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Geneva, 13 October 2020 – Thirty of the world’s largest investors with $5 trillion assets under management have collectively agreed on concrete portfolio decarbonization targets that follow the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5 °C scenario for the next five years.

UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance members will implement deep greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions in the 16% to 29% range by 2025 from 2019, amid likely rising global emissions in the same period.

Published for public consultation, the 2025 Target Setting Protocol lays out plans for this substantial decoupling of asset owners’ portfolio GHG emissions from the global economy. The Protocol is integral to coherent and comprehensive plans to reduce emissions, increase investment in the net-zero emissions transition and enhance influence on markets and government policies.

With this Protocol, Alliance members are sounding a very loud signal to the thousands of companies they own that deep emissions cuts are required. They will work with those willing to adjust their business models, and do not wish to engage in a divestment exercise. In order for their efforts to be met with success, substantial government action is required.

In the first quarter of 2021, individual Alliance members will set their own portfolio targets from different starting points with respect to the level of carbon emissions currently contained within their portfolios. Several Alliance members will set large reduction targets, while others have already made substantial progress in their journey to net-zero, therefore the reductions required for their portfolios will be at the lower end of the range, while for some a lower 2025 target may reflect geographic or policy constraint that require them to decarbonize more slowly in early years.

The Protocol was constructed to allow Alliance members to employ the combination of approaches that best supports their unique decarbonisation and engagement strategies and acknowledges their different carbon levels as of today. Each member is unique and as such may identify unique levers that exist within their institutions for accelerating decarbonisation. They also have different investment scopes, strategies, internal governance structures and levels of exposure to certain high-emitting sectors

In this way the Alliance members aim to have “transparent, and unique” targets, which suit individual institutions, but which can also be aggregated such that progress for individual members and for the Alliance as a whole can be tracked and reported transparently.

The first steps towards Alliance commitments are twofold: transitioning investment portfolios to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050; and achieving this through advocating for, and engaging on corporate action, as well as public policies, for the low-carbon transition of economic sectors in line with science and under consideration of social impacts. Defining net-zero pathways must take both goals into account, while also considering implications for a just transition.

Engagement with portfolio companies is a core component to assure that not only the Alliance members’ portfolios transition to net-zero, but that the Alliance members also have an impact on the real economy. Although decarbonization of portfolios could be easily achieved by selling carbon intensive investments, it is highly questionable if such actions alone would have a positive impact on the real economy. Additionally, it might undermine Alliance members ability to engage with these corporate to effect reductions in the real economy.

“Alliance members start out by changing themselves and then reach out to various companies to work on the change of their businesses” said Günther Thallinger, Alliance Chair and Member of the Board of Management, Allianz SE.

“Reaching net-zero is not simply reducing emissions and carrying on with the business models of today. There are profound changes and opportunities that will come from the net-zero economy, we see new business opportunities and strong wins for those who are ready to lead,” he adds.

Eric Usher, Head of UNEP FIsaid: “According to the UNEP Emissions Gap Report, every year of postponed emissions peak means that deeper and faster cuts will be required. The Target-Setting Protocol represents world-leading progress on the required emissions reductions from some of the biggest investors in the world.”

“Establishing firm interim portfolio decarbonization targets is key to meeting the Paris climate commitments. From a membership of 12 asset owners at launch over a year ago, to 30 and counting, means the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, a joint initiative of the PRI and UNEP FI, can have a huge impact on the way companies manage the carbon footprint of their operations” said Fiona Reynolds, CEO of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

NOTES TO EDITORS

About the UN-convened Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance

Convened by UNEP FI and the Principles for Responsible Investment, we are an international group of 30 institutional investors (as of 8th October 2020) delivering on a bold commitment to transition our investment portfolios to net-zero GHG emissions by 2050. Representing $5.0 trillion assets under management, the Alliance shows united investor action to align portfolios with a 1.5°C scenario, addressing Article 2.1c of the Paris Agreement. The Alliance is part of the UNFCCC Race to Zero campaign and supported by WWF and Mission 2020.

About the Alliance 2025 Target Setting Protocol Consultation

The Alliance 2025 Target Setting Protocol is made available to the public for one month from 13 October 2020 to 13 November 2020. During this period members of the general public, academia, government, and business are invited to comment on the Protocol and the contents covered in it.

“The world today finds itself in the worst financial and economic crisis in generations. The crisis has triggered an unprecedented policy response: interest rates have been dramatically reduced, in some cases down to almost zero, and hundreds of billions of dollars in liquidity support and fresh capital have been provided to banking systems around the world.”

Sound familiar? This is what economist Ed Barbier said in 2008-09 with the world reeling from the effects of the financial crisis. At the time, experts urged countries to put environmental sustainability at the core of their recovery packages, a message that received a lukewarm response.

Now, more than a decade later, a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says the world has a second – and possibly last – chance to tackle climate change and other environmental threats. Authored by Barbier, a professor at America’s Colorado State University, it draws on lessons from the Great Recession and calls on governments to develop concrete strategies to combat environmental decline as they rebuild their economies from COVID-19. The paper, Building a Greener Recovery: Lessons from the Great Recession, is the first in a series of UNEP reports designed to help countries build back more sustainably from the pandemic.

The paper finds that in the wake of the financial crisis, some countries made investments in energy efficiency and clean energy projects. Those efforts created jobs and expanded the use of renewable energy for several years but provided little long-term support for de-carbonizing the world economy.

This time, the paper calls on governments to commit to a five- to 10-year strategy of public investment and legislative reforms, including implementing levies that would make it more expensive to pollute. It says that will help spur a transformation towards a green economic order and foster a sustained financial recovery.

The paper also suggested differing legislative approaches in developed and developing countries. For low- and middle-income states, many of which are under extreme fiscal pressure because of the pandemic, the report recommended:

  • replacing fossil fuel subsidies with investments in clean energy and expanding access to renewable energy in rural areas;
  • reallocating irrigation subsidies to improve water supply, sanitation and wastewater infrastructure; and
  • implementing a “tropical carbon tax” to fund reforestation and ecological restoration.

The world has much catching up to do when it comes to climate change, according to UNEP Emissions Gap reports. Had serious climate action begun in 2010, the planet would have had to reduce emissions by 3.3 per cent per year to avoid a 1.5°C rise in global temperatures, considered a red line for the environment. However, since this did not happen, it will need to slash emissions by 7.6 per cent annually.

The working paper was launched on the opening day of the UNEP Finance Initiative’s biennial Global Roundtable.

  • New UNEP report highlights the critical role of financial institutions in advancing the growth of circularity by investing in businesses that take a more sustainable approach to production and consumption
  • Transitioning to circular economies that use resources more efficiently while minimizing pollution, waste and carbon emissions could generate USD trillions in business opportunities while protecting the health of our ecosystems
  • The report identifies opportunities for financial institutions to boost circularity and explores transitions already underway in several sectors

Geneva, 13 October 2020 – Financiers can and must make the shift to circularity, ensuring the consumption and production patterns of the businesses they invest in make more efficient use of resources and minimize waste, pollution and carbon emissions, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).

Launched today at UNEP FI’s Global Roundtable 2020, Financing Circularity: Demystifying Finance for the Circular Economy outlines how financial institutions can help redesign global economies by changing the way we consume and produce.

