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EU & China Shape ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’

The U.S. Navy's forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

The U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS George Washington prepares to anchor in Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong, for a routine port visit. June 16, 2017 (Photo by Beverly Lesonik Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class / U.S. Navy) Public Domain

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 16, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Two of the world’s largest ocean economies – the European Union and China – have agreed to work together “to improve the international governance of the oceans in all its aspects, including by combating illegal fishing and promoting a sustainable blue economy,” the Council of the European Union announced after the unique ocean partnership agreement was signed.

The pact was signed in Beijing at the 20th EU-China summit on July 16 by leaders at the highest level from both governments.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang speaks at a news conference in New Delhi May 20, 2013. (Photo by Adnan Abidi / Reuters) Public domain

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang hosted the summit. President Donald Tusk and President Jean-Claude Juncker represented the European Union. And the EU leaders had talks with President Xi Jinping as well.

The leaders marked the 15th anniversary of the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, saying in a joint statement that, “This has greatly enhanced the level of EU-China relations, with fruitful outcomes achieved in politics, economy, trade, culture, people-to-people exchanges and other fields.”

Following the summit, Presidents Tusk and Juncker and Premier Li agreed the joint statement and the annex on climate change and clean energy.

President Juncker said, “Our cooperation simply makes sense. Together we account for around a third of the global economy. Europe is China’s largest trading partner and China is Europe’s second largest trading partner. The trade in goods between us is worth over €1.5 billion every single day.”

The leaders agreed to promote “the circular economy within the blue economy” based on “clean technologies and best available practices.”

The partnership contains clear commitments to protect the marine environment, tackle climate change in accordance with the Paris Agreement and implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular the Sustainable Development Goal 14 on oceans.

The leaders reaffirmed the importance of fighting climate change. All said they are committed to advancing cooperation on the implementation of the Paris Agreement and fully support this year’s UN climate summit, the 24th, known as COP24, which is scheduled for December in Poland.

China, the EU and its Member States are parties to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and stated that they “respect the maritime order based on international law.”

The EU said it welcomes the ongoing consultations between China and ASEAN countries aimed at the conclusion of an effective Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. An estimated $5 trillion worth of goods are transported through South China Sea shipping lanes each year, including a third of all maritime traffic worldwide.

The South China Sea disputes involve island and maritime claims among: Brunei, China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. In addition, non-claimant states want the South China Sea to remain international waters, conducting “freedom of navigation” operations there.

The EU and China jointly called upon “all relevant parties” to engage in dialogue, to settle disputes peacefully, and refrain from actions likely to increase tensions.

The EU and China say their goal is “to promote peace, security and sustainable development.” To that end, they have agreed to foster closer business-to-business interaction and exchanges of information among stakeholders such as enterprises, research institutes, financial institutions and industry associations.

Cooperation will extend to improving knowledge of the oceans through “better ocean literacy, enhanced ocean observation and open science and data.”

In their joint statement, the leaders welcomed “the increase in high-level contacts on environmental protection and natural resource conservation, and the importance of assuming greater leadership on the global environmental agenda, in particular on issues such as pollution prevention and control, biodiversity conservation, CITES implementation and enforcement and wildlife trafficking, and elimination of illegally harvested timber from the markets, as well as desertification and land degradation.”

The two sides welcomed the adoption by the UN General Assembly of a resolution titled “Towards a Global Pact for the Environment” and look forward to the presentation of a report by the Secretary General in the next General Assembly as a basis for further work.

The EU and China will work together actively with a view to achieving the preservation of biodiversity. The EU welcomes China’s commitment to organize COP 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2020, which should mark the adoption of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.

The two sides agreed on the transition to a circular economy as a priority for their cooperation, recognising the contribution of resource efficiency to meeting climate and sustainable development targets and agreeing to enhance cooperation and support joint actions in this field.

To formalize this aspect of their relationship, the two sides signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Circular Economy Cooperation, thus establishing a high level policy dialogue.

