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Innovative Reforestation Wins Ray of Hope Prize

The Atlantic rainforest in Brazil is a unique ecosystem. June 1, 2017 (Photo by Ulrich Peters) Creative commons license via Flickr

The Atlantic rainforest in Brazil is a unique ecosystem. June 1, 2017 (Photo by Ulrich Peters) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

SAN RAFAEL, California, October 23, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – A Brazilian team of entrepreneurs has won the $100,000 Ray C. Anderson Foundation 2018 Ray of Hope Prize for the Nucleário Planting System, an all-in-one reforestation solution that mimics elements of natural forest progression to reduce maintenance costs and improve seedling survival rates.

With deforestation contributing an estimated 15 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, countries, nonprofit organizations and innovators are mobilizing to quickly restore foreststo avoid catastrophic climate change.

Developed for the use in Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest, Nucleário was designed for multiple functions – collecting rain and dew water, providing protection from leaf cutter ants and invasive species, supplying shade for the seedling, and deployment from the air.

Applied in the field, the Nucleário Planting System makes the forest restoration process simpler and more cost-effective. With this method, Nucleário can get more trees in the ground in less time, helping make it possible to achieve environmental goals like the Paris Agreement on climate.

Nucleário was created by Bruno Rutman Pagnoncelli, Pedro Rutman Pagnoncelli, and Bruno Ferrari. The Nucleário team was awarded the prize at the National Bioneers Conference in San Rafael on Saturday, October 20.

The Ray of Hope Prize is the top award in the Biomimicry Launchpad, an accelerator program run by the Biomimicry Institute that supports entrepreneurs working to bring early-stage biomimetic, or nature-inspired, climate change solutions to market.

Traditional rain forest restoration approaches in remote areas are logistically complex and expensive, requiring manual work and periodic visits to the reforestation areas.

Currently, 17 million hectares (14.2 million acres) of degraded areas are designated as potential lands for Atlantic forest restoration in Brazil.

Inspired by winged seeds, bromeliads, and forest leaf litter, Nucleário is a reforestation solution for forests in degraded and hard to reach areas, helping seedlings grow without human maintenance.

Made of biodegradable materials, the Nucleário device ensures that seedlings survive by providing a protection from leaf cutter ants, collecting water from rain and dew, offering shade, and protecting against invasive species.

Like anemochory seeds, the Nucleário is structured to be weightless and incorporate air chambers, which allows it to act as both a glider and parachute and enables aerial deployment.

Each Nucleário contains a functional group of tree species ready to germinate. Inspired by the bromeliad’s hydraulic specialization, the Nucleário trap shape accumulates dew and rain water and reduces evaporation, slowly hydrating the seedlings during the dry seasons. The water accumulation also attracts biodiversity.

The Nucleário shape emulates the leaf litter in a forest, stopping the Brachiaria grass growth around the seedling and protecting the soil against leaching and strong sunlight, which elevates soil moisture and fertility.

In the field, the Nucleário improves the working conditions of the planting teams and reduces costs for labor, transport, irrigation, fertilizers and insecticides.

It mimics how bromeliads collect water from rain and dew to provide a microclimate that attracts biodiversity.

“This simple but impactful biomimicry-inspired innovation has the potential to transform reforestation efforts and help reverse global warming,” said John Lanier, executive director of the Ray C. Anderson Foundation.

“The six judges were impressed with all of the teams, but the Nucleário stood out because they have a clear understanding of the path to commercialization,” said Lanier.

Brazil is one of the main producers and exporters of agricultural products, with more than 300 million hectares destined to agriculture, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics. But this sector is also responsible for tons of carbon in the atmosphere, warming the planet.

The Brazilian government has said it intends to reforest 12 million hectares by 2030, as a goal to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

A set of studies by the Center for Sustainability Studies of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation and Instituto Escolhas calculated the resources needed to achieve this goal. The estimated investment cost was $31 billion Brazilian Reals (€7.9 billion) (US$8.3 billion).

Beth Rattner, Biomimicry Institute executive director, said, “30 by 30 – land use being 30 percent of climate change solutions by 2030 – is the most promising news on the horizon because it is highly feasible. Reforestation is a real part of this plan and yet most efforts on this front are failing because young saplings need extra help to survive.”

“Nucleário has captured proven strategies straight from the forest to make their product, which is something no one else has tried before,” said Rattner. “We are immensely hopeful about the impact this will have.”

A $25,000 Ray of Hope second prize, funded by an anonymous donor, went to a team with members from Mexico and the United States, who created Biomimicry Launchpad, a thermal management system that harvests waste heat from large commercial buildings and cycles it back into the system.

The BioThermosmart design was inspired by elephants, crocodiles, toucan beaks, and the human circulatory system to create a system of heat transfer patches that help facility directors manage excess heat.

A total of six international teams spent the past year in the Biomimicry Launchpad, the world’s only accelerator for early-stage, nature-inspired innovations.

The Launchpad is part of the Biomimicry Institute’s Biomimicry Global Design Challenge, a global competition sponsored by the Ray C. Anderson Foundation that asks innovators to create radically sustainable climate change solutions inspired by the natural world.

As winners of the Challenge, these teams were invited to join the Biomimicry Launchpad to get support in testing and prototyping their ideas, with the ultimate goal of bringing their climate change solutions to market.

A new round of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge has just launched, focused again on finding nature-inspired climate-change solutions. It is a new opportunity for teams to join and compete for the annual $100,000 Ray of Hope Prize®. Individuals and teams can learn more about the Challenge at challenge.biomimicry.org.

Featured Image: The Nucleário Planting Device is a winner. (Photo by Nucleário Planting System) Posted for media use


Countries Failing to Educate Girls Lose Trillions

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings, says a new World Bank report.

The report was released in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of  Malala Fund, based out of Birmingham, England, which works to provide safe, quality secondary education and opportunities for girls.

When the Taliban took control of her hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, writes Yousafzai, “…they banned many things, such as owning a television and playing music. They enforced harsh punishments for those who defied their orders. And they said girls could no longer go to school.”

Yousafzai’s father was a teacher who ran the girls’ school in her town, so she continued attending school. At the age of 15, on her way home from school, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

She survived – and now, at 21, Yousafzai is furthering her education, studying for a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

She is a world-renowned activist, campaigning for education, equality and peace for all children everywhere. The United Nations has declared July 12 to be Malala Day.

The World Bank report, “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls,” documents that fewer than two-thirds of girls in low-income countries complete primary school, and only one in three girls completes lower secondary school.

Globally 89 percent of girls complete primary education, but only 77 percent complete lower secondary education, usually nine years of schooling.

The report finds that on average, women who have a secondary education are more likely to work, and they earn almost twice as much as women with no education.

Other positive effects of secondary school education for girls include: near-elimination of child marriage before the age of 18, lowering fertility rates by a third in countries with high population growth, and reducing child mortality and malnutrition.

