INTERNATIONAL, 22 September 2019, Climate Change - Top climate scientists issued a report on Sunday showing that over the last several years, sea-level rise, planetary warming, shrinking ice sheets and carbon pollution have accelerated; a sobering call to action for political leaders headed to New York for summit-level climate change talks tomorrow at the United Nations.
The landmark new report, which will be presented to the UN Climate Action Summit, underlines the glaring – and growing – gap between agreed targets to tackle global warming and the actual reality.
Compiled by the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the report, United in Science, includes details on the state of the climate and presents trends in the emissions and atmospheric concentrations of the main greenhouse gases.
WMO | OMM
Landmark multi-agency #UnitedinScience report underlines glaring – and growing – gap between #ClimateAction targets and the reality. Shows urgency of fundamental socio-economic transformation to avert dangerous global temperature increase with potentially irreversible impacts.
Among other findings, the report says that accelerating climate impacts from melting ice caps to sea-level rise and extreme weather were to blame for the record as the global average temperature increased by 1.1°C above pre-industrial (1850-1900) times and 0.2°C warmer than 2011-2015.
It highlights the urgency of fundamental socio-economic transformations and carbon-curbing actions in key sectors such as land use and energy to avert dangerous global temperature increase, with potentially irreversible impacts. It also examines tools to support both mitigation and adaptation.
The assessment from the world’s top climate experts and scientific organizations comes not just ahead of the UN summit, but also against the backdrop of last week’s global ‘climate strike,’ which saw millions of students across the world take to the streets to demand real action from politicians and big corporations to reverse the impacts of what UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called a “climate emergency.”
Swedish teen activist Greta Thundberg told hundreds of young people gathered at UN Headquarters on Saturday for the first-ever Youth Climate Summit that “young people are unstoppable” and echoed her young compatriots who vowed to keep up the pressure on governments to make serious policy course corrections towards green energy and planet-friendly agriculture to seriously tackle climate change .
Mr. Guterres told the young activists that he feared “there is a serious conflict between people and nature, between people and the planet.” Saying that there is no time to lose, with so many people around the world already suffering from the impacts of climate change, the UN chief has been bluntly telling world leaders “don’t come to the Summit with beautiful speeches … come with concrete plans,” including carbon neutrality plans for 2050, options to tackle fossil fuel subsidies, taxing carbon and a possible end to new coal power sources after next year.
The findings presented by the report’s experts spotlight the sense of urgency. Amid growing recognition that climate impacts are hitting harder and sooner than climate assessments indicated even a decade ago, there is now a real risk of crossing critical tipping points, according to the scientists.
For example, the report shows that the average global temperature for 2015–2019 is on track to be the warmest of any equivalent period on record. It is currently estimated to be 1.1°Celsius (± 0.1°C) above pre-industrial (1850–1900) times.
Widespread and long-lasting heatwaves, record-breaking fires and other devastating events such as tropical cyclones, floods and drought have had major impacts on socio-economic development and the environment. Moreover, as climate change intensifies, cities are particularly vulnerable to impacts such as heat stress and can play a key role in reducing emissions locally and globally.
Against this backdrop, meeting the targets set under the 2015 Paris Agreement requires immediate and all-inclusive action encompassing deep decarbonization complemented by ambitious policy measures, protection and enhancement of carbon sinks and biodiversity, and effort to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
“Strategies for mitigation and for upscaling adaptive risk management are necessary going forward. Neither is adequate in isolation given the pace of climate change and magnitude of its impacts,” says the report, which warns that to stop a global temperature increase of more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the level of ambition needs to be tripled.
The scientists say that “only immediate and all-inclusive action encompassing: deep de-carbonization complemented by ambitious policy measures, protection and enhancement of carbon sinks and biodiversity, and efforts to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, will enable us to meet the Paris Agreement.”
“The scientific data and findings presented in the report represent the very latest authoritative information on these topics. It highlights the urgent need for the development of concrete actions that halt the worst effects of climate change,” said the Science Advisory Group to the Climate Action Summit, co-chaired by WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas and Leena Srivastava, former Vice Chancellor of TERI School of Advanced Studies.
INTERNATIONAL, 22 September 2019, Health - Some five billion people risk missing out on health care in 2030, unless countries close glaring gaps in health coverage, a new report revealed on Sunday, as the UN prepares to host a landmark summit to speed up progress on universal health care.
