I am trying to be positive about the gatherings of seven leaders of the World’s riches countries last week in Germany.There are some small steps of progress to be happy about on action on the Climate Change front coming out of the G-7 Summit. The host, Angela Merkel, German Chancellor made a strong commitment at the end of the meeting on eliminating greenhouse-gas emission – getting rid of most carbon dioxide from the burning of oil, gas and coal. Other G-7 leaders also agreed on urgency to act together to solve global warming. They agreed on plans of reduction by 2050 of 40 to 70 percent in the global greenhouse-gas emission levels. There is also common determination to transform the energy sector by replacing the carbon-based fossil fuels by win,solar, and other alternative sources of energy. Germany has already led the World in win and solar energy and reduce reliance on nuclear energy for industrial use. The G-7 countries calls for all countries to take action to cause emitting climate changing greenhouse-gases over the next 85 years. Scientists have acknowledged these good steps taken by G-7, but they are critical that the action is too little too late to have real impact on climate change. The United States tries to catch up with Germany on dealing with Climate Change. This week, the Obama Administration announce plans to reign in greenhouse-gas emission from trucks, airplanes and power plants. Decarbonize the global economy is a huge goal that requires cooperation by all countries and people in agreeing to accelerate action to achieve it. Slow action on this will bring an environmental disaster that is soon to come.
Living creatures under the sea and ocean water are beautiful and diverse as you can see them in the few of my paintings under the theme of “Sea Life” series. I enjoy looking at them and painting them for use in promoting its’ conservation to safeguard the environment. No need really to emphasize that the health of marine lives depends on clean sea water and the healthy ocean environment. Therefore, I am concern to learn from the UN reports that marine lives are in danger not only from ocean pollution but also from being destroyed by human fishing activities and bioprospecting in the deep sea. It is worrisome to learn about the vulnerability of marine lives beyond national jurisdiction particularly in the seamounts, hydro-thermal vents and cold-water coral reefs. The United Nations General Assembly have been discussing biological diversity issues for some time now, and I also know that since 1993, when the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force, some member states have taken some action, according to international law, in trying to stop the destructive fishing practices that have damaging impacts on marine biodiversity and ecosystem. The sustainable use of genetic resources is another issue of concern to International Community. It is good to know that governments are negotiating the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the use of these marine resources. This week, the Ninth UN Working Group on Marine Biodiversity Beyond Areas of National Jurisdiction meets at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The expected outcome is to produce recommendations for a decision to be taken at the 69th Session of the General Assembly on the development of a new international instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. I think It is our duty to support this United Nations effort to protect and conserve bio-diversity of marine lives which I think is one of the most important activity in safeguarding the world’s environment.
The Budapest Water Summit began yesterday to focus on solving the problem of lack of access to clean drinking water around the world in the context of the UN International Year of Water Cooperation 2013. Country’s representatives come to Hungary for four-days of discussions to draw attention on water issues which effect the health and survival of millions of people all over the World . Experts predicted that by 2030, nearly half of global population could be facing water scarcity and demand could outstrip supply by 40 percent. New commitment for an urgent global cooperation and action can be based on the UN Water report, “A Life of Dignity For All”. Water management at community, country and regional level is key to success. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon urged us to take this opportunity to work together from wherever we are to solve the lack of access to clean drinking water supply because our security and life depends on them. It is the challenge of our life time when we are facing the disaster that happens on a daily basis from climate change such as hurricane, Typhoon and flood in low land areas around the world. Urgent cooperation and action are ongoing. Many have used information from reading the UN Water report, “A Life of Dignity For All”. Improved water management at community, country and regional level is key to our success. We have seen good work now being done in the Mekong River Delta, and the European Innovation Partnership on Water and in other region that can give us idea for global action and cooperation. The Budapest Water Summit Bulletin , the publication of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in Canada, contains valuable background information for further global action and cooperation in this area which can be used as a follow up to this important World Summit.
We have been warned by scientists and experts that the World’s temperature is rising and that Global Warming is the global crisis facing us. But still there are many skeptics who do not believe in climate change. In 2005, James Balog, the famous National Geographic photographer set out on a photographic mission to the Arctic to capture images as proof that the ice and glacial are really melting because of increase heat in the earth’s environment at an alarmingly fast rate. As a result of this monumental work, we can see with our own eyes what happens to the ice at the North Pole in the documentary film “Chasing Ice”. The film is the most convincing evidence of the Earth’s changing climate. Jerry Bronson and Paula Du Pre Pesman had produced this documentary with James Balog as the main actor. I watched this fantastic 75 minutes documentary film two days ago and was impressed by the beauty of the close-up picture of ice block formations and the movement of the melting glaciers falling into the oceans. It is an incredible nature’s wild image. The photography is not only superb, but also it tells us the frightening message of the danger of changing climate that could flood many places on our earth. It convinces me that climate change is real and that we have to face it together. Everybody should find the time to watch the film and enjoy seeing beauty of ice images that no one has ever seen before until now.
