#UNEP; #PRI; #GlobalIndustryStandard; #CouncilOnEthics
UNEP/Canadian-Media: Today the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), Co-Convenors of the Global Tailings Review, the Church of England Pensions Board and the Council on Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds, announced a partnership to create an independent international institute to support the implementation of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management.
UNEP. Image credit: Twitter handle
The industry Standard was launched in August 2020 and follows the January 2019 Brumadinho tailings dam disaster that resulted in the deaths of 270 people.
The partnership will seek to develop and establish an “Independent Institute” for the Standard, a self-sustaining institute, as recommended by Dr Bruno Oberle, who acted as Independent Chair of the Global Tailings Review, in Towards Zero Harm: A compendium of papers prepared for the Global Tailings Review.
As part of the partnership a senior consultant is being recruited to lead the process of establishing the Institute.
Additionally, the Church of England Pensions Board and the Council on Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds have written to over 350 mining companies on behalf of investors with $21 trillion in assets under management (AUM), asking them to confirm on their company websites their support for the Standard and to set out a timeline for their intended compliance with it. Take-up at the company level of the Standard beyond the largest mining companies will be key to its success.
Commenting on the partnership:
Ligia Noronha, UNEP's Director of the Economy Division said, “The launch of the Global Industry Standard on Tailings Management has been an important milestone towards UNEP’s ambition of zero harm to people and the environment from tailings facilities. We are now taking the next step and welcome our partnership with the Church of England Pensions Board and the Council on Ethics of the Swedish National Pension Funds to develop and establish the independent international institution that will oversee the global implementation of the Standard. We look forward to a broad implementation of the Standard, echoing the feedback we have heard from participants in the consultations on UNEA4/19 resolution on mineral resource governance.”
Adam Matthews, Director of Ethics and Engagement for the Church of England Pensions Board said, “Through this partnership we will create an independent international institute to drive best practice, share expertise and consolidate disclosure in support of the Standard. The Institute will also have a key role in evolving the Standard over time and in ensuring the independent verification that the Standard is being applied as intended. We look forward to working in partnership with UNEP, industry and other key stakeholders to ensure this institute is established with rigor and purpose. To underpin the Standard we have also asked all companies with tailings facilities for their endorsement and to confirm their implementation timeline. This will be essential in retaining confidence of their investors.”
John Howchin, Secretary General, Council on Ethics of the Swedish Public Pension Funds said, “As one of the two PRI Co-Convenors of the Global Tailings Review representing investors in the mining sector, we are determined that the Standard is widely adopted and drives a change in practice within mining. A key recommendation of the Independent Chair of the Review was for the creation of an independent international institute to govern the evolution of the Standard and to ensure its implementation. We believe this is an essential next step to addressing the legacy of the Brumadinho disaster and are delighted to be working in partnership with UNEP to establish the institute in the coming year.”
Bruno Oberle, Director General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, IUCN, and former Independent Chair of the Global Tailings Review said, “As Chair of the Global Tailings Review process, my priority was to deliver a credible and trusted Standard. I am very encouraged by the announcement that an independent institute will be created to oversee the implementation and ongoing development of the Standard. The Standard is the product of an extensive multi-stakeholder and independent process and it will be critical to retain this model to ensure safe management of tailings facilities globally. I am particularly pleased to see the continued momentum and attention on this important topic.”
#EnvironmentAndClimateChange; #EcoWatch; #Arctic; #NOOA; #GlobalWarming
Alaska (US)/Canadian-Media: Global warming is rapidly changing the Arctic into a region that is, "warmer, less frozen, and biologically changed in ways that are scarcely imaginable even a generation ago," according to NOAA's annual Arctic report card, released on Dec 8, EcoWatch News reports said.
The Arctic is becoming "warmer, less frozen, and biologically changed in ways that are scarcely imaginable even a generation ago," according to NOAA's annual Arctic report card. NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory/ YouTube
That description, from Rick Thoman, a University of Alaska scientist and one of the editors of the assessment, describes not just the region's dramatic loss of sea ice, but also its soaring temperatures and the wildfires that burned an estimated 23 million acres across Siberia.
As global warming caused by burning fossil fuels heats the planet, it has an outsized impact on the Arctic, which in turn has an outsized impact on the rest of the globe.
"Changes in the Arctic climate are important because the Arctic acts as a refrigerator for the rest of the world — it helps cool the planet," Lawrence Mudryk, a report contributor and a climate scientist at Environment and Climate Change Canada, told The Associated Press. "How much of the Arctic continues to be covered by snow and sea ice reflects part of how efficiently that refrigerator is working."