“When 130 million girls are unable to become engineers or journalists or CEOs because education is out of their reach, our world misses out on trillions of dollars that could strengthen the global economy, public health and stability,” said Yousafzai.

“If leaders are serious about building a better world, they need to start with serious investments in girls’ secondary education,” she said. “This report is more proof that we cannot afford to delay investing in girls.”

Tech giant Apple® is doing just that. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 13, Apple launched a new collaboration between its 10 Apple Developer Academies in Brazil and Malala Fund to advance girls’ educational opportunities.

Apple’s academies are preparing thousands of future developers to code the advancements of the future. Apple CEO Tim Cook has long said that the company expects to bring the program to countries around the world.

“We share Malala’s goal of getting more girls into quality education and are thrilled to be deepening our partnership with Malala Fund by mobilizing thousands of Apple Developer Academy students and alumni across Brazil,” said Cook, announcing the new partnership.

“Apple has been committed to education since day one, and we can’t wait to see what our creative student developers come up with to help Malala Fund make a difference for girls around the world,” said Cook.

As part of its new expansion into Latin America, Malala Fund, too, has offered grants to local advocates in Brazil.

The advocates join Malala Fund’s network and will implement projects across the country designed to empower girls, teachers and policymakers through skills development, school enrollment efforts and education advocacy.

“My hope is that every girl, from Rio to Riyadh, can be free to choose her own future,” said Yousafzai in Rio. “Whether she wants to be a developer, a pilot, a dancer or a politician, education is the best path to a brighter future. By tapping into Apple’s network of student developers, Malala Fund will gain access to new tools to support our mission of free, safe, quality education.”

Many of the potential impacts of education on development outcomes apply to both boys and girls. But the World Bank report finds that not educating girls is especially costly because of the relationships between education, child marriage, and early childbearing, and the risks that they entail for young mothers and their children.

“We cannot keep letting gender inequality get in the way of global progress,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria.

“Inequality in education is yet another fixable issue that is costing the world trillions. It is time to close the gender gap in education and give girls and boys an equal chance to succeed, for the good of everyone,” Georgieva said.

Today, some 132 million girls around the world between the ages of six and 17, the majority of whom are adolescents, are still not in school.

To remedy these missed opportunities, investments in education – both access and quality – are crucial. This is  especially true in some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa where, on average, only 40 percent of girls complete lower secondary school, says the World Bank report.

Countries also need policies to support healthy economic growth that will generate jobs for an expanding educated workforce.

The World Bank reports that universal secondary education for girls could increase their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and empower them to make decisions about their own health care. It could reduce the risk of intimate partner violence, improve their sense of psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of under-five mortality and malnutrition among their children.

Educating girls and promoting gender equality is part of a broader and holistic effort at the World Bank, which includes financing and analytical work to remove financial barriers that keep girls out of school, prevent child marriage, improve access to reproductive health services, and strengthen skills and job opportunities for adolescent girls and young women.

Since 2016, the World Bank has invested more than $3.2 billion in education projects benefiting adolescent girls.

The World Bank report was published with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Global Partnership for Education, and Malala Fund.

Featured Images: Girls from the tiny village of Karche Khar near Kargil, India. From left: Maqsuma is in class 5 at the army school; Fatima is in class 4 at the local school.


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Bees With Backpacks

A researcher from Vale Institute of Technology tags one of the sensor-carrying honey bees. Brazil, 2017 (Screengrab from video by Vale Institute of Technology) Posted for media use

A researcher from Vale Institute of Technology tags one of the sensor-carrying honey bees. Brazil, 2017 (Screen grab from video by Vale Institute of Technology) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

SYDNEY, Australia, March 15, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Thousands of honey bees are flying around Australia and Brazil with mini sensors on their backs as part of a world-first research program to monitor their movements.

The point is to capture and analyze swarm sensing data so that farmers and fruit growers can maximize the benefit they receive from this free pollination service, courtesy of the bees.

And it will allow beekeepers and farmers to monitor for any biosecurity risks.

The tiny backpacks are just a quarter of a centimeter square. The tiny radio frequency identification sensor works by recording whenever a bee carrying one passes a particular checkpoint.

The information is then sent remotely to a central location and the researchers in Australia and Brazil can build a comprehensive three-dimensional model and visualize how the bees move through their environment.

“We have already attached the micro-sensors to the backs of thousands of bees in Tasmania and the Amazon and we’re using the same surveillance technologies to monitor what each bee is doing, giving us a new view on bees and how they interact with their environment,” said CSIRO‘s Paulo de Souza.

“Once we have captured this information, we’ll be able to model it,” he said. “This will help us understand how to manage our landscapes in order to benefit insects like bees, as they play such a key role in our lives.”

Bees are the world’s most prolific pollinators of food crops. Because roughly one-third of all human food relies on pollination, bees contribute billions every year to the global economy. Healthy bees are a sign of a healthy agricultural industry.

But honey bee populations in many parts of the world are at risk from interacting factors such as agriculture intensification, bee pathogens, changes in bee food supplements and pesticides.

Of great biosecurity importance is the dreaded Varroa mite, a parasite that feeds on the blood of bees and transmits pathogens that kill off bee populations.

While Varroa mites have not appeared in Australia, there is a very real risk, now that Varroa mites have spread to Australia’s neighbors in New Zealand and Indonesia.

The international team from Australia and Brazil fitting the bees with sensors and managing the data that results, includes researchers from Brazil’s Vale Institute of Technology and Australia’s CSIRO, the agency of the Australian federal government responsible for scientific research in Australia.

Thousands of bees in Australia’s island state of Tasmania are already tagged with the mini sensors developed by CSIRO.

CSIRO’s Swarm Sensing Project is a partnership with the University of Tasmania and receives funding from Vale, a global mining company.

Working with their partners at the Vale Institute of Technology in Brazil, CSIRO has taken the technology to the Amazon, allowing the team to monitor and compare behavior between bee colonies in the two regions.

The CSIRO sensors, which one day may be used on fruit flies and mosquitoes, will be able to capture information about our world with unprecedented density and in locations not previously accessible.

The sensors are 2.5mm x 2.5mm in size and weigh about five milligrams each. A new generation as small as 1.5mm x 1.5mm is being designed. Smaller sensors will interfere less with the insect’s behavior.

The next generation of sensors will be even more advanced, says CSIRO. It will be able to generate power from insect movement and store the energy in batteries. It might even have tracking capability that will follow an insect’s movement in real-time.

Bees return to the same point time and again on a very predictable schedule. Any change in their behavior indicates a change in their environment.

If they can model the movements, the research team says it can recognize quickly when their activity shows variation and identify the cause.

In Brazil, Gustavo Pessim of Vale explained via video, “Basically, what we have is an electronic tag that we stick on the bee’s thorax.”

