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Found 10 results

  1. In just 15 years the world could suffer a catastrophic global water crisis, the United Nations (UN) warn in its annual World Water Development Report. The UN report forecasts that global water demand will increase by 55 percent by 2050. If current trends of water usage continues the world could suffer a 40 percent shortfall in water supply as early as by 2030 – which could potentially have catastrophic consequences. Groundwater supplies are quickly diminishing and the report estimates that 20 percent of the world’s aquifers are currently over-exploited. There is an urgent need to manage water more sustainably, the UN report concludes. If we fail to do this, the competition for water will increase and lead to “significant impacts” on both the economy and human well-being. It will also increase the risk of conflicts, the UN report warns. Safe drinking water supplies will continue to dwindle as long as water pollution continues to be ignored and go unpunished by local authorities, and water use remains wasteful and unregulated, as it unfortunately does in many nations, the UN says in its report. In order to mitigate this water crisis, the UN is urging politicians, communities and industries to rethink its water policies and to make a greater effort to conserve water. The 55 percent increase in water demand is mainly due to growing demands from manufacturing, thermal electricity generation and domestic use. But due to increasing population numbers and consumption levels, agriculture will also need to substantially increase its food productions to keep up with demand – and this will in turn increase water usage. “By 2050, agriculture will need to produce 60 percent more food globally, and 100 percent more in developing countries […] global water demand for the manufacturing industry is expected to increase by 400 percent from 2000 to 2050, leading all other sectors, with the bulk of this increase occurring in emerging economies and developing countries,” the UN report said. “Unless the balance between demand and finite supplies is restored, the world will face an increasingly severe global water deficit.” Considering that current demands for water in the agriculture sector is already unsustainable, this will be a difficult task. The agriculture sector must increase its water use efficiency by reducing water losses in the production process, and to “increase crop productivity with respect to water” availability and demand, the report says. The UN report also points to two worrying global trends that are converging: climate change and growing economic development in poor developing countries. This convergence will especially “intensify the water insecurity of poor and marginalized people in low income countries.” “Water resources are a key element in policies to combat poverty, but are sometimes themselves threatened by development,” said UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova. “Water directly influences our future, so we need to change the way we assess, manage and use this resource in the face of ever-rising demand and the over exploitation of our groundwater reserves.”
  2. A new global agreement on climate change has been reached this past weekend at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. The agreement, dubbed the Lima deal, is the first important step towards a climate change deal in Paris next year. But critics say the Lima deal is a weakened agreement that will do nothing to stop catastrophic climate change. The conference (COP20) is the 20th yearly conference on global warming and was hosted by one of the countries worst affected by climate change. Delegates from around 200 countries managed, after more than 30 hours of extended talk, to reach an agreement on a draft text that will form the basis for a global agreement on how to combat global warming by next year. Many hoped that such a global climate agreement would be reached at COP15 back in 2009 when Copenhagen hosted the conference. Hopefully such a global climate agreement will instead be reached in December next year in Paris – six long years later. The Lima deal lays out how each nation will present their own plans for curbing global warming, preferably during the first half of next year. The deal commits all countries – both developed and developing countries – to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The draft text says that all countries have “common but differentiated responsibilities” to prevent global warming. This means that the Lima deal marks the first time all nations have agreed to cut carbon emissions – both rich and poor countries, North and South. The draft says that wealthy and developed countries would assist poorer developing countries to fight global warming by offering climate aid and investing in clean energy technology. Countries already threatened by global warming – such as small island states – have been promised financial aid in a “loss and damage” programme. “As a text it's not perfect but it includes the positions of the parties,” said Pulgar-Vidal, conference chairperson. “I think for the first time ever the world can contemplate a global deal applicable to all and Lima has helped that process,” the UK’s energy and climate change secretary, Ed Davey, said in response to the agreement. Critics warn that Lima agreement fails humanity and the earth, and that it will result in a weak climate deal in Paris. “We were deeply concerned that these talks would fail to deliver a fair and ambitious outcome as we watched events here in Lima this week,” said Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International. “Our concerns have proven to be tragically accurate. This text is desperately lacking in ambition, leadership, justice and solidarity for the people worst hit by the climate crisis.” “The only thing these talks have achieved is to reduce the chances of a fair and effective agreement to tackle climate change in Paris next year,” said Asad Rehman, Friends of the Earth’s International Climate Campaigner. “We have the ingenuity and resources to build the low carbon future we so urgently need – but we still lack the political will.” Rehman also notes how poorer nations once again was “bullied” by richer nations to accept a climate deal that further weakens climate justice. For example: several rich nations, such as USA and China, both whom are currently the world’s top polluters, opposed plans for a review process that would compare and assess climate pledges and emission reduction targets. And the agreed draft text in the Lima deal only says that climate pledges will be reviewed one month ahead of COP21 in Paris next year. Also, the draft only say that nations “may” (and not “shall”) include measureable information showing how they intend to meet their emissions targets. “With the world speeding towards catastrophic climate change, wealthy industrialised nations who have contributed most to our polluted atmosphere must take the lead in tackling this threat,” Rehman said in a statement.
