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newsfeed dec13 1

OP19 Climate Talks Set 2015 Target For Plans To Curb Emissions

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Governments around the world have just over a year in which to set out their targets on curbing greenhouse gas emissions from 2020, after marathon overnight climate change talks in Warsaw produced a partial deal.

Under the agreement, settled in the early hours of the last day of the talks, and after more than 36 hours of non-stop negotiations, countries have until the first quarter of 2015 to publish their plans. This process is seen as essential to achieving a new global deal on emissions at a crunch conference in Paris in late 2015, for which the fortnight-long Warsaw conference was supposed to lay the groundwork.
"Warsaw has set a pathway for governments to work on a draft text of a new universal climate agreement, an essential step to reach a final agreement in Paris, in 2015," said Marcin Korolec, the Polish host of the conference, who was demoted from environment minister to climate envoy during the talks.
The talks were characterised by discord and acrimony, and by the emergence of a new and highly vocal negotiating bloc among developing countries that forced through the watering down of key aspects of the deal.

Christiana Figueres, the UN's leading climate official, said: "We have seen essential progress. But let us again be clear that we are witnessing ever more frequent, extreme weather events, and the poor and vulnerable are already paying the price. Now governments, and especially developed nations, must go back to do their homework so they can put their plans on the table ahead of the Paris conference."

The conference began with an impassioned plea by the Philippines representative, Yeb Sano, for a strong agreement after the devastation of typhoon Haiyan. Sano remained fasting throughout the talks, and afterwards expressed frustration that there had not been a "meaningful" outcome.

The emissions goals, to come into force from 2020, will be set at a national level, but after they are published there will be a chance for other countries to scrutinise them and assess whether they are fair and sufficiently ambitious. At the insistence of a small group of developing countries, they will take the form of "contributions" rather than the stronger "commitments" that most other countries wanted.

These were the self-styled "like-minded developing countries", a group that comprises several oil-rich nations, including Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Bolivia and Malaysia. Several have large coal deposits and are heavily dependent on fossil fuels, such as China and India, and some countries with strong links to some of the others, including Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Thailand.

The "like-minded developing countries" group takes the view that the strict separation of nations into "developed" and "developing", which was set at the first international climate talks in 1992, and enshrined in the 1997 Kyoto protocol – in which developed countries were obliged to cut emissions but developing countries had no obligations – must remain as the bedrock of any future agreement. They argue that the "historical responsibilities" for climate change lie with the first nations to industrialise.

That view is firmly rejected by the US and the EU, both of which have agreed to take a lead in cutting emissions, but have also repeatedly pointed out that the tables have turned on historic responsibilities. Emissions from rapidly emerging economies such as China and India are growing so fast that by 2020, the date when any new agreement will come into force, the cumulative emissions from developing countries will overtake those of rich nations.

Martin Kaiser, the head of the Greenpeace delegation, said: "China is making big strides domestically, but not yet translating it into a willingness to lead at a global level. Historical responsibility is no excuse for anyone to ditch their responsibilities over their current and future emissions."

Loss and damage was one of the key rows in the early stages of the meeting, as some developing countries demanded "compensation" from rich countries for the damage they suffered from extreme weather. A compromise was reached with a new "Warsaw international mechanism" by which the victims of disaster will receive aid, but it will not be linked to any liability from developed countries.

Another success at the conference was the completion of a new mechanism to keep the world's remaining forests standing. Called REDD+, for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation, this has been in the works for most of the last decade.

But all countries admitted that most of the preparation work for Paris still remains to be done. Politically, the battle between the like-minded group – which is separate from, but claims to lie within, the broader G77 group of the majority of developing nations – and the US and the EU will be key. For both sides, gaining support from the rest of the unaligned developing nations – some of which are highly vulnerable to climate change and are desperate for a deal, but others who are courting economic investment from China – will be crucial.

The fragile truce reached after the marathon talks in Warsaw may not even last as long as the delegates' flights home.


newsfeed dec13 2

Reducing Poverty And Boosting Sustained Growth In Africa

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United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said recently that job creation and entrepreneurship are key aspects to fully capture the potential of Africa’s dynamic workforce and bosting inclusive sustainable development continent wide.

“Africa’s economic dynamism, young population and potential for innovation form the foundation for stronger and competitive industries, Mr. Ban said in his message to mark this year’s Africa Industrialization Day. Designated by the General Assembly in 1989, the day this year highlighted the crucial role of job creation and entrepreneurship in eradicating poverty.

“Although Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies — with growth across a variety of sectors — too many people are still being left behind,” the UN chief said, stressing that the region is affected by widespread unemployment — particularly among youth. Many, especially women, are engaged in vulnerable forms of work with low and unstable pay.
“As we strive to meet the Millennium Development Goals and shape the post-2015 agenda, we must address the challenges of joblessness, youth unemployment and the shortcomings of a large informal economy.”

The Secretary-General said that focusing on job creation, entrepreneurship and the promotion of small and medium enterprises can boost inclusive and sustainable industrial development across the continent.
African economies are on the move. The continent has been the second-fastest growing region in the world over the past decade and has the potential to create tens of millions of wage paying jobs over the next decade.

The acceleration in Africa’s growth over the past ten years reflects fundamental improvements in the macroeconomic landscape, political stability, and the business environment. Africa is harnessing its natural wealth, and sectors across the economy are growing rapidly. These sectors include agriculture, manufacturing, and local services such as retail, banking, and transportation and communications, in addition to the natural resources sector, which was the largest single contributor to growth.