“Every time a bee passes through a system of antennas that we have here, a reading of this movement is made. This way we can keep track of each bee and is doing on any particular day and also what its life expectancy is.”

Pessim said, “We have a computer that controls RFID tags reading antennaeas. It’s a radio frequency technology. It’s a lot like the badge system we have for getting in and out of the company.”

Besides controlling the antennaes, the Vale system stores all information on the behavior of the bees. “Eventually,” said Pessim, “when we do data analysis we bring in another computer and collect the information with a network cable.”

The Amazon region has more than 200 species of bees with great variation in size, body shape and floral visitation patterns.

They marked them with microsensors and released them in the field to study their behavior. How far they fly, how they return.

Pessim calls this technology innovative “in the sense that a similar technology did not exist in terms of size and cost.”

“I am very proud to be part of this project because it combines science and technological innovations both in terms of electronic and biological development,” said Pessim. “We can put them together to improve the life of small local producers who will have an income improvement when we get the results of this experiment.”

Featured Image: Bee fitted with a tiny sensor less than a quarter of a centimeter square explores flowers. (Photo courtesy CSIRO) Posted for media use


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Hammering Out a Global Platform for Forests

Native forest was cleared for a small oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. February 20, 2010. (Photo by Moses Ceaser, Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Native forest was cleared for a small oil palm plantation in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. February 20, 2010. (Photo by Moses Ceaser, Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, November 29, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – A new action platform to build momentum for implementing the New York Declaration on Forests debuted earlier this month at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) introduced a Global Platform for the New York Declaration on Forests – an innovative partnership of multinational companies, governments, civil society and indigenous peoples pledging to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020 and to end it by 2030.

“Improved agricultural practices is a key solution to deforestation, and is therefore a critical issue for companies like ours,” said Diane Holdorf, chief sustainability officer at the Kellogg Company, an American multinational food manufacturer.

“To achieve our shared ambition to slow and halt the loss of our forests, we need to accelerate our work to build partnerships, strengthening policies, and create incentives to drive outcomes,” said Holdorf. “The NYDF Platform will help us get there.”

The New York Declaration on Forests was first endorsed at the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September 2014, and by October 2017 the number of supporters grew to include over 191 entities: 40 governments, 20 sub-national governments, 57 multi-national companies, 16 groups representing indigenous communities, and 58 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

The declaration points to ambitious targets: to end natural forest loss by 2030, with a 50 percent reduction by 2020 as a milestone toward its achievement.

In addition, the declaration calls for restoring 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2030, supporting the private sector in eliminating deforestation from the supply chains of major agricultural commodities by 2020, and providing financial support to reduce emissions related to deforestation and forest degradation.

The Global Platform aims to accelerate achievement of the 10 ambitious goals expressed in the New York Declaration on Forests, a voluntary, non-binding commitment to forest protection and restoration.

Goal 1: At least halve the rate of loss of natural forests globally by 2020 and strive to end natural forest loss by 2030.

However, to date, there are no signs that tropical deforestation is slowing. In 2016, tropical deforestation was a larger source of emissions than the European Union’s entire economic activity.

In fact, 2016 saw the highest loss of tree cover globally in more than 15 years, driven in part by a strong El Niño event in 2015 that led to unprecedented droughts and wildfires, as well as by the continued expansion of agricultural production for commodities like palm oil in Southeast Asia and soy in Latin America.

For instance, Brazil achieved steep reductions in deforestation for over a decade, but official government data indicate that deforestation rates in the Amazon were 29 percent higher in 2016 than in the previous year.

Goal 2: Support and help meet the private sector goal of eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, paper, and beef products by no later than 2020, recognizing that many companies have even more ambitious targets.

In response to the need for clear and consistent guidance on definitions, implementation, monitoring, verification, and reporting on supply-chain commitments, a coalition of environmental and social NGOs is developing the Accountability Framework in close consultation with companies, governments, and other stakeholders.

Designed for companies, financial institutions, government agencies, reporting and tracking initiatives, implementation service providers, advocacy organizations, producers, and communities affected by commodity production. The Accountability Framework is being developed in late 2017 and 2018, beginning with the global framework to be followed by more detailed good practices and guidance in an accompanying manual.

Goal 3: Significantly reduce deforestation derived from other economic sectors by 2020.

A new wave of infrastructure development – mines, oil and gas production facilities, hydroelectric plants, and road networks – is creating new deforestation hotspots, such as one in the Western Amazon. While such development is not new to the region, there is a growing number of projects that mobilize large amounts of funding and access previously undisturbed forests.

At the same time, new sustainability standards are being developed. The World Bank has created a new Environmental and Social Framework applicable to all economic sectors, including mining and infrastructure, that is intended to increase the coverage and harmonization of policies and improve monitoring and accountability efforts.

Set to be applied from 2018, the Environmental and Social Framework includes prevention of critical habitat conversion and sustainable forest management.

Goal 4: Support alternatives to deforestation driven by basic needs, such as subsistence farming and reliance on fuel wood for energy, in ways that alleviate poverty and promote sustainable and equitable development.

This goal seeks to address forest loss by supporting economically sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn farming and unsustainable harvesting of fuel wood from natural forests.

Farming to meet basic needs is estimated to contribute nearly a third of total deforestation in the tropics. In many developing countries the level of fuelwood collected for basic needs such as cooking and heating exceeds regrowth by trees and contributes roughly one-third of forest degradation.

The problem of fuelwood collection is particularly acute in East Africa and South Asia, with hotspots in Brazil, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Malaysia.

The forest impact of fuelwood collection can be reduced by shifting from open fires to more efficient cookstoves or solar cookers and heaters.

Goal 5: Restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes and forestlands by 2020 and significantly increase the rate of global restoration thereafter, which would restore at least an additional 200 million hectares by 2030.

To date, 45 private and public entities have pledged to restore over 156 million hectares of forest under the Bonn Challenge.

Twenty-six parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have submitted Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement on climate containing quantified forest and land sector restoration targets totalling 42.5 million hectares. Additional mitigation and adaptation measures listed in the NDCs add another 39.5 million hectares of planned forest restoration.

Three of world’s largest conservation organizations – BirdLife International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and WWF – have just launched an unprecedented 25-year tree planting and restoration effort they are calling the Trillion Trees program.

The planet is losing 10 billion trees every year, the groups warn, leading to widespread impacts on biodiversity, carbon sequestration, local economies and human health.

The partner groups say one trillion is the number of new trees needed to reverse the global decline in tree cover.

Goal 6: Include ambitious, quantitative forest conservation and restoration targets for 2030 in the post-2015 global development framework, as part of new international Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are a set of 17 goals agreed to by the member states of the United Nations, and adopted in September 2015.

The conservation target adopted in SDG 15.2, specifically the aim to “halt deforestation,” is both quantifiable and highly ambitious.

