Why we need to save our oceans now—not later

05 Jun 2017 by José Vicente Troya, Technical Advisor, Ocean and Water Governance, UNDP in Latin America and the Caribbean

UNDP-RBLAC-Jamaica,OldHarborBay3-2014Over 10 million residents of Small Island Developing States depend on the Pacific Ocean for survival. Photo: UNDP Jamaica
What if the blue fades away as seawaters become brown and coral reefs become white as marine grasslands wither and life below water vanishes? This is already happening at a staggering rate. It’s a lose-lose for all: people and planet. Fish stocks are declining. Around 80 percent of fishing is either collapsing or just fully exploited. The ocean is also being polluted at an alarming rate. Fertilizer run-off and 10 to 20 million metric tons of plastic debris enter the oceans each year and destroy biodiversity and ecosystems. At this rate the number of dead zones will increase, and by the year 2050 the oceans could contain more plastic than fish, measured by weight. If we don’t take action now this trend may become irreversible. Recognizing this urgency, country representatives are gathered at the Ocean Conference at the UN headquarters in New York to address marine pollution, declining fisheries, loss of coastal and marine habitat and the vanishing life below water. … Read more

Tobacco: A threat to our oceans

24 May 2017 by Roy Small, Policy Analyst, HIV, Health and Development Group, UNDP

cigarettes and plastic duck in waterCigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. Photo: flickr.com/photos/aceofknaves/
Tobacco is a significant threat to our oceans. Each year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide, by far the most littered item, with a significant percentage finding their way into our oceans and onto our shores. The problem is only likely to get worse, particularly as smoking rates continue to escalate in many low- and middle-income countries. Less well-known are tobacco’s negative impacts on sustainable development, including on oceanic systems. Yes, you read that right – tobacco is a significant threat to our oceans. Each year, 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered worldwide, by far the most littered item, with a significant percentage finding their way into our oceans and onto our shores. The problem is only likely to get worse, particularly as smoking rates continue to escalate in many low- and middle-income countries. This “last socially acceptable form of littering” is far more than just an unpleasant aesthetic. Cigarette filters are comprised of thousands of chemical ingredients, including arsenic, lead, nicotine and ethyl phenol, all of which leak into aquatic environments. In one lab study, the leachate from just one cigarette butt, placed into no more than one litre of water, killed half of all exposed marine and freshwater fish. … Read more

Dollars and 'sense': Paying for our planet

22 May 2017 by Midori Paxton, Senior Technical Adviser, Ecosystems and Biodiversity

Tigers in IndiaIn India, a 2015 study valued six tiger reserves at US$24 billion and US$1.2 billion per year. People travel half the globe to see tigers. Photo: UNDP
As today’s celebration coincides with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism, it is worth noting the role biodiversity and ecosystems play as the backbone of tourism in many places, and equally worth noting the crucial role that the tourism sector can play in conserving biodiversity. This is undeniably a nexus to pursue, particularly for financing effective conservation. … Read more

Ocean acidification – what it means and how to stop it

14 Mar 2017 by Andrew Hudson, Head of Water and Ocean Governance Programme, UNDP

The ‘recipe’ for reversing ocean acidification is transitioning to an energy efficient model that relies primarily on renewable sources of energy. Photo: UNDP
In the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has set forth a bold new vision for global development and committed to achieving it by the year 2030. SDG 14 calls for us to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” While most of the targets in SDG 14 cover ocean issues and challenges that are well known to most, such as pollution and overfishing, one SDG 14 target, 14.3, may not be so familiar: 14.3 Minimize and address the impacts of ocean acidification, including through enhanced scientific cooperation at all levels. What is ocean acidification, and why is it so important to ocean sustainability and therefore to the SDG agenda? Let’s start with some basic chemistry concepts. Water can be either acidic, basic, or neutral, depending on the relative levels of hydrogen ions it contains. The higher the hydrogen level, the more acidic the solution. This characteristic is quantified in its pH, which runs on a scale from 0-14. The scale is ‘logarithmic’ meaning that each increment of one is a 10-fold increase or decrease in hydrogen ion concentration. A pH below 7 is acidic, 7 is neutral, and above 7 is basic. … Read more

The way forward for reducing marine pollution

06 Mar 2017 by Andrew Hudson, Head of Water and Ocean Governance Programme, UNDP

Some 8-20 million metric tonnes of plastics reach our oceans every year, leading to ‘garbage patches’ as well as visible impacts on nearly all the world’s coasts and beaches.
The Ocean Conference taking place this June at UN headquarters is a unique opportunity to promote and accelerate action, partnerships, commitment and progress on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14, Life below water. The outcome will be a concise, focused, intergovernmentally agreed declaration in the form of a "Call for Action" to support the implementation of Goal 14. The SDGs and the ocean Goal 14 is part of the 2030 Agenda, adopted by world leaders in September 2015. It calls on us to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The SDGs set the global agenda for development through 2030 towards a vision of peace, prosperity and planetary health. And they include clear targets, against which we can measure progress. The first target for SDG 14 is to “prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, in particular from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution”. Given the fact that 80 percent or more of the pollution reaching the ocean is land-based, SDG 14 is further complemented by two targets under SDG 6, on clean water and sanitation: … Read more

