Planet earth needs attention

01 Jul 2009

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At a time plagued by copius crises, it is easy to lose sight of climate change and ongoing environmental degradation representing a crisis which will not go away if appropriate measures are not taken immediately.

New Horizons - World Environment Day on June 5th, reminded the global community of the opportunities that lie in addressing climate change in a way that promotes economic recovery for countries and their people. New strategies must be adopted if poverty eradication and economic growth are to be sustained in the face of significant environmental and climatic change.

UNDP estimates that an additional 600 million people will face food shortages and malnourishment in the coming years, 1.8 billion will struggle to find water and 330 million will be displaced due to the disastrous effects of climate change. UNDP takes a serious stance in finding and implementing solutions to reduce poverty and sustain biodiversity by providing policy and technical assistance to governments and people as they work to alleviate or prevent the impacts of rapidly intensifying climate change.

All arrows point in the same direction. The effects of climate change will increasingly be felt by everyone in the global community. Everyonr will be affected by food and water shortages, by disappearing species, by the expansion of warm weather and by rising sea levels. Although leaders from around the world will meet in Copenhagen for high-level climate change talks this December, the decisions made may not be sufficient. This is everyone's planet and as UNDP administrator Helen Clark aptly stated, it is time to “treat our planet better, and lighten our carbon footprint”.

Plant for the planet

The Billion Tree Campaign has passed the four billion mark, in a crucial step towards its target of seven billion trees planted by the end of 2009. The total has been boosted by individual tree planting efforts by people around the world taking part in a global tree planting drive for World Environment Day, a hands-on way for communities to urge world leaders to "seal the deal" at the crucial UN climate change talks in Copenhagen in December.

The campaign hit the three billion mark less than two month ago, when the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forestry announced that collective efforts by the Government, NGOs and civil society had led to the planting of over 300 million trees during 2008.

Under the Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign, people are encouraged to enter tree planting commitments online with the objective of planting at least seven billion trees worldwide by December 2009 - one for every person on the planet. Turkey currently ranks second in the Top 10 Tree Planting countries, with 707 million trees planted thus far. To date, tree plantings have taken place in 166 countries around the world as part of the Billion Tree Campaign. Please visit http://www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign to learn more about the campaign.

Twitter for trees

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has also mobilized action across the globe through the hugely successful Twitter for Trees campaign on www.twitter.com/UNEPandYou. The initiative was driven by a simple yet powerful idea: UNEP pledged to plant one tree for every follower who joined by World Environment Day on 5 June.

The campaign was a runaway success, with 10,300 people following the UNEPandYou page by World Environment Day weekend. UNEP will therefore plant 10,300 indigenous trees in several locations around the world as part of the Twitter for Trees tree-planting drive, which will feed into the Billion Tree Campaign.

Ban launches UN advisory group on energy and climate change

In mid-June, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a new group consisting of business leaders and experts who will advise him on energy and climate change challenges, particularly in identifying key issues in the run-up to the major United Nations conference to be held in Copenhagen in December.

The high-level Energy and Climate Change Advisory Group held its first meeting in June at UN Headquarters under the chairmanship of Kandeh K. Yumkella, Director-General of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and head of the inter-agency mechanism known as UN-Energy.

The Group will help the UN prepare for Copenhagen, especially regarding the role that energy plays in climate change, and monitor implementation of what is decided at the conference, Mr. Yumkella told a news conference in New York.

Countries will meet in December to ‘seal the deal’ on a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse gas emissions targets. The first phase of the 1997 Protocol expires at the end of 2012.

The Group will consider ways to comprehensively address climate change and boost energy efficiency and clean production, with a focus on developing countries.

Mr. Yumkella said it is important to focus on developing countries because they not only required help in tackling climate change, but also needed access to energy options. Many parts of the developing world still burned charcoal, wood and other biomass, which led to ecological damage and is a primary cause of pulmonary diseases.

Among those invited to participate in the group are top executives from companies such as Tata (India), Suntech Holdings (China), Edison International (United States), the New Energy and Technology Development Organization (Japan), and ESKOM Holdings (South Africa), as well as political figures, including former Costa Rican President Jose Figueres, and UN officials.

Seal the deal!

The 15th Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, popularly known as COP15, will convene on 7 December 2009, in Copenhagen, to respond to one of the greatest challenges facing humanity: climate change. The negotiations will need to find ways to protect the planet and create a green economy that will lead to long-term prosperity.

The United Nations’ “Seal the Deal” campaign encourages users to sign an online global petition which will be presented to world leaders

Reaching a deal by the time the meeting ends on December 18 will depend not only on political negotiations but also on worldwide public pressure. The United Nations’ “Seal the Deal” campaign encourages users to sign an online, global petition which will be presented to world leaders. The petition will serve as a reminder that world leaders must negotiate a fair, balanced and effective agreement in Copenhagen, and that they must seal a deal to power green growth, protect our planet and build a more sustainable, prosperous global economy that will benefit all nations and all people. The petition urges world leaders to:

  • Set binding targets to cut greenhouses gases by 2020 to avert the climate change threat
  • Establish a framework that will bolster the climate resilience of vulnerable countries and protect lives and livelihoods
  • Support developing countries’ adaptation efforts
  • Seize this defining opportunity to protect People and the Planet
  • Power green growth; launch the green, low carbon economy of tomorrow
  • The conference traces its origins to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, which aimed at coordinating international action against climate change. Six years later the Kyoto Protocol was signed in Japan and two years ago signatories gathered in Bali, Indonesia, to launch negotiations for stronger action against climate change. This process will now culminate at the meeting in Copenhagen.