Category Archives: U.N

U.N. climate report likely to deliver stark warnings on global warming

Children sit on a makeshift raft on a flooded road following heavy rainfall in Zhengzhou, Henan province, China July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Aly Song

LONDON, – Eight years after its last update on climate science, the United Nations is set to publish a report Monday that will likely deliver even starker warnings about how quickly the planet is warming – and how damaging the impacts might get.

Since the last report https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/syr by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2013, both greenhouse gas emissions and the average global temperature have only continued to climb.

The new report will forecast how much more emissions can be pumped into the atmosphere before the average global temperature rises more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. That revised carbon budget may serve as a guide to governments as they map out their own emissions-cutting plans before a major U.N. climate conference in November.

Scientists say the world must halve global emissions by 2030 and cut them to net-zero by 2050 in order to prevent global warming above 1.5C, which could trigger catastrophic impacts across the globe.

But climate change already is fuelling deadly and disastrous weather across the globe. Nearly all of the world’s glaciers are melting faster. Hurricanes are stronger. Just this year, unprecedented rains unleashed floods across parts of central China and Europe, while wildfires are tearing across Siberia, the U.S. West and the Mediterranean.

“The report will cover not only the fact that we are smashing record after record in terms of climate change impacts, but show that the world today is in unchartered territory in terms of sea level rise and ice cover,” said Kelly Levin, chief of science, data and systems change at the Bezos Earth Fund philanthropy.

Overall, the report “will underscore the urgency for governments to ramp up climate action,” she said.

And while the 2013 report said it was “extremely likely” that human industry was causing climate change – which suggests scientists were at least 95% confident in that statement – this year’s report will likely use even stronger language.

“Obviously, it is going to be stronger than what we had in the past because of the growing warming of the planet,” said Corinne Le Quéré, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia who has contributed to previous IPCC assessments. “That’s going to be one of the main points. It will be discussed very, very carefully, and scrutinised,” Le Quéré told reporters.

WHAT IS THE IPCC?

Since its establishment in 1988, the IPCC has released five so-called Assessment Reports updating the established science on climate change, its impacts, future risks and ways to tackle the problems.

But the IPCC itself is not made up of scientists. The panel includes government representatives from 195 countries who commission assessments from experts and academics across the world.

In drafting those assessments, scientists consider thousands of individual studies published since the last IPCC report. To finalize their latest assessments for the upcoming report, scientists have been meeting virtually with policymakers since July 26, scrutinizing the details and language used in the draft.

Governments can suggest changes to the text, but those must be agreed by consensus. The scientists then must ensure the changes are consistent with the scientific evidence.

Monday’s report is actually just part of what will go into the final Sixth Assessment Report, or AR6, when it is released in 2022.

The AR6 synthesis report will also include two other major chapters coming out next year – one on climate change impacts on communities, societies and economies and how they might adapt to cope, and another on ways of curbing emissions and reining in climate change. And it will include findings from three special reports published since 2013, on the 1.5C threshold https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15, on the world’s oceans and frozen regions https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc, and on land use and degradation https://www.ipcc.ch/srccl.

But Monday’s chapter is one of the most highly anticipated, particularly after being delayed for months because of the COVID pandemic. Unlike the previous assessments, the chapter will use five possible emissions trajectories the world could follow rather than the previous four scenarios.

“Emissions scenarios are not intended to say: ‘This is the future: pick one’,” said Ko Barrett, vice chair of the IPCC. “Policies are being implemented all the time, and the science is changing all the time, so it is just not fair to say we are on a certain trajectory.”

https://news.trust.org/item/20210805090017-tqyxs/

U.N. climate report depicts fast-warming world where ‘nobody is safe’

Residents wade through a flooded road in the aftermath of Cyclone Kenneth in Pemba, Mozambique, April 28, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

A flagship U.N. science report on Monday showed no one is safe from the accelerating effects of climate change and there is an urgent need to prepare and protect people as extreme weather and rising seas hit harder than predicted.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), written by 234 scientists, said global warming of about 1.1 degrees Celsius has brought many changes in different regions – from more severe droughts and storms to rising seas.

Those will all increase with further warming, but it is not too late to cut climate-heating emissions to keep temperature rise to internationally agreed goals of “well below” 2C and ideally 1.5C – which would help stop or slow down some of the impacts, the report said.

U.N. officials said the IPCC had increasingly sounded the alarm in its regular reports over the past three decades, but that had not spurred adequate policy responses.

