UNEP's Year in Review 2011: January to June
From UNEP's contribution to the UN's 'International Year of Forests' to the rapidly evolving analysis of how to catalyze a global transition towards a Green Economy, 2011 has proven to be a defining year for the environmental pillar of sustainable development as the world heads towards Rio+20 in June 2012.
Here are some highlights of UNEP's activities for the first half of the year.
2011 was declared the International Year of Forests (IYF) with the theme 'Celebrating Forests for People'. UNEP launched a new forest-focused coffee table book in collaboration with such famous photographers as Yann Arthus-Bertrand; a special media pack and a new website on forests at www.unep.org/forests.
World Environment Day, the forestry chapter of the Green Economy report and the Sasakawa prize also carried forward the forest theme throughout the year.
The 26th Session of UNEP's Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum was held in Nairobi, Kenya from 21-24 February. Here the world's environment ministers identified Rio+20 in June 2012 as a key opportunity to accelerate and to scale-up a global transition to a low-carbon, resource-efficient Green Economy. UNEP's 2011 Year Book was launched identifying fertilizer and a new understanding of the impacts of plastic pollution as two the main emerging issues. The 'draft' version of Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication, was launched for comment. The report suggested that investing two per cent of global GDP into ten key sectors can kick-start a Green Economy transition.
Forest conservation groups in Nepal and Guatemala won 2011 UNEP Sasakawa Prize. Patricia Okoed-Bukumunhe, a Ugandan radio journalist won the prestigious UNEP Young Environmental Journalist Award for her report 'Climate Change and Uganda', broadcast on Radio France International.
The report, "Reefs at Risk Revisited" presented a comprehensive analysis of threats to coral reefs including, threats from climate change - warming seas and rising ocean acidification. It also showed that local pressures - such as overfishing, coastal development and pollution - pose the most immediate and direct risks, threatening more than 60 percent of coral reefs today.
A new UNEP report, "Colony Disorders and other Threats to Insect Pollinators", shows that more than a dozen factors, ranging from declines in flowering plants and the use of memory-damaging insecticides to the world-wide spread of pests and air pollution, may be behind the emerging decline of bee colonies across many parts of the globe.
To mark World Water Day 2011, a Rapid Response Assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN-Habitat was launched. The assessment showed that African urbanization - growing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world - is affecting water supplies and sanitation.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon officially opened the new energy neutral offices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) in Nairobi, Kenya while later touring the geothermal energy expansion taking place in Naivasha north of Nairobi.
The Business and Industry Global Dialogue, held in Paris and hosted by UNEP and the International Chamber of Commerce, brought together 200 delegates in order to shape and to sharpen the private sector's transition towards a Green Economy.
Representatives from 127 Governments meeting in Geneva for the fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants agreed to add endosulfan to the United Nations' list of persistent organic pollutants to be eliminated worldwide. The action put the widely-used pesticide on course for elimination, with specific exemptions, from the global market by 2012. The conference also endorsed seven new Stockholm Convention regional centres in Algeria, Kenya, India, Iran, Senegal, South Africa and the Russian Federation
The findings of the study, REDDy - Set - Grow: Opportunities and roles of financial institutions in forest-carbon markets, were welcomed by banking, insurance and investment representatives. The study stresses that the financial sector must step up its engagement in the emerging green market, and makes the case for its improved regulation to facilitate this
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-hosted by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization, launched its Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN). The report indicated that under the most optimistic scenario close to 80 percent of the world's energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies.
In New York, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, global music legend Angélique Kidjo, adventurer Louis Palmer, green entrepreneur Zhang Yue and scientist and campaigner Dr. Olga Speranskaya were announced as 2011 Champions of the Earth.
The International Resource Panel, hosted by UNEP, launched a report showing that by 2050, humanity could consume an estimated 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year - three times its current appetite - unless the economic growth rate is "decoupled" from the rate of natural resource consumption.
UNEP completed a global research project on sustainable lifestyles involving more than 8000 young adults from 20 countries. The study, called the Global Survey for Sustainable Lifestyles, showed that young adults consider poverty and environmental degradation to be the world's two biggest challenges, but they want more information on what they can do to be part of the solution.
A second report by the International Resource Panel, 'Recycling Rates of Metals: A Status Report', recommended smarter product designs, support for developing country waste management schemes and encouraging developed country households not to 'squirrel away' old electronic goods in drawers and closets to help boost recycling of metals worldwide.
World Environment Day (WED) 2011 whose main host was India
Over 2 million people in 144 countries worldwide participated in World Environment Day (WED) celebrations. Activities ranged from cleaning up 6.8 tonnes of garbage off Mount Everest to removing litter from neighbourhood streets and the making of kites carrying environmental messages.
The WED challenge featured two UNEP's Goodwill Ambassadors - Gisele Bündchen and Don Cheadle , who competed with each other to win the most World Environment Day followers and get them to register their environment activities for either 'Team Gisele' or 'Team Don'. This challenge was also replicated in India and China with Priyanka Chopra versus Raul Bose and Li Bing Bing versus Wang Shi.
Launch of the 'Forests in a Green Economy: A Synthesis' report. The report showed that investing an additional US$40 billion a year in the forestry sector could halve deforestation rates by 2030, increase rates of tree planting by around 140 per cent by 2050, and catalyze the creation of millions of new jobs.
On World Oceans Day, 08 June 2011, UNEP launched a guide to Ecosystem-based Management. The guide showed that declines in marine and coastal ecosystems due to human activities such as overfishing and pollution could be reversed if organisations, communities and other stakeholders adopt a more integrated approach to managing coastal environments.
A UNEP-World Meteorological Organization report - Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone, launched in mid-June revealed that fast action on pollutants such as black carbon, ground level ozone and methane may help limit near term global temperature rise and significantly increase the chances of keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, and perhaps even 1.5 degrees.
On 20 June 2011, UNEP, Oxfam and the World Resources Institute launched a joint report entitled 'Adapting for a Green Economy: Companies, Communities and Climate Change', which stated that climate adaptation offers competitive advantages to businesses worldwide.
The fifth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade held in Geneva agreed to add three pesticides; alachlor, aldicarb and endosulfan, to the Convention.