2022 UN Ocean Conference Focuses on Sustainability

The UN Ocean Conference, from June 27-July 1, provides a unique opportunity to boost collective efforts and find innovative solutions to effectively address the challenges facing the world’s oceans.

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 is about conserving and sustainably using the world’s ocean and marine resources. Oceans cover more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface. As the planet’s largest ecosystem, the oceans regulate the climate, generate oxygen, and provide livelihoods for billions.

Oceans also contributes to current and future sustainable economic growth. Healthy, productive, sustainable, and resilient oceans are fundamental to life on our planet and to our future.

But climate change poses adverse effects on the ocean and marine life, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean acidification, deoxygenation, sea level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, decrease in marine biodiversity, as well as coastal erosion and extreme weather events and related impacts on island and coastal communities. Cumulative human activities also cause ecosystem degradation and species extinctions. 2022 is the year to stop the decline.

“We need to save our ocean to protect our future,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

World Faces a New Era of Risk

World leaders are failing to prepare for a new era of complex and often unpredictable risks to peace as profound environmental and security crises converge and intensify, according to a major report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). The report, Environment of Peace: Security in a New Era of Risk, offers policymakers principles and recommendations for navigating this volatile future. It will be launched today in a special session before the opening of the ninth Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development.

The report provides the most comprehensive account to date of how different aspects of environmental crisis—including climate change, mass extinctions and resource scarcity—are interacting with today’s darkening security horizon and other phenomena such as the fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic. It also offers governments and other decision-making bodies recommendations for action, and principles to guide them.

“Our new report for policymakers goes beyond simply showing that environmental change can increase risks to peace and security. That’s established,”said SIPRI Director and Environment of Peace author Dan Smith. “What our research reveals is the complexity and breadth of that relationship, the many forms it can take. And most of all, we show what can be done about it; how we can deliver peace and security in a new era of risk.”

More than 30 researchers from SIPRI and other institutions contributed to the Environment of Peace report, guided by a panel of international experts on environment and security led by Margot Wallström, the former Swedish Foreign Minister and European Commissioner for the Environment.

Highlights from Sustainability Live 2022

Throughout the two-day Sustainability Live event, attendees heard from 60 speakers from various corporations. The event brought global of business leaders together — in-person and virtually.

IPCC Report: Half Measures on Climate Change Are No Longer an Option

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change, released a report yesterday that concluded that human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks.

According to the IPCC report, the world at a tipping point in terms of that threat climate change poses to human and planetary health. “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

The IPCC report noted that the world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Climate Action is one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Among the risks are increased heatwaves, droughts, and floods are already that are exceeding the tolerance of plants and animals. These weather extremes are occurring simultaneously, causing cascading impacts that are increasingly difficult to manage. In particular, these weather-related changes are causing acute food and water insecurity for millions of people.

The report says that to avoid mounting loss of life and adverse impacts on biodiversity, accelerated action is required to adapt to climate change, at the same time as making rapid, deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

“This report recognizes the interdependence of climate, biodiversity and people and integrates natural, social and economic sciences more strongly than earlier IPCC assessments,” said Lee. “It emphasizes the urgency of immediate and more ambitious action to address climate risks. Half measures are no longer an option.”

Learn more about the Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability report.

United Nations Sustainable Development Events in 2022

The United Nations has eight global events planned in 2022 to focus on sustainable development. The events will focus on everything from climate change and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to the need to safeguard the world’s oceans and provide clean water for all.

Past 7 Years: Hottest Ever on Record

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), which is supported by the European Union, has released new data showing that the past seven years globally were the seven warmest on record.

Globally, noted a C3S report, 2021 was the fifth warmest year on record, but only marginally warmer than 2015 and 2018. The annual average temperature was 0.3°C above the temperature of the 1991-2020 reference period, and 1.1-1.2°C above the pre-industrial level of 1850-1900.

Compared to this latest 30-year reference period, regions with most above average temperatures include a band stretching from the west coast of the USA and Canada to north-eastern Canada and Greenland, as well as large parts of central and northern Africa and the Middle East, the report noted. The most below-average temperatures were found in western and easternmost Siberia, Alaska, over the central and eastern Pacific – concurrent with La Niña conditions at the beginning and the end of the year – as well as in most of Australia and in parts of Antarctic.

More data and details are available on the project’s website.

UN Leads Effort To Reduce Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels contribute to climate change.

The United Nations is urging the world to speed-up the worldwide transition to cleaner forms of energy and end the use of coal, if we are to stand a chance of limiting temperature rises.

According to the UN, under current plans governments will continue to produce energy from fossil-fuel sources in quantities that will lead to more warming, despite improved climate commitments.

Over the next two decades, the UN report notes, governments are projecting an increase in global oil and gas production, and only a modest decrease in coal production. Taken together, these plans mean that fossil fuel production will increase overall, at least until 2040.

The fossil fuel findings were laid out in the latest UN Production Gap report, which included profiles for 15 major fossil fuel-producing countries, showing that most will continue to support fossil fuel production growth.

