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The World’s Greenest Countries Revealed

Does your country make the cut?


Source: eCO2 Greetings

With ice caps melting at an alarming rate and worldwide coral reefs at risk of dying, we are becoming more aware of the role we play in combating global warming and saving the environment. But have you ever wondered if you’re living in a green country? This interactive map reveals all.

Using Yale data that measures the Environmental Performance Index, the interactive map reveals the World’s Greenest Countries. The environmental performance index (EPI) ranks performance of countries based on issues in two environmental areas: protection of human health and protection of ecosystems.

Finland is the greenest country of us all, with an EPI rating of 90.68, leading the way with their commitment to achieve a carbon-neutral society by 2050. Followed closely by Iceland and Sweden who bagged 2nd and 3rd spots.

There are 196 countries in the world, and the map also reports the UK and USA are lagging behind the environmental evolution. The UK were just shy of landing a place in the world’s top 10 greenest countries, and instead took 12th place with an EPI score of 87.38. In 2016 the UK’s wind power made history and overtook coal for electricity generation for the first time.

With an EPI score of 84.72, the USA have Obama’s historic conservation to thank for their Top 30 spot. 22 new parks were added to the US National Park system during his eight years in office, and he created the two largest marine reserves on Earth!

Those lucky enough to call their country a pioneer in the World’s Greenest Countries Top 10 include:

  1. Finland. With an EPI score of 90.68.
  2. Iceland. With an EPI score of 90.51.
  3. Sweden. With an EPI score of 90.43.
  4. Denmark. With an EPI score of 89.21.
  5. Slovenia. With an EPI score of 88.98.
  6. Spain. With an EPI score of 88.91.
  7. Portugal. With an EPI score of 88.63.
  8. Estonia. With an EPI score of 88.59.
  9. Malta. With an EPI score of 88.48.
  10. France. With an EPI score of 88.20.

It may, or may not come as a surprise to some that all of the Top 10 Greenest Countries are European. Projects including the world’s first solar panel road in Normandy, France, and plans to get rooftop gardens on buses and bus stops in Madrid, Spain, to combat CO2 emissions are original, important and revolutionary. The rest of the world needs to take note!

By: Roxanne Bracknell

“Together for Youth, With Youth”

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union - European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

The 83 Heads of State and Government who participated in the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, November 30, 2017 (Photo courtesy African Union) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, December 5, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – To ensure a sustainable future, the European Union and the African Union are solidifying their decade-old financial and structural cooperation in order to support young people and women.

At the 5th African Union – European Union Summit in Abidjan last week, leaders from 55 African Union and 28 European Union Member States gathered to coordinate with young people and with each other with the primary message, “Together for Youth, With Youth.”

EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said, “Already today, the majority of African citizens are under 25 years old, and by the middle of this century, one in four people on Earth will be African.”

“But this demographic dividend cannot deliver without smart investments,” said President Juncker. “This is precisely why we are going to put our investments in education, in infrastructure, in peace and security, as well as in good governance – all of which will in turn inspire good business environments and create much needed jobs and growth.”

Ahead of the Summit, young leaders from Africa and Europe gathered at a Youth Summit on October 9-11 in Abidjan, and their work intensified in the context of the AU-EU Youth Plugin-Initiative.

The Youth Plug-In Initiative brings together 18 Europeans and 18 Africans to act as youth ambassadors for the 5th AU EU Summit. The youth ambassadors presented their ideas to improve the futures of Africans and Europeans alike to global leaders at the Summit.

A summary of the youth ambassadors’ views on six key topics – education, job creation, governance, peace and security, environment and climate change, as well as culture and the arts – is presented in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

On the topic of education, the youth ambassadors had two new ideas to present.

The AU-EU Rural Education Action Program (REAP) is a proposed, multipurpose and incentive-based pilot intercontinental program to facilitate access to and the completion of primary and secondary education for children, particularly in rural areas.

REAP focuses on integrating schools in remote and hard-to-reach zones to attract and retain students, especially girls, in schools. It maps hard-to-reach areas and develops “toolkits” that include equipment and training.

The AU-EU Network of Digital Hubs for Primary and Secondary Education envisions an initiative, implemented through a public-private intercontinental partnership with major IT companies, aimed at promoting digital skills and digital connectivity at the earliest stages of education, to unleash the potential of digital technology in the community through youth education, training and support programs.

On the topic of Environment and Climate Change, the youth ambassadors from Europe and Africa agree. They state, “Every day, we move closer to the environmental apocalypse to the detriment of all of us, particularly marginalized groups. Youth inclusion is key to ensure environmental preservation and address climate change; it is up to our generation to change the course.”

“As is stated in the Abidjan Youth Declaration, youth-led initiatives must be supported to counterbalance existing tendencies and interests that work against the environment. African and European youth share the same concerns about biodiversity, desertification, coastal erosion, and unsustainable resource management. As the first generation to bear the brunt of climate change and environmental disruption, we must urgently work together on common challenges. It is crucial that we find inclusive, fair and sustainable ways to govern natural resources both locally and globally,” the youth ambassadors state in the Abidjan Youth Declaration.

The youth ambassadors presented two new ideas to improve human response to environmental issues.

First, they suggest mobilizing youth to monitor infrastructure development projects, while guaranteeing the efficacy of impact assessments, through a new AU-EU Youth Initiative on Sustainable Infrastructural Development they’re calling GREEN ID.

Second, they would introduce a youth-led project which expands across the EU and the AU the use of transparent mobile direct-payment methods to ecosystem services for biodiversity conservation, natural resource management initiatives and risk compensation.

Also in advance of the Abidjan Summit, the 6th EU-Africa Business Forum took place on November 27, where business leaders, investors, innovative start-ups, and young and female entrepreneurs from both continents developed recommendations on how to improve the business and investment climate.

After taking all this input into consideration, the 83 European and African Heads of State and Government set out their joint commitment to invest in youth for a sustainable future.

They committed to focusing their work on four strategic priorities:

  • Mobilizing investments for African structural and sustainable transformation, European leaders presented, and African partners welcomed, the EU’s new External Investment Plan, a €4.1 billion (US$4.8 billion) initiative to draw in €44 billion (US$51.9 billion) of private investments for sustainable development and job creation. Special attention will be paid to enhancing entrepreneurship of women and young people.

The newly launched Sustainable Business for Africa Platform is intended to allow for structured dialogue with the European and African private sector.

  • Investing in people through education, science, technology and skills development

Support for inclusive education and vocational training was highlighted. Leaders also agreed to enhance the mobility of students, staff and academics across the African continent, as well as exchange programs between Africa and Europe, such as ERASMUS+, the European Union funding program for education, training, youth and sport.

  • Strengthening Resilience, Peace, security and governance

Leaders will step up their work to enhance peace and security on both continents, pledging to strengthen strategic, political and operational cooperation between the African Union and European Union, in close partnership with the United Nations.

Support to ongoing work to fight against terrorism was reiterated, including the Multinational Joint Task Force against Boko Haram, the Joint Force of the G5 Sahel and the African Union Mission in Somalia, to all of which the EU is the biggest financial contributor.

  • Managing mobility and migration

European and African leaders reaffirmed their strong political commitment to address the root causes of irregular migration in a spirit of genuine partnership and shared responsibility, and in full respect of international laws and human rights, as well as creating legal pathways for migration.

They stressed the need to improve the conditions of migrants and refugees in Libya, and to provide them with appropriate assistance and to facilitate their voluntary repatriation to their countries of origin, as well as to create solutions for refugees.

Libya is the main gateway for people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with more than 150,000 people making the deadly crossing in each of the past three years.

Fleeing war and poverty, the refugees and migrants – most from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Zambia, Senegal, Gambia and Sudan – are smuggled into Libya by a network of criminal gangs on the promise of reaching Europe.

Hundreds of African refugees, many of them young people and women, are being bought and sold in “slave markets” across Libya every week, Al Jazeera reported last week, with many of them held for ransom or forced into prostitution and sexual exploitation to pay their captors and smugglers.

To jointly address the situation of migrants and refugees who fall victim to criminal networks, in particular inside Libya, President Juncker, and High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat agreed to set up a joint EU-AU-UN Task Force to save and protect lives of migrants and refugees along the routes and in particular inside Libya.

Efforts will be intensified to enhance intra-African mobility and the free movement of persons within Africa.

On this basis, the European Commission and African Union Commission pledged to put forward concrete projects and programs within three months.


Featured image: Three young boys in El Sereif, North Darfur, Sudan. Today, more than half of all Africans are under 25 years old. (Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran / UNAMID) Creative commons license via Flickr.

Brutal Weather Hits Extremes

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Smoke from fires burning in British Columbia, Canada. Colin Seftor, an atmospheric scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, has published data maps collected by the Ozone Mapping Profiler Suite that show the smoke reaching as far as the U.S. Midwest and northern Quebec. July 18, 2017 (Image courtesy NASA) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 25, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – France today activated the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism as forest fires ravage southern regions of the country, threatening the resort of St. Tropez and the island of Corsica. French authorities have requested firefighting aircraft, and EU support is already on its way.

Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides said, “The EU stands in full solidarity with France. In an immediate response, the European Commission has helped mobilize a Canadair aircraft from Italy through our Civil Protection Mechanism.”

“Earlier this month, France helped Italy fighting forest fires and now Italy is showing its support to France. This is EU solidarity at its best,” said Stylianides. “Our thoughts are with all those affected and the brave first responders working in difficult conditions.”

