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Millions of Bangladeshi children at risk from climate crisis

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More than 19 million children in Bangladesh are at risk from devastating floods, cyclones and other environmental disasters linked to climate change, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned on Friday in a new report  

According to the study – Gathering Storm: Climate change clouds the future of children in Bangladesh – the country’s flat topography, dense population and weak infrastructure make it “uniquely vulnerable to the powerful and unpredictable forces that climate change is compounding”. 

The threat is felt from the flood and drought-prone lowlands in the country’s north, to its storm-ravaged coastline along the Bay of Bengal, it explains. 

Today, around 12 million of the 19.4 million children most affected by climate change live in and around the powerful river systems which flow through Bangladesh and regularly burst their banks.  

“The danger that is represented by flooding is extreme and it is almost on an annual basis,” Mr. Ingram said. “The last major floods to hit Bangladesh were in 2017 when something like eight million people were affected by a series of flooding events that took place.” 

The major flooding of the Brahmaputra River described by Mr. Ingram inundated at least 480 community health clinics and damaged some 50,000 wells, which are essential for meeting communities’ safe water needs.  

“This had an enormous effect not just in terms of displacing families and pushing them out of their homes,” Mr. Ingram said, in addition to the “destruction that it caused to health facilities and to basic services like water and sanitation”. 

In addition to at-risk communities living close to rivers, another 4.5 million children who live in coastal areas are regularly struck by powerful cyclones. 

This includes almost half a million Rohingya refugee children who began fleeing neighbouring Myanmar in August 2017, and who now live in bamboo and plastic shelters, UNICEF’s report explains, noting that a further three million children live further inland, where farming communities suffer increasing periods of drought. 

Rising sea levels and unchecked salt water intrusion are also a serious threat to pregnant women, according to the UNICEF report, which underlines the link between high salinity in drinking water and an increased risk of grave medical conditions including preeclampsia and hypertension, identified among mothers-to-be at the coast. 

One of the consequences of the country’s long struggle with the elements is a spike in the number of families leaving rural areas and heading for major cities such as Dhaka and Chittagong, where children’s rights are frequently violated. 

“There are already something like six million climate refugees in Bangladeshi cities and that number is growing fast,” Mr. Ingram said. 

He described “brutal surroundings” where children “are forced to essentially fend for themselves, while many children are “pushed into very hazardous forms of child labour. Many girls who end up being pushed into taking early marriages because their families can no longer look after them. And there are other girls that also end up in what is clearly a flourishing and expanding sex trade in the cities.” 

Highlighting the resilience of Bangladesh’s poorest communities who are those most at risk from the “deepening” climate threat, the UNICEF official noted that more than 1,500 youth activists in the south of the country are increasingly involved in raising awareness about the climate crisis. 

Working in coastal and climate-vulnerable regions across the country, members of YouthNet spread messages on disaster preparedness, water and sanitation, menstrual hygiene, gender-based violence and child marriage. 

“We wonder how on earth they can survive, and yet there is the sense also that society is pulling together,” Mr. Ingram said. “They have really learned a lot over the term of their last climate change strategy which the Government instituted in 2009, and which is now being renewed.” 

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Environment

Hyatt Launches Three Global Initiatives to Significantly Reduce Single-Use Plastics

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Hyatt Hotels Corporation is announcing a series of initiatives to reduce waste at Hyatt hotels globally, including introducing large-format bathroom amenities and reducing single-use water bottles by June 2021. The following initiatives will be introduced as soon as possible in properties around the world, and no later than June 2021:

Transitioning to large-format bathroom amenities to replace traditional small bottles of shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and lotion.

Increasing the number of water stations in key public spaces at hotels for guests who wish to refill reusable water bottles.

Serving water in carafes or other containers for meetings and events; bottled water will be available by request.

“At Hyatt, our purpose – we care for people so they can be their best – guides all business decisions, including our global sustainability framework, which focuses on using resources responsibly and helping address today’s most pressing environmental issues,” said Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO, Hyatt. “Plastic pollution is a global issue, and we hope our efforts will motivate guests, customers and, indeed, ourselves to think more critically about our use of plastic.” 

These new initiatives represent a significant step in Hyatt’s global sustainability program and underscore Hyatt’s commitment to wellbeing. As promoted in Hyatt’s landmarks of wellbeing – Feel, Fuel and Function – proper hydration is essential to living well. Offering increased access to water stations across Hyatt hotels around the world will ensure guests will have hydration choices that align with both their wellbeing and sustainability priorities while traveling.  

Transitioning to large-format bathroom amenities and reducing single-use water bottles builds on Hyatt’s broader commitment to reduce disposables and select environmentally preferable options whenever possible, with the exception of when single-use bottles are needed for water quality reasons.

Other recent global initiatives have included removing plastic straws and drink picks and making alternative options available only by request at Hyatt hotels, and increasing the use of compostable, recyclable, or recycled content packaging for to-go food containers.

