The Geneva Environment Network weekly newsletter includes updates on global environmental agenda, main events, jobs and learning opportunities, and other useful news. Stay tuned and follow us also on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or visit our website regularly for additional updates. Monday 3 August was an official holiday for the UN in Geneva.
COVID-19 and the Environment
The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that affects everyone. As the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said
The pandemic has exposed the fragility of our societies and economies to global shocks, such as disease or climate disruption. As we recover, we must build back better for people and for the planet.
The Secretary General keeps reminding us, that we have a framework for action – the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and has launched the
Weather, climate and environment factors in the COVID-19 pandemic
This week scientists, practitioners and policy makers will gather for a WMO hosted international virtual symposium on weather, climate and environment factors in the COVID-19 pandemic (starts on 4 August, 3pm, ends on 6 August). This event will help elucidate what is known, understood, and can be reliably predicted about environmental variables’ influence on the trajectory of the COVID-19 epidemic, from global, hemispheric, regional and local perspectives. Symposium outcomes will include a synthesis of the information presented and recommendations for further research at local to global scales.
Latest updates on COVID-19 and the environment
Our Update on COVID-19 and the environment lists relevant information, research, data and press releases on the environmental origins and impacts of the pandemic. Among the press releases and articles issued since our last newsletter:
- Preventing the next pandemic will cost $22.2 billion a year, scientists say | NBC News | 23 July 2020
- Human health, animal health and environmental health are inextricably linked
| Inger Andersen and Jimmy Smith | Mail & Guardian | 12 July 2020
- Preventing the next pandemic – Zoonotic diseases and how to break the chain of transmission | UNEP and ILRI | 6 July 2020
This report takes a step back and considers the root causes of the emergence and spread of the novel coronavirus and other ‘zoonoses’—diseases that are transmitted between animals and humans. The report also offers a set of practical recommendations that can help policymakers prevent and respond to future disease outbreaks.
- New Nature Economy Report II: The Future of Nature and Business | WEF | 14 July 2020
As the world prepares to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting crisis, we are presented with an unprecedented clarion call, and opportunity, to change the way we eat, live, grow, build and power our lives to achieve a carbon-neutral, ‘nature-positive’ economy and halt biodiversity loss by 2030. Business as usual is no longer an option.
- Five things you should know about disposable masks and plastic pollution | UN News | 30 July 2020
- Growing plastic pollution in wake of COVID-19: how trade policy can help | UNCTAD | 27 July 2020
- 2020: A “green switch” for chemicals and waste? | Ekaterina Mikhaylova | CIEL | 23 July 2020
- Marine litter and the challenge of sustainable consumption and production | UNEP | 15 July 2020
- Gants et masques polluent les grands fleuves européens | Tribune de Genève | 12 July 2020
- How monitoring sewage could prevent a return of the coronavirus | UNEP | 7 July 2020
- Extinct-in-the-wild species’ last stand | Science |
Coronavirus: New wildlife trade regime needed to avoid next pandemic | FT Interview | 9 July 2020
- Air pollution exposure linked to higher COVID-19 cases and deaths – new study | WEF & The Conversation | 20 July 2020
- Latest research reinforces link between air pollution and serious Covid-19 illness | Heidi News | 18 July 2020
- Clean energy future “is vital” – UN Chief | BBC News | 9 July 2020
- Fighting Covid and climate change: What does this mean for climate science?| Harvey Parafina | Geneva Solutions | 6 July 2020
- PAGE COVID-19 Observatory
- Energy Policy Tracker database (latest information about COVID-19 government policy responses from a climate and energy perspective)
Human Rights and the Environment
HRC44 | Find more about the environmental agenda of the 44th session of the human rights council that concluded on 17 July in Geneva, on our dedicated page.
Land and environmental defenders | Global Witness launched its annual report into the killings of land and environmental defenders on 29 July: 212 were killed in 2019 – an average of more than four people a week. For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defence against the causes and impacts of climate breakdown. Time after time, they have challenged those companies operating recklessly, rampaging unhampered through forests, skies, wetlands, oceans and biodiversity hotspots.
Welcoming New IUCN Director General
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the appointment of Bruno Oberle as Director General, starting on 13 July. Bruno brings over 40 years of experience to IUCN at a time when redefining humanity’s relationship with nature is more urgent than ever. Before joining IUCN, Bruno served in some of Switzerland’s most prestigious positions related to the environment. Between 2005 and 2015, as State Secretary for the Environment and Director of the Federal Office for the Environment, he represented Switzerland in leading international institutions and international negotiations, playing a key role in the Global Environmental Facility and in the establishment of the Green Climate Fund. Prior to joining IUCN, Bruno served as Chair of the Green Economy and Resource Governance program at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) where he also headed the International Risk Governance Centre. Since 2019, he has chaired the Global Tailings Review, which aims to establish an international standard for the safe management of tailings storage facilities that can be applied to dams around the world.
Green Summer in Geneva
We have prepared a list of suggestions of environmental awareness activities to safely entertaining this summer in Geneva: exhibitions, workshops, shows, contests, outdoor activities and online resources. This page is regularly updated and was retained by Hedi News / Geneva Solutions.
