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USD 180 million investment to tackle the hidden cost of gold

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photo: UNIDO

Urgent action is needed to protect millions of men, women and children exposed to toxic levels of mercury through gold production every year, according to the backers of a new USD 180 million programme to reform the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASGM) sector.

“From smartphones to wedding rings, gold passes through all of our hands every day. But for most of us the source of that gold, and its real cost, remains a mystery,” said Gustavo Fonseca, Director of Programmes at the Global Environment Facility (GEF). “Introducing safe, mercury-free technologies into the ASGM sector will help provide a safe transition to job formality and dignified work for millions, while putting an end to the environmental impacts that can pave the way to sustainably produced gold.”

Every year, more than 2,700 tonnes of gold is mined around the world. Around 15 per cent of this amount is produced by artisanal and small-scale miners – the majority of them in developing countries – working without the protection of industry regulations on health or safety, among others. With many miners relying on toxic, mercury-based extraction methods, the ASGM sector is also the world’s single largest source of man-made mercury emissions, releasing as much as 1,000 tonnes of mercury – almost 40 per cent of the global total – into the atmosphere every year, impacting human health and the environment.

Launched today at London’s Goldsmiths’ Centre, the GEF-backed Global Opportunities for the Long-term Development of the ASGM Sector (GEF GOLD) programme aims to reduce the use of mercury in artisanal gold mining and introduce and facilitate access to mercury-free extraction methods, while also working with governments to formalize the sector, promoting miners rights, safety and their access to markets.

Spanning eight countries, the five-year programme is a partnership between the GEF, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Conservation International and the governments of Burkina Faso, Colombia, Guyana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, the Philippines and Peru.

“The widespread use of mercury in the artisanal and small-scale sector affects the environment and people, particularly in developing countries,” said Philippe Scholtès, Managing Director of Programme Development and Technical Cooperation at UNIDO.

“UNIDO is proud to be a part of the GEF GOLD programme, which supports innovative and viable solutions focusing on formalization, access to markets and finances, mercury-free technologies and awareness raising. UNIDO will be working in Burkina Faso, and jointly with UNEP in Mongolia and the Philippines, with the aim of providing sustainable livelihood for the miners and their communities.”

By phasing out mercury use, the programme aims to achieve eventual mercury emission reductions of 369 tonnes, supporting countries’ commitments under the Minamata Convention on Mercury to reduce and, where feasible, eliminate mercury use in the sector.

Alongside working directly with artisanal and small-scale miners and national authorities, the GEF GOLD programme will work with the private sector across industries and partners to promote compliance with international standards on responsible mineral supply chains.

Environment

Forum Highlights Low-Carbon Technologies and Policies as Key to Asia- Pacific’s Sustainable Future

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Countries in Asia and the Pacific must adopt more effective and innovative low-carbon policies and technologies to secure greener and more sustainable growth, delegates heard at a forum today hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Hunan Department of Ecology and Environment.

The Asia-Pacific Forum on Low-Carbon Development, now in its fourth year with the theme “Low Carbon Solutions for Our Green Future”, has brought together more than 600 policymakers and technology developers to showcase success stories in promoting and advancing low-carbon solutions to development challenges across the Asia and Pacific region. The forum is being hosted in Hunan Province’s capital, Changsha, in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) from 16 to 18 October.

“A low-carbon future is vital for combating climate change,” said ADB Vice-President for Administration and Corporate Management Ms. Deborah Stokes. “This year’s forum is about getting people together, exchanging ideas, and getting down to work, particularly in promoting cooperation, innovation, and commercially scalable low-carbon solutions for green development in both urban and rural areas in the PRC as well as the rest of the Asia and Pacific region.”

With keynote speeches from former United Nations Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki Moon and the Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs of the National Development and Reform Commission Mr. Xie Zhenhua, the forum will look into the industrial transformation needed for low-carbon economies including future energy services, pollution control, revolutions in building design, zero-waste cities, and other technological advances.

Ensuring a low-carbon growth path and development future for Asia and the Pacific is critical for the entire world population. Carbon emissions from the region have risen rapidly from 25% of the global total in the 1990s to 40% in 2012 and are expected to reach 50% by 2030. Unabated climate change could also lead to significant economic losses for countries in Asia and the Pacific.

