China’s Belt & Road Risks Environmental Ruin

Crowd in Hong Kong, July 1, 2014 (Photo by doctorho) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Crowd in Hong Kong, July 1, 2014 (Photo by doctorho) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

CAIRNS, Australia, August 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – A global expert on infrastructure warns that China’s plan to string massive transportation and energy projects halfway around the Earth is “environmentally the riskiest venture ever undertaken.”

China's President Xi Jinping at the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre, South Africa. BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. July 26, 2018 (Photo courtesy Government of South Africa)

China’s President Xi Jinping at the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre, South Africa. BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. July 26, 2018 (Photo courtesy Government of South Africa)

China’s President Xi Jinping at the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre, South Africa. BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. July 26, 2018 (Photo courtesy Government of South Africa)

China’s President Xi Jinping proposed the idea of a new “Silk Road Economic Belt” five years ago. Now known as the Belt and Road Initiative, the project includes the building of new roads, railway lines, and ports in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the creation of oil and gas pipelines to Russia, Kazakhstan, and Myanmar.

“China has enormous ambitions,” said lead author and Distinguished Research Professor Bill Laurance from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. “But with that comes enormous responsibilities.”

Writing in the journal “Nature Sustainability,” Professor Laurance joined an international team urging China to undertake “rigorous strategic planning” before embarking on its Belt and Road Initiative, which is supposed to span at least 64 nations across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Pacific.

“The Belt and Road Initiative will greatly influence the future of global trade. However, it may also promote permanent environmental degradation,” wrote Laurence and his co-authors, who hail from Australia, China, Germany, Portugal, Canada, and the United States.

They called for “rigorous strategic environmental and social assessments, raising the bar for environmental protection worldwide.”

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has two parts. The economic belt is made up of six corridors that direct land-based trade to and from China with roads, railways, bridges and power plants. The second part, the maritime silk road, is a chain of seaports from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean that will facilitate ocean-going trade to and from China.

China is loaning trillions to countries that will host these projects. By mid-century, the Belt and Road Initiative could involve 7,000 infrastructure projects and US$8 trillion in investment, Laurence and his team of researchers said.

Henrique Pereira, a co-author with the Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources in Portugal, warns that the exploitation of oil and gas reserves through the BRI will mean greater reliance on fossil fuels.

“Raw materials and fossil fuels use, and increased oil and gas reserves exploitation constitute a scenario of an increasing dependency on fossil-fuel and high greenhouse gas emissions,” Pereira said.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) undertook a spatial assessment of the possible impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative on habitats.

The global conservation group warns that the initiative could impact over 1,700 critical biodiversity areas and hundreds of threatened species.

“We found BRI corridors overlap with the range of 265 threatened species including saiga antelopes, tigers and giant pandas,” said WWF.

BRI corridors also overlap with 1,739 Important Bird Areas or Key Biodiversity Areas and 46 biodiversity hotspots or Global 200 ecoregions, the conservation group reports.

In April, 27 out of 28 European Union ambassadors to China signed a report criticizing the Belt and Road Initiative. The Hungarian ambassador was the only exception.

The ambassadors’ main critique of the Initiative is that it “runs counter to the EU agenda for liberalizing trade and pushes the balance of power in favor of subsidized Chinese companies.”

But China shrugged off their concerns. The report, “does not conform to the facts,” Hua Chunying, the ministry spokesperson, told a press briefing in Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Monday at a seminar in Beijing to mark the five-year anniversary of his signature project, that the Belt and Road Initiative is an economic cooperation proposal, not a “China club.”

President Xi said China welcomes any interest in the plan, as the BRI is not a geopolitical coalition, military alliance or exclusive circle. “We do not demarcate by ideology and do not play zero-sum games,” he stressed.

But not everyone is a critic. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Sunday that he has a positive attitude towards the Belt and Road Initiative and hopes that Malaysia will maintain a friendly and cooperative relationship with China.

The Malaysian leader made the remarks during a speech to local entrepreneurs in Beijing, during which he welcomed the investment of Chinese businesses in his Southeast Asian nation.

In 2016, President Xi called for the Belt and Road Initiative to be “green, healthy, intelligent and peaceful,” adding that participating countries should “deepen cooperation in environmental protection, intensify ecological preservation and build a green Silk Road.”

