#UN; #UNEP; #UNDP; #Biodiversity; #BiologicalDiversity, #ECOSOC
New York/UN, Sep 30 (Canadian-Media): Here's our special LIVE coverage of the UN Summit on Biodiversity, where activists and senior UN officials are calling for urgent action on biodiversity, to help ensure sustainable development for all.
The Summit has moved on to the plenary, featuring many Heads of State. You can follow the speeches on UN Web TV.
We’ll be back later to bring you the concluding remarks from the President of the General Assembly, and the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed.
Until then, Here’s the perspective of Mohammed Alkhalid, from Saudi Arabia, a UNEP Young Champion of the Earth:
“Young people are the protectors and custodians of planet Earth.
The sustainability of the planet is our responsibility and that’s why I took part in the Young Champions of the Earth to work with experts, exchange ideas, gain experience, and engage with decision-makers to set up laws and incentives to plant trees, and to make Saudi Arabia greener.”
11:50Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, took part in today’s event, and announced, via a pre-recorded video, that he is working with a “coalition of the willing” to put nature, people and planet at the heart of the economy.
The Prince called for a new “Marshall Plan” for a “blue-green recovery’ rooted in a new circular economy, that has nature at its centre, and went on to list some ways to bring this about. These include implementing carbon pricing; accelerating carbon capture technology, including nature-based solutions; and ending “perverse” subsidies for fossil fuels.
“We know what we need to do, but we have to take bold steps now”, he concluded. “So let’s get on with it!”
Fernanda Samuel from Angola is another UN Environment Programme Young Champion of the Earth.
Speaking to UN News she said: “You cannot talk about fighting poverty and economic growth without a serious commitment to protect natural resources, flora and fauna, soil, rivers and oceans."
Time now below, to hear the views of a young environmentalist from Kenya...
Richard Kakunga Wambua, Director and CEO of the Kenya-based MeForest Initiative. , by Kalua Arts
Richard Wambua was chosen by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) as a Young Champion of the Earth one of 35 people from around the world identified by UNEP as providing “an impressive array of scalable, innovative and potentially impactful solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges”.
"Biodiversity loss is greatly threatening the tourism industry in Kenya which has also been hard hit by COVID-19, as fewer tourists are coming because there is less to see. Thousands of jobs are being affected.
Additionally, due to deforestation and higher than usual temperature levels on the Indian Ocean, there has been increased rainfall and flooding. Kenyans living around Lake Baringo and Lake Bogoria have witnessed a rapid rise in water levels. The two lakes used to be 20 kilometres apart but are now a few kilometres from each other.
When the two mix, they will contaminate each other since one is highly saline while the other is a fresh water lake, resulting in the death of biodiversity and a decrease in the food supply.
Developing countries are most vulnerable to climate change, which aggravates the effects of population growth, poverty and rapid urbanization, resulting in habitat fragmentation and the loss of biodiversity.
Thus, it is highly imperative that young people take charge, are on the forefront and exert the right amount of pressure which includes having a seat at the table. We can contribute towards the implementation of environmentally-conscious policies, hence further protecting our countries and our planet.
Take Africa for instance; 75 per cent of its population are youthful and highly reliant on biodiversity for food, clean water, medicines, and protection from extreme climatic events. Inculcating a mindset change that favors biodiversity protection would be a sure way to ensure forests don’t become deserts, reefs don’t become rocks.
The more young people are aware and involved, the better the planet’s biodiversity will be!"
The Secretary-General has clearly pointed out that, “Investing in nature would protect biodiversity & improve climate action, human health & food security”. What such investments would also lead to, is jobs, for many youth and citizens from developing countries.
The Summit has now moved on to the “Fireside Chat” segment, featuring Achim Steiner, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Inger Andersen, the head of the UN environment agency, UNEP, Elizabeth Mrema, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) chief, and Ana Maria Hernandéz Salgar, who runs the Inter-governmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
On Monday, Ms. Andersen and Ms. Mrema were interviewed by our very own Paulina Greer, as part of the SDG Media Zone UNGA High-Level Week series, where they gave more detail about the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature.
Here’s how it went:
10:50‘Nature is fighting back’, UN economic chief
Munir Akram, the head of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) followed the Secretary-General, echoing many of the topics covered by Mr. Guterres and Mr. Bozkir.