“The world listened but didn’t hear; the world listened but it didn’t act strongly enough – and as a result, climate change is a problem that is here now,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the U.N. Environment Programme.

“Nobody is safe and it’s getting worse faster,” she told journalists at the online report launch.

IPCC Chair Hoesung Lee said the report provided an improved understanding of climate change and how it is already playing out around the world.

“It tells us that it is indisputable that human activities are causing climate change and making extreme weather events more frequent and severe,” he said, describing it as a “valuable toolbox” for negotiators at November’s COP26 climate talks.

All parts of the world are being affected, he added, noting the report contains detailed information on impacts by region, as well as fast-developing knowledge on attributing extreme weather events to climate change.

It also offers an interactive atlas allowing people to check climatic changes where they live.

Petteri Taalas, the secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which hosts the IPCC, said current plans by governments to cut their emissions could, if confirmed and implemented, limit global warming to 2.1C.

But that level of temperature rise would still bring many problems, including food shortages, extreme heat, forest fires, sea level rise, a potential “refugee crisis” and negative impacts for the global economy and biodiversity, he added.

As well as slashing emissions, “it is essential to pay attention to climate adaptation since the negative trend in climate will continue for decades and in some cases for thousands of years”, he told the report launch.

One powerful way to adapt, he said, is to invest in early warning services for threats like droughts and floods – but only half of the WMO’s 195 member countries currently have those, fuelling human and economic losses.

There are also severe gaps in meteorological and weather forecasting systems in Africa, parts of Latin America, the Caribbean and the Pacific, he noted.

RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE

Youba Sokona, vice-chair of the IPCC and special advisor for sustainable development at the South Centre think-tank, said the report would help policy makers in Africa improve their ability to understand climatic changes and anticipate what may come.

That would allow them to design more resilient infrastructure, such as larger dams in drought-prone areas or more robust flood defences in cities, and seek finance for such projects, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by video call from Bamako, the capital of Mali.

The report includes specific scientific information on the polar regions, saying it is very likely the Arctic has warmed at more than twice the global rate over the past 50 years.

That has led to more extreme heat events, permafrost thawing and longer fire seasons, while the Arctic could be ice-free in summer at least once by 2050, it said.

IPCC report lead author Dirk Notz, who heads research on sea ice at Germany’s University of Hamburg, said the Arctic was “the early warning system of our planet”, with climate change manifesting earlier and stronger there.

He said policy makers should use the new report to plan for sea levels potentially topping earlier projected ranges.

For example, if building a coastal dyke to protect against 1-metre higher waters this century, it would be sensible to allow for it to be raised to cope with a 2m increase if needed.

“I hope … that both society and policy makers really understand what is at stake here – that we are leaving the comfort zone of our climate system that we’ve been living in for the past thousands of years and moving into completely uncharted territory,” he added.

https://news.trust.org/item/20210809145828-y4cqn/

Pope Francis to UN chief: World hunger ‘a crime that violates basic human rights’

Homeless man Credit Steve Knutson via Unsplash
Steve Knutson via Unsplash.

Pope Francis described world hunger on Monday as “a crime that violates basic human rights.”

In a July 26 message to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, the pope called for a “new mindset” in the battle against malnutrition.

“We produce enough food for all people, but many go without their daily bread. This ‘constitutes a real scandal,’ a crime that violates basic human rights,” he said, quoting from his 2020 encyclical Fratelli tutti.

“Therefore, it is everyone’s duty to eradicate this injustice through concrete actions and good practices, and through bold local and international policies.”

The pope sent the message to the U.N. chief at the start of the Pre-Summit of the U.N. Food Systems Summit in Rome. The event, held on July 26-28, is seeking to build momentum ahead of the summit in New York in September.

The U.N. estimates that that nearly 690 million people — 8.9% of the world population — suffer from hunger, an increase of almost 60 million in five years.

“If we want to guarantee the fundamental right to an adequate standard of living and fulfill our commitments to achieve Zero Hunger, it is not enough to produce food,” wrote the pope, who returned to the Vatican on July 14 after undergoing colon surgery.

“We need a new mindset and a new holistic approach and to design food systems that protect the Earth and keep the dignity of the human person at the center; that guarantee sufficient food globally and promote decent work locally; and that feed the world today, without compromising the future.”

Pope Francis has consistently highlighted world hunger since his election in 2013.