The study, “Primary Health Care on the Road to Universal Health Coverage”, estimates that around 60 million lives could be saved by upping annual spending on primary health care in low and middle-income countries by some $200 billion per year.
Whilst overall coverage has increased steadily since 2000, the UHC report shows big health service gaps in the poorest countries, and those affected by conflict. Rural areas tend to suffer from lower coverage , due to a lack of infrastructure, shortage of health workers, and poor-quality care .
“If we are really serious about achieving universal health coverage and improving people’s lives, we must get serious about primary health care,” declared, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, at the launch of the report.
“That means providing essential health services like immunization, antenatal care, healthy lifestyle advice as close to home as possible, and making sure people do not have to pay for this care out of their own pockets.”
The report was published ahead of the first-ever high-level summit on universal health coverage (UHC), at UN headquarters in New York, on Monday, one of five official summits taking place during the High-Level Week marking the opening of the new General Assembly session.
The UN is billing the event as the most significant political meeting ever to be held on the topic, with senior representatives from a wide range of relevant organizations – including Heads of State and Government, parliamentarians, senior UN officials, members of civil society, business leaders, and academics – due to attend.
Health and sustainable development
The World Health Organization (WHO), which plays a leading role in supporting countries in the implementation of universal health coverage, believes that health is essential for sustainable development, and has worked with the Kenyan Government on the launch of pilot UHC programmes in a number of Kenyan counties, selected because they have a high prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases, high population density, high maternal mortality, and high incidence of road traffic injuries.
The aim of the pilot programmes is to improve health care by abolishing fees at local health care facilities, and introducing a social health insurance scheme. In one of the counties, Makueni, residents have enthusiastically embraced the plan, and the peace of mind that comes with no longer having to worry about treatment costs.
Progress on universal health coverage, like climate action, is seen as one of the key elements in ensuring that the 2030 Agenda, the UN’s blueprint for a future that is good for the planet, people and prosperity: Sustainable Development Goal 3 calls on the international community to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all, at all ages”, and achieving UHC is one of the targets the nations of the world set, when adopting the Goals in 2015.
On Sunday, the WHO and partners organised an event in New York, Walk the Talk, described as “a celebration of health in the form of a walk, run, roll or ramble”, to promote healthy lifestyles and action on climate change. Find out more here.
INTERNATIONAL, 21 September 2019, Climate Change - Students and young activists on Saturday threw down the gauntlet to world leaders heading to United Nations Headquarters next week for high-level climate talks, demanding that they “stop wasting time” and work harder to curb carbon emissions, “or we will vote you out.”
“We have been waiting for you!” Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Youth Envoy, said, welcoming the boisterous crowd of young climate leaders, who made it clear from the very start of the day-long event that global political leaders are now on notice: they must make radical changes to shift the world away from fossil fuels and towards clean energy, protect our oceans, and promote sustainable consumption.
This first-ever UN Youth Climate Summit follows Friday’s global ‘climate strike’, which saw millions of young people from across the globe walk out of school and jam streets in major cities, from New York to New Delhi and Santiago to San Francisco, waving protest signs with slogans like: “Every disaster movie starts with a scientist being ignored”; and “I’m ditching school because you’re ditching the planet.”
Finally, a seat at the climate action table
On Saturday, Ms.Wickramanayake said: “Climate change is the defining issue of our time. Millions of young people all over the world are already being affected by it. If we don’t act now, the impact will be severe.”
She praised the cliamte strike movement, saying: “We have seen how you organize your communities … Your peers and even your parents.” And after demanding for years that their voices be heard on climate, she said: “Imagine the power of the movement you have created! The leaders are now asking for a seat at your table!”
The Summit, aiming to be different from the usual speaker-by-speaker UN meeting, took the form of a series of lively discussions and Q & A sessions, led by moderators and young people in sneakers rather than UN representatives.
Even Secretary-General António Guterres served as “keynote listener” to a panel of young people who were not only at the frontlines of the climate emergency, but also coming up with innovative ways to combat the crisis. The over 600 attendees included 100 ‘green ticket’ winners, outstanding young climate champions chosen from around the world will receive support to participate,
“Yesterday, millions of people across the globe marched and demanded real climate action, especially young people,” said Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist who helped ignite a global movement. “We showed that we are united. And that we young people are unstoppable,” she encouraged fellow participants, ahead of her address to world leaders on Monday at the Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit.