Conditions are difficult around the world, with fires, floods and drought coming in waves of trouble.

June 2017 extended the spell of “exceptional global warmth” that has lasted since mid-2015. Average surface air temperatures were the second hottest on record, after June 2016, finds the latest analysis from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service.

In addition to high temperatures, extreme weather affected many parts of the world in June and July.

Rescue services and troops in New Zealand’s South Island worked around the clock over the weekend to help those affected by a severe storm that released floods and forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes.

A state of emergency was declared in the South Island cities of Christchurch, Otago, Timaru and Dunedin after some areas were hit with more than 200 millimetres of rain in 24 hours.

The New Zealand Meteorological Service says all of July has been marked by severe weather events, caused by low pressure systems from the Tasman Sea.

Australia had the second driest June on record, with rainfall 62 percent below average for Australia as a whole, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. June was the driest on record for large areas of southern Australia because of persistent high pressure and a lack of cold fronts.

Chinese weather authorities report that the annual monsoon season was accompanied by torrential rainfall in many parts of China for extended periods in June and early July, causing considerable economic losses and transport disruption.

For instance, more than 600 flights were cancelled at Beijing airport alone on July 6 as a result of rainfall.

The rainfall was one of the contributing factors to a deadly landslide with many casualties on June 24 in  Maoxian County, Sichuan. In north and northeast China, the National Meteorological Center said that from June 21 to June 24, the maximum hourly rainfall was between 20-40 mm.

Authorities issued warnings about water levels along key tributaries of the Yangtzee River basin. There was a red alert on July 2 along the whole course of the Xiangjiang River that was near or above record levels. The water level in the section of the river in Changsha, capital of Hunan, reached a record 39.21 meters on July 2.

Since June 22, floodwaters have inundated parts of several cities in Hunan, forcing more than 311,000 people to evacuate, damaging crops and destroying more than 6,300 houses, according to the China Meteorological Administration.

In Japan, tropical storm Nanmadol brought torrential rainfall to the southern part of the country. The city of Hamada in Shimane, which faces the Sea of Japan, saw hourly precipitation of over 80 mm on July 6, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Local governments issued evacuation orders to nearly 60,000 residents in affected areas.

Tropical cyclone Mora caused Bangladesh authorities to evacuate nearly one million people from low-lying areas, At least 10 people died. Heavy monsoon rainfall in June caused severe flooding and deadly mudslides. Nearly 900,000 people were affected by floods as of July 5, authorities said.

In Myanmar, heavy monsoon rains have prevailed across the southeast Asian country since early July. Today, riverbank erosion washed away a Buddhist pagoda. Rising floodwaters across large parts of the country have claimed two lives, washed away entire villages and displaced tens of thousands of residents.

In Indonesia, drought is drying the crops as they stand in the fields.

Much of South America and Africa were warmer than average during this two month period, according to the Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reports the Middle East is broiling. The Iranian city of Ahwaz recorded a temperature of 53.7°Celsius (128.66° Fahrenheit) on June 29 as part of a heatwave with temperatures in excess of 50°C across the region, including Iraq and Kuwait.

An even higher temperature of about 54°C (129.2°F) scorched the city of Turbat, southwestern Pakistan, in late May.

But this week in Turkey, it’s too much water, not too much heat. Istanbul traffic came to a standstill as severe storms inundated the city, flooding the streets.

Temperatures were much above average, and high in absolute terms, over Morocco and northern Algeria in June and July. Forest fires are burning across northern Algeria. An estimated 1,000 hectares have been consumed.

Southern and central Europe was very much warmer than the 1981-2010 average in June, especially over the Iberian Peninsula, where Portugal experienced devastating wildfires.

The heatwave shifted from the Iberian Peninsula to southeastern Europe, the Balkans and the Mediterranean towards the end of June, with temperatures well over 40°C ((104°F) in many countries. The high temperatures were sometimes accompanied by damaging summer storms, hailstorms, torrential rainfall and flash floods.

Fires this month in Croatia and Montenegro sparked requests for help in fighting the flames. Still, on July 18, the Adriatic coast was engulfed in wildfires.

The Deutscher Wetterdienst said July 7, “A period with significantly above-normal temperatures and heat waves, at least for the next week, is expected for most parts of the eastern Mediterranean – from Italy, Balkans to Caucasus and Middle East.”

Conversely, says the WMO, temperatures have been well below average over the northeast of Europe. The contrast between southwest and northeast continues a pattern that was present in April and May.

In Russia, June 2017 was widely called Junabre, meaning June plus November, because of the cold weather in the European parts of the country. June was the coldest month in the past 14 years for Moscow.

FloodingLondon

Caption: Flooded streets in London, UK, June 2, 2017 (Photo by Dmitry Dzhus) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The UK should be bracing for record rainfall, says Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

The UK’s two wettest winters on record occurred in 2013-14 and 2015-16, leading to flooding in many parts of the country. As a result, the National Flood Resilience Review was begun, but it needs expansion to include surface water flooding, says Ward.

Commenting on the publication Monday of the paper, High risk of unprecedented UK rainfall in the current climate in the journal “Nature Communications,” Ward said, “I hope that the Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, will carefully read this important Met Office analysis because it highlights the risk of extreme rainfall that could cause flooding.”

“We know that the risk of record rainfall is increasing due to climate change. From 2000 onwards, the UK has experienced 6 of the 7 wettest years since records began in 1910, and its 8 warmest years. The period between January and June 2017 was the third warmest such period on record. As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more water, increasing the risk of heavy rainfall.”

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that starting around June 18 and continuing for over a week, scorching temperatures hit the western United States of America from Arizona to the Pacific Northwest.

June 20 was a particularly hot day for the southwestern United States. Las Vegas, Nevada (47.2°C or 117°F), and Needles, California (51.7°C or 125°F), both tied their all-time records.

Forest fires have been devouring forests across the U.S. West.

For instance, the Detwiler Fire in California began on July 15. It covers 79,400 acres and is 65 percent contained.

The Snowstorm Fire in Nevada began on July 13. It has burned 60,000 acres and is just 13 percent contained.

In Arizona, from June 17-27, Phoenix International Airport has had 11 straight days with temperatures of at least 110°F (43°C), with one day hitting 48.3°C (119°F). The heat caused multiple canceled flights. The hotter the air, the less dense it is, which means less lift for airplanes as they take off. In order to take off, the planes would have needed a longer runway, which is not available in Phoenix.

As the heat wave continued, the hot air spread west and north. On June 25, Portland Oregon, reach 38°C (101°F) and Seattle, Washington, hit 35.6°C (96°F), tying its hottest June day on record.

In July, the forests of south-central British Columbia were primed to burn. Abnormally hot, dry weather had dried out vegetation and soil, and many forests were full of dead trees left by mountain pine beetles. When lightning storms passed over the region on July 7, more than 100 fires were sparked. Some of these fires are still raging.

As of July 19, 2017, the British Columbia Wildfire Service reported 50 wildfires burning in the Cariboo region and another 21 in the Kamloops region. The fires have charred roughly 300,000 hectares (1,000 square miles) and have forced nearly 50,000 people to flee their homes.

To far south, June temperatures were way above average offshore of parts of Antarctica, where sea-ice cover was unusually low, the WMO reports. But the agency also says temperatures were well below average over East Antarctica.

So, investors can no longer count on business as usual. The climate is changing – tending toward extremes of heat, cold, drought and rainfall, and the physical impacts of climate change will affect assets and investments.

Climate change and extreme weather events will affect agriculture and food supply, infrastructure, precipitation and the water supply in ways that are only partly understood.

Yet, decisions made by private sector investors and financial institutions will have a major influence on how society responds to climate change.

There will be significant demand for capital, with governments looking to the private sector to provide much of it.


Featured Images: Wildfires send thousands fleeing the Provence resport of St. Tropez, France. July 25, 2017 (Photo by CCI Riviera & Monaco) Posted on Twitter

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A Sixth Scenario for Europe: The NGO Vision

Caption: Standing in solidarity with Young Friends of the Earth Norway, to save Norway’s fjords, 2016. (Photo © Luka Tomac / Friends of the Earth Europe) Published in FOE Europe 2016 Annual Review.

Standing in solidarity with Young Friends of the Earth Norway, to save Norway’s fjords, 2016. (Photo © Luka Tomac / Friends of the Earth Europe) Published in FOE Europe 2016 Annual Review.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 27, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Non-governmental organizations across the European Union have just issued their alternative vision for the future of the EU, as the bloc moves forward without Britain, as a group of 27, rather than 28, member states.

Grounded in the principles of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and initiated by Friends of the Earth Europe and SDG Watch Europe, the NGO vision is distinct from the five Future of Europe scenarios proposed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in March.

These five scenarios are currently under consultation with member states, with the first conclusions due at the end of the year.

Intended to influence the ongoing debate on the future direction of Europe, this sixth scenario, an alternative vision of “a more democratic, just and sustainable Europe” is endorsed by 256 organizations, including labour rights, culture, development, environment, health, women’s rights, youth, and anti-discrimination groups.

Speaking for SDG Watch Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe, Leida Rijnhout said, “The five scenarios for the future of Europe put forward by President Juncker are all deeply disappointing and have little connection to the challenges that the European Union faces. Instead we need a bold vision – an alternative sixth scenario – that puts social and environmental wellbeing at the core.