“China claims its Belt and Road will be a blueprint for responsible development, but that’s going to require it to fundamentally change the way it does business internationally,” said Professor Laurance.

“Too many Chinese firms and financiers operating overseas are poorly controlled by their government, in large part because they are so profitable,” he said.

“In the last two decades I’ve seen countless examples of aggressive and even predatory exploitation by Chinese firms, especially in developing nations with weak environmental controls.”

Distinguished Research Professor Professor Bill Laurance from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia (Photo courtesy JCU)

Distinguished Research Professor Professor Bill Laurance from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia (Photo courtesy JCU)

Professor Laurance and his co-authors say China has a unique opportunity to change its model of development and become a world leader in sustainability.

“China is doing a much better job of improving environmental safeguards inside China than internationally,” said Professor Laurance.

“It’s produced a mountain of green documents and promises about the Belt and Road, but a leopard doesn’t just change its spots overnight.”

“China has a unique opportunity,” said Laurence, “but if it’s business as usual then I think the costs for the environment and economic risks for investors could be flat-out scary.”


Fund_NGO

Sustainable Development = Happiness

Delegates at the opening session of the 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo by Kiara Worth courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Delegates at the opening session of the 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo by Kiara Worth courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, July 10, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “It is literally the truth, that sustainable development is the path to happiness,” Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, told this year’s meeting of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) that opened on Monday at UN Headquarters in New York.

In the days between now and July 18, the HLPF will bring together more than 1,000 government, business and civil society leaders. More than 80 ministers and vice‑ministers will be attending the Forum, as well as 2,500 no‑state actors.

They will evaluate the progress made by dozens of countries towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – unanimously adopted by the United Nations’ 193 Member States in 2015 – to determine what is and what is not working, based on UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ annual progress report.

HLPF is the official forum to review progress towards the goals, and, under the theme, “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies,” this year’s Forum focuses on six of the 17 goals: SDGs 6 (water), 7 (energy), 11 (cities), 12 (consumption and production), 15 (terrestrial ecosystems), and 17 (partnership).

The Forum meets annually under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), including a three-day ministerial segment. It will meet once every four years at the level of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the UN General Assembly.

During the 2018 Forum, 47 countries are sharing their experiences, including the successes, challenges and lessons learned.

“The goals are this generation’s only hope for creating peaceful, safe, fair and sustainable societies,” said Sachs. “We have to make them work, but the biggest obstacle is greed.”

Sachs told of the greed and vested interests of coal, oil and gas companies, and he called out the global food industry’s unsustainable supply chains and unhealthy products.

Citing parallel sustainable development and happiness rankings, Sachs observed that the list of the top 10 countries closest to achieving the goals mirrors a complementary ranking of the world’s happiest countries.

Sustainable development promotes wellbeing and happiness, said Sachs, while tax cuts for the rich undermine infrastructure, education and health services.

He called on rich countries and individuals to address the gap of US$200 billion in financing to achieve the SDGs, by:

  • increasing official development assistance;
  • using one percent of the wealth of the world’s 2,208 billionaires to ensure education for every child and universal health care access;
  • closing down off-shore tax regimes, and and taxing the $20 trillion held in offshore accounts in a “tax haven archipelago” designed by the United States, the United Kingdom and others.
  • taxing the five big technology monopoly companies given their use of public data;
  • taxing financial transactions;
  • establishing a global carbon tax; and
  • adopting measures to address tax evasion.

Sachs said that there are enough resources in the world for everyone to live free of poverty and it should not require a big effort on the part of large developed countries, to profoundly help those struggling in poverty.

Most important is quality education, declared Sachs, followed by universal access to health care, clean energy “without which the planet will be wrecked,” sustainable land and food, smarter cities with decent infrastructure, and proper use of digital technologies.

The aim is to ensure that every child has a future. Otherwise, he said, “we don’t have a future.”

He said Sweden is the country most on course to achieving the SDGs, and that Europe is to date “by far” the region doing the best.

The happiest countries are the ones that tax themselves the most, he said, pointing out that Swedes think it is a good thing to pay half their national income to finance quality education and healthcare.