He made a donation last year to the World Food Programme as the U.N. organization worked to feed 270 million people amid rising hunger caused by the coronavirus crisis.

The pope told the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization in June that the pandemic should spur efforts to create a global food system capable of withstanding future shocks.

In his message to Guterres, who is a Catholic, the pope said: “We are aware that individual, closed, and conflicting — but powerful — economic interests prevent us from designing a food system that responds to the values of the common good, solidarity and the ‘culture of encounter.’”

“If we want to maintain a fruitful multilateralism and a food system based on responsibility, justice, peace and the unity of the human family is paramount.”

“The crisis we are currently facing is indeed a unique opportunity to engage in authentic, bold, and courageous dialogues, addressing the roots of our unjust food system.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/248502/pope-francis-to-un-chief-world-hunger-a-crime-that-violates-basic-human-rights

UN calls for end of ‘impunity’ for police violence against black people

A mural commemorating Kevin Clarke, who died after he was restrained by Metropolitan police officers in March 2018, in Lewisham, south London
A mural commemorating Kevin Clarke, who died after he was restrained by Metropolitan police officers in March 2018, in Lewisham, south London. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA

A UN report that analysed racial justice in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd has called on member states including the UK to end the “impunity” enjoyed by police officers who violate the human rights of black people.

The UN human rights office analysis of 190 deaths across the world led to the report’s damning conclusion that law enforcement officers are rarely held accountable for killing black people due in part to deficient investigations and an unwillingness to acknowledge the impact of structural racism.

The 23-page global report, and its accompanying 95-page conference room paper, features seven examples of deaths involving police, including the case of Kevin Clarke, who died after being restrained by officers in London in 2018.

A jury at Clarke’s inquest, who had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2002, found the police’s inappropriate use of restraints contributed to his death.

Other case studies include Luana Barbosa dos Reis Santos and João Pedro Matos Pinto in Brazil; George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the US; Janner García Palomino in Colombia; and Adama Traoré in France.

The UN human rights office was tasked in June 2020 to produce a comprehensive report on systemic racism against black people. The report investigated violations of international human rights law by law enforcement, government responses to anti-racism peaceful protests, as well as accountability and redress for victims. The report was led by Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights and a former president of Chile.

Bachelet described the status quo as “untenable”. She said: “Systemic racism needs a systemic response. There needs to be a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach to dismantling systems entrenched in centuries of discrimination and violence.

“I am calling on all states to stop denying, and start dismantling, racism; to end impunity and build trust; to listen to the voices of people of African descent; and to confront past legacies and deliver redress.”

The analysis was based on online consultations with more than 340 individuals, mostly of African descent; more than 110 written contributions; a review of publicly available material; and additional consultations with relevant experts.

In examining deaths in police custody in different countries, the report notes the patchwork of available data paints “an alarming picture of system-wide, disproportionate and discriminatory impacts on people of African descent in their encounters with law enforcement and the criminal justice system in some states”.

“Several families described to me the agony they faced in pursuing truth, justice and redress – and the distressing presumption that their loved ones somehow ‘deserved it’,” Bachelet said. “It is disheartening that the system is not stepping up to support them. This must change.”

Wendy Clarke, Kevin Clarke’s mother, told the UN commission: “We want to see accountability, and real change, not just in training, but the perception and response to black people by the police and other services. We want mental health services better funded so the first point of response is not just reliant on the police.”

Marcia Rigg, whose brother Sean Rigg died in a Brixton police station in 2008, was another family member who spoke to the UN commission. She said: “It was an honour to meet the other families, like Breonna Taylor’s mother and the brother of George Floyd. But it was also striking that the patterns and our experiences were similar.”

Deborah Coles, the director of the campaign group Inquest, said: “While the UK government is explicit in its denial of systemic racism, this UN report confronts them with the evidence. The disproportionate number of black men who die after the use of lethal force and neglect by the state is at the sharp end of a continuum of violence and racism. There is a pattern of systemic racism in our policing and criminal justice system.”