Leaders confirmed the importance of strengthening EU-China cooperation on water in the framework of the EU-China

Water Policy Dialogue, and acknowledged the role of China Europe Water Platform (CEWP) in supporting the implementation of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals.

The EU-China partnership agreement sets out general lines for future collaboration in areas such as:

  • the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in the high seas
  • the fight against marine pollution including marine plastic litter and micro-plastics
  • the mitigation of and adaption to climate change impacts on oceans, including the Arctic Ocean
  • the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources
  • fisheries governance in regional and global settings and the prevention of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing

The agreement pleases EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella, who is responsible for the environment, maritime affairs and fisheries.

“With the partnership signed today, the European Union and China are stepping up their joint efforts, towards a more sustainable future for our oceans and the millions that make their living from them,” he said.

“Across the world, I see growing awareness of the need for joint solutions to the challenges facing our oceans and seas,” said Vella. “From cleaning up plastic pollution to tackling overfishing, no one country or continent can shoulder these colossal tasks on their own.”

Featured Image: Striped dolphins play in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Lajes do Pico in POrtugal’s Azores Islands, August 15, 2013 (Photo by Tim Ellis) Creative Commons license via Flickr



Sustainable Development = Happiness

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

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Water Advocates Initiate Decade of Action

Dr. Bruce Rittmann and Dr. Mark van Loosdrecht have been awarded the 2018 Stockholm Water Prize for revolutionizing water and wastewater treatment. March 22, 2018 (Photo courtesy Swette Center of Environmental Biotechnology at Arizona State University) Posted for media use

Dr. Bruce Rittmann and Dr. Mark van Loosdrecht have been awarded the 2018 Stockholm Water Prize for revolutionizing water and wastewater treatment. March 22, 2018 (Photo courtesy Swette Center of Environmental Biotechnology at Arizona State University) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, March 23, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “Quite simply, water is a matter of life and death. Our bodies, our cities, our industries and our agriculture all depend on it, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres Thursday on World Water Day.

Diseases born of unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war, UN leaders have said for years. Now they’re doing something about it.

To mark this special day, the United Nations opened a 10-year water action plan, endorsed by the UN General Assembly on December 21, 2016.

“By 2050 at least one in four people will live in a country where the lack of fresh water will be chronic or recurrent,” he warned, speaking at the launch of the International Decade for Action: Water for Sustainable Development, 2018-2028.

The UN aims to use this coming decade of action for clean water to forge new partnerships, improve cooperation and strengthen capacity to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Most directly linked to Sustainable Development Goal 6, safe water and adequate sanitation are indispensable for healthy ecosystems, reducing poverty, and achieving inclusive growth, social well-being and sustainable livelihoods – the targets for many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

But growing demands, poor management and climate change have increased water stresses, and now scarcity of water is a major problem in many parts of the world.

More than two billion people worldwide lack access to safe water and over 4.5 billion to adequate sanitation services, warned Guterres.

“As with most development challenges, women and girls suffer disproportionately,” he said. “Women and girls in low-income countries spend some 40 billion hours a year collecting water.”

The launch of the International Decade coincides with World Water Day, marked annually on March 22, to focus attention to importance of and challenges facing freshwater availability.

Commemorated this year with the theme, Nature for Water, the UN urges people to explore nature-based solutions to contemporary water problems.

Some of these could include planting trees and increasing forest cover, reconnecting rivers to floodplains, and restoring wetlands to rebalance the water cycle.

The government of Tajikistan and the United Nations are jointly organizing an International High-Level Conference on International Decade for Action, “Water for Sustainable Development,” 2018-2028, to be held from June 20 to 22, 2018 in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, on the Varzob River.

The conference is organized to facilitate the implementation of the International Decade for Action “Water for Sustainable Development,” 2018-2028.

Thirsty in the Gaza Strip

Some important actors are already moving to help populations who lack clean water and adequate sanitation.

The success of a Gaza water pledging conference on March 20 marks the start of the biggest-ever infrastructure project in the Gaza Strip.