The move to circular economies could generate USD 4.5 trillion in annual economic output by 2030 while helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, protect the health of our ecosystems and enable sustainable recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks, insurers and investors can play a critical role by providing businesses with financial products that contribute to the circular economy, conserve natural resources and avoid or reduce waste. Financial institutions currently lack awareness of circularity as well as the expertise, products and services to harness business opportunities.

“The economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to stimulate the urgent transition to more sustainable consumption and production. We need both the private and public sectors to transform our economies to address climate change, reduce pollution and improve resource efficiency. Collective action is critical to delivering on the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “The financial sector and policymakers in particular have a central role to play in the shift from linear, wasteful growth to embedding circularity in finance and our economies.”

The growth of circular business models will require structural and technological change, including innovation in the design and manufacturing of products and services; reducing inputs to agriculture; cutting food waste and using digital technologies to increase transparency and sustainability in supply chains. The financial institutions surveyed for the report recognized that there are opportunities to boost circularity in the buildings and construction, food and agriculture, chemicals and electronics sectors in particular. The report explores transitions already underway in these sectors, as well as in manufacturing, apparel and fashion, mining and energy and cross-cutting innovation in areas such as digital technology.

It outlines a number of recommendations for financial institutions to boost circularity:

  • Integrating circularity into their core business strategies and increasing their assessment of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria
  • Setting targets on resource efficiency
  • Re-orienting loans and investments towards more sustainable technologies and financing innovative business models,
  • Making financing circularity an opt out rather than an opt in in mainstream financial instruments,
  • Evaluating how financing for circularity can contribute to the implementation of key financial industry frameworks such as UNEP Finance Initiative’s Principles for Responsible Banking and Principles for Sustainable Insurance.

The report highlights examples of innovation in financing circularity, including a sustainability bond issued by Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, to fund projects and businesses under a €5 billion credit facility. It will support circular economy opportunities such as offering solutions for the lifetime extension of goods and materials, regeneration of natural capital (e.g. restoration of degraded soils), circular design focused on waste and pollution reduction, production processes producing or dependent on recycled resources, resource efficiency in the supply chain, reverse logistics, collection, separation and recycling of used materials and innovative technologies to enable circular business models.

Swedish Insurance Fintech Omocon has developed a microinsurance product for the sharing economy, involving shareable goods rented out on a platform. The product protects the owner of a shareable good or asset that needs protection against damage. Omocom collects data on the sharing platform to look into the usage statistics of sharing transactions to calculate risk and price insurance. This has changed the underwriting process and claims processes.

The report also identifies the need for governments to provide the financial sector with incentives and an enabling policy and legislative framework to accelerate the integration of circularity into financial products and services. Recommendations for policymakers, financial industry regulators and supervisors to address barriers and stimulate opportunities include: integrating measures to catalyze a just transition to a circular economy into climate policies, rules and regulations, implementing COVID-19 recovery strategies that embed circularity in economic growth and focus on a resilient and inclusive recovery, and implementing policies, laws and related instruments to address systemic barriers to circularity and create incentives.
NOTES TO EDITORS

 

About UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative

United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) is a partnership between UNEP and the global financial sector to mobilize private sector finance for sustainable development. UNEP FI works with more than 350 members – banks, insurers, and investors – and over 100 supporting institutions – to help create a financial sector that serves people and planet while delivering positive impacts. We aim to inspire, inform and enable financial institutions to improve people’s quality of life without compromising that of future generations. By leveraging the UN’s role, UNEP FI accelerates sustainable finance.

About the UN Environment Programme

UNEP is the leading global voice on the environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.

The COVID-19 pandemic is part of the three planetary crises: the climate crisis, the biodiversity and nature crisis, and the pollution and waste crisis – which are destroying the natural systems that allow our economies to thrive.

Over the decades, there have been many commitments to address these crises. COVID-19 has shown what happens when we do not act with sufficient speed and force on these commitments. We all need to stretch our goals, actions and financing towards what we have agreed.

What this means for the public and private finance sectors is that money has to start flowing to the right places. As you have heard many times recently, pandemic recovery provides a chance to start this process. According to UNITAR, over the next 6 to 18 months, we will need in excess of 20 trillion dollars to recover from COVID-19.

This initial injection of taxpayer funds through stimulus packages has rightly prioritized jobs and putting food on the table. But in the long-term, these funds must go towards creating a zero-carbon, nature-positive economy, in which finance fuels the energy transition, a healthy planet and green jobs.

Public money alone is not going to get the job done, however. We need private finance to mobilize trillions of dollars. Let me briefly draw on emerging insights from the Dasgupta Review on the economics of biodiversity, to be issued by Her Majesty’s Treasury later this year, to illustrate why this matters.

The review finds that, for humanity to live in harmony with nature, we need a global financial system that invests in enhancing natural assets and helps mitigate risks from biodiversity loss and natural capital depletion. We are far from creating such a system. Global estimates of financial flows supporting natural assets range from USD 78 billion to USD 143 billion dollars per year. Meanwhile, the OECD estimates that governments spend around USD 500 billion dollars per year on support that is potentially harmful to biodiversity.

As highlighted by the World Economic Forum’s 2020 Global Risks Report, this imbalance is exacerbating risks. The report ranked biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five threats humanity will face in the next ten years.

Investors have also acknowledged the need to redirect their capital, joining many coalitions and promising to decarbonize and invest in sustainability. I would like to offer quick points on how to make sure these investments – be they in nature-positive agriculture, renewable energy, or sustainable infrastructure – count.

Commitments from financial institutions need to be science-based.

To give an example, UNEP’s Finance Initiatives engages with major investors, who represent 5 trillion USD in assets, under the Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance. The investors in the Alliance relied heavily on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C to set a timetable to net zero emissions in their portfolios by 2050, with intermediate targets every five years. And they are working closely with the scientific community to convert targets into sectoral emissions pathways. Such credible sectoral pathways to zero climate impact need to be applied to everything from steel and cement manufacture, to aviation, energy and agriculture. This is the only way to design a credible response.

Action needs to be portfolio- and institution-wide, in line with international processes.

Opportunistically adding ad-hoc green bits at the margins of otherwise gray, counter-productive portfolios is not going to get us anywhere. Entire portfolios and organizations need to be consistent – across all sectors and geographies – with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, the post-2020 biodiversity framework and other international agreements. This means moving beyond a focus on financing for renewable energies to a wider conversation about balancing the grey and the green, in energy sector financing.

Transparency and accountability are essential.

Let me give you an example of how to do it, through the Principles for Responsible Banking. Under the principles, 190 banks, representing around 40 per cent of global banking assets and serving 1.6 billion customers, committed to aligning their business strategies and practices with the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement. The Principles require third-party reviewed annual reports to provide assurance that what is being reported actually happened. Banks that do not show adequate progress will be delisted.

Adhering to these three practices will go a long way to moving the finance industry in the right direction. But we also need those who have not stepped forward with commitments to do so. We need every cent and every penny to be spent on shifting the needle to sustainability.

I invite and encourage all banks, insurers, investors and other important actors in the finance ecosystem around the world to join the UN in making the finance sector fit for financing the needs of society and its sustainable development outcomes.

Thank you.

Inger Andersen

Executive Director

Millions of used cars, vans and minibuses exported from Europe, the USA and Japan to low- and middle-income countries are hindering efforts to combat climate change. They are contributing to air pollution and are often involved in road accidents. Many of them are of poor quality and would fail road-worthiness tests in the exporting countries.

