Posts Tagged ‘UNEP’


UN Says Sustainable Farming Can Help Close Global Emissions Gap

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By Sophie Wenzlau

Agriculture offers opportunities to mitigate and adapt to climate change, according to a report released on November 5 by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Reductions in emissions from agriculture could help to close the greenhouse gas emissions gap. (Photo Credit:

The Emissions Gap Report 2013—which involved 44 scientific groups in 17 countries and was coordinated by UNEP—measures the difference between the pledges that countries have made to cut emissions and the targets required to keep global temperature change below 2 degrees Celsius (°C).

The report finds that if the global community does not embark immediately on wide-ranging actions to narrow the greenhouse emissions gap, the chance of remaining on the least-cost path to keeping global temperature rise below 2°C this century will diminish quickly and lead to a host of challenges.

Based on the current trajectory, greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to reach 8–12 gigatons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (GtCO2e)—roughly comparable to 80 percent of current emissions from the world’s power plants. This is above the level that would provide a likely chance of remaining on the least-cost pathway; to be on track to stay within the 2°C target, emissions should reach a maximum of 44 GtCO2e by 2020, the report says.

Reductions in emissions from agriculture, an often-overlooked source of emissions, could help to close the emissions gap, the authors say. They estimate that emission-reduction potentials for the sector range from 1.1 GtCO2e to 4.3 GtCO2e.

Worldwide, agriculture contributes between 14 and 30 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions because of its heavy requirements for land, water, and energy. The agriculture sector releases more emissions than every car, train, and plane in the global transportation sector.

Activities such as operating fuel-powered farm equipment, pumping water for irrigation, raising dense populations of livestock in indoor facilities, managing soils, and applying nitrogen-rich fertilizers all contribute to agriculture’s high greenhouse gas footprint.

UNEP attributes an estimated 38 percent of agricultural emissions to nitrous oxide from soils, 32 percent to methane from enteric fermentation in ruminant livestock, 12 percent to biomass burning, 11 percent to rice production, and 7 percent to manure management. Direct agricultural emissions account for 60 percent of global nitrous oxide emissions and 50 percent of global methane emissions, according to the report. (more…)


World Environment Day 2013: Five Ways to Preserve Food and Prevent Waste

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By Sophie Wenzlau

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day—celebrated today—is Think.Eat.Save., a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) campaign aimed at curbing food waste and food loss.

Approximately one third of the food produced for human consumption every year—roughly 1.3 billion tons—is lost or wasted in fields, grocery stores, and kitchens around the world, to the detriment of bank accounts and the environment. In addition to its moral implications, food waste leads to the unnecessary consumption of land, water, and energy resources, and contributes to environmental problems such as deforestation, water scarcity, and pollution.

Canning extra produce can prevent food waste. (Photo Credit: InnBrooklyn)

Rotting food is also a significant source of methane emissions, which contribute to global climate change. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methane is one of the most environmentally harmful greenhouse gases—twenty times more so than carbon dioxide.

In honor of World Environment Day, Nourishing the Planet recommends five low-tech ways to make use of the food hiding in the bottom of your refrigerator.

1. Freeze it. If you bought too many fruits, vegetables, or loaves of bread, consider tossing extras in the freezer. With minimal preparation, many foods can be stored at low temperatures for weeks or months at a time, and used as needed. To save soft fruit—such as berries, kiwi, and peaches—mix one cup of fruit with one teaspoon sugar, let stand until the juices release, transfer to a freezer-safe bag, squeeze out the air, and freeze for up to nine months. To save firmer fruit—such as apples and pears—simmer in a covered pot with a squeeze of lemon juice, a splash of water, and a few tablespoons of sugar until just limp, then transfer to a container and freeze. For information on freezing bread, vegetables, and herbs, see this article on curbing food waste.

2. Dry it. Dehydration is one of the oldest and simplest methods of food preservation; dried foods keep well because their water content is low, which inhibits the growth of bacteria, yeasts, and molds. Though there are many ways to dry food, common methods include sun drying, air drying, oven drying, dehydrating, and smoking. If you have ever found yourself with an excess of quickly-wilting fresh herbs, drying is an easy way to save them for later. To dry less tender herbs—such as rosemary, sage, thyme, summer savory, and parsley—simply tie them into small bundles and hang them to air dry, preferably indoors. To dry tender herbs with a higher moisture content—such as basil, oregano, tarragon, lemon balm, and mint—hang a small bunch inside a paper bag, close the top with a rubber band, and punch holes in the sides for ventilation. Place the bag in an area where air currents will circulate and allow to dry. For more information about drying, see the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s (NCHFP) website.