#BCYouth; #StrongerBC; #CleanBc; #BCEconomicRecoveryPlan; #YEP; #Diversity; #Inclusion; #COS
British Columbia/Canadian-Media: Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) was launched in late September, as part of StrongerBC: BC's Economic Recovery Plan, focusing on diversity and inclusion to hire young people from under-represented groups, provides 43 jobs with BC Parks and the Conservation Officer Service (COS) for young people between the ages of 19 to 30, media reports said.
Image: YEP. Image credit: Twitter handle
“COVID-19 has challenged young people in many ways, including employment. A recovery that leaves young people behind is no recovery,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
With mentoring from experienced park rangers and conservation officers, the youth employees assist with a variety of duties and projects that support conservation and recreation, while others working as office-based interns in Smithers and with the Provincial Services Branch in Victoria, contribute to research, communications, archival work, program development and policy work.
Trained by WildsafeBC, COS YEP participants, including three designated as wildlife safety officers have provided educational materials on wildlife safety to the public.
“The Youth Employment Program has been an amazing opportunity to learn about different species of birds and plants, and improve my outdoor leadership skills,” said Kjersten McDonald, based in the Rathtrevor office on Vancouver Island. “I love working outside in nature with different park rangers, and I think I would really enjoy doing this type of work in the long term.”
Based on progress made with new investments to support programs to help expand CleanBC, B.C.’s Economic Recovery Plan will build to reduce air pollution and tackle climate change, while at the same time preparing for its impact and creating new jobs.
BritishColumbia; #BlackIceAndFog; #DriveBC; #DriversWarned
British Columbia/Canadian-Media: Drivers are being warned by DriveBC to avoid the from Highway 1 to King George Boulevard area and expect delays due to black ice and fog, as may vehicle incidents in the area were reported.
BC weather conditions. Image credit: DriveBC
Hazardous conditions over much of the Lower Mainland had been created by heavy fog.
DriveBC. Image Credit: Twitter handle
Saturday is expected to be sunny with some clouds, but rain is set to return to the area on Sunday.
#UN; #UNEP; #GreenRecovery; #Covid19; #ClimateChange; #EmissionGap; #ParisAgreement
UN/Canadian-Media: Despite a brief dip in global carbon dioxide emissions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the planet is still heading for a global temperature rise in excess of 3 degrees Celsius this century, a new United Nations report has revealed.
Countries must urgently transition away from fossil fuels. Pictured here, black smoke smoke rises from a chimney at a brick kiln, which uses coal fire to bake bricks, in eastern Bangladesh. (file photo). Image credit: UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani
Speedy and strong climate action can, however, change the temperature trajectory, according to UN Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Emissions Gap Report 2020.
Released on Wednesday, the report highlighted the need for urgent investments in climate action as part of COVID-19 recovery, to bring the world closer to the Paris Agreement goal of at most a 2-degree Celsius temperature rise.
Inger Andersen, UNEP Executive Director, highlighted that a truly green recovery from the pandemic can take “a huge slice out of greenhouse gas emissions” and slow climate change.
“I urge governments to back a green recovery in the next stage of COVID-19 fiscal interventions and raise significantly their climate ambitions in 2021”, she said.
Translate commitment into action The green recovery could cut expected emissions in 2020 by up to 25 per cent, and boost the chance of keeping temperature rise to below 2-degree Celsius, up to 66 per cent, according the report.
Measures such as supporting zero-emissions technologies and infrastructure, reducing fossil fuel subsidies, stopping new coal plants, and promoting nature-based solutions – including large-scale landscape restoration and reforestation – must be prioritized.
The report also found that the growing number of countries committing to net-zero emissions goals by mid-century is a “significant and encouraging development”: so far, some 126 countries covering 51 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have adopted, announced or are considering, a net zero pledge.
Consumer behaviour, transport sectors
Combined emissions of the richest 1 per cent of the global population account for more than twice the combined emissions of the poorest 50 per cent – UNEP
Each year the Emission Gap Report looks at the potential of specific sectors. This year, it focuses on consumer behaviour, together with shipping and aviation.
The report found that improvements in shipping and aviation technology and operations can improve fuel efficiency. However, with increasing demand, the sectors also need a rapid transition further away from fossil fuel to achieve absolute reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.
The report also confirmed that combined emissions of the richest one per cent of the global population account for more than twice the combined emissions of the poorest 50 per cent. The top tier will need to reduce their collective footprint by a factor of 30, to stay in line with the Paris Agreement targets.