The pledging conference was held in Brussels to raise funds for the Gaza Central Desalination Plant & Associated Works Project.

Co-chaired by the EU and the Palestinian Authority, the conference mobilized financial support of €456 million  (US$563.7 million), covering more than 80 percent of the total amount needed.

The infrastructure project will provide a minimum of 55 million cubic meters (m3) of safe and clean drinking water a year to Palestinian people in dire need.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said, “This conference carries a message of hope to our people in Gaza, stressing that the international community is not neglecting their suffering, but diligently working to design interventions to address the dire water situation in Gaza.”

“The project will contribute to the political stability of the region as water scarcity can have grim repercussions and spark further tensions,” said Hamdallah.

European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said, “This project will meet the most urgent water needs in Gaza, providing drinking water and at the same time contributing to economic growth, environmental sustainability and stability. I’m proud that the EU pledged €70 million for the desalination plant plus €7.1 million for management costs.”

Forty-two countries’ delegations – including Israel and 20 EU Member States – and eight institutions expressed support for the project and underlined the urgency of making quick progress.

The Union for Mediterranean, the European Investment Bank, the World Bank, Office of the Quartet and the Islamic Development Bank voiced their continued commitment to this infrastructure project.

The project includes the desalination plant, power supply installations to cover energy needs, with 15 percent renewable energy, and the construction of a North-South carrier to distribute fresh drinking water across Gaza.

Currently two million Palestinians in Gaza rely on the coastal aquifer as a source of drinking water. The capacity of this aquifer is 55-60 million m3 per year, about one-third of total water demand on the aquifer.

Only three percent of the water pumped from the aquifer complies with World Health Organization drinking water quality standards, posing significant health risks for the Gazan population.

And the winners are…

By revolutionizing microbiological-based technologies in water and wastewater treatment, Professors Mark van Loosdrecht and Bruce Rittmann have won the 2018 Stockholm Water Prize.

They demonstrated ways to remove harmful contaminants from water, cut wastewater treatment costs, reduce energy consumption, and recover chemicals and nutrients for recycling.

Their pioneering research and innovations have led to a new generation of energy-efficient water treatment processes that can effectively extract nutrients and other chemicals – both valuable and harmful – from wastewater.

Mark van Loosdrecht is Professor in Environmental Biotechnology at Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands.

Bruce Rittmann is Regents’ Professor of Environmental Engineering and Director of the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology at the Biodesign Institute, Arizona State University, USA.

On receiving news of the prize, Professor van Loosdrecht said, “I’m very excited and pleased! This is a recognition not just of our work but of the contributions microbiological engineering can make to the water sector.”

“Traditionally,” said Professor Rittmann, “we have just thought of pollutants as something to get rid of, but now we’re beginning to see them as potential resources that are just in the wrong place.”

“The concept of wastes or waste products is obsolete,” he said. “The focus and the future are used resource recovery.”

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, declared, “Together, Professors Rittmann and van Loosdrecht are leading, illuminating and demonstrating the path forward in one of the most challenging human enterprises on this planet – that of providing clean and safe water for humans, industry, and ecosystems.”

Featured Images: Women bear the burden of carrying clean drinking water to their families in may African countries such as Benin, where this photo was taken. September 2010 (Photo by Arne Hoel / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Women “Make Demands That Bite”

Actor and activist Danai Gurira, left; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, center; and actor and activist Reese Witherspoon take part in the celebration of International Women's Day at UN Headquarters in New York, March 8, 2018 (Photo courtesy United Nations)

Actor and activist Danai Gurira, left; Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, center; and actor and activist Reese Witherspoon take part in the celebration of International Women’s Day at UN Headquarters in New York, March 8, 2018 (Photo courtesy United Nations)

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, March 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “Women are fighting to take steps that change their lives, and they are refusing to accept the practices that have normalized gender inequality, sexual misconduct, exclusion and discrimination across all walks of life,” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka told the opening session of the annual Commission on the Status of Women meeting at UN headquarters on Monday.

Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa is currently serving as executive director of the agency UN Women with the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.

She highlighted the importance of this year’s focus on rural women.

“It speaks to our commitment to fight some of the biggest challenges of our time: poverty, inequality, intersectionality and an end to violence and discrimination against women and girls, no matter where they live, or how they live, so that we leave no one behind,” she said.

Calling it “a tipping point moment,” Mlambo-Ngcuka urged the Commission to seize the opportunity to secure and accelerate progress, build consensus and share best practices to serve rural women, “the poorest of the poor.”

“It has never been so urgent to hold leaders accountable for their promises for accelerating progress” on the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals], she said. An unprecedented hunger for change in women’s lives is being seen around the world, as well as a growing recognition that when women banded together, “they can make demands that bite.”

Referring to himself as a “proud feminist,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, “Changing the unequal power dynamics that underpin discrimination and violence is not only the greatest human rights challenge of our time, it is also in everyone’s interests.”

“Discrimination against women damages communities, organizations, companies, economies and societies,” he continued. “That is why all men should support women’s rights and gender equality.”

At the Commission meeting today, the European Union unveiled a new, global, multi-year project called the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, aimed at eliminating all violence against women and girls.

The Spotlight initiative is a “robust, comprehensive and targeted approach” that builds on the global #Metoo and #TimesUp initiatives, which “have certainly helped raising awareness about inequalities and discrimination that women face in the workplace, from pay gaps, under-representation to inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment,” said Neven Mimica, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development.

The EU will make an initial investment in the order of €500 million (US$620 million). Other donors and partners will be invited to join the Initiative to broaden its reach and scope.

The money will be managed by a UN multi-stakeholder trust fund, with the support of three core agencies: the UN Development Programme, UN Population Fund, and UN Women, and overseen by the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General.

This year’s attention to women-centered concerns began on International Women’s Day, March 8, with actors Reese Witherspoon and Dania Guria spotlighting sexual abuse and the need for women’s empowerment.

“Understand that we will not leave, that we will not shut up, we want to see us represent 50/50,” said the American Oscar-winning actor and producer.

“Understand that we will not leave, that we will not shut up, we want to see us represent 50/50,” said Witherspoon on March 8 at UN headquarters. “We will defend women next to us.”

American-Zimbabwean actor and playwright Danai Gurira, who in addition to portraying Michonne in the TV series “The Walking Dead” and Okoye in the movie “Black Panther,” is an education and women’s rights activist, testified about her own experience as a woman in her profession.

“I drew strength [for my characters] from women from my own life in Zimbabwe,” she said.

“The potential of girls and women must not be squandered,” said Gurira, thanking those who stand up for women’s rights and urging everyone to join them.

Many thousands of women joined in marches around the world on International Women’s Day

Under the slogan "Different Causes, Shared Anger," women and men gathered for a march to support women's rights in Beirut, Lebanon, March 8, 2018 (Photo by Joelle Hatem)

Under the slogan “Different Causes, Shared Anger,” women and men gathered for a march to support women’s rights in Beirut, Lebanon, March 8, 2018 (Photo by Joelle Hatem)

International Women’s Day was marked in Spain with an unprecedented strike organized by women workers targeting gender inequality and sexual discrimination. The 24 hour strike was joined by 5.3 million women leading events and street protests across 200 Spanish locations; some of the top women politicians joined it. All shouted “If we stop, the world stops.”

According to Eurostat, in Spain, women are paid 13 percent less than men in the public sector and 19 percent less in the private sector.

In Saudi Arabia, women exercised a new freedom as restrictions were relaxed under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. They went jogging.

In Mosul, Iraq, women ran saying they wanted to win back their rights following the brutal occupation by ISIS which was ended in July.

In Rome, Italy, a group of prominent Catholic women met to demand a greater say in Church governance. But the list of speakers angered the Church and Pope Francis has declined to attend or celebrate Mass. A former president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, described the Catholic Church as an “empire of misogyny.”