Goal 7: Agree in 2015 to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation as part of a post-2020 global climate agreement, in accordance with internationally agreed rules and consistent with the goal of not exceeding 2°C warming above pre-industrial levels.

Written before the Paris Agreement on climate was adopted in December 2015, this goal aimed to get forest-related mitigation measures included in the that agreement. The Paris Agreement, which entered into force in November 2016, includes a full article, Article 5, dedicated to land use and forests, cementing the role of forests and other carbon sinks in achieving its overall mitigation goal.

Goal 8: Provide support for the development and implementation of strategies to reduce forest emissions.

International forest finance remains in short supply and has not grown substantially in recent years, according to OECD data.

Many middle-income countries invest substantial amounts of domestic finance into forest protection, in many cases exceeding what they receive from international public sources.

“There is a substantial amount of grey finance in the private sector that has the potential to be greened,” says the New York Declaration on Forests’ most recent progress report Forest Declaration.

Goal 9: Reward countries and jurisdictions that, by taking action, reduce forest emissions, particularly through public policies to scale-up payments for verified emission reductions and private-sector sourcing of commodities.

Results-based REDD+ payments, the financial incentives for reducing forestry emissions, are only beginning to reward countries and jurisdictions that reduce forest emissions, as called for by Goal 9.

Roughly US$4.1 billion has been committed in the form of results-based REDD+ payments, and about one-third of this amount has been disbursed, mostly to Brazil.

REDD+ stands for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries.

REDD+ aims to mitigate climate change through reducing net emissions of greenhouse gases through enhanced forest management in developing countries. Researchers estimate that land use change, including deforestation and forest degradation, accounts for between 12 and 29 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Goal 10: Strengthen forest governance, transparency, and the rule of law, while also empowering communities and recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples, especially those pertaining to their lands and resources.

New data from Global Witness shows a record number of killings of people who tried to defend their land or the environment against industries in 2016 – 182 people died. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been taking steps to highlight the issue, and is expected to release a special report next year.

The Global Platform for the New York Declaration on Forests provides a central coordination mechanism to increase political ambition, accelerate action, forge new partnerships, and monitor progress towards replaining and restoring the world’s degraded forests.

The NYDF Global Platform will be convened by UNDP, which will serve as its secretariat, in partnership with Meridian Institute and Climate Advisers.

The NYDF Platform will also collaborate closely with the NYDF Assessment Partners, a network of civil society groups and research institutions that annually publishes the NYDF Progress Assessment, an independent evaluation of progress toward meeting the NYDF goals.

“Without a doubt, protecting, restoring and sustainably managing the world’s tropical forests is one of the most important climate solutions available to us today. We cannot achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees [above pre-industrial levels] without focused collaborative efforts on forests,” said State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth of the German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety.

“Germany intends to support the launch of the NYDF Platform as a signal of real intention by NYDF endorsers to accelerate action to protect and restore the world’s forests,” Flasbarth said.

Achieving the NYDF goals could reduce the global emissions of greenhouse gases by 4.5 to 8.8 billion metric tons every year – equivalent to the United States’ annual emissions or equivalent to removing the carbon emissions produced by one billion cars.

“Meeting the world’s climate and forest goals will only be possible through the collaborative action of all forest stakeholders—countries, companies, indigenous peoples, and civil society included,” said Jamison Ervin of UNDP.

“The New York Declaration on Forests is a prime example of this much-needed collaboration in action, and UNDP is proud to host the Global Platform for the NYDF to accelerate partnership and action to end deforestation.”

César Rey, director of Forests, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services at Colombia’s Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, remarked, “The challenges we face in addressing deforestation are daunting, yet with strong and committed partnership among governments, industry, indigenous and local communities as well as the international community, I am confident we can achieve the ground-breaking vision of the NYDF.”

“By facilitating synergies among the range of activities and stakeholders involved in protecting forests, transforming supply chains and improving forest livelihoods and governance,” said Rey, “the NYDF Platform can only help advance our collective efforts.”

“For indigenous peoples, forests are the center of our cultural and spiritual lives,” said Mina Setra, deputy secretary general of the Indigenous Peoples’ Alliance of the Archipelago.

“Because of our commitment to protect our forests, indigenous peoples face ongoing threats to our lives, our rights and our livelihoods,” she said. “We look forward to working with the NYDF Platform to strengthen forest governance, transparency, and rule of law, and to advance recognition of our rights as indigenous peoples.”


Featured Image : An aerial shot shows the contrast between forest and agricultural landscapes near Rio Branco, Acre, Brazil. February 24, 2013 (Photo by Kate Evans/Center for International Forestry Research) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Equator Prize Winners Demonstrate Maximum Impact

2017EquatorPrizeStage

2017 Equator Prize winners celebrate together on the stage at New York’s Town Hall Theatre to the music of American singer-songwriter Morley, September 17, 2017 (Photo by Arnaldo Vargas courtesy UNDP) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 19, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Outstanding local and indigenous community initiatives that resolve climate, environment and poverty issues are honored with the Equator Prize, just as the United Nations General Assembly opens at UN headquarters in New York.

This year, on the 15th anniversary of the biennial Equator Prize, 15 community groups from 12 countries each was awarded a $10,000 prize at a gala celebration Sunday at The Town Hall theater, hosted by the Equator Initiative, a part of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). All the winners were supported to attend the award ceremony.

The Equator Initiative brings together the United Nations, governments, civil society, businesses and grassroots organizations to recognize and advance local sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities.

This year’s winners are protecting, restoring and sustainably managing marine, forest, grassland, dryland and wetland ecosystems, while creating jobs, protecting endangered wildlife, and decreasing risks from natural disasters.

Achim Steiner, UNDP administrator, presented the awards to the 15 winners, who hail from: Belize, Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mali, Pakistan and Thailand.

Steiner, a former head of the UN Environment Programme, said, “The 15 communities we honor tonight, together with the more than 200 previous prize winners, and more than 5,000 nominations we have received to date, are weaving together a global tapestry of local solutions to tackle some of the biggest global challenges we face.”

“These solutions show us that when we invest in nature, we can achieve our global goals of obtaining food, water, peace, gender parity, and security in a truly sustainable manne,” Steiner said. “By thinking globally and acting locally, the 2017 Equator Prize Winners helped not only their communities but also communities worldwide facing sustainable development challenges.”

The winners called on governments, civil society, donors and all stakeholders to “join hands in protecting Mother Earth, our shared heritage.”

“By safeguarding nature we are investing in sustainable development,” they said.

The winners also expressed the belief that without empowering women there can be no social change; they emphasized the need of land rights for women farmers and entrepreneurs.

Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s minister of climate and environment, reminded the audience of the fearful price paid every day by defenders and protectors of the Earth.

“The remarkable communities here tonight demonstrate that indigenous and local communities, working together, can safeguard their lands and forests, and realize their own sustainable development goals,” said Helgesen. “However, we must recognize that protecting forests and traditional lands comes at a steep price. Nearly four people were killed every week last year defending their land rights against destructive industries and illegal activities. This must end.”