Rigg hoped the report will reignite longstanding calls for systemic change in the UK and that the British government responds. “It’s been happening here for decades. There are many George Floyds here, before George Floyd and after George Floyd, including my personal experience and what happened to my brother.”

https://www.theguardian.com/law/2021/jun/28/un-calls-end-impunity-police-violence-against-black-people-george-floyd

Violations against children in conflict ‘alarmingly high’: UN

According to the report, the highest numbers of grave violations were verified in Afghanistan, the DRC, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen [File: Omar Sobhani/Reuters]
According to the report, the highest numbers of grave violations were verified in Afghanistan, the DRC, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen [File: Omar Sobhani/Reuters]

Grave violations against children in conflict remain “alarmingly high”, with the coronavirus pandemic increasing their vulnerability to abduction, recruitment and sexual violence, a new United Nations report has found.

In its annual Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC) report (PDF), released on Monday, the UN said at least 19,379 children affected by war in 2020 were victims of grave violations such as recruitment or rape.

The UN verified a total of 26,425 grave violations, of which 23,946 were committed in 2020 and 2,479 were committed earlier but verified only in 2020.

“Escalation of conflict, armed clashes and disregard for international humanitarian law and international human rights law had a severe impact on the protection of children,” the report found.

According to the report, the highest numbers of grave violations were recorded in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Somalia, Syria, and Yemen.

While more than 8,400 children were killed or harmed in ongoing wars, nearly 7,000 others were recruited to fight, mainly in the DRC, Somalia, Syria, and Myanmar.

Verified cases of abduction and sexual violence against children increased by 90 and 70 percent, respectively, it said – with abductions often coupled with the “recruitment and use of children and sexual violence” including rape.

The UN said the coronavirus pandemic “aggravated existing vulnerabilities of children, including by hampering their access to education, health and social services, limiting child protection activities and shrinking safe spaces”.

Attacks on schools and hospitals were also prevalent in 2020, including serious attacks committed against girls’ education and against health facilities and their staff.

There was also an increase in the military use of schools and hospitals, especially with the brief closure of schools during COVID lockdowns – making them easy targets for military occupation and use, the report said.

“The wars of adults have taken away the childhood of millions of boys and girls again in 2020,” Virginia Gamba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on CAAC, said.

“This is completely devastating for them, but also for the entire communities they live in, and destroys chances for a sustainable peace.”

‘List of shame’

Meanwhile, Save the Children in a statement on Monday criticised the CAAC for failing to add perpetrators of violations against children to the so-called “list of shame”, an addendum to the UN’s report which singles out parties who fail to keep children safe during conflict.

The rights group said that “in a disheartening decision”, the UN Secretary General António Guterres again failed to add the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels in war-torn Yemen to the list.

“Despite killing and maiming at least 194 children in Yemen in 2020 according to UN verified data, the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition gets a green light to continue destroying children’s lives in Yemen,” Save the Children said.

“Unfortunately, other parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, the occupied Palestinian territory and Syria, also got a free pass for committing grave violations of children’s rights – despite the UN verifying a pattern of grave violations year after year,” it added.

Israel was not added to the list, despite the UN recording 1,031 grave violations against 340 Palestinians and three Israeli children in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and Israel.

Israeli security forces killed eight Palestinian children and one Israeli child last year, and 87 children reported ill-treatment and breaches of due process by Israeli forces while in detention – with 83 percent reporting physical violence.

While Save the Children welcomed the inclusion of countries such as Myanmar as situations of concern, it also noted Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Ukraine were not included.

Commenting on the report, Inger Ashing, CEO for Save the Children, said: “We strongly urge the Secretary General to reconsider his decision and hold parties to conflict all over the world to the same standard. The decision to include an armed actor in the ‘list of shame’ should be based only on a pattern of grave violations against children verified by the UN, not on politics.

“While there have been some positive steps this year, not applying the same criteria fairly and consistently can have dramatic consequences for children,” she said.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/21/violations-against-children-in-conflict-alarmingly-high-un

We are running out of time to reach deal to save natural world, says UN talks chair

A hermit crab near a discarded face mask.
A hermit crab near a discarded face mask. The Kunming biodiversity summit was meant to take place in October last year but has been delayed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Daniel Garcia Mendoza/Alamy

The world is running out of time to reach an ambitious deal to stem the destruction of the natural world, the co-chair of negotiations for a crucial UN wildlife summit has warned, amid fears of a third delay to the talks.

Negotiators are scheduled to meet in Kunming, China, in October for Cop15, the biggest biodiversity summit in a decade, to reach a hoped-for Paris-style agreement on preventing wildlife extinctions and the human-driven destruction of the planet’s ecosystems.