Similarly, changes in consumption behaviour by the private sector and individuals, can help strengthen climate action, through various means such as replacing domestic short haul flights with rail travel; promoting cycling and car-sharing; making housing more energy efficient, and reducing food waste.
#EnvironmentalProtectionAgency; #ReduceAirPollution; #ExposureToPM2.5; #PublicHealth
Washington/Canadian-Media: Disregarding Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s emerging scientific link between pollutants and respiratory illness as well as Covid-19 death rates, Trump administration on Monday declined to tighten controls on industrial soot emissions, media reports said.
EPA. Image credit: Website
A mandatory review by EPA scientists conducted if the federal government tightened that standard it could result in the decline of the annual deaths by about 27 percent, or 12,150 people a year.
After the publication of that report, the Trump administration was urged by numerous industries, including oil and coal companies, automakers and chemical manufacturers to disregard the findings and not tighten the rule
In a November 2019 public comment submitted by 13 industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Mining Association and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the industry representatives wrote, “significant uncertainty remains about the relationship between exposure to PM 2.5 and adverse effects on public health.”
Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at Harvard who led the study linking PM 2.5 pollution to Covid deaths, said she was “disappointed but not surprised” by the administration’s decision.
“This is highly irresponsible,” she said. “It follows this pattern of this administration ignoring science and scientists.”
Of the incoming Biden administration, she said, “I truly, truly hope they revise the rule. The evidence is there. It’s so bad.”
President-elect Joe Biden is planning to move forward quickly in his first months in office to reinstate and strengthen many of the environmental rules rolled back by Mr. Trump.
“Given the deadly nature of this pollutant, my advice to the new administration would be to very quickly embark on the process to make the standard more stringent,” said Richard Revesz, an expert on environmental law at New York University.
Biden’s environmental policy proposals include a pledge to “prioritize strategies and technologies that reduce traditional air pollution in disadvantaged communities.”
#UN; #ClimateCange; #SoilOrganisms; #FAO; #BiologicalDiversity; #SoilBiodiversity; #SDGs
UN/Canadian-Media: Even though soil organisms play a crucial role in boosting food production, enhancing nutritious diets, preserving human health, and combating climate change, the real contribution of these tiny life forms remains largely underestimated, the UN agriculture agency (FAO) said on Dec 4.
Local school children water a vegetable garden at their Primary School in Laos. Image credit: © FAO/Manan Vatsyayana
Ahead of World Soil Day, marked on 5 December, FAO launched its first-ever report on “The State of Knowledge of Soil Biodiversity”. The report examines the potential of soil organisms in ensuring sustainable agri-food systems and mitigating climate change.
“Soil biodiversity and sustainable soil management is a prerequisite for the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals”, said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo. “Therefore, data and information on soil biodiversity, from the national to the global level, are necessary in order to efficiently plan management strategies on a subject that is still poorly known”, she added.
According to the report, despite the fact biodiversity loss is at the forefront of global concerns, biodiversity below ground is not being given the prominence it deserves and needs to be fully considered when planning how best to boost sustainable development.
“We hope that the knowledge contained in this report will facilitate the assessment of the state of soil biodiversity as an integral part of national- and regional-level biodiversity reporting and any soil surveys”, Ms. Semedo advanced.
Being one of the main ‘global reservoirs’ of biodiversity, soils host more than 25 percent of the world’s biological diversity. In addition, more than 40 percent of living organisms in terrestrial ecosystems are associated with soils during their life cycle.
The report defines soil biodiversity as the variety of life belowground, from genes and animal species to the communities they form, as well as the ecological complexes to which they contribute and to which they belong; from soil micro-habitats to landscapes.
These include a wide range of organisms, from unicellular and microscopic forms to invertebrates such as nematodes, earthworms, arthropods, and their larval stages, as well as mammals, reptiles, and amphibians that spend a large part of their life belowground, and a great diversity of algae and fungi.
Keep soil alive, protect biodiversity
Plants nurture a whole world of creatures in the soil, FAO notes, that in return feed and protect the plants. It is this diverse community of living organisms that keep the soil healthy and fertile, which constitutes soil biodiversity, and determines the main biogeochemical processes that make life possible on Earth.
This year, by addressing the increasing challenges of soil management, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) campaign “Keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity” aims to raise awareness of the importance of sustaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being. By encouraging people around the world to engage in proactively improving soil health, the campaign also aims to fight soil biodiversity loss.
Threats to soil biodiversity
Although soils are essential for human well-being and the sustainability of life on the planet, they are threatened by human activity, climate change, and natural disasters.
