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.”
Wildlife Demand in Asia Under the Spotlight at International Wildlife Trade Conference
Demand for illegal wildlife products in Asia is not only driving wildlife population declines in the region, but across the globe. Tigers, elephants and rhino will be some of the species to take the spotlight in relation to the illegal trade in Asia at the upcoming 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Geneva.
Vietnam is now the largest destination for illegal shipments of elephant ivory and rhino horn according to independent analyses presented to the meeting by TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA). These wildlife products are either consumed in country, or may be shipped on to other destinations in Asia.
“Vietnam has been a country of great concern for its role in the illegal wildlife trade for many years now and although there have been significant steps forward in relation to improved policy to address illegal trade, it’s clear that much more has to be done. WWF is encouraging CITES to look closely at Vietnam’s compliance,” says Margaret Kinnaird, WWF Wildlife Practice Leader.
In addition to Vietnam, its neighbours Lao PDR, Thailand and China are key countries of concern, particularly when it comes to tiger farms. For now, China has banned all trade in tiger parts, but the continued existence of state-run tiger farms, with thousands of captive tigers creates political pressure and economic incentive for trade from captive tigers to be allowed in the future. WWF believes that such trade would be impossible to control and could put the world’s remaining wild tigers at risk. Meanwhile, there is already evidence of tiger parts from farms leaking into markets in the region which by escalating demand, puts the remaining 3,900 wild tigers at increased risk from poaching.
“CITES agreed in 2007 that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and products,” said Heather Sohl, tiger trade expert. “Yet over 12 years later, we have more tigers, in more tiger farms, in more countries, and more captive tigers and their parts and products entering the illegal trade. It’s high time the governments of the world stood by their commitments to tigers, and hold the defaulting countries accountable.”
This CITES CoP will be the busiest to date with a record number of
proposals to discuss the trade in other iconic species such as saiga antelope,
lions, rhino and jaguars as well as weird and wonderful creatures like the
spider-tailed horned viper. Their fate will be greatly impacted by the outcomes
of the trade discussions set to take place over the course of the two weeks.
Whilst marine turtles have survived for 120 million years, six out of seven species are now assessed as threatened with extinction (‘vulnerable’ to ‘critically endangered’) according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. According to the CITES Secretariat, over the last couple of years, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have played a major role in the unsustainable trade of Hawksbill and other turtles. WWF is calling for stronger measures to be directed at range and consumer countries and for CITES to hold these countries accountable over the coming years.
Not blessed as a charismatic creature, but critical for its role in the marine ecosystem, the trade in one type of sea cucumber known as teatfish will be a highly debated topic this year. WWF supports a proposal to add these species – which are prized in Asian cuisine and are extremely vulnerable to overfishing – to the list of species whose trade is regulated by CITES.
As always, elephants feature heavily on the conference agenda. WWF is calling for CITES to prioritise action with regard to countries that, either through lack of capacity or lack of political will, are implicated in the illegal ivory trade. These include Burundi, Gabon, Togo, Nigeria, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, United Arab Emirates, Lao PDR, Malaysia and – above all – Vietnam.
Finally, underpinning many of the species being discussed, including the near-extinct vaquita porpoise is the important role that Natural World Heritage Sites play in their conservation. These unique places host a high proportion of the remaining populations of such endangered species, and many are menaced by illegal hunting, fishing and logging. WWF is supporting measures to strengthen cooperation between CITES and the UNESCO World Heritage Convention.
Climate Crisis Cannot be Tackled Without Shift Away from Damaging Land Use
The way we currently use land is both a major contributor to climate change and placing unsustainable demands on the land systems on which humans and nature depend, according to an authoritative new report presented in Geneva today.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land, explores the relationship between climate, people and land in a warming world. It warns that climate change is placing additional stress on land, increasing degradation, biodiversity loss and food insecurity.
“Tackling climate change will take bold actions that go beyond addressing usual suspect issues of energy, transportation and tightening up emissions from a company’s own operations. We must address food production and supply chains in a world with growing demand. Agriculture is a major driver for land conversion and degradation, and must be part of the solution if we’re going to keep our climate stable and our planet viable,” said Melissa D. Ho, Senior Vice President, Food & Freshwater at World Wildlife Fund. “How we approach the next decade will not only affect future climate scenarios, but will also impact the fate of food production itself — and our ability to feed the future billions — as there are inextricable links between global warming and agricultural productivity. We ignore the limits of nature at our peril.”
Humans use approximately 72% of the global ice-free land surface, with land use contributing around 23% of total human-caused greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through deforestation and habitat conversion for agriculture. The removal of forests, conversion of peatlands, freshwater ecosystems, and other natural habitats releases carbon, while at the same time contributing to unprecedented biodiversity loss and land degradation. The food sector alone is responsible for 75% of deforestation worldwide, with the greatest pressure on forests taking place in the tropics. It is also a major driver of savannah and grassland conversion.
Climate change is already affecting the four pillars of food security — availability, access, utilization and stability — through increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and greater frequency of some extreme events.
The report highlights the synergies and trade-offs inherent in our land choices. WWF considers an integrated suite of sustainable land management tools necessary to secure a climate safe future, while supporting food security and nature. Nature-based climate solutions should play a key role. For instance, mangroves help increase climate resilience, while providing a range of ecosystem services to local communities and supporting fish nurseries.
The science presented in the report further underlines that climate, people and nature are fundamentally linked. Efforts to mitigate climate change and halt nature loss must go hand in hand, and be fully integrated with climate adaptation and food security considerations.
Land-based mitigation options make up to a quarter of total mitigation proposed by countries in their country climate plans, submitted to the UN under the Paris Agreement.
Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund to Support ADB’s Green Projects
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) recently formed a partnership to support green project financing through investments in ADB’s green bonds.
“We are pleased to collaborate with GPIF on this important initiative that promotes environment-related investments in Asia and the Pacific and is closely aligned with ADB’s development mandate,” ADB President Mr. Takehiko Nakao said.
ADB issues green bonds to finance projects in the Asia and Pacific region that help its developing member countries mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the consequences of climate change. ADB issued its first green bond in 2015. It has since issued more than $6 billion equivalent green bonds in various currencies. ADB green bonds provide opportunities for institutional investors, including pension funds and asset managers, to achieve their green mandate.
The green bond investment will help GPIF fulfill its stewardship responsibilities for environment, social, and governance (ESG) investments. GPIF, the largest pension fund in the world in terms of assets under management, can support ADB’s green bond program in a substantial way.
“GPIF requires all asset managers to integrate ESG into their investment analysis and decision-making. We regard the purchase of Green, Social, and Sustainability Bonds as one of the direct methods of ESG integration in the fixed income investment. GPIF is committed to promote ESG integration through our investment chain in order to ensure the sustainable performance of the pension reserve fund for all generations,” GPIF Executive Managing Director and Chief Investment Officer Mr. Hiro Mizuno said.
Global CO2 emissions have been increasing since 2018; and Asia produces about 40% of global emissions. “Driven by continuous economic growth, accelerating urbanization, and expanding middle classes, Asia accounts for the majority of rising energy needs worldwide. It is, therefore, essential that the region plays a proactive part in global efforts to reduce emissions from houses and offices, industry, and transport,” ADB Vice-President for Finance and Risk Management Ms. Ingrid van Wees said.
ADB will scale up its support for climate change adaptation and maintain its assistance for mitigation through clean energy and energy efficiency projects and sustainable transport. Under Strategy 2030, ADB will ensure that 75% of the number of its committed operations will be supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation by 2030. Climate finance from ADB’s own resources will reach $80 billion for 2019–2030.
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