Left, Marie Chatardová, President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), right, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General, Economic and Social Affairs, UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Left, Marie Chatardová, President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), right, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General, Economic and Social Affairs, UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

The United States, on the other hand, is “all about tax cuts for rich people,” Sachs declared. “To achieve sustainable development, you have to pay for it,” he said, adding that tax cuts for the rich stifle sustainable development.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Monday released the 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards Report, “Global Responsibilities: Implementing the Goals,” which tracks data on how all 193 UN member states are progressing towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year, three Nordic countries, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, top the global SDG Index ranking, yet all three still face major challenges in achieving the goals. Sweden, for instance, scores red on sustainable consumption and production as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

As the trends data show, Sweden is making progress towards achieving the goals, but it’s not on track to meet the climate SDG 13 or to make land-use and food systems sustainable (Goals 2 and 14).

Forum participants say progress has been made on achieving the goals of ending poverty and hunger, but meeting the targets by the 2030 deadline will require more effort.

“It will require policy makers’ unwavering attention, a laser-sharp focus on implementation of these goals, and a true sense of urgency,” said Liu Zhenmin of China, the UN Under-Secretary-General of Economic and Social Affairs.

“We have only 12 more years to fully realize this transformative agenda, but these goals are absolutely within our reach,” he told the conference.

Introducing the UN Secretary‑General’s report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals , Liu cited gains in lowering maternal and child mortality and challenges such as climate change consequences and conflict that are obstructing progress.

He pointed out that few developing countries have fully funded statistical plans and the share of official development assistance for statistics has been just 0.3 percent since 2010. Liu said “to understand accomplishments and setbacks and chart our way forward, we need reliable, timely, open and disaggregated data to inform all our actions.”

“It has been three years since world leaders committed to end poverty and hunger, to protect our planet, to foster peaceful societies, and to unleash economic, social and technological progress – and in implementing this vision they committed to reach those furthest behind,” Liu said.

For the first time in more than a decade, there are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.

According to the Secretary‑General’s report, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries.

In 2017, a record 68.5 million people around the world have been displaced by persecution, conflict and mass atrocities.

Also in 2017, the world experienced the costliest North Atlantic hurricane season on record, driving the global economic losses attributed to disasters to over $300 billion.

Yet many people are living better lives than they were a decade ago, even in regions facing the greatest development challenges, the Index shows.

The proportion of the world’s workers and their families now living below the extreme poverty line has dropped from 27 percent in 2000 to nine percent in 2017, Liu noted.

“However, drought and disasters linked to climate change, and surging conflicts in parts of the world, are hindering faster progress,” Liu warned.

ECOSOC President Marie Chatardová of the Czech Republic, who is chairing the meeting, said that achieving the goals requires more than just the “dedication and good will” of governments.

“We explored how civil society, the private sector, academia and other actors can help move the SDGs forward,” she said.

“The worst thing is not that the world is unfree, but that people have unlearned their liberty,” said Chatardová, quoting the Czech author Milan Kundera, adding that “too many people have unlearned their right to engage in policy and decision making.”

Chatardová said she expects that the Declaration, an outcome document to be adopted at the end of the Forum, will present a strong political message on the international community’s unwavering commitment to realize the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda.

Featured Image: Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development addresses the opening session of the HLPF, holding aloft the 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards Report, “Global Responsibilities: Implementing the Goals,” which tracks data on how all 193 UN member states are progressing towards the Sustainable Development Goals. UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo by Kiara Worth courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission


MAXIMPACT_TRAINING

‘Carbon Bubble’ Could Cost World Trillions

SingaporeSuperTrees

Singapore-Supertrees are generating solar power, acting as air venting for conservatories, and collecting rain water, June 11, 2015 (Photo by Güldem Üstün) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

CAMBRIDGE, UK, June 7, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Globally, the consumption of fossil fuels will slow down or decline in the near future as a result of fast-moving technological change and new climate policies, creating a “dangerous carbon bubble,” finds a newly published study by an international team of scientists.

If not deflated early, the carbon bubble could lead to a discounted global wealth loss of between US$1 trillion and $4 trillion, a loss comparable to what triggered the 2007 financial crisis, the study shows.

Relying on groundbreaking modeling techniques, researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands, the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG), Cambridge Econometrics, The Open University in the UK and the University of Macau were able to show that the demise of the fossil-fuel industry will have profound economic and geopolitical consequences.

The study is published in the current issue of the journal “Nature Climate Change.”

“If countries keep investing in equipment to search for, extract, process and transport fossil fuels, even though their demand declines, they will end up losing money on these investments on top of their losses due to limited exports,” explains co-author Dr. Jean-Francois Mercure of Radboud University and C-EENRG.

