At the close of a United Nations Environment Programme gathering in Indonesia, UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said he is optimistic that the conference had enabled the world's environment ministers to find a "collective voice" again after the "great frustrations" in Copenhagen.
UNEP chief Achim Steiner (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin)
"The ministers responsible for the environment ... have spoken with a clear, united and unequivocal voice," said Steiner. "Without that there would never be any progress," he told reporters at the end of the three-day meeting.
About 1,000 participants from 130 countries, including nearly 100 environmental affairs ministers, attended the UN Environment Programme's 11th annual Governing Council and Global Ministerial Environment Forum.
Indonesian Environment Minister Gusti Muhammad Hatta (Photo courtesy ENB)
Delegates endorsed a wide-ranging agreement, known as the Nusa Dua Declaration, which highlights the urgent need to combat climate change and work towards a positive outcome for the UN climate conference in Mexico in November. It also underscores the vital importance of biodiversity and the advantages to be gained from advancing towards a green economy.
The Copenhagen Accord, reached at the December 2009 UN conference in the Danish capital, aims to jumpstart immediate action on climate change and guide negotiations on long-term action, such as pledging to raise $100 billion annually by 2020. It includes an agreement to work towards limiting global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius and voluntary efforts to reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions, but no legally binding limits were agreed.
Delegates attending the Nusa Dua meeting backed UNEP's support to Haiti in the wake of the devastating earthquake of January 12 and called on the organization to assist the UN country team to incorporate environmental issues into the rehabilitation and reconstruction and restoration of Haiti.
On the environmental destruction in Gaza after the Israeli attacks in December 2008 through January 2009, delegates asked UNEP to assist in implementing recommendations from its environmental assessment of Gaza Strip compiled after the attacks stopped.
The assessment covers issues such as solid waste management, pollution and the acute decline of Gaza's underground water supplies.
"We don't want the recommendations remain on paper. We need implementation, concrete actions to repair the environmental damages in Gaza," Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Fariz Mehdawi told the Indonesia news service Antara.
John Matuszak of the U.S. State Dept., center, chaired the meeting's Committee of the Whole (Photo courtesy ENB)
The delegates in Nusa Dua were addressed by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is co- hosted by UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization.
Ministers re-affirmed the central importance of the IPCC, which reviews the scientific literature and issues reports at least every seven years. The ministers also affirmed the importance of sound science upon which to base human responses to climate change.
However, as a result of recent criticism of the IPCC and some key errors in the body's fourth assessment report issued in 2007, several governments called for an independent review of the IPCC.
Full details of the review and its scope will be announced next week; the review report is scheduled to be presented to the IPCC Plenary in South Korea in October.
Steiner said that faced with challenges posed by the erosion of the environment to chemical pollution and climate change in general, environment ministers decided change is urgently needed.
"The ministers also recognized that action towards a green economy - one able to meet multiple challenges and seize multiple opportunities - is taking root in economies across the globe.
"Accelerating this is a key element of the Nusa Dua Declaration and one that can direct future action towards realizing the kinds of transitions needed on a planet of six billion people, rising to nine billion by 2050," Steiner said.
The Declaration, the first by world environment ministers since they met in Malmo, Sweden in 2000, will be transmitted to the UN General Assembly later this year.
At the UN General Assembly meeting governments will begin preparations for a milestone conference in Brazil, called Rio plus 20.
Rio plus 20 comes two decades after the first Earth Summit in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, which gave birth to many of the key treaties, ranging from climate change to biodiversity, which have defined the international response to environmental challenges.
Winners of the 2009-2010 UNEP Sasakawa Prize Announced
Projects bringing clean, rechargable lighting and green stoves to remote communities in Latin America, East Africa and India will share the $200,000 annual UNEP Sasakawa Prize, Steiner announced in Nusa Dua at a gala dinner Wednesday.
The UNEP Sasakawa Prize is given each year to sustainable and replicable grassroots projects around the planet. This year's Sasakawa Prize theme is Green Solutions to Combat Climate Change.
One of this year's winners is Nuru Design, a UK company bringing rechargeable lights to villages in Rwanda, Kenya and India.
The other winner is Trees, Water and People, an organization based in Fort Collins, Colorado, that collaborates with local nongovernmental organizations to distribute fuel-efficient cook stoves to communities in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Haiti.
At an award ceremony in Nusa Dua, each of the winners received $100,000 to expand and develop their grassroots projects.
Steiner, who chaired the Sasakawa Prize Jury Panel, said, "Combating climate change is not just up to governments - it starts at the grassroots level, as communities tap into the power of renewables and sustainable technologies.
"Through pioneering green ovens and sustainable lighting, Nuru Design and Trees, Water and People are changing the lives of thousands of schoolchildren, housewives and villagers across Latin America, Africa and India," he said. "This is the green economy of tomorrow, in action today."
Boys in Rwanda with Nuru lights recharged by pedal power (Photo courtesy UNEP)
With seed-funding from the World Bank Lighting Africa initiative, Nuru Design UK co-developed and field-tested the Nuru lighting system with villagers and local partners in Rwanda. Nuru means "light" in Swahili, and the system consists of portable, inexpensive rechargeable LED lights that sell for $5.
Nuru lights can be recharged by solar panel or AC charger, but the primary recharging source is human power using the world's first commercially available, locally-assembled, pedal generator, the Nuru POWERCycle. Gentle pedalling for 20 minutes using feet or hands, bicycle-style, can fully recharge up to five Nuru lights - each one lasting up to 37 hours.
Nuru Design plans to use the Sasakawa funding to scale up in Rwanda and to replicate their work in Burundi, Kenya, Uganda and India - expanding to 800 entrepreneurs who will deliver lighting to about 200,000 households.
Guatemalan mother cooks on a fuel efficient stove supplied by Trees, Water and People. (Photo courtesy UNEP)
Accepting the Sasakawa Prize for Trees, Water and People, Stuart Conway said TWP's micro-enterprise approach in Nicaragua and Honduras has won other funding that has allowed the organization to build stove factories in those two countries.
"Our factories are providing green jobs, manufacturing thousands of better cooking stoves, and leading to a cleaner indoor and outdoor environment," he said.
TWP's Justa stove burns 70 percent less wood than stoves the households previously used, saving families up to $5 per day. To supplement the trees burned in its stoves, TWP has initiated community-run tree nurseries and reforestation projects that have planted more than three million trees.
"We are also working with Climate Care/JPMChase Bank and others in the voluntary carbon offset market to get more stoves to people who need them," Conway said.
"I see the carbon offset markets as a great opportunity to fund millions of improved stoves for the three billion people who still rely on smoky, open fire stoves for cooking and heating with biomass."
Conway said TWP's improved cook stoves are "saving the health of women and their young children who spend the most time in the kitchen breathing the toxic smoke that kills 1.6 million people worldwide every year!"
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