New project will help Ukraine implement Rio Conventions

05 May 2014

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An estimated billion of families around the world, living primarily in rural areas, depend on natural resources for their livelihood. Yet, global challenges such as climate change, desertification and loss of biodiversity threaten the sustainability of these vital resources. These  challenges and threats are also urgent for Ukraine. The country’s  rich black soil is among its vital assets and the basis for the national economic development.

Three United Nations Conventions (on climate change, biological diversity, desertification) were adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 in response to a number of global environmental threats. They serve as a roadmap to lead the countries along the  sustainable development path. Ukraine is a signatory to all three conventions.  

In order to support Ukraine in fulfilling its international obligations under these three Rio Conventions and to address the global environmental issues, which inevitably impact the national social and economic wellbeing, UNDP and the Global Environmental Facility launched a new project ‘Integrating Rio Conventions Provisions into Ukraine’s National Policy Framework’. The project will start with analyzing the current sectoral policies and programmes through the prism of implementation of provisions of the Rio Conventions. Further, it will assess the training needs of the line ministries employees and key stakeholders, and will develop tools to raise awareness of the environmental priorities set in the Rio Conventions. Several educational workshops for journalists will be organized, with a focus on writing about global environmental issues and their meaning for Ukraine.

On April 29, 2014, the project’s inception workshop gathered around 80 representatives of the relevant Ministries, scientists and NGOs to discuss project’s priorities, plans and expected results. The project will be implemented in the course of three years and will be completed in 2017. Its success largely depends on the close collaboration with its key national partner – the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, and on extensive engagement of other Ministries and stakeholders.

Land degradation is an extremely urgent issue for Ukraine because it has a direct impact on soil fertility and the quality of agricultural products which can lead to  significant economic losses (more than 6 billiard US dollars annually). Intensive chemical-based agriculture, overuse of lands, and unsustainable forestry practices are among the reasons for land degradation in Ukraine. Degradation of soils leads first to reduced productivity, causing rural incomes to fall and potentially decreasing the quality and availability of foods for rural households. Decreased agricultural productivity prompts rural population to move to thecities,thatincreased pressure on urban infrastructure and services. Land degradation, occurring on a broad scale within a region, can lead to food insecurity for large numbers of people.

Climate changeis likely to lead to less rain thus resulting in the loss of soil fertility and desertification, degraded habitats for wildlife, and increasing threats to rural livelihoods. Gradually, climatic zones are shifting and rising temperatures are creating conditions for epidemiological insecurity (e.g., migration of malaria carrying insects in Europe). Sea level rises, which will in turn lead to relocation of millions of people living at the coastlines. Increased flooding and storm damage due to more unpredictable and extreme weather will cause both human and infrastructural damage throughout the world.

The consequences of climate change were observed in Ukraine in 1998 and in 2008, when it suffered from intensive floods and then in 2009 and 2010 when Ukrainian population witnessed abnormally hot summers. The climate change is intrinsically linked with future economic losses and will likely  cause uncontrolled migration of people, spread of  diseases and other social disruptions.

Human survival and wellbeing depend upon biodiversity and healthy ecosystems, and the goods and services they provide—such as food, medicines, crop pollination, filtration of pollutants, and protection from natural disasters. This contribution is neither fully recognized nor valued in markets.  As a result, ecosystems, species and genes—the building blocks of biodiversity—are being degraded at an unparalleled pace as natural resources are being exploited without consideration for their broader ecosystem and economic values. The poor, especially in rural areas, face the most severe impacts of such changes as they directly depend on ecosystem goods and services for their survival and wellbeing.