In an effort to change this trajectory, the UN held a summit on energy, the first of its kind in 40 years. National governments committed to provide electricity to over 166 million people worldwide, and private companies pledged to reach just over 200 million.

Governments also committed to install an additional 698 gigawatts of renewable energy from solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and renewables-based hydrogen, and businesses, notably power utilities, pledged to install an additional 823 GW, all by 2030.

Secretary-General Warns That More Effort Is Needed in Fight Against Hunger

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the world is off-track in its efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of ending hunger by 2030.

Guterres noted that hunger increased in 2020. Between 720 and 811 million people live in hunger, an increase of about 161 million over the previous year. Moreover, an estimated 3 billion people worldwide are under-nourished.

The world leader blamed systemic inequality, poverty, and climate change made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic — as a driving factor in persistent hunger. He questioned why hunger remains a problem despite an increase in food production of about 300% since the 1960s.

The Secretary-General raised these issues in the context of the SDGs, which seek to solve interconnected global issues. “Addressing hunger and malnutrition cannot be done in isolation of other global challenges,” Guterres said.

Reforming the current system will bring food to the undernourished, create millions of new jobs and opportunities, combat poverty, promote economic growth, and foster social inclusion.

Gutteres underscored  the need for large-scale efforts in support of the SDGs. If world leaders are unable to reverse current trends, the world will be unable to meet its goals of  ending poverty and hunger, lowering global inequality, and combating combat climate change.

The world needs a new food system that approaches hunger holistically, said the secretary-general. A new framework will help keep the world on track in the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Report: Measuring Global Engagement on Biodiversity

Biodiversity in the world is rapidly declining. According to a recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit — commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — “time is running out, and action to prevent fatal nature loss is urgently needed.” But the real question is: do people care?” The answer is “yes.”

The researchers discovered that public awareness and concern for biodiversity is growing rapidly. In fact, they found nature-related conversations increased 65% on twitter since 2016. News coverage of nature-related protests grew 103% between 2018 and 2019, up from 7% between 2016 to 2018. This indicates that people are becoming more outspoken about ecological conservation.

The report, titled “An Eco Awakening,” also found that people are more willing to make personal changes to protect the environment. Google searches for sustainable goods, for example, have increased by 71% since 2016 — suggesting that people want to make good choices as consumers.

Interestingly, the researchers found that increases in public sentiment were most prevalent in “emerging markets.”  Engagement and awareness grew 190% in India, 88% in Pakistan, and 53% in Indonesia. The report suggests that people living in developing countries are keenly aware of how they may be impacted by ecological decline.

The data from The Economist’s report has significance for environmental efforts, such as those related to the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs). Increasing consumer awareness will help to develop a more circular economy and phase out harmful consumption habits (SDG 12). Moreover, public outcry is likely to advance efforts for greater ecological conservation (SDGs 14 and 15). Generally, public support for sustainability efforts will allow for more large-scale, coordinated multi-stakeholder action (SDG 17).  

The report concludes that individuals, policymakers, and private sector companies are all calling for change. As the report notes, “The fatal risk of species extinction can be avoided if individuals, organizations, businesses and policymakers unite to identify, assess, disclose, mitigate and overcome the issues to preserve nature for all the generations still to come.”

Africa Has Desperate Need for Climate-resilient Water and Sanitation Infrastructure

The international community must prioritize water and sanitation access in Africa, a according to recent joint statement from UNICEF and The Global Water Partnership.

Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF and Jakaya Kikwete, former president of Tanzania and currently chairman of the Global Water Partnership Southern Africa and Africa Coordination, raised concerns about the lack of progress in expanding access to key services in communities throughout Africa. The two leaders noted that water and sanitation investment shortfalls will impede other development markers, and called for greater action by the international community. 

Fore and Kikwete argue that “investment in climate-resilient water infrastructure in Africa currently stands far below the levels necessary to ensure water security for the continent’s people.”

In fact, the African Development Bank estimates that $64 billion is needed annually to meet existing needs. Current global investment is less than $19 billion a year, well below the target threshold.

The situation in parts of Africa is dire, with about 220 million children and families facing shortages. Moreover, 58% of children in Eastern and Southern Africa live in high or extremely high-water vulnerable conditions, and 31% of children in West and Central Africa live in a similar situation. Climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic are exacerbating the problem.

Ongoing water-related problems have a direct impact on the United Nations sustainable development goals (SDGs). For example, children who live in water insecure settings often miss school because they have to collect water for their families (SDG 4). These children are also vulnerable to poor nutrition, food insecurity, and commutable diseases from contaminated water (SDGs 2 and 3). More broadly, time and money spent on water issues can reduce funding for other economic development opportunities (SDG 8).

In their call to action, Fore and Kikwete urge world leaders in all sectors — including governments, private businesses, and NGOs — to increase support for solutions to the global water crisis. Improving water and sanitation infrastructure, they noted, will “contribute to a peaceful, prosperous, stronger and equitable Africa, now and in the future.”       

Learn more about The Global Water Partnership