Supporting countries in meeting the climate change challenge
In response to the needs of Member States and the growing number of requests on how best to realize a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy for the 21st century, the United Nations Environment Programme has formulated a rapidly evolving strategy. The strategy identifies three priority areas that match calls for international guidance, the urgent need for action at a national level on climate change and the organization's skill set, experience and mandate.
It is now widely recognized that healthy ecosystems from coral reefs and wetlands to mangroves and fertile soils are a key to successfully adapting to climate change. Their management and maintenance is a buffer and an insurance policy against extreme weather events and a rapidly changing climate.
Equally, as revealed by The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, whose secretariat is hosted by UNEP, there is an understanding that ecosystems and the services they provide represent serious, multi-trillion dollar economic assets and natural infrastructure
A recent UNEP report compiled with scientists also brings to the fore new evidence on the climate mitigation potential of ecosystems. The report estimates that carbon emissions equal to half the annual emissions of the global transport sector are being captured and stored by marine ecosystems such as mangroves, salt marshes and sea grasses alone.
In light of such emerging evidence, UNEP is supporting Member States to implement demonstration projects which include: assistance to the Government of Iraq in rehabilitating the marshlands of Mesopotamia; support to the Government of Kenya in restoring the Mau forest complex and to the Government of Mali in reviving Lake Faguibine. Plans are at an advanced stage to deploy, in partnership with others, the necessary assessment and project management measures for ecosystem renovation in Haiti.
UNEP is ready to support Member States in gearing up their economies to overcome policy and financial barriers and to incorporate ecosystem adaptation measures into national climate, development and sectoral strategies.
Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD and REDD+)
Emissions linked with deforestation and forest degradation may account for close to 20 per cent of current global greenhouse gas emissions.
Against this backdrop, UNEP is part of the international effort to prepare developing economies for a REDD regime. Through the UN-REDD Programme, a partnership between UNEP, the Food and Agricultural Organization and the United Nations Development Programme, nine countries are being made ready for REDD.
The Programme is supporting those countries through appropriate methodologies, monitoring and verification systems and safeguards in order to ensure REDD delivers value not only in climate and national economic terms but in terms of livelihoods for local communities. Methodologies, monitoring and verification techniques are being tested in western Kenya, China, Niger and Nigeria. It should soon allow farmers and landowners to benefit from carbon sequestration of different farming and land management regimes including agroforestry.
By some estimates a country such as Indonesia could generate revenues of around $1 billion a year initially if deforestation rates are halved.
UNEP is ready to support Member States in gearing up their economies to incorporate REDD and REDD+ measures into national climate, development and sectoral strategies.
Clean Technology Readiness
Other than offering best way to achieve immediate and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, investing in low-carbon energy alternatives and reducing emissions from inefficient energy consumption also make economic and environmental sense.
However, although many low-carbon technologies are already commercially viable, transferring them to new markets and mainstreaming their use globally remains a challenge.
To bridge this gap, UNEP and its collaborative partners come in. UNEP and partners are already delivering clean tech via smart market mechanisms. In India, for example, UNEP in collaboration with the United Nations Foundation, the Shell Foundation and Indian banks have brought down the cost of solar technology loans. Within a matter of a few years, 100,000 people have accessed solar electricity in rural areas and the initiative is now self-financing.
Another success story is a pioneering project with funding from the Global Environment Facility to deliver more efficient geothermal exploration in East Africa. The penetration of solar water heater systems in North Africa has also been pioneered by UNEP and partners with the critical linking of loans to electricity utility bills: the key to unlocking the market.
Meanwhile, UNEP has undertaken renewable energy mapping assessments, helping 15 developing countries determine their solar and wind potential and devise policies to tap these clean energy sources. The organization has launched an effort to help more than 35 countries determine the specific low greenhouse gas technologies best able to meet their development needs and prepare national plans to acquire and use those technologies.
To complement its work on policies, UNEP is also helping more than 25 countries identify and overcome financial and other barriers that hinder the financing of cleaner technologies.
In terms of catalysing a set of global norms and standards, UNEP is currently working in four sectors: energy efficiency in building, vehicle fuel efficiency, efficient lighting, and biofuels.
UNEP in partnership with others is ready to support Member States in gearing up their economies to incorporate clean tech and renewable energies into national climate, development and sectoral strategies on the road to a low-carbon future.