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Australia: Groundbreaking decision creates pathway for climate justice on Torres Strait Islands

The Committee issued its ground-breaking decision after examining a joint complaint filed by eight Australian nationals and six of their children – all indigenous inhabitants of Boigu, Poruma, Warraber and Masig, four small, low-lying islands in the country’s Torres Strait region.

The Islanders claimed their rights had been violated as Australia failed to adapt to climate change through upgrading seawalls on the islands and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, among other necessary measures.

“This decision marks a significant development as the Committee has created a pathway for individuals to assert claims where national systems have failed to take appropriate measures to protect those most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change on the enjoyment of their human rights,” Committee member Hélène Tigroudja said. 

Masig Island in the Torres Straits

© 350 Australia
Masig Island in the Torres Straits

Cultural damage

In their complaint, the Islanders claimed that changes in weather patterns had direct, harmful consequences on their livelihood, culture, and traditional way of life.

They indicated to the Committee that severe flooding caused by the tidal surge in recent years has destroyed family graves and left human remains scattered across their islands, arguing that maintaining ancestral graveyards and visiting and communicating with deceased relatives are at the heart of their cultures.

Moreover, the most important ceremonies, such as those for coming-of-age and initiation, are only culturally meaningful if performed in the community’s native lands.

Land degradation

The Islanders argued that changes in climate have triggered heavy rainfall and storms, degrading land and trees.

This, in turn, has reduced the amount of food available from traditional fishing and farming.

For example, on Masig Island, the rising sea level has caused saltwater to seep into the soil and coconut trees to become diseased, subsequently killing off the fruit – an important part of the Islanders’ traditional diet.

Government failure

Considering the Islanders’ close, spiritual connection with traditional lands, and their cultural integrity dependence on the health of surrounding ecosystems, the Committee found that Australia’s failure to take timely and adequate measures to protect the Islanders from climate change, had violated their rights to enjoy their own culture and to be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home.

“States that fail to protect individuals under their jurisdiction from the adverse effects of climate change may be violating their human rights under international law,” Ms. Tigroudja stated.

In the same decision, the Committee also indicated that despite Australia’s series of actions – such as new seawalls for the four islands by next year – additional timely and appropriate measures were required to prevent potential loss of life.

Storm surge on Masig Island in the Torres Straits

© 350 Australia
Storm surge on Masig Island in the Torres Straits

Remedies

The Committee decided that, under the Covenant, robust national and international efforts are needed to mitigate the effects of climate change, which otherwise may be a violation of the right to life.

To remedy the situation, the members asked Australia to compensate the indigenous Islanders for the harm suffered, engage in meaningful consultations with their communities to assess their needs, and take measures to continue securing the communities’ safe existence on their respective islands.

Canada braces for Hurricane Fiona after a week of lashing wind and rain in Caribbean

“Fiona is expected to affect portions of Atlantic Canada as a powerful hurricane-force cyclone…significant impacts from high winds, storm surge and heavy rainfall are likely,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) spokesperson Clare Nullis.

‘Surf and rip’

“Life-threatening surf and rip” currents in the next few days are also expected along much of the east coast of the United States, the Bahamas, Bermuda and Canada’s east coast, the UN agency noted.

At least five deaths have reportedly been attributed to the hurricane, which barrelled into Puerto Rico last Sunday. Aid agencies reported torrential rains and considerable damage including power outages, landslides, fallen trees and power lines that made roads impassable and caused a bridge to collapse in a mountainous region.

“(In) Puerto Rico, more than 40 per cent of the island was covered with 15 inches of rain, so that is 380 millimetres”, said Ms. Nullis. “There was a maximum of 32 inches, which is 800 millimetres in 48 hours in some parts. I mean, these are just absolutely enormous quantities of rain.”

Path of destruction

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) meanwhile reported that Hurricane Fiona hit Turks and Caicos Islands as a category three storm on Tuesday, before crashing into the Bahamas and then shifting towards Bermuda.

“Before that, however, Fiona left a significant impact on Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, with mudslides, damage to property and widespread loss of power,” said Regis Chapman, Country Director of WFP’s Multi Country Office in the Caribbean, speaking from Bridgetown, Barbados. 

