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175 nations stress environmental cooperation

In the spirit of celebrating UNEP@50, President Kenyatta concluded by announcing a new bi-annual award of $25,000 from the people of Kenya to persons or institutions who champion environmental sustainability and peace…reports Vishal Gulati

Heads of state raised a united plea for multilateral action this week marking the 50th anniversary of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

The special session of the UN Environment Assembly, which wrapped up on Friday in Nairobi, addresses how to build a resilient and inclusive post-pandemic world.

The two-day event was an important highlight among a number of activities and events over the past year to recognise the significant progress made on tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution, and address the challenges to come.

Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, and Central African Republic Prime Minister Felix Molula joined Ministers of Environment and other representatives from 175 nations for the event.

In his opening speech on Thursday, President Kenyatta recalled some notable environment successes of UN member states, coordinated through UNEP, including historic conferences like the Rio 1992 Earth Summit and the 1987 Montreal Convention to protect the ozone layer.

“I want to commend all Member States for the dedication and diligence that you’ve shown in prioritising the issues that affect our planet. We cannot talk of development, peace, and security without highlighting the nexus with climate change,” he said.

The President praised UNEP as an “ecological conscience,” and “a credible platform for nations to come together and act boldly to advance the global environmental agenda”.

In the spirit of celebrating UNEP@50, President Kenyatta concluded by announcing a new bi-annual award of $25,000 from the people of Kenya to persons or institutions who champion environmental sustainability and peace.

President Buhari said: “It’s time to bolster international cooperation and stimulate collective action to address the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and rising levels of pollution and waste. No country or continent can achieve this alone. Each nation has an essential role to play.”

Pledging to continue working with other countries to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, he went on to say: “We recognise that restoring key ecosystems is crucial to help combat climate change and achieve sustainable development.”

President Masisi said: “Economic activity and population growth has compounded the already enormous strain on the world’s natural resources and ecosystems. Climate change, desertification, loss of biodiversity and growing levels of poverty are painful realities of our times.”

Detailing Botswana’s record on sustainable management of its biodiversity — 40 per cent of its land is under protected area status — and integrating environmental considerations into national planning processes, he affirmed his country’s commitment to Multilateral Environmental Agreements, urging “green philanthropists, private sector, research institutions and development agenciesa(to) incentivise success in conservation.”

The 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm is regarded as one of the first major multilateral meetings on the environment; it spurred the formation of environment ministries and agencies around the world, kickstarted a host of new global agreements to collectively protect the environment and led to the formation of UNEP — the only UN agency whose headquarters is in Africa.

For five decades, Kenya has been the host of UNEP and over the past week it has hosted the resumed 5th session of the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-5.2).

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, extended gratitude to Kenya for hosting UNEP for 50 years, and for the country’s unwavering support for UNEA-5.2.

“UNEP is now at the heart of protecting the asset upon which we all rely, the environment. The world has realised that we cannot pollute our way to development and clean up after. We have a human right to a healthy environment. Youth are demanding change. Governments, cities and regions are acting. Businesses are acting. Investors are acting,” she said.

“None of this was in place 50 years ago.”

“However, our journey will only conclude when we ensure that humanity can thrive without skewing the delicate balance of life on this glorious planet,” she added.

The special session to commemorate the establishment of UNEP follows the three-day UNEA-5.2, which drew about 3,000 participants in-person and 1,500 online from 175 UN Member States, including 79 ministers and 17 high-level officials.

The Assembly adopted 14 resolutions, two declarations and one decision on curbing pollution and for the protection and restoration of nature.

Among these are a historic resolution to forge an international legally binding deal to end plastic pollution, the establishment of a science policy panel on the sound management of chemicals and waste, and on the definition and implementation of nature-based solutions.

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7 EU nations launch Digital COVID Certificate

Meanwhile, last week,tThe European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15…reports Asian Lite News.

The European Union’s (EU) new Digital COVID Certificate reached an important milestone on Tuesday when it was launched in the bloc’s seven member states one month ahead of the scheme’s scheduled start on July 1.

It went live in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland, the European Commission said in a statement, Xinhua news agency reported.

The certificate was proposed by the Commission to enable people to resume safe free travel this summer. The system allows the verification of certificates in a secure and privacy-friendly way.

Available in digital format or on paper, it will provide proof that its holder has been vaccinated against COVID-19, tested negative or recovered from an infection.

The Commission said that the gateway for the certificate had already been tested successfully in 22 countries. The regulation comes into force on July 1 with a phasing-in period of six weeks for the issuance of certificates for those member states that need additional time.

However, those member states that have passed the technical tests and are ready to issue and verify certificates can already start using the system on a voluntary basis.

