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Myanmar gears up for action on climate change

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United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in his recent report on the Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19 that governments should not respond to the COVID-19 crisis by making policy and investment decisions that exacerbate existing crises such as air pollution and the climate emergency.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has made its commitment to “building back better” clear through, among other things, its ongoing work to promote the creation of green jobs and facilitating the transition to a carbon neutral future. Here’s one example from Asia.

Myanmar is widely considered one of the most vulnerable countries in the world in terms of the impacts of climate change. More intense and frequent floods, cyclones and droughts have caused immense loss of life and damage to infrastructure and the economy and put its renowned biodiversity and natural resources under increasing pressure.

Compared to many other countries in the region, Myanmar is currently much less prepared to respond to the challenges of global heating.

“Fundamental to a post-coronavirus transformational and green recovery will be early action on a longer-term agenda to address climate change,” says UNEP climate change expert Niklas Hagelberg. “Investments in climate-friendly actions will stimulate economies, create employment opportunities, and increase resilience to a recurrent zoonotic threat.”

Over the past few years, UNEP has been involved in a project to help integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation into Myanmar’s national policies.

For example, the 2013-2019 Myanmar Climate Change Alliance programme was designed to raise awareness about climate change impacts, build capacity among government officials to address the impacts of climate change, and develop and implement local approaches to identifying and addressing climate change vulnerabilities.

“Mainstreaming climate change into the Myanmar policy development and reform agenda was no easy task given that the programme was established during a transition in governance in Myanmar from military to civilian rule,” says UNEP climate change expert Mozaharul Alam.

“Implementation had to be able to navigate the changing landscape of governance as new systems of administration were being developed.” 

The project was funded by the European Union and jointly implemented by UN-Habitat and UNEP in partnership with the Environmental Conservation Department of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation in Myanmar.

UNEP led the development of a climate change policy, strategy and action plan, and supported ecosystems-based adaptation in township-level planning and implementation of nature-based solutions.

“The new policies being developed explicitly recognize the increasing threat of extreme weather and other climate change impacts to the country’s economic and social development and set out an ambition to transform Myanmar into a climate-resilient, low-carbon society that is sustainable, prosperous and inclusive,” says Alam.

Project achievements include:

  • The establishment of an institutional structure to coordinate action on climate change at the national level in the form of the Technical Working Group
  • Awareness-raising on the importance of incorporating climate change adaptation and mitigation considerations into day-to-day processes of governance, and also improving local action to improve resilience to climate change and disasters
  • Development of a climate change strategy and policy framework. The project also contributed to the formulation of Myanmar’s intended nationally determined contributions
  • The fostering of a group of “champions” for climate change with greater professional and technical understanding of climate change and its impacts on sectors relevant to Myanmar’s economy
  • The mainstreaming of climate change into urban planning, agriculture, education and natural resources’ development.
  • The project was successful in demonstrating and showcasing the importance of gender considerations in all aspects of climate change action

A second phase of the project, starting in April 2020, will have a greater focus on the implementation of policies and strategies and the scaling up of other activities, such as the township-level climate change vulnerability assessments. 

UN Environment

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Environment

UNESCO ‘eDNA’ initiative to ‘unlock’ knowledge for biodiversity protection

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To understand the richness of biodiversity across World Heritage marine sites, the UN scientific organization launched on Monday a project to protect and preserve biodiversity, based on the study of environmental DNA – cellular material released from living things into their surroundings. 

Launching the new programme, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said that scientists and local residents would take samples of genetic material from fish waste, mucous membranes or cells, eDNA, to monitor species. 

Marine World Heritage sites play a critical role in protecting marine ecosystems of exceptional universal value and provide opportunities for the public to appreciate and preserve marine environments”, reminded UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, Ernesto Ottone Ramírez. 

Species under threat 

UNESCO said that the two-year initiative would help measure the vulnerability of marine biodiversity to climate change and its impact on the distribution and migration patterns of marine life across World Heritage sites. 

The eDNA project, which involves collecting and analyzing samples from the environment – such as soil, water and air – rather than an individual organism, will also better monitor and protect endangered species included in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.  

Climate change is affecting the behaviour and distribution of underwater life and we must understand what is happening so we can adapt our conservation efforts to evolving conditions”, explained the UNESCO official. 

Beneath the waves 

UNESCO’s marine World Heritage sites are recognized for their unique biodiversity, outstanding ecosystems, or for representing major stages in Earth’s history.  

In the context of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030), the project was launched to contribute to the understanding of global trends and knowledge to preserve marine ecosystems. 

Since 1981, when Australia’s Great Barrier Reef was inscribed at UNESCO’s first marine site, a global network of 50 others are now included as “beacons of hope for healing the ocean”, according to the UN agency. 