Activists in China were angered by the attitude of retailers who named the day “Queens’ Day” or “Goddesses’ Day” and offered women customers discounts on goods such as cosmetics.

Female journalists in Ukraine started a Facebook drive called “I am not your darling” in response to President Petro Poroshenko’s use of the term in replying to a woman reporter.

In France, the daily paper Liberation raised its price on Thursday, but only for men, to highlight the gender pay gap. President Emmanuel Macron also pledged to “name and shame” companies that pay women less than men for doing the same work.

But the spotlight this year is really on rural women. They make up more than one-fourth of the world population and the majority of the 43 percent of women in the global agricultural work force.

They till the lands and plant seeds to ensure food security for their communities and build climate resilience. Yet, because of deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination, rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women on almost every measure of development.

For instance, fewer than 20 percent of landholders worldwide are women, and while the global pay gap between men and women stands at 23 percent, in rural areas, it can be as high as 40 percent.

Rural women lack infrastructure and services, decent work and social protection, and are left more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Yet, says the United Nations, rural women and their organizations represent an enormous potential, and they are on the move to claim their rights and improve their livelihoods and wellbeing. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office.

Here are some key targets of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda that affect women and girls:

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and Goal-4 effective learning outcomes.

By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and preprimary education so that they are ready for primary education.

End all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

Eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation.

Eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Featured image: In celebration of International Women’s Day, March 8, 2018, the New York Stock Exchange and 62 other stock exchanges around the world hosted a bell ringing ceremony to raise awareness of the pivotal role the private sector can play in advancing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality and women’s empowerment. (Photo courtesy UN Women)


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Making Zero Global Deforestation a Reality

Volunteer Rich Kuhlman participates in tree planting at a stream restored by South River Federation in Annapolis, Maryland. Oct. 28, 2017 (Photo by Will Parson / Chesapeake Bay Program) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Volunteer Rich Kuhlman participates in tree planting at a stream restored by South River Federation in Annapolis, Maryland. Oct. 28, 2017 (Photo by Will Parson / Chesapeake Bay Program) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, March 8, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Reporting on the status and trends of the world’s forest resources just got easier with a new online tool linked to Google Earth Engine launched this week by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The platform enables countries to boost the efficiency of their reporting and improve the consistency, reliability and transparency of forest data.

The platform developed by FAO with financial support from the European Union and the Government of Finland was presented Monday at a special high-level ceremony in Toluca, Mexico.

In September 2015, 193 world governments made an ambitious commitment. They unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with their associated targets.

Target 15.2 of SDG 15, Life on Land, boldly calls for halting deforestation worldwide by 2020.

Two years later, governments approved another bold goal. The UN General Assembly adopted the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017-2030, which calls for reversing the loss of forest cover and increasing forest area by three percent worldwide by 2030.

We know some progress toward reforestation is taking place. For instance, this week, China ordered 60,000 soldiers to pick up shovels and begin planting trees around Beijing. But how will we know whether or not these sworn goals are being achieved?

The new FAO online platform will allow efficient monitoring of and reporting on forest cover and land-use change to help governments monitor their progress towards these targets and is crucial as countries adopt measures to adapt to and mitigate climate change.

“Assessing the state of the world’s global forest resources requires consistent and reliable data,” said FAO Senior Forestry Officer Anssi Pekkarinen. “The new platform allows countries to improve their capacity to compile up-to-date and precise forest data, reduces reporting burden, and allows to better measure progress towards the 2030 Agenda.”

The new tool offers improved data entry and data visualization, plus review and analysis functions. A more user-friendly interface allows adding data, copying and pasting from existing entry sheets and documenting national data sources.

To help countries where forest information is limited or not available, the platform allows access to related external information as well as geospatial data from global remote sensing products.

The platform will be used for the next 2020 Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) report. The most comprehensive analysis of the world’s forest resources, the FRA is produced every five years through an inclusive and country-driven process.

For the first time, the new FAO platform will provide all 171 FRA National Correspondents – officially nominated national forest authorities who are responsible for compiling the country reports, and their collaborators – free access to vast global data repositories and analytical tools with the computing power of Google Earth Engine.