While these global efforts ensure guests – both leisure and business – will consistently have the option to avoid single-use water bottles while staying at Hyatt hotels, many properties have already been introducing additional efforts to create best-in-class solutions. Examples include:

In-house water bottling plants that reuse glass bottles and replace single-use bottles. Hotels with this solution currently include Alila Villas Koh Russey, Alila Manggis, Alila Ubud, Alila Villas Uluwatu, Alila Bangsar, Alila Jabal Akhdar, Hyatt Regency Addis Ababa, Hyatt Regency Delhi, Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo and Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa.

Reusable bottles distributed to all guests at check-in at resorts such as Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, Hyatt Ziva Cancun, Miraval Arizona and Miraval Austin.

Filtered water spouts installed in all guest rooms at Park Hyatt Istanbul – Macka Palas to provide fresh drinking water.

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Environment

Kenyan students learn about environmental law

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photo: UN Environment

In our globalized world, environmental threats require effective responses that promote peace, justice, development and the fulfilment of environmental and human rights. This is the responsibility of everyone; and we all have the right to be involved. We are all the leadership that the planet needs.

That’s what a group of Kenyan students were told in October 2019 when they participated in a lecture at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on international environmental law.

UNEP promotes a shared sense of environmental governance by building the capacity of those who affect the rules, policies and institutions that shape how humans interact with the environment.

UNEP experts spoke to students on basic governance and enforcement of international environmental law. International environmental law can involve many countries, as it does with the Paris Agreement, or a few countries, such as a regional environmental treaty. Sources of international environmental law can cover varied goals, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, or be specific to a certain issue, such as the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels. We need international environmental law because many environmental problems are transboundary, regional or global in scope, and solutions require international cooperation and the adoption of common standards.

The students and UNEP experts deliberated over the weaknesses and strengths of international environmental laws and discussed how students could get more involved in tackling the issues. Students described the lecture as very useful and said that they were challenged to think of new and different aspects of environmental law.

Topics discussed included the divergent responsibilities of various groups regarding environmental governance and biotechnology, the principle of common but differentiated responsibility, and plastic pollution and lessons from the plastic ban in Kenya.

To ensure that this learning continues outside the lecture theatre, the UNEP team shared learning resources with the students.

James Nyaro, a lecturer at the Kenyatta University, said on behalf of the institution: “You let us ask you questions… and responded to them comprehensively… and we cannot thank you enough.”

What should I know about international environmental law?

When states work together to create and implement international environmental law, great things can be achieved. The ozone layer is currently on track to heal completely in our lifetime and this will save two million people each year by 2030 from skin cancer. This success is due to international environmental law through the Montreal Protocol: an environmental treaty.

As everyone has the right to be involved in environmental management, we should all have a basic understanding of the laws that govern us. Countries are individually responsible for deciding and applying international environmental laws, yet the average citizen can be far removed from the processes involved in their development and implementation. As citizens, we should influence the progression and enforcement of international environmental law to ensure that it effectively tackles the issues we face. UNEP encourages everyone to learn what international environmental laws apply to their states through InforMEA. Knowledge is the first step towards creating environmental laws that work for us.

On 23 October 2019, postgraduate students from the School of Security, Diplomacy and Peace Studies at Kenyatta University were introduced to international environmental law by UNEP experts.

UN Environment

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Environment

Climate change: Scientists warn over impact on food security and oceans

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UN climate scientists presented MEPs with new evidence on how climate change is affecting food production and oceans.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change. In August, it presented a report on climate change and land and in September one on the oceans and cryosphere in a changing climate. The reports are the latest scientific input for the UN climate summit COP25 to be held in Madrid in December.

The scientists behind the reports presented their findings to Parliament’s environment, development and fisheries committees on Wednesday 6 November.

Food production and climate change a two-way street

Professor Jim Skea told MEPs climate change was exacerbating land degradation, such as erosion and pollution, which in turn affects infrastructure and people’s livelihoods. Better land management can help tackle climate change but it must be complemented by other action, he added.

Dr Jean-François Soussana noted that the food system accounts for between a fifth and a third of all greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans. At the same time, climate change affects food security through declining crops of wheat and maize. He warned that in future the stability of our food supply would decrease further as the magnitude and frequency of extreme weather events increases.

Melting ice, rising seas

According to scientists, the rise in sea level is accelerating, mainly due to the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets melting faster.

Professor Hans-Otto Pörtner warned that in a business as usual scenario the sea level is estimated to rise about five metres by 2300. In addition, in warming oceans marine life has access to less oxygen and nutrients, putting food security at risk for communities dependent on seafood.

Pörtner added: “To minimise the severity of the impact of climate change, every bit of warming matters, each year matters, each choice matters, and most importantly, political and societal will matters.”

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