'Enouth is enough: No more fossile fuels!'
Giving the front-line perspective, Fijian climate change action advocate Komal Kumar said her homeland was suffering greatly from the impact of a climate crisis it had contributed very little to creating. But people from her generation worldwide were “living in constant fear and climate anxiety … Fearing the future.”
“Things are black and white for us: We are not insurance policies, we are human beings, we are communities. Is it too much to ask you to walk the talk, are we really looking forward to false hope?” she asked.
“We demand action. Stop wasting time. Stop hindering the work [towards a sustainable future] for short term profits. Engage young people in the design of adaptation plans,” said Ms. Kumar, who warned: “We will hold you accountable. And if you do not remember, we will mobilize to vote you out.”
UN Photo/Manuel Elias
Wanjuhi Njoroge, an activist from Kenya, highlighted progress on restoring the country’s forest cover and said that overall, youth-led climate initiatives “will cause a revolution. [And as such], we must be allowed to influence [climate] decisions. Member States must respect our freedom of expression, including online.”
“This is the time for us to work together. I invite all of us to be the hummingbird that puts out the forest fire, as everyone else said it was impossible.”
Thanking the UN for “including the voices of our generation in the process of building paths towards a more habitable planet,” young Argentinian climate activist Bruno Rodriguez declared climate change “the political crisis, cultural crisis of our time. Enough is enough. We don’t want fossil fuels anymore.”
“The science is clear; our world leaders have an obligation to make radical change,” he stressed, adding that young climate changemakers are building a new “collective consciousness.” Turning to the Secretary-General, Mr. Rodrigues said: “Let’s stop asking world leaders to just listen to science and demand they act on science.”
My generation has a huge responsibility – UN chief Guterres
For his part, Mr. Guterres, leaving his usual formal tie behind and opting for an open collar, agreed that “one of the problems of world leaders [is that] they talk too much, and they listen too little. And … It is in listening that we learn. It is in giving the possibility for all those that represent today's world to speak and to have their voices be part of decision-making processes that we can move forward.”
While he painted a dire picture of the impacts of the climate emergency – from droughts in Africa to bleaching coral reefs and heatwaves elsewhere – the Secretary-General said he saw “a change in momentum” ahead of Monday’s Climate Action Summit, due to movements like those spearheaded by Ms. Thunberg, other grassroots activists and initiatives being undertaken “at the village level.”
“I encourage you to go on … To keep your mobilization, and more and more to hold my generation accountable,” said the UN chief, adding: “My generation has largely failed until now to preserve both justice in the world and to preserve the planet. My generation has a huge responsibility. It is your generation that must make us be accountable to make sure that we don't betray the future of humankind.”
The Climate Action Summit comes ahead of a series of high-level events at UN Headquarters next week to drive action for people and the planet. These meetings, running alongside the UN General Assembly’s annual general debate, will see world leaders discuss progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), universal healthcare for all, increasing access to education at all levels, and securing a broad-based development partnership for small island developing States.
INTERNATIONAL, 21 September 2019, Peace and Security - Amid reports of a Saudi-led coalition airstrike near Yemen’s port city of Hudaydah, Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concerns for the attacks in a Saturday statement attributable to his Spokesperson, Stephane Dujjaric.
An early morning strike on 20 September in the vicinity of the Al Hali District of Hudaydah governorate-in the country’s western coast- was carried out by a Saudi military operation, according to media reports.
The assault comes after Yemen-based Houthi rebel forces launched two drone attacks on major Saudi oil facilities on 14 September, a violation of UN ceasefire agreements reached at peace talks in Sweden last year.
“The Secretary-General continues to urge all parties to exercise maximum restraint and ensure adherence to the terms of the Hudaydah Agreement of 13 December 2018,” the Spokesperson said.
“He recalls that the parties reconfirmed their commitment to the ceasefire established by the Agreement during the latest joint meeting of the Redeployment Coordination Committee earlier this month,” he added, in which members agreed to deploy monitoring teams on Hudaydah frontlines as a step aimed at sustaining the truce.
Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Grifiths warned on Monday that the initial Houthi-led attacks could be sounding the alarm that the war-torn country could be dragged further into conflict.
The four-year clashes between Houthi rebels and the internationally-recognized Government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition has pushed the country to the brink of famine.
The UN humanitarian affairs coordination office, OCHA, estimates roughly 80 per cent of the population—or 24 million people—require humanitarian aid.
