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September 27, 2021
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Environmental crisis statistics alarming, but there is good news – UNEP

The global environmental crisis is becoming a major concern as experts describe proactive actions to address the situation.
Head of International Law Unit at the Law Division of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says recent statistics show environmental problems are alarming.
Andy Raine tells JoyNews’ Mahmud Mohammed-Nurudeen an unprecedented number of species have been lost and emissions are 62 per cent higher than when countries signed the convention on climate change in the early 90s.
“In UNEP, we talk about the triple planetary crisis that we are facing with respect to climate change, pollution and nature.”

He says around 1 million out of known 7.8 million species are on the brink of extinction.
Mr. Raine raises concerns about marine litter that stifles the world oceans and climate change that affects people, especially the poor.
But the UN lawyer says there are creative solutions to address the triple planetary crisis.

According to him, the right to a healthy environment is increasingly recognized as a human right.
Citizens are increasingly conscious and exercising their rights to a clean environment.
He explains the number of significant judgements on climate change cases and how courts are also increasingly hearing air pollution cases. This puts pressure on governments to take appropriate measures.

“Countries and businesses are increasingly accelerating their commitments towards a cleaner future. There is the net zero club where hundreds of businesses in countries have committed to net zero emissions by 2050.”
There are hundreds of thousands of environmental laws around the world.  These laws consist of national, regional and global laws.
UNEP, as UN agency, monitors, supports and engages with international environmental laws.

There are also at least 500 multilateral environmental agreements that range from climate change to crime to pollution and waste.
“These are instruments that have accelerated in number over the years.”
The most recent multilateral environmental agreement is the Minamata convention of mercury.

Ghana is a signatory to the convention and at least 131 parties.
Asked whether he has monitored how illegal miners in Ghana use mercury aimlessly and cause destruction to the environment?
Raine responds that mercury usage is a continuing challenge around the world and minamata convention is important step in supporting countries to address the problem.

He states, however, the convention doesn’t impose a ban on mercury, but rather establishes comprehensive approach to treating mercury over life cycle, from mining to management.
The objective of the Minamata Convention on Mercury is to protect both human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions, releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
The Convention contains provisions that conver the whole life cycle of mercury, including control measures and reductions in the range of products, processes and industries that use, or release mercury.

It also addresses the direct removal of mercury, its export and import, its safe storage and its disposal once as waste among others.
The Minamata Convention was adopted on 10 October 2013 and opened for signature for one year on that day, until 9 October 2014.
The Convention entered into force on 16 August 2017.

But how to ensure countries commit to the agreement is a challenge.
“How we make sure that what has been agreed is being implemented is the biggest challenge.”
Raine says NGOs have an important roles in holding governments to account.

“The judiciary has an important role in enforcing the laws and obviously governments themselves invest in implementation and enforcement of the laws and commitments they signed up to.”
He talks about new proposed environmental law,  ‘ecocide’ that would become the fifth category of offences to be prosecuted under the court (ICC), alongside war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and the crime of aggression if passed.
This historic decision represents a global trend to increase proposals and developments in environmental law.

New solutions, approaches, and ideas for dealing with the planetary crisis are putting nature more at the forefront.

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