Equator Prize winners are selected based on the impact they have, and also the partnerships they build with other community groups, the private sector, governments, research and academic institutions, as well as public or private foundations

To qualify for the prize, the groups must demonstrate that their practical, innovative solutions result in at least three years of successful changes in local socio-economic conditions and have positive impacts on biodiversity.

Their initiatives must demonstrate new and adaptable approaches that overcome prevailing constraints, incorporate social and cultural diversity, promote gender equality, and empower local people, especially marginalized groups.

They must demonstrate leadership that inspires action and change consistent with the vision of the Equator Initiative – of “sustainably managing nature to achieve local sustainable development, such as food security, water security, sustainable jobs and livelihoods, and disaster risk reduction.”

Crosscutting issues include advocacy for land and water rights, social and environmental justice, and gender equality.

Naoko Ishii, CEO and chairperson, Global Environment Facility, said at the awards gala, “Communities have shown that they can be an engine of innovation and learning, and for that reason, the GEF has invested $450 million to support over 14,500 community-based projects in over 125 countries. It gives me great pleasure to see that six of the Equator Prize winners tonight are recipients of SGP [Small Grants Programme] awards, demonstrating that by investing in communities, we can achieve lasting results that help provide a pathway toward a just, resilient and sustainable future.”

Following a global call for nominations, the Equator Initiative received a 806 nominations from 120 countries.

The winners were selected during an extensive months-long review process guided by a Technical Advisory Committee of international experts.

And the Winners Are:

Sub-Saharan Africa

1. Mikoko Pamoja, Kenya

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, oceans, coasts, wetlands, wildlife

Started in 2013, Mikoko Pamoja brings together two communities in southern Kenya’s Gazi Bay to sell carbon credits from mangrove conservation, trading 3,000 tons CO2-equivalent per year in the voluntary carbon market.

Mikoko Pamoja is the first community-based project of this kind in the world to successfully trade mangrove carbon credits.

Benefits are reinvested in the community to improve clean water access for 3,500 community members, provide educational materials to 700 school children, and to ensure the 117 hectare mangrove forest remains protected.

Ecotourism provides a further source of income for this initiative, which is in the process of being replicated in other regions in Kenya and other countries.

2. The Kuruwitu Conservation & Welfare Association, Kenya

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: ocean restoration, coasts

The Kuruwitu Conservation & Welfare Association (KCWA) was set up in 2003 by community members concerned about the degradation of their seas by overfishing, climate change and uncontrolled fish and coral collection by the aquarium trade.

In Vipingo, Kilifi County, Kenya, elders who could recall how healthy and productive the sea had been decades ago felt it necessary to take restorative action before it was too late.

In 2005 they set aside a 30 hectare Marine Protected Area (MPA), the first coral-based Locally Managed Marine Area in Kenya. Twelve years later, the area has recovered.

With fishing prohibited within the MPA, fish have grown in abundance, size and diversity. The area has become a breeding ground, leading to an increase in fish outside the MPA. Local fishermen see greater catches and at the same time, biodiversity has blossomed.

Kuruwitu has become an eco-tourism destination, creating jobs for guides, boat captains and rangers.

KCWA is working with the local Beach Management Unit, the Kenyan State Department of Fisheries, and the Wildlife Conservation Society to develop a co-management plan that will cover a 800 hectare area of ocean off the Kenyan coast. With this co-management plan, KCWA will collaborate with local fishermen to promote the sustainable use of marine resources, to reduce post-harvest losses and improve fish marketing.

3. The Mali Elephant Project, Mali

Area of Focus: Wildlife

In a drought-prone zone rife with resource conflicts and violent extremism, the Mali Elephant Project brings together various ethnic groups to manage local resources and protect an internationally important population of 350 endangered African elephants.

Through the formation of community-based natural resource management committees, the provision of additional income through support for women’s groups engaged in sustainable harvest of non-timber forest products, and anti-poaching measures involving ‘eco-guardian’ youth community members, the initiative has reduced poaching of elephants in the 32,000 km² area.

The Elephant Project has improved social cohesion between different local communities, and contributed to peace-building efforts by providing alternatives to joining extremist groups.

Communities have created rules for local use of natural resources, set aside forests for elephant use, formed pasture reserves, and designated seasonal water sources to be shared by people, livestock, and elephants.

Latin America and the Caribbean

4. Alianza Internacional de Reforestación (AIRES), Guatemala

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, mountains

For 24 years, AIRES has utilized the expertise of indigenous Maya forestry professionals to support more than 130 low-income communities in Guatemala’s Chimaltenango province to fight erosion and prevent deadly mudslides, improve food crops and nutrition, and prevent lung disease.

Working with community members, AIRES promotes sustainable farming methods and environmental education programs, builds efficient stoves, and has planted almost five million trees.

Almost 3,000 farmers, 70 percent of them women, have been trained by indigenous peers, 200 nurseries established, and 860 cook stoves built.

5. Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia Apiwtxa, Brazil

Area of Focus: Sustainable Forestry

To protect their 87,205-hectare territory Terra Kampa do Rio Amônia from deforestation and to defend Ashaninka rights and culture, Apiwtxa has used participatory 3D mapping to demarcate and support community-based management of indigenous lands.

With this innovative technology and broad community engagement, Apiwtxa has created a management plan for the Ashaninka territory.

The group has also set up an educational center that promotes sustainable agroforestry practices with Ashaninka communities in Brazil and Peru as well as other indigenous and non-indigenous groups and educational centers.

The schools place cultural exchange and social inclusion at the heart of environmental education, while leading restoration activities, and selling handicrafts and non-timber forest products through a cooperative in a cohesive strategy to defend indigenous lands and enhance community livelihoods.

6. Associação Terra Indígena Xingu (ATIX), Brazil

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests

Founded 22 years ago by 16 indigenous communities in the 27,000 km² Terra Indígena Xingu to manage their land and defend their rights, Associação Terra Indígena Xingu is the first community-based organization in Brazil to obtain permits from the Ministry of Agriculture as a certifying entity for community-based organic products.

Two tons of honey are sold every year, and the organization has developed a new certification called ‘Selo dos Origens Brasil,’ highlighting the preservation of traditional knowledge and customs.

ATIX advocates for the recognition of indigenous land rights in the face of powerful pressures on the forest.

7. Community Baboon Sanctuary Women’s Conservation Group (CBSWCG), Belize

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, Wetlands, Rivers, Wildlife

Led by women from seven communities in the northern coastal plain of Belize, the Community Baboon Sactuary Women’s Conservation Group (CBSWCG) supports the conservation of the black howler monkey, or baboon, in the 6,000-hectare Community Baboon Sanctuary.

CBSWCG brings together 240 landowners, each of whom voluntarily participates in conservation efforts through a pledge system.