INTERNATIONAL, 21 September 2019, SDGs - “We need more investment, more political action, more priority for a fair globalization”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an interview on Thursday, when asked about his expectations for the first-ever Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Summit, on 24-25 September at New York headquarters.
Mr. Guterres emphasized that, with just over 10 years to go, the world is not on track to hit targets related to sustainable development, and urged world leaders to “take the decisions necessary, in order to come together more effectively to make sure that the 2030 Agenda is successfully implemented”.
Accelerating progress towards a better future
In 2015, the Member States of the UN adopted the landmark 2030 Agenda, which provides a blueprint for the transition to a healthier planet and a more just world, for present and future generations.
The Agenda is broken down into 17 Sustainable Development Goals, concrete targets concrete targets, to end poverty and hunger; expand access to health, education, justice and jobs; promote inclusive and sustained economic growth; while protecting our planet from environmental degradation.
Although positive results have been reported, global efforts have been hampered by challenges such as conflict, climate change, lack of access to essential health services, growing inequalities and significant financing gaps.
The SDG Summit, which is one of the five important high-level summits and meetings talking place during the opening week of the latest session of the UN General Assembly, will allow leaders from government, business and other sectors to identify specific actions that can help get the SDG response back on track, with a decade of action and delivery still in play, in the lead up to the 2030 deadline.
The format will break down the topics into six “dialogues”, pairing a leader of a developing country, with the head of a developed country as co-moderators.
The themes of each dialogue are “megatrends”, accelerating the SDGs, measures to leverage progress, localizing the SDGs, partnerships for sustainable development, and the 2020-2030 vision.
The Summit is expected to conclude with a Political Declaration of Heads of State and Government, that provides political guidance how to step up the pace of implementation of the 2030 Agenda and SDGs, and a series of SDG acceleration actions.
Some SDG successes and challenges
Goal 7, Affordable and Clean Energy: more people are using electricity than ever before. Nearly 9 out of 10 people now have access to electricity. Energy efficiency continues to improve, and renewable energy is making impressive gains in the electricity sector. But three billion people still lack clean cooking fuels and technologies, putting at risk their health and the environment.
Goal 10, Reduced Inequality: income inequality continues to rise in many parts of the world, even though the poorest 40% of the population in most countries experienced income growth faster than the national average. The bottom 40% still received less than 25% of overall income. In many countries, an increasing share of income goes to the top 1%.
Goal 13, Climate Action: as greenhouse gas levels continue to climb, climate change is occurring much faster than anticipated, and its effects are evident worldwide. The global mean temperature for 2018 was approximately 1°C above the pre-industrial baseline, and the last four y
A more comprehensive list of progress on the SDGs can be found here.
INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, Climate Change - It is “crucial” that the world’s 1.8 billion young people have a say in the fight against climate change and ultimately “the future of the planet” according to the UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake.
Young activists, innovators, entrepreneurs and change-makers are due to gather at UN headquarters in New York at the Youth Climate Summit on Saturday 21 September to put pressure on global leaders to take action to prevent climate change.
Ms. Wickramanayake will be there, and UN News asked her why young people are so important to the climate action debate.
UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, speaking to some of the members of the 4th Batch of Trainees following their Graduation Ceremony in Chamen, Gambia. 5 February 2018. , by UNFPA Gambia/Alhagie Manka
Why is it necessary to bring young people together to discuss climate change?
There are 1.8 billion young people in the world today, that’s the largest number ever, so it is crucial that they have a say in the future of the planet, in their future. The school strike for climate action started by the young Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, in her home town, Stockholm, and the other strikes by young people around the world which followed, have shown that they are demanding action on climate and want to have a decisive role in the decision-making process. The time to respond with action is now.
This Youth Climate Summit taking place at UN Headquarters will bring together the key leaders of the youth climate movement and provide a chance for them to engage with a wider global audience. Some 1000 young people from across the world will be attending the event in person and many more will be following online.
Is this an acknowledgement that those people in power, in other word adults, are not doing enough?
It is clear that tackling climate change needs to involve all people, young and old, privileged and underprivileged, from developed and developing countries. Young people want and deserve a role in what should be a participatory process and the school strikes for climate action were born out of their desire to make global leaders aware of and act on their concerns. Just as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development underlines that young people are the torchbearers of sustainable development, they are also the thinkers, doers and innovators who can realise this agenda. They have a stake in the future as this is the planet, they will inherit; it is they who will bear the impact of a changing climate.
