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Regional News

Electric car rally reaches Geneva

Europe’s largest electric vehicle rally has made a pit stop at the Palais des Nations in Geneva after travelling 1300 km in a bid to spur action and ambition for the fight against climate change.

The rally was initiated by UNEP Champion of the Earth Louis Palmer and the welcoming of cars in Geneva on 3 June was led by UNDP.

Around 100 electric cars travelled from the German town of Bremerhaven and parked in front of the Palais to form the number ‘1.5’. The Paris Agreement  on climate change last year bound countries to “pursue efforts” to  limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial times.

“140 participants with 70 cars have visited 50 cities to deliver a simple but powerful message - yes, we have a problem with climate change and fossil fuels, but we have many pioneering solutions, and we can indeed limit warming at 1.5C,” stressed Mr Palmer – founder and organiser of the World Advanced Vehicle Expedition (WAVE).

Maria Luisa Silva, Director of the UNDP Office in Geneva, described the rally as being “very symbolic,” showing that the needed change really can happen, especially after the Paris Agreement.

The environmental adventurer, Ms. Silva and other speakers addressed a crowd from the back of a vintage electric pick-up truck. A number of retrofitted electric cars and vans were also present, as well as electric motorcycles and bicycles.

The Canton of Geneva itself has a master plan for charging infrastructure to support electric vehicles, said Luc Barthassat, State Councilor for the Environment, Transport and Agriculture - as well as measures to support cars running on other alternative fuels such as hydrogen.

Nick Beglinger, CEO of the Cleantech21 Foundation, meanwhile referred to the “elephant in the room” - pointing to a giant black cube situated in the middle of the square symbolising the 200kg of CO2 that an average car would have emitted completing the rally.

Keeping warming below 1.5C is also a fundamental human right, stressed Ambassador H.E. Elayne Whyte Gómez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica to the United Nations. Legislative action and financial as well as fiscal tools are needed to encourage people to shift towards alternative fuels and electric cars, she underlined.

Actions such as the rally “can promote political pressure and inform the public to make a change,” underlined Wolfgang Jamann, Secretary General and CEO of the humanitarian organisation CARE International.

New IPCC reports

Meanwhile, in order to better guide policymakers tasked with fighting climate change, a briefing was organised by the Geneva Environment Network on 16 June ahead of upcoming reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

One of the papers will be on the impacts of global warming of 1.5ºC above pre-industrial levels, with a greater focus on regional and national impacts than previously documented.

Rie Tsutsumi – Programme Officer and focal point for climate change at UNEP’s Regional Office for Europe - welcomed participants at the event, which included a question and answer session with Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC.

UNEP supports countries in addressing climate change through adaptation measures and by building resilience. UNEP also supports countries’ transition towards low carbon societies and the Green Economy, as well as efforts contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

UNEP’s flagship Emissions Gap report - launched last November - spelled out the ambitions needed from countries to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and laid out options for doing so

For further details on the WAVE initiative please click here.

For more information write to isabelle.valentiny@unep.org


Journalists have role to play in Green Economy transition

A media masterclass organised under the EU-funded Greening Economies in the European Union’s Eastern Neighbourhood (EaP GREEN) programme has helped equip 31 journalists from the six Eastern Partnership countries with techniques and skills for reporting on Green Economy topics.

Journalists not only educate the general public on important environment and climate related issues, but also question statements by decision makers and play a role in holding them to account.

The masterclass featured an interactive session with renowned former BBC journalist Alex Kirby, who stressed that he was “not here to tell you how to write stories, but to share my experience of mistakes so that you too can learn from them”.

During the event, the reporters were first briefed on EaP GREEN activities with practical project results in their countries, the Environment for Europe process and the main conference topics of Green Economy, air quality and health addressed in Batumi.

Examples of concrete pledges for green economy actions made by ministers at the event were presented, including those from the journalists’ countries of origin.

The Head of UNEP’s Economic Research Unit and author of the UNEP flagship Green Economy report further linked topics from the media headlines in Eastern Partnership countries with the Green Economy concept, comparing this to a restaurant that provides inclusive economic, social and environmental services.

Tips were later shared ranging from where to best sit in a press conference, how to identify a catchy news story at big events and the importance of the difference between reporting and campaigning in Alex Kirby’s masterclass session. After learning from his personal experience and challenges, journalists formed groups to prepare news articles on the conference themes and discussed these with the Climate News Network founder.

In a mock press conference, the reporters then practiced probing questions and deciphering replies from ministers. This exercise was put into practice on the spot when journalists interviewed national delegations for news stories to be published in print, online and via radio.

“I got a lot of inspiration from Alex Kirby and once again realized that choosing to be an environmental reporter was the right thing for me because that is how you can push important questions and problems into the agenda of politics and economics in your country,” said Gohar Hakobyan from Armenia, one of the journalists attending the “extremely useful” masterclass.

“Going international by building new networks in Eastern Partnership countries is one of the precious experiences I had at the workshop. Now I know that if I have a story to tell, a story which is of regional importance, I will turn to the journalists from other countries and tell that story with them,” added Gohar, who writes for Civil net green news.

The journalists also had the chance to meet with Matthew Billot, UNEP’s Head of the Global Environment Outlook – and the two Co-chairs of the report’s pan-European assessment which was launched during the conference.

Journalists from the six Eastern Partnership countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine attended the masterclass, which was organised by UNEP together with the Georgian Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Protection.  

For more pictures from the masterclass click here and for more information please write to isabelle.valentiny@unep.org


UNEP to help fight land degradation in Georgia

UNEP is to support Georgia in its efforts to tackle land degradation and associated threats to food production under a new Global Environment Fund (GEF) project launched  at the Environment for Europe conference.

Under an agreement signed on 8 June by UNEP Deputy Executive Director Ibrahim Thiaw and the Georgian Minister for the Environment and Natural Resources Protection Gigla Agulashvili, UNEP will help Georgia to mainstream sustainable land management into agricultural production in the country through institutional and regulatory reforms, technical support, demonstration projects and capacity building. The agreement was signed in the margins of the eighth Environment for Europe Ministerial Conference being held in Batumi, Georgia from 8-10 June. 

The Georgian Ministry of Environment Protection and Natural Resources Protection rates 35 % of its agricultural land as being degraded and, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, 60% of agricultural land in Georgia  is of low or middle production quality. Major drivers of this include uncontrolled grazing and urban sprawl, as well as deforestation.

The project will therefore develop a list of technical solutions, identify gaps in the country’s laws and policies and boost national capacity and knowledge management through the training of farmers and decision-makers on sustainable practices. Three pilot projects will furthermore be run in the towns of Gardabani, Dedoplistsqaro and Akhmeta demonstrating sustainable practices.

As a result, the project is expected to lead to healthier ecosystems, reduced emissions stemming from agriculture, improved carbon sequestration and biodiversity levels and reduced vulnerability to climate change. 

Sustainable land management allows land users to maximize the economic and social benefits from land while maintaining its ecological support functions, such as good soil quality.

The GEF project is titled ‘Applying Landscape and Sustainable Land Management (L-SLM) for Mitigating Land Degradation and Contributing to Poverty Reduction in Rural Areas’ and will run for three years. It has a budget of $4.58 million, including $923 000 of GEF grant.

UNEP is currently working on projects worth $70.5 million focusing on Sustainable Land Management worldwide.

For more information please contact ersin.esen@unep.org



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