He added that latest assessments indicated that the situation “can be handled by the different governments” but highlighted the chronic vulnerability of low-lying Caribbean island States, in the face of the annual hurricane season.

A boy stands on a bridge over the Sanate river in Higuey, one of the provinces most affected when Hurricane Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic.

© UNICEF/Ricardo Rojas
A boy stands on a bridge over the Sanate river in Higuey, one of the provinces most affected when Hurricane Fiona made landfall in the Dominican Republic.

Be prepared

“Fiona was a reminder that all of the Caribbean has to stay prepared to face any level of impact from storms, and essentially countries and people here in this part of the world spend, you know, roughly half of their month, sort of on a knife’s edge, wondering if this is their year.”

The devastation caused by Fiona in Puerto Rico comes five years since Hurricane Maria wreaked huge damage and loss of life there, with an official death toll of 65 and an unknown number of other fatalities.

Maria was a category 4 hurricane when it reached Puerto Rico as the strongest storm to hit the island since 1928 and by far the most destructive, WMO noted. Power was lost to the entire island and was only restored to just over half the population three months after the hurricane, while water supplies and communications networks were also severely affected. 

According to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Maria caused $90 billion worth of damage in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, making it the third most costly hurricane in US history, behind Katrina (2005) and Harvey (also in 2017).

Least developed countries impacted by ‘range of interlinked crises’ – Assembly President

“Even before the pandemic, many least developed countries were off-track in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and had limited capacity to tackle complex challenges such as climate change or food insecurity,” Csaba Kőrösi said.

“However, this year’s Ministerial Meeting assumes unique significance as it takes place amid a whole range of interlinked crises rippling through our world”.

‘No time to waste’

While noting that those external shocks have “upended people’s lives, reversed decades of development gains, and destabilized governments around the world,” he also pointed to “the good news” that we have the tools at hand to encourage transformation.

The Doha Programme of Action – adopted in March during the first part of the “pivotal” Fifth UN Conference on LDCs – provides an important blueprint for them to overcome the impacts of the global crises, Mr. Kőrösi said.

“It charts a path for LDCs to build resilience and realize the Sustainable Development Goals,” he continued, but “to get there – we must work together to ensure the Doha Programme of Action is implemented”.

“There is no time to waste,” he added.

All must contribute

LDCs must do their part and in turn, development partners must follow through on their unequivocal commitment in the Doha Programme of Action, he continued.

As the most vulnerable countries struggle to tackle global problems not of their making, the senior official said that “now is the time for solidarity and support”.

“The 77th session will be key to shape the future we want”.

For his part, Mr. Kőrösi pledged that the LDC agenda would remain a priority of his Presidency.

Stepping up, spreading out

As a start, the Assembly President shared his intention to reconvene the Board of Advisers for LDCs, landlocked developing countries (LLDCs), and small island developing States (SIDS) for substantive inputs on the needs and priorities of those countries in the context of General Assembly processes and events.

He also flagged upcoming consultations to prepare for the SDG Summit in September 2023 and the Summit of the Future in 2024.

Moreover, the Assembly will assess SDG 6 on clean water and sanitation at the first UN Conference on Water to be held since 1977.

Additionally, it will focus on the Sendai Framework to “create a planet more resilient to disasters”.

“In all these efforts, integrated risk assessment, knowledge and management are essential,” he said, pledging his “utmost to support” in ensuring that those events are well prepared and lead to tangible outcomes.

‘Moment of global peril’

Secretary-General António Guterres acknowledged via video message that the meeting takes place “at a moment of global peril” for which LDCs are “bearing the brunt”.

From conflicts to climate catastrophes, and unchecked poverty to widening inequalities and a global financial system stacked against LDCs, “the Doha Programme of Action reminds us that global recovery depends on these countries getting the support they need,” he said.

The UN chief advocated for “bold investments” in health, education, and social protection systems; financial architecture reform; job-creation, particularly in digital, care and green economies; gender equality for girls and women; and support to end fossil fuel reliance and jump-start a renewable energy transition.

Sustainable development cannot wait,” he reminded.