“The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development should be absolutely key for a future that serves people and the planet, not vested interests,” Rijnhout said.

The NGO vision states, “In a scenario where sustainability sits firmly at the heart of the European project,the EU27 will prioritise the interests of citizens, in the EU and beyond. Europe will have a strong focus on Europe’s core social values

– democracy and participation, social justice, solidarity and sustainability, respect for the rule of law and human rights, both within Europe and around the globe.”

The NGO vision statement turns the spotlight on economic, social and environmental wellbeing as the three forms of wellness that EU citizens are seeking.

The NGOs are seeking, “Economic wellbeing in the form of prosperity for all, starting with redistribution of wealth.”

They want, “Social wellbeing in the provision of quality, inclusive and affordable public services, the promotion of cultural diversity and a caring society.”

And the vision statement emphasizes, “Environmental wellbeing residing in a healthy natural environment that sustains all life on Earth and protects our soils, waters and air, provides nutritious, healthy food and where climate change is minimized.”

The NGOs released their vision statement through the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the largest network of environmental citizens’ organizations in Europe. The EEB stands for a more sustainable future.

“As a result of this focus,” said the EEB in a statement, the EU27 will ensure a better health and quality of life for its citizens. This will increase public trust in European institutions. It will move away from the current focus where commercial and corporate interests are all too often prioritized over the public interest. Decisions are made in the public interest and transparent, accountable and inclusive institutions will be the norm.”

Releasing his White Paper on the five scenarios in March, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recalled the founding of the EU 60 years ago, “with the force of the law rather than with armed forces.”

“As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, it is time for a united Europe of 27 to shape a vision for its future. It’s time for leadership, unity and common resolve.

President Juncker said, “The Commission’s White Paper presents a series of different paths this united EU at 27 could choose to follow. It is the start of the process, not the end, and I hope that now an honest and wide-ranging debate will take place. The form will then follow the function. We have Europe’s future in our own hands.”

The Commission’s five scenarios each offer a glimpse into the potential state of the Union by 2025 depending on the choices Europe will make. “They are neither mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive,” the Commission said.

They are:

Scenario 1: Carrying On – The EU27 focuses on delivering its positive reform agenda in the spirit of the Commission’s New Start for Europe from 2014 and of the Bratislava Declaration agreed by all 27 Member States in 2016.

Scenario 2: Nothing but the Single Market – The EU27 is gradually re-centred on the single market as the 27 Member States are not able to find common ground on an increasing number of policy areas. By 2025 this could mean crossing borders for business or tourism becomes difficult. Finding a job abroad is harder and the transfer of pension rights to another country not guaranteed.

Scenario 3: Those Who Want More Do More – The EU27 proceeds as today but allows willing Member States to do more together in specific areas such as defence, internal security or social matters. One or several “coalitions of the willing” emerge.

Scenario 4: Doing Less More Efficiently – The EU27 focuses on delivering more and faster in selected policy areas, while doing less where it is perceived not to have an added value. Attention and limited resources are focused on selected policy areas.

Scenario 5: Doing Much More Together – Member States decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board. Decisions are agreed faster at European level and rapidly enforced. By 2025 this could mean connected cars drive seamlessly across Europe as clear EU-wide rules exist.

But Petr Hlobil, director of the non-governmental CEE Bankwatch Network, reacted to the five scenarios by saying, “There is a crisis of imagination in Brussels.”

“Reforming the EU Budget holds part of the key to unlocking a progressive and inspiring new vision for Europe. Innovating in how we involve citizens and civil society in EU spending to build flourishing, sustainable futures, and designing EU finance to create more equal societies through this great transition to sustainable well-being, hold the highest potential to reconnect people with the European project,” Hlobil said.

In advance of the June 28 release by the European Commission of a reflection paper on the future of Europe’s finances, a growing movement of civil society across Europe has launched its own call for a reformed EU budget that unlocks a positive, people-centered and sustainable future for a new Europe.

The People’s Budget campaign calls for a rethink of the EU budget to guide a sixth scenario for Europe, and demands that citizens and civil society be allowed into the Future of Europe debate, which is currently happening behind closed doors.

According to the NGOs’ vision statement, by 2025, the sixth scenario would mean:

Delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the principles and Sustainable Development Goals: leaving no one behind, living within Europe’s fair share of our planetary boundaries, and putting respect for human rights at the core of EU and national policy-making.

The full implementation of the Paris Agreement by decarbonising our economy, enhancing energy efficiency and accelerating the just and sustainable transition to clean and affordable renewable energy, based on the principles of climate justice, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

The idea of Better Regulation implies that all EU policies, laws and regulations are focused on ensuring policy coherence for sustainable development and on enforcement of high standards for jobs, health, safety and the environment, delivering tangible benefits to all citizens and the regeneration of environmental capital.

Policy coherence as a key objective will result in an end to negative externalities of domestic policies for the Global South and the phasing out of perverse public subsidies, especially for unsustainable food production and fossil fuels.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, general secretary of the European Public Service Union, said, “Public services and decent work are key ingredients for a fairer, more cohesive and sustainable Europe. Everyone benefits from investment in, for example, high quality public healthcare, social services, education, and environmental services.”


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Featured Image: The light at the end of a road in the Forêt de Soignes, Brussels, Belgium (Photo by Vincent Brassinne) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Undercover Detectives Battle Eco-Crime

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An EIA photographer documents forest destruction in Southeast Asia, 2015 (Photo courtesy EIA from the “EIA Impact Report 2015”)

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, December 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Despite its impressive name, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is not a government agency but a small nonprofit that has become one of the world’s most effective conservation groups.

Based in London, EIA conducts diligent, carefully planned undercover investigations that produce the credible intelligence and persuasive photos and videos necessary to catch criminals and bring them to justice.

EIA was formed in 1984 by environmentalists Dave Currey, Jennifer Lonsdale and Allan Thornton, three environmental activists in the United Kingdom. They immediately touched off an international outcry by documenting the annual slaughter of hundreds of pilot whales in Denmark’s Faroe Islands.

Since then, EIA employees have been carrying out research and analysis of trade incidents, trafficking hotspots, routes and methods, and patterns of demand for illegal animal parts and other evidence of illegal activity using databases and other information sources to investigate and expose crimes against wildlife and the environment.

EIA carried out its first pioneering undercover investigations into the ivory trade in 1987. Investigators travelled through parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia uncovering the true nature of a business that had reduced the population of African elephants from 1.3 million to only 600,000 in 10 years.

The international ivory trade moratorium, which took effect in 1989, would not have been in place without the EIA. Currey and Thornton received the Albert Schweitzer Medal for their work by the Animal Welfare Institute in the United States.

EIA investigators have uncovered more about some aspects of this trade, such as military involvement in South Africa and Zimbabwe, and ivory used as currency to buy arms in conflict areas.

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Tanzania sentenced four Chinese nationals to 20 years imprisonment for rhino horn smuggling and two other Chinese nationals to 30 years imprisonment for the possession of 706 elephant tusks, plus five years for attempted bribery. (Photo courtesy EIA from “Time for Action” report, November 2016)

Fast forward to this past October for evidence of EIA’s effectiveness.

EIA’s report “Collateral Damage,” launched during the 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CoP17) in Johannesburg, South Africa, provided much-needed information on the illegal totoaba fish maw trade in China.

People in Asian cultures use the swim bladder in a soup called fish maw,” says Erin Dean at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It’s also reputed to have some medicinal value; it’s thought to boost fertility.”

What investigators found is that Mexican fishermen use giant gill nets to catch totoaba that incidentally snare and kill critically endangered vaquita porpoises. There are now less than 100 of these porpoises left on Earth. Both species are found in only one place – Mexico’s Gulf of California.

Vaquita die. Totoaba die. Totoaba bodies get tossed away; their bladders go to China. Vaquita bodies just get tossed overboard.

This activity is a violation of both Mexican and international law, since the totoaba and the vaquita are listed by international treaty as endangered.

The decision adopted at COP17 requires governments to curb the illegal catch and illegal trade in the totoaba fish. Countries must report their enforcement results next year.

China has now committed to collaborating and contributing to the conservation of totoaba, together with Mexico and the United States.

EIA’s media expertise is useful in helping the group shape world opinion. Films featuring the work of the Environmental Investigation Agency picked up top awards in 2012 at the 35th International Wildlife Film Festival in the United States.

EIA is no stranger to event, held annually in Missoula, Montana, after taking the award for Best News Programme in 2010 with “Eco Crime Investigators: Skin and Bones.

In 2012, three films featuring EIA operatives working undercover won awards at the festival: “Blood Ivory” and “Making a Killing,” both made by Red Earth Studio for National Geographic, and the BBC Natural History Unit’s “Madagascar, Lemurs & Spies.”

“Making a Killing,” about the exposure of Iceland’s hunting of endangered fin whales for export to Japan, was awarded Best of Category: News.

These films have been very useful in helping to spread the word to a wider audience of EIA’s unique and important work on the front lines of the fight against environmental crime,” said Executive Director Mary Rice.

