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COVID-19 and the environment
The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that needs to be looked at also from the environmental point of view. From the very beginning of the crisis, the links between the pandemic and environmental factors could not be denied. We heard and read every day that the mortality from the virus in most cases was due to the combination of the virus infection and the patients’ existing sicknesses many of which may have been caused by environmental pollution or exposure to hazardous substances such as respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases or cancer. Then, there was the discussion about the possible origin of the corona virus infection as a zoonotic disease going back to a human contact with wildlife, and that zoonotic diseases are an increasing risk today because of (illegal) wildlife trade and landuse changes such as deforestation, habitat fragmentation or expanding agricultural practices. The costs of the measures against the pandemic - the basically global lockdowns of many economic activities – could be seen quickly; they not only included stress and sufferings for humans and economic disasters, disruptions of supply chains, massive closure of businesses, but also brought additionbal burdens on the environment and ecosystems. All suggests to look at pandemics also as environmental challenges.
Therefore, there will be many environmental lessons to be learnt from this crisis: The economic recovery after the pandemic needs to be environmentally friendly and sustainable; we must reduce pollution which is a major threat to human health, and we must put an end to the pressure on nature and natural resources. The sustainable recovery of the global economy after COVID-19 is not only an opportunity as many argue; it is a necessity to avoid the catastrophes. One may take it as a final warning to eventually take environmental protection seriously. Will we hear the warning?
The way to the change which is needed will not be easy; we should have no illusion about it. There is the real risk that the crisis and the enormous amounts of money which governments in a number of countries made available may not be used for "rebuilding better"; instead it may also be used by vested interests to go back to business-as-usual and fossil economic practices. So, let's pay attention; part of our work will be to prevent such counterproductive practices, and all in civil society around the world, NGOs but also forward-looking businesses and economists, should be aware of the risk and watch carefully.
For all who manage to keep their critical look, follow information and statements from international environmental organisations such as:
European Environmental Agency: COVID-19: lessons for sustainability?
Covid-19 recovery and climate
United In Science 2021: A multi-organization high-level compilation of the latest climate science information, published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) ; United Nations Environment Programme ; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) ; Global Carbon Project, on 16 September 2021, finds:
In his foreword, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres writes:
Presenting the Report, WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas said:
Covid-19 recovery - Where does public money go in times of Covid?
A recent report (June 2021) gives a hint, at least for the G7 states, and it is a rather sobering one:
Cleaning up their act? G7 fossil fuel investments in a time of green recovery. Report published by Tearfund, in collaboration with the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the Overseas Development Institute (ODI).
If this is so, then it seems that the great change towards sustainable development which many wish to think and speak of as a chance in the pandemic, is still not happening. Past trends leading to distortions, imbalances, inequalities and global risks are obviously hard to overcome. We may still wonder what actually is going on.
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH – Diseases from environmental risks
A more recent study published in February 2021, undertaken by Harvard University, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester and University College London, reaches similar conclusions: More than 8 million people died in 2018 from fossil fuel pollution, significantly higher than previous research suggested. In the new study, researchers estimated that exposure to particulate matter from fossil fuel emissions accounted for 18 percent of total global deaths in 2018, a little less than 1 out of 5. The findings underscore the detrimental impact of fossil fuels on global health.
Healthy environment, healthy lives: how the environment influences health and well-being in Europe,
EEA Report No 21/2019.
A significant proportion of the burden of disease in Europe continues to be attributed to environmental pollution resulting from human activity. This report highlights how the quality of Europe’s environment plays a key role in determining our health and well-being.
Created 18 Aug 2020 , Published 08 Sep 2020
7 September is the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, marked for the first time in 2020.
From the UNEP press release:
There are good reasons to ask: Where is the media outcry about the 7 million people dying every year from air pollution? A mega city of 7 million people just disappearing, every year, by air pollution alone? Do we simply accept it?
WHO calls for more research into microplastics and a crackdown on plastic pollution
22 August 2019
Note: Media around the world referred to this study as indicating that there was no evidence that microplastics were damaging human health. In reality the WHO declared that we are confronted with a major problem and that it is urgent to do intensive research to clarify the risks. That message is significantly different.
Air pollution risks and mortality
New WHO global air quality guidelines: Particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10), ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and carbon monoxide, published 22 Sep 2021.
The new WHO Global Air Quality Guidelines provide clear evidence of the damage air pollution inflicts on human health, at even lower concentrations than previously understood. The guidelines recommend new air quality levels to protect the health of populations, by reducing levels of key air pollutants, some of which also contribute to climate change.
Clean air is fundamental to health. Compared to 15 years ago, when the previous edition of these guidelines was published, there is now a much stronger body of evidence to show how air pollution affects different aspects of health at even lower concentrations than previously understood. But here’s what hasn’t changed: every year, exposure to air pollution is still estimated to cause millions of deaths and the loss of healthy years of life.
Every year, exposure to air pollution is estimated to cause 7 million premature deaths and result in the loss of millions more healthy years of life. In children, this could include reduced lung growth and function, respiratory infections and aggravated asthma. In adults, ischaemic heart disease and stroke are the most common causes of premature death attributable to outdoor air pollution, and evidence is also emerging of other effects such as diabetes and neurodegenerative conditions. This puts the burden of disease attributable to air pollution on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking.