UN Youth Envoy
ATTENTION Across the young ppl are leading action on #climate crisis. Now they’re telling leaders, “It’s YOUR turn!”
The Summit is a platform for young leaders and youth-led organizations to showcase the actions they are taking to slow down climate change with the aim of keeping to a 1.5 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures above pre-industrial levels. In May, I launched the “Summer of Solutions” challenge to young people to create innovative technology-based climate solutions. These include developing a platform to enhance the access of localized climate and market information, developing tech tools to boost the “circular economy,” an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the re-use of resources. The best ideas will be highlighted at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit on 23 September.
The youth Summit will also feature a strong intergenerational component that will carry forward into the Climate Action Summit and which will allow youth activists from both the global south and north to question world political leaders about addressing climate change.
Providing young climate pioneers with an opportunity to engage with political leaders, including by asking bold and provocative questions, as well as proposing concrete solutions in a UN setting will be an important testament to fact that the voices of youth are being listened to. Beyond that, and more importantly, they are being responded to and they are influencing decision making at the highest levels. The youth summit is the United Nations Youth Strategy “Youth 2030” in action, where the first priority is engagement, participation and advocacy to amplify young peoples’ voices for the promotion of a peaceful, just and sustainable world.
What practical steps will come out of the interaction between youth and global leaders?
The Youth Climate Summit will prioritize meaningful engagement with leaders from national governments, the private sector and civil society. It is hoped that a large number of countries around the world will commit to consulting youth when formulating and designing climate action policies, plans and laws.
It is also expected that by facilitating these exchanges, corporate leaders will commit to working with, mentoring, as well as learning from, young entrepreneurs and/or youth-led companies, many of whom are in fact at the forefront of developing solutions to climate change.
Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, sailed into New York Harbor today flanked by a fleet of 17 sailboats representing each of the Sustainable Development Goals on their sails., by UN Photo/Mark Garten
A key voice at the youth summit will, no doubt, be Greta Thunberg. How important is she?
Young people think, feel and do things differently to older people and this is incredibly valuable as we face what the UN Secretary-General has called the “existential crisis” of climate change.
Greta Thunberg is an incredibly inspirational model for young people the world over and a powerful symbol of their desire to take action to prevent climate change. It is no small feat to get the attention of world leaders in the way she has done, so in this sense she is creating a powerful climate action movement led by the world’s young people, which cannot be ignored. I am also very proud of the youth activists from the global south, who might not be getting as much media attention; such as Venessa from Uganda and Timothy from Fiji and thousands more who are vocal advocates for our common future and are Greta’s biggest allies around the world.
INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, SDGs - As global leaders prepare to convene in New York next week to debate the best way forward for the planet, Secretary-General António Guterres is urging them to “do what is necessary” to ensure that “we are able to solve the dramatic problems we face.”
In a special interview for UN News conducted this week by newly-appointed head of Global Communications, Melissa Fleming, Mr. Guterres lamented that “we are not on track” to meet a 2030 deadline in many aspects, highlighting that the first-ever SDG summit on 24 and 25 September, will inject more momentum.
The UN chief told Ms. Fleming that “more and more of the crises we face, have a multiplicity of factors, from different parts of the world” and resolving these issues begs “more international cooperation” with the UN firmly “at the centre of it.”
UN News/Joon Park
The Secretary-General sits down with newly-appointed head of Global Communications, Melissa Fleming, for an exclusive UN News interview ahead of the 74th General Assembly Debate at UN Headquarters in New York. 18 September, 2019.
Melissa Fleming: You have said that the world is facing a critical time on a number of fronts: The climate emergency, rising inequality, an increase in hatred, intolerance as well as peace and security challenges. Do you have a formula to address them?
Secretary-General: The formula is more international cooperation. These are global issues that no country can solve alone, in relation to climate. That's why we are having a summit. And that summit is aiming at making countries understand that they need to do much more than what they have been until now, because we need to defeat climate change that is still running faster than what we had.
And we see the consequences in devastating hurricanes, we see the consequence in glaciers melting, we see the consequences in public health deteriorating, with heat waves and new diseases coming to several areas. And so, we need more international cooperation to defeat climate change. And inequality is the same. We need fair globalization, and fair globalization is only possible with more international cooperation. That's why we are going to have a summit on the Sustainable Development Goals. That's why we have the Agenda 2030, which is the blueprint of the UN to bring all countries together for fair globalization.