A landmark, first-of-its-kind United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, to be released on 26 October 2020, looks at 146 countries that import used vehicles, and calls for action to regulate the trade through the adoption of a set of harmonized minimum quality standards. These would ensure used vehicles contribute to cleaner and safer fleets in recipient countries. UNEP and partners will address these issues, initially with a project focused on Africa.

Despite representing less than 1% of the world’s ocean surface, the Mediterranean Sea is home to up to 18% of the planet’s marine species. The decline of Posidonia Oceanica (an endemic seagrass species known as the “lungs of the Mediterranean”), overfishing, non-indigenous species are among the symptoms of environmental degradation. Marine and coastal ecosystems are reeling under pressure from the unsustainable pursuit of economic growth. This pressure is illustrated by the challenges of marine litter and pollution and further compounded by the rising impacts of climate change. A United Nations Environment Programme Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) report produced by Plan Bleu, a UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centre, provides the most comprehensive assessment of the state of the environment and development in the region and includes a set of key messages that can inform an adequate policy response. The report was prepared under the Barcelona Convention, the Contracting Parties of which are 21 Mediterranean countries and the European Union.

Financial institutions will be crucial to make the shift to circularity, ensuring the consumption and production patterns of the businesses they invest in making more efficient use of resources and minimize waste, pollution and carbon emissions. This is the conclusion of the United Nations Environment Programme report Financing Circularity: Demystifying Finance for the Circular Economy which outlines how financial institutions can help redesign global economies by changing the way we consume and produce.

The move to circular economies could generate USD 4.5 trillion in annual economic output by 2030 while helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, protect the health of our ecosystems and enable sustainable recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Banks, insurers and investors can play a critical role by providing businesses with financial products that contribute to the circular economy, conserve natural resources and avoid or reduce waste. Financial institutions currently lack awareness of circularity as well as the expertise, products and services to harness business opportunities.

The growth of circular business models will require structural and technological change, including innovation in the design and manufacturing of products and services; reducing inputs to agriculture; cutting food waste and using digital technologies to increase transparency and sustainability in supply chains. The financial institutions surveyed for the report recognized that there are opportunities to boost circularity in the buildings and construction, food and agriculture, chemicals and electronics sectors in particular. The report explores transitions already underway in these sectors, as well as in manufacturing, apparel and fashion, mining and energy and cross-cutting innovation in areas such as digital technology.

The report highlights examples of innovation in financing circularity using examples from banks, insurers and investors. It also identifies the need for governments to provide the financial sector with incentives and an enabling policy and legislative framework to accelerate the integration of circularity into financial products and services and provides recommendations for policymakers, financial industry regulators and supervisors.

World Food Day, which falls on 16 October, is an opportunity to reassess how humanity produces, distributes and consumes food. Are we doing those things in a sustainable way that benefits farmers, the environment and society at large? What is the impact of food systems on nature? Are we properly valuing biodiversity in agricultural areas? We put some of those questions to Salman Hussain. He is the coordinator of a six-year-old initiative from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Agriculture and Food. Its goal is to help countries understand the true cost of their food systems. UNEP: We hear a lot about the need to do agriculture differently. Why is this? Salman Hussain: Agriculture brings myriad positive and negative externalities, that is, costs or benefits that are externalized to third parties. Examples of negative externalities include the pollution of water bodies from nitrate leaching and human health impacts, such as pesticide poisoning. On the other hand, positive externalities from farming, such as community cohesion and the maintenance of livelihoods for smallholder farmers, are often undervalued. Some of these benefits simply do not get included in economic decision making. We need to account for positive and negative externalities otherwise we are not paying the true cost for our food. UNEP: What does TEEB do? SH: UNEP hosts TEEB, a global initiative focused on making nature’s values visible. TEEB for Agriculture and Food (also known as TEEBAgriFood) was launched in 2014 to make the dependencies and impacts that the agri-food value chain has on nature visible to decision makers. Our mission is to examine the true costs of agriculture.
Farm
Photo: Unsplash/Annie Spratt 
UNEP: Are you involved in any country-based initiatives? SH: Yes. We have an International Climate Initiative-funded project in Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania and Thailand. The aim of the project is to catalyse policy reforms that integrate the often economically invisible values of biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. Another European Union-funded project focuses on Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and Thailand. It is seeking to make nature’s values for food and farming visible and promote a sustainable food system that safeguards biodiversity and ecosystem services. UNEP: How has TEEB helped move the needle on sustainable agriculture recently? SH: An example is Indonesia, where the interim TEEBAgriFood report contributed to the inclusion – for the first time – of agroforestry in the [country’s] five-year development plan. What the Ministry of Planning found useful is that we made the economic case for agroforestry. We are now looking to build upon this inclusion in the development plan by working with stakeholders to develop viable scenarios for cacao agroforestry that support livelihoods as well as contribute to conservation outcomes. The TEEBAgriFood Framework we applied in Indonesia, which we are applying in all our country applications, won the World Future Council Vision Award in 2018. UNEP: Who else are you partnering with? SH: Recently TEEB has worked with the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and the Institute for the Development of Environmental-Economic Accounting to produce The TEEBAgriFood Evaluation Framework: Overarching Implementation Guidance. Launched on 29 September, it’s a step-by-step guide to assess how food systems impact people, society, the environment and natural resources. Supported by case studies, the guidance enables users to identify a range of actions that can transform how food systems operate and, simultaneously, helps to create a practical roadmap for action on biodiversity loss.

World Food Day on 16 October calls for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from COVID-19. We asked Marieta Sakalian, a food systems and biodiversity expert with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), why agroecology is relevant to this call.

 

[UNEP] What is agroecology?

[Marieta Sakalian] Agroecology is an ecological approach to agriculture, often described as low-external-input farming. Other terms such as regenerative agriculture or eco-agriculture are also used. Agroecology is not just a set of agricultural practices – it focuses on changing social relations, empowering farmers, adding value locally and privileging short value chains. It allows farmers to adapt to climate change, sustainably use and conserve natural resources and biodiversity.

[UNEP] Why is conserving crop and animal diversity important for our health?

[MS] We need to grow a variety of food to nourish people and sustain the planet, but over the last 100 years, more than 90 per cent of crop varieties have disappeared. Half of the breeds of many domestic animals have been lost. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), only nine plant species account for 66 per cent of total crop production, despite the fact that there are at least 30,000 edible plants.

Losing diversity in our diets is directly linked to health risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, and malnutrition. Developing and encouraging agroecological farming techniques can help make soils more productive, minimize the use of agrochemicals and pollution, and enhance crop diversity. This in turn can make agriculture more resilient.

[UNEP] What has UNEP been doing to promote agroecology?

[MS] In April 2018, FAO, supported by UNEP and other United Nations partners, launched the Scaling Up Agroecology Initiative, which works with food producers, governments and other stakeholders to promote agroecology. Globally, the initiative is demonstrating how agroecological systems are vital not only for addressing poverty, hunger, and climate change mitigation and adaptation but also for directly realizing 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in areas such as health, education, gender, water, energy and economic growth. One successful example is the zero-budget natural farming project in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, supported by UNEP.

Man watering crops
Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR

The agroecology “movement” has been around for decades but it’s only in the past few years that it has gained international momentum. What has changed?