The summit was meant to take place in October last year but has been delayed twice due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Basile van Havre, a co-chair for the UN convention on biological diversity (CBD) negotiations, has raised the prospect of a third delay to the Kunming summit, which he fears would threaten the ambition of the biodiversity targets for this decade.

Van Havre said countries must meet in person for preparatory talks for at least two weeks if the biodiversity summit is to go ahead in China. He warned the talks were unlikely without a major push on vaccinations for delegates in developing countries and, given China’s restrictive travel policy, also called for another country to step up and host preparatory talks to help the process stick to the current schedule.

“In my view, the time has come to roll up our sleeves and put a practical plan on the table or face another delay. We need a proper plan,” Van Havre said. “If we need to delay by a few months, fine – everyone can understand that. But let’s give ourselves a full plan that enables us to meet the deadline and not wait for things to magically happen.

“If we’re not going to get together in the short term, we cannot have an ambitious agreement.”

Negotiators are approaching the end of gruelling virtual scientific and financial discussions for the agreement, which have been held six days a week for three hours. Timezone clashes have meant that some negotiators have been participating in talks in the early hours.

“I really feel for people that come from small island states in the Pacific where the negotiation is taking place at night. The lady representing Palau said she was negotiating at night and doing her job during the day, which is not what we had in mind,” Van Havre said, emphasising the importance of meeting in person.Advertisementhttps://f572d467114db3849a860f06074a6bc0.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

A decision is expected on the next steps for the Kunming summit in mid-June.

Li Shuo, a policy adviser for Greenpeace China who has been following biodiversity negotiations closely, said it was clear decisions had to be made face to face, not online.

“The virtual talks are not flawless; they have helped advance the discussion. The problem is there is just so much work. They are only doing three hours a day – it is simply not enough time,” Li said.

“It is not likely that China will allow thousands of diplomats to come with the pandemic. What if someone tested positive on the second day of the Cop? A normal Cop15 in October that completes all its major tasks are difficult.”

Resource extraction, agricultural production and pollution are driving what some scientists believe is the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth, with 1 million species at risk of disappearing largely as the result of human activity. The world has never met a single UN target to prevent the destruction of nature.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/07/age-of-extinction-running-out-of-time-to-reach-deal-to-save-natural-world-says-un-talks-chair

Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis: Tragedy of the man-made famine

A displaced child from Western Tigray waits at meal time to receive a plate of food outside a classroom in the school where they are sheltering in Tigray's capital Mekele on February 24, 2021.

“There’s famine now in Tigray.” The world’s most senior humanitarian official, UN emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock, said these frank words on the situation in the northern Ethiopian region on Thursday.

His statement – at a roundtable discussion ahead of the G7 summit – drew on the authoritative assessment of the crisis by the UN-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

In a report, it estimated that 353,000 people in Tigray were in phase 5 (catastrophe) and a further 1.769 million are in phase 4 (emergency).

That’s a technical way of saying “famine”. The IPC didn’t use that word because it’s so politically sensitive – the Ethiopian government would object.

Behind these numbers lies a brutal human tragedy. Huge numbers of deaths by starvation are unavoidable. Indeed, it is already happening.

Tigrayans tell of remote villages where people are found dead in the morning, having perished overnight. Women who were kidnapped by soldiers and held as sexual slaves, cared for in hospitals or safe houses, are tormented by the children from whom they were separated, who may well be starving without their mothers’ care.

Starvation is a cruel way to die, as the undernourished body consumes its own organs in order to generate enough energy to keep a flicker of life.

Those who succumb first are young children – typically two-thirds of those who die in a famine. Based on the just-released numbers from Tigray, it is quite realistic to fear 300,000 child deaths – equivalent to half the pre-school children in London.

The numbers err on the side of understatement. The survey teams could not reach all areas and relied on extrapolating from limited data.

According to the Tigray Humanitarian Atlas published by researchers at Belgium’s University of Ghent, out of Tigray’s six million people:

  • Just one-third live in areas controlled by the Ethiopian government
  • Another third are in areas occupied by the Eritrean army, which is Ethiopia’s military ally, but which doesn’t cooperate with humanitarian agencies
  • A further 1.5 million live in rural areas controlled by the Tigrayan rebels, where aid workers cannot go and mobile-phone coverage has been shut off.

The government says that there are only “remnants” of resistance by Tigrayan rebels and promises it will soon be in full control.

The UN forecasts that the situation will deteriorate – the question is just how far and how fast.