Then if you move into all the other areas, from hate speech - it is clear that this is now spreading like wildfire everywhere - we need to fight it together. Or even security issues - more and more of the crises we face have a multiplicity of factors, from different parts of the world. So only with more international cooperation and the UN at the centre of it, are we able to address these challenges and hopefully to start solving them.
The General Assembly will be an excellent opportunity for many of these issues to move forward. We have a climate summit. We have a summit on the Sustainable Development Goals - which means on the Agenda 2030, the blueprint for fair globalization - and a summit for financing it, which is absolutely central because without finance, there is no way we can move in the development areas; a summit on public health and Global Health Coverage for public health; a summit on the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that are the first victims of climate change as we all know.
And all these combined, all these together, represent a comprehensive response in which the UN is trying to bring all countries into the same platform to be able to solve exactly the kind of problems that you mentioned in your first question.
Melissa Fleming: One of those summits is a youth climate summit. Why is this special? Why are the youth being called together now here in New York?
Secretary-General: Because the youth has shown an enormous leadership on this and it's perfectly understandable. Climate change is already a dramatic problem today, but it is clear it will be even more dramatic in the years to come. And so, when the young people of today will be the adults that will be running the world in a few decades, they will be facing the worst consequences of the mistakes we might make now. So, the youth have been really in the forefront of pushing governments and pushing businesses and pushing cities and pushing all other actors to do what they have to do, to stop climate change. And so, a youth summit is a very important instrument to put pressure on those who have to take the decisions that are necessary.
Melissa Fleming: Well the following day, you will be convening the global climate summit here. You have quite famously now said you are asking countries to come, not with beautiful speeches, but with real action. What kind of expectations do you have for the kind of initiatives that might come?
António Guterres: The action that is needed to meet the requirements that the international community of scientists is telling us are necessary to defeat climate change. Not to let temperatures go above 1.5 degrees at the end of the century, means that we need to be carbon-neutral in 2050, that we need to reduce dramatically the emissions during the next decade. And what we want to have, is more and more countries coming here and committing to carbon neutrality in 2050, and committing to reductions.
And our target is 45 per cent of the emissions during the next decades. Coming here to commit in relation to the financing of the Green Climate Fund and the $100 billion we need to have every year to support developing countries - in adaptation and mitigation in the coming year - and announcing the other investments that are absolutely essential in order to make sure that we promote the kind of energy - renewable energy - that is needed in relation to the fossil fuels that represent the past; that we are able to have different agriculture, a different use of land; that cities have different strategies in the way they reduce their emissions…(There are) lots of concrete, concrete measures that we hope States, cities, businesses will be able to announce during the summit.
UN Photo/Mark Garten
Off the coast of Fiji last May, the frontline of "the battle against climate change", Secretary-General António Guterres takes a tour on an eco-friendly, solar powered sail boat that teaches conservation as well as climate-related issues.
Melissa Fleming: Let's move to the last two questions: Very importantly, the leaders at the GA (General Assembly) are also being asked to come here for a summit on the Sustainable Development Goals.
On Tuesday, also with commitments that will bring about results, there will be a meeting, as you just mentioned, on mobilizing financing to achieve the SDGs. What are your specific expectations for the outcome of this?
Secretary-General: Well, first of all, the recognition that we are not on track - the agenda 2030 in relation to the eradication of poverty in relation to health; in relation to education; in relation to water and sanitation; to the oceans, to climate change; to all these aspects, that the agenda 2030 determines that we should, in 2030, have reached a number of concrete goals. We are not on track; we are not doing enough.
And obviously there has been progress. There is less absolute poverty then a few decades ago. There has been improvement in child mortality or in access of education, but we are not on track.
We need more investment, more political action, more priority to those aspects that are described in the Goals that we have fixed to have a fair globalization, to have a development that is simultaneously sustainable and inclusive, that leaves no one behind, that brings all those that have been marginalized by development into the benefits of that development…(We must) recognize that we are not on track and then take the decisions necessary in investment, in policies, in changes of different forms of cooperation; also, at the international level or with the businesses, the civil society, the local authorities, in order to come together more effectively to make sure that Agenda 2030 is successfully implemented.
Melissa Fleming: Somewhat related to the SDGs, obviously is health, and there is going to be also a high-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage next week. Why is this so important in today's world?