Before the Bangkok Flood of 2011, I did not realize that the rising flood water could force me to look seriously at the clean water supply and the scarcity of drinking water problems. I often take it for granted that water will always be there, available for me to use whenever I want. During the period of flood in the city, dirty flood water got mix-up with the municipality’s canal system which provide clean water for most households use. We were warned by the government not to use contaminated water for cooking and drinking. I had to go to the neighborhood store to buy bottled-drinking water, but I found out that the shelfs were all emptied. People began to stockpile cases of bottled-water at the first warning of flood. I was too late, and ended-up having to buy several bottles of soda water and beer to drink instead. Hard to believe that this could happen in the capital city of Thailand when we used to have plenty of water from the rain six month yearly. I never thought that it could happen to me when I came from New York to visit my ailing mother. That was a hard lesson for me to learn. Luckily the major part of that flood did not reach Sukhumvit areas where my mother lives. So I survived the crisis. But I know that many people in other flooding areas had suffered a lot. No one can survive without clean drinking for a day. And the Thai government emergency water distribution did not reach people fast enough. The experience have made me pay a particular attention to all discussions on the subject relating to clean water. The dialogues among government officials and water experts at the 2nd Asian and Pacific Water Summit held last month in Chiangmai provided valuable information on the problems of water resources management, and the distribution of drinking water when disaster hit. Asia and Pacific leaders came together to share their country’s experiences and to set a new policy on the establishment of water information system. They also focused on the inter-connectedness of clean water supply, food security, and sanitation, especially when a disaster strikes. Water availability at community level is most important for the survival of people, especially those who live in urban areas. In Thailand, we used to store rain water in earth jars or aluminium tanks for household use, but people don’t do that any more. They all rely on water coming out of the government water-pipe. I am glad that leaders in the Asia and Pacific region were aware of this problem. They unanimously agreed on the Chiangmai Declaration committed to promote efficient use of water resources, reduce water pollution, improve water quality, and protect sources of fresh water. The urban water security was included in the effort to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal of universal access to water and sanitation by 2025. With climate change that we are facing today, nobody can wait that long. Scarcity of drinking water is a survival issues for most of us right now. For me, it is personal security and human rights issues.
I find the newly released UN-Habitat Report on State of Women in Cities (2012/1013) interesting to read. Women and men experience urbanization differently. Gender analysis gives us knowledge of how women have to deal with many forms of discrimination when coming to cities to find job. They often ends up getting low-paying job in the service sector, and in entertainment and sex-related industries with little opportunity for career advancement and life improvements. The report gives us a gender dimension on a city-productivity and better understanding of the relationship between gender and prosperity. Making city life safe for women is a challenging issue in urban development because women more than men are prone to become victims of violence in city streets, bus and train station. They also have to endure sexual harassment in their work place. The report suggests a review of policies and institutional framework relevant for mainstreaming gender concerns in city planning and management. The timing in releasing this report is good. It coincided with the 24th Session of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat (15-19 April 2013) under the theme of “Sustainable Urban Development: The Role Of Cities In Creating Improved Economic Opportunities For All”, which must mean equality of service and opportunity for women and men. I want to emphasize that for women living and working in cities, personal security and reduction of crime are all the time their main concerns. City Administration must make sure that streets and public space are well-lit at night. And it must go hand-in-hand with effective crime prevention programs. Elderly women are vulnerable physically, when moving around the cities on their own. They need specific protection measures and appropriate assistance. Recruitment of more female police officers is one action that will help a lot, especially in making women feel more secure in city environment. We must work together to remove all barriers to women’s participation in management of community livelihood in a sustainable human settlement and development of cities.
I am looking forward to the outcome of this week’s International Media Roundtable Discussions in Nairobi, Kenya. When more than 200 ministers of environment, scientists, policy-makers, business leaders and civil society groups get together for six days (17-22 February), it is to be expected that they will come up with a new way to deal with the impact the environment problems have to all life on earth. I expect that they will give me new scientific information and ideas on how the world could work more effectively together to solve problems which have a profound impact to our life now and in the future. The focus of the roundtable discussion are on priority and emerging global environment issues based on an up-to-date information from scientific research on climate change for example. And experts on international environment crime surely could suggest new policy information on poaching or illegal logging that are related to cross border smuggling of weapons, drugs and people. I wait to hear the result of the cooperation between Interpol and governments to find solutions for this major threat to international security and environmental sustainability. Civil society and people around the world are worried about the world-wide rise of Endocrine-related diseases and disorders such as birth defects, genital malformations, fertility problems, adverse pregnancy outcomes, learning disabilities and cancers. WHO and UNEP have given us evidence of the impact that endocrines have on human health, wild-life population and environment. It is to be expected that the result of the roundtable discussion will give us new ideas on how to manage dangerous endocrine disrupters which is found in many industrial and consumer products. The world is waiting to hear the result of UNEP’s initiatives on vehicle and fuel efficiency, the completion of the phasing-out of lead fuel, the information on the impact of black carbon and small particles on our health and environment, and the new global management of mercury. While we wait for the outcome of this important UNEP-organized roundtable that coincided with the First Universal Session of the UNEP Governing Council, I must say that I am happy to see that there is more cooperation from the media to support action around the world that promotes sustainable consumption and production, the safeguarding of our precious natural resources and the environment.