EIA counts as its other major successes:

  • Playing a pivotal role in securing the worldwide ban on the trade in ivory in 1989;
  • Reducing the international trade in wild caught birds;
  • Uncovering the largest rhino horn poaching operation in the world;
  • Reducing the demand for whale and dolphin meat in Japan;
  • Raising more than £80,000 for Kaziranga National Park in India and providing equipment for the Kenyan Wildlife Service;
  • Turning global attention to the illegal trade in big cat skins and exposing the trans-Himalayan trafficking routes for big cat body parts;
  • Contributing to the closure of 53 illegal mines that were destroying prime tiger habitat in India;
  • Exposing elephant poaching in Tanzania and Zambia in 2010, thus defeating their bids to sell stockpiled ivory;
  • Playing key roles in achieving the amendment of the Lacey Act in the United States, the European Union’s 2010 timber regulation and the historic Voluntary Partnership Agreement between the EU and Indonesia in 2011 to help safeguard Indonesia’s forests.

In 2007, EIA was presented with two awards at the 20th anniversary meeting of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The awards recognize the work done to expose and close down an illicit international trade in refrigerants known as CFCs and other chemicals that damage the ozone layer.

Having received the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award in 2006, the EIA was presented EPA’s Best-of-the-Best Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award, selected from more than 500 projects between 1990 and 2007. EIA received the award for “Leadership and Heroism in Preventing Illegal Trade.”

Since 2007, the EIA has been advocating for an amendment to the Montreal Protocol that would phase down refrigerants known as HFCs. These chemicals replaced CFCs but were later found to also be damaging to the ozone layer.

On October 15, 2016, 197 countries adopted such an amendment in Kigali, Rwanda. Countries committed to cutting the production and consumption of HFCs by more than 80 percent over the next 30 years.

The Kigali Amendment will cap and phase down HFC consumption starting in 2019, with developed countries taking action first.

Most developing countries, including China, by far the largest HFC consumer and producer, have committed to freeze HFC consumption in 2024. A second later schedule was agreed for a small number of countries including India, Kuwait, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

EIA UK Climate Campaign Leader Clare Perry said, “Compromises had to be made but 85 percent of developing countries have committed to the early schedule starting 2024, which is a very significant achievement.

According to our initial calculations this deal will avoid more than 70 billion tonnes of CO2e [carbon dioxide equivalent] emissions by 2050 – which will be close to avoiding a half a degree of warming,” she said.

EIA US Executive Director Alexander von Bismarck said, “The Kigali Amendment, with the Paris Agreement, gives 2016 the biggest one-two punch in the history of battling global warming. Still, with billions of tonnes of emissions left untouched, the ultimate power of the Kigali Amendment now depends on accelerating the removal of these industrial climate-killers in upcoming meetings.

EIA now seeks to apply its experience to other categories of controlled chemicals, which are harmful to the environment, such as hazardous waste and pesticides.

This project will conduct scoping research into the illicit trade in controlled chemicals and, using this information, prepare for a series of investigations to raise awareness and understanding of the issues at the governmental and institutional levels.

The group aims to achieve improved enforcement of international conventions regulating trade in harmful chemicals and to foster cross-border cooperation between nations.

Meanwhile, it’s the holiday season, and EIA suggests giving your loved one a compact camera to use for documenting illegal activity


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The Power of Reforestation in China

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Before the Chairman Mao regime came into power, China was a heavily forested country. In fact, the Forbidden City was made entirely out of wood. When Mao took over, he wanted to make China a steel country, during the Great Leap Forward (1958–62). He forced every farmer to use backyard steel furnaces for steelmaking, which required vast amounts of wood to maintain the intense level of heat required for their furnaces. A massive deforestation effort took place to support Mao’s wishes. As a result, China tore down millions of acres of forests, which has had an enormous impact on the environment.

Take air pollution in Beijing, for example. According to data gathered by the US Embassy in the nation’s capital, Beijing experienced 200 days in 2014 in which the air pollution was considered “unhealthy”. Only 10 days of that year were deemed “good”.

People are starting to stand up and take notice. Today, China has the world’s largest reforestation program. During a recent visit, I drove four hours straight along one of its reforestation programs. Because of my work as an architect and my consequential plane travel, I wanted to personally offset my carbon footprint by planting trees there. That’s why I started a reforestation initiative in China in 2014, which has since planted over 6,000 trees. Within 17 years, the forest will grow so thick as to bring down the area’s temperature by 2.5 degrees Celsius. The cooling effect will lead to more rain, which will lead to more trees and so the cycle continues.

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Wolfgang Frey at Chinese reforestation program site.

The purpose for our reforestation project is to try to minimize our CO2 emissions by offsetting our carbon footprint. In general, we build passive houses, which are a low carbon alternative to traditional construction that requires very little heating or cooling. At the same time, even passive houses emit some level of CO2. However, not building is not an alternative.

One alternative is, however, to build with wood. Our Woodhouse project, which was showcased at the Expo in Shanghai 2010, was built with the amount of wood it would have taken to heat the building for 20 years. We had a double CO2 savings effect: first, it is a house built according to the passive house standard and does not use much oil or wood to heat (CO2 savings #1). Second, we substituted materials with a large carbon footprint such as concrete or materials that need to be burned by wood (CO2 savings #2).

Wood pellets as a heat source are more than troublesome because the emission stemming from burning wood in private ovens is a) not regulated and b) is catastrophic for the environment.

I grew up in the Black Forest in Germany. My father would chop down a tree and leave the roots, crown and branches to regenerate the soil through composting. Today, the entire tree is taken, which is an environmental disaster. This low-grade wood is especially used for pellets. 50% of minerals are in the roots and crown of the tree. Removing them from the forest floor leaves the soil barren. Deforestation and desertification are inevitable outcomes.

The good news is we architects have developed a few solutions to the world’s environmental problems. Through smart buildings, smog prevention and reforestation, we can make a difference. In my view, everyone should live more sustainably, whether they are architects or not.

While there are many ways to build in a sustainable and mindful fashion, our environment is always impacted in some way by construction. The goal is to minimize our negative impact by offsetting our carbon footprint, becoming more aware of the ultimate outcome of our building decisions. Plastic window casings, for instance, have a much higher recyclability than wooden framed windows. At first glance, wood may seem like the more ecological choice. Over the long term, it is not.

There are two major challenges to creating environmentally sustainable buildings: technology and psychology. How do we technologically solve our challenge to build sustainably? We have many ways to do that, starting with passive houses. Second, how do we improve people’s mindsets so they live more sustainably? That is the larger challenge, I think. Nonetheless, both issues have to be kept in mind in order to create environmentally sustainable buildings.

Sustainability needs to be trendy so people will catch on. The trend then needs to move toward durability, much like seat belt laws. What was once optional is now mandatory and most people abide by it without even thinking. A sustainable lifestyle should be as automatic. That is at least the goal.


portrait-wolfgang-freyWolfgang Frey, a dynamic, sought-after public speaker and architectural visionary, has headed Frey Architekten since 1991. Founded in 1959 by Friedrich Frey, the architectural office is located in the German eco-city of Freiburg im Breisgau. As one of the pioneers in sustainable architecture, Frey Architekten has been using solar panels since 1972. In addition, the office has an international presence in China, Russia and other parts of Europe. www.freyarchitekten.com

State-of-the-Art Social Investing: Bringing the Homeless Home to a Green Community

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The piecemeal approach to ending homelessness using temporary housing and shelters has long proven inadequate in the face of America’s formidable battle against this social issue, especially for American veterans. Nonprofit American Family Housing (AFH) has launched a new project that will provide permanent support — a powerful solution to help break the cycle of chronic homelessness. Potter’s Lane — the nation’s first multi-family permanent supportive housing project built with recycled shipping container — is bringing the way communities solve homelessness into the 21st Century. Built from converted cargo containers, Potter’s Lane features green architecture, aesthetic appeal and a design that encourages a sense of community pride all while addressing an important social issue.

Located at 15171 Jackson Street in Midway City, Calif., the complex is in the heart of Orange County, adjacent to American Family Housing’s offices. The eco-friendly housing at Potter’s Lane is prefabricated off-site. This approach has reduced development inefficiencies, while increasing sustainability and energy efficiency. It provides increased access to permanent supportive housing without the long development cycles associated with conventional site-built construction and financing.

GrowthPoint Structures: Modern Modular Homes

Potter’s Lane will offer both indoor and outdoor spaces, with beautiful gardens and native plants to provide a sustainable environment that is soothing and enjoyable. Through tranquil common areas, residents have a space to be together or alone while building a sense of community.

“The container units exceed the state’s criteria for energy efficiency,” says Lisa Sharpe, senior vice president of GrowthPoint Structures, a Los Angeles-based company that has built schools in California and custom homes from what could be called “gently used” cargo containers that carried dry goods to the area’s ports. Benefits include:

  • Cool roof technology reduces heat absorption by over 90 percent, reducing air conditioning electricity bills by 20 percent.
  • Ductless system eliminates potential air quality hazards that cause over 14 million cases of asthma in the USA.
  • The GrowthPoint lighting systems save 33 percent in energy costs compared to standard lighting
  • 85 percent of all components are reclaimed/recycled materials reducing landfill impact by 22-tons per unit.
  • LEED Platinum achievable.
  • Exceeds LEED Platinum requirements for reclaimed content by 55 percent.
  • Achieves 100 percent of LEED Innovation and Design Process criteria.

The entire complex is about 11,902 square feet and boasts attractive indoor and outdoor community spaces. Built on land owned by the organization, the 16-unit project will provide permanent housing and support services to 15 chronically homeless-10 set aside for veterans and 5 with veteran preference- plus one onsite manager. This affordable housing complex is part of a comprehensive program that works with the tenants on psychological, social, medical, employment and financial issues to climb out of the spiral of chronic homelessness by achieving long term housing stability and self-sufficiency.

