UNEP's Year in Review 2011: July to December
From UNEP's contribution to the UN's 'International Year of Forests' to the rapidly evolving analysis of how to catalyze a global transition towards a Green Economy, 2011 has proven to be a defining year for the environmental pillar of sustainable development as the world heads towards Rio+20 in June 2012.
Here are some highlights of UNEP's activities for the last half of the year.
Despite the economic recession, global investments in green energy grew by nearly a third to US$211 billion in 2010. This is according to the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2011 Publication and the REN21 Renewables 2011 Global Status report released in July 2011.
For what is believed to be the first time ever, the Executive Director of UNEP was invited to address the UN Security Council during a debate on security and climate change.
Achim Steiner emphasized that science should guide member states' views on the links and in conclusion added: "There can be little doubt today that climate change has potentially far-reaching implications for global stability and security in economic, social and environmental terms which will increasingly transcend the capacity of individual nation States to manage. In that context the sustainable development paths of individual nations will increasingly be predicated upon the ability of the international community to act collectively in addressing these developments".
After 14 months of intense field work, UNEP launched the Environmental Assessment of Ogoniland which showed that pollution from over 50 years of oil operations in the region has penetrated further and deeper than many may have supposed. The report recommended the establishment of Ogoniland Environmental Restoration Authority to oversee implementation of the study's recommendations.
During the World Water Week, healthy ecosystems as the basis for sustainable water resources and stable food security were recognized. This was highlighted in a report - An Ecosystems Approach to Water and Food Security, launched by UNEP and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), in partnership with 19 other organizations.
A new report by the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Center gave eight million seven hundred thousand (give or take 1.3 million) as the latest estimated total number of species on Earth and the most precise calculation ever offered. The report said that 91% of species in the seas have yet to be discovered, described or catalogued.
Following the launch of the first part of the report in May 2011, a coalition of the world's foremost financial institutions brought together by UNEP'S Finance Initiative launched REDDy-Set-Grow Part II: Recommendations for international climate change negotiators in September 2011. In the new report, financiers called for Forestry-Based Carbon Markets and warned of huge cost of failure at the Durban Climate Change meeting.
The UNEP report, 'Resource Efficiency-Economics and Outlook for Asia and the Pacific' estimated that that per capita resource consumption of 'materials' in the Asia-Pacific region, such as construction minerals and fuels, needs to be around 80 per cent less than today if sustainable development is to be achieved.
As the world prepares for the Rio+20 conference in June 2012, more than 1,400 young people from 120 countries gathered in Indonesia for the Tunza International Children and Youth Conference with a strong focus on employment.- the Bandung Declaration identified access to green jobs as critical for achieving a sustainable transition to the Green Economy.
The report, Climate Change and Tourism Policy in OECD Countries, recommends that stronger climate change mitigation policies and incentives be developed for the tourism sector. At the same time, it shows how ambitious mitigation pledges already in place mean the tourism industry can be a source of innovative solutions to climate change. The report also recommends that policy options on climate change mitigation need to reflect the wider context of the place of tourism in an individual country's economy.
UNEP launched the Cities chapter of the Green Economy report at the Gwangju Summit of the Urban Environmental Accords in the Republic of Korea. The chapter emphasized the role of improved planning and more intelligent management of cities across the developed and developing world in growing economies, boosting social improvements and reducing humanity's environmental footprint.
With economic recovery topping the United States and global political agenda, a group of CEOs, major investors and bankers together with former United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson called for a far-reaching reform of the international financial system at the UNEP Finance Initiative's Global Roundtable.
The 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Basel Convention, the global treaty on waste management, reached an agreement unblocking an amendment that will ban the export of hazardous wastes from OECD to non-OECD countries. The decision included a set of measures aimed at strengthening international control of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes, while establishing a regime for countries who may wish to trade in waste to ensure the minimization of health and environment impacts, adequate labour and social conditions, and the creation of new economic opportunities. The Conference also adopted a 10-year Strategic Framework for implementation of the Convention designed to strengthen the environmentally sound management of wastes.
Amendments to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade came into force. This raised the number of chemicals covered under the instrument to 43.
UNEP launched the report; 'Keeping Track of Our Changing Environment: From RIO to Rio+20'. The report focused on the environmental changes that have swept the planet over the last twenty years and lays-out the challenges and opportunities for sustainable development up to Rio+20 and beyond.
Representatives from 120 governments gathered at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi for negotiations towards a global treaty on mercury. The third of five sessions of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC3) addressed the release of mercury into the environment from energy production and industrial processes and the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining, consumer goods and its presence in hazardous wastes, among other issues.