“Countries should instead carefully deflate the carbon bubble through investment in a variety of industries and steady divestment,” he advises. “The way in which this is done will determine the impact of the ongoing low-carbon transition on the financial sector.”

This transition will result in clear winners, importers such as China and the European Union, and losers, exporters such as Russia, the United States and Canada, which could see their fossil-fuel industries nearly shut down.

If these countries keep up their investment and production levels despite declining demand, the global wealth loss could be huge. Even the United States could not pull out from this transition, as it would only hurt itself even more, the researchers warn.

This new study is more conservative in its warnings than a 2013 research paper from Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. That paper calls for regulators, governments and investors to re-evaluate energy business models against carbon budgets, to prevent a $6 trillion carbon bubble in the next decade.

The Underlying Reasoning

Quite a few major economies rely heavily on fossil-fuel production and exports. The price of fossil-fuel companies’ shares is calculated under the assumption that all fossil-fuel reserves will be consumed.

But to do so would be inconsistent with the tight carbon budget set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, which limits the increase in global average temperature to “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.”

According to a 2015 study in the journal “Nature,” an estimated third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and more than 80 percent of known coal reserves should remain unused in order to meet global temperature targets under the Paris Agreement.

To date the Paris accord has not deterred continuing investment in fossil fuels because of the belief that climate-friendly policies will not be adopted, at least not in the near future.

But the researchers show that ongoing technological change, by itself and even without new climate policies, is already reducing global demand growth for fossil fuels, which could peak in the near future.

Examples are clean technologies in power generation, cars and households that become more efficient and so reduce the use of fossil fuels.

For instance, countries, states and cities representing 75 percent of new passenger car sales in 2016 have established electric vehicle targets totaling 15.1 million, providing policy certainty of a transition away from oil consuming vehicles.

New climate policies would aggravate the impact of policies like this, Dr. Mercure and his colleagues believe.

Because the Trump Administration has proclaimed the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the scientists also modeled what would happen if the United States did continue to invest in fossil-fuel assets instead of diversifying and divesting from them.

The analysis shows the GDP of the United States would be reduced even further.

Dr. Mercure clarifies this point, saying, “With a declining global fossil-fuel demand, fossil-fuel production in the USA is becoming uncompetitive, and may shut down.”

“If the USA remains in the Paris Agreement, it will promote new low-carbon technologies and reduce its consumption of fossil fuels, creating jobs and mitigating its loss of income, despite losing its fossil-fuel industry,” he said.

“If it pulls out, it will nevertheless lose its fossil-fuel industry, but by not promoting low-carbon technologies, will miss out on job creation opportunities, while increasing its fossil-fuel imports by not reducing its domestic fossil-fuel consumption. The outcome is therefore worse if the USA pulls out,” said Dr. Mercure.

The process of transition towards a low-carbon economy is now becoming “inevitable,” as policies supporting this change have been developed and gradually implemented for some time in many countries, the authors point out.

Hector Pollitt, study co-author from Cambridge Econometrics and C-EENRG, says, “This new research clearly shows the mismatch between the reductions in fossil fuel consumption required to meet carbon targets and the behavior of investors.”

“Governments have an important role to play in emphasizing commitments to meet the Paris Agreement to ensure that the significant detrimental economic and geopolitical consequences we have identified are avoided,” warned Pollitt.

The authors conclude that economic damage from a carbon bubble burst could be avoided by decarbonizing early.

Divestment is Prudent

“We should be carefully looking at where we are investing our money. For instance, much like companies, pension funds and other institutions currently invest in fossil-fuel assets. Following recommendations from central banks, commercial banks are increasingly looking at the financial risks of stranded fossil-fuel assets, even though their possible impacts have not yet been fully determined,” said Mercure.

“Until now, observers mostly paid attention to the likely effectiveness of climate policies, but not to the ongoing and effectively irreversible technological transition,” Mercure concludes. “This level of ‘creative destruction’ appears inevitable now and must be carefully managed.”

Another new study, released June 4, bolsters these findings.

Policymakers are being misinformed by the results of economic models that underestimate the future risks of climate change impacts, according to the new paper by authors in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Published in the “Review of Environmental Economics and Policy” calls for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to improve how it analyzes the results of economic modeling as it prepares its Sixth Assessment Report, due to be published in 2021 and 2022.