The sanctuary has produced a sustainable land management plan with environmental, economic and social benefits.

Maintaining interconnected wildlife corridor integrity and a comprehensive sustainable natural resource management strategy are among CBSWCG’s achievements.

A micro-credit fund has backed projects in sustainable oil harvesting, tilapia farming, organic agriculture, and livestock rearing while the Bel-riv Commerce and Eco-Tourism Expo, created by the group in 2013, offers improved market access for farmers, small-scale entrepreneurs, and artisans.

The successful protection of the sanctuary has led not only to an increase in the baboon population from 800 in 1985 to 6,000 in 2011, but also to the recovery of vulnerable populations of jaguar, ocelot, margay, puma and over 200 species of birds.

8. Federacion Tribus Pech de Honduras (FETRIPH), Honduras

Area of Focus: Sustainable Forestry

Federación Tribus Pech de Honduras unites 12 Pech communities in northeastern Honduras to fight for the protection of their forests against illegal occupation by settlers and to promote alternative livelihoods in a unique Access and Benefit Sharing scheme.

The group has founded a cooperative to sell liquidambar, an ingredient important in the fragrance and flavor industry, and has set production standards that ensure sustainability while addressing scarcity concerns in the international market, as well as guaranteeing a fair income for producers and the protection of Pech traditional knowledge.

Sixty percent of revenues directly benefit producers, providing a stable income for 60 families; the remaining 40 percent of revenues are directed to a community social fund that promotes education and public health.

FETRIPH successfully opposed the creation of a ‘people free’ national park, which would have stripped the Pech from the right to sustainably use liquidambar trees.

The government has instead signed an agreement with FETRIPH for co-management of the 34,000-hectare Anthropological and Forest Reserve ‘Montaña del Carbón,’ which provides the community with stewardship over their forest.

9. Organización para la Defensa y Conservación Ecológica de Intag (DECOIN), Ecuador

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, Mountains, Rivers, Wildlife

Founded in 1995 to confront a big mining project threatening communities and environment in the Intag Valley, DECOIN promotes alternative livelihoods and measures to advance conservation of the area’s Andean biodiversity.

Over the past 22 years, the organization has created community-based forest reserves to protect watersheds in 38 communities, totaling 12,000 hectares.

Sustainable agricultural activities such as small holder organic coffee production, aquaculture, poultry farming, and egg production, as well as eco-tourism ventures, provide additional income and viable alternatives to mining, which remains a strong pressure in the area.

Eastern Europe & Central Asia

10. Public Foundation “Zhassyl Azyk,” Kazakhstan

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Drylands, ecosystem restoration

Concerned with extensive soil degradation, five farming communities near Almaty, Kazakhstan created the Community Fund ‘Zhasil Azik’ to restore the productivity of low-fertility lands by sustainably cultivating alfalfa.

Alfalfa cultivation serves as an entry point to restore soil fertility, counter the effects of monoculture, make more efficient use of scarce water supplies, and improve smallholder income.

New opportunities for livestock breeding through the availability of alfalfa have further enhanced food security.

The innovative approaches utilized by the group accelerate recovery of soil fertility, do not require large financial investments, are technologically accessible for smallholder agricultural producers, and have increased income by 20 percent.

More than 200 jobs have been created through the initiative’s work, and the national government has integrated these techniques into the National Program for the Development of Agro-industrial Complex, effectively providing the support to scale up these practices to the national level.

Community Fund ‘Zhasil Azik’ mobilizes local communities to deliver on solutions that address global challengess of food security, land degradation, water scarcity, and adaptation to climate change.

Asia & the Pacific

11. Asosiasi Usaha Homestay Lokal Kabupaten Raja Ampat (AUHLKRA), Indonesia

AUHLKRA is a growing network of 84 community-owned businesses in Papua and West Papua, offering ecotourism services that connect tourists directly with family-run homestays through a user-friendly web portal, Stay Raja Ampat, and an SMS booking system.

More than 600 new jobs have been created in homestays, fishing, and agriculture, including for youth and women, providing viable alternatives to the resort industry. The association sets hospitality and environmental standards for all member community-owned businesses.

Pressures on ecosystems have been reduced through community forest patrols, peer-pressure enforcement of no-take fishery zones, and a participatory system to report illegal activities.

12. Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization (BWCDO), Pakistan

The Baltistan Wildlife Conservation and Development Organization protects Baltistan’s snow leopards by providing economic incentives to local farmers in 17 villages through insurance schemes and financial compensation against livestock losses following snow leopard attacks.

Damages are paid after verification through joint decisions between BWCDO and Village Insurance Committees established for this purpose.

Communities have also set up predator-proof fencing, and received training to improve herding techniques. Vaccination campaigns protect both livestock and wildlife.

BWCDO’s achievements have reduced economic losses to farmers. An educational program raises awareness and provides opportunities for girls, proactively engaging youth in conservation and development.

13. Community Mangrove Forest Conservation of Baan Bang La, Thailand

Area of Focus: Forests, oceans, coasts, wetlands, wildlife

In 2004, Bang La was protected from the worst of a catastrophic tsunami by a 192-hectare mangrove forest. Recognizing the importance of this natural habitat for disaster risk reduction, Bang La community residents formed an association to advance the protection of mangroves through co-management, community dialogues, and education programs. This enabled them to resist the expansion of urban housing developments into the publically-owned land.

The community has secured a Memorandum of Understanding from the provincial government, which provides them with the rights to establish a community-managed mangrove forest conservation area.

The community’s sustainable management of this area has triggered the return of the protected Phuket Sea Otter, and places this endangered species at the center of awareness campaigns that engage women and youth in natural resource management.

The group has established a savings and microcredit scheme to support small-business opportunities and retain the traditional character of the community.

14. Swayam Shikshan Prayog, India

Area of Focus: Grasslands, drylands

Swayam Shikshan Prayog empowers 72,000 women in the drought-prone state of Maharashtra to act as decision-makers, improving their health and economic well-being.

At the nexus of nutrition, sustainable agriculture, and gender, SSP has created 5,500 self-help and saving groups that support women to engage as farmers, entrepreneurs, and leaders.

SSP trains women to negotiate with their families to obtain their own plot of land for cultivation, usually about 0.4 hectares each. Low-input sustainable farming techniques, including efficient water use, organic farming, mixed cropping, and increased crop cycles, enable the women to improve food security, increase climate resilience, enhance agrobiodiversity, and reduce stress on water resources.

Through these projects, women develop capacity to influence household decision-making, improve nutrition, and increase water availablity in the region. The initiative provides a space for local women to co-create their own development solutions and to connect with likeminded women and organizations to spread their knowledge and experise in a broader network, creating a mechaism for widespread sustainable change.

15. Yayasan Planet Indonesia

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, coasts

Fighting economic activities detrimental to the environment, Planet Indonesia identifies, led by the benefiting Dayak communities, sustainable livelihood opportunities through the development of conservation compacts and community businesses.

