167 Nations Adopt New Urban Agenda

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Ecuador’s capital, Quito, population 2.1 million, is distinguished by the Cathedral of Quito, first opened in 1567. (Photo by Al Tuttle) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

QUITO, Ecuador, November 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, has wrapped up in Quito, Ecuador, as delegations adopted the New Urban Agenda, a new framework that details how cities should be planned and managed to best achieve sustainability.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, attends the opening of the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, HABITAT III, with Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, Oct. 17, 2016. (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / UN) posted for media use.

Up to 70 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, experts project.

 Hosted by the city of Quito from October 17-20, and attended by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Habitat III conference drew around 36,000 people from 167 countries.

 Habitat III brought together mayors, local and regional authorities, civil society and community groups, the private sector and urban planners.

The New Urban Agenda is contained in the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All. It states, “By 2050 the world urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanization one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. As the population, economic activities, social and cultural interactions, as well as environmental and humanitarian impacts, are increasingly concentrated in cities, this poses massive sustainability challenges in terms of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety, and natural resources…

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Joan Clos, secretary-general of the Habitat III conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, UN-Habitat, Oct. 31, 2016 (Photo by Mark Garten / UN) posted for media use.

We have analyzed and discussed the challenges that our cities are facing and have [agreed] on a common roadmap for the 20 years to come,” said Joan Clos, secretary-general of the conference and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme, usually called UN-Habitat.

 Clos, who was mayor of Barcelona, Spain from September 1997 to September 2006, said the New Urban Agenda should be seen as an extension of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, agreed by 193 UN Member States in September 2015.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognize the power of cities and towns to be the engine for sustainable growth in the future, a concept further emphasized in the New Urban Agenda.

The ambitious New Urban Agenda is guided by these interlinked principles:

  • (a) Leave no one behind, by ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including the eradication of extreme poverty, by ensuring equal rights and opportunities, socio-economic and cultural diversity, integration in the urban space, enhancing livability, education, food security and nutrition, health and well-being; including by ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria, promoting safety and eliminating discrimination and all forms of violence … and providing equal access for all to physical and social infrastructure and basic services as well as adequate and affordable housing.
  • (b) Sustainable and inclusive urban economies, by leveraging the … benefits of well-planned urbanization, high productivity, competitiveness, and innovation; promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all, ensuring decent job creation and equal access for all to economic and productive resources and opportunities; preventing land speculation; and promoting secure land tenure and managing urban shrinking where appropriate.
  •  (c) Environmental sustainability, by promoting clean energy, sustainable use of land and resources in urban development as well as protecting ecosystems and biodiversity, including adopting healthy lifestyles in harmony with nature; promoting sustainable consumption and production patterns; building urban resilience; reducing disaster risks; and mitigating and adapting to climate change.

On the sidelines of the Habitat III formal discussions, dozens of side events and parallel events brought partners together to debate the more intricate areas of urbanization, such as the right of women and youth to the city, the importance of public space and how to finance the New Urban Agenda.

Among its 175 sections, the New Urban Agenda states, in Section 66, “We commit to adopt a smart city approach, which makes use of opportunities from digitalization, clean energy and technologies, as well as innovative transport technologies, thus providing options for inhabitants to make more environmentally friendly choices and boost sustainable economic growth and enabling cities to improve their service delivery.

 Section 75 states, “We commit to strengthening the sustainable management of resources – including land, water (oceans, seas, and freshwater), energy, materials, forests, and food, with particular attention to the environmentally sound management and minimization of all waste, hazardous chemicals, including air and short-lived climate pollutants, greenhouse gases, and noise – in a way that considers urban-rural linkages and functional supply and value chains vis-à-vis environmental impact and sustainability, and strives to transition to a circular economy, while facilitating ecosystem conservation, regeneration, restoration and resilience in the face of new and emerging challenges.

Above all, Clos said, the New Urban Agenda is, “A commitment that we will all together take the responsibility … [for the] direction of the development of our common urbanizing world.

To further reach out to cities, foster the exchange of best practices and the development of urban strategies, the European Commission has launched a new web portal for cities.

Answering a need expressed by numerous cities, the new portal provides up-to-date information on EU policies such as climate change adaptation, mobility or circular economy that directly impact cities and urban areas.