Note: The WHO Guidelines are partly stricter than the current EU legislation values. EP members and environmental groups react and call on the EU Commission to revise the Air Quality Directive to bring it in line with the new WHO guidelines.
Air quality in Europe — 2019 report.
This EEA Report presents an updated overview and analysis of air quality in Europe from 2000 to 2017. - Air pollution continues to have significant impacts on the health of the European population, particularly in urban areas. Europe's most serious pollutants, in terms of harm to human health, are PM, NO2 and ground-level O3. - Air pollution also damages vegetation and ecosystems. It leads to several important environmental impacts, which affect vegetation and fauna directly, as well as the quality of water and soil and the ecosystem services they support. The most harmful air pollutants in terms of damage to ecosystems are O3, ammonia and nitrogen oxides (NOX).
In a new study „Cardiovascular disease burden from ambient air pollution in Europe reassessed using novel hazard ratio functions”, published in the current issue of the European Heart Journal (Feb 2019), a team of scientists updates the calculations of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), a worldwide health study, and also its own calculations in the past: The previous calculation of the global mortality rate of 4.5 million deaths per year from air pollution is now re-assessed to amount to 8.8 million deaths per year. Europe has a higher rate of mortality than the global average; around 800.000 people die in Europe from air pollution every year, the study finds.
Study download: https://academic.oup.com/DocumentLibrary/EHJ/2019_PR/ehz135.pdf
WHO Report (March 2016) “Preventing disease through healthy environments: a global assessment of the burden of disease from environmental risks”. See: http://www.who.int/quantifying_ehimpacts/publications/preventing-disease/en/
Economic cost of the health impact of air pollution in Europe - WHO Europe, study published 29 April 2016. --- A staggering US $ 1.6 trillion is the economic cost of the approximate 600 000 premature deaths and of the diseases caused by air pollution in the WHO European Region in 2010, according to the first-ever study of these costs conducted for the Region. The amount is nearly equivalent to one tenth of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the entire European Union in 2013. - - -The economic value of deaths and diseases due to air pollution – US$ 1 600 000 000 000 – corresponds to the amount societies are willing to pay to avoid these deaths and diseases with necessary interventions. In these calculations, a value is attached to each death and disease, independent of the age of the person and which varies according to the national economic context. --- Air pollution: the single largest environmental health risk --- Over 90% of citizens in the Region are exposed to annual levels of outdoor fine particulate matter that are above WHO's air quality guidelines. This accounted for 482 000 premature deaths in 2012 from heart and respiratory diseases, blood vessel conditions and strokes, and lung cancer. In the same year, indoor air pollution resulted in an additional 117 200 premature deaths, five times more in low- and middle-income countries than in high-income countries.
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL GOVERNANCE
New GDP Center/UNCTAD Report: A New Multilateralism for Shared Prosperity
This report, launched on 12 April 2019, advances a set of “Geneva Principles for a Global Green New Deal” that can form the foundations for a new multilateral trade and investment regime that has shared prosperity and sustainable development as its core goals. The report has been prepared by the Boston University Global Development Policy (GDP) Center and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The report states, inter alia:
The report concludes: The “Geneva Principles for a Global Green New Deal” advances an urgent research and policy agenda for a New Multilateralism that rebuilds the rules of the global economy toward goals of coordinated stability, shared prosperity, and environmental sustainability, while deliberately respecting the space for national policy sovereignty.
State of the environment - recent reports:
UNEP Report “Making Peace With Nature” launched 18 February 2021 - The synthesis of latest UN assessment reports addresses the triple crisis of the planet - climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution - and makes proposals on how it can be tackled jointly within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. The report serves to translate the current state of scientific knowledge into crisp, clear and digestible facts-based messages that the world can relate to and follow up on. It first provides an Earth diagnosis of current and projected human-induced environmental change, by putting facts and inter-linkages in perspective, including by using smart info-graphics. In building on this diagnosis, the report identifies the shifts needed to close gaps between current actions and those needed to achieve sustainable development. The analysis is anchored in current economic, social and ecological reality and framed by economics and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. By synthesizing the latest scientific findings from the global environmental assessments, the report communicates the current status of the world’s urgent issues and opportunities to solve them.
Full text, summary, key messages and statements accompanying the launch: https://www.unep.org/resources/making-peace-nature
Global Environment Outlook (2019)
Published in time for the Fourth United Nations Environmental Assembly, UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (2019) calls on decision makers to take immediate action to address pressing environmental issues to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other Internationally Agreed Environment Goals, such as the Paris Agreement.
It emphasizes that urgent and inclusive action is needed by decision makers at all levels to achieve a healthy planet with healthy people.
Global Chemicals Outlook, second edition, 2019 - The Global Chemicals Outlook II – From Legacies to Innovative Solutions: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, mandated by the UN Environment Assembly in 2016, seeks to alert policymakers and other stakeholders to the critical role of the sound management of chemicals and waste in sustainable development. It takes stock of global trends as well as progress made and gaps in achieving the global goal to minimize the adverse impacts from chemicals and waste by 2020. The Global Chemicals Outlook II finds that the global goal to minimize adverse impacts of chemicals and waste will not be achieved by 2020. Solutions exist, but more ambitious worldwide action by all stakeholders is urgently required.