#UNHCR; #Covid19Pandemic; #ClimateChange; #worldEmergencyPreparedness;
UNHCR/Canadian-Media: Global response to the COVID-19 pandemic offers insights on how to mitigate the impact of climate change on displaced populations, says UNHCR’s Gillian Triggs.
Climate change and irregular rainfall force Sudanese refugee children in Chad to travel for several miles to fetch water. Image credit: © UNHCR/Oualid Khelifi
The COVID-19 pandemic can be seen as a test case for the world’s emergency preparedness to respond to the impacts of climate change, particularly on the most vulnerable populations such as refugees and internally displaced people, a virtual meeting hosted by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, heard on Dec 2.
“COVID has really woken us up and shown that some emergencies will affect us all globally, and we must work together to solve them,” UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs, told participants in an online session of the annual High Commissioner’s Dialogue on Protection Challenges.
Unlike the current pandemic, however, which has seen governments swiftly adopt measures to control its spread and mitigate the social and economic impacts, the climate crisis is not yet being met with the same sense of urgency, Triggs warned.
“Both climate change and the COVID pandemic transcend borders and threaten millions of lives,” Triggs added. “Sadly, refugees and displaced people are among the most vulnerable in the world to the disease, and to the effects of climate change.”
Last year alone, weather-related events triggered some 24.9 million displacements in 140 countries. Research shows that without ambitious climate action and disaster risk reduction, climate-related disasters could double the number of people requiring humanitarian assistance to over 200 million each year by 2050.
As with the response to COVID-19, UNHCR is advocating for specific measures to protect forcibly displaced and stateless people from the threats posed by climate change, which include food and water shortages, increased outbreaks of disease and loss of livelihoods.
At the same time, UNHCR is increasing its focus on the links between climate, vulnerability and displacement in order to identify at risk populations and mitigate the effects of climate change before they lead to full-blown displacement crises.
ATE TO SUPPORT REFUGEES
“We’re seeing climate change raising tensions around the world as people fight for resources,” explained UNHCR’s Special Advisor on Climate Action, Andrew Harper. “As a protection agency, we can no longer afford to be reactive. We can’t wait for people to cross borders. We understand that conflict is going to increase over time, and its important for us to be better prepared.”
Among the participants in the session was Bidal Abraham, a 33-year-old South Sudanese refugee living in Rhino camp in north-eastern Uganda, where he is a vocal advocate for environmental protection and tree planting. He told the audience that increasing scarcity of resources driven by changes in climate were affecting refugees and creating tension with local host communities.
“We’ve been suffering the negative effects of climate change and environmental degradation, individually and as a community,” he explained. “This includes low food production due to little rainfall. We also experience high temperatures that affect our health, our animals and our crops.”
“We’ve been hit hard by conflicts between us, the refugees, and the host community over the limited resources,” Abraham continued. “That is to say the trees for firewood and for shelters, and the grass for thatching our houses. Given that the population of South Sudanese refugees is very high in Uganda – 1.2 million – these resources are very scarce.”
“We cannot close the border to climate change.”
Harper said it was important to ensure that vulnerable populations most threatened by climate change were given a voice in decision making on how to mitigate the risks.
“No one can be left behind. It can’t be refugees, it can’t be internally displaced people, it cannot be indigenous populations. It cannot be women, and it cannot be the host communities who have done so much to protect those people who have fled for no reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
It was a point echoed by Hindou Ibrahim, an environmental activist and indigenous rights campaigner from Chad’s pastoralist Mbororo community. She said her country was already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of temperature rises, droughts and increased floods and other extreme weather events.
“If we want to solve the problem of climate change, we have to put the most vulnerable at the centre,” Ibrahim said. “There is no vaccine, there is no mask, we cannot close the border [to] climate change. So we must act. Real action that involves the communities in the middle.”
#UN; #ClimateChange; #2020HottestYear; #WMO
UN/Canadian-Media: This year is on track to be one of the three hottest on record, completing a run of six years that were all hotter than any year ever measured before, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said on Wednesday.
WMO. Image credit: Twitter handle
The relentless rise of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere – a phenomenon that has continued despite a travel lull during the pandemic – will fuel temperature rise for decades to come.
“The average global temperature in 2020 is set to be about 1.2 °C above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) level. There is at least a one in five chance of it temporarily exceeding 1.5 °C by 2024”, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
Unwelcome threshold The 1.5 degree threshold represents a milestone the world is trying not to reach: the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, backed by almost every country on earth, calls for keeping the global temperature to 1.5°C above pre-industrial era levels.