Urban stakeholders can also get clear information on financing opportunities under the different EU funding instruments and on events related to urban development.

The new portal is intended to help cities to address challenges such as affordable housing, energy efficiency or accessibility, by making the most out of EU funding opportunities.

In addition, the new Urban Data Platform, hosted on the Knowledge Centre for Territorial Policies operated by the Joint Research Centre, provides a single access point to common indicators on the status and trends in over 800 European urban areas – on demography, economic development or access to services.

This database will enable urban authorities and stakeholders to compare data, benchmark and monitor, which is one of the aims of the New Urban Agenda.

European Commission Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic said, “Over 70 percent of the EU’s population lives in urban areas; it is here where the transition to a green economy is being decided.”

Cities play a crucial role in the activation of citizens and consumers and in promoting change by investing in energy-efficient renovation of buildings, making transport more sustainable, raising citizens’ awareness, implementing new technologies, supporting vulnerable consumers and much more. Therefore we are launching instruments which will enable cities to experiment with new ideas and see if they are feasible and useful,” Šefcovic said.

Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Cretu presented the EU’s Urban Agenda at Habitat III in Quito.

In partnership with UN Habitat, the Commission has released the State of European Cities Report. It supports the New Urban Agenda by assessing the performance of European cities with regards to its priority themes: jobs and skills, fight against poverty, shift towards a low-carbon economy.

At the heart of the EU’s Urban Agenda, 12 partnerships allow cities, Member States, EU Institutions, NGOs and business partners to work together on an equal basis to find common solutions to improve quality of life in European urban areas.

Four pilot partnerships have already started: on the inclusion of migrants, coordinated by the city of Amsterdam; on air quality, coordinated by the Netherlands; on housing, coordinated by Slovakia; and on urban poverty, coordinated by Belgium and France.

By January 2017, four new partnerships will be launched: on circular economy coordinated by Oslo, Norway; on digital transition coordinated by Estonia; Oulu, Finland; and Sofia, Bulgaria; on urban mobility coordinated by the Czech Republic and Karlsruhe, Germany, as well as on jobs and skills coordinated by Romania, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Jelgava, Latvia. The Commission will report back to the Council on the partnerships by the end of 2017.

To transform our world, we must transform its cities,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement commemorating World Cities Day, which is observed each October 31 since 2014.

Local action is essential to realizing the potential of these global agreements,” Ban said. “On World Cities Day, let us renew our resolve to confront urban problems and forge lasting solutions. Together, we can show how success in cities inspires change across the world.


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Green Bond Market Shoots Up

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By Sunny Lewis

 WASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2016 – (Maximpact.com News) – The green bond market reported a worldwide milestone in August when aggregate green bond issuance topped US$150 billion for the first time since the World Bank issued the inaugural green bond in 2008. It was a US$400 million four-year bond issued in Sweden during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

 Green bonds finance projects that achieve energy efficiency, pollution prevention, sustainable agriculture, fishery and forestry, the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, clean transportation, sustainable water management, and the cultivation of environmentally friendly technologies.

 Green bonds are similar to traditional bonds in terms of deal structure, but they have different requirements for reporting, auditing and proceed allocations.

A green bond is distinguished by its “use of proceeds” pledge, which earmarks the proceeds from sale of the bonds for specific projects with environmental benefits. Marketing and branding values not available to traditional bonds arise from this difference.

With the heightened awareness of global environmental and climate challenges, green bonds are increasingly seen as a tool that could allow the private sector to take an active part in raising the funds needed to put our society on a more environmentally sustainable footing,” wrote Charles Smith in an article ‘How the green bond market works‘ for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) earlier this month.

 The EBRD first started issuing green bonds in 2010, and its portfolios of green projects now include 261 investments worth a total of €2.7 billion.

Smith, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of green bond issuance for the EBRD, views green bonds as “a new tool for helping the private sector green the world.”

Mobilising green projects is the goal but, ultimately, I think it is a much larger transition process,” Smith told a roundtable organized by the publication “Environmental Finance” last November. “It is about changing the way companies and entire societies think about and engage with the environment. And that is not done in a day.

At the same roundtable, some of the challenges were outlined by Yo Takatsuki, associate director, Governance and Sustainable Investment, BMO Global Asset Management. BMO Financial Group is a service mark of the Bank of Montreal.

