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Citing India, UNGA President says world needs science for addressing water scarcity

UNITED NATIONS: Citing a project in India where farmers are using solar-powered pumps to access groundwater for irrigation, UN General Assembly president Miroslav Lajcak has said that the world needs science for tackling global water scarcity.

Noting that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls for making sure that there is water and sanitation for all, Lajcak yesterday said water is critical for achieving all Sustainable Development Goals but world leaders are not doing enough.

“We need science for solutions. Science now helps us to calculate how population growth and climate change will affect the availability of water; It helps us track the shifting of rivers in order to help predict floods; In India there is a project where farmers use solar-powered pumps to access groundwater for crop irrigation, Lajcak said in his address to the ‘Science for Water’ conference convened by UNESCO and Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

“In Nairobi I met a young lady from Burkina Faso who has created a plant-based purification system to help manage fresh water; and An 11-year-old girl in Flint Michigan has developed a device to quickly detect lead levels in water. These examples are science for water” in action,” he said.

“Water runs through every SDG, every pillar of the UN and every person. And it affects all” from Cape Town to Flint, Michigan.”

Scientists, he said, predict that on June 4 Cape Town will have to start rationing water.

“As we approach this imminent ‘Day Zero’, human health and life hang in the balance. We cannot turn back the hands of time, but we can use science to act before it is really too late,” he said.

Noting that 2030 Agenda calls for making sure that there is water and sanitation for all, he said water is critical for achieving all Sustainable Development Goals.

“Yet we are not doing enough, collectively, to achieve SDG 6 on water,†he said.

“We are putting tremendous pressure on our environment, including water sources. Climate change is making the water shortage worse” from droughts to torrential rainfall, our water sources and systems are being destroyed,” he said.

Lajcak said water pollution is turning rivers into hotbeds of disease and over 80 per cent of the world[TM]s wastewater is released without treatment.

“This is not sustainable. We lamented this at COP 23 in Bonn, at UNEA in Nairobi. But we need to take urgent action,†he said.

Four out of 10 people worldwide are affected by water scarcity. And by 2025, it is estimated that 1.8 billion people will be living with absolute water scarcity, he said, noting that behind these statistics are real people.

“And focusing on people means understanding their plight. We have to bridge the gap between science and policy” and the gap between policy and people. It means walking in the shoes of the woman who must travel miles for a drink of water every day. The child who goes to bed thirsty. The family that has to drink, bathe and wash clothes in dirty water, he said.

We are on edge of cliff, need final brave decision to save humanity: UN PGA Abdulla Shahid ahead of COP26

As world leaders gather in Glasgow for the crucial climate conference, President of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid has warned that on climate change “we are not only on the wrong track but on the edge of the cliff” and underlined the need for a “final brave decision” to save humanity.

The COP26 summit from October 31 will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“My message is very short, that we are not only on the wrong track. But we are on the edge of the cliff,” Shahid told PTI in an interview here.

He said nations have the science, technology and resources to combat climate change. “We need that final brave decision to save humanity.”

Shahid, also the foreign minister of Malpes, also expressed hope that after the COP26 Summit, “we will be able to come out with a much firmer commitment than we have now on the 1.5 degrees… My hope is that the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) will be much more firm and ambitious than they already are. And my hope is that from Glasgow all the leaders collectively will give a message of hope, that ‘Yes, we will save humanity’.”

Shahid will travel to the United Kingdom to attend the UN Conference on Climate Change, COP26, in Glasgow.

On October 26, Shahid had presided over a High-Level meeting on ‘Delivering Climate Action for People, Planet and Prosperity’ at the UN General Assembly, just days before the Glasgow conference that begins on October 31 and will run through November 12. The event heard from more than 70 Heads of State, Heads of Government and Ministers on actions to solve the climate emergency.

Shahid said he wanted to have the high-level meeting to build up momentum on the journey to Glasgow and the debate would highlight that while the world has the science, technology and resources to combat climate change, “what is lacking is commitment.”

Through the meeting, he wanted to give a final push and infuse energy into this journey.

“And I am hopeful. I want people, leaders travelling to Glasgow to go there not to disappoint humanity, but to go there with rays of hope from all their countries so that humanity will have the confidence coming out of Glasgow,” he said.

Amid the dire climate situation across the world, Shahid added that he can understand the “frustration” and “disappointment” of the youth because they will ultimately inherit the planet. “But they themselves will be the decision-makers very soon. My appeal to them is don’t lose ambition, don’t lose hope and don’t lose the optimism that they have and the trust they have in humanity.”

In his address to the high-level meeting, Shahid had told world leaders that he felt it was important – even in his Presidency of Hope – to open the meeting with blunt realities.

“My hope, after all, is not rooted in blind optimism, or in diminishing the gravity of the situation. I am from the Malpes, a country whose very existence is threatened by rising sea levels. Our people, and all islanders, are vividly aware of this threat,” he had said.

Shahid also noted that “we have not reached the goal of USD 100 billion per year in climate financing” and as per the ‘Climate Finance Delivery Plan’, jointly produced by Germany and Canada and published by the UK COP26 Presidency.

He said the developed nations are set to be three years late in meeting the pledge. “Any hope of meeting the pledge will only be possible beginning 2023…Our efforts must be aimed at not only going beyond the pledge but also guaranteeing at least USD 1 trillion in support to developing countries by 2030.”