The IPC report includes the line that “this report has not been endorsed by the Government of Ethiopia”.

That’s a warning.

The Ethiopian authorities will probably dispute the “famine” warning, on the technicality that the “catastrophe” conditions were spread out across different parts of Tigray and in no single location did the proportion of people in phase five reach 20%, the standard threshold for declaring famine.

Ploughing in the darkness

At the roundtable, USAid administrator Samantha Power waved away what she called “attempts at obfuscation by the Ethiopian government”.

Humanitarian workers are worried that, with the summer rains now falling across Tigray, farmers need to be busy cultivating – and they’re not.

A team from the University of Ghent, until last year working on agricultural projects in the region, describes how large areas of farmland are abandoned this year because peasants don’t have seeds, oxen to plough, or fertilizers.

Worse, soldiers threaten them: “You won’t plough, you won’t harvest, and if you try we will punish you.”

In remoter villages, farmers rouse their oxen at midnight and plough in the darkness before dawn, with scouts to warn them of marauding soldiers.

If there’s no harvest later this year, Tigrayans will depend on aid – or starve.

This is a man-made famine. There’s no drought, and last year’s locust swarms have gone.

The region was classified as borderline “food secure” seven months ago, before fighting erupted between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – then the party in power in the region – and the federal government, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Food aid stolen

The war disrupted services, closed banks and stopped the government’s biggest emergency response system – the “productive safety net programme”.

The most fertile parts of Tigray were occupied by forces from neighbouring Amhara region, depriving Tigrayans of their farms and also shutting down the biggest seasonal labour opportunities.

The Eritrean forces that joined the conflict have been accused of widespread pillage and, along with the Ethiopian army, of burning crops, destroying health facilities, and preventing farmers from ploughing their land.

The UN conservatively estimates that 22,000 survivors of rape will need support. Fear of sexual violence means that women and girls stay in hiding, unable to seek food.

Humanitarian agencies have been slow to respond, impeded both by the insecurity and by numerous bureaucratic obstacles placed in their way by the Ethiopian authorities. To operate in a context such as this, aid workers need communications equipment.

The UN officially claims that aid distributions have reached 2.8 million people. Privately, the humanitarian workers say that is far too rosy.

Many of those have received one distribution of rations, perhaps 30kg of flour – enough to feed a family for 10 days. Luckier ones have got two allocations.

And there are persistent reports that aid offloaded from trucks is then stolen by troops. Some villagers report that Eritrean troops show up immediately after aid distributions and take the food.

Independent estimates are that just 13% of the 5.2 million people in need are getting aid.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-57422168

António Guterres on the climate crisis: ‘We are coming to a point of no return

‘To spend these trillions of dollars and not use this occasion to reverse the trends and massively invest in the green economy will be an unforgivable lost opportunity.’
‘To spend these trillions of dollars and not use this occasion to reverse the trends and massively invest in the green economy will be an unforgivable lost opportunity.’ Photograph: Maxim Shemetov/EPA

Wealthy countries risk an “unforgivable lost opportunity” by not emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic with newly green economies to address the climate crisis, the United Nations secretary general has warned.

Before meeting the leaders of the world’s major economic powers at the G7 summit in the UK, António Guterres said he was concerned that the richest nations have pumped billions of dollars more into fossil fuels than clean energy since the pandemic, despite their promises of a green recovery.

“I’m more than disappointed, I’m worried about the consequences,” Guterres told the Guardian at the UN headquarters in New York, as part of a Covering Climate Now consortium of interviews alongside NBC News and El Pais. “We need to make sure we reverse the trends, not maintain the trends. It’s now clear we are coming to a point of no return.

“To spend these trillions of dollars and not use this occasion to reverse the trends and massively invest in the green economy will be an unforgivable lost opportunity.”

A recent analysis showed the G7 countries – the UK, US, Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan – have committed $189bn to support oil, coal and gas, as well as offer financial lifelines to the aviation and automotive sectors, since the outbreak of the coronavirus. This is over $40bn more than has been directed towards renewable energy.

Several leaders, including the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, have stressed the need for the climate crisis to be central to the Covid recovery, with various cities around the world ushering in cyclists and pedestrians to streets previously dominated by cars.

But while the G7 countries have agreed to stop the international financing of coal, the world’s wealthiest nations are pouring billions of dollars into developing gas, another fossil fuel, in the global south at a rate four times that of finance supporting wind or solar projects. With economies starting to reopen, planet-heating emissions are expected to jump by the second biggest annual rise in history in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.

