News in Brief 10 December 2015 (PM)

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (centre), together with Al Gore (centre right), former United States Vice President and Chair of the Climate Reality Project, had a joint encounter with civil society representatives and the press during the during the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21). Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary-General "very optimistic" about climate deal

After two weeks of deliberations, the climate change talks in Paris are coming down to the wire.

The conference is due to wrap up on Friday when it is expected that negotiators will reach agreement on limiting global temperature rise to two degrees Celsius.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been participating in the deliberations and remains confident that a deal will be signed.

"I am very much optimistic. I hope they will come out with a very strong and ambitious and universal one, respecting the aspirations of all the people around the world."

Millions in Pacific at risk of drought due to strong El Nino

Nearly five million people in the Pacific could face continued drought and water shortages as a result of the current El Niño weather system, the UN office for the Asia-Pacific region (ESCAP) warns.

The phenomenon is linked to the warming of surface waters in the Pacific Ocean which can affect weather patterns around the world.

This year's El Niño began with mild and localised conditions in late 2014 but the UN office reports that it has intensified and now covers a large swath of Asia and the Pacific.

It is already among the strongest in the past half-century and is likely to continue into early 2016.

Several island nations such as Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands are already experiencing reduced rainfall.

El Niño is also likely to be linked with severe flooding in southern India and northern Sri Lanka.

Promoting mountain products could improve livelihoods

Small-scale producers of coffee, cheese, herbs, spices, handicrafts and other items produced in mountain areas could potentially fetch premium prices for their goods if they tap into niche markets, according to the United Nations.

'Promoting mountain products for better livelihoods' is the theme for this year's International Mountain Day, observed this Friday, 11 December.

Although mountains provide resources such as freshwater, energy and food, they are also vulnerable to climate change, land degradation and natural disasters.

Furthermore, one in three people who reside in highland areas face hunger, poverty and isolation.

The UN says the challenge is to identify new and sustainable opportunities that benefit mountain communities while also helping to eradicate poverty without causing degradation to fragile mountain ecosystems.

Olympic Cup awarded to UN

The United Nations has been awarded the Olympic Cup which the Secretary-General has said he is pleased to receive on behalf of the organization.

Ban Ki-moon said the award symbolizes the close partnership between the International Olympic Committee and the UN.

He added that the collaboration between the two organizations is based on shared values and ideals, and the common goal of using the power of sport to promote development and peace.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 3’03″

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