Biodiversity, said Mr. Akram, allowed mankind to build great civilizations, providing nutrition, food, clean air and water, natural medicines and raw materials, and to survive, grow and prosper. However, demand for energy and raw materials has grown with the population, harming the environment, hewarned: “nature is fighting back”, and the impacts of biodiversity loss will be as devastating as climate change: masks could be a permanent aspect our existence. Political will is critical to achieve change, he concluded. It can be mobilized through events such as the Summit, which is of “existential importance”.
Mr. Akram added that it is time to discard economic models that are driving States to fight nature and each other, and transition to a new economic and social paradigm which values the preservation of nature, and enshrines sustainability as an integral part of development.
Delegates then watched pre-recorded speeches by the President of Egypt, Mohammed El-Sisi, and Xi Jinping of China. They were invited to speak because Egypt was the host of the 2018 COP (Conference of Parties) of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and China is scheduled to host the next one in 2021.
10:30‘Humanity is waging war on nature’, says Guterres
The UN chief, António Guterres, has just wrapped up his comments to the Summit, in which he accused humanity of “waging war on nature”.
Deforestation, climate change and the conversion of wilderness for human food production are, said the UN chief, destroying Earth’s web of life: “we are part of that fragile web -- and we need it to be healthy so we and future generations may thrive.”
One of the aims of this Summit is to secure increased ambition for biodiversity: the Secretary-General noted that, despite repeated commitments, efforts have not been sufficient to meet any of the global biodiversity targets set for this year.
By living in harmony with nature, he continued, the worst impacts of climate change can be avoided, for the benefit of people and the planet.
Mr. Guterres raised the encouraging prospects of nature-based solutions: forests, oceans and intact ecosystems are effective carbon sinks, for example, and healthy wetlands mitigate flooding.
Count natural resources as wealth
Economic systems, he continued, must account for and invest in nature which, currently, does not figure in countries’ calculations of wealth. The current system, he said, is weighted towards destruction, not preservation, but investing in nature would protect biodiversity and improve climate action, human health, and food security.
Protecting biodiversity and the environment can be a business opportunity: the Convention on Biological Diversity estimates that services from ecosystems make up between 50 and 90 per cent of the livelihoods of poor rural and forest-dwelling households, and poor communities can benefit from sustainable farming, eco-tourism and subsistence fishing.
The Secretary-General welcomed the commitments made in the Leader’s Pledge for Nature and coalitions such as the Campaign for Nature launched at the UN Climate Action Summit in 2019 which, he said, send a strong signal to raise political ambition in the run-up to COP15 of the Convention of Biological Diversity.
“Where effort has been made”, he declared “the benefits to our economies, human and planetary health are irrefutable.”
10:10'Our existence on this planet, depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world' The UN Summit on Biodiversity began a few minutes ago, and was opened by the President of the General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, who began by outlining the high stakes involved in the issue of biodiversity, stating that “our existence on this planet depends entirely on our ability to protect the natural world around us”.
Despite the importance of biodiversity, we are not doing a great job at protecting it: 13 million hectares of forest are lost every year, and one million species are at risk of extinction. We also risk, he said, jeopardizing food security, water supplies, livelihoods, and our ability to fight diseases and face extreme events.
Health and biodiversity
At a time when our collective health is top of mind, Mr. Bozkir noted the link between healthcare and biodiversity: four billion people depend upon natural medicines for their health, and 70 per cent of drugs used for cancer treatments are drawn from nature.
Poor stewardship of the environment is putting our health at risk, as the majority of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, originated from animal populations, a threat that scientists have been warning about for decades.
The GA President re-emphasized calls for a “green recovery’ that addresses these concerns, and leads to a more sustainable, resilient world which, he said, would help unlock an estimated $10 trillion in business opportunities, create 395 million jobs by 2030, and encourage a greener economy.
Wrapping up his opening remarks, Mr. Bozkir argued that biodiversity should be protected from a moral, economic and existential standpoint, an act that is “an investment in the health of our planet, is an investment in our future; one that we leave for future generations.”
09:40Here are two more preview videos released on Twitter, ahead of the Summit. The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) have both focused on the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, which has so far been endorsed by 72 countries.
The Pledge commits countries to ensuring that they are working in harmony with nature, and putting biodiversity, climate and the environment as a whole at the heart of their COVID-19 recovery strategies.
09:15It’s simple: when we help nature, we help ourselves. That’s the message from the UN’s environment agency, UNEP, in a video produced ahead of the Summit.