  3. The latest in a long series of UN-sponsored talks is convening in Lima, Peru, for two weeks of negotiations. The goal is to lay the basis for a climate treaty deal in Paris in November 2015. The last international agreement, the Kyoto Accords, expired in 2012; all subsequent efforts to replace it have failed thus far. The recent bilateral agreement between the Obama administration and the Chinese government set targets for limiting and then reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For the first time, China agreed to set a peak for its greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 and to reduce them in the decades following. China's reluctance to set such targets in the past has been a key stumbling block to reaching an international agreement, more significant since China became the world's largest emitter of carbon pollution in the last few years. This bilateral agreement has given new impetus to the likelihood of using the UN process to reach a new and more far-reaching agreement. Similarly, the foot-dragging of U.S. negotiators has been another key roadblock to an international agreement. New steps taken by the Obama administration include the agreement with China, which sets a target of serious reductions by 2025 for the U.S.; new EPA rules for new and existing power plants limiting their carbon pollution; continued commitment to renewable energy which started with the 2009 stimulus bill; and heightened attention in Obama's 2013 Inaugural and State of the Union speeches. While the bilateral agreement by itself is not enough, it does lay the basis for both the US and China to play a more positive role in international negotiations. This gathering takes place against the backdrop of continuing increases in temperature worldwide. There is a developing three-part alliance bringing pressure to reach an international agreement on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The three parts of this de facto alliance are: - First, the massive environmental movement demanding action on climate change, highlighted by the 400,000 strong September People's Climate March in New York City, alongside support marches around the world of many more tens of thousands of protesters, totaling over 600,000. - Second, the continuing signs from the natural world that climate change is real, is affected by human activity, and is already causing destruction and economic losses. - And third, the growing realization by policymakers and some economic heavyweights that action must be taken. These three forces have combined to create an atmosphere of excitement in the international negotiations, a welcome shift from the failures of previous gatherings in Bali, Cancun, and Copenhagen. There are significant issues and problems facing the negotiations, including many related to India. Moreover, given the rapidly developing problems from climate change, including some unexpected ones, the danger of approaching tipping points, and the sometimes apocalyptic uncertainties of climate change, it is highly unlikely that even the most aggressive agreement possible will adequately address the need for a worldwide shift to renewable energy, and will not touch the need for a fundamental restructuring of the capitalist world economy.
  4. John Knox, UN Independent Expert on human rights and the environment, called today on nations to do more to protect human rights activists and environmental defenders. Knox plea comes on World Environment Day and highlights a world that is increasingly becoming more hostile and deadly against activists. Knox also linked the effects of climate change, pollution and environmental degradation to human rights. “Environmental degradation, including harm from climate change, desertification, air and water pollution, and exposure to toxic substances, impairs the enjoyment of a vast range of human rights, including the right to life, to health and to an adequate standard of living,” Knox said. “As States implement their human rights obligations relating to the environment,” Knox continued, “they should pay particular attention to the threats against environmental human rights defenders – those who strive to protect the environment for the benefit of us all.” A recent study by Global Witness shows that, on average, two environmental activists have been killed each week over the past four years. The report found that these eco-murders have tripled over the past decade. 147 activists were killed in 2012, compared to 51 activists only ten years earlier. Shockingly, almost none of the killers have faced charges from authorities. “Environmental defenders are at the front line of efforts to protect us all from the severe impact of environmental degradation on the enjoyment of human rights,” Knox said. “States must do more to protect environmental human rights defenders from threats, and to promptly investigate threats and killings when they occur.” The study shows that at least 908 people have been killed in what largely are disputes over industrial logging, mining and land rights between2002 and 2013. Violence against activists are particularly common in Latin America and Asia-Pacific. Global Witness notes that there is a “severe shortage” of monitoring surrounding the death of environmental activists – and that the number of killings is “likely” to be much higher than what their study shows. “This lack of attention is feeding endemic levels of impunity, with just over one per cent of the perpetrators known to have been convicted,” the organization writes. Also read: Murdered because they wanted to protect the environment Brazilian rainforest activist murdered Amazon loggers captured a young tribe girl and burned her alive