The IPCC is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. It has 195 member states.

The paper’s authors point to “mounting evidence that current economic models of the aggregate global impacts of climate change are inadequate in their treatment of uncertainty and grossly underestimate potential future risks.”

This study, “Recommendations for Improving the Treatment of Risk and Uncertainty in Economic Estimates of Climate Impacts in the Sixth Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Report,” was written by Thomas Stoerk of the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, Gernot Wagner of the Harvard University Center for the Environment and Bob Ward of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy and Grantham Research Institute at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

They warn that the assessment models used by economists “largely ignore the potential for ‘tipping points’ beyond which impacts accelerate, become unstoppable, or become irreversible.”

Featured image: Heavy seas engulf the Block Island Wind Farm, the first U.S. offshore wind farm, located off the coast of Rhode Island in the Atlantic Ocean. It came online in December 2016. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / National Renewable Energy Laboratory) Public domain


Refuuu

Two Experiments With a Car-free Future

Kaohsiung light rail service at Kaisyuan Rueitian Station, Nov. 9, 2014 (Photo by billy1125)

Kaohsiung light rail service at Kaisyuan Rueitian Station, Nov. 9, 2014 (Photo by billy1125)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, October 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Imagine you live in a society that has opted to live without cars, not for environmental reasons or due to a fuel shortage but simply out of choice.

PostCarWorld, a study into the role of cars in Swiss society, found that Swiss people could be ready to move past cars, although they would be leaving behind a means of transport that has long been synonymous with modern life.

And, this shift to a car-free culture may even be economically viable, finds the research done at ETH Zurich, a university for science and technology.

The research results were presented at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) on October 3.

“We’re shifting from an object-centered world, in which cars are an extension of our private property, a myth, a dream, to a service-oriented world, which is based on a whole new approach to mobility,” explains Professor Jacques Lévy, a geographer and head of EPFL’s Chôros Laboratory, who directed the four-year study.

Jacques Lévy is a professor of geography and urban planning at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). (Photo courtesy Hesam University) posted for media use.

Jacques Lévy is a professor of geography and urban planning at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). (Photo courtesy Hesam University) posted for media use.

At the presentation, Lévy gave an honorary lecture followed by the opening of an exhibition showcasing his laboratory’s research and the results of the PostCarWorld research.

The idea for this study had been brewing for several years within the research institutes of EPFL’s School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering before it finally got the green light for funding by the Swiss National Science Foundation’s Sinergia program, which supports pioneering, cross-disciplinary research.

Geographers, architects, urban planners, economists, transport and mobility engineers, political experts and sociologists from EPFL, ETH Zurich and the Università della Svizzera italiana all collaborated on the study.

Can you imagine getting around in a world without cars? That was the initial question put to 1,000 Swiss people, including experts in urban planning and mobility, as well as members of the general public.

“In asking Swiss people to imagine a car-free future, we were really aiming to find out more about what’s happening right now and about people’s complex relationship with cars,” said Lévy.

This relationship has been complicated by the rapidly shifting and highly contradictory status of cars in Switzerland.

While most Swiss people are prepared to consider alternatives to buying a car, change is slow, and people still enjoy driving.

But as leasing, car sharing, carpooling, public transport and telecommuting gain ground, people no longer need to own their own car to have that sense of freedom.

The researchers observed a renewed focus on public spaces within cities.

“There was a consensus among the urban planners we interviewed. They all want to rethink our streets and place more importance on shared spaces,” Lévy said. “Cars will have to adapt to this multimodal world in which pedestrians are reclaiming their rights and public spaces are no longer taken over by cars.”

Their final observation was that cars are responsible for the urban sprawl around us that, once it reaches a certain size, hinders a city’s growth.

As part of the study, EPFL’s TRACE Laboratory came up with the idea of building fast moving walkways that allow people to get around town quickly without a car. This invention has already caught the eye of the European Commission.

“We have not come up with a turnkey solution,” says Michel Bierlaire, the director of EPFL’s Transport and Mobility Laboratory. “But this study proves that the concept is credible and that a car-less, pedestrian-centric city is conceivable. This is a useful starting point for urban planners to evaluate the feasibility of accelerating moving walkways.”

Also at EPFL, a study was conducted into the mobility of those living in the Lake Geneva region. It showed that building strategic public transport links could attract people to them over the long term.