The video, like the Summit itself, calls attention for the need to work towards a “new normal”, where all people can live in harmony with nature.
09:00Good morning from UN News in New York! Today we’re continuing our live UNGA (that’s United Nations General Assembly) coverage, by following the UN Summit on Biodiversity. The Summit begins at 10:00 New York time, and promises to be very eventful. It will begin with statements from top UN officials, António Guterres, the Secretary-General; Munir Akram, the president of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC); and Volkan Bozkir, the President of the 75th session of the General Assembly.
Look out for statements from two Heads of State: Mohammed El-Sisi of Egypt, and Xi Jinping of China: Egypt hosted the last COP (Conference of Parties) of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2018, and China was due to host this year’s COP, which has now been postponed until 2021.
Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, who is billed as an “eminent speaker”, in recognition of the many pronouncements he has made on the environment over the years, will also deliver a message during the opening section of the Summit.
Many more Heads of State, UN officials and representatives of NGOs are due to speak throughout the event, which is due to end at six PM, New York time. We’ll do our best to share the highlights with you.
Alternatively you can watch the whole thing, thanks to our colleagues at UN Web TV, who have it covered.
#CoralReef; #Thailand; #environmentalChange; #Ecosystem
New York, Sep 28 (Canadian-Media):Increasing fishing too quickly can cause coral reef ecosystems to collapse, new University of Colorado Boulder-led
A parrotfish (Scarus rivulatus) and a pair of rabbitfish (Siganus virgatus) dine together on algae in a coral reef in Thailand. Image Credit: Mike Gil
The new study, to publish the week of September 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, provides the first evidence that these marine ecosystems are highly sensitive to how quickly a target fishing level is reached. Surprisingly, this pattern in the ecosystem is driven by the social behaviors of individual coral reef fish.
In many fisheries, target fishing levels are set with hopes to maximize harvest while keeping the fishery sustainable, year after year. Conventional wisdom suggests that target fishing levels should be approached as quickly as possible, to reap benefits immediately. However, researchers say that raising fishing to the same target level a bit more slowly could sustain both a fishery and an ecosystem that would otherwise collapse.
"The ecosystem depends on the pace at which the environment is changing, not just the magnitude," said Mike Gil, lead author and a Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
The study incorporates the social nature of fish feeding habits into a mathematical simulation of a coral reef ecosystem under fishing pressure. Gil's previous research has found that even between species, fish look to each other to gauge whether it's safe to venture out to eat algae from a patch of reef. The more fish at a location, the safer it appears, and more fish are likely to join the feast. This phenomenon is known as a positive feedback.
However, this feedback also works the other way: If there are few or no fish at a location on the reef, then it does not seem inviting or safe. Other fish may also stay away.
"This feedback makes the ecosystem more prone to collapse under fishing pressure but also more prone to recovery as fishing is reduced. Social fish essentially cause the ecosystem to be much more sensitive, overall, and to be hypersensitive to exactly how quickly we remove fish," said Gil.
Fish are friends, looking for food
The study used extensive datasets on fish behavior from previous field experiments in coral reefs—even employing the help of artificial intelligence to track exactly what each fish did and saw each second. This rich dataset informed mathematical simulations of the populations of coral, fish and algae.
It's the first time the social component of individual fish has been included in models like these.
"We've shown that an animal that maybe a lot of folks would assume is kind of dumb is, in fact, embedded in a social network and is highly influenced by its neighbors, just like humans," said Gil.
The best patches of algae in reefs are often out in open spaces that get a lot of sunlight. But these same locations are where the fish have nowhere to hide if a predator, like a shark, was to come along. The fish are paying close attention to one another, even between species, looking for cues about when it's safe to enter into dangerous parts of the reef and get that satisfying meal.
The fish also stay longer, and each fish eats more in these exposed areas, when there are more fish around, known as positive density dependence. The same type of thing happens if you visit a haunted house: You stay longer and are more likely to make it through the whole experience if you go with a few friends.
An important ecosystem for all
Algae-eating fish provide an important service to the reef. If algae are not kept in check, they can kill coral and destroy the entire reef ecosystem. When there are suddenly fewer fish on the reef due to fishing pressure, the remaining fish venture out less often and eat less algae. This can cause the coral population to collapse, and the ecosystem with it.
Not only do other animals rely on coral reefs for food and shelter, humans also rely on coral reefs because they are nurseries and homes for hundreds of fish species that we harvest. Reefs also provide valuable ecotourism opportunities, buffer the intensity of hurricanes and typhoons before they reach the shoreline, and provide hundreds of billions of dollars annually to the global economy.