WWF ZSL Living Planet Report 2020
WWF Living Planet Report 2018, the 12th edition of WWF’s biennial flagship publication.
Global Resources Outlook 2019
Natural Resources for the Future We Want
Since the 1970s, global population has doubled and global Gross Domestic Product has grown fourfold. These trends have required large amounts of natural resources to fuel economic development and the attendant improvements in human well-being this has brought across the globe. However, these gains have come at a tremendous cost to our natural environment, ultimately impacting human well-being and exacerbating inequalities within and between countries.
The Global Risks Report 2019
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has published the 14th edition of its annual report ranking global risks, both in terms of impact and likelihood, with environmental threats topping both lists for the third year in a row.
World Water Development Report 2019 - Leaving No One Behind
The 2019 edition of the World Water Development Report (WWDR 2019) entitled ‘Leaving No One Behind’ seeks to inform policy and decision-makers, inside and outside the water community, how improvements in water resources management and access to water supply and sanitation services are essential to overcoming poverty and addressing various other social and economic inequities. It was launched at the Human Rights Council, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva (Switzerland), on 19 March 2019.
From the Report:
2,1 billion people have no access to clean and permanently available drinking water. Menschen haben keinen Zugang zu sauberem und durchgängig verfügbarem Trinkwasser. 4,3 billion people cannot use clean sanitary places.
Governance developments: UNEP & UNEA
On UNEP activities see: https://www.unenvironment.org/
On UNEA (UN Environment Assembly) see: http://web.unep.org/environmentassembly/
On the 2019 session of UNEA see a summary at: http://enb.iisd.org/unep/oecpr4-unea4/
A book to remember a milestone in the debate not only about sustainable development but also the need of international environmental governance reform: Defining Sustainable Development for Our Common Future. A History of the World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission). By Iris Borowy, Routledge, November 2013.
The UN World Commission on Environment and Development, chaired by former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, alerted the world to the urgency of making progress toward economic development that could be sustained without depleting natural resources or harming the environment. The Brundtland Report strongly argued that sustainable development must be based on social, economic and environmental grounds, and that this change in perception must also have institutional implications at national and international levels. Some 30 years after the Brundtland Commission started its work we are still struggling with it.
More …. http://www.routledge.com
Rio+20 (2012) --- The Future We Want - The final document adopted at Rio+20 Conference, available at: http://www.uncsd2012.org/thefuturewewant.html
The Contested Legacy of Rio+20, by Maria Ivanova, (September 20th, 2012). See: http://uncsd.iisd.org/guest-articles/the-contested-legacy-of-rio20/
EUROPEAN UNION ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY
European Commission 2019 and the Green Deal
The new EC is approved by the EP on 27 November 2019. Environment and climate change are to be priorities of the new EC. The new EC President, Ms. von der Leyen, announced a proposal for a Green Deal which was presented in December 2019. The environmental community will probably watch its implementation attentively.
Green Deal Milestones
Commission Communication on the Green Deal 11 December 2019
Communication Annex (Green Deal Roadmap)
Commission proposal for a EU climate law, March 2020
Commission proposal for new climate action target 2030 (Sep 2020)
Impact Assessment for new 2030 target
EU Climate Law adopted, Council, 28 June 2021
“Fit for 55” Package (I), 14 July 2021
Other Green Deal pillars
EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, 20 May 2020
“A Farm to Fork Strategy”, 20 May 2020
Circular Economy Action Plan, March 2020
A new Green Deal driven EU environmental programme under preparation
As a response to the continuous and dramatic environmental challenges which Europe and the world are facing, especially climate change and loss of biodiversity, the European Commission published a proposal for an 8th Environment Action Programme (EAP) on 14 October 2020.
The outgoing EU environmental programme (2013-2020)
"Living well, within the limits of our planet" --- New EU environmental action program formally adopted.
On 15 November 2013 the Council adopted a decision of the European Parliament and of the Council on a general union environment action programme to 2020 (PE-CO_S 64/13, 15519/13 ADD1 REV1). Adoption of the legislation followed an agreement reached during the informal discussions with the European Parliament on 19 June 2013. The seventh Environment Action Programme entitled "Living well, within the limits of our planet" replaces the sixth programme, which expired in July 2012.
More at: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/envir/139603.pdf
EEA publication “The European environment – state and outlook 2020”, its new State of the Environment Report (SOER) released on 4 December 2019:. --- With important messages such as:
A sobering reading indeed, for all of us, decision-makers and citizens.
More at: www.eea.europa.eu
Reforming the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
Agriculture is a core sector in the EU. The CAP is a core EU policy. Agriculture is at the core of the environmental problems in Europe.
This is not new, and pressure to reform the CAP has a long history in the meantime. It seems though that obstacles are rather high to change the CAP which promotes – or at least does not prevent - practices threatening and damaging nature and biodiversity and undermining the basis of life and even the very basis of agriculture itself. Not to speak of the economic and social impacts it has in Europe and elsewhere.