Homes That Are Safe, Durable and Built to Last

Each unit at Potter’s Lane is being built using three 8-by-20-foot containers, with several sides removed for interior space to accommodate a bedroom/dining area, kitchen and bathroom. Floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls let in plenty of light. With each unit providing approximately 480 square feet of living space, a single person can live comfortably in a private unit.

  • Withstands 112-tons of compressive force and 17-tons of lateral force
  • 106 times stronger than building codes require
  • Resists weathering over 100 years
  • Interior wood walls systems resist damage and hold up to 250 lbs. at any point
  • Continuous door hinges eliminate failing standard hinges removing the need for repair
    and replacement
  • Inherent safeguards to resist vandalism and increase security

The Big Ideas Behind Little Spaces

The idea to explore the use of shipping containers was first proposed by AFH’s former housing development consultant, Gerald Turner, and AFH agreed to lead the innovation for the field.  It’s not a completely novel idea, and the movement toward micro-homes extends beyond housing the homeless. With books, photo albums and music stored on phones instead of on shelves and TVs reduced to flat screens, today’s homes do not require the same amount of living space to provide many of the expected comforts and amenities.

Shifting focus on permanent, modular, sustainable housing offers three important benefits to the community:

  • It saves money. Costs for emergency medical treatment, incarceration, detox programs and emergency shelters can be reduced if the homeless population is given regular treatment in a permanent home.
  • It frees resources for other uses. Emergency rooms can return to their original intended purposes, for example, when chronic homelessness is reduced and people live in a safer environment.  In addition, funds previously used for frequent users of emergency systems can now be used for homeless adults and families that need preventative or short term solutions.
  • It changes lives. Prospects improved dramatically for success in curing a person’s chronic homelessness due to mental illness, the ravages of wartime experiences or other factors.

Only the Beginning

This model can be replicated and other organizations across the country are in planning stages. It’s an innovative approach to development, because the structures are manufactured off-site while site work is simultaneously being completed. Then, the units are delivered to the site and are assembled to create housing— shortening the time it would normally take to build a structure. The units are designed to be very strong, sustainable and energy efficient.

This project has already drawn wide support from corporate and other large-scale donors who will be recognized for their contributions with their names on structures in the community. AFH welcomes additional donors, and in gratitude for their assistance, AFH is offering further naming opportunities within the Potter’s Lane development.

For more information or with interest in getting involved, visit www.afhusa.org/potterslane or call +1 (714) 897-3221. 



Donna Gallup
ABOUT DONNA GALLUP: Donna Gallup, M.S.W., L.S.W., is president & CEO of American Family Housing and a lifelong human services advocate who has tenaciously worked to benefit disadvantaged individuals and communities. With decades of experience in housing and community development, fundraising and social services, Donna possesses a unique and comprehensive understanding of the issues affecting the homeless population in California and across the USA. A New Jersey native, Donna holds a Master’s Degree in social work from New York University and has worked extensively with special needs populations, including the homeless, adults with mental illness, survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, vulnerable families, and persons living with the challenges of addiction. Within the last decade alone, she has helped secure over $21 million for property acquisition and rehabilitation, operations, and services to develop supportive housing for the homeless and mentally ill. Prior to joining AFH, Donna served as CEO of the LAMP Community located on Skid Row in Los Angeles and in December 2013, the ACLU SoCal honored her at its Bill of Rights Dinner with the Human Rights Advocate award.

Featured image: Homeless, Creative Commons license via Pixabay

Sustainable Agriculture: Vertical Farming [INFOGRAPHIC]

By 2050 the global population is expected to reach nine billion, the world’s current food systems and agricultural technologies may not be enough to feed the world.   Combine population growth with climate change and global water shortages, the outcome may have the potential to cause wars over food shortages, and the lack of food security for both developed and under developed countries.

Biodiversity and sustainable agriculture, maybe the key to long term solutions for feeding the world.  One viable technology that is starting to show promise is vertical farming.  Vertical farms range from small indoor farms within peoples own garages or bedrooms to the world’s largest vertical farm based in New Jersey.

Vertical Farms may even be found in your local supermarket one day or at least in Berlin supermarkets. The Kräutergarten (‘herb garden’) uses hydroponic principles to grow plants out of nutrient-rich water.

Even the military are looking into using vertical farm technology on Navy submarines to ensure their crew have fresh fruits and vegetables on long hauls.

Vertical farms hydroponically grow plants using a nutrient solution instead of soil, often Sphagnum peat moss or coconut coir plugs.  They use 70% less water than traditional agricultural practices, effectually use space, have high yields that are not reliant on seasons and reduce the usage of pesticides in the environment.

Energy efficient LED lights are used to save energy as all vertical farms require 24hr energy for their grow lights a necessary element to the growing process.  Many vertical farms, especially industrial sized farms are using solar, wind, or biofuels as their net energy producers to ensure sustainable energy consumption.

In the world’s fastest growing urban areas vertical farming is being taken in to consideration by urban planners and policymakers as a viable solution to enhance urban food security and make more productive use of our urban spaces.

Investors interested in sustainable agriculture or new technologies that are socially and environmentally sustainable are looking at vertical farming as a viable investment. Though vertical farming has an infinitesimally small share of the existing agriculture market in the U.S., and as an emerging industry there will be struggles or failure, investors must do their due diligence.

For an more in-depth look into vertical farming read  “The Vertical Essay” and below is an great overview on How Vertical Farming Works, original infographic by: Futurism

Interested in investing or listing impact deals/ ventures within the sustainable agriculture sector visit: Maximpact Deal Listing Platform

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

Entrepreneurs’ dreams of saving the planet being crushed by economic reality

Entrepreneurs _dreams of saving the planet being crushed by economic realityBy Guest Contributor Martin Boonham, Warwick Business School

(Opinion on Maximpact.com News) Environmental entrepreneurs are being forced to forgo some of their green ideals despite the historic Paris COP21 summit agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions, new research has found.

The 1,000 largest companies alone are responsible for one-fifth of total global greenhouse gas emissions according to the United Nations Environment Programme, while a study by Duke University says the US needs to reduce emissions by 40 per cent by 2030 to reach the goal it agreed at Paris in December.

But attempts by start-ups to set up environmentally-friendly businesses are being stymied by money-backers, suppliers and customers.

The study found some environmental entrepreneurs become disillusioned after having to compromise so much to attract investors and clients.

Deniz Ucbasaran, of Warwick Business School, said: “Entrepreneurs passionate about green issues might need to be prepared for some soul searching as ‘enacting a brave new world’ through launching a new venture is unlikely to be without concession to others’ values.

“Attempts to ‘stand out’ by the entrepreneurs portraying their values and beliefs on the environmental benefits of the business are, in most part, counterproductive for gaining legitimacy from investors, suppliers and even customers or clients.

“Their ambitions to ‘break free’ and enact their ‘hopes and dreams to make a difference’ often need to be tempered by the realities of attracting investors and other stakeholders whose primary goal is making money and not environmental issues.

“This led to some entrepreneurs to question if it was all worth it as they had to compromise the scope of their ‘green’ ambitions.”

Professor Ucbasaran and Dr Isobel O’Neil, of Nottingham University Business School, examined six new ventures over four years to understand how they gain support and investment for their paper Balancing “What Matters To Me” With “What Matters To Them”: Exploring The Legitimation Process Of Environmental Entrepreneurs published in the Journal of Business Venturing.

They conducted 18 interviews with the principle entrepreneur as well as 24 interviews with individuals involved in the ventures including investors, customers, employees and suppliers and analysed company documents.

Professor Ucbasaran said: “First, the environmental entrepreneur’s own values and beliefs anchor initial decisions about how to gain support from investors, suppliers and customers: the ‘what matters to me’ stage.

“But they are then toned down as their attention shifts to gain support from investors and other stakeholders: the ‘what matters to them’ stage. Eventually, the entrepreneurs arrive at an approach that tries to balance ‘what matters to them and me’.

“Lastly, the lack of harmony, caused by this balance often leads to some feelings of demotivation, stress and even led some of the entrepreneurs to question their entrepreneurial ambitions.”

The research found the entrepreneurs were initially surprised by resistance to their vision of ‘making a difference’ and building an environmentally-friendly business, but the need to ensure the continued survival of their ventures forced them to adapt.

“They realised a compromise was needed to gain legitimacy in order to engage investors and stakeholders, attract resources, and in turn, improve the prospects of survival and longer-term success,” said Professor Ucbasaran.

“This saw the entrepreneurs shape their offering into one that was likely to be more widely accepted.”

But such a shift in perspective often conflicted with the entrepreneurs’ original ideals and led to feelings of inauthenticity and mental stress.

Coping strategies were developed to help, but Professor Ucbasaran said: “If left unresolved, these emotions might interfere with the entrepreneur’s well-being and the effective running of the business.

“We found being a successful environmental entrepreneur involves balancing both the external demands of investors, suppliers and customers while also remaining true to one’s own values and beliefs.

“However, we must offer a note of caution to entrepreneurs seeking to embed their values and beliefs into their businesses; balancing ‘what matters to me’ with ‘what matters to them’ is likely to demand less discussion of environmental or social change goals than perhaps hoped for.”