The United Nations Environment Programme announces 22nd International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment

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The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is sponsoring the 22nd International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment. The painting competition has been held since 1991 and has received entries from more than three million children in more than 150 countries. This year’s theme is “Water: The Source of Life.” Children from all over the world are invited to submit their original paintings to the UNEP office in their region by February 29, 2013.

Please visit the UNEP website for competition details, to download the brochure, and to view photo galleries of children’s artwork from past competitions.



UN Report Highlights Marine Sector’s Potential for Sustainable Economic Growth

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By Eleanor Fausold

What if we could take better care of the world’s marine ecosystems and boost the global economy in the process? A recent report, Green Economy in a Blue World, released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Maritime Organization (IMO), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), WorldFish Center, and GRID-Arendal suggests that by promoting practices such as renewable energy generation, ecotourism, and sustainable fishing, we can improve the health of the world’s marine ecosystems while also boosting their potential to contribute to economic growth. 

Small-scale producers must also benefit from industry improvements. (Photo credit: USAID Bangladesh)

For each of six marine-related economic sectors, Green Economy in a Blue World lays out a series of recommendations based on the current state of the resource including:

1. Fisheries and Aquaculture

With 50 percent of the world’s fish stocks fully exploited and another 32 percent overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion, aquaculture is growing in popularity as a way to meet the rising global demand for fish. But aquaculture can also be harmful when it is poorly planned, and in such cases it can actually increase stress on suffering marine and coastal ecosystems. Technologies that encourage low-impact and fuel-efficient fishing methods, as well as aquaculture production systems that use environmentally-friendly feeds and reduce fossil fuel use, could reduce the sector’s carbon footprint and strengthen its role in reducing poverty and improving economic growth and food and nutrition security. The report also recommends strengthening regional and national fisheries agencies and community and trade fishing associations to encourage sustainable and equitable use of marine resources. It also suggests that there is a need for policies that ensure that the benefits of these industry improvements also impact small-scale producers and traders, particularly in developing nations.    



UNEP and IWMI Advocate Agroecosystems to Improve Food, Water Security

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By Dana Drugmand 

With the world population already at 7 billion, producing food in environmentally sustainable ways will be one of the key challenges we face this century. Investing in the connections between ecosystems, water management and food production will be an important part of the solution to reducing hunger, poverty, and ecological degradation, according to a report produced jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Maintaining ecosystem services will be critical to ensuring long-term food security, according to the report from UNEP and IWMI. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

An Ecosystems Services Approach to Water and Food Security, which was launched during World Water Week in Stockholm back in August, addresses the question of how it is possible to boost food security without severely depleting water resources and while keeping healthy ecosystems intact. The report notes that water scarcity is one of the key factors limiting food production. At the same time, current agricultural practices are putting huge strains on water resources. Groundwater levels, for example, are declining rapidly in major food producing regions such as the North China Plains, the Indian Punjab, and the western United States.

As UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner writes in the report’s preface, “ensuring food security, managing water resources and protecting ecosystems must be considered as a single policy rather than as separate, and sometimes competing, choices.” The report recommends managing agricultural areas as agroecosystems, which provide ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, soil formation, water purification and flood control that are critical to ensuring a sustainable and stable food supply. Measures such as diversifying crop production, implementing agroforestry, and improving rainwater collection should boost crop yields and build resilience to make agriculture less vulnerable to climate change. The report also offers specific recommendations for a more holistic approach to managing drylands, wetlands, crop systems, fisheries, and livestock systems. And maintaining ecosystem services in agroecosystems will require collaboration among multiple sectors, including agriculture, water, forestry, fisheries, livestock and wildlife management.



Short Video Underscores the Role of Organic Agriculture in Uganda

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The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have put together this short video highlighting the important contribution that organic farming is making to rural livelihoods in Uganda.

Uganda has an organic certification program that offers local and international certification services for a variety of fruits and vegetables. The program was developed by the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda (NOGAMU), a body that works across the nation to promote organic agriculture and the export of organic products around the world. And the organization hasn’t forgotten about the importance of staying local, working to sell the produce in cities around the country as well.

Chief executive officer of NOGAMU, Musa K. Muwanga, says forty seconds into the video that the “green economy” is important for Uganda because it allows different actors, such as small farmers and traders, to create wealth in a way that is more sustainable and protects the environment. Ultimately, this holds promise not just for Uganda but other developing countries as well. As the narrator mentions at the beginning, “Organic means many things to many people, but for organic farmer[s in Uganda]… organic simply means a better life.”