In November 2019, a number of organisations on behalf of more than 2500 scientists make another attempt and send an open letter “Reform the CAP: harmful agriculture is destroying nature” to the European Parliament and the members of the new European Commission.
A quote from the letter: “The CAP is turning rural areas into green deserts of uninhabitable maximum-yield monocultures. The greening measures within Pillar 1 of the CAP are largely ineffective at retaining or restoring biodiversity and are too often poorly controlled. The current agri-environmental schemes are both underfunded and insufficiently targeted to meet the scale of the damage to farmland biodiversity. In-depth analyses also show that the proposal made by the Commission for the CAP post-2020 fails to offer a real reform, and even risks lower ambition. Without a fundamental reform of the CAP, such negative trends will not only diminish nature in current EU member states, but will also threaten the nature of candidates ones. EU membership should not be causing silent springs.“
Text of the open letter: https://www.birdlife.org/europe-and-central-asia/open-letter-reform-cap
Complying with EU environmental legislation
See the monthly infringement procedures at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/legal/law/press_en.htm
EU enlargement and the environment
For the annual enlargement packages, see: http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/countries/strategy-and-progress-report/index_en.ht
Free trade and the environment
Criticism of the EU's free trade agreement practices is widespread, it comes from many sides and raises many issues, environmental and others. The debate focused for
some time on the (planned) TTIP with the US and the CETA with Canada, the latter having been signed and now being in the ratification processes. Meanwhile, the criticim addresses the EU's free trade
agreements generally. The tensions between the two principles - free trade and environmental protection - are obvious. An early warning came from a German government advisory body:
"Making TTIP environmentally sound", German Advisory Council on the Environment, opinion released 24 February 2016, more at: http://www.umweltrat.de/EN/TheGermanAdvisoryCouncilOnTheEnvironment/thegermanadvisorycouncilontheenvironment_node.html
The Impact of Environmental Law - Stories of the World We Want, published in the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series, edited by Rose-Liza Eisma-Osorio, University of Cebu, Philippines, Elizabeth A. Kirk, University of Lincoln, UK and Jessica Steinberg Albin, Elisabeth Haub School of Law, Pace University, US. 2020, 192 pp. - This book invites readers to rethink environmental law and its critical role in ensuring a sustainable future for all. Illustrating narratives of successful developments in environmental law, contributors draw out key lessons and practices for effective reform and highlight opportunities by which we can respond to environmental challenges facing the planet. - More at:
Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group established by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 72/277 (“Towards a Global Pact for the Environment”), second session 18-20 March 2019, summary at http://enb.iisd.org/unep/globalpact/oewg2/
“Global Pact” more at https://globalpact.informea.org/
Gaps in international environmental law and environment-related instruments: towards a global pact for the environment. Report of the UN Secretary-General, 30 November 2018, UN Doc A/73/419. Link at http://enb.iisd.org/unep/globalpact/oewg2/
Global Assessment of the Environmental Rule of Law: Launched on 24 January 2019, the first ever global assessment of environmental rule of law finds weak enforcement to be a global trend that is exacerbating environmental threats, despite prolific growth in environmental laws and agencies worldwide over the last four decades.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT & SDG
Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals
All information on SDGs and the developments since 2015, also on the High-Level Political Forum regular meetings: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/
UN 2019 Sustainable Development Report. Released 12 Sep 2019.
The Sustainable Development Report 2019, a Bertelsmann Foundation publication, was released on 19 June 2019. Among the main findings are:
Eradicating poverty and strengthening equity remain important policy priorities. Eradicating extreme poverty remains a global challenge with half of the world’s nations not on track for achieving SDG 1 (No Poverty).
Critical voices: idea and reality of sustainable development
Sustainability will only be achieved if we change, at a global scale, the way we produce and consume, how we run the economy, and this change must be fundamental. Many if not all agree with this statement; yet, what happens in practice? Are we on the way to sustainable development or are we not? --- Clearly, change is a matter of awareness, knowledge and strategic thinking but it is also a matter of interests and power. No doubt, there are powerful interestes blocking the road to sustainability. They need to be known, analysed and overcome. For that, we need critical voices and reality checks: Where are the interests, where is the power, and how can we organize change? --- There's no need to share all the critical views but we should not ignore them but rather think about.
A drastical look at realities of the globalized economy gives the Mighty Earth Report “Cargill, the worst company in the world”, released on 9 July 2019. - A fairly critical look at unsustainable practices of a big company in various parts of the world.
For German-speaking readers:
Thilo Bode, Die Diktatur der Konzerne. Wie globale Unternehmen uns schaden und die Demokratie zerstören. S. Fischer, 2018. - The former Greenpeace International CEO and then founder of Foodwatch presents multiple examples of where economic power sits today.
Jean Feyder, Leistet Widerstand. Eine andere Welt ist möglich, Westend, 2018. - The long-time respresentative of Luxembourg at the UN in Geneva, gives insights into national and international economic and trade policies. His hopes are with civil society pushing for change. Civil society and collective actions against destructive practices, need to be mobilized and organized, though. How to achieve that? Don't we need, again, society mechanisms like policies and media diagnozed often to be "on the other side"?