“This announcement builds on our productive three-year partnership with FAO that we signed at COP 21 in Paris,” said Rebecca Moore, director, Google Earth, Earth Engine & Earth Outreach. “We are excited to enable all countries with equal access to the latest technology in support of global climate action and sustainable development.”

Moore says the new tool makes it easy even for people without prior remote-sensing experience to access satellite imagery and other geospatial data to monitor national forest cover and land-use changes over time.

While global rates of deforestation have been cut in half over the last two decades – from a net annual forest area loss of 7.3 million hectares in 2000 to 3.3 million hectares in 2015 – deforestation and forest degradation still continue at alarming rates.

An estimated 80 percent of forest loss is driven by conversion of forest to agricultural land.

To explore ways of halting deforestation and accelerating the planting of new trees and forests, an international conference was held in at FAO headquarters in Rome in late February, with more than 300 stakeholders from many walks of life.

Organized by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, participation at the conference, “From Aspiration to Action,” was by invitation only. Representatives of government ministries responsible for agriculture and livestock, environment, energy and extractive industries, the private sector and civil society organizations, especially of indigenous peoples, were invited.

“Over the past 25 years, the rate of net global deforestation slowed by more than 50 percent,” said Manoel Sobral Filho, director of the United Nations Forum on Forests, in his keynote address to the conference. “If the current trend of slowing forest loss, combined with forest restoration and plantation efforts continues, a future where we achieve zero net global deforestation can go from being an aspiration to reality.”

Participants stressed that land-use competition between forests and agriculture could be solved by introducing diversified agricultural production systems that integrate trees, crops and livestock with a landscape approach.

Examples include agroforestry systems in which harvestable trees or shrubs are grown among or around crops or silvo-pastoral systems, combining agriculture, forestry and grazing of domesticated animals.

The participants highlighted the need to underpin the stability of livelihoods and the role of forests as providers of ecosystem services by recognizing the many “hidden” values of forests, such as pollination, and by enhancing simple and direct systems of payments for ecosystem services.

In his address, Amedi Camara, minister of environment and sustainable development of Mauritania and president of the Council of Ministers of the Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall, stressed the importance of the Great Green Wall initiative for combating desertification, sustainable management of natural resources and the fight against poverty and climate change.

Drought-resistant trees are being planted in a wall across the continent of Africa in an effort to halt the advancing Sahara Desert. (Map courtesy Great Green Wall Initiative) Posted for media use

Drought-resistant trees are being planted in a wall across the continent of Africa in an effort to halt the advancing Sahara Desert. (Map courtesy Great Green Wall Initiative) Posted for media use

The Great Green Wall is an African-led project that aims to grow a nearly 8,000 kilometer (5,000 mile) natural wonder of the world by planting trees across the entire width of Africa to hold back the spreading Sahara Desert. Once completed, the Great Green Wall will be the largest living structure on Earth.

In the final outcome document, participants stressed that the corporate responsibility of agri-business plays a vital role in halting deforestation, which should be supported by international trade instruments favoring deforestation-free commodities.

Small producers would also need better access to services, finance and markets.

Conference participants noted that scaling-up finance and investment for sustainable land use and forests requires positive incentives, improved governance, public-private partnerships and innovative financing instruments.

The indispensable role of youth as agents of change was highlighted, and participants underlined the need to strengthen education at all levels as an essential component of building capacity to halt deforestation and increase forest area.

The outcomes of the conference will be channeled to the UN Forum on Forests taking place in May, and through it, to the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development that will review progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 15 – Life on Land in July.