What do you think about the potential for organic agriculture to improve living standards in the developing world? Let us know in the comments section!

To read more about organic agriculture and certification in the developing world, see Organic Agriculture’s Resilience Shows Untapped Potential.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Rainwater Harvesting

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By Dan Kane

In sub-Saharan Africa, many farmers are already watching their crop yields dwindle as water becomes more scarce and difficult to access. Even in areas where freshwater is still available, technologies such as pumps and filtration facilities can be prohibitively expensive.

Innovations in irrigation, such as this home-made water pump, are helping many small-scale farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Maintaining food security in Africa, especially as climate change takes a bigger hold on the continent, will require finding inexpensive, sustainable ways of obtaining freshwater. Fortunately, some farmers have already found their solution by returning to an age-old practice of rainwater harvesting.

Rainwater usually infiltrates the soil and is retained within the first foot or so, but a significant portion is also lost to evaporation and runoff. Most sub-Saharan African nations are using less than 5 percent of their rainwater potential. Capturing even a fraction of rainwater can provide several gallons for consumption and irrigation at minimal cost.

While researching for the recently released State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet report, Nourishing the Planet found that with the help of international NGOs, many communities across Africa have installed successful rainwater harvesting techniques that are cheap and useful.



The smart way to combat desertification

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By Dennis Garrity

In re-greening the drylands of Africa, we should make use of trees that will provide multiple long-term benefits to poor farmers, writes Dennis Garrity, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre.

The importance of trees in combating desertification and mitigating the effects of drought was high on the agenda last week when organizations from the around the world gathered in Dakar, Senegal to observe the World Day to Combat Desertification.

Agroforestry has the potential to not only increase crop yields, but also to heal the land. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

For any re-greening effort to be successful, it must of course target desertification and drought, but also be geared towards ensuring food security and improving the livelihoods of people in the drylands who struggle every year to survive.

Drylands make up 40% of the world’s land area, cover more than 100 countries and are the basis for the livelihoods of 2 billion people.

As 2011 is the International Year of Forests it was fitting that the theme for this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification – celebrated on 17 June every year since 1995 – was Forests keep drylands working.

Take for example, the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative. This bold programme, backed by the African Union, is evolving into a massive effort to regreen the Sahelian countries that adjoin the desert through revegetation efforts that build on grassroots participatory approaches. All 11 Sahelian countries are participating, from Senegal in the west to Djibouti in the east. These include Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania. It is believed this massive re-greening effort will halt desertification and mitigate the impacts of climate change. (more…)


Scaling Up Can’t Wait: How to speed up investments in sustainable intensification of agriculture

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The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will launch its recently approved Environment and Natural Resource Management Policy on Wednesday, June 1, starting at 3:30 p.m. with a webcast event that will be opened by IFAD’s president, Kanayo Nwanze, and Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP – to mark World Environment Day (Sunday, June 5).

Ten core guiding principles to sustainably intensify agricultural practices. (Photo credit: IFAD)

The discussion will focus on how we can more rapidly scale up investments in sustainable agricultural intensification approaches that not only increase yields and incomes, but also increase food security and resilience to climate and other shocks, enhance the environment, and often reduce GHG emissions.

Click here to share your views and expertise now. You can even do so via Twitter @ifadnews and follow #enrm to participate in the discussion. There will also be a live webcast on June 1st, from 3:30 – 5:00 PM (CET) where you can partake by sending your comments and questions.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.



UN Report Highlights Agriculture’s Role in the Transition to a Green Economy

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By Mara Schechter

Investing just two percent of global GDP each year can create a new “green economy,” according to Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication,  a report recently published by UN Environment Programme (UNEP). UNEP created the report to contribute to the UN’s upcoming 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Potential benefits suggest that economic progress does not have to come at the expense of environmental health. (Photo credit: Molly Theobald)

Defining a green economy as “low carbon, resource efficient, and socially inclusive,” the report explains how to transition to a green economy through investment in ten key sectors, including agriculture. Potential benefits suggest that economic progress does not have to come at the expense of environmental health.

“Greening agriculture,” as the report calls the transition to more sustainable agricultural methods, would require about US$198 billion per year. But this could have high social, environmental and economic returns, including reducing crop losses, poverty and greenhouse gas emissions. Investments in small- and large-scale agriculture could, for example, create 47 million more jobs by 2050. (more…)