ADB has been working to address the effects of climate change and promote low-carbon growth in Asia and the Pacific, particularly through the introduction of new technologies and policy support. For instance, the ADB-supported Climate Technology Finance Center in Hunan Province has been demonstrating successful low-carbon initiatives that can be replicated elsewhere in the PRC and in the Asia and Pacific region. This includes the establishment of a low carbon technology venture fund; launch of an accelerator program to mentor early stage clean technology startups; and the creation of a low carbon technology network and market platform.

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UNECE supports Azerbaijan towards ratification of key Air Convention protocols

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To avoid damage to the environment, public health and the economy, adopting targets to reduce emissions and introducing measures to enforce them is essential. Providing a framework to facilitate these measures, UNECE assists countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia in formulating policy responses to the air pollution challenge by ensuring the implementation and ratification of the Air Convention and its key Protocols.

In this regard, UNECE organized a national round table to discuss domestic law on air pollution control in Baku, Azerbaijan, this week (8 October 2019). The purpose of the event was to raise the political profile of the Convention and increase awareness of the benefits of accession to its Protocols and to further assist Azerbaijan in aligning its national legislation with the provisions of the Protocols and determining the next steps towards ratification.

High-level participants from the Ministries of Environment and several other Ministries and representatives from the private sector and civil society discussed the recommendations on the steps towards ratification of the key Protocols of the Convention. Participants concluded that ratification was feasible, but several steps on the way to ratification were still needed.

The Air Convention, which remains the only binding regional agreement of its kind anywhere in the world, celebrates 40 years of successful cooperation to tackle air pollution this year. Under the Convention, 51 countries in Europe and North America are cooperating to reduce deadly air pollution, achieving significant results, including the prevention of 600,000 premature deaths annually in Europe.

This week marked an important step in the Convention’s history with the entry into force of amendments to the Gothenburg Protocol, establishing legally binding emissions reduction commitments for 2020 and beyond for the major air pollutants: sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), ammonia (NH3), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and fine Particulate Matter (PM2.5).

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Planting trees has never been easier!

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For the first time ever, some of the best community-led tree planting projects from over 20 countries have come together to deliver a massive boost to the world’s reforestation efforts.   Now, with the Plant-for-the-Planet App, everyone can plant trees worldwide with just a few clicks. 100 per cent of the money raised goes directly to the tree planters.

Greta Thunberg said: “It is simple. We need to protect, restore and fund nature.” The new Plant for the Planet App allows you to do just that. For just €3, you can plant a tree in Brazil. For just €100, you can plant 1,000 trees and help restore the landscape of Indonesia.

You don’t have a sapling at hand? Or want to avoid getting dirt under your fingernails? The Plant-for-the-Planet App is your way to help nature recover by selecting from 50 hand-selected reforestation projects from developing countries. The benefits of tree planting are not just for nature, they are also a vital source of income for poor communities. Many more projects are coming.

Just select your favourite project. Donate. The trees are planted for you. No excuses. Each tree adds to the World Tree Counter.

The Plant-for-the-Planet App is available for Android and iOS or as a WebApp.

Plant Your Own Forest

The app also allows you to:

– See where all your donated trees were planted

– Register trees you’ve planted yourself with photos, locations and more

– Gift donated trees to others

– Start a tree planting competition among schools, with colleagues or friends

– See our new “Forbes List” – ranking people by planted trees!

and more…

Who’s Behind This?

The app was built over two years by seven young people from Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation under the leadership of Sagar Aryal (24), who has been planting trees with Plant-for-the-Planet for over 10 years, as one of 81,000 children and youth from 73 countries.

The Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation aimed to plant 100 million trees by 2030 through their project in the Yucatan-Peninsula. But they realised that 10,000 projects of that size are necessary to restore a trillion trees, and therefore decided to focus on sharing their tools with a multitude of other projects to help them scale up their work – that’s what this app is about. There are no fees or costs for donors, tree-planting NGOs or anyone else. This app helps to implement the excellent goals of the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030 – by creating a positive chain reaction. More than 10,000 people signed up to the app in the development phase. 

This project could not have happened without the advice, guidance and support of UNEP.

“With the late Wangari Maathai in mind, I’ve poured all my heart and soul into this app for the past two years. I hope she would be happy and proud of us,” said Sagar Aryal (24), lead developer.

What’s Next?

In version 2.0 we will allow users to watch the donated forests grow with satellite images. Stay tuned!

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