“The EU Digital COVID Certificate shows the value-added of effective e-health solutions for our citizens,” said Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety. “It is important that during the coming weeks, all member states fully finalize their national systems to issue, store and verify certificates, so the system is functioning in time for the holiday season.”

Meanwhile, last week,tThe European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15.

Pfizer-BioNTech becomes the first vaccine to be authorised for adolescents in the 27 member states of the European Union (EU).

Addressing a press conference in Brussels on Friday, Marco Cavaleri, EMA’s vaccine strategy manager, said that the medicines’ regulator had received the necessary data to authorise the vaccine for younger teens.

The data shows that it is highly effective against Covid-19.

He pointed out that the decision needs to be approved by the European Commission and individual national regulators.

Regulators in Canada and the US had already recommended its use for teenagers.

Vaccine (ANI)

The EMA’s recommendation was based on a study in more than 2,200 adolescents in the US showing that the vaccine was safe and effective.

The trial showed that the immune response in this group was comparable to that in the 16-25 age group.

The study shows that the vaccine was 100 per cent effective at preventing Covid, the EMA said in a statement.

The most common side effects in children aged 12 to 15 are similar to those in people aged 16 and above.

They include pain, tiredness, headache, muscle and joint pain, chills and fever.

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Aid continues to pour in from East Asia, Europe

Continuing to stand beside its partner India, Japan flew in 2 aircraft of life-saving equipment that included oxygen concentrators, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)…reports Asian Lite News.

Global aid continues to pour in as India battles a massive second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Major consignments of medical supplies and equipment were received from South Korea, Japan, France, Italy and UK on Thursday, including oxygen concentrators, ventilators and rapid testing kits.

Continuing to stand beside its partner India, Japan flew in 2 aircraft of life-saving equipment that included oxygen concentrators, said the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

Aid from Britain (MEA)

“Cooperation with Japan continues. 2 aircrafts carrying a total consignment of 100 oxygen concentrators arrive from Japan. 4 aircrafts in 2 days from Japan have delivered a cumulative of 200 oxygen concentrators. Appreciate this continuing support from our partner Japan,” MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

Another East Asian partner, the Republic of Korea, sent a shipment of 10,000 rapid testing kits that were received by India on Thursday.

“Our continuing cooperation with Republic of Korea. Welcome the shipment of 10,000 rapid testing kits from Republic of Korea that arrived today,” said another tweet by the Bagchi.

Republic of Korea gifts 200 oxygen concentrators (Photo:MEA)

Two ISO containers arranged by France and facilitated by Qatar on board INS Trikand also reached Mumbai.

“A partnership across the seas brings tangible benefits on ground 2 ISO containers arranged by France, facilitated by Qatar & transported by @indiannavy on #INSTrikand reach Mumbai (India). Kasturba Hospital, Mumbai receives LMO. Others to also benefit,” the MEA Spokeperson’s tweet said.

A gift of 1,200 oxygen cylinders from British Oxygen Company arrived from UK on Thursday. This is in addition to the 1,350 oxygen cylinders that arrived from the UK on Tuesday. This is part of UK’s generous contribution of 5,000 oxygen cylinders.

“Welcome the gift of another 1200 oxygen cylinders from British Oxygen Company that arrived from the UK today. Appreciate the logistical support from Qatar Airways for this shipment,” the MEA Spokesperson mentioned.

Government of India has been receiving international donations and aid of COVID-19 relief medical supplies and equipment since April 27 from different countries and organisations to augment its efforts in fighting the unprecedented surge in COVID in the country, said an official statement from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Cumulatively, 9,294 Oxygen Concentrators; 11,835 Oxygen Cylinders; 19 Oxygen Generation Plants; 6,439 ventilators/Bi PAP; nearly 4.22 L Remdesivir vials delivered/ dispatched through road and air, from April 27 to May 12.

Major consignments received on Thursday from Kuwait, Singapore, Gilead, Switzerland, Spain and Egypt included 86,595 vials of anti-viral Remdesivir, 4,802 oxygen cylinders, 10 oxygen concentrators and 141 Ventilator/ BiPAP/ CPAP.

Effective immediate allocation, and streamlined delivery to the recipient states/UTs and institutions is an ongoing exercise.

The Union Health Ministry is comprehensively monitoring this on a regular basis. A dedicated Coordination Cell has been created in the Union Health Ministry to coordinate the receipt and allocation of foreign COVID relief material as grants, aid and donations.

This cell started functioning from April 26 this year. A Standard Operating Procedure has been framed and implemented by the Health Ministry since May 2. (INN)

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