Another critical view: Kathrin Hartmann, Aus kontrolliertem Raubbau, 2015, Blessing-Verlag. Though a publication launched
a few years back but more valid than ever, suggesting that we are far from abandoning the unsustainable way of production and consumption. - A sobering look at - still common - unsustainable use of
natural resources, pollution of the environment, suffering of people, and attempts to camouflage all that.
Gland/Nairobi, 5 November 2021. Analysing scientific literature, the new report by UNEP and IUCN finds that Nature-based Solutions (NbS) can deliver emission reductions and removals of at least 5 gigatons of CO2 per year by 2030, and at least 10 gigatons by 2050 on a conservative basis. The report highlights that this contribution from nature, in addition to the rapid decarbonisation of the global economy, can play a significant role in reaching the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to below 1.5°C. To fulfil this potential, NbS require additional funding and must be implemented according to strict standards.
UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2021
Even as the world looks to step up efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change already locked in are just as important. The sixth edition of the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report: The Gathering Storm looks at how the world is doing in adapting to these intensifying impacts.
UNEP Emission Gap Report 2021
With climate change intensifying and scientists warning that humanity is running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels, 2021 has been a fraught year for the planet.
What’s new in this year’s report
The Emissions Gap Report 2021 shows that new national climate pledges combined with other mitigation measures put the world on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C by the end of the century. That is well above the goals of the Paris climate agreement and would lead to catastrophic changes in the Earth’s climate. To keep global warming below 1.5°C this century, the aspirational goal of the Paris Agreement, the world needs to halve annual greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years.
If implemented effectively, net-zero emissions pledges could limit warming to 2.2°C, closer to the well-below 2°C goal of the Paris Agreement. However, many national climate plans delay action until after 2030. The reduction of methane emissions from the fossil fuel, waste and agriculture sectors could help close the emissions gap and reduce warming in the short term, the report finds.
Carbon markets could also help slash emissions. But that would only happen if rules are clearly defined and target actual reductions in emissions, while being supported by arrangements to track progress and provide transparency.
FCCC Report: Nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement Synthesis report by the secretariat, released on 17 Sep 2021.
From the FCCC Press Release:
UNEP Adaptation Gap Report 2020
This Report released in January 2021, is the fifth adaptation report UNEP publishes. In her Foreword, Inger Andersen, the Executive Director on UNEP writes:
“2020 was not only the year of the pandemic, it was also the year of intensifying climate impacts. Floods, droughts and storms affected over 50 million people. Wildfires devastated forests and communities. Plagues of locusts devoured vital crops in East Africa.
We have not heeded these warnings. Based on current pledges under the Paris Agreement, the world is heading for at least a 3°C temperature rise this century. If this happens, 2020 will seem like a walk in the park. Even if we limit global warming to well below 2°C, or even 1.5°C, developing countries will suffer. We are, as the UN Secretary-General said in his 2020 State of the Planet address, in “a race against time to adapt to a rapidly changing climate”. The fifth edition of the UNEP Adaptation Gap Report – which looks at the state of play in adaptation planning, finance and implementation – finds that while we may be gathering pace, we are still losing this vital race.”
The report recognizes that while adaptation has become a concern in many countries and adaptation planning instruments have been prepared and adopted, effective implementation is largely lacking, mainly due to lack of sufficient funds, nationally and internationally. It concludes that there is a high risks that the costs of adaptation may increase much faster than the finances available, also because of insufficient ambition in mitigation leading to more negative impacts resulting from climate change to which states need to adapt. The Covid-19 pandemic will put additional pressure on financial means available for adaptation.
Another sobering document, how many more do we need?
Source and download: https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/adaptation-gap-report-2020
Climate Ambition Summit 2020
“Five years after Paris, we are still not going in the right direction,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres alerted at the opening of the Climate Ambition Summit held virtually on 12 December 2020, making a call for a global coalition for carbon neutrality by mid-century and 45% cuts to greenhouse (GHG) emissions by 2030 below 1990 levels.
Raised ambition was declared by many; we will see if action follows. Moreover, observers questioned whether that raised ambition was sufficient to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement. “The World Meteorological Organization estimates a 24% chance of surpassing the threshold of 1.5°C of warming in the next five years. The 2020 UNEP Emissions Gap Report concludes that the world remains on track to exceed 3°C of warming by the end of the century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that emissions cuts of 40-60% from 2010 levels are needed by 2030 to stay on track to limit warming to the Agreement’s lower threshold of 1.5°C. Most countries who spoke at the summit came nowhere close to this level of ambition.” (IISD)
IISD Summary of the meeting: https://enb.iisd.org/download/pdf/enb12778e.pdf
UNEP Emissions Gap Report 2020
released on 09 December 2020
UNEP presenting the Report on its website: “The report finds that, despite a brief dip in carbon dioxide emissions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is still heading for a temperature rise in excess of 3°C this century – far beyond the Paris Agreement goals of limiting global warming to well below 2°C and pursuing 1.5°C.”
Climate Transparency Report 2020 (former Brown-to-Green-Report)
launched by Climate Transparency Nov 2020.