Farmers in the north of Haiti work on measures which will prevent the erosion of their farmland.

© WFP Haiti/Theresa Piorr
Farmers in the north of Haiti work on measures which will prevent the erosion of their farmland.

Renewable energy jobs rise by 700,000 in a year, to nearly 13 million

Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review 2022, identifies domestic market size as a major factor influencing job growth in renewables, along with labour and other costs.

Solar growing fastest

Solar energy was found to be the fastest-growing sector. In 2021 it provided 4.3 million jobs, more than a third of the current global workforce in renewable energy.

With rising concerns about climate change, COVID-19 recovery and supply chain disruption, countries are turning inwards to boost job creation at home, focusing on local supply chains.

The report describes how strong domestic markets are key to anchoring a drive toward clean energy industrialization. Developing renewable technology export capabilities is also dependent on this, it adds.

‘Just transition for all’

ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, said that “beyond the numbers, there is a growing focus on the quality of jobs and the conditions of work in renewable energies, to ensure decent and productive employment.

“The increasing share of female employment suggests that dedicated policies and training can significantly enhance the participation of women in renewable energy occupations, inclusion and ultimately, achieve a just transition for all.”

Mr. Ryder encouraged governments, organized labour and business groups “to remain firmly committed to a sustainable energy transition, which is indispensable for the future of work.

Resilient and reliable

IRENA’s Director-General, Francesco La Camera, said that in the face of numerous challenges, “renewable energy jobs remain resilient, and have been proven to be a reliable job creation engine. My advice to governments around the world is to pursue industrial policies that encourage the expansion of decent renewables jobs at home.

“Spurring a domestic value chain will not only create business opportunities and new jobs for people and local communities. It also bolsters supply chain reliability and contributes to more energy security overall.”

More electric vehicles on the road will mean less pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

IMF/Crispin Rodwell
More electric vehicles on the road will mean less pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Joining the renewable revolution

The report shows that an increasing number of countries are creating jobs in the renewables sector – almost two-thirds of them in Asia.

China alone accounts for 42 per cent of the global total, according to the report, followed by the EU and Brazil with 10 per cent each, and the US and India with seven per cent each.

Regional trends

Southeast Asian countries are becoming major solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing hubs and biofuel producers, while China is the pre-eminent manufacturer and installer of solar PV panels and is creating a growing number of jobs in offshore wind.

India added more than 10 Gigawatts of solar PV, generating many installation jobs, but remains heavily dependent on imported panels, the report notes.

Europe now accounts for about 40 per cent of the world’s wind manufacturing output and is the most important exporter of wind power equipment; it is trying to reconstitute its solar PV manufacturing industry.

Africa’s role is still limited, but the report points out that there are growing job opportunities in decentralized renewables, while in the Americas, Mexico is the leading supplier of wind turbine blades.

Brazil remains the leading employer in biofuels but is also adding many jobs in wind and solar PV installations. The US is beginning to build a domestic industrial base for the budding offshore wind sector.

Yemen: Marking ‘significant milestone’, UN says stricken tanker salvage operation can begin

David Gressly, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, briefed journalists at UN Headquarters in New York, following an event on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly co-hosted by partners in the mammoth rescue effort, the Netherlands, the United States, and Germany.

The rusting vessel has been anchored just a few miles off the Yemen coast for more than 30 years, but offloading and maintenance stopped in 2015 following the start of the war in Yemen, between a Saudi-led coalition backing the internationally-recognized Government, and Houthi rebels.

Fears have grown that unless vessel is secured, it could break apart causing a devastating oil spill and other environmental damage, which the UN estimates would cost at least $20 billion just to clear up, as well as devastate the fragile economy of war-torn Yemen – triggering a humanitarian catastrophe.

$38 million needed for phase two

Mr. Gressly said that once the pledges are fully converted into cash for the initial salvage operation, with more than $77 million promised from 17 countries, an extra $38 million was still needed for phase two – the installation of safe replacement capacity to secure the one million barrels of oil on board.

The UN plan is for this to be done through transferring the oil to a secure double-hulled vessel, as a permanent storage solution, until the political situation allows it to be sold or transported elsewhere, said the Resident Coordinator.