The disruptive influence of driverless cars was also analyzed. The researchers concluded that these cars will play a unique role in how we get around since they are not designed to replace human-driven cars.

Lévy says, “The balance is shifting. People living in downtown areas are aware that the cars polluting the air around them and creating noise come from outside the town, and that the fine particles they produce are deadly.”

“Certain public policies have changed, but the Swiss Constitution sends a mixed signal: it sets sustainable development as an objective but also stipulates that people must be free to choose their means of transport,” Lévy said. “But does this right to mobility conflict with other rights, such as the right to health?”

These contradictions are a sign that we are transitioning to a post-car society, say the researchers, who believe that a car-free world is much more likely now than it was 20 years ago.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan Puts Theory Into Practice

On the other side of the world in Kaohsiung, visitors are flocking to the Third EcoMobility World Festival and Congress to experience what a sustainable future for urban transport might be like.

They are arriving in a port city of 2.8 million residents in southern Taiwan, punctuated by skyscrapers, on the Love River, with walking paths and cafes along its banks, and cruise boats navigating its waters.

For the month of October, Kaohsiung is transforming the streets of its historic Hamasen neighborhood into a space dedicated to ecomobile vehicles such as bikes, public transport and light electric vehicles. The city has long been preparing for this event, together with neighborhood residents.

The EcoMobility World Festival, initiated by ICLEI, Local Governments for Sustainability, is a month-long enactment of the future of urban mobility in a real city, with real people, in real time.

Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu says one of the most challenging – and most important – parts of making urban transport more sustainable is the change that needs to happen in our minds. Switching to ecomobility involves behavioral change that lays the groundwork for a new transportation culture.

Chu wrote a letter describing her plans for the event to fellow member cities of ICLEI, an international association of local governments that have made a commitment to sustainable development.

With this letter, she invited “all cities and mobility actors to this revolutionary experiment in our city, to share their expertise and work together on making sustainable urban mobility the norm in our cities.”

Mayor Chu also serves as chair of the EcoMobility Alliance, a network of 22 cities from around the world created in October 2011 in Chang¬won, South Korea.

Mayor Chu explained that despite a bike rental system with 159 stations and 750 kilometres of cycle paths, multiple public transport systems, including Mass Rapid Transit, high speed rail, the Taiwan Railway, city buses, ferries, solar boats, and light rail, her city suffers from air pollution due to petrol-based transportation.

“Today, over 90 percent of Kaohsiung residents use private cars or motorized scooters to go about their daily lives, contributing to air and noise pollution, traffic jams and accidents in the city,” wrote the mayor to her ICLEI colleagues.

“To demonstrate the transformative potential of an integrated sustainable transport system in Kaohsiung, we will make the Hamasen neighborhood, a frequently visited tourist area, exclusively open to ecomobile transport for the entire month of October,” wrote Mayor Chu.

“We want to improve air quality and create safer and more livable streets by increasing people- and environment-friendly transport options,” she wrote. “Through the Festival, we aim to demonstrate that ecomobility also supports the development of local economy by increasing access to local businesses.”

In parallel with the Festival, Kaohsiung hosted the EcoMobility World Congress on October 1-5, focusing on the three themes that will also be woven into the Festival experience: livable, shared and intelligent.

“By implementing shared mobility, cities can increase the mobility options available to their residents,” said Mayor Chu. “When coupled with intelligent transport solutions, they can ensure easy access to transport-related information by the residents.”

“The Congress will showcase examples from cities all around the world so that we all take home ideas on how to transform our urban transport systems,” she said.

To win the hearts and minds of residents, Mayor Chu and her government are working with over 150 local ambassadors to help residents understand and embrace the Festival, listening to their concerns and spending the time to answer their questions.

To ease the transition into the Festival, Kaohsiung made all ecomobile modes of transport available two weeks ahead of the event. Since September 12, the residents of Hamasen and people coming to the neighborhood to work or study were provided with parking space outside of the neighborhood area, and invited to use the wide range of ecomobile transport options available.

Two weeks before the Festival, 70 percent of the residents had received a public transport e-ticket, allowing them to use the bus, metro, ferry and light rail for free throughout the month of October.

Initial feedback is positive and encouraging say organizers. Students are finding it easier to commute to school, and residents are asking whether the variety of transport options will remain in place after the Festival.