[MS] The biodiversity and climate crises have renewed focus on agroecology, which adopts a more holistic, nature-based approach to agriculture. Agriculture is responsible for about 20 per cent of global greenhouse gases – we need to find different approaches to how we produce food, if we are to meet our climate goals. Species losses have also been unprecedented over the past 50 years. This has prompted a growing awareness, for example, of the economic value of pollinators – not just bees, but a whole host of other animals. Attitudes to the way we do farming are changing, and COVID-19 may be speeding up the process.

[UNEP] Why is this approach relevant to food security?

[MS] By 2050, our planet will need to feed close to 10 billion people. It is vital that we transform our agricultural and food systems so they work with and not against nature. As more people go hungry and malnutrition persists, we need to transform the way we do agriculture to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. Agroecology focuses on ecosystem-based approaches which can galvanize agricultural production systems while helping to boost human well-being, tackle climate change and protect our living planet. But, for agroecology to be adopted at scale, it would need strong backing from policymakers.

[UNEP] What are the challenges in implementing an agroecological approach to farming across the world?

[MS] Education and finance are hurdles. In some countries, awareness of the benefits of this approach is limited and many farmers are conservative: having invested in machinery to do agriculture in a certain way they may be reluctant to change – especially without financial incentives.

 

Read more about UNEP’s work on agriculture, biodiversity and food security: 

The United Nations Environment Assembly resolution, Innovation on biodiversity and land degradation, encourages Member States to step up their efforts to prevent the loss of biological diversity and the degradation of land and soil.

Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition—a joint programme with Bioversity International, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the governments of Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey

Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Production Landscapes—a 2018 report funded by the Global Environment Facility

UN Environment’s TEEBAgriFood initiative

Support for National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans

The UN Biodiversity Lab sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme, UNEP and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre provides high-quality spatial data for national reporting against global biodiversity commitments.

A January 2019 UNEP brief, We are losing the “little things” that run the world, highlights the importance of insects for ecosystems and sustainable food production.

Millions of used cars, vans and minibuses exported from Europe, the USA and Japan to low- and middle-income countries are hindering efforts to combat climate change. They are contributing to air pollution and are often involved in road accidents. Many of them are of poor quality and would fail road-worthiness tests in the exporting countries.

A landmark, first-of-its-kind United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, to be released on 26 October 2020, looks at 146 countries that import used vehicles, and calls for action to regulate the trade through the adoption of a set of harmonized minimum quality standards. These would ensure used vehicles contribute to cleaner and safer fleets in recipient countries. UNEP and partners will address these issues, initially with a project focused on Africa.

Despite representing less than 1% of the world’s ocean surface, the Mediterranean Sea is home to up to 18% of the planet’s marine species. The decline of Posidonia Oceanica (an endemic seagrass species known as the “lungs of the Mediterranean”), overfishing, non-indigenous species are among the symptoms of environmental degradation. Marine and coastal ecosystems are reeling under pressure from the unsustainable pursuit of economic growth. This pressure is illustrated by the challenges of marine litter and pollution and further compounded by the rising impacts of climate change. A United Nations Environment Programme Mediterranean Action Plan (UNEP/MAP) report produced by Plan Bleu, a UNEP/MAP Regional Activity Centre, provides the most comprehensive assessment of the state of the environment and development in the region and includes a set of key messages that can inform an adequate policy response. The report was prepared under the Barcelona Convention, the Contracting Parties of which are 21 Mediterranean countries and the European Union.

Rice is a staple for more than 3.5 billion people, including most of the world’s poor. But it can be a problematic crop to farm. It requires massive amounts of water and the paddies in which it grows emit methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

To tackle such issues, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has been working with the Shanghai Agrobiological Gene Center to develop strains of rice that are drought resistant and don’t need to be planted in paddies. The research, say, experts, could help bolster food security at a time when COVID-19 is threatening to propel more people into hunger.

The study, which runs from 2017 to 2021, is funded by the Government of China and falls under the China-Africa South-South Cooperation arrangement.

“China has lots of experience growing rice and this collaboration with China is a first,” says UNEP ecosystems expert Levis Kavagi, who has been closely involved with the project.

Researchers have developed and tested over 50 varieties of rice in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. They evaluated how the grains grow at different elevations and, importantly, how they taste.

One strain, dubbed WDR 73 by scientists, proved particularly promising. During trials in Uganda, researchers found that it helped boost yields by about 30 per cent compared to locally grown varieties.

WDR 73 also doesn’t need to be planted in a flooded paddy. That’s important for several reasons.

Transporting seedlings into flooded fields is a laborious process. Paddies are breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. Water shortages, sparked by climate change, are expected to make filling paddies a challenge in many countries. And paddies themselves vent massive amounts of methane –  up to 20 per cent of human-related emissions of the greenhouse gas, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Growing rice on relatively dry land also reduces the ever-growing quest to open up wetlands, havens for birds and other animals, to farming.

“Usually the most suitable land for growing rice also tends to be next to, or in, wetlands or flood plains,” says Kavagi. “Expanding agricultural land involves draining the wetlands. This leads to loss of biodiversity, and reduced water purification and climate regulation services provided by wetlands.”

The ultimate goal of the project is to get a national certification of WDR 73, allowing it to be broadly disseminated to farmers. The project is part of a larger effort by China, African countries and UNEP to develop better rice varieties, improve livelihoods and bolster food security.

«The project shows that with new rice varieties it is possible to achieve the multiple objectives of food security, biodiversity and nature conservation – and fight against climate change,” says Kavagi.

Technical details of rice trials in Ghana, Kenya and Uganda

In Kenya, trials were conducted over three growing seasons in Mwea (central Kenya), Busia (western), and Mtwapa (coastal area). Rice variety WDR 73 performed well compared with the local Basmati varieties. The growth duration varied from 125 days in Mtwapa, to 150 days in Mwea and Busia, where the altitude is over 1,000m. Average grain yield was 5.1 to 9.0 tonnes per hectare. Plant height was 100-110 cm, which shows that this variety is tolerant to rice blast disease and displays good drought-resistant qualities compared to Basmati varieties.

In Uganda, WDR73 cultivation experiments were conducted in Lukaya, Luweero and Arua. In well-managed farms, grain yield increased from 4.35 to more than 6.0 tons per hectare. In Arua, in 2019 the rain-fed crop was direct sowed from 25-30 August and harvested from 30 November to 5 December. The growth duration was 90-95 days and yielded 4.35 tonnes per hectare. Direct seeded WDR 73 grain yield in Luweero in 2019 varied from 6 tonnes per hectare in rain-fed conditions to 8 tonnes per hectare in irrigated paddy fields.

In Bolgatanga, a drought-prone area in northern Ghana, WDR 73 growth duration was 105 days and plant height 110-120 cm, while the grain yield was 6.0 tonnes per hectare.

Industrialized farming has been a reliable way to produce lots of food, at a relatively low cost. But it’s not the bargain it was once believed to be. Unsustainable agriculture can pollute water, air and soil; is a source of greenhouse gas; and destroys wildlife – an environmental cost equivalent to about US$3 trillion every year. The use of chemicals and antimicrobials can have adverse health effects and lead to resistant infections. And to top it all off, our production and consumption habits have been linked to the emergence of zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19.

To mark World Food Day on 16 October, we take a closer look at sustainable agriculture – how it can help reduce our environmental footprint, improve our health and even create jobs.

What exactly is sustainable agriculture?