What (Else) Should I Read Next?
You took a break, as some of us did in the past weeks? You might have missed the follow news:
- Defending Tomorrow – The climate crisis and threats against land and environmental defenders | Global Witness | 29 July 2020
Global Witness annual report into the killings of land and environmental defenders in 2019 shows the highest number yet have been murdered in a single year. 212 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2019 – an average of more than four people a week.
- IUCN Standard to boost impact of nature-based solutions to global challenges | IUCN | 23 July 2020
IUCN unveiled a new Global Standard providing the first-ever set of benchmarks for nature-based solutions to global challenges. It will help governments, business and civil society ensure the effectiveness of nature-based solutions and maximise their potential to help address climate change, biodiversity loss and other societal challenges on a global scale.
- WTO Committee on Trade and Environment Continues Efforts on Plastics Pollution, Circular Economy | IISD | 23 July 2020
The WTO Committee on Trade and Environment held a formal meeting on 3 July 2020, covering topics of plastic pollution, circular economy, and the resumption of work delayed by COVID-19.
- WTO Negotiations on Fisheries Subsidies: What’s the state of play? | Alice Tipping , Tristan Irschlinger | 16 July 2020
With only a few months left to conclude these negotiations, this update provides an overview of the draft consolidated text circulated by the Chair of WTO talks on fisheries subsidies, Ambassador Santiago Wills of Colombia, on 25 June 2020.
- Nuclear testing legacy is ‘cruellest’ environmental injustice, warns rights expert| 17 July 2020
75 years after the Trinity Test, the hazards of nuclear testing continue to affect the lives of many innocent victims. Governments worldwide should redouble efforts for global nuclear disarmament, insisted SR Toxics.
- 75th anniversary of the Trinity nuclear tests | UN Special Rapporteur on toxics | UN Human Rights | 16 July 2020
Nuclear testing’s discriminatory legacy must never be forgotten: UN expert
- Climate-friendly cooling could cut years of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and save US$ trillions: UN | UNEP | 17 July 2020
Coordinated international action on energy-efficient, climate-friendly cooling could avoid as much as 460 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions – roughly equal to eight years of global emissions at 2018 levels – over the next four decades, according to the Cooling Emissions and Policy Synthesis Report from UNEP and IEA.
- Clean and profitable solutions from the shores of Lake Geneva | Kyra Dupont | Geneva Solutions | The Solar Impulse Foundation | 17 July 2020
Every week, the Solar Impulse Foundation receives an average of 10 to 15 proposals for climate-friendly business initiatives competing to be among the 1,000 chosen to bear the new Solar Impulse Efficient Solutions label.
- More than 30 Laureates sign Greta Thunberg’s letter to EU leaders | Right Livelihood Foundation | 17 July 2020
More than 30 Right Livelihood Laureates have signed an open letter written by 2019 Laureate Greta Thunberg calling on leaders of the European Union to start treating climate change as the real crisis it is.
- Arctic: heat, fire and melting ice | WMO | 31 July 2020
Exceptional and prolonged heat in Siberia has fuelled unprecedented Arctic fires, with high carbon emissions. At the same time, rapidly decreasing sea ice coverage has been reported along the Russian Arctic coast.
- Desert locust threat continues | WMO | 17 July 2020
Although desert locusts have been here since biblical times, recent intense outbreaks can be linked to anthropogenic climate change and the increased frequency of extreme weather events, according to correspondence in Nature Climate Change.
- Prolonged Siberian heat “almost impossible without climate change” | WMO | 16 July 2020
The recent prolonged Siberia heat from January to June 2020 would have been almost impossible without the influence of human-caused climate change, according to a rapid attribution analysis by a team of leading climate scientists.
- Cattle illegally grazed in the Amazon found in supply chain of leading meat-packer JBS | Amnesty International | 15 July 2020
Cattle illegally grazed in protected areas of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest have entered the supply chain of the world’s largest meat-packer.
- UNODC World Wildlife Crime Report 2020: The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that wildlife crime is a threat not only to the environment and biodiversity, but also to human health | 10 July 2020
The World Wildlife Crime Report 2020 launched by the UNODC emphasizes the threat that wildlife trafficking poses to nature and the biodiversity of the planet. The report highlights the trafficking of some wild species. When wild animals are poached from their natural habitat, butchered and sold illegally, the potential for transmission of zoonotic diseases is increased.
- States must stop exporting unwanted toxic chemicals to poorer countries, says UN expert
| UN Human Rights | 9 July 2020
The practice of wealthy States exporting their banned toxic chemicals to poorer nations lacking the capacity to control the risks is deplorable and must end, a UN expert said, with the endorsement of 35 fellow experts of the Human Rights Council. Last year, at least 30 States exported hazardous substances that had been banned locally because of health and environmental reasons to Latin America, Africa and Asia.
- New climate predictions assess global temperatures in coming five years | WMO | 8 July 2020
The annual mean global temperature is likely to be at least 1° Celsius above pre-industrial levels (1850-1900) in each of the coming five years (2020-2024) and there is a 20% chance that it will exceed 1.5°C in at least one year, according to new climate predictions issued by the WMO.
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