The benefits of economic growth appear to be reaching many of Africa’s people. Poverty is falling. Around 90 million African households had joined the world’s consuming classes—an increase of 31 million households in barely over a decade. Income inequality, however, remains unacceptably high and is falling in only about half of Africa’s countries; hundreds of millions remain trapped in poverty. Africa’s growth needs to be inclusive if it is to improve human welfare and ensure increasing social and political stability.

Economic growth reaches most people through employment income, so Africa’s challenge is to ensure that economic growth translates into the stable wage paying jobs that are the key to the continued expansion of the consuming class. Africa has begun to create the wage paying jobs that are necessary to meet the needs of an expanding labour pool—37 million of them over the past decade. But accelerating the pace will be critical.

“As we mark this fiftieth anniversary year of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity, the United Nations renews our commitment to Africa’s development and the African Union’s efforts to achieve inclusive growth,” said Mr. Ban, urging all Member States to work together to foster job creation and entrepreneurship throughout the continent as critical ways to build a more prosperous and sustainable future for all.

While the day is commemorated annually on 20 November, the 2013 celebration took place on Friday, 22 November at UN Headquarters in New York. The UN specialized agency for promoting inclusive and sustainable industrial development, known as UNIDO, the lead agency on the issue of Africa’s industrialization, jointly hosted an event with the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa, and the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN.

The event featured an interactive panel discussion with experts from the private sector, academia and public sector, who shared their views on the issue. It included statements from the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General, the Director General of UNIDO, the chair of the African Group and the Permanent Observer of the African Union.


newsfeed dec13 3

Millions Still Waiting for AIDS Revolution In Africa

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The fight against HIV&AIDS has been hailed as one of the most successful public health projects in human history, but teams from the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) see the revolution as unfulfilled for millions of people excluded from treatment.

MSF recently launched a film series titled ‘See What We See’ to counterbalance rhetoric presenting progress as all-pervasive and the fight against HIV&AIDS as almost won.

Just one week before a pivotal pledging meeting for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria - hosted in the United States - MSF expressed concern that if donors fail to meet the Fund's minimum US$15 billion replenishment target, some HIV&AIDS endemic countries may be left behind, crippling the momentum built over the last 12 years.

"AIDS deaths are now rare in rich countries, but every day 4,000 people, the majority in developing countries, still die unnecessarily from the disease," says Dr Gilles van Cutsem, Medical Director for MSF in South Africa and Lesotho.

In most places with high HIV rates, like South Africa, Swaziland and Malawi, access to life-saving antiretroviral (ARV) therapy has dramatically improved over the last decade. But today, according to UNAIDS one in four people who start HIV treatment in low-and middle-income countries do so dangerously late.

In several other countries where MSF works - such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Guinea, Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan and Myanmar - timely treatment remains out of reach for the majority of people who urgently need it. This is despite the fact that these countries are considered to have low HIV prevalence levels.

"Here in Kinshasa the situation is extreme. We often see people arrive at our hospital when they are already critically ill with full-blown AIDS. For many people, it's too late and they are literally dying on our doorstep.

25 percent do not survive and 39 percent of the deaths occur within 48 hours," says Dr Maria Machako of MSF's HIV hospital in DRC. "Access to testing and treatment is fatally low for those in need while stigma is high throughout the country."

In DRC, the most optimistic estimates indicate that less than 30 per cent of the 243,000 people who are eligible for ARV treatment today have access.

They face unnecessary suffering and premature death. Overall, treatment coverage in West and Central Africa remains the lowest of the continent, at only 34 percent. In Guinea less than 20 percent of children who need treatment get it and less than half of HIV infected pregnant women have access to antiretrovirals to protect their infants from infection.

"When we see the desperate situation in countries like DRC and Guinea, we feel like we're in a time-warp. The severe complications of full-blown AIDS remind us of what we witnessed in southern Africa before the year 2000, when ARV treatment was not available and death was everywhere," says Dr Eric Goemaere, who started one of MSF's first HIV treatment programmes near Cape Town.

Today, AIDS is still the number one killer of young women of child-bearing age - not just in sub-Saharan Africa, but globally. Alarmingly, three out of four pregnant women with HIV are not receiving treatment - all of them in developing countries.

Lesotho ranks among the top three worldwide in maternal deaths. "Here antiretroviral coverage for pregnant women has declined from 76 per cent in 2011 to 58 percent in 2012.

This deadly decline is also seen in overall ARV treatment coverage, which dropped from 61 percent in 2011 to 51 percent in 2012," says Syanness Tunggal, MSF's project coordinator in Lesotho. "With lower treatment coverage, reducing maternal deaths becomes extremely difficult - especially when 58 percent of these deaths are associated with AIDS."

The See What We See films reveal what MSF medical staff witness and also highlight proven strategies for community-based care that puts more people on treatment earlier and helps them adhere to treatment in the long-term.

"Leaders' views and national policies need to change radically. Only relying on traditional health systems will not keep people alive," says Dr Ernest Nyamato, MSF's deputy country representative for South Africa and Lesotho.

"We are proving that people can start HIV care earlier and that they can get their treatment through community networks, taking the burden off of overwhelmed health facilities and improving people's adherence. But some governments are resistant to giving communities a larger role in their own treatment. This must change."