It is farming that meets the needs of existing and future generations, while also ensuring profitability, environmental health and social and economic equity. It favours techniques that emulate nature–to preserve soil fertility, prevent water pollution and protect biodiversity. It is also a way to support the achievement of global objectives, like the Sustainable Development Goals and Zero Hunger.

Does sustainable agriculture really make a difference to the environment?

Yes. It uses up to 56 per cent less energy per unit of crops produced, creates 64 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions per hectare and supports greater levels of biodiversity than conventional farming.

Woman harvesting cocoa
2019 Young Champion of the Earth for Asia and the Pacific, Louise Mabulo hopes to educate local farmers in the Philippines so that they can live a better quality of life. Photo: UNEP

Why does sustainably produced food seem more expensive?

It may be more costly because it is more labour-intensive. It is often certified in a way that requires it to be separated from conventional foods during processing and transport. The costs associated with marketing and distribution of relatively small volumes of product are often comparatively high. And, sometimes, the supply of certain sustainably produced foods is limited.

Why are some foods so much more affordable–even when they require processing and packaging?

The heavy use of chemicals, medicines and genetic modification allows some foods to be produced cheaply and in reliably high volumes, so the retail price tag may be lower. But this is deceiving because it does not reflect the costs of environmental damage or the price of healthcare that is required to treat diet-related diseases. Ultra-processed foods are often high in energy and low in nutrients and may contribute to the development of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some forms of cancer. This is particularly concerning amid the COVID-19 pandemic; the disease is especially risky for those with pre-existing health problems.

Consumers may not realize how their dietary choices affect the environment or even their own health. In the absence of either legal obligation or consumer demand, there is little incentive for producers to change their approach.

Do we all have to be vegan?

No. But most of us should eat less animal protein. Livestock production is a major cause of climate change and in most parts of the world, people already consume more animal-sourced food than is healthy. But even small dietary shifts can have a positive impact. The average person consumes 100 grams of meat daily.  Reducing that by 10 grams could improve human health while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Is sustainable agriculture possible in developing countries?

Yes. Because sustainably produced food is typically more labour-intensive than conventionally made food, it has the potential to create 30 per cent more jobs. And because it can command higher prices, it can also generate more money for farmers.

Is it possible to make sustainably produced food that is affordable for everyone?

Yes. As demand for certain foods increases, the costs associated with production, processing, distribution and marketing will drop, which should make them less expensive for consumers.  Policymakers can also play a role, facilitating market access and leveling the financial and regulatory playing field.

Farm
Farmers in Shagra B area of Sudan’s North Darfur State have been able to improve their livelihoods by selling produce at the local market. Photo: UNEP

If it is so important, why hasn’t sustainable farming been adopted as a global standard?

There is a lack of understanding of the way that agriculture, the environment and human health intersect. Policymakers do not typically consider nature as a form of capital, so legislation is not designed to prevent pollution and other kinds of environmental degradation. And consumers may not realize how their dietary choices affect the environment or even their own health. In the absence of either legal obligations or consumer demand, there is little incentive for producers to change their approach.

What are some ways to consume food more sustainably?

Diversify your diet and cook more meals at home. Eat more plant-based foods; enjoy pulses, peas, beans and chickpeas as sources of protein. Eat local, seasonal foods. Purchase sustainably produced foods and learn more about farming practices and labeling. Avoid excessive packaging, which is likely to end up as landfill. Don’t waste food: eliminating food waste could reduce global carbon emissions by 8-10 per cent. Cultivate your own garden, even if it is a small one in your kitchen. Support organizations, policies and projects that promote sustainable food systems. And discuss the importance of healthy and sustainable foods with producers, vendors, policymakers, friends and family.

 

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) supports a transition toward global food systems that provide net-positive impacts on nutrition, the environment and farmer livelihoods. Contributing to the One Planet Network Sustainable Food Systems Programme, UNEP has led the development of a guideline for collaborative policymaking and improved governance.

UNEP is also the custodian of the food waste element of Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, which commits member states to halve their per capita food waste at the consumer retail level. Developing the Food Waste Index, UNEP is currently conducting global modelling of food waste data and preparing a harmonized methodology that will enable countries to track progress towards Goal 12.3.

In Chiang Rai, Thailand, a city perched on the banks of the Mekong River, a group of some 90 residents and university students came together to pick up trash on 19 September.

Like millions of others, they were marking World Cleanup Day, an annual event that encourages communities to tidy up litter from rivers, beaches, cities and even the seafloor.

But the Chiang Rai event was a little different from most others. The waste collected at this clean-up was not only destined for a proper disposal facility, it was also earmarked for a database. Volunteers noted the type and location of waste they found during the cleanup, which was organized by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Trash Hero Chiang Rai, a conservation group.

This data will be fed into UNEP’s CounterMEASURE project, whose goal is to determine the origins and pathways of plastic waste in major rivers in Asia and provide governments with bespoke policy recommendations to help beat plastic pollution.

“Our goal is to have a scientific understanding for how plastic gets into rivers, and eventually, into the ocean,” said Kakuko Nagatani-Yoshida, UNEP’s Regional Coordinator for Chemicals, Waste and Air Quality in Asia and the Pacific. “With this knowledge, we can recommend policies to governments and help target behavioural change in a more effective way.”

Rivers deposit millions of tons of plastic into the world’s oceans every year. Up to 95 per cent of that pollution comes from only 10 waterways, eight of which are in Asia.

Scientists know little about when and where plastic waste enters these river systems. The first phase of the CounterMEASURE project, completed in May of 2019, used novel technologies, like drones and machine learning, to identify the sources of plastic pollution in the Mekong and Ganges rivers. Among other findings, the project determined that the type and quantity of plastic pollution varied along the length of the river. In Chiang Rai, for example, flowerpots comprised a large proportion of the plastic waste due to the locality’s flower festival.

A second phase, now underway, is bringing the techniques and know-how to other countries, including Sri Lanka and Myanmar. Project leaders will also launch public awareness campaigns in the Mekong and Ganges regions to drive down plastic pollution.

Clean up
Scientists know little about when and where plastic waste enters the river systems of Asia. Photo: Rajitha Athukorala

The cleanup in Chiang Rai provided an opportunity to gather data while engaging the local community in citizen science, said Panate Manomaivibool, the Head of the Circular Economy for Waste-free Thailand Research Center at Mae Fah Luang University.

“It does not only help people to see the problem firsthand but also enables them to see how they can be part of the solution,” said Manomaivibool, who helped organize the cleanup. “We have a long way to go to fix the plastic pollution problem and communities need to be part of that.”

Volunteers collected 39 bags of waste, weighing over 90 kilograms. Meanwhile, the Geoinformatics Center (GIC) at the Asian Institute of Technology, a CounterMEASURE partner, conducted a drone survey to augment the data. The GIC team also trained cleanup crews to use a waste survey app designed for the CounterMEASURE project in order to amass further data after the event.

“What better way to gather the data we need than by engaging the communities who stand to benefit from the project,” said Nagatani-Yoshida. “These cleanups help beautify the area, but by contributing data to the project, the benefits are amplified many times over.”

The UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) saw more than 2500 participants join Day 1 of its 16th Global Roundtable, held virtually for the first time ever from 13–14 October 2020, under the theme “Financing a Resilient Future”. Below are highlights of the keynotes delivered.

 

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary General, United Nations, gave the opening keynote address by reminding participants that sustainable finance wields an enormous opportunity to transform our markets, businesses, societies and environment.

Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), outlined the needs to have policies to mobilise financial resources for the green transformation that is so urgently needed and build forward low-carbon, climate-resilient economies.

 

Mark Carney, UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, emphasised the importance of financial institutions in managing the risk and seizing the opportunities in tackling climate change across all sectors of the economy and mainstream finance. He also called for banks to link executive pay to the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Christiana Figueres, Convenor of Mission2020, pointed out that where finance goes, so go emissions, or emission reductions. She said efforts to decarbonize are about managing financial risk, increasing financial stability in the medium and long-term and ultimately it is about prosperity.

 

David Blood, Co-founder and Senior Partner, Generation Investment Management, explained that the next 10 years will be the most critical for the future of the planet and humanity and that to meet global environmental and social goals, businesses and investors must take responsibility for the impact of their decisions on the world.

Johan Rockström, Director, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research told delegates that planetary boundaries provide a scientific target for a safe operating space, with science able to provide the guardrails for sustainable financial sector investment.

A full recap of the event can be found here.

World Food Day on 16 October calls for global solidarity to help all populations, and especially the most vulnerable, to recover from COVID-19. We asked Marieta Sakalian, a food systems and biodiversity expert with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), why agroecology is relevant to this call.

 

[UNEP] What is agroecology?

[Marieta Sakalian] Agroecology is an ecological approach to agriculture, often described as low-external-input farming. Other terms such as regenerative agriculture or eco-agriculture are also used. Agroecology is not just a set of agricultural practices – it focuses on changing social relations, empowering farmers, adding value locally and privileging short value chains. It allows farmers to adapt to climate change, sustainably use and conserve natural resources and biodiversity.

[UNEP] Why is conserving crop and animal diversity important for our health?

[MS] We need to grow a variety of food to nourish people and sustain the planet, but over the last 100 years, more than 90 per cent of crop varieties have disappeared. Half of the breeds of many domestic animals have been lost. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), only nine plant species account for 66 per cent of total crop production, despite the fact that there are at least 30,000 edible plants.

Losing diversity in our diets is directly linked to health risk factors, such as diabetes, obesity, and malnutrition. Developing and encouraging agroecological farming techniques can help make soils more productive, minimize the use of agrochemicals and pollution, and enhance crop diversity. This in turn can make agriculture more resilient.

[UNEP] What has UNEP been doing to promote agroecology?

[MS] In April 2018, FAO, supported by UNEP and other United Nations partners, launched the Scaling Up Agroecology Initiative, which works with food producers, governments and other stakeholders to promote agroecology. Globally, the initiative is demonstrating how agroecological systems are vital not only for addressing poverty, hunger, and climate change mitigation and adaptation but also for directly realizing 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in areas such as health, education, gender, water, energy and economic growth. One successful example is the zero-budget natural farming project in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, supported by UNEP.

Man watering crops
Photo by Axel Fassio/CIFOR

The agroecology “movement” has been around for decades but it’s only in the past few years that it has gained international momentum. What has changed?

[MS] The biodiversity and climate crises have renewed focus on agroecology, which adopts a more holistic, nature-based approach to agriculture. Agriculture is responsible for about 20 per cent of global greenhouse gases – we need to find different approaches to how we produce food, if we are to meet our climate goals. Species losses have also been unprecedented over the past 50 years. This has prompted a growing awareness, for example, of the economic value of pollinators – not just bees, but a whole host of other animals. Attitudes to the way we do farming are changing, and COVID-19 may be speeding up the process.

[UNEP] Why is this approach relevant to food security?

[MS] By 2050, our planet will need to feed close to 10 billion people. It is vital that we transform our agricultural and food systems so they work with and not against nature. As more people go hungry and malnutrition persists, we need to transform the way we do agriculture to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. Agroecology focuses on ecosystem-based approaches which can galvanize agricultural production systems while helping to boost human well-being, tackle climate change and protect our living planet. But, for agroecology to be adopted at scale, it would need strong backing from policymakers.

[UNEP] What are the challenges in implementing an agroecological approach to farming across the world?

[MS] Education and finance are hurdles. In some countries, awareness of the benefits of this approach is limited and many farmers are conservative: having invested in machinery to do agriculture in a certain way they may be reluctant to change – especially without financial incentives.

 

Read more about UNEP’s work on agriculture, biodiversity and food security: 

The United Nations Environment Assembly resolution, Innovation on biodiversity and land degradation, encourages Member States to step up their efforts to prevent the loss of biological diversity and the degradation of land and soil.

Biodiversity for Food and Nutrition—a joint programme with Bioversity International, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the governments of Brazil, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey

Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Production Landscapes—a 2018 report funded by the Global Environment Facility

UN Environment’s TEEBAgriFood initiative

Support for National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans

The UN Biodiversity Lab sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme, UNEP and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre provides high-quality spatial data for national reporting against global biodiversity commitments.

A January 2019 UNEP brief, We are losing the “little things” that run the world, highlights the importance of insects for ecosystems and sustainable food production.

 

For more information, please contact Marieta Sakalian: Marieta.Sakalian@un.org or James Lomax: James.Lomax@un.org

World Food Day, which falls on 16 October, is an opportunity to reassess how humanity produces, distributes and consumes food. Are we doing those things in a sustainable way that benefits farmers, the environment and society at large? What is the impact of food systems on nature? Are we properly valuing biodiversity in agricultural areas?

We put some of those questions to Salman Hussain. He is the coordinator of a six-year-old initiative from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Agriculture and Food. Its goal is to help countries understand the true cost of their food systems.

UNEP: We hear a lot about the need to do agriculture differently. Why is this?

Salman Hussain: Agriculture brings myriad positive and negative externalities, that is, costs or benefits that are externalized to third parties. Examples of negative externalities include the pollution of water bodies from nitrate leaching and human health impacts, such as pesticide poisoning. On the other hand, positive externalities from farming, such as community cohesion and the maintenance of livelihoods for smallholder farmers, are often undervalued. Some of these benefits simply do not get included in economic decision making. We need to account for positive and negative externalities otherwise we are not paying the true cost for our food.

UNEP: What does TEEB do?

SH: UNEP hosts TEEB, a global initiative focused on making nature’s values visible. TEEB for Agriculture and Food (also known as TEEBAgriFood) was launched in 2014 to make the dependencies and impacts that the agri-food value chain has on nature visible to decision makers. Our mission is to examine the true costs of agriculture.

Farm
Photo: Unsplash/Annie Spratt 

UNEP: Are you involved in any country-based initiatives?

SH: Yes. We have an International Climate Initiative-funded project in Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania and Thailand. The aim of the project is to catalyse policy reforms that integrate the often economically invisible values of biodiversity and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes.

Another European Union-funded project focuses on Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and Thailand. It is seeking to make nature’s values for food and farming visible and promote a sustainable food system that safeguards biodiversity and ecosystem services.

UNEP: How has TEEB helped move the needle on sustainable agriculture recently?

SH: An example is Indonesia, where the interim TEEBAgriFood report contributed to the inclusion – for the first time – of agroforestry in the [country’s] five-year development plan. What the Ministry of Planning found useful is that we made the economic case for agroforestry. We are now looking to build upon this inclusion in the development plan by working with stakeholders to develop viable scenarios for cacao agroforestry that support livelihoods as well as contribute to conservation outcomes.

