This quarterly update April-June 2018 provides a quick overview of UN Environment’s work to address the environmental causes and consequences of natural disasters, industrial accidents, and armed conflicts.
UN Environment and European Union call for stronger action against climate change-related-security threat
The 2009 UN Secretary-General’s report highlighted the impact of climate change on security. Since its publication, there has been growing consensus that this phenomenon will put additional stress on the world’s economic, social, and political systems. To mitigate and manage the potential threats of climate change, it is necessary to integrate climate change adaptation, development and humanitarian aid, as well as peace building and conflict prevention programmes in national policies.
"Climate change action is more urgent than ever before. Around the world people are already living at the sharp end, experiencing increased competition over scarce resources and accelerated degradation of the environment around them, and in some cases are being displaced as a result," - Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment.
In Afghanistan’s Bamyan Province UN Environment has worked on reforestation projects which have created jobs for ex-combatants. (© Alec Knuerr/UN Environment)
How countries can trade their way to climate resilience
In the winter of 2014, the Finistère area of Brittany in northwestern France was hit with violent storms, bringing torrential rain, heavy wind and flooding. Winter floods in this part of France are common; in 2014, however, the heavy rainfall caused the river to rise to record levels – 2.5 times higher than average – threatening people and infrastructure.
Globally, the economic cost of natural disasters is around US$520 billion. The prudence of encouraging and investing in environmentally sound technologies to promote climate resilience is becoming clearer and clearer.
A village is cut off by flood waters from the Vilaine river in Brittany, western France, between the cities of Rennes and Redon (© Reuters)
Mississippi mayors and insurance executives tackle disaster resilience
The Mississippi – North America’s longest river – generates nearly US$500 billion in annual revenue, employing 1.5 million people in the ten US states along its banks. Waterways and ports of the river’s entire corridor provide over half a million jobs, generating over US$83 billion in annual revenue. But the river and its communities are facing significant challenges. Since 2012, the Mississippi has experienced flooding and droughts that have caused over US$50 billion in damage.
“We should protect the Mississippi River, it is a jewel. It is key to our economic sustainability and we need to have frank conversations with our constituents and the challenges we face need a holistic problem-solving approach. We can’t do this in silos.” - Lionel Johnson Jr, Mayor of St Gabriel, Louisiana
A gas station is partially submerged in floodwater in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac in Braithwaite, September 2012 (© REUTERS/Lee Celano)
Preparedness and Response
A precarious environment for the Rohingya refugees
The refugee influx into the Cox’s Bazar district has caused a significant impact on local forests and amplified human-wildlife conflict. It is estimated that the equivalent of 3-5 football fields of forest are felled every day in the area.
"We need to conserve vegetation... Partnerships have been key to some successes. Working with expert conservation agencies like IUCN is a very good example: IUCN have been an excellent partner by bringing the right skills, at the right time, to manage the human-elephant conflict." - UN Refugee Agency
The Cox's Bazar Refugee Camp in Bangladesh has had a major impact on the local environment. Before August 2017 it hosted about 200,000 refugees. Since then almost 700,000 more, mainly Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine State, have arrived. (©Philipp Huebner).
Trimming the waste: UN looks to reduce its environmental footprint
The city of Goma, which lies along the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo, has for decades been a hub of humanitarian operations in response to conflicts and natural disasters in the region, including neighbouring Rwanda. It is home to the UN’s largest peacekeeping operation and following repeated cycles of conflict, the city – which has a population of roughly one million – has experienced public health and environmental challenges due to inadequate solid waste management.
“UN Environment is committed to supporting the UN system in improving the environmental performance of its facilities.” - Isabella Marras Coordinator of the Sustainable United Nations team.
Solid waste management is one of the most challenging environmental and public health problems confronting the rapidly growing city of Goma (©Hassan Partow/UN Environment)
Somalia calls for international cooperation to stop illegal charcoal trade
At the opening of a two-day, UN-supported conference on charcoal in Mogadishu, the Federal Government of Somalia called for international, African and Gulf States cooperation in halting the illegal export of charcoal from the country. The export of charcoal from Somalia has been banned, both by a 2012 United Nations Security Council resolution and by the Somali Government, due to its destructive effect on the environment and its exacerbation of conflict and humanitarian crises.
“We need a holistic response to address the issues of charcoal in Somalia. Both the demand and supply side have to be tackled – to do this we need cooperation to implement the UN Security Council Resolution," - Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Mohamed Guled
Somali traders prepare charcoal for export near the Kismayo sea port town in lower Juba region February 27, 2013. UN Environment and its partners are supporting the Government of Somalia to develop sound policy frameworks to support the ban and find alternatives to charcoal (© Reuters/Feisal Omar)
South Sudan strengthens environmental protection
On World Environment Day, First Vice-President Taban Deng Gai presided over the launch of the country’s State of Environment and Outlook Report, a first for the country. The publication is the result of a joint study by UN Environment and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. The report acknowledges that the ongoing strife in the country “is a major impediment to good governance, the productive use of natural resources and the protection of the country’s environmental assets”.
“The information generated will be used for future planning and management of natural resources and for environmental protection," - President Salva Kiir Mayardit.
The ongoing conflict, and demand for fuel wood and charcoal, prevent forests from being developed and sustainably managed (© UN Environment)
Changing the Afghan landscape one tree at a time
For years, the valleys and mountain slopes of Chapqulak Qabrizaghak village in Afghanistan’s Bamyan Province stood bare and exposed, at the mercy of the forces of nature – floods, avalanches, strong winds and dust storms. Today, rows of willow and poplar trees adorn the landscape – the fruits of an ongoing tree-planting initiative launched three years ago.
Before the tree-planting project, the slopes were empty and desert-like. Floods often destroyed houses and property during spring due to heavy rains. Today, the village has become greener, the trees have made the place look more beautiful and the speed and velocity of floods has diminished.
To mark the Afghan Nawruz holiday on 21 March – an occasion traditionally marked by tree planting across the country to welcome the New Year – the National Environmental Protection Agency distributed at least 15,000 trees in Chapqulak Qabrizaghak and the wider Bamyan Province. (©Zahra Khodadadi/UN Environment)
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