Guterres said he welcomed the G7 commitment as “many countries are still addicted to coal” but that much more needed to be done in what he called a “make-or-break year” that will be rounded off by crucial UN climate talks in Scotland in November.

“We need to abolish subsidies to fossil fuels, this is a central question,” he said. “We have to look at the real costs that exist in the economy, which means a price on carbon. If we do these things, many of the investments made to fossil fuels in the recovery phase will obviously not be profitable. They will be stranded assets with no future.”

A key priority for the UN secretary general at the G7 summit will be to press leaders on the contentious issue of climate finance. As part of the landmark Paris climate agreement in 2015, rich countries agreed to provide $100bn a year to developing countries to help them adapt to the damaging flooding, drought, heatwaves and other impacts of the climate crisis.

This money has never been delivered in full, however, and Guterres said it will be “impossible” to effectively deal with the climate crisis without assistance for poorer countries. He said the G7 will need to deliver the money to “rebuild trust” with developing nations.

“The $100bn is essential,” said the secretary general. “Climate action has until now been centered on mitigation, on reducing emissions. But developing countries have huge problems in adaption from the existing impacts of climate change.”

Guterres said he was hopeful that Joe Biden will be able to mobilize other countries to meet commitments on climate aid as the US continues its reintegration into international climate diplomacy following the presidency of Donald Trump.

But the US has “a lot of catching up to do”, said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Bangladesh. “Biden doesn’t get a free pass because it’s the US that caused the damage. If you fail to deliver for the rest of the world that will be our problem and it will come back to bite you.”

Scientists recently warned that the world could breach, albeit temporarily, the 1.5C average temperature increase limit set out in the Paris agreement within the next five years. Guterres, however, said it’s “not only possible, it’s necessary” to strive to avoid global heating above this threshold, beyond which disastrous climate impacts are expected.

“We still have time, but we are on the verge,” he said. “When you’re on the verge of the abyss, you need to make sure your next step is in the right direction.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jun/11/antonio-guterres-interview-climate-crisis-pandemic-g7

COVID won’t respect borders – UN urges divided world to unite

ARCHIVE PICTURE: Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

NEW YORK, – The United Nations on Thursday urged a divided world to unite against a virus that ignores all borders, saying the pandemic could delay by a decade its goal to end global inequalities.

A new U.N. report estimated that the novel coronavirus has unleashed the worst recession in 90 years, threatening to derail its ambitious list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The goals, approved in 2015 with a 15-year deadline, aim to end hunger, gender inequality and violence against women, while expanding access to education and health care in poorer nations.

“What this pandemic has proven beyond all doubt is that we ignore global interdependence at our peril. Disasters do not respect national boundaries,” U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said in a statement.

“A diverging world is a catastrophe for all of us. It is both morally right and in everyone’s economic self-interest to help developing countries overcome this crisis.”

An estimated 114 million jobs have been lost worldwide, and about 120 million people have sunk back into extreme poverty as the virus circles the globe, the report found.

The U.N. said the economic devastation has widened “already yawning” inequities, with the chasm between the world’s haves and have-nots mirrored in the vaccine rollout.

Of $16 trillion distributed in relief, only 20% was spent in developing countries, the report found, and all but nine of the 38 countries administering vaccines were developed nations.

It called on nations to contribute an estimated $20 billion to vaccinate poorer nations this year, and urged richer members to offer developing nations debt relief, investment – and hope.

“Countries must be helped to not only stay afloat financially, but to invest in their own development,” U.N. Under Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin said in a statement.

It is not the first time the U.N. has said development goals are at risk in a pandemic that has prioritized short-term survival over long-term aspirations.

But the warning has taken on new urgency as cross-border rows erupt over the fairest way to vaccinate the whole world, with some countries accused of abandoning common cause to safeguard their home front.

https://news.trust.org/item/20210325174645-xw5k2/

‘A pandemic of abuses’: human rights under attack during Covid, says UN head

Composite: Wires agencies

The world is facing a “pandemic of human rights abuses”, the UN secretary general António Guterres has said.

Authoritarian regimes had imposed drastic curbs on rights and freedoms and had used the virus as a pretext to restrict free speech and stifle dissent.

