “we are not winning the battle,” and Africa is disproportionately affected: “the African continent practically does not contribute to climate change, but the African continent is one of the areas of the world where the impact of climate change is more dramatic and devastating.”

A joint communiqué released on Monday by the UN and African Union welcomed the “strong cooperation and collaboration between the two organizations”, and committed to continue to work closely together in addressing peace and security issues, and achieving sustainable development issues in Africa.

The communiqué described the UN Climate Action Summit, which will take place in September, as “critical to mobilize the needed partnerships, resources” necessary to achieve international climate action goals, and noted the agreement of the leaders of both organizations to further strengthen their cooperation on adaptation for climate change ahead of the Summit and beyond.

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