Second Committee Debate Highlights Urgency of Climate Change
Photo by Luis Del Río Camacho
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UN Member States met to address sustainable development topics including the SAMOA Pathway and Mauritius Strategy, developing states, disaster risk reduction, climate for future generations, desertification, biological diversity, reports, energy, and sand and dust storms.

The debate took place in the UN General Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial), beginning on 15 October and continuing on 16 October 2018.

15 October 2018: UN Member States addressed sustainable development topics including the SAMOA Pathway and Mauritius Strategy, developing states, disaster risk reduction, climate for future generations, desertification, biological diversity, reports, energy, sand and dust storms, and the radiation threat in Central Asia during a recent debate in the UN General Assembly’s Second Committee (Economic and Financial).

The Second Committee’s sustainable development debate began on 15 October 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) presented seven reports. The first report concerned mainstreaming economic, social, and environmental impacts throughout the UN System. The second report highlighted unfinished business for Agenda 21, indicating that environmental and developmental progress has been mixed and uneven. The third report identified mandates in order to ensure monitoring of SIDS’ and their mainstreaming of the SAMOA Pathway into national development frameworks. These mandates concern resource gaps and research, policy development, and technical analysis. The fourth report addressed remaining challenges with mainstreaming the SAMOA Pathway, enhancing coherence of issues facing SIDS, and matching mandates to resources. The fifth report focused on biodiversity and economic growth in the Caribbean Sea. The sixth report emphasized harmony with nature. The report analyzed implementation trends of law, policy, education, and public engagement. The report also addressed sustainable consumption and production patterns. The seventh report focused on affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.

The UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) provided updates on responses to address impacts of the El Niño phenomenon. UNISDR said that the clear effects of climate change, which undermine progress made in sustainable and inclusive development, are taking a larger human and economic toll. UNISDR’s report titled, ‘Economic Losses, Poverty and Disasters,’ found that “20 years have seen a dramatic rise of 151% in direct economic losses from climate change related disasters…1.3 million people lost their lives…4.4 billion people were injured, displaced, or in need of emergency assistance due to disasters.” According to the report, earthquakes and tsunamis accounted for 56% of total deaths due to natural disaster. UNISDR recalled that only two years remain to achieve target (e) of the Sendai Framework, “to substantially increase the number of states with national and local disaster risk reduction targets by 2020.” UNISDR urged States to go beyond establishing targets by gathering data for disaster risk reduction, disaster risk assessments, and the disclosure of disaster risks. UNISDR noted that gaps of the Sendai Framework require attention as States begin their data uploads.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) secretariat discussed efforts related to land degradation neutrality (LDN). UNCCD highlighted the creation of the LDN Fund, and noted that more than 120 States have established LDN targets. UNCCD highlighted that LDN efforts offer a way to accelerate progress in addressing forced migration, poverty, conflict from instability and loss of biodiversity.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) secretariat noted the role of biodiversity in infrastructure provision for human development and life on the planet. CBD announced that 107 of its 196 member States have ratified the Nagoya-Kuala Lumpur Supplementary Protocol on Liability and Redress to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, and 171 of its member States have ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. She also drew attention to the preparations for the 14th meeting of the Conference of Parties to the CBD, and to the need to increase action to achieve biodiversity targets by 2020 as well as to look beyond that deadline.

The UN Environment Programme (UN Environment) discussed its global campaign to beat plastic pollution, and highlighted the need for a focus on sound management of chemicals and waste, marine litter and microplastics, exposure to lead paint, and mainstreaming of biodiversity. He also noted the role for regional strategies and agreements.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) discussed the importance of entrepreneurship for sustainable development by creating jobs and spurring economic growth. UNCTAD stressed the need for long term and cross-sectorial strategies for sustainable development. UNCTAD presented six pillars of entrepreneurship for sustainable development: national entrepreneurship strategies, optimizing the regulatory framework, enhancing skills and education development, improving access to finance, facilitating technology innovation and exchange, promoting awareness and networking.

In the Committee’s debate on sustainable development, delegates touched on finance, disasters, gaps, partnerships, and the importance of a sustainable environment. Maldives speaking on behalf for SIDS, presented struggles they currently face due to lack of access to finance. El Salvador called for public, private, domestic, and international mobilization of finances in the pursuit of 2030 Agenda. Bangladesh announced investments to make its agriculture sector resilient to climate change. Cuba expressed concern about large financial resources allocated to arms or speculation while unsustainable consumption and production practices rise. Qatar reported that it is making significant investments in educational programs. Afghanistan stressed technical and financial assistance specifically in reliable and sustainable energy. Jamaica said that risk-informed investments are key to action in DRR. Ethiopia said financial provisions are imperative for energy infrastructure development in LDCs. Mauritius stated that lack of access to concessional financing prevents resilience in its state. Sierra Leone urged the provision of financial resources to enable environmental energy investment. The Maldives and Nauru said financing can provide the answer for filling gaps in required resource allocation. Syria discussed the challenges it faces in implementing the SDGs, including terrorism and economic sanctions.

Malawi, Maldives, India, Singapore, Qatar, Nepal, the Republic of Moldova, and Armenia highlighted the vital role of partnerships in achieving the SDGs. India discussed its partnership with France and other countries to create an international solar alliance, in which 70 states already participate. The Maldives said partnerships have been instrumental for its lighthouse initiative.

Speaking on disasters, Malawi expressed how easily natural disasters can reduce progress made by LDCs. Armenia highlighted the role of information sharing in climate change disaster risk reduction. Mozambique discussed its master plan for disaster risk reduction that began in 2017 and ends in 2030. Mexico, Egypt, Malawi, Syria, Nepal, Brazil, Namibia, and Sierra Leone discussed environmental sustainability through biodiversity and renewable energy.

The debate continued on 16 October. [Meeting webcast] [UN meeting summary]

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