The TEEBAgriFood Framework we applied in Indonesia, which we are applying in all our country applications, won the World Future Council Vision Award in 2018.

UNEP: Who else are you partnering with?

SH: Recently TEEB has worked with the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and the Institute for the Development of Environmental-Economic Accounting to produce The TEEBAgriFood Evaluation Framework: Overarching Implementation Guidance. Launched on 29 September, it’s a step-by-step guide to assess how food systems impact people, society, the environment and natural resources. Supported by case studies, the guidance enables users to identify a range of actions that can transform how food systems operate and, simultaneously, helps to create a practical roadmap for action on biodiversity loss.

 

For more information, please contact Salman Hussain: Salman.Hussain@un.org

Un sistema diseñado por un estudiante de la Universidad de Guanajuato para aumentar la eficiencia en la producción de energía solar fotovoltaica recibió el 30 de septiembre el premio al primer lugar del concurso Innovación para los estilos de vida sostenibles en México, organizado por el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA) con el apoyo de la Comisión Europea.

El paquete tecnológico “Repsun”, ideado por el estudiante de ingeniería química José Ramiro Fuentes Lara, consiste en un sistema de control inteligente y una celda fotosensible que contribuyen a determinar la posición exacta del sol durante el día con el fin de aprovechar la posición óptima para la producción de energía. El sistema permite aumentar 30% la generación energética de los equipos de energía solar fotovoltaica.

El concurso Innovación para los estilos de vida sostenibles en México es parte de una iniciativa regional que también se está ejecutando en Colombia y Costa Rica, en la cual han participado alrededor de 1.000 universitarios, con la expectativa de expandir la competencia a otros países.

Fuentes Lara, y los ganadores de las otras dos ediciones del concurso, recibirán US$3.000 en asistencia técnica para ejecutar sus proyectos y participarán en un campamento virtual organizado por el Centro de Emprendimiento de la Universidad de los Andes, en Colombia, donde expertos en ecoinnovación les ayudarán en la implementación de sus ideas.

El concurso en México recibió 50 propuestas de más de 100 estudiantes de licenciaturas y posgrados en 20 universidades. Un panel de expertos evaluó los proyectos, entre los cuales se incluyeron iniciativas como campañas de comunicación, bocetos de patentes, propuestas de ley y prototipos tecnológicos.

Dos propuestas para impulsar el consumo sostenible de alimentos, y reducir y mejorar la gestión de residuos sólidos recibieron el segundo y el tercer lugar del concurso, respectivamente.

El proyecto “Cultivando sonrisas” de Andrea Mora Cruz, de la Universidad de las Américas Puebla, consiste en un plan para implementar huertos escolares en tres escuelas primarias públicas de San Bernardino Tlaxcalancingo, Puebla, con el fin de promover una alimentación saludable que contribuya a la protección del suelo y del medio ambiente.

“Viva verde”, de José Andrés Valencia Espinosa y Alma Lisset Ruíz Aguilar, estudiantes de la Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro, es una estrategia de gestión residuos sólidos para impulsar la reducción, reutilización y reciclaje de desechos en las instalaciones de la Facultad de Ciencias de dicha casa de estudios.

“Los ganadores son todos los jóvenes que participaron. Son ganadores porque creen en el cambio y no solo creen, sino que actúan para generarlo”, dijo durante el evento la coordinadora regional de Eficiencia de Recursos del PNUMA en América Latina y el Caribe, Adriana Zacarías Farah.

La selección de los ganadores estuvo a cargo de un jurado compuesto por la representante del PNUMA en México, Dolores Barrientos Alemán, el director de Producción y Consumo Sustentable de Actividades Industriales de la Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales de México, Eduardo Garza Pasalagua, el director de Normalización para la Industria Alimentaria y Medio Ambiente en la Secretaría de Economía, Cesar Orozco Arce, y el director de Relaciones Institucionales de la empresa privada Promotora Ambiental, Carlos Gómez Flores.

Los tres galardonados presentaron sus proyectos este jueves durante una ceremonia de premiación en línea en el cual ofreció un concierto la banda musical Relicario y se presentó una interpretación artística del grupo teatral Hekatombe.

El concurso busca estimular el desarrollo de iniciativas que favorezcan el consumo y la producción sostenibles, y alentar a jóvenes emprendedores a desarrollar ideas comerciales que contribuyan a la recuperación económica pos-COVID-19.

La iniciativa es parte del proyecto Impulsando el Consumo Sostenible en América Latina y el Caribe (ICSAL) que trabaja con gobiernos, empresas y partes interesadas en la implementación de políticas que aumenten la sostenibilidad en el diseño de productos y la información al consumidor. ICSAL es un programa financiado por la Comisión Europea.

Sobre el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente

El Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA) es la autoridad ambiental líder en el mundo. Proporciona liderazgo y alienta el trabajo conjunto en el cuidado del medio ambiente, inspirando, informando y capacitando a las naciones y a los pueblos para mejorar su calidad de vida sin comprometer la de las futuras generaciones.

Para más información, por favor contacte a:

Unidad Regional de Comunicación para América Latina y el Caribe, PNUMA, noticias@pnuma.org.

  • La XXII Reunión del Foro de Ministros de Medio Ambiente de América Latina y el Caribe es organizada por el Gobierno de Barbados a través de su Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Embellecimiento Nacional, en colaboración con el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente.
  • El encuentro se realizará en formato virtual por primera vez desde la creación de este organismo, que convoca a los 33 ministros de medio ambiente de la región.

Panamá, 8 de octubre de 2020.- La XXII Reunión del Foro de Ministros de Medio Ambiente de América Latina y el Caribe se llevará a cabo del 18 al 19 de enero de 2021 con el fin de abordar los desafíos ambientales más apremiantes de la región, oportunidades para la recuperación sostenible y acciones urgentes en favor de la naturaleza para lograr los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible.

En el contexto de la pandemia de COVID-19 y las restricciones vigentes para evitar una mayor transmisión de la enfermedad, el encuentro regional se celebrará por primera vez en un formato virtual. La reunión es organizada por el Gobierno de Barbados, actual presidente del foro, y la Oficina Regional para América Latina y el Caribe del Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA).

«Esta pandemia ha demostrado que el equilibrio de nuestros ecosistemas se ve afectado por la forma en que usamos nuestros recursos naturales. Aún estamos a tiempo de construir un futuro sostenible para América Latina y el Caribe, y hago un llamado a los ministros de la región para que apoyen los compromisos audaces que necesitamos para garantizar precisamente eso», dijo el ministro de Medio Ambiente y Embellecimiento Nacional de Barbados, Adrian Forde.

Los ministros debatirán temas urgentes para la región, incluida la transición hacia una economía circular, la agenda sobre el cierre de vertederos a cielo abierto, la contaminación del aire, la acción climática, la justicia y la gobernanza ambiental, los vínculos entre género y medio ambiente, el desarrollo sostenible de los pequeños Estados insulares en desarrollo y la importancia de reconstruir mejor y de manera más sostenible a raíz de la pandemia de COVID-19.

La XXII Reunión del Foro también considerará la reestructuración del Comité Técnico Interagencial y un plan de acción de América Latina y el Caribe para la implementación de la Década de las Naciones Unidas sobre la Restauración de los Ecosistemas como dimensiones integrales de la recuperación verde pos-COVID-19.

