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Mitigating climate change in Asia-Pacific could give region economic boost

By Deepak Arora

BANGKOK, Sept 6: The urgent need to move towards a low carbon economy and build resilience, would not only mitigate the worst impacts of climate change in the Asia-Pacific, but also lift the region economically, according to the body overseeing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

As Asia-Pacific Climate Week (APCW 2019) wrapped up on Friday in Bangkok, a key takeaway was that long-term holistic planning would enable countries there to tap into the huge potential of renewable energy, and new technology while maximizing socio-economic benefits.

Other compelling reasons to rapidly shift to low-carbon and resilience were outlined by high-level speakers who warned that current levels of ambition to tackle climate change are putting the world on a path towards global warming of more than 3 degrees Celsius – that is double the goal of 1.5 degrees.

Participants agreed that in addition to governments, the transformation must be driven by sub-national regions and cities, the private sector and finance.

Noting that over half the global population of 1.8 billion young people live in the vast Asia-Pacific region, UNFCCC said that youth groups played an important role in the week, by engaging with participants and coving discussions on social media.

Key outcome messages will provide “important input to the Climate Action Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General on 23 September in New York”, UNFCCC said in a press release, adding that “the results will also help build momentum” towards the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) that will take place in Santiago, Chile, 2-13 December 2019.

Countries are currently designing enhanced national climate action plans under the Paris Agreement (Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs) and the Summit in New York will be an opportunity for governments and many climate action players to announce new plans and initiatives before the NDCs are communicated to the UN in 2020.

Climate change adaptation planning and finance were also key throughout APCW 2019, with a focus on communities and ecosystems most in need.

On building resilience to climate change, indigenous peoples from the region, academics and others, stressed the need for a mindset shift in the fight against climate change, proposing policies to help transform societies for long-term resilience.

Carbon pricing, capacity-building and regional climate finance were also discussed, with a spotlight on highly vulnerable nations.

During the week, work began on a new climate strategy for Indian Ocean Island States to access finance for priority projects.

And the UN Climate Change Secretariat is assisting 10 sub-regions involving 77 countries in Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean in preparing strategies to access scaled up climate finance.

Organized every year in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as the Asia-Pacific, Regional Climate Weeks allow governments and other concerned parties to address the full spectrum of climate issues under one umbrella. The central aim is to bring together the public and private sectors around the common goal of addressing climate change.

APCW 2019 was organized by UNCCC in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and other international and regional organizations. It is the third Regional Climate Week to this year, following one in Accra, Ghana in March and in Salvador, Brazil in August.

Next year, the United Arab Emirates will host a Regional Climate Week for the Middle East and North Africa region.

Intra-Afghan negotiations, 'the only solution': Guterres

By Deepak Arora

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 3: UN Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned the spate of attacks, including the bombing in Kabul, saying in a statement that "such indiscriminate attacks can never be justified".

"The Secretary-General believes that the only solution to the conflict in Afghanistan is through an inclusive process of intra-Afghan negotiations. He encourages all political leaders to work together during this period leading to presidential elections and stresses the urgency of ensuring security across Afghanistan."

In the wake of a surge in violence across Afghanistan over the past week, the country’s top UN envoy has pleaded for an end to the fighting through a negotiated peace settlement, and an end to the “indescribable loss” suffered by victims’ loved ones

“The violence this week across Afghanistan underscores the urgency of ending the conflict through a negotiated settlement. The suffering of the Afghan people must end,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, who heads up the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in a statement released on Tuesday.

“The Taliban-claimed attack yesterday in Kabul caused more than 100 civilian casualties. Taliban assaults in Kunduz and in Baghlan resulted in grave harm to the civilian populations. There were scores of civilian casualties,” he added.

One attack occurred on an international housing complex in the capital Kabul on Monday, killing at least 16 people, according to media reports; this followed two major assaults in and around the cities of Kunduz and Baghlan over the weekend.

Residents near compounds housing foreign staff are demanding international groups be moved to other locations, being that even aid organizations have been targets of deadly blasts.

One local man said: “This isn’t once or twice, it’s the fourth or fifth time, all by the Taliban. A lot of my friends, a lot of my family have been wounded or killed.”

Yamamoto said that the UN “remains concerned about the harm caused to civilians by the impact of pro-Government aerial and search operations,” referring to aerial operations on 31 August in Afghanistan’s Faryab province, that left 12 civilians dead and five others injured, the majority women and children.

The spasm of violence could jeopardize months of progress made on a peace deal between United States and Taliban negotiators, with the extremist group reportedly explaining that Monday’s bombing on Kabul’s Green Village, home to several international organizations, was retaliation for attacks by US-backed Government forces.

With elections due to take place next month, “now is the time to seek unity and solidarity,” Yamamoto stressed, highlighting that security across the country during these times “is an urgent priority.”

“As I have said repeatedly,” the UNAMA chief continued, “the ultimate objective in Afghanistan must be a negotiated intra-Afghan settlement to the conflict. Meaningful steps must take place now to obtain an immediate and nationwide halt to violence. The United Nations stands ready to help.”

UNAMA has tracked nearly 100,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan since the agency began keeping count in 2009, with 1,500 recorded in July of this year alone.

Earlier this month, as Afghanistan marked 100 years of independence, Yamamoto expressed hope that September’s planned elections would give voice to the people, and act as “a real possibility for breakthroughs in peace.”

Following the mass bloodshed of recent days, he called for solidarity: “I urge all parties here in Afghanistan and abroad, to seize any opportunity for peace and come together in meaningful negotiations,” the mission chief stressed.

 

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