Guided by expert support, the eDNA project will engage local citizens to gather material, so samples such as particles gathered through water filtering, can be genetically sequenced in specialized laboratories, without having to disturb animals themselves.   

Implemented by UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and World Heritage Centre, IOC chief Vladimir Ryabinin described the project as “a step toward the Ocean Decade’s vision of unlocking the knowledge we need to create the ocean we want by 2030”. 

Breaking new ground 

The use of eDNA in ocean monitoring and data collection is still in its infancy and standard protocols for sampling and data management will be streamlined in UNESCO’s groundbreaking eDNA project.  

For the first time, it will apply a consistent methodology across multiple marine protected areas simultaneously, helping establish global standards, data monitoring and management practices while making that information available to the public. 

All data will be processed and published by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS), the world’s largest open-access data system on the distribution and diversity of marine species, maintained and collectively supported by a worldwide network of scientists, data managers and users.  

Sustainability goal 

The project works to advance the world’s understanding of life in the ocean, and establish conservation and management policies indicators.   

“eDNA sampling can provide an innovative, affordable, and long-awaited capacity to better understand the ocean ecosystems, their composition and behaviour, and to start managing ocean resources more sustainably”, said Mr. Ryabinin. 

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Act Urgently to Preserve Biodiversity for Sustainable Future — ADB President

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The world must act urgently to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity for the sake of a sustainable future and prosperity, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa said at the opening of a global event on biodiversity here today.

“The world is at a critical turning point. If we are to reverse the alarming decline in nature, we must respond with urgency and coordinated action,” Mr. Asakawa said. “These efforts are needed to ensure the survival of our ecosystems, and for the sake of our shared future and prosperity.”  

Asia and the Pacific is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world—home to 17 of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots, 7 of the 17 megadiverse countries, and the greatest marine diversity. “If restored and well-managed, these natural capital assets can help to mitigate global climate change and biodiversity loss in a cost-effective and impactful manner,” Mr. Asakawa said in his opening remarks at the Ecological Civilization Forum at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Kunming, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  

The event is cohosted by the PRC’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Yunnan provincial government, and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Participants include high-level representatives from governments, the private sector, development agencies including ADB, and civil society. 

ADB is committed to helping accelerate and increase nature-positive investments in Asia and the Pacific. “Through our ADB Nature-Positive Investment Roadmap, we are working with partners to scale up finance, develop knowledge of natural capital, and generate financially sustainable projects that deliver on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems,” Mr. Asakawa said.

At COP15, ADB is launching a new publication, Greening Development in the People’s Republic of China, which outlines how ADB and the PRC have successfully partnered to promote green development and ecological restoration in a way that complements economic and social priorities. 

In partnership with the Chinese Academy of Science and Stanford University, ADB is sharing progress on its new Natural Capital Lab due for launch in 2022. This will be a digital platform for sharing methods for valuing biodiversity and ecosystems, and for building knowledge, capacities, and alliances across the region.  

In addition, ADB with partners will be launching the Regional Flyway Initiative that will conserve ecosystem services that support people and critical habitats for more than 50 million migratory waterbirds.

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Greenpeace Africa reacts to DRC President’s decision to suspend illegal logging concessions

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The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Félix Tshisekedi, ordered on Friday, October 15th, the suspension of all dubious logging concessions, including the 6 granted in September 2020. Greenpeace Africa, one of the civil society organizations that denounced these concessions, applauds the decision taken by the Head of State and encourages him to remain vigilant and ensure its effective execution by Deputy Prime Minister Ms. Eve Bazaiba.

Greenpeace Africa reiterates its call for maintaining the moratorium on new industrial logging concessions to prevent a human rights and climate catastrophe. This logging sector, characterized by bad governance, favors corruption and remains out of touch with the socio-economic needs of the Congolese people and the climate crisis we live in.

Irène Wabiwa Betoko, Head of the International Congo Basin Forest Project of Greenpeace: “The decision of H.E. President Tshisekedi against the illegal actions of former Minister Nyamugabo sends an important message to the Congolese people and their government. It is also a red light for the plans of Ms. Ève Bazaiba, current Minister of the Environment, to open a highway to deforestation by multinational logging companies through lifting the moratorium on new industrial concessions.”

The President asks to “Suspend all questionable contracts pending the outcome of an audit and report them to the government at the next cabinet meeting.” Greenpeace Africa maintains that the review of illegalities in the forest sector must be transparent, independent, and open to comments from civil society organizations.

Ms. Wabiwa adds that “Both the protection of the rights of Congolese peoples and the success of COP26 require that the moratorium on granting new forest titles be strengthened. We again call on President Tshisekedi to strengthen the 2005 presidential decree to extend the moratorium.”

Ms. Wabiwa concludes that “instead of allowing new avenues of destruction, the DRC needs a permanent forest protection plan, taking into account the management by the local and indigenous populations who live there and depend on them for their survival.”

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