 

Deniz Ucbasaran joined Warwick Business School as Professor of Entrepreneurship in November 2010. She is also a member of the Enterprise Research Centre which was established in 2013 and seeks to act as the authority on entrepreneurship to guide policy makers.
Deniz’s research explores entrepreneurial activity (i.e., the identification and exploitation of opportunities for new value creation) at the level of the individual, the team and the firm.
Deniz has co-authored numerous books and has published widely in a range of academic and practitioner journals including Harvard Business Review, Journal of Management, Journal of Business Venturing, Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice, and Journal of Management Studiess.

 

Marketing Key to Return on CSR Investment

Corporate social responsibility_CSR

By Sunny Lewis

AMES, Iowa, February 23, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The combination of skillful marketing and corporate social responsibility can yield a 3.5 percent gain in stock returns for a company’s shareholders, a new study by U.S. and Canadian researchers shows.

The study is useful because regardless of the positive effects for society of corporate social responsibility (CSR), there remains an extensive debate regarding its consequences for shareholders.

“A lot of firms question the benefit of corporate social responsibility activities, because they are often viewed as more of a cost. Firms may not always see the benefit because they have to make an investment,” said co-author Sachin Modi, an associate professor in Iowa State University’s College of Business.

“What we want to show is that if a firm is good and has some complimentary capabilities, it can gain a lot from CSR activities,” Modi said.

The researchers defined CSR as “discretionary firm activities aimed at enhancing societal well-being.”

The study, published in the “Journal of Marketing,” analyzed six different types of CSR – environment, products, diversity, corporate governance, employees and community to determine whether marketing of these efforts increased long-term firm value and stock price.

WalmartCardboardRecycling

Walmart employee moves bundled carboard packaging out of a store for shipment to a recycling facility. (Photo by Walmart Corporate)

Walmart’s company-wide goal is to create zero waste. Corrugated cardboard is bundled into bales and sent to paper mills to be recycled into new paper products. But do consumers buy more at Walmart as a result? Not if the company’s marketing doesn’t dramatize and promote its corporate social responsibility, the study finds.

Co-author Saurabh Mishra, an associate professor at McGill University with a PhD in Marketing, says there is a “direct and measurable link” between corporate social responsibility initiatives and financial performance.

The analysis conducted by Modi and Mishra utilized secondary information for a large sample of 1,725 firms for the years 2000-2009.

The findings demonstrate that the effects of overall CSR efforts on stock returns and risk are not significant on their own but only become significant in the presence of superior marketing capability.

Firms benefited from five of the six types of CSR efforts studied, with the exception of charitable giving and philanthropy.

Many companies engage in CSR activities, but do the shareholders benefit?

Will toy buyers associate these Hasbro My Little Pony characters Shining Armour and Princess Cadence with Hasbro's purchase of renewable energy and be more likely to buy them as a result? (Photo by Lass With Toys and Camera)

Will toy buyers associate these Hasbro My Little Pony characters Shining Armour and Princess Cadence with Hasbro’s purchase of renewable energy and be more likely to buy them as a result? (Photo by Lass With Toys and Camera)

Hasbro, Inc., the U.S. playtime giant, specializing in toys and games, television programming, motion pictures and digital gaming, last December announced the purchase of enough wind power to equal growing 164,767 trees for 10 years.

Hasbro’s renewable energy purchase qualifies the company for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Leadership Club, a distinction given to organizations that have significantly exceeded the U.S. EPA’s minimum purchase requirements.

“We are pleased to be among leading businesses partnering with the U.S. EPA as we continue on our sustainability journey,” said Brian Goldner, chairman, president, and CEO. “Hasbro’s decision to use green power is an important choice in advancing our energy conservation efforts in support of a low carbon economy.”

“Hasbro should be congratulated for its purchase of clean, renewable green power,” said James Critchfield, director of EPA’s Green Power Partnership. “Hasbro’s green power purchase and leadership is something its employees can feel empowered by, the community can stand behind, and its customers can take notice of.”

The purchase of renewable energy benefits the climate and the environment generally, but will the shareholders and customers take notice?

Modi said, “As firms pick what initiatives to get involved with for the community and for charitable giving, they might want to focus on those which are more easily verifiable by consumers. They don’t necessarily have to advertise it, consumers just come to know this firm does a lot for a particular charity.”

“It is very important to give from a community and charity standpoint. And it may be a more true form of giving, because it doesn’t always give the firm value in return,” he said.

The biggest payoff comes from letting shareholders know about a firm’s efforts to improve products, be environmentally friendly, create a diverse workplace and use sustainable resources.

But Modi says it’s important to note this return is not a guarantee for all firms. It depends on effectively communicating and executing a strong marketing strategy. A weak marketing department can translate to weaker returns or payoffs.

Firms must also recognize that some efforts to be more socially responsible can backfire. As an example, Modi asks the question, “Would you buy a recycled toothbrush?”

While most consumers are supportive of and applaud recycling efforts, this is a product few would be likely to buy.

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This Sun Chips bag says it’s compostable and a customer is giving the claim a personal test. (Photo by Alan Levine)

Fans of Sun Chips may also remember another example, when the company created a biodegradable bag for its chips.

It was a good move for the environment, but Modi says the bag made a loud crinkling sound at the slightest touch and irritated consumers complained about the noise.

Not all efforts will be a win-win, but that should not be a deterrent for firms, he said.

“Our hope is that firms see it is important to be socially responsible. It’s not a choice of one versus the other. Firms have to do multiple aspects of being socially responsible,” Modi said. “Different types of CSR will have different benefits for firms. Some will be more critical and some will give firms more bang for their buck.”

 


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.

Closing the Loop: EU Quarrels Over Circular Economy Plan

MEPs2015

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 30, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Commission has adopted a new Circular Economy Package it says will help European businesses and consumers contribute to “closing the loop” of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use.

But Members of the European Parliament are critical of the new package.

The Commission says its plan will extract the maximum value and use from all raw materials, products and waste, encouraging energy savings, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bringing benefits to Europe’s environment and economy.

The changes are needed, the Commission says, because global competition for resources is increasing. The concentration of resources outside the EU, particularly critical raw materials, makes industry and society within the 28 Member States dependent on imports and vulnerable to high prices, market volatility, and the political situation in supplying countries.

The new Circular Economy Package sets a common EU target for recycling 65 percent of municipal waste and 75 percent of packaging waste by 2030.

The plan calls for a binding target to reduce landfill to a maximum of 10 percent, with a complete ban on landfill for separately collected waste.

There will be economic incentives for producers to put greener products on the market and support recovery and recycling schemes for packaging, batteries, electric and electronic equipment as well as vehicles, among other products.

There are also plans to harmonize the way recycling rates are calculated across the Member States.

The proposals require action at all stages of the life cycle of products – from the extraction of raw materials, through material and product design, the production, distribution and consumption of goods, repair, re-manufacturing and re-use schemes, all the way through to waste management and recycling.

All these stages are linked. For instance, use of certain hazardous substances in the production of products can affect their recycling potential, and improvements in terms of resource and energy efficiency can be made at all stages.

In July 2014, under President Jose Barroso, the Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package that included a proposal for the review of waste legislation in response to the legal obligation to review the targets of three Directives: the Waste Framework Directive, the Landfill Directive, and the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive.

Then, on November 1, 2014, a new Commission took office under President Jean-Claude Juncker. In its 2015 Work Programme, the Juncker Commission announced its intention to withdraw the 2014 proposal on Waste Review and to replace it with a new, more ambitious proposal to promote the circular economy by the end of 2015.

Two main reasons motivated this withdrawal.

First, the overall approach presented in July 2014 had an exclusive focus on waste management, without exploring synergies with other policies such as the development of markets for secondary raw materials.

Second, the Juncker Commission wanted to make the proposal more country specific and improve the implementation of waste policy, particularly existing problems of non-compliance.

On December 2, the Juncker Commission presented its new Circular Economy Package to the European Parliament.

The new initiative would establish a framework to overcome past shortcomings and create conditions for the development of a circular economy “with a clear and ambitious political vision combined with effective policy tools that can drive real change on the ground,” the Juncker Commission said.

The Commission said its new package “contributes to broad political priorities by tackling climate change and the environment while boosting job creation, economic growth, investment and social fairness.”

KatainenJyrki

The package was prepared by a core project team co-chaired by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, with the close involvement of Commissioner for Environment, Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Karmenu Vella and Commissioner for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs Elżbieta Bieńkowska.

Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development, said, “Our planet and our economy cannot survive if we continue with the ‘take, make, use and throw away’ approach. We need to retain precious resources and fully exploit all the economic value within them.”

“The circular economy is about reducing waste and protecting the environment, but it is also about a profound transformation of the way our entire economy works,” Timmermans said. “By rethinking the way we produce, work and buy we can generate new opportunities and create new jobs. With today’s package, we are delivering the comprehensive framework that will truly enable this change to happen.”

“It sets a credible and ambitious path for better waste management in Europe with supportive actions that cover the full product cycle. This mix of smart regulation and incentives at EU level will help businesses and consumers, as well as national and local authorities, to drive this transformation,” said Timmermans.

Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “These proposals give a positive signal to those waiting to invest in the circular economy. Today we are saying that Europe is the best place to grow a sustainable and environmentally-friendly business.”

“This transition towards a more circular economy is about reshaping the market economy and improving our competitiveness,” said Katainen, a former Finnish prime minister. “If we can be more resource efficient and reduce our dependency on scarce raw materials, we can develop a competitive edge. The job creation potential of the circular economy is huge, and the demand for better, more efficient products and services is booming.”