After comments by governments and stakeholders, the final 'Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication' report was released at an event in Beijing China. The report demonstrated that governments and businesses alike are taking steps to accelerate a global shift towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient and socially inclusive green future.
Member governments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) approved the Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX). The summary provides insights into how disaster risk management and adaptation may assist vulnerable communities to better cope with a changing climate in a world of inequalities.
In the run up to the UN climate convention meeting in Durban, South Africa, UNEP launched the report HFCs: A Critical Link in Protecting Climate and the Ozone Layer. The report projects that by 2050 HFCs could be responsible for emissions equivalent to 3.5 to 8.8 Gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2eq) - comparable to total current annual emissions from transport, estimated at around 6-7 Gt annually calling for urgent action.
The report Bridging the Emissions Gap was also launched in the run up to the UN climate convention meeting in Durban, South Africa. It outlined the pathways to 2020 able to deliver the additional 6 to 11 Gigatonne cuts needed to get world onto safe track.
The report Actions for Controlling Short-Term Climate Forcers was the last pre-COP17 report to be launched. It presented a package of 16 measures which could, if fully implemented across the globe, save close to 2.5 million lives a year; avoid crop losses amounting to 32 million tonnes annually and deliver near-term climate protection of about half a degree C by 2040.
During the Durban climate change meeting UNEP launched a report showing that changes in climate trends are impacting livelihoods and food security in the Sahel and West Africa. The report - Livelihood Security: Climate Change, Migration and Conflict in the Sahel, uses an innovative mapping process to identify 19 "climate hotspots" where climatic changes have been the most severe and which warrant focused adaptation planning and other follow-up activities.
At the 10th Conference of Parties (COP 10) to the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) held in Bergen, Norway from 20-25 November, efforts to conserve seven migratory species, from the Giant Manta Ray to the Saker Falcon, were strengthened.
Spanish soccer star Carles Puyol, who captains FC Barcelona and led Spain to the World Cup title one year ago, became the face of the new campaign from the United Nations Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) and International Animal Rescue (IAR) that seeks to halt the orangutan's dramatic slide towards extinction.
In November, UNEP also released its Final Environmental Review of the 2010 World Exposition (Shanghai Expo) which is a complete appraisal of the environmental and social impacts of the six-month long event with recommendations that could be replicated in future international mass events.
During the Durban Climate meeting, UNEP launched Women at the Frontline of Climate Change. According to the report, women, particularly those living in mountain regions in developing countries, are facing disproportionately high risks to their livelihoods and health from climate change, as well as associated risks such as human trafficking.
As part of the global initiative by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) with the support of the Global Environment Facility (GEF), aimed at assisting to combat climate change through the transition to energy efficient lighting, the South African government, host of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Durban (COP17), formally announced a comprehensive phase-out policy for inefficient lighting.
The management of the Billion Tree Campaign, which has overseen the planting of more than 12 billion trees worldwide, was formally handed over by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to the Plant-for-the-Planet Foundation; a youth-led environmental organization based in Germany.
The Durban climate talks ended with hope for a new more comprehensive legally-binding agreement. Several key and important steps forward were agreed on including an agreement to negotiate a new and more inclusive treaty and the establishment of a Green Climate Fund. The outcome in the South African coastal city however has left the world with some serious and urgent challenges if a global temperature rise is to be kept under 2° Celsius in the 21st century.
The Eye on Earth summit a four-day event, organized by the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI) and hosted by the Abu Dhabi Environment Agency in partnership with UNEP, issued a declaration on the crucial importance of environmental data-and the need to bridge data gaps-as a key contribution to a successful outcome at Rio+20 in 2012.
The Environment Management Group (EMG), representing the work of UN agencies, the Bretton Woods Institutions and other intergovernmental bodieslaunched the first-ever inter-agency report on the Green Economy. Working towards a Balanced and Inclusive Green Economy, outlines steps and policies for pursuing a green economic transformation that generates new sources of sustainable and equitable economic growth. UNEP also announced the 2011 SEED Award winners. The 35 winners ranged from a company that transforms groundnut shells into fuel briquettes in Gambia, to an enterprise that has developed solar ovens in Burkina Faso, to an initiative that trains and employs street youth to collect waste materials in Ghana, which they then transform into handmade designer products, to a business in Kenya where women produce aloe-based skin care products.
Towards the end of the year, UNEP announced the closure of the Climate Neutral Network (CN Net). After overseeing CN Net for three years, UNEP is now inviting members to join forces with - Caring for Climate, Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) and the Climate Group. These organisationsoffer similar platforms that foster commitment to climate neutrality in the private and public sectors.