  5. IPCC, the UN’s expert panel on climate change, released part three of their new global warming study yesterday. The new report says that the world’s current efforts to combat global warming are not sufficient if we want to avoid catastrophic climate change. If we are to keep global warming below the 2 degrees Celsius cap recommended by scientists, emissions from CO2 and other greenhouse gases must drop by 40 to 70 percent by 2050 – and drop even further to near-zero by the end of the century. To accomplish this, the world needs to urgently switch to clean and renewable energy. Clean energy sources will need to triple and completely dominate world energy by 2050, the IPCC report concludes. But the direct opposite is currently happening. World emissions of various greenhouse gases are increasing. Between 2000 and 2010, average global emissions rose by 2.2 percent every year – reaching “unprecedented levels” of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere. Increasing carbon emissions are largely due to an increasing demand for energy and a rising coal use in countries such as China. “There is a clear message from science: To avoid dangerous interference with the climate system, we need to move away from business as usual,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, one of three co-chairs of the IPCC working group. We need to end the current dominance of coal, oil and gas and replace them with cleaner and more renewable energy sources. But this is a daunting – and unprecedented – task when fossil fuels currently provide more than 80 percent of the world’s total energy production. “We can only avoid catastrophic climate change if we reduce our dependency on fossil fuels – we're already on track for four degrees warming, which will be impossible for human society to adapt to,” said Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins in a response to the new IPCC report. “We have the technology to prevent dangerous climate change. What we lack is the political will of our leaders to strongly champion renewable power and energy efficiency.” So-called CCS technologies, which capture and bury carbon emissions is one way to produce low-carbon energy. But the IPCC experts notes that this technology is not feasible as it “has not yet been applied at a large, commercial scale.” Gas could be important in the “short-term”, during the transition, but only if it replaces coal. One low-carbon energy option is nuclear power. But the IPCC report notes that nuclear “has been declining since 1993” and voices concern about potential safety risks, “nuclear weapon proliferation risks, waste management security as well as financial and regulatory risks.” The big emphasis in the IPCC report is on renewable energy sources and technologies, such as solar and wind power, but also energy efficiency and conservation. The IPCC report acknowledges how much renewable energy technologies have advanced since 2007. Since the last major IPCC study, “many [renewable energy] technologies have demonstrated substantial performance improvements and cost reductions, and a growing number of [renewable energy] technologies have achieved a level of maturity to enable deployment at significant scale,” the report says. “Regarding electricity generation alone, [renewable energy] accounted for just over half of the new electricity generating capacity added globally in 2012, led by growth in wind, hydro and solar power.” But renewable energy and various implementations against energy waste requires substantial long-term investments. And here’s the good news from the new IPCC report: a global roll-out of clean and renewable energy is remarkably cheap – but only if we act now. The investment required to green our global energy system would only result in a 0.06% reduction of off expected annual economic growth rates of 1.3%-3%, the IPCC report concludes. Read that again. It would only cost us 0.06% of annual economic growth to save the climate and make sure there will be a livable planet for future generations as well. That’s nothing. But only if we act now. “We cannot afford to lose another decade,” warned German economist Ottmar Edenhofer, a co-chair of the IPCC committee. “If we lose another decade, it becomes extremely costly to achieve climate stabilization.” Considering that the world spends over half a trillion dollars every year to subsidize fossil fuels – about six times more than the global investment into renewable energy – there is clearly room to divest and divert money from fossil fuels into renewable energy. And a transition towards clean and renewable energy would also result in health benefits, as professor Nicholas Stern notes. “The transition to sustainable low-carbon economic development and growth is an opportunity not just to avoid potentially catastrophic climate risks, but also to reap other benefits from cleaner and more efficient technologies, such as reductions in local air pollution,” Stern said. “There is only plan A: collective action to reduce emissions now,” EU commissioner Connie Hedegaard said. “The more you wait, the more it will cost. The more you wait, the more difficult it will become.” And US Secretary of State John Kerry agrees with that sentiment: “Unless we act dramatically and quickly, science tells us our climate and our way of life are literally in jeopardy. […] Waiting is truly unaffordable. The costs of inaction are catastrophic,” he said. “We stand at a fork in road,” said Li Shuo, Greenpeace East Asia's climate and energy campaigner. “One way leads to more dependence on dwindling fossil fuels that are wrecking our climate and damaging our health; the other to a world powered by a booming clean energy sector that is already driving growth and creating jobs. The sooner we act, the cheaper it will be.” The IPCC study, titled Mitigation of climate change, is the last report of three IPCC working groups. The previous reports have looked at the current state of climate science and the impacts of unchecked climate change. This report was produced by 1250 international experts and has been approved by 194 governments.