Activities range from forest protection to anti-wildlife trafficking to securing land rights.

Business groups have been set up in more than 50 villages, comprising 2,100 members, more than two-thirds of whom are women and/or indigenous.

Community members are trained to run small-scale businesses, savings and loans programs build community capital, a revolving fund covers damages and operational costs, and coaching and mentoring ensures long-term sustainability of each community business.

An annual fellowship program provides 50 high school students with funds to conduct adaptation and mitigation projects. To date, 30,000 hectares of forest have been protected and over 40,000 seedlings planted.

Since its inception in 2002, the Equator Prize has recognized the innovative work of 223 community initiatives that are helping to protect the environment and tackle climate change while advancing their sustainable development priorities.

This year’s Equator Prize was made possible by the generous support of the Governments of Germany, Norway, and Sweden, National Geographic, Pvblic Foundation, Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, Rainforest Norway, The Nature Conservancy, and the individuals who contributed to the Equator Initiative crowdfunding campaign.


Featured image: Equator Prize 2017, Equator Initiative www.equatorinitiative.org
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Tropical Forests Thrive on Radical Transparency

ForestIndonesia

The Ulu Masen forest ecosystem in the northern part of Indonesia’s Aceh province forms part of the largest single forested area in Southeast Asia. (Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith / DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, February 15, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Commodity production drives two-thirds of tropical deforestation worldwide, asserts Trase, a new online information and decision-support platform aimed at improving the transparency, clarity and accessibility of information on the commodity supply chains that drive tropical deforestation.

Formally known as Transparency for Sustainable Economies, Trase is led by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Global Canopy Programme.

Trase draws on deep untapped sets of data tracking the flows of globally-traded commodities, such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber, responsible for tropical deforestation.

Trase responds to the urgent need for a breakthrough in assessing and monitoring sustainability triggered by the ambitious commitments made by government leaders to achieve deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.

In Morocco last November, a Trase-led side event at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), attracted experts in environmental policy, data analysis and commodity supply chains who strategized on upgrading supply-chain transparency to achieve trade that is free of deforestation.

The side event was hosted by the EU REDD Facility, which supports partner countries in improving land use governance as part of their effort to slow, halt and reverse deforestation.

REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation,” a mechanism that has been under negotiation by the UNFCCC since 2005. The goal is to mitigate climate change by protecting forests, which absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Participants discussed how to bring about step changes in the capacity of supply-chain actors to meet zero deforestation and sustainability commitments. They examined incentives for encouraging governments in consumer and producer countries to cooperate.

Tools such as the platforms launched by Trase to collect and analyze data and information can help purchasers to develop better sourcing strategies and governments to develop policies in the forestry sector and commodity trade.

The international trade in commodities such as soy, palm oil and beef is valued at billions of dollars. These commodities trade along complex supply chains that often have adverse social and environmental impacts, especially in developing countries.

Over the past 10 years, participants acknowledged, agricultural expansion has caused two-thirds of tropical deforestation, which in turn has accelerated climate change and threatened the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and communities that depend on forests.

Participants agreed that consumers and markets around the world are demanding greater sustainability in producing and trading agricultural commodities.

Nowhere is this demand greater than in the European Union, which has set a goal of halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest, and reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 percent by 2020.

The EU and several EU Member States have endorsed the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests .

In 2015, several EU Member States signed the Amsterdam Declaration , which recognizes the need to eliminate deforestation related to trade in agricultural commodities and supports private and public sector initiatives to halt deforestation no later than 2020.

The EU is also conducting a feasibility study for a EU Action Plan on deforestation.

Some of the most interesting deforestation transparency work is being done in Brazil.

Pedro Moura Costa, founder and CEO, BVRio Environmental Exchange, says his organization and Trase are piloting a program to bring more transparency to Brazilian timber supply chains, to assess the causes of illegally harvested timber and to find solutions to minimize risks.

Through the partnership, BVRio will upload data to the platform on the legal status of forest operations in Brazil. This will enable Trase to track legally and illegally harvested timber from sources to buyers at the end of supply chains.

On the banks of the Tapajós River, in Brazil’s Pará state, is a community forestry project that works with sustainable timber extraction in the Amazon.

Since 2003, Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós (Coomflona) has been operating in the region and today employs 150 managers, as workers in this sector are known. The yearly production is around 42,000 cubic meters of timber, which Costa says could be fully commercialized if not for the competition with illegal timber products.

The issue of legality in supply chains is rarely considered in transparency initiatives, but is vitally important, Costa points out.

Legality is at the core of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan issued in 2003. The Action Plan sets forth a range of measures available to the EU and its member states to tackle illegal logging in the world’s forests by engaging with national governments on illegal logging.

BVRio Environmental Exchange in 2016 launched a Responsible Timber Exchange, a trading platform to assist traders and buyers of timber in sourcing legal or certified products from all over the world.

The platform is integrated with BVRio’s Due Diligence and Risk Assessment tools, designed to assist traders and buyers of tropical timber in verifying the legality status of the products purchased and their supply chains. The system is based on big data analysis and conducts more than two billion crosschecks of data daily.

Since their release in 2015, the tools have been used by traders and environmental agencies worldwide to screen thousands of timber shipments.

Costa says, “Compliance with local legislation is an essential requirement of any initiative to promote good land-use governance and, ultimately, to achieve zero deforestation supply chains.

Companies too are engaged.

Trase can help us move away from the blame game, to start a practical discussion around issues and solutions,” says Lucas Urbano, project management officer for climate strategy with the Danone, based in Paris, one of the world’s largest dairy and packaged food companies.

Danone has committed to eliminating deforestation from its supply chains by 2020. The company is a signatory of the New York Declaration on Forests as well as a member of the Consumer Goods Forum.

For a company like Danone, transparency and better information about the impacts and conditions in jurisdictions where its supplies originate from are hugely important, Urbano recognizes.

Transparency is the first major step in eliminating deforestation from Danone’s value chains, because supply-chain complexity and opacity are barriers to action, he says.

Transparency initiatives such as Trase help Danone to understand who to convene and engage with in strategic supply chains. At the same time,” Urbano says, “transparency will make it impossible for companies to hide behind the complexity and opacity of supply chains.

Trase is made possible through the financial support of the European Union, the Nature Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Swedish Research Council FORMAS and the UK Department for International Development.


Featured Image: In Brazil, forest managers with the Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós mark a tree for legal logging. (Photo courtesy BVRio Environmental Exchange) posted for media use

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Green Bond Market Shoots Up

greenshootsengland

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.

panamawindfarm

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

Eco-Conscious Tourists Welcome, Destroyers Go Home

Bang Kachao

By Sunny Lewis

BANGKOK, Thailand, January 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Tourism can play a positive role in conservation by showcasing the value of existing natural and cultural heritage and focusing attention on the need for preservation. But tourists can be disruptive, and the amenities built to serve them can destroy wildlife habitat and disturb land needed as a bulwark against climate change.