The Summary Report 2020 provides a comprehensive overview of all G20 countries, whether – and how well – they are doing on the journey to transition towards a net-zero emissions economy. The report draws on the latest emissions data from 2019 and 2020 and covers 100 indicators on decarbonisation, climate policies, finance and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Providing country ratings, it identifies leaders and laggards in the G20.
WMO Statement on the state of the global climate 2019, published 2020
The WMO on 25 Nov 2019 published findings on another record high in GHG concentration in 2018: Globally averaged concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5 parts per million (ppm) in 2017. - WMO Press Release https://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/greenhouse-gas-concentrations-atmosphere-reach-yet-another-high
UNEP's 2019 Emission Gap Report was released on 26 November 2019.
From the messages:
UNEP itself introducing the report on its site: "1.5°C goal at brink of impossible."
Text of Report at: https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/emissions-gap-report-2019
UNEP 2019: Lessons from a decade of emissions gap assessments.
From the introduction: “…this publication revisits the gap rationale and how it has evolved, comparing the expectations following the Copenhagen Accord with the reality 10 years later. The findings are sobering. Despite a decade of increasing political and societal focus on climate change and the milestone Paris Agreement, global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have not been curbed, and the emissions gap is larger than ever.” Read more at:
FCCC / UNDP Report: THE HEAT IS ON, Taking Stock of the Global Climate Ambition, NDC Global Outlook Report 2019, released Sep 2019. – From the messages: It’s clear that business as usual simply isn’t good enough anymore. We must do more – much more – in areas related to mitigation, adaptation, and the finance to support all of this work. And we must do it quickly.
More at: https://outlook.ndcs.undp.org/
IPCC Special Report on the Oceans and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC),
released on 25 September 2019.
Summary for Policy-Makers https://report.ipcc.ch/srocc/pdf/SROCC_SPM_Approved.pdf
IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL), released on 8 August 2019 and addressing land as a critical resource, desertification and land degradation, food security, and land and climate change responses.
Download at: https://www.ipcc.ch/srccl-report-download-page/
WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate in 2018. This publication, issued on 28 March 2019, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the WMO Statement on the State of the Global Climate, which was first issued in 1994.
2018 was the fourth warmest year on record. – 2015-2018 were the four warmest years on record as the long-term warming trend continues. - Ocean heat content is at a record high and global mean sea level continues to rise. - Artic and Antarctic sea-ice extent is well below average. - Extreme weather had an impact on lives and sustainable development on every continent. - Average global temperature reached approximately 1 °C above pre-industrial levels . - We are not on track to meet climate change targets and rein in temperature increases . - Every fraction of a degree of warming makes a difference.
IPCC SPECIAL REPORT: Global Warming of 1.5 ºC.
Issued 2018, revised January 2019: An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.
Human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above
pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C
between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. (high confidence)
Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for
centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system,
such as sea level rise, with associated impacts (high confidence), but these emissions alone are
unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C (medium confidence).
Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than
at present, but lower than at 2°C (high confidence). These risks depend on the magnitude and rate
of warming, geographic location, levels of development and vulnerability, and on the choices and
implementation of adaptation and mitigation options (high confidence).
Climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and
economic growth are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C and increase further with
Pathways limiting global warming to 1.5°C with no or limited overshoot would require rapid
and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure (including transport and
buildings), and industrial systems (high confidence). These systems transitions are unprecedented
in terms of scale, but not necessarily in terms of speed, and imply deep emissions reductions in all
sectors, a wide portfolio of mitigation options and a significant up-scaling of investments in those
options (medium confidence).
More ... https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
Paris Agreement 2015
Text of Paris Agreement: https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/english_paris_agreement.pdf
More information on the process:
All info on the Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC), its COPs, Meetings of the Parties under Kyoto and Paris, decisions, documents etc: https://unfccc.int/
The ice shields of the Earth are melting rapidly
A new study published in Cryosphere concludes: We combine satellite observations and numerical models to show that Earth lost 28 trillion t of ice between 1994 and 2017. Arctic sea ice (7.6 trillion t), Antarctic ice shelves (6.5 trillion t), mountain glaciers (6.2 trillion t), the Greenland ice sheet (3.8 trillion t), the Antarctic ice sheet (2.5 trillion t), and Southern Ocean sea ice (0.9 trillion t) have all decreased in mass. Just over half (60 %) of the ice loss was from the northern hemisphere, and the remainder (40 %) was from the southern hemisphere. The rate of ice loss has risen by 57 % since the 1990s – from 0.8 to 1.2 trillion t per year – owing to increased losses from mountain glaciers, Antarctica, Greenland, and from Antarctic ice shelves. During the same period, the loss of grounded ice from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and mountain glaciers raised the global sea level by 35.0 ± 3.2 mm. The majority of all ice losses from were driven by atmospheric melting (68 % from Arctic sea ice, mountain glaciers ice shelf calving and ice sheet surface mass balance), with the remaining losses (32 % from ice sheet discharge and ice shelf thinning) being driven by oceanic melting. Altogether, the cryosphere has taken up 3.2 % of the global energy imbalance.
Source: Slater, T., Lawrence, I. R., Otosaka, I. N., Shepherd, A., Gourmelen, N., Jakob, L., Tepes, P., and Gilbert, L.: Review Article: Earth's ice imbalance, The Cryosphere Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-232, in review, 2020.