  6. While the third IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report explains that fossil fuels use must end to avoid the dramatic consequences of climate change, 202 millions barrel of oil are stocked in Houston, Texas ready to entering the energy market. Let's proceed in order: IPCC is an international organization, part of UN and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. Its reports are precise, accurate and sadly true. Refute the results of reports would be stupid and useless since I don't think the IPCC is part of a secret lobby with the only intent to destroy the dominance of fossil fuels. Directly from the report: "Since 2007, many renewable energy technologies have substantially advanced in terms of performance and cost and a growing number have achieved technical and economic maturity, making renewable energy a fast growing category in energy supply". UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon said we must act now to stop climate change and governments are starting intensive renewable energy politics. With one exception: 202 millions barrel of oil are ready to contribute to greenhouse gases emissions, that in the past decade doubled according to UN. All these millions barrel are decreasing the high prices of oil over America so everybody's happy. Or not? A few days ago geologists linked a serious of small earthquakes to gas drilling in the state of Ohio. The lives of many people are in constant danger because of unsafe carload transporting oil. An enormous and useless pipeline, Keystone XL, will (or could) be built. Many spills, few jobs, short-term usage and a lot of money. A short description of this pipeline. This miracolous oil boom won't make U.S. independent from Middle East since any instability in that area will increase oil prices. Oil is a temporary, pollutant and instable energy source, intended to end but in the meanwaile can damage our environment in an irreversable way. UN are from the side of the people and the planet, they are warning us for too many years. It's time to listen and to act. I hope that all that oil shipped in Houston won't be used and that all the people, the organizations, the companies and the governments will finally act for change. References: Bloomberg, The Guardian.
  7. UN orders Japan to end whale hunt

    The UN's International Court of Justice has ordered Japan to halt its yearly whale hunt, a cruel practice that gives no consideration to the welfare of the animals. Japan is one of several countries that persisted in this practice after whaling was banned worldwide in 1986, in this case using "scientific research" as an excuse. But there is nothing scientific about whale killing, and the UN has called them out on it. Currently, Japan's whaling program is killing about 1,000 whales a year under the guise of "scientific purposes." It was Australia that took the matter to the International Court this year, claiming the supposed research was little more than a ruse to circumvent the UN's whaling ban. The presiding judge, Peter Tomka, agreed that Japan's assertion that its whale hunt has a scientific basis is, by and large, false. "The evidence does not establish that the program's design and implementation are reasonable in relation to achieving its stated objectives," Tomka remarked. He noted that it failed to justify the brutality of the killings, and that a moratorium on whaling would remain in place for Japan unless and until it could somehow produce a program with an actual basis in scientific research. Japanese Foreign Ministry official Koji Tsuruoka said Japan will abide by the order. "While Japan is disappointed, it will abide by the judgment of the court as a state that places great importance on the international legal order," he said. However, he added that Japan "regrets and is deeply disappointed by the decision." Among those who don't share that sentiment are animal rights activists and countries like Australia, who maintain that whale killing is immoral and unethical. Patrick Ramage, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare's whale program, said the court decision is reason to rejoice, and could have an effect on other countries that ignored the UN's moratorium, like Norway and Iceland - two countries that still engage in commercial whaling outright. "The ruling certainly has implications ultimately for whaling by Iceland and Norway as well," said Ramage. "I think it will increase pressure on those two countries to re-examine their own whaling practices and the various reasons and pretexts given for that whaling activity." Jeff Hansen, managing director of Sea Shepherd Australia, said, "The International Court has just acknowledged that what Japan is doing is illegal. Our hope is that Japan can be a nation that loves whales and sees the huge benefit from eco-tourism that Australia does, which was also a nation that used to hunt whales." Greenpeace writer Tom Ganderton stated, "The news confirms what we've been saying all along: this lethal whaling program is not necessary, and is harmful to the health of our oceans. It's high time this industry was consigned to the history books. The Japanese government claims that whaling is a long-standing part of Japanese culture that the international community should not interfere with. But the Australian government was quick to challenge this idea, as Greenpeace has consistently done in the past. They pointed out that whaling only began there in the 1930s." Moreover, said Ganderton, "The whale meat industry is dying in Japan. Statistics commissioned by Greenpeace Japan found that up to 80 percent of respondents disagreed with whaling. What's more, thousands of tons of whale meat today remain in frozen storage in Japan because demand is so low. "We need an end to commercial whaling so we can turn the focus onto some of the big conservation challenges facing the world's remaining whale populations, like climate change and destructive fishing. We won't stop until this dying industry is ended for good." This article was first published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