Sustainable tourism is the key. It’s more than not littering and not buying souvenirs made from endangered species, but exactly what activities are sustainable and which are destructive? Groups around the globe are finding the answers.

The Pacific Asia Tourism Authority (PATA) is working with members from nine countries to cultivate a better understanding of how tourism affects the natural world.

At the PATA Academy, held in Bangkok in early December, a team from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and its Mangroves for the Future initiative offered a seminar on Business Ecosystems Training, a product of the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD) that presents the basics of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

As part of the seminar, IUCN hosted a site visit to Bang Kachao, a 2,000-hectare riverine peninsula covered with wetlands and forests located across the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok.

As it is near Bangkok, Bang Kachao faces the degradation of natural resources, the reduction of green space, water pollution from households and industries, land-filling for flood prevention and riverbank encroachment.

Visiting Bang Kachao allowed participants to see how well-managed tourism and cooperation with local communities can help protect the peninsula’s habitats. They learned how sustainable tourism can help conserve wildlife habitat by providing income to the local people who do the work of preservation.

Talking with community conservation groups, participants learned that local wisdom and knowledge can contribute to the sustainable management of Bang Kachao through the restoration of its mangrove ecosystems.

In 2013, IUCN Thailand started working on biodiversity conservation in Bang Kachao. With Thailand’s Royal Forest Department, the Asia-Pacific Network for Sustainable Forest Management, community groups and academic institutions, IUCN supports efforts to conduct landscape and biodiversity surveys, to establish demonstration sites, and to promote ecotourism activities that benefit the local community.

That same year, IUCN and its Mangroves for the Future project partnered with the Marriott International hotel chain to protect the environment and support local communities in Bang Kachao and coastal areas of Thailand through mangrove restoration, the sustainable sourcing of seafood and local procurement practices.

All these practices are a part of daily life for conservationists in the world’s most magnificent, most fragile places. And they were not made up on the fly. Formal standards have been developed by an international body dedicated to sustainable tourism.

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), a virtual organization that exists only online, establishes and manages global sustainable standards with the goal of increasing sustainable tourism knowledge and practices among public and private stakeholders.

At the heart of this work are the two sets of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s Sustainability Criteria: Destination Criteria as well as Hotel and Tour Operator Criteria.

The guidelines are intended to apply to all forms of tourism accommodation, from large hotels and resorts to remote community guesthouses.

The GSTC Criteria are the minimum, not the maximum, that businesses, governments, and destinations should achieve to approach social, environmental, cultural, and economic sustainability.

Since tourism destinations each have their own culture, environment, customs and laws, the criteria are designed to be adapted to local conditions and configured for each specific location and activity.

And the guidelines have just become even more formal. In mid-December, the International Standards Organisation (ISO) published a new Technical Specification (TS 13811) “Tourism and related services – Guidelines on developing environmental specifications for accommodation establishments,” –  New guidelines help tourism accommodation go green.

As a member of the ISO’s Technical Committee on Tourism, the GSTC contributed to the development of the new standard.

GSTC Technical Director Guy Chester said, “Sustainable tourism is vital if we are to meet the recently adopted global Sustainable Development Goals. The Technical Specification focuses on environmental aspects and it is a tribute to the rigor and applicability of the GSTC Criteria that select criteria were adopted for this ISO document.”

Clare Naden of the ISO said, “The guidelines outline a number of things that accommodation establishments can do to reduce their impact, including conserving their use of resources, reducing pollution and better managing their waste, as well as ways they can make a positive contribution to the area. This includes things such as restoring natural areas of scenic beauty and educating staff, clients and the community of the important role they too can play.”

Tuba Ulu Yilmaz of Turkey, who led an ISO tourism technical specification working group, said the new guidelines are expected to be a technical reference for a wide range of stakeholders, not just accommodation providers who want to be more environmentally friendly.

“It is also aimed at countries with no regulations to constitute a framework; national and international bodies to assess and harmonize their existing schemes or certifications; and consumers who want the choice to choose establishments that have the environment in mind,” she said. “It will foster the ultimate goal of environmental sustainability and raise the overall standard of the tourism sector.”

But Geoffrey Lipman, president at International Coalition of Tourism Partners and chair of greenearth.travel, told a tourism workshop in San Jose, Costa Rica in November that “the travel industry is behind the curve in translating global policy into local level actions.”

The workshop, co-organized by The Long Run initiative of the Zeitz Foundation, the Costa Rican Tourism Board and the Chamber of Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism of Costa Rica, emphasized the recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals as amplifying the opportunity to realize the full potential of the tourism industry for the wellbeing of the people and the planet.

“Efforts need to be brought together to impact mainstream policy making,” said Lipman. “Everyone has a responsibility to link tourism to the Sustainable Development Goals and climate targets.”

Several United Nations agencies are involved in guiding and encouraging sustainable tourism. The UNESCO World Heritage Centre sets global standards for good management of the world’s most exceptional places.

Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti Plain, the Pyramids of Egypt and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are designated as World Heritage sites that belong to all the peoples of the world. This idea is embodied in an international treaty, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

The World Heritage Centre encourages the 191 States Parties to the treaty to establish management plans and set up reporting systems on the state of conservation of their World Heritage sites.

Sustainable tourism guidelines set the standards, and awards motivate extra effort.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) will recognize exceptional sustainable tourism projects on January 20 at an awards dinner in Madrid, Spain.

The diversity of these projects is shown in the category of Enterprises. Award nominees include:

  • Garuda Indonesia airline and its Bali beach clean-up initiative, which emphasizes the role of communities in preserving coastal areas;
  • Switzerland Explorer Tours, with a 100% electric bus tour and sustainable tour experiences;
  • Meliá Hotels International of Spain for promoting employment opportunities for young people at risk of exclusion;
  • The Treetop Walking Path in the Anykščiai Regional Park in Lithuania;
  • The Projeto Fartura of Brazil and its Plentifulness Project linking food, research and travel in 145 Brazilian cities.

The UNWTO Awards on Excellence and Innovation are held in collaboration with Madrid International Tourism Trade Fair and with the support of China’s Macao Government Tourist Office, Port Aventura, the Galicia Tourism Board of Spain, Hilton Worldwide, Etihad Airways, Mapfre Asistencia, Amadeus and the Paraguay Tourism Board.

 


Award-winning journalist Sunny Lewis is founding editor in chief of the Environment News Service (ENS), the original daily wire service of the environment, publishing since 1990.

Featured image: Samutprakarn Bang Kachao under creative commons license via Wikimedia Commons
Header image: Sri Nakhon Khuean Khan Park and Botanical Garden or the lungs of Bangkok in Bang Kachao, Samut Prakan via 123rf