Mr. Gressly said that apart from the 17 national partners, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and a “very successful” crowd-funding initiative launched in June, had also been instrumental in reaching Wednesday’s “significant milestone”.

David Gressly, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, speaks at oil tanker FSO Safer pledge event on September 21, 2022 at the Dutch Mission to the United Nations during the General Assembly High Level Week

Heyi Zou/UN News
David Gressly, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, speaks at oil tanker FSO Safer pledge event on September 21, 2022 at the Dutch Mission to the United Nations during the General Assembly High Level Week

Donations large and small

Some 2,000 individuals have generously contributed, and he praised the $1.2 million private sector donation from Yemeni conglomerate The HSA Group

Among those who had helped raise money for the operation, were a group of six children from an elementary school in the US state of Maryland, he said, who had recognized that securing the tanker and avoiding disaster, was “a common problem for us all.”

Although more than $30 million is still needed for phase two, “I believe with the momentum we have seen today, that will be a target we can reach in a timely fashion”, he said.

He praised the warring parties for reaching a political agreement to allow the operation to move forward, and said the next crucial step was now to carry out the salvage, which should begin in earnest in a few weeks’ time. Once underway thanks to the UN Development Programme (UNDP) which will handle the first stage, it will take around four months to stabilize the tanker, before the oil transfer can take place.

‘Cost of failure’

The Humanitarian Coordinator reminded what was at stake if action is not taken. A major spill would devastate fishing communities on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, and impact Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia and other countries. The Yemeni ports of Hudaydah and Saleef could be closed, which are essential to bring in food for around 19 million who need assistance.

Tens of millions of dollars now, could save tens of billions of dollars in the future, the UN has warned.

“Everybody understands the cost, everybody understands the impact, and everybody wants to act. I take great satisfaction in seeing that unified effort today, to find a solution”, said Mr. Gressly.

The FSO Safer, moored off Yemen's west coast.

UNRCO Yemen
The FSO Safer, moored off Yemen’s west coast.

1.5 degree climate pledge ‘on life support’, Guterres tells leaders during frank exchanges

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, the UN chief said that he had talked to leaders about the climate emergency, and the “triple global crisis” of food, energy, and finance.

Mr. Guterres told the assembled leaders that the devastation he witnessed this month in Pakistan, where flooding covered around a third of the country at its height, occurred with global warming of 1.2 degrees; the world is currently on track for an overall increase of more than three degrees.

The meeting was billed in advance as a “frank and informal exchange” of views between leaders, co-chaired by Mr. Guterres and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, and an opportunity to address key issues ahead of the COP27 UN Climate Change conference, due to be held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh in November.

‘Fossil fuels are killing us’

Since last year’s conference in Glasgow, Scotland, climate impacts have worsened, and carbon emissions have risen to record levels, hitting vulnerable communities the hardest.

Four burning issues were addressed during the informal talks: emissions mitigation, climate finance, adaptation, and loss and damage.

On mitigation, Mr. Guterres told the leaders that although emissions must be cut almost in half before 2030, they are on track to rise by 14 per cent. He called on the representatives of the world’s leading economies – the G20 nations – to phase out coal, ramp up investment in renewables, and end their “fossil fuel addiction”.

“The fossil fuel industry is killing us”, he said, “and leaders are out of step with their people, who are crying out for urgent climate action.”

Climate change protesters in Glasgow city centre, during COP26

UN News/Conor Lennon
Climate change protesters in Glasgow city centre, during COP26

Under the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, developing countries were promised $100 billion per year to finance initiatives to help them cope with the effects of global warming.

To date, that target has not been achieved. The UN chief declared that financial commitments to the developing world must be delivered immediately, and in full.

“I emphasized the need to double adaptation support to $40 billion dollars a year by 2025” continued Mr. Guterres. “Climate destruction is happening now. People are suffering now”.

Looking ahead to COP27, the Secretary-General expressed his hope that the event will move these discussions forward, as a matter of climate justice, international solidarity and trust.

Cooperate to bring down prices

A G20 Heads of State and Government Summit will take place in Bali in November, during the last days of COP27, and Mr. Guterres urged leaders to take important decisions to tackle the “triple crisis” of food, energy and finance.