Tackling the crisis in the Lake Chad Basin

23 Feb 2017 by Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa

Part of UNDP's response to the crisis is providing skills training for women, who make up 54 percent of those displaced by the conflict in north-east Nigeria. Photo: UNDP Nigeria
Last May, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (USCFR) organized a briefing session on the situation in the Sahel region of Africa. During the session UNDP stressed the need for broad, concerted action to confront violent extremism and bring development solutions to the region affected by the Boko Haram insurgency that originated in Nigeria’s north-east seven years ago. It identified an “arc of instability” that stretches across the Sahel, the Horn of Africa and the Lake Chad Basin. As UNDP and partners gather in Oslo for the International Humanitarian Conference on 24 February, we intend to focus on the situation in Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin with heightened urgency. As an organization with deep knowledge gained through practical experience in the field, UNDP firmly believes that an all-encompassing response is the best way to resolve this crisis. However, solutions must also be tailored to each country's specific needs. Observers readily admit the Lake Chad Basin situation has been egregiously overlooked. The crisis could affect the security, economic, environmental and institutional integrity of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger … Read more

The fear factor: How a little alarm protects tigers, landscapes – and us

29 Jul 2016 by Midori Paxton, Senior Technical Adviser, Ecosystems and Biodiversity

The Fear FactorPoaching, hunting and habitat loss have reduced the global tiger population from roughly 100,000 in 1900 to just 3,800 today. Photo: Midori Paxton
“Alarm call!” My 12-year old daughter whispered. Fear was in the air, and a successful tiger safari depends on it. The alarm calls of spotted deer, Hanuman langur and even the gigantic Gaur – the Indian Bison -- told us that a tiger was on the prowl. I had always dreamed of seeing wild tigers, and India was the obvious choice. More than 70 percent of the estimated 3,800 remaining wild tigers live here. My alarm calls started in February this year when I was in the Ranthambore National Park. Once a hunting ground for maharajas of yore, it is now a tiger reserve with an 11th century fort cresting a towering plateau that overlooks its lakes, dry forests and meadows. … Read more

Using ancient traditions to break new economic ground

21 Sep 2015 by Tashi Dorji, Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Portfolio Manager, UNDP in Bhutan

group of farmers in BhutanThe farmers' group ‘Dangdung Menrig Tshogpa’ participates in an awareness programme on the Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) framework in Bhutan. Photo: UNDP Bhutan
Here in Bhutan, the people of Namther and Dangdung communities have been collecting 47 different varieties of medicinal plants. After more than 50 years of collecting plants and making traditional medicine, the villagers have found another way to reap the benefits of biological resources to enhance their livelihoods. With support from UNDP, the Global Environment Facility and Japan’s Nagoya Protocol, the communities have taken a giant leap from collecting traditional medicine plants for personal use to providing resources for commercial products. For communities whose livelihoods primarily depend on seasonal subsistence farming, using biological resources helps them fill in the deficit. … Read more

How agro-commodity traders can help the SDGs and reduce poverty

29 May 2015 by Andrew Bovarnick, Global Head of the Green Commodities Programme, Sustainable Development Cluster, UNDP

cocoa podsGhana’s cocoa is produced by thousands of smallholder farmers, spread over six of the country’s 10 regions. Photo: COCOBOD
With the global population predicted to reach nine billion by 2050, we face a dual challenge: ensuring the continued production of agricultural commodities, such as soy, palm oil, cattle, coffee and cocoa, without destroying the planet’s natural resources that humanity depends on to survive. Agricultural commodities are the bedrock of many rural developing economies, contributing to vital economic growth and the ongoing fight against poverty. As such, they play a critical role in contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals. … Read more

A cup of coffee, spiced with biodiversity

22 May 2015 by Santiago Carrizosa, Senior Technical Advisor, Sustainable Development Cluster

farmers plant seedlingsFarmers in Colombia plant seedlings of native plants for a biological conservation corridor in an area of coffee farms. Photo: UNDP in Colombia
Today is the International Day of Biological Diversity, which has for me deep personal, professional and cultural significance. Working in Latin America and Caribbean region, I have witnessed firsthand the profound dependence that we all have on the natural world – especially people who work closely with the land and sea. In UNDP, we are committed to harnessing this reliance in ways that improve biodiversity and people’s lives. … Read more