I think one of the challenges is that the underlying assets that are being financed through green bonds are mostly renewable energy or energy efficiency. If we want a broader range of corporates to come to the market we need to encourage opening up the focus of projects beyond just climate change,” said Takatsuki.

I think people are struggling with impact reporting,” Takatsuki said. “For renewable energy, it is relatively straightforward, but for other types of projects the impact reporting is either not agreed or is not sufficiently established.

Smith comments on this issue in his article on the EBRD site, writing, “The reporting is made more complicated by the broadening range of issuer types – from banks to corporates in various industries – with different green assets and operating in dissimilar regions.

This makes comparing the bonds challenging to say the least, and the reputational risk for the issuer in making a mistake in the reporting could be considerable,” Smith writes.

Despite the challenges, the green bond market is growing quickly.

In 2015, green bond issuance hit what was then a record high, amounting to US$41.8 billion worth of investment worldwide. Compare that to 2012, when green bond issuance worldwide amounted to just $2.6 billion.

Of all the green bonds issued in 2015, $18 billion worth was issued in the European Union and $10.5 billion was issued in the United States, making these regions the leaders in the green bond initiative.

India and China are expected to get more involved in this type of investment in the near future.

The World Bank is a important issuer of green bonds. The bank has been very active through the first half of 2016, especially in the United States, where its issuances total over US$496 million and in India, where its issuances total over US$2.7 billion Indian rupees.

World Bank green bonds finance projects such as India’s Rampur Hydropower Project, which aims to provide low-carbon hydroelectric power to northern India’s electricity grid.

The World Bank Green Bond raises funds from fixed income investors to support World Bank lending for eligible projects that seek to mitigate climate change or help affected people adapt to it.

The product was designed in partnership with Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) to respond to specific investor demand for a triple-A rated fixed income product that supports projects that address the climate challenge.

 Since 2008, the World Bank has issued over US$9 billion equivalent in green bonds through more than 125 transactions in 18 currencies.

World Bank Vice President and Treasurer Arunma Oteh said, “We have a responsibility to our clients to help them both recognize and respond to the risks that climate change poses.” 

To date, green bond issuer groups include supranationals, government agencies, cities, states, and also corporate entities.

Investors have expressed a desire for more choice of products for their growing portfolios – green bonds from more issuers and more diverse types of green bond products that offer different risk profiles, according to the World Bank.

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Green-bond supported wind farm in Penonome, Panama. (Photo by Alessandra Bazan Testino / International Finance Corporation) Posted for media use

There are several types of tax incentives policy makers can put in place to support the issuance of green bonds. The incentives can be provided either to the investor or to the issuer.

With tax credit bonds, bond investors receive tax credits instead of interest payments, so issuers do not have to pay interest on their green bond issuances.

An example of tax credit bonds in the area of clean energy is the U.S. federal government Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) and Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) program. The program allows for the issuance of taxable bonds by municipalities for clean energy and energy conservation, where 70 percent of the coupon from the municipality is provided by a tax credit or subsidy to the bondholder from the federal government.

With direct subsidy bonds, bond issuers receive cash rebates from the government to subsidize their net interest payments.

This structure also is used under the U.S. federal government CREBs and QECBs program.

With tax-exempt bonds, bond investors do not have to pay income tax on interest from the green bonds they hold, so the issuer can get a lower interest rate. An example is tax-exempt bond issuance for financing of wind projects in Brazil.

Green bond issuers report both use of proceeds and the impact achieved. Still, specific reporting requirements are under development and currently non-standard.

A coalition of organizations including leading issuers and buyers are working together to establish reporting procedures. Anticipated reporting standards include third party review by an auditor of the sustainability of qualifying projects, and annual reporting on a universal template.

Meanwhile, the Green Bond Principles (GBP) are voluntary process guidelines that recommend transparency and disclosure and promote integrity in the development of the Green Bond market by clarifying the approach for issuance of a Green Bond.

The Green Bond Principles are intended for broad use by the market, according to the World Bank. They provide issuers guidance on the key components for launching a credible Green Bond; they aid investors by ensuring availability of information for evaluating the environmental impact of their Green Bond investments; and they assist underwriters by moving the market towards standard disclosures that will facilitate transactions.