Losing Earth, by Nathaniel Rich, Pan Macmillan, 2019;
in German published by Rowohlt Verlag, 2019
The Uninhabitable Earth - Life After Warming, By David Wallace-Wells, 2019
Publication on the Paris Agreement (in German):
“Unter 2 Grad? Was der Weltklimavertrag wirklich bringt“ ("Below 2°? What the world climate agreement is really good for"). --- Details: Sommer, Jörg & Müller, Michael (Hrsg.), Unter 2 Grad? Was der Weltklimavertrag wirklich bringt. 320 S., Stuttgart (Hirzel-Verlag, 2016), ISBN 978-3-7776-2570-6, Euro 19,80
Contributions by: Franz Alt, Hans Diefenbacher, Ottmar Edenhofer, Christian Flachsland, Jochen Flasbarth, Thomas Friesel, Hartmut Graßl, Rüdiger Haum, Peter Hennicke, Lukas Hermwille, Anton Hofreiter, Pierre Ibisch, Hartmut Ihne, Andreas Jung, Claudia Kemfert, Ulrike Kornek, Maria Krautzberger, Manfred Kriener, Martin Kaiser, Mojib Latif, Reinhold Leinfelder, Claude Martin, Matthias Miersch, Volker Mosbrugger, Michael Müller, Kai Niebert, Hermann E. Ott, Nick Reimer, Holger Rogall, Sabine Schlacke, Ann-Kathrin Schneider, Uwe Schneidewind, Susanne Schwarz, Christoph Seidler, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Jörg Sommer, Frank Uekötter, Barbara Unmüßig, Beate Weber-Schuerholz, Hubert Weiger, Anders Wijkman, Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker. --- The book was published on 22 April 2016, the day when the Paris Agreement was signed. ---
UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.
Entitled “Preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of ecosystems worldwide“, it was launched on World Environment Day 5 June 2021.
Ambitions and hopes are high: “The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.
The UN Decade runs from 2021 through 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Led by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the UN Decade is building a strong, broad-based global movement to ramp up restoration and put the world on track for a sustainable future. That will include building political momentum for restoration as well as thousands of initiatives on the ground.
Through communications, events and a dedicated web platform, the UN Decade will provide a hub for everyone interested in restoration to find projects, partners, funding and the knowledge they need to make their restoration efforts a success.”
More at: https://www.decadeonrestoration.org
The Economics of Biodiversity - The Dasgupta Review, published by the UK Government, 2 Feb 2021
The Dasgupta Review is an independent, global review on the Economics of Biodiversity led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta (Frank Ramsey Professor Emeritus, University of Cambridge). The Review was commissioned in 2019 by HM Treasury and has been supported by an Advisory Panel drawn from public policy, science, economics, finance and business.
The Review calls for changes in how we think, act and measure economic success to protect and enhance our prosperity and the natural world. Grounded in a deep understanding of ecosystem processes and how they are affected by economic activity, the new framework presented by the Review sets out how we should account for Nature in economics and decision-making.
More: Full text, Abridged Version, and Headline Messages at:
5th Global Biodiversity Outlook 2020 launched on 15 Sep 2020 at CBD SBSTTA meeting
Summary for Policy-makers
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES)
2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.
First global biodiversity assessment since 2005. - A definitive new global synthesis of the state of nature, ecosystems and nature's contributions to people - the first such report since the landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment published in 2005, and the first ever that is inter-governmental - will be presented to representatives of 132 Governments for consideration of approval in May 2019. - Report agreed on and Summary for Policy-Makers released on 6 May 2019.
Some fundamental findings:
IPBES Regional: For other assessment reports of IPBES, especially the regional reports on Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas, released in 2018, see https://www.ipbes.net/assessment-reports
IUCN protected area guidelines
Borrini-Feyerabend, G., N. Dudley, T. Jaeger, B. Lassen, N. Pathak Broome, A. Phillips and T. Sandwith (2013), Governance of Protected Areas: From understanding to action. Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series No. 20, Gland, Switzerland, IUCN. xvi + 124pp. ---
The guidelines are available online at: www.iucn.org/publications
State of world forests - reports and data
How much forest was lost in 2021?
The 2021 tree cover loss data analysis, released today on the Global Forest Review, shows stubbornly high forest loss in 2021: the tropics lost 11.1 million hectares of tree cover, including 3.75 million hectares of loss that occurred within tropical primary rainforests — areas of critical importance for carbon storage and biodiversity — equivalent to a rate of 10 football pitches a minute. And it's not just tropical forests that are of concern. Boreal forests — mainly those in Russia — experienced unprecedented tree cover loss in 2021, largely driven by fires. These trends underscore just how much action it will take to achieve global zero-deforestation goals.
Loss of animal species in forests by 50% since 1970 at global level. - WWF Forest Report 2019, released 13 August 2019. -
Forest losses in 2018
The tropics lost 12 million hectares of tree cover in 2018, the fourth-highest annual loss since record-keeping began in 2001. Of greatest concern is the disappearance of 3.6 million hectares of primary rainforest, an area the size of Belgium. The figures come from updated data from the University of Maryland, released 25 April 2019 on Global Forest Watch.