Secretary-General: Because it's a basic right that is not yet universal. Many people have no healthcare and many people that have healthcare, have no quality of care. And one fundamental objective is to make sure that sooner rather than later, the world will be able to provide to all the citizens of the world the kind of quality of care they need, and they deserve.
Melissa Fleming: Finally, peace and security will likely loom large during the GA this week. Do you see any signs of hope in this area?
Secretary-General: There is hope in the sense that we see some problems moving forward in a positive way. We have seen progress in Sudan, we have seen progress in the conversations on South Sudan last week. We have seen progress in the Central African Republic, with its peace agreement. We see that many elections that were supposed to have been a disaster for the countries, ended without violence - from the DRC, to the Maldives, to Madagascar.
So, there are many positive signs, but unfortunately, we also have many negative signs and we see people going on dying in Syria, in Libya, in Yemen. And so, we need to increase our commitment to diplomacy for peace, and we need to make countries understand - especially those that to a certain extent, are responsible for these wars by proxy - make countries understand, that these are wars nobody's winning, everybody is losing.
And they are becoming more and more interlinked to global terrorism and becoming a threat, not only for the countries where these conflicts take place, but for the whole of the international community.
Melissa Fleming: A final note: your message to the leaders coming here to New York, to the General Assembly next week.
Secretary-General: Do what is necessary to make sure that we are able to solve the dramatic problems we face.
INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, Peace and Security - Among the efforts to build a sustainably peaceful world, “urgent climate action is needed” to curb environmental threats to all our well-being and security, the Secretary-General told the annual peace gathering in New York on Friday, addressing a largely youthful crowd.
Each 21 September, the General Assembly-mandated International Day of Peace is observed, devoted to “strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples”, with this year’s theme spotlighting climate action as key to that aim.
“Today peace faces a new danger: the climate emergency, which threatens our security, our livelihoods and our lives”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message.
Speaking to some 700 high school and college student leaders, he explained that peace “is not only about peace among people, but peace between people and the planet”, lamenting that “we have been at war” with nature.
Climate change has posed clear threats to international peace and security, with natural disasters displacing three times as many people as conflicts; forcing millions to flee their homes in search of refuge.
UN Photo/Kim Haughton
Growing tensions over resources, mass movements of people, and endangered food security are escalating and “affecting every country on every continent” according to the UN.
On Friday morning Mr. Guterres commenced celebrations by ringing the Peace Bell at Headquarters in New York, and observing a minute of silence in the UN’s Peace Garden.
He was joined by the UN Messengers for Peace, Yo-Yo Ma and Midori Goto, and hundreds of high school and college student guests, who represent the growing number of young people stepping up to meet the climate challenge - close to half a million world-wide the UN estimates.
This year, the UN’s recognition of the Day showcased the power of young voices by hosting a Peace Student Observance - a platform for young people to share projects they have undertaken to nurse a healthy planet while promoting peace.
To mobilize ambition, the Secretary-General is convening a Climate Action Summit on 23 September, with “concrete and realistic plans to accelerate action” as urged by Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, and put forward ambitious plans outlined in the landmark Paris Agreement. A special climate summit for youth on Saturday, the first of its kind, will bring young leaders and innovators together to further address the climate emergency.
The shift toward a safer and greener future “will be backed by passionate voices of young women and men around the world, who understand their future is at stake” Mr. Guterres said in the 100-Day countdown to the International Day back in June, deeming this challenge “the battle of our lives.”
“We are at war with nature” the UN chief said, “nature doesn’t forgive, and nature is striking back.”
Form farming, to how we mobilize ourselves, to power supply, we need “huge transformations” the Secretary-General urged.
Commending the young attendees, he said: “Your leadership is essential, to make sure that my generation does the right thing…Good luck in your very committed engagement towards peace among people, and people with mother nature.”
INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, Peace and Security - The “steady deterioration” of chances that a lasting peace can be negotiated between Israel and Palestine as two States live side by side, reflects a “collective failure” of leadership across the region and the world.
“Those who continue to support a two-State outcome must acknowledge that derailing that prospect, means that Palestinians and Israelis are facing a grim future of perpetual occupation, endless violence and threats to international stability”, he said.