The Juncker Commission is in partnership with the European Investment Bank to fund the new package.

On December 10, Vella blogged that the partners signed an amendment to the InnovFin Delegation Agreement “that will enable higher-risk, yet innovative sustainable business models and plans to access credit through InnovFin – an EU finance support programme under Horizon 2020.”

Funding of over €650 million under Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion under the structural funds will suppport the new Circular Economy Package, the Commission said.

“The proposals are a powerful enabling framework, but we will also need substantial private sector funding directed towards the circular economy,” wrote Vella. “The European Fund for Strategic Investment (the ‘Juncker Plan’) is one tool to support this. The Commission would like to also guide future investment, steering it more towards green choices, with progressive divestment from unsustainable activities.”

Vella wrote that the EIB, the Commission and national banks plan to work together to increase awareness of circular economy financing.

But many Members of the European Parliament are not impressed with the new package.

The 65 percent target is a point of contention. Although the Juncker Commission says the new package is far more ambitious than its predecessor, MEPs point out that Barroso’s team wanted to introduce a 70 percent target in 2014.

Karl-Heinz Florenz, a German Member of the European Parliament who sits with the European People’s Party group, told the “Parliament Magazine” that the new proposal amounts to “much ado about nothing.”

Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats Vice-Chair Kathleen Van Brempt of Belgium said, “This ambitious roadmap needs to be supported by specific targets, and our political group will try to build a consensus in the Parliament to introduce those targets, to make sure the roadmap is accomplished.”

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, shadow rapporteur on the circular economy with the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, accused the Commission of, “wasting months of work and many hours of parliamentary time.”

“With a weakened waste proposal and an action plan copy-pasted from the 2010 roadmap to a resource efficient Europe, it’s clear the European Commission is failing to deliver on this important agenda for growth and jobs,” the Dutch MEP told the “Parliament Magazine.”

Greens/European Free Alliance Group Vice-Chair Bas Eickhout commented, “While we welcome the fact that the Commission has finally come forward with revised proposals on the circular economy, we are concerned that the plans are undermined by the reduced ambition. This is contrary to the commitment by the Commission for a more ambitious proposal.”

“A year on from the initial decision by the Commission to withdraw its original proposals, we have lost both time and ambition in the push to stimulate the circular economy at EU level,” said Eickhout.

Green environment spokesperson Davor Škrlec said, “It is a major shame that the Commission is not seeking to maximize the potential of the circular economy. We will seek to address some of the shortcomings in Parliament.”

Responding to criticism of the new package, Vice President Timmermans pointed out that the legally-binding 10 percent cap on land-filling was, “completely new” and that the 65 percent target for recyclables was, “an extremely ambitious goal, which for many member states will require a huge effort.”

Key actions under the Juncker Commission’s new Circular Economy Package include:

  • Funding of over €650 million under Horizon 2020 and €5.5 billion under the structural funds;
  • Actions to reduce food waste, including a common measurement methodology, improved date marking, and tools to meet the global Sustainable Development Goal to halve food waste by 2030;
  • Development of quality standards for secondary raw materials to increase the confidence of operators in the single market;
  • Measures in the Ecodesign working plan for 2015-2017 to promote reparability, durability and recyclability of products, in addition to energy efficiency;
  • A revised regulation on fertilizers, to facilitate the recognition of organic and waste-based fertilizers in the single market and support the role of bio-nutrients;
  • A strategy on plastics in the circular economy, addressing issues of recyclability, biodegradability, the presence of hazardous substances in plastics, and the Sustainable Development Goals target for reducing marine litter;
  • A series of actions on water reuse, including a legislative proposal on minimum requirements for the reuse of wastewater.
  • A clear timeline for the actions proposed and a plan for a simple and effective monitoring framework for the circular economy.

Vice President Katainen said, “We will remove barriers that make it difficult for businesses to optimize their resource use and we will boost the internal market for secondary raw materials. We want to achieve real progress on the ground and look forward to delivering on this ambition together with not only Member States, regions and municipalities, but also businesses, industry and civil society.”

LandfillUK


 

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.

Main image: Members of the European Parliament in plenary session, 2015. (Photo courtesy European Parliament) © European Union 2015 – European Parliament.
Featured image: Naples, Italy struggles with longstanding garbage problems, June 2007 (Photo by Chris Beckett) under Creative Commons license via Flickr
Image 01: EU Vice-President Jyrki Katainen addresses the European Parliament, January 2015 © European Union 2015 – European Parliament. (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives Creative Commons licenses creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).
Image 02: Landfill at the Selly Oak Battery Park redevelopment site in Birmingham, England, May 2015 (Photo by Elliott Brown) under Creative Commons license via Flickr

UK, China Collaborate on Low Carbon Cities

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, November 25, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Researchers from universities in China and the United Kingdom are putting their heads together to reduce carbon emissions from cities in both countries.

Four newly funded research projects aim to develop an overall understanding of current buildings, mobility and energy services to help urban planners lower climate-changing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions while keeping residents comfortable and moving efficiently.

One new project is directed towards integrating low carbon vehicles, such as electric cars, into urban planning.

The other three will tackle existing buildings to provide energy efficient lighting, heating and cooling, as well as indoor environmental quality.

Meeting the pressing carbon emission reduction targets expected to emerge from the upcoming Paris climate talks will require a major shift in the performance of buildings, say scientists in both countries.

The projects were announced as Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the UK October 20-23.

The UK will spend over £3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and China will contribute equivalent financial resources from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

EPSRC’s chief executive Professor Philip Nelson, a Fellow of The Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “The aim of this UK-China research collaboration will be to reduce worldwide CO2 [carbon dioxide] production and ensure energy security and affordability.

“The projects build on the strength of our internationally renowned research and will benefit both the UK and Chinese economies,” said Nelson.

Professor Che Chengwei, deputy director general of NSFC’s Department of Engineering and Material Sciences, said, “NSFC has been working closely with EPSRC for several years to address challenges related to achieving a low-carbon economy.”

“This latest programme, with a focus on future urban environments, will build substantially stronger links between Chinese and UK research communities in relevant areas,” said Che. “It will also brighten the future bilateral collaboration between both countries.”

BYDelectricTaxiLondonCaption: In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015

The four funded projects are:

  1. Low Carbon Transitions of Fleet Operations in Metropolitan Sites to be researched at Newcastle University (NCL), Imperial College London, and Southeast University (SEU)

Low carbon vehicle fleets for personal mobility and freight could contribute to reducing the climate impact of urban transport and improve local traffic and air quality conditions.

But uncertainties remain on the demand for fleet services and effective fleet operations, especially for electric vehicles, where interaction with the power grid becomes a critical issue.

A range of new business models for the operation of urban freight and fleet services are emerging, enabled by new information and communications technologies.

This will provide an integrated planning and deployment strategy for multi-purpose low carbon fleets. It will devise operational business models for maximum economic viability and environmental effectiveness.

  1. City-Wide Analysis to Propel Cities towards Resource Efficiency and Better Wellbeing, to be researched at University of Southampton and Xi’an University of Architecture & Technology

This project is focused on two cities – Xi’an, China and Portsmouth, UK, both known for their cultural heritage and their population density.

On the southern coast of England, Portsmouth, population 205,000, is the densest city in the UK. Landlocked Xi’an in central China has a population of 5.56 million.

Both cities have published ambitious plans for reducing city-wide carbon emissions but both have lots of aging buildings and infrastructure. The project focuses on the likely impact of building refurbishments on human wellbeing and on carbon emissions.

The researchers will gather real energy use information through sensor deployments and surveys of building residents to identify low disruption and scaled-up retrofit methods.

They will model neighborhood and district retrofits and systems integration, including building refurbishment, district energy and micro-generation to improve buildings for their users.

They are expected to identify smart solutions that will reduce energy consumption and meet mobility needs while pursuing carbon reduction targets.

  1. The Total Performance of Low Carbon Buildings in China and the UK, to be researched by University College London (UCL)  and Tsinghua University

The potential unintended consequences of the inter-linked issues of energy and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) present a complex challenge that is gaining increasing importance in the UK and in China, these researchers say.

They will address the total performance of buildings to reduce the energy demand and carbon emissions while safeguarding productivity and health.

This project will address the policies and regulatory regimes that relate to energy/IEQ, the assessment techniques used and the ways that buildings are utilized.

An initial monitoring campaign in both countries will compare the same types of buildings in the two contexts and how energy/IEQ performance varies between building type and country.

Researchers will assemble a unique database relating to the interlinked performance gaps. They can then develop semi-automated building assessment methods, technologies and tools to determine the most cost-effective route to remedy the underlying root causes of energy/IEQ under performance.

A second stream of work will address the unintended consequences of decarbonizing the built environment, research already taking place at the University College London.

  1. Low carbon climate-responsive Heating and Cooling of Cities, to be researched by the University of Cambridge, University of Reading and Chongqing University

This project focuses on delivering economic and energy-efficient heating and cooling to city areas of different population densities and climates.

It confronts ways of offering greater winter and summer comfort within China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone while mitigating vast amounts of carbon emitted by burning fossil fuels for heating and cooling.

It concentrates on recovering value from the existing building stock of some 3.4 billion square meters, where more than half a billion people live and work.