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Image: Green shoots growing in the kitchen gardens, Tatton Park, Cheshire, England, May 2010 (Photo by Will Clayton) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Closing the Loop: Computers, Furniture, Footwear

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OECD 2016 Forum: Lunch Debate: The Algorithmic Society, May 31, 2016, Paris, France (Photo by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr

BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – The European Commission has adopted a new set of ecological criteria for the award of EU Ecolabel status to makers of personal, notebook and tablet computers, as well as to makers of furniture and footwear.

Producers who wish to enjoy the benefits of displaying the EU Ecolabel not only have to comply with strict requirements that focus on environmental performance, but also must ensure that their products are safe and manufactured with respect for human rights and labor rights.

The EU Ecolabel promotes Europe’s transition to a circular economy, supporting both sustainable production and consumption,” said Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

Last December, the Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package to help European businesses and consumers make the transition to an economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way.

The package is intended to help close the loop of product lifecycles, from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials.

This transition is being supported financially by European Structural and Investment Funds: €650 million from Horizon 2020, the EU funding program for research and innovation; €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management; as well as investments in the circular economy at the national level.

The new Ecolabel criteria are intended to help shoppers choose computers, furniture and footwear that tread lightly on the Earth.

Thanks to transparent ecological criteria, consumers can make conscious choices, without compromising on the quality of the products,” Vella said.

The Ecolabel rewards those manufacturers who choose to design products that are durable and repairable, promoting innovation and saving resources,” he said.

On August 10, the Commission adopted new ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for computers.

The revised criteria aim to encourage and promote products that have a lower environmental impact and contribute to sustainable development along their life cycle, are energy efficient, durable, repairable and upgradeable. The emission of hazardous substances during both manufacture and use of the product must be minimized.

At the end of their useful life, Ecolabeled products should be easy to dismantle and recover resources from for re-use or recycling.

The Commission’s decision will apply on October 10, two months after its adoption date, but the rule allows a transitional period to give manufacturers a chance to adjust.

On August 5, the Commission adopted the Ecolabel criteria for footwear. They require, among many other criteria, that only raw hides and skins from animals raised for milk or meat production be used in Ecolabel footwear products.

Footwear manufacturers must reduce water consumption, limit emissions of pollutants to water and restrict the tanning of hides and skins.

They will have to control emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and reduce the number and intensity of hazardous substances in the shoe components, and no component shall be on the Restricted Substances List.

Finally, Ecolabel footwear must be durable, the manufacturers must demonstrate corporate social responsibility towards labor, and the packaging must be sustainably sourced.

ecolabel-logoStandards for Ecolabel furniture were the first of the revised criteria to be adopted by the Commission – on July 28.

Furniture manufacturers will have to conduct a more comprehensive life cycle assessment, and pay special attention to hazardous compounds and residues, which could contribute to indoor air pollution.

None of the adhesives, varnishes, paints, primers, wood stains, biocidal products (such as wood preservatives), flame retardants, fillers, waxes, oils, joint fillers, sealants, dyestuff, resins or lubricating oils directly used by an Ecolabel furniture manufacturer can be listed as most hazardous by the 2008 EU regulation on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of chemical substances and mixtures.

The Commission acknowleged that the use of chemicals and release of pollutants are “part of the production process,” for furniture. Still, the Commission’s decision tries to cover all the bases, saying that for a product to be awarded Ecolabel status, “the use of hazardous substances are excluded whenever possible or limited to the minimum necessary to provide an adequate function and at the same time strict quality and safety standards for furniture products.”

In an effort to ensure sustainable sourcing of all wood, cork, bamboo and rattan used in Ecolabel furniture, the Commission decided that each material must be covered by a chain of custody certificate issued by an independent third party certification scheme such as the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

There cannot be any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in EU Ecolabel furniture. All virgin wood, cork, bamboo and rattan shall not originate from a GMO-free species and must be covered by valid sustainable forest management certificates. All uncertified materials must, at least, be legally sourced.

The revised criteria for Ecolabel computers will be valid for three years, a short time period that takes into account the quick innovation cycle for this product group.

The criteria validity period is six years for furniture and footwear.

New shoes displayed in Milan, Italy, July 2016 (Photo by Marco / Zak) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 


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