He urged international cooperation and solidarity to bring down prices that have soared since the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, increase support to developing countries, and prevent a larger crisis next year.

International financial institutions must also step up and offer debt relief to developing countries, declared Mr. Guterres, and new mechanisms to get resources to countries that need them should be enhanced and expanded.

Irrational war on drugs, destruction of the Amazon, expose humanity’s failures, Colombia’s Petro tells UN

Mr. Petro described his country as one of the most beautiful and nature-rich in the world but said that blood also flowed into its rivers and biodiversity.

He explained that violence in the rainforest was fuelled by the prosecution of the sacred plant of the Incas: the coca plant.

“As in a paradoxical crossroads. The forest that should be saved is at the same time being destroyed. To destroy the coca plant, they throw poisons such as glyphosate that drips into our waters, they arrest their cultivators and then imprison them,” he stated.

He added that destroying the Amazon has seemingly become the slogan of some States and negotiators and he denounced such “save the jungle speech” as hypocritical.

“The jungle is burning, gentlemen, while you wage war and play with it. The jungle, the climatic pillar of the world, disappears with all its life. The great sponge that absorbs the planetary CO2 evaporates. The jungle is our saviour, but it is seen in my country as the enemy to defeat, as a weed to be extinguished,” he underscored.

Mr. Petro highlighted that while the developed world let the rainforest burn as an excuse for the war against drugs, it also asked for more oil, “to calm their other addiction” to consumption, power and money.

“What is more poisonous for humanity, cocaine, coal or oil? The opinion of power has ordered that cocaine is poison and must be persecuted, while it only causes minimal deaths from overdoses…but instead, coal and oil must be protected, even when it can extinguish all humanity,” he said, adding that such reasoning was “unjust and irrational”.

“The culprit of drug addiction is not the rainforest; it is the irrationality of the world’s power. Give a blow of reason to this power. Turn on the lights of the century again”, he urged.

The President said that the war against drugs has lasted over 40 years, and it has not been won.

“By hiding the truth, they will only see the rainforest and democracies die. The war on drugs has failed. The fight against the climate crisis has failed,” he noted.

Mr. Petro then demanded, speaking in the name of all of Latin-America, the end of the “irrational war against drugs”.

“Reducing drug use does not require wars, it needs us all to build a better society: a more supportive, more affectionate society, where the meaning of life saves us from addictions… Do you want fewer drugs? Think of earning less and giving more love. Think of a rational exercise of power”, he told world leaders.

Mr. Petro also addressed the climate disaster and the displacement it causes, saying that wars were only excuses to not act against it.

“The climate disaster that will kill hundreds of millions of people is not being caused by the planet, it is being caused by capital. By the logic of consuming more and more, producing more and more, and for some earning more and more”, he said.

The Colombian President added that within the fires and poisoning of the Amazon rainforest was embedded a “failure of humanity”.

“Behind cocaine and drug addiction, behind oil and coal addiction, there is the true addiction of this phase of human history: the addiction to irrational power, profit and money. That is the huge deadly machinery that can extinguish humanity”, he explained.

Mr. Petro urged a dialogue with Latin-America to end the war, saying it was “time for peace”.

“Only in peace we can save life in our land. There will be no peace without social, economic and environmental justice. We are at war with the planet too. Without peace with the planet, there will be no peace among nations,” he concluded.

Pakistan floods: Six month wait for water to recede, warn relief agencies

Close to eight million people have been displaced by the disaster and the UN along with the authorities and partners have continued to race to reach affected populations with desperately needed relief items.

Southern Sindh province is still in crisis, with many areas still under water.

To date, more than 1,500 people have been killed, including 552 children.

“We don’t have enough food, we don’t have shelter, and still even the kind of healthcare that is required is not available,” said Gerida Birukila, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Pakistan Chief of Field Office in Balochistan, another of the worst-hit provinces.

Roads and bridges swept away

In a fresh appeal for international support, the UNICEF worker described desperate scenes.

“Roads and bridges have been washed away; I’ve just come from the field and the water is not going anywhere,” Ms. Birukila  continued, speaking via Zoom from Quetta.