  8. Around 1.3 billion people lack electricity in their homes or businesses. And nearly 40% of the world’s population have to rely on wood, coal or charcoal to cook their food with – which causes both environmental destruction and toxic gases that kills nearly two million people every year. Electricity could help children study after dark. It would allow medicines and food to be refrigerated. Electricity would also help replace outdated cookstoves and open fires, that are dangerous to people’s health, and many other things that we in the industrialized world take for granted. Access to electricity could make all the difference for the people who are without it today – but it needs to be modern and sustainable energy. Both the UN and World Bank sees the positive benefits of sustainable electricity. For the latter, electricity sparks social and economic development which creates improved lives and economic progress. The UN believes access to clean and modern energy is key to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The two international organizations therefore recently appealed to governments, international agencies and the private sector for money to help finance their universal energy plan. “Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, increased social equity, and an environment that allows the world to thrive,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during a press conference. It has been estimated that around $600-$800 billion a year till 2030 is needed to reach the campaigns target of universal access to electricity. The money will go towards efforts to double energy efficiency, with a special focus in the world’s highest-energy consuming countries, and doubling the world’s share of renewable energy by 2030. “Financing is the key to achieving these objectives,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “To reach our goals for access to energy, energy efficiency, and renewable energy, we need to mobilize an additional $600-$800 billion a year from now to 2030. We will now start moving in countries in which demand for action is most urgent. In some of them, only one in ten people has access to electricity. It is time for that to change.” But not all energy sources are welcomed. “We don't do nuclear energy,” said Kim while he and UN Secretary-General unveiled their universal energy plans at a press conference this past November. Instead, the World Bank and UN wants to increase investments in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power. "Nuclear power from country to country is an extremely political issue," Kim told reporters. "The World Bank Group does not engage in providing support for nuclear power. We think that this is an extremely difficult conversation that every country is continuing to have. And because we are really not in that business our focus is on finding ways of working in hydro electric power in geo-thermal, in solar, in wind," he said. "We are really focusing on increasing investment in those modalities and we don't do nuclear energy." This is not surprising. Nuclear is a highly controversial energy source, and the UN and the World Bank are wise to refrain from supporting it. While some environmentalists, such as Mark Lynas and George Monbiot, has called for increased investments in nuclear energy, many others, such as Al Gore, has said that nuclear is not the answer to our energy and climate crisis. It’s also hard to ignore the high costs and dangers involved in nuclear energy. Brazil, Norway, the Bank of America and OPEC has committed to support renewable energy and energy efficiency activities. Energy assessments have been launched in 42 countries with the first reports scheduled to be finished in April.
  9. UN and World Bank press conference

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim can be seen in this photo. Photo credit: Sustainable Energy for All

    © Sustainable Energy for All

  10. Jean Ziegler, UN's special rapporteur on the right to food, yesterday called for the suspension of biofuels production saying biofuels are a "crime against humanity." "Biofuels, with today's current production methods, are a crime against a great part of humanity. They're an intolerable crime, and I requested the United Nations General Assembly in New York in my last report to the Human Rights Council that a moratorium be imposed as a five-year ban against this transformation." The comment was made during an emergency summit in Switzerland where the UN discusses ways to tackle the global food crisis. Ziegler said later in an interview with Al Jazeera that "burning food today so as to serve the mobility of the rich countries is a crime against humanity". According to Jean Ziegler biofuels is a major cause for the food crisis that has thrown millions into poverty. And he is not alone in arguing this. The European Environment Agency's (EEA) Scientific Committee recently called for the suspension of EU's target to increase the share of biofuels used in transport to 10% by 2020. The committee wants a new and "comprehensive scientific study on the environmental risks and benefits of biofuels" before any targets should be set.