The cross-disciplinary team of engineers, building scientists, atmospheric scientists, architects and behavioral researchers in China and UK will measure real performance in new and existing buildings in Chinese cities.

They will investigate the use of passive and active systems within integrated design and re-engineering to improve living conditions and comfort levels in the buildings.

The researchers will compare their findings with existing UK research examining the current and future environmental conditions within the whole National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Estate in England to find practical economic opportunities for improvement while saving carbon at the rate required by ambitious NHS targets.

They will propose detailed practical and economic low and very low carbon options for re-engineering the dominant building types and test them in the current climate with its extreme events.

To ease China’s adaptation, recently published research “Air Pollution in China: Mapping of Concentrations and Sources” shows that China’s carbon emissions have been substantially over-estimated by international agencies for more than 10 years

From 2000-2013 China produced 2.9 gigatonnes less carbon than previous estimates of its cumulative emissions.

The findings suggest that overestimates of China’s emissions during this period may be larger than China’s estimated total forest sink – a natural carbon store – in 1990-2007 (2.66 gigatonnes of carbon) or China’s land carbon sink in 2000-2009 (2.6 gigatonnes of carbon).

Published in August in the journal “Nature,” the revised estimates of China’s carbon emissions were produced by an international team of researchers, led by Harvard University, the University of East Anglia, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Tsinghua University, in collaboration with 15 other international research institutions.

Low Carbon Cities forms part of the Low Carbon Innovation programme, a £20 million three-year investment announced in March 2014.

Facilitated by Research Councils UK (RCUK) China, the first team established outside Europe by the UK Research Councils, this programme builds on five years of collaborative energy research funded jointly by China and the UK.

To date, RCUK China has provided over £160 million in co-funded programmes, supporting 78 UK-China research projects that have involved more than 60 universities and 50 industry partners in both countries.


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: Buildings of all shapes and sizes enliven Shanghai, which is in China’s Hot Summer/Cold Winter climate zone. (Photo by Mike Lutz under creative commons license via Flickr)
Slide images: A. Climate-changing emissions cloud the air in the Chinese city of Xi’an, December 2013 (Photo by Edward Stojakovic under creative commons license via Flickr) B. The densely populated coastal English city of Portsmouth is under study by Chinese and British scientists as a potentially low carbon city. (Photo by Lawrie Cate under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01. In a London parking garage, electric taxis by Chinese automaker BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, await their drivers, April 2015. (Photo by Mic V. under creative commons license via Flickr)

World Forestry Congress: Forests Are ‘More Than Trees’

by Sunny Lewis

DURBAN, South Africa, September 16, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Investing in forestry means investing not only in trees but in people and in sustainable development, delegates to the 14th World Forestry Congress in Durban affirmed last week.

Held with the theme “Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future,” the week-long meeting from September 7-11 took place under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The first World Forestry Congress was held in Rome in 1926; meetings have taken place roughly every six years since.

This was the first World Forestry Congress organized in Africa. Nearly 4,000 delegates from 142 countries represented governments and public agencies, international organizations, the private sector, academic and research institutions and nongovernmental, community and indigenous groups.

Congress Secretary-General Trevor Abrahams told delegates of the importance of restoring hope, dignity and social capital for sustainable forest management, particularly amongst youth.

Prince Laurent of Belgium called for an eco-contribution from cancelled debts to be allocated to a fund to safeguard the environment.

Sessions focused on people-centered forestry, socioeconomic issues, and the role of forests, trees and forestry in national economic development.

In their outcome document, the Durban Declaration, delegates offered a vision of forests that play “a decisive role” in ending hunger, improving livelihoods and combating climate change.

The Durban Declaration says, “Forests are more than trees and are fundamental for food security and improved livelihoods. The forests of the future will increase the resilience of communities by providing food, wood energy, shelter, fodder and fibre; generating income and employment to allow communities and societies to prosper; harbouring biodiversity; and supporting sustainable agriculture and human wellbeing by stabilizing soils and climate and regulating water flows.”

“Sustainable forest management requires integrated approaches to land use in addressing the drivers of deforestation and conflicts over land use,” the declaration states. Gender equality and the enthusiasm of the youth as a source of inspiration were emphasized.

“The declaration reflects the extremely rich and diverse set of viewpoints and experiences of all participants in the Congress, who recommended ways to make the vision a reality,” said Tiina Vähänen, deputy director of FAO’s Forest Assessment, Management and Conservation Division.

An international five-year action plan to recognize the role of trees and forests in ensuring sustainable management of one of the world’s largest sources of freshwater was introduced at the meeting.

At a panel discussion on investments to build a resilient future, World Agroforestry Centre chief Tony Simons said that for sustainability and resilience to be “operational and not just aspirational,” managers must focus on individual action; sustainable production and consumption; and use the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a platform to promote better forestry.

Simons said there is a dearth of bankable projects. He said investors need to see strong, viable pilot cases before they can commit resources.

At the Congress, FAO released its Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015, covering 234 countries and territories.

It finds that the world’s forests continue to shrink as populations increase and forest land is converted to agriculture and development. Still, over the past 25 years the rate of net global deforestation has slowed by more than half.

Roughly 129 million hectares of forest – an area almost equal in size to South Africa – have been lost since 1990, finds the FAO’s assessment.

Yet an increasing number of forest areas have come under protection, while more countries are improving forest management with better monitoring of forests and a greater involvement of local communities in planning and policy development.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said, “The direction of change is positive, but we need to do better. We will not succeed in reducing the impact of climate change and promoting sustainable development if we do not preserve our forests and sustainably use the many resources they offer us.”

During the closing dinner gala, Gertrude Kenyangi of Uganda was presented with the Wangari Maathai Forest Champions Award 2015 in recognition of her extraordinary efforts to improve and sustain forests in southwestern Uganda and the people who depend on them. The award carries a cash prize of US$20,000.

Kenyangi described how the Women and Environment Development Organization she founded supports women to lead the way in grassroots agro-forestry initiatives in Uganda and across Africa.


Featured Image: Big trees in a Ugandan forest (Photo by Annette Bouvain creative commons license via Flickr)

Slideshow Images: 01: Miss Earth South Africa 2014, Ilze Saunders, with drummers, creates excitement in the corridors of the World Forestry Congress, September 8, 2015 (Photo copyright FAO / Giuseppe Carotenuto, Editorial Use only via Flickr) 02: Flashmob of youths at the World Forestry Congress, Durban, South Africa, September 9, 2015 (Photo copyright FAO / Giuseppe Carotenuto, Editorial Use only via Flickr) 03: Government officials enter the iNkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Center in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa on opening day of the World Forestry Congress, September 7, 2015 (Photo courtesy Government of South Africa)

Green Climate Fund Poised to Start Giving

GCFUND

By Sunny Lewis

SONGDO, South Korea, September 8, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The multi-billion dollar international Green Climate Fund, committed to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries cope with climate change, is now ready to fund its first projects.

The GCF Board will take financing decisions on the first project proposals at its next meeting in Livingstone, Zambia in November, immediately before COP 21, the United Nations’ annual conference of the parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

There, world leaders are expected to agree on a universal, legally-binding deal to limit greenhouse gas emissions responsible for the planet’s rising temperature.

Green Climate Fund Executive Director Héla Cheikhrouhou says the GCF’s mandate is to promote “a paradigm shift to low-emission and climate-resilient development,” taking into account the needs of developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, including Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and African states.

In 2014 the GCF got its start with about US$10 billion equivalent in pledges from 35 countries – 60 percent of which now have been converted into signed contributions.

Speaking in Stockholm at World Water Week on August 24, Cheikhrouhou said, “We are now poised to support action on the ground in developing countries through targeted grants, concessional loans to governments, and private sector instruments.”

Cheikhrouhou, a Tunisian national educated in Tunisia and Canada, is fluent in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. She was previously director of the Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department at the African Development Bank, where she helped scale up the bank’s green growth and climate resilient investments through a blend of public and private finance.

At the GCF headquarters in Songdo, funds are already starting to flow.

“Resources have been requested by over 70 governments, and we are already committing funds to the first 10 countries,” she said.

The Fund has a small grants program of “readiness support” that prepares countries to mobilize GCF funding.

Pilot programs with a total budget of $900 million are intended to increase country ownership, support small and medium-sized enterprises and mobilize funding from the private sector.

Cheikhrouhou told Water Week delegates that investments in clean water and water infrastructure will be an integral part of GCF funding because more than one billion people live without access to safe drinking water or sanitation.

“Global demand for water, irrigation, domestic needs, manufacturing, and electricity is projected to increase by over 50 percent by 2050. And at the same time, the risks to our water ecosystem are increasing substantially as global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise,” she warned.

“Water infrastructure projects must support both the goals of sustainable development, and build resilience in the face of inevitable climate change,” Cheikhrouhou declared. “Together, we need to ensure that quick access will be given to finance water projects that are both sustainable and replicable.”

The only international financing institution set up with the sole goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, the Green Climate Fund was established in December 2011 by the Parties to the UNFCCC.

The Green Climate Fund is governed and supervised by a 24-member Board and was designated as an operating entity of the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC.

The Fund works with a wide range of established institutions. Its 20 accredited entities are drawn from the international, regional, national, public, private, and nongovernmental sectors, and Cheikhrouhou anticipates many more partners will join in the near future.

PHOTO: Green Climate Fund Executive Director Héla Cheikhrouhou (Photo courtesy Green Climate Fund)