As had been feared, life-threatening illness and disease have now spread among displaced communities, including cerebral malaria, for which there is no available medicine.

Please, give me clothes

There is no shelter…people don’t even have clothing,” Ms. Birukila continued. “One lady asked me, ‘Please, give me some clothing, I ran away two weeks ago.’ She is still wearing the same dress she wore two weeks ago because she cannot change. You just run with what you have on your back.”

Echoing the deep concern among first-responders, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, noted that 7.6 million people in Pakistan have been displaced by the floods, with nearly 600,000 living in relief sites.

Flood victims collect emergency supplies in Balochistan Province, south-western Pakistan.

© UNHCR/Humera Karim
Flood victims collect emergency supplies in Balochistan Province, south-western Pakistan.

Massive aid operation

The UN agency has coordinated logistics as part of a plan to transport more than 1.2 million relief items to local authorities in the most flood-affected areas. To date, it has delivered more than one million life-saving items to authorities for distribution.

“Many parts of the country, especially in the southern province of Sindh, remain underwater, as well as … parts of eastern Balochistan,” said UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch, adding that officials have warned that it could take “up to six months for floodwaters to recede” in the hardest-hit areas.

Afghans in danger zone

There are also concerns for Pakistan’s 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees; an estimated 800,000 live in more than 45 “calamity hit” districts out of 80 affected locations, UNHCR said, noting that four of the worst-hit districts in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh provinces host the highest number of refugees.

To help them, UNHCR and partners have provided emergency cash assistance to hundreds of vulnerable refugee families, supplementing the Government’s monsoon response.

“People are being displaced. They are looking out and they just tell you, ‘That used to be my house, this used to be the school,’ but what you can see is just water and water,” said UNICEF’s Ms. Birukila.

Floods inundate Balochistan province, Pakistan.

UN News/Shirin Yaseen
Floods inundate Balochistan province, Pakistan.

Guterres: ‘Global addiction to fossil fuels’ must end and a ‘renewables revolution’ be jumpstarted

Climate disasters and skyrocketing fuel prices have made the need to “end our global addiction to fossil fuels” crystal clear, he said, underscoring the importance of investing in renewables, building resilience, and scaling up adaptation.

“Had we invested massively in renewable energy in the past, we would not be in the middle of a climate emergency now”.

Without renewables, there can be no future – UN chief

Renewals: ‘Only credible path’

Renewables are “the only credible path” to real energy security, stable power prices and sustainable employment opportunities, said the UN chief.

He also maintained that the share of renewables in global electricity generation must increase from nearly 30 per cent today to over 60 per cent in 2030 and 90 per cent in 2050. 

“Leaders in business as well as government must stop thinking about renewables as a distant project of the future”, underscored the top UN official.

“Without renewables, there can be no future”.

Countries can lower emissions by increasing the use of renewable energy.

World Bank/Jutta Benzenberg
Countries can lower emissions by increasing the use of renewable energy.

Key energy priorities

The Secretary-General went on to outline his Five-Point Energy Plan to shift to renewables, beginning with treating the technologies as freely available “global public goods”.

“Identifying patents that can be made freely available – especially those relating to battery and storage capacity – are crucial for a rapid and fair energy transition,” he said.

Next, he highlighted the need to secure, increase, and diversify supply chains for renewable energy technologies, pointing out that supply chains for components and raw materials are “still concentrated in a handful of countries”.

Third, was to level the playing field for renewables.

“We have the technology, capacity, and funds,” said the UN chief, “but we urgently need to put policies and frameworks in place to incentivize investments and eliminate bottlenecks caused by red tape, permits and grid connections”.

Shift subsidies from fossil fuels to renewable energy was his fourth point, as he noted that each year, governments spend around half a trillion dollars to artificially lower the price of fossil fuels – “more than triple what renewables receive”.

“If we channel these resources and subsidies to renewables, we not only cut emissions; we also create more decent and green jobs,” he argued.

Solar installations Androimpano, Madagascar, facilitates the daily life of thousands of people by distributing water through gravity.