Open letter of scientists on Brazil
In an open letter to the EU, published on 26 April 2019 in “Science”, more than 600 scientists and two organisations representing 300 indigenous peoples, raise human rights and environment protection concerns over Brazil’s current policies and request the EU bodies to insist in the trade negotiations with Brazil in the respect of human rights and environmental standards : “We urge the EU to make trade negotiations with Brazil conditional on: (i) upholding the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; (ii) improving procedures to trace commodities associated with deforestation and Indigenous rights conflicts; and (iii) consulting with, and gaining consent from, Indigenous Peoples and local communities to define strict social and environmental criteria for traded commodities.”
Open letter at: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6438/341.1
State of world land resources
The way land resources – soil, water and biodiversity – are currently mismanaged and misused threatens the health and continued survival of many species on Earth, including our own, warns a stark new report from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) - UNCCD’s evidence-based flagship report Global Land Outlook 2 (GLO2).
The GLO2 summary for decision makers is available at https://bit.ly/GLO2SDM
The full report is available at https://bit.ly/GLO2full
World Heritage Watch just published its Report 2021 which takes a look at risks to 48 World Heritage sites around the globe – 20% more than last year.
Pressure on World Heritage of humankind continues unabated, and especially in Europe more and more world heritage sites are threatened with irreparable damage or even irretrievable loss.
More: Download the Report from: https://world-heritage-watch.org/content/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/WHW-Report-2021.pdf
MARINE ENVIRONMENT AND POLAR REGIONS
Intergovernmental Conference on an International Legally Binding Instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, Second Session 25 March-5 April 2019. - Summary of the session with brief history and background at: http://enb.iisd.org/oceans/bbnj/igc2/
German Advisory Council on Global Change Flagship Report 2013:
World in Transition: Governing the Marine Heritage
Despite numerous international treaties and voluntary commitments, the seas are still being massively overfished, polluted and increasingly exploited as the Earth's last resort. In view of the oceans’ poor condition the WBGU developed a long-term vision of the conservation and sustainable use of the blue continent: All marine zones with the exception of territorial waters should be declared the common heritage of mankind. In order to move closer to this ultimate goal for ocean governance, the WBGU also makes recommendations for action that link up with ongoing political processes. In this context it examines the example of two focal themes: food (sustainable fisheries and aquaculture) and energy from the sea. The report shows that sustainable stewardship of the oceans is urgently necessary, that the seas can be incorporated into a transformation towards a low-carbon, sustainable society, and that such a transformation can achieve substantial benefits worldwide both for a sustainable energy supply and for food security.
The report is in German, with an English summary. The flagship reports of the Council are all available online. ---
The English version has been published in February 2014 ---
More ... http://www.wbgu.de/fr-2013-oceans
Arctic: Life Linked to Ice. This new report on biodiversity impacts of sea ice changes (Oct 2013) examines the consequences for biodiversity of the dramatic changes occurring to sea ice. It was prepared by the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna working group (CAFF), and both draws from and builds on Arctic Council assessments in order to present an overview of the state of knowledge about sea-ice-associated biodiversity. The report is intended as a briefing and reference document for policy makers. ---
Fishery practices in the Arctic: new report on destructive fisheries (March 2016).
ENVIRONMENT AND WASTE
Biodegradable bags can hold a full load of shopping three years after being discarded in the environment. Researchers from the International Marine Litter Research Unit (University of Plymouth) publish new research in Environmental Science and Technology. More about this study published 29 April 2019 at: https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/news/biodegradable-bags-can-hold-a-full-load-of-shopping-three-years-after-being-discarded-in-the-environment
So, we better forget about plastic bags altogether, “bio” or not, support all initiatives that could phase them out, and go shopping with the good old shopping bags. That’s really no big deal.
Global trade in plastic waste
A new GAIA (Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives) report, published on 23 April 2019, analyses the current trends in global trade in plastic wastes, the origin of the wastes in industrialized countries (21 countries of origin with USA, UK, Germany and Japan on top), and the environmental impacts in the receiving countries (water contamination, crop death, illness, and the open burning of plastic waste) whose communities lack the capacities to deal adequately with the wastes. Just another issue of justice in international environmental governance. With data from Greenpeace Southeast Asia.
The report at GAIA’s webpage:
The issue is at the Basel Convention meeting 29 April – 10 May 2019 which discusses a proposal of Norway to apply the prior-informed-consent rule to the export of plastic wastes. More on the meeting, the Basel Convention, and its role in international waste governance at http://www.basel.int/
The legacy of Chernobyl and Fukushima. - A new report addresses the unsettled problems of nuclear energy uses:
At the occasion of remembering Chernobyl (1986) and Fukushima (2011) the Federal Minister for the environment declared (10 March 2016): "Nuclear energy has no future". See: www.bmub.bund.de/presse.
At the same time (March 2016), the German Federal Constitutional Court considers the case brought before it by power supply companies that the phasing out of nuclear energy in Germany decided in 2011 by the federal government was unconstitutional.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
For a comprehensive all-inclusive and regular preview of upcoming events in the environment and sustainable development fields, including major international conferences and meetings, see: http://www.iisd.org/calendar/