To slow temperature rises, the world needs radical action. Countries must decrease production of fossil fuels by 6 per cent per year between 2020 and 2030 if the world is to avert "catastrophic” global temperature rise, according to the UN-backed Production Gap Report released on Wednesday.
In a landmark speech in New York on Wednesday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the fight against the climate crisis was the top priority for the 21st Century.
Climate records have fallen like dominos in the past decade, so notching up merely the third hottest year on record may seem to suggest some respite. But that would be a false conclusion, because 2020’s heat rose in a year when the world was experiencing a La Niña weather pattern, which normally means lower temperatures.
“Record warm years have usually coincided with a strong El Niño event, as was the case in 2016. We are now experiencing a La Niña, which has a cooling effect on global temperatures, but has not been sufficient to put a brake on this year’s heat. Despite the current La Niña conditions, this year has already shown near record heat comparable to the previous record of 2016,” said Prof. Taalas.
“We saw new extreme temperatures on land, sea and especially in the Arctic. Wildfires consumed vast areas in Australia, Siberia, the US West Coast and South America, sending plumes of smoke circumnavigating the globe”, he added.
“We saw a record number of hurricanes in the Atlantic, including unprecedented back-to-back category 4 hurricanes in Central America in November. Flooding in parts of Africa and South East Asia led to massive population displacement and undermined food security for millions.”
The 2020 temperature report is provisional until a final report is published in March 2021, the WMO said.
#UN; #FossilFuel; #UNEP; #ClimateChange; #Covid19; #RebootEconomy
UN/Canadian-Media: Countries must decrease production of fossil fuels by 6 per cent per year, between 2020 and 2030, if the world is to avert "catastrophic” global temperature rise, a new UN-backed report has found.
A new report has urged countries to cut the production of fossil fuels by 6 per cent, per year, to avoid catastrophic global warming. Pictured here, a cargo train, laden with coal, waits at a railway station in India. (file photo) Image credit: ESCAP Photo/Christian Dohrmann
Released, on Wednesday, in the shadows of the coronavirus pandemic, the Production Gap Report also revealed that while the pandemic and resulting lockdowns led to “short-term drops” in coal, oil and gas production, pre-COVID plans and post-COVID stimulus measures point to a continuation of increasing fossil fuel production.
“As we seek to reboot economies following the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in low-carbon energy and infrastructure will be good for jobs, for economies, for health, and for clean air,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
“Governments must seize the opportunity to direct their economies and energy systems away from fossil fuels, and build back better towards a more just, sustainable, and resilient future.”
The Production Gap Report, produced jointly by research institutions – Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), Overseas Development Institute, and E3G – and UNEP, measures the “gap” between the aspirations of the Paris Agreement on climate change and countries’ planned production of coal, oil, and gas.
The report also comes at a potential turning point, according to the author organizations, as the global pandemic prompts unprecedented government action – and as major economies, including China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea, have pledged to reach net-zero emissions.
‘Recover better together’
The 2020 edition found that the “production gap” remains large: countries plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels in 2030 than would be consistent with a 1.5-degree Celsius temperature limit.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the report showed “without a doubt” that the production and use of fossil needs to decrease quickly if the world is to achieve Paris Agreement goals.
“This is vital to ensure both a climate-safe future and strong, sustainable economies for all countries – including those most affected by the shift from grey to green,” he said.
“Governments must work on diversifying their economies and supporting workers, including through COVID-19 recovery plans that do not lock in unsustainable fossil fuel pathways but instead share the benefits of green and sustainable recoveries. We can and must recover better together.”
Use COVID-19 recovery plans The report outlined key areas of action, providing policymakers with options to start winding down fossil fuels as they enact COVID-19 recovery plans.
“Governments should direct recovery funds towards economic diversification and a transition to clean energy that offers better long-term economic and employment potential,” said Ivetta Gerasimchuk, report co-author and lead for sustainable energy supplies at IISD.
She also highlighted that the pandemic-driven demand shock and the plunge of oil prices this year once again demonstrated the vulnerability of many fossil-fuel-dependent regions and communities.
“The only way out of this trap is diversification of these economies beyond fossil fuels,” Ms. Gerasimchuk added.
A ‘clear’ solution The report also urged reduction of existing government support for fossil fuels, introduction of restrictions on production, and stimulus funds for green investments.
Michael Lazarus, report co-author and the head of SEI’s US Center, underscored “research is abundantly clear, we face severe climate disruption if countries continue to produce fossil fuels at current levels, let alone at their planned increases.”
“The research is similarly clear on the solution: government policies that decrease both the demand and supply for fossil fuels and support communities currently dependent on them. This report offers steps that governments can take today for a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels.”