Earlier, he began his briefing said that the sides remained far apart, and most of the 2016 Council resolution, known as 2334, remained to be implemented: “developments during this reporting period cannot be divorced from the broader context: Israel’s continued military occupation…settlement activity and the threat of annexation; Hamas’ continuing hold over Gaza, and its militant activity; unilateral actions that undermine peace efforts and severe challenges to the fiscal viability of the Palestinian Authority”, he said, adding the risk of military escalation regionally.
“All these developments collectively erode the prospects of a two-State solution”, which the UN and most Council members have consistently backed as the only possible way out of final-status talks.
Mr. Mladenov noted that around 3,000 housing units had been advanced in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, where demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures had also continued. The last three months had also seen “worrying levels of violence throughout the occupied Palestinian territory”.
Gaza tensions continue
In the Gaza strip, although overall levels of violence decreased, “tensions continue”, with four killed, including two children, in continuing protests at the border fence, as well as 496 injured by Israeli live fire.
Gaza’s humanitarian crisis continues, said the Special Coordinator, although Qatari funding had led to more than double the power output from the Gaza Power Plant, and more than 10,000 jobs had been created by UN agencies on the ground, including around 3,000 for women. “Despite these efforts”, the health system in Gaza “remains on the brink of collapse”.
He noted that “sadly”, two years on from a reconciliation agreement between militant Hamas forces that control Gaza, and Fatah leaders in the West Bank, “intra-Palestinian divisions remain deeply entrenched.”
Regarding the pre-election promise offered by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, that as a first step, he would annex the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea if re-elected, Mr. Mladenov told the Council that “such steps, if implemented, would constitute a serious violation of international law. They would be devastating to the potential of reviving negotiations and regional peace.”
He said that nearly three years after the passing of resolution 2334, “we can only lament the worsening situation on the ground. Settlements have expanded, demolitions have accelerated, violence and incitement have continued, achieving intra-Palestinian unity seems and ever-more distant prospect, and credible negotiations have yet to be launched.”
The overall deterioration in the chances for peace “reflects the collective failure of leaders, politicians and the international community to deliver on the vision that peace between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, can be achieved through peaceful negotiations with support from the international community, based on 1967 lines, international law, relevant UN resolutions and previous agreements.”
INTERNATIONAL, 20 September 2019, Climate Change - Staff at UN Headquarters in New York joined untold numbers of students, scientists, organized labour, and everyday people worldwide, who took to the streets on Friday, demanding action to address climate change.
The global climate strike was inspired by weekly demonstrations held by the Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, and UN workers gathered in front of the Secretariat to show support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to bring about a greener future for all people.
Ms. Thunberg is attending the schoolchildren-led march in New York, but millions of people of all ages have already joined children across the world in demonstrations, from the south Pacific region, to the west coast of the United States.
UN chief António Guterres told students attending the annual ceremony marking the International Day of Peace, observed on 21 September, that they are making a difference.
“Like the millions who all over the world are demonstrating today in favour of peace with nature, your presence here today is very important for our work,” he said.
Nearly one billion of the global population aged 15 to 24, live in developing countries, according to IFAD. Around half, or just under 500 million, live in rural areas.
“Countries with large youth populations are typically poor and still heavily agricultural, which is one of the sectors most directly affected by climate change,” the report stated.
“Countries in West and Central Africa – notably the Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone – are in this position. These countries are also in the midst of post-conflict or fragile situations, making it all the more pressing to address the challenge of youth inclusion.”
There is also a gender dimension to the climate crisis. As UN Women pointed out in a tweet posted on Friday: Taking #ClimateAction is also taking action to realize women's rights.
While climate change affects everyone, the agency said it is the world’s poorest—especially women and girls—who suffer most following devastating storms, drought and other conditions brought on by extreme weather conditions.
“Often, they are the last to eat or be rescued; they face greater health and safety risks as water and sanitation systems become compromised; and they take on increased domestic and care work as resources dwindle,” according to a recent UN Women editorial.
More than 700 young people are expected to take part in the UN Youth Climate Summit on Saturday, to showcase their solutions to address what the UN believes is the defining issue of our time.
For UN Youth Envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake, the nearly two billion young people worldwide are “crucial” to the planet’s future.
“Young people want and deserve a role in what should be a participatory process and the school strikes for climate action were born out of their desire to make global leaders aware of and act on their concerns,” she told UN News ahead of the event.
“They have a stake in the future as this is the planet they will inherit; it is they who will bear the impact of a changing climate.”