In addition to fishing, reefs also face other human-caused pressures like nutrient pollution and ocean warming, due to global climate change, which caused severe damage to reefs around the world in the last several years.
"Coral reefs are incredibly tough, resilient ecosystems," said Gil. "But they are not so tough in the face of many challenges happening simultaneously."
These new findings—on not only how many, but how fast fish can be sustainably harvested—can inform local and regional scale management decisions that deal with fishing quotas.
"As ecologists, we're trying to understand why we see what we see when we step into nature. And if we understand how these ecosystems function, we can effectively manage them and keep them around for future generations," Gil said.
#SouthAfrica; #UNEP; #Ecosystem; #Biodiversity; #GlobalEnvironmentFacility; #Forestry; #Fisheries
South Africa, Sep 5 (Canadian-Media): The coast of South Africa’s Kwazulu-Natal province looks like it was pulled from a postcard, with wide, sandy beaches stretching for some 600 kilometres, UNEP reports said.
Plastic clogs Cuttings Beach near Durban. Every year, up to 250,000 tonnes of litter is dumped into the oceans around South Africa. Image credit: Lisa Guastella
International and local tourists flock here in normal times, drawn to the warm Indian Ocean waters for surfing, relaxation, and glimpses of spectacular wildlife, like loggerhead turtles.
But heavy rains can transform this beautiful coast in a flash. Downpours accelerate the flow of polluted upstream rivers, sending their litter cascading into the sea, including around the city of Durban.
After a storm, heaps of plastic bags and bottles pile up on Durban’s shores with the current transporting some rubbish hundreds of kilometers down the coast.
What’s happening to Kwazulu-Natal’s beaches is part of a larger marine litter crisis in South Africa. Every year, between 90,000 and 250,000 tonnes of rubbish enter the oceans that surround the country. This marine litter can damage ship engines and propellers.
It becomes entangled in nets and other fishing equipment. It drives away tourists. It’s often ingested by birds, mammals, and fish, causing them to choke or become sick. And it can find its way into the human food chain.
But just where is all this waste coming from?
“Eighty per cent of marine litter originates on land, mediated through flash floods and river inputs,” said Jared Bosire, Project Manager with the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Regional Seas Programme. “Therefore, if we want a clean ocean, we must change our behavior on shore and link the solution to the source, which is upstream.”
A new project driven by the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries aims to do exactly that. The department is joining forces with local officials, non-profit groups, like Coastwatch and Durban Green Corridors, and Plastics SA, a privately-owned company, to stem the flow of marine litter in five river systems in Kwazulu-Natal. Through increased litter collection and community-led waste sorting and recycling, the department will reduce litter generation at its source, thereby lessening the amount of pollution that reaches the ocean.
Litter booms, barriers that collect floating debris, will be installed in the uMngeni, uMlazi, uMbilo, uMhlatuzana, and aManzimnyama rivers. Communities will help clean out the booms on a daily basis during the two-year project. The booms have the added benefit of trapping invasive species, like the exotic water hyacinth, before they take root in waterways.
“If we want a clean ocean, we must change our behavior on shore,” said Jared Bosire, UNEP project manager
The department will also implement a waste sorting and recycling programme in one community per river. One possibility being considered is the idea of “swop-shops” where community members can trade the recyclable litter for essentials, said Yazeed Petersen, a Project Manager from the South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries. “Integrating these shops into the project will further encourage communities to become involved in litter collection.”
Douw Steyn of Plastics SA agreed. “We need to ensure that value is given to waste plastic so that it can contribute to the circular economy. Recyclers cannot get enough material, so there is enormous potential for those willing to collect litter.”
The project is designed to help South Africa achieve its targets under Sustainable Development Goal 14.1, under which the country committed to preventing and reducing marine pollution by 2025, as well as Sustainable Development Goal 6.3 to improve water quality by 2030 through reducing pollution.
The initiative is being funded by the Global Environment Facility through the Implementation of the Strategic Action Programme for the Protection of the Western Indian Ocean from Land-Based Sources and Activities, executed by the Nairobi Convention. This project will reduce land-based stresses on this environment by protecting critical habitats, improving water quality, and managing river flows. The convention, part of UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme, serves as a platform for governments, civil society and the private sector to work together for the sustainable management and use of the Western Indian Ocean.