Kaohsiung is treating the EcoMobility World Festival as an investment for the future of the city and its residents. The city is committing to ecomobility and planning for long term changes, but for now, city officials are concentrating on making this challenging experiment a success.


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Transforming Africa

TanzaniaChildren

Children in Tanzania wait for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Photo by Derek Hansen) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 By Sunny Lewis

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors on Sunday in Baden Baden, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced a record US$57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three years.

KimJimYong

President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim of the United States (Photo by Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Kim said the fresh infusion of funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development across Sub-Saharan Africa .

This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” he said.

With this commitment,” he said, “we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.

Kim then left to visit Rwanda in the central Sub-Saharan region and Tanzania in the east to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region.

With a population of just over one billion people, Sub-Saharan Africa is defined as those African countries situated south of the Sahara Desert.

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remains strong,” the World Bank stated three years ago, in March 2014. “Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at six percent.

But income inequality is extreme in the Sub-Saharan region. Some of these countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa, are rich in oil or mineral wealth, but many others are desperately poor.

First Priorities: Food and Water

Earlier this month, the World Bank president issued a warning on the “devastating levels of food insecurity” in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen. “Famine is a stain on our collective conscience,” Kim said. “Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively.

We at the World Bank Group stand in solidarity with the people now threatened by famine,” Kim said March 8. “We are mobilizing an immediate response for Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Our first priority is to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water.

Much of the newly announced financing, $45 billion, will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.

The IDA financing for Africa is targeted to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects across the continent.

A $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of renewable energy generating capacity.

Next: Building Resilience

In support of countries’ own development priorities, the scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality.

The new financing for Sub-Saharan Africa will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group.

IFC will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.

In addition, there will be $4 billion in financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), its non-concessional public sector arm.

IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power.

Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.

This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.

While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, Kim says significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises.

This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window, especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks.

The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.

The priorities for private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness.

Powering Africa, Both On and Off the Grid

In the western sub-Saharan African country of Côte d’Ivoire last week, former UN Secretary-General

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan issued a new report, “Lights Power Action: Electrifying Africa” that calls for investment in quickly solving Africa’s energy crisis.

Speaking March 13 at African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Annan said, “Achieving universal access to modern energy is critical to Africa’s transformation.”

Nearly two-thirds of Africans – 620 million people – still do not have access to ‘affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity,‘” said Annan, the energy goal that is central to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The core message of “Lights Power Action” emphasizes that grid-connected mega projects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, but they are slow and expensive.

Through the report, Annan is urging governments to increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install.

What we are advocating is for African governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind” said Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel that wrote the report.

Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 percent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.

Annan told the audience in Abidjan, “As well as leading the way in promoting wider use of off-grid and mini-grid technology, African governments must continue to work hard to transform national energy grids that are often unreliable and financially fragile.

Many energy utilities are mismanaged and inefficient. A lack of accountability and transparency in their governance also nurtures corruption,” he warned.

Electricity theft at staggering scale is often the result of this malpractice; rolling black-outs are the result of mismanagement,” said Annan. “All continue to feed a deep sense of frustration among citizens.”

It’s not just energy mismanagement, Annan explained. “Poor energy governance reflects the wider governance deficit that threatens to derail development efforts in a number of countries.

Governments need to intensify their efforts to put in place regulatory environments that give the energy sector incentives to deliver on its transformative potential,” he said.

Africa’s leadership, in both public and private sectors, need to “champion the energy for all agenda,” Annan urged.

The private sector, African and non-African,” said the former secretary-general, “should be encouraged to enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, deepen linkages throughout the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

He is not saying countries should immediately stop using fossil fuels and switch to renewables. The cost of transitioning to renewables may be prohibitively high in the short term, especially for countries that use their sizable endowments of coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy.

The report advocates that African governments harness every available energy option, so that no one is left behind. Said Annan, “Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.

As widespread adoption of mobile phone technology has already helped Africa leapfrog over conventional technology and improve financial and social inclusion, Annan predicts that “innovation will bring millions of Africans into the energy loop,” setting the stage for improved quality of life.

The ultimate goal should be to interlink Africa’s numerous and fragmented power initiatives to create a single pan-African power grid,” he said in Abidjan.

We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s energy deficit,” declared Annan. “Now we must focus on implementation. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for action.


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