News in Brief Tuesday 31 October 2017 – Geneva (AM)

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Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). (file) UN Photo/Mark Garten

UN Environment chief calls for bolder action on renewable energy

Subsidies to the coal and gas industries should be dropped to encourage investment in renewable energy and keep global warming in check, the head of the UN environment agency, UNEP, said on Tuesday.

Erik Solheim was speaking at the launch of UNEP‘s Emissions Gap Report in Geneva.

“Any subsidy of fossil fuels whether it’s coal or oil and gas must be removed. We cannot continue to subsidise what we do not want. What we should do is give introductory offers for what we need to introduce which is solar and wind and geothermal and hydro and all the others.”

The UN Environment Programme’s flagship publication highlights that there’s an urgent need for much bolder steps to protect the climate than Member States signed up to in Paris in 2015.

That’s because even if every government fulfils the pledges it made in the French capital, the world will still be on course for a temperature increase of “at least 3 degrees C” by the end of the century.

Despite the gloomy forecast, UNEP Executive Director Solheim said that many countries were already taking positive steps towards reducing emissions of greenhouse gases from the current total global output of around 52 gigatonnes a year.

These include China, where the world’s first hybrid tram has just opened in Tangshan City.

In India, the country’s first solar-run airport has just opened in the southern state of Kerala, Mr Solheim added.

Turning to the United States, he said that “in all likelihood” the country would live up to its Paris climate pledges, because big business was dedicated to pursuing greener technologies.

Four Myanmar refugees die in new boat tragedy

A new boat tragedy off the Bangladesh coast has claimed the lives of at least four refugees fleeing Myanmar, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday.

Survivors say that more than 40 people left on a fishing boat in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in the early hours of Tuesday; it capsized in rough seas in the Bay of Bengal.

A 15-year-old boy was killed instantly and three more died on their way to hospital in the latest accident, which is the fourth to occur in the last month.

To date, more than 607,000 people have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since the country’s military launched a security operation in the western state, in response to attacks by militants.

UNHCR said that it is contact with the Bangladeshi authorities to step up sea rescue efforts after several accidents in recent weeks, and to ensure safe passage for all those fleeing Myanmar.

Water, sanitation remain are “vast challenges” for Bangladesh arrivals

Staying with the Myanmar refugee crisis:

UN migration agency IOM warned on Tuesday that hundreds of thousands of Myanmar refugees continue to live in “dangerously congested and overcrowded” settlements in Bangladesh.

Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities have been provided to more than half a million people.

But another 220,000 still need help urgently to prevent disease outbreaks – and to “restore basic human dignity”, according to IOM spokesperson Joel Millman:

“The settlements are dangerously congested and overcrowded and the pressure on sources of clean drinking water and basic sanitation are enormous. Having walked for days without water and food, the refugees arrive to the settlements exhausted and thirsty. Many are ill.”

The UN estimates that well over 1.1 million people in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar settlements and host communities will need similar basic assistance in the coming months.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 3’31″