Writing exclusively in the Guardian, Guterres said the Covid-19 pandemic had rolled back years of progress on human rights, and that abuses had “thrived because poverty, discrimination, the destruction of our natural environment and other human rights failures have created enormous fragilities in our societies”.

There has been a global crackdown on opposition activists and human rights defenders, increased attacks on journalists and moves to curb free speech, censor the media, roll out invasive tracking apps and put in place extreme surveillance measures, many of which are likely to far outlast the virus.

China has been accused of particularly egregious breaches, including online censorship, invasive surveillance and the arrest of coronavirus whistleblowers.

“The Chinese regime has threatened, arrested, jailed and silenced whistleblowers and citizen journalists who tried to warn of or report on the pandemic. There are grave concerns that the surveillance technology it has rolled out as part of the effort to combat the coronavirus could be used to further stifle dissent and violate human rights,” said Benedict Rogers, chief executive of Hong Kong Watch.

Around the world, governments are failing to guarantee basic rights to health, education and equality, hitting the poorest, most marginalised and minorities the hardest.

Guterres said that the failure to ensure equity in vaccination efforts was “the latest moral outrage” to come out of the pandemic.

More than three-quarters of 128m vaccine jabs given so far have been administered in only 10 countries, according to the World Health Organization. Not a single dose has been administered in 130 countries, with combined populations of 2.5 billion.

While deaths tolls appear to be significantly higher in western states, the economic impact of Covid has been felt most acutely in the developing world. After years of progress on eradicating poverty, last year the pandemic pushed up to 124 million more people below the poverty line, defined as living on less than $1.90 (£1.36) a day, according to the World Bank. Advertisement

The impact on education has also been “catastrophic”, with school closures affecting around 1.6 billion children, says the UN. Girls in particular are likely to drop out, leaving them vulnerable to child marriage, early pregnancy and domestic violence.

Progress on gender equality has been set back decades. “Violence against women and girls in all forms has skyrocketed, from online abuse to domestic violence, trafficking, sexual exploitation and child marriage,” said Guterres.

The pandemic has shone a harsh spotlight, too, on the dire working conditions of millions of low-wage workers. Massive orders for PPE have been produced by North Korean women toiling in secret factories in China, in conditions that amount to slave labour. Garment makers in Bangladesh have been left struggling to survive as orders from western clothing giants suddenly dried up. And in the Gulf, one of the world’s wealthiest regions, migrant workers have been victims of racial discrimination, arbitrary detention in appalling conditions and wage theft on a huge scale.

On top of the slew of pushbacks and attacks on human rights resulting from the pandemic, crises such as the conflict in Yemen, spiralling violence in Afghanistan, the military takeover in Myanmar and an escalating humanitarian crisis in Venezuela threaten the lives of millions across the world.

“From Syria to Myanmar, South Sudan or Yemen, or the situation facing the Uighur population in China, the pandemic has added another layer to existing and unfolding human rights crises around the world,” said Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK.

“There has been a failure of national governments and the United Nations in taking decisive action to address these big global issues and the UN security council veto must not continue to be used to block action on genocide or human rights abuses.”

In a speech to open the 46th regular session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva today, Guterres also said that racist, extremist movements are engaging in a “feeding frenzy of hate” and represent “the number one internal security threat” for some countries. He said global coordinated action was needed to defeat the grave and growing danger of racism.

“The danger of these hate-driven movements is growing by the day. Let us call them what they are: white supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are more than domestic terror threats. They are becoming a transnational threat,” he said. “These and other groups have exploited the pandemic to boost their ranks through social polarisation and political and cultural manipulation.”

The UN secretary general also said that gender inequality was the world’s biggest human rights scourge.

“The crisis has a woman’s face,” he said. “Violence against women and girls in all forms has skyrocketed, from online abuse to domestic violence, trafficking, sexual exploitation and child marriage.”

But amid the despair, there are some reasons for hope. “A real battle” had emerged in defence of human rights, according to Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch. “The pandemic has posed enormous and dangerous challenges and has left millions of people less secure and more vulnerable than they were a year ago, but it has also spotlighted many of the inequalities that we can now focus on.”

Guterres called for a response based on solidarity and cooperation. “With the pandemic shining a spotlight on human rights, recovery provides an opportunity to generate momentum for transformation,” he said. “The virus threatens everyone. Human rights uplift everyone.”

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/feb/22/human-rights-in-the-time-of-covid-a-pandemic-of-abuses-says-un-head