In his address to the High-Level meeting convened by Shahid, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had said that the climate crisis is a “code red” for humanity and governments around the world face a moment of truth when in six days, world leaders will be put to the test at COP26 in Glasgow. “Their actions — or inactions — will show their seriousness about addressing this planetary emergency.”

Noting that the warning signs are hard to miss, Guterres said pollution kills 9 million people every year and every day, dozens of species go extinct.

“Scorching temperatures are turning farmlands into parched landscapes. Cities and entire countries are watching sea-levels rise around them. Increasing temperatures will make vast stretches of our planet unliveable by the century’s end.”

Guterres had voiced concern that despite these alarm bells ringing at fever pitch, there is evidence that Governments’ actions so far simply do not add up to what is so desperately needed.

“We are still on track for a global temperature rise of 2.7°C. A far cry from the 1.5°C targets to which the world agreed under the Paris Agreement. A target that science tells us is the only sustainable pathway for our world. And one that is entirely achievable.

“If we can reduce (global) emissions by 45 per cent compared to 2010 levels this decade. If we can achieve global net-zero by 2050. And if world leaders arrive in Glasgow with bold, ambitious and verifiable 2030 targets, and new, concrete policies to reverse this disaster,” Guterres had said.

International community must come together to assist Afghan people: UNGA president-elect

The international community must come together to assist the people of Afghanistan in realising their aspirations, president-elect of the UN General Assembly Abdulla Shahid said on Friday, amid growing global concern over the deteriorating security situation in the conflict-ridden country. Shahid, the foreign minister of the Malpes, also said at a leading think-tank that the United Nations has a “very clear role” to play in Afghanistan as maintenance of international peace and security is a mandate of the UN Security Council.

The Malpian leader arrived in India on Wednesday on a three-day visit. India is the first country that Shahid is visiting in his official capacity as president-elect of the UN General Assembly after he was elected to the post on June 7.

“Afghan people are resilient people. Their leadership is strong, their government is a democratic government elected by the people,” he said at an interactive session at the Indian Council of World Affairs.

“I think the international community needs to come together and assist the Afghan people in whatever way they so desire so that they could have the way forward that is being charted out by their government,” Shahid added.

The Taliban has been making rapid advances across Afghanistan in the last few weeks seizing control of large parts of the country as the US pulled out the majority of its forces and aims to complete the withdrawal by August 31.

In his address, Shahid said his immediate priority as president of the UN General Assembly will be to focus on helping the world recover from COVID-19.

“The impacts have been immense, and yet still, this pandemic seems to be far from over. New variants are emerging. And we are still unclear about the longer-term health consequences. The United Nations can, and must do more to address this,” he said.

“Building on existing initiatives and approaches, I will be looking to address the health of our people and our economies. And work to ensure vaccine equity. We need to vaccinate the world. No one is safe until everyone is safe,” the Malpian foreign minister added.

At the same time, he said the coronavirus pandemic has not replaced the challenges of climate change, ocean health, desertification and land degradation, and loss of biopersity.

“In fact, it (COVID-19) has limited the scope for addressing these challenges, as limited resources have been perted towards the pandemic. But the impacts of climate change are worsening,” he said.

Shahid said that addressing the needs of the people in various spheres is equally important.

“Especially given that humanity, human rights, have taken a back seat during this pandemic — as more and more people lived through lockdowns and extreme measures had to be taken around the world,” he added.

The UNGA president-elect also called for the participation of young people in decision-making processes that affect their future, noting that gender equality will a priority for him.

“In considering the role of the United Nations in addressing global issues, we need to consider the strengths of the United Nations. I believe that the strength of the United Nations lies in its ability to shape norms, change discourse, forge consensus,” he said.

Shahid also said that trust can be built by bringing the UN closer to the people.

“By increasing its efficiency, its effectiveness. By making the United Nations deliver. Deliver for people, for the planet, and for prosperity,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic may have put the world in crisis. But I believe this could also be an opportunity. To build a stronger, resilient world. A more sustainable world. This could be an opportunity to enhance multilateralism, strengthen cooperation,” he said.

US to lift Covid travel ban for vaccinated EU, UK passengers: Reports

The United States will lift an 18-month-old travel ban on the European Union and Britain, allowing vaccinated travelers to enter beginning in November, reports said Monday.

The easing of travel restrictions, imposed by Donald Trump as the Covid-19 pandemic first erupted, would mark a significant shift by President Joe Biden at a time of strained relations with European allies.

The news was reported by the Financial Times and CNN. The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

According to the reports, the new rule will open the door to fully vaccinated passengers and also those in clinical trials for vaccines not yet approved in Britain — a policy applying to about 40,000 people.

Currently only US citizens, residents and foreigners with special visas are allowed to enter the United States from most European countries.

The restriction has deeply irked EU and British authorities. On Monday, the European Union recommended that member states reimpose restrictions on American travelers who had earlier been free to enter if vaccinated.

Biden’s reported move would come on the eve of the UN General Assembly in New York, where the pandemic is due to be the headline issue.

The report also comes as Washington and Paris spar bitterly over Australia’s sudden announcement that it will be getting US nuclear submarines, ditching a previous French contract for conventionally powered submarines.