© UNICEF/Safidy Andriananten
Solar installations Androimpano, Madagascar, facilitates the daily life of thousands of people by distributing water through gravity.

Financing the future

Mr. Guterres’ fifth and final point focused on the importance of tripling public and private investments in renewables to at least $4 trillion dollars a year.

“Upfront costs for solar and wind power account for 80 per cent of lifetime costs – meaning big investments today will reap even bigger rewards tomorrow,” he said.

However, this requires: financing to flow to those who need it most; adjusted risk frameworks and more flexibility to scale up renewable finance; and lowering financing costs for developing countries.

“The cost of capital for renewable energy projects in the developing world can be seven times higher than in the developed world,” flagged the UN chief, flagging that Africa attracts a mere two per cent of clean energy investments despite its vast renewable energy potential.

Walking the talk

According to Mr. Guterres, a just transition to a renewable energy future is everybody’s business, including the private sector to advance science-based targets and Just Transition plans, in partnership with labour organizations and civil society.

Lip service won’t do. We need credible actions and accountability,” he underscored.

Every business and investor; every city and country must “walk the talk” on their net-zero promises to realize the Paris Agreement and rescue the Sustainable Development Goals, added the UN chief.

“The UN Global Compact is poised to help in this vital effort,” he spelled out, urging everyone to accelerate action across industries and regions “to jumpstart the renewables revolution”.

Solar panels power refrigeration at the Vinjaram Primary Health Centre in Andhra Pradesh, India.

© UNICEF/Harikrishna Katragadda
Solar panels power refrigeration at the Vinjaram Primary Health Centre in Andhra Pradesh, India.

Global cooperation to protect the ozone layer can ensure a better future for us all

Hailing the Montreal Protocol as the most successful environmental treaty ever, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said the instrument’s adoption ended one of the biggest threats ever to face humanity as a whole: the depletion of the ozone layer.

“When the world found out that ozone-depleting gases used in aerosols and cooling were creating a hole in the sky, they came together,” the agency said in a press statement, adding: “They showed that multilateralism and effective global cooperation worked, and they phased out these gases. Now the ozone layer is healing, allowing it once again to shield humanity from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.”

Catastrophe averted

This action has protected millions of people from skin cancer and cataracts over the years since. It allowed vital ecosystems to survive and thrive. It safeguarded life on Earth. And it slowed climate change: if ozone-depleting chemicals had not been banned, we would be looking at a global temperature rise of an additional 2.5°C by the end of this century.  

“This would have been a catastrophe,” said UNEP.

In his message on World Ozone Day, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the Protocol was a success because, when science discovered the threat we all faced, governments and their partners acted.

“The Montreal Protocol is a powerful example of multilateralism in action. With the many problems facing the world – from conflicts to growing poverty, deepening inequality and climate emergency – it is a reminder that we can succeed in working together for the common good,” said the UN chief.

The Protocol has much more to give

Mr. Guterres said that the Montreal Protocol has already contributed to tackling the climate crisis, and indeed, by protecting plants from ultraviolet radiation, allowing them to live and store carbon, it has avoided up to an extra 1 degree Celsius of global warming.

“The Protocol’s work to phase out climate-heating gases and improve energy efficiency through its Kigali Amendment can further slow climate disruption. But, only by mirroring the cooperation and speedy action of the Montreal Protocol elsewhere can we stop the carbon pollution that is dangerously heating our world. We have a choice: collective action or collective suicide,” he warned.

UNEP said that the Montreal Protocol has much more to give. Under the Kigali Amendment nations have committed to phase down hydrofluorocarbons – a move that could avoid up to 0.4°C of global temperature rise by the end of the century. The Protocol and its Amendment are helping the world adopt climate friendly and energy-efficient cooling technology.

What does this mean for humanity? UNEP said that as the international community continues to protect the ozone layer, the Protocol will continue to safeguard us and all life on Earth.

“It also means a cooler planet as more countries ratify the Amendment. It means more people being able to access vital cooling technology without further warming the planet. It also means the Protocol continuing to send a clear and lasting message: global cooperation to protect life on Earth is our best chance at a brighter future for everyone,” concluded UNEP.

 

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