“El mundo se enfrenta a un momento decisivo. Mientras países de todo el mundo preparan sus planes de recuperación, entramos en una década crucial en la que debemos dar un impulso final para lograr los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible, el Acuerdo de París y un marco de biodiversidad nuevo y ambicioso”, dijo el director regional del PNUMA en América Latina y el Caribe, Leo Heileman.

“Confío en que este encuentro regional será un paso adelante en el camino hacia un futuro más próspero y sostenible”, añadió Heileman.

El Foro de Ministros también preparará las contribuciones de la región al quinto período de sesiones de la Asamblea de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente, que tendrá lugar en 2021. La Asamblea, el máximo órgano ambiental de toma de decisiones ambientales, se reunirá bajo el tema “Fortalecer la acción por la naturaleza para lograr los Objetivos de Desarrollo Sostenible”.

El Foro de Ministros de Medio Ambiente de América Latina y el Caribe se estableció en 1982 y es el organismo de cooperación más antiguo y relevante para las autoridades ambientales de la región.

NOTAS PARA LOS EDITORES

Descargue la agenda preliminar del evento.

Sobre el Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente

El Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA) es la autoridad ambiental líder en el mundo. Proporciona liderazgo y alienta el trabajo conjunto en el cuidado del medio ambiente, inspirando, informando y capacitando a las naciones y a los pueblos para mejorar su calidad de vida sin comprometer la de las futuras generaciones.

Para más información, por favor contacte a:

María Amparo Lasso, jefa regional de Comunicación, PNUMA. maria.lasso@un.org.

Sequías prolongadas que asolan cultivos, inseguridad alimentaria, incendios e inundaciones devastadoras afectan de forma recurrente el Corredor Seco de Centroamérica y las zonas áridas de República Dominicana. Éste es uno de los lugares del planeta más vulnerables al cambio climático.

El Corredor Seco es una franja que se extiende desde el norte de Centroamérica hasta el oeste de Panamá, principalmente en la vertiente del Pacífico, y donde la época de sequía es más prolongada que en el resto de la región. Aquí, al igual que en República Dominicana, las consecuencias de los fenómenos climáticos se ven exacerbadas por la degradación ambiental y la vulnerabilidad de la población, que vive mayormente en condiciones de pobreza, es fuertemente dependiente de la agricultura y a menudo se ve forzada a migrar debido a estas condiciones.

La transformación del clima global a causa del aumento de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero sólo promete aumentar la periodicidad e intensidad de los eventos extremos. Según las proyecciones climáticas, para fines de siglo las temperaturas en esta zona subirán 3–3,5°C en un escenario intermedio de reducción de emisiones y 6-7°C en el caso de que la trayectoria actual se mantenga.

La propia naturaleza ofrece soluciones para que las comunidades del Corredor Seco y las zonas áridas de República Dominicana estén mejor preparadas ante los efectos del cambio climático.

Un estudio del Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA) encontró que las medidas de adaptación basadas en ecosistemas pueden ayudar a garantizar el acceso al agua para mantener los cultivos todo el año, aumentar la productividad, reducir la inseguridad alimentaria y beneficiar la biodiversidad.

El análisis, elaborado en cooperación con la Comisión Centroamericana de Ambiente y Desarrollo (CCAD) y el Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica (BCIE), explora el potencial de soluciones basadas en la naturaleza como: conservación y restauración de bosques, sistemas agroforestales y silvopastoriles, irrigación eficiente, cercas vivas, sistemas de recolección de agua de lluvia, cortafuegos para bosques y plantaciones, viveros forestales mixtos y bombas de agua impulsadas por energía solar fotovoltaica.

La conservación y restauración de bosques en la parte alta de las cuencas ayuda a reducir la erosión y regular los caudales. El riego por goteo en los cultivos de hortalizas puede disminuir el consumo de agua hasta 70% para rendir las reservas de agua. Y el cultivo de café con sombra contribuye a aumentar la fertilidad del suelo, mientras amplía el acceso de los agricultores a otros mercados como el de frutas o leña.

“La adaptación al cambio climático en el Corredor Seco de Centroamérica y las zonas áridas de República Dominicana es una cuestión humanitaria que requiere una respuesta urgente, y más ahora que la pandemia ha exacerbado la vulnerabilidad de los más necesitados”, dijo Gustavo Máñez, coordinador regional de Cambio Climático del PNUMA en América Latina y el Caribe.

“Los campesinos de estas tierras no han causado el cambio climático y, sin embargo, están pagando las peores consecuencias. Ahora bien, no hay que buscar las soluciones solamente afuera. La mayor parte de las técnicas para mejorar calidad de vida de las personas y aumentar la productividad de los cultivos se encuentra en la propia naturaleza”, añadió Máñez.

En el Corredor Seco las temperaturas promedio son más altas que en el resto de Centroamérica, las precipitaciones son menores y los períodos de sequía impulsados por el fenómeno de El Niño son frecuentes. De forma similar, las zonas áridas de República Dominicana sufren estos impactos que se agudizan con el cambio climático.

El año pasado, las sequías prolongadas e intensas lluvias destruyeron más de la mitad de las cosechas de maíz y frijoles de los agricultores de subsistencia: 2,2 millones de personas perdieron sus cultivos y 1,4 millones necesitaron asistencia alimentaria urgente, según Naciones Unidas. Este conjunto de factores aumenta el riesgo de la población a padecer hambre y pobreza, que son los principales motores de la migración de centroamericanos hacia Norteamérica.

El agua, fuente de oportunidades

La vertiente del Pacífico alberga las ciudades más pobladas de Centroamérica, es el hogar de 70% de la población de estos países y sin embargo hace uso de sólo 30% del agua disponible debido a la recurrencia de las sequías y la gestión poco eficiente.

A través de una evaluación de vulnerabilidad local, el PNUMA identificó las cuencas con mayor exposición y sensibilidad frente a los efectos del cambio climático y menor capacidad de adaptación en los siete países estudiados.

analisis vulnerabilidad corredor seco mapa
Análisis de vulnerabilidad climática en cuencas de seis países de Centroamérica y República Dominicana. El color celeste representa menor vulnerabilidad al cambio climático y el fucsia mayor vulnerabilidad. (PNUMA)

En total, 36 municipios donde viven 1.157.000 personas fueron priorizados para potenciales intervenciones tras considerar variables como suministro y demanda de agua, situación del agua superficial y subterránea bajo distintos escenarios de aumento de temperatura, dependencia rural, disponibilidad de técnicas de irrigación y acceso a servicios financieros.

Además, se desarrollaron análisis hidrológicos detallados en tres cuencas de Honduras, Costa Rica y República Dominicana con el fin de diseñar acciones de adaptación que puedan ser replicadas en los demás municipios.

“La aplicación de estas medidas ayudaría a capacitar a las autoridades y comunidades respecto a la efectividad de la adaptación basada en ecosistemas. Para implementar estas soluciones, será fundamental ampliar el acceso de los gobiernos locales y agricultores a servicios financieros innovadores como las microfinanzas para promover las soluciones basadas en la naturaleza. En el Corredor Seco, sólo 10% de los pequeños productores tiene acceso a financiamiento”, dijo Gustavo Máñez.

El PNUMA promueve las soluciones basadas en la naturaleza como parte de su programa sobre adaptación al cambio climático y lidera el Decenio de las Naciones Unidas sobre la Restauración de los Ecosistemas 2021-2030 junto con la Organización de las Naciones Unidas para la Alimentación y la Agricultura.

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