Featured image: Cathedral Grove of old growth forest in British Columbia, Canada, August 2011 (Photo by Sang Trinh)


GrantProposalTraining

Sustainable Finance European Style

At the European Financial Forum 2018 in Dublin, Ireland, Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis first row center, Raquel Lucas, of Commissioner Dombrovskis' team, on the left, and on the right, Gerry Kiely, who heads the European Commission in Dublin. Feb. 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

At the European Financial Forum 2018 in Dublin, Ireland, Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis first row center, Raquel Lucas, of Commissioner Dombrovskis’ team, on the left, and on the right, Gerry Kiely, who heads the European Commission in Dublin. Feb. 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 31, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – An EU-wide label for green investment funds, a European standard for green bonds, and a classification system to provide market clarity on what is sustainable are recommended in the final report of the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, published this week.

The European Commission said it welcomes the report, which sets out strategic recommendations for a financial system that supports sustainable investments.

In 2015, landmark international agreements were established with the adoption of the UN 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. The report attempts to put the EU on the path to fulfilling its obligations under these agreements.

The Commission established the independent High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) in December 2016. It is made up of 20 senior experts from civil society, the finance sector, academia and observers from European and international institutions.

HLEG is chaired by Christian Thimann, a professor at the Paris School of Economics and head of strategy, sustainability and public affairs of the AXA Group, based in Paris. He is an external member of the Council of Economic Advisers to the French Prime Minister.

The report by the High-Level Expert Group maps the challenges and opportunities that the EU faces in developing a sustainable finance policy that supports the transition to a more resource-efficient and circular economy.

In its report HLEG advises that reorienting investment flows into long-term, sustainable projects will improve the stability of the financial system.

The HLEG final report proposes:

  • a classification system to provide market clarity on what is sustainable
  • an EU-wide label for green investment funds
  • a European standard for green bonds
  • clarifying the duties of investors in achieving a more sustainable financial system
  • improving disclosure by financial institutions and companies on how sustainability is factored into their decision-making
  • making sustainability part of the mandates of the European Supervisory Authorities

The European Commission says it will now move to finalize its strategy on sustainable finance on the basis of these recommendations.

Delivering an EU strategy on sustainable finance is a priority action of the Commission’s Capital Markets Union (CMU) Action Plan, as well as one of the key steps towards implementing the Paris Agreement on climate and the EU’s Agenda for sustainable development.

To achieve the EU’s 2030 targets agreed in Paris, including a 40 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions, we need around €180 billion of additional investments a year, says the Commission.

The financial sector has a key role to play in reaching these goals, as large amounts of private capital could be mobilized towards such sustainable investments.

The Commission is determined to lead the global work in this area and help sustainability-conscious investors to choose suitable projects and companies.

Valdis Dombrovskis, EU vice-president responsible for financial stability, financial services and capital markets said, “The signature of the Paris agreement in 2015 marked a milestone for the world and for the global economy. We are now moving towards a low-carbon society, where renewable energy and smart technologies improve our quality of life, spurring job creation and growth, without damaging our planet.”

“Finance has a big role to play in funding a sustainable future,” declared Dombrovskis. “I welcome the outstanding work of the HLEG which is excellent input for our upcoming strategy.”

“I believe this report is a manifesto for far-reaching reform,” Dombrovskis told the European Financial Forum 2018 at Ireland’s Dublin Castle today.

He said the Commission will use the HLEG report to propose an EU strategy on sustainable finance in March, followed by several legislative proposals.

“The future of finance will not only be digital, it will also have to be green,” said Dombrovskis.

Commenting on the HLEG recommendations, he said, “First, we need a unified EU classification system or taxonomy for sustainable assets. We need to define what is green and what is not green. And we need to identify the areas where sustainable investment is most needed and can make the biggest impact. A unified EU classification is fundamental for the development of any green finance policy. We will follow up this recommendation with the first piece of legislation in spring.”

As recommended in the report, Dombrovskis said, “We will present a proposal on fiduciary duty. It will clarify the need to take sustainability into account when managing money for others. Clients have the right to know how sustainable their investments are.”

Third, he said, “We could boost green investments and loans by introducing a so-called green supporting factor. This could be done at first stage by lowering capital requirements for certain climate-friendly investments, such as energy-efficient mortgages or low-carbon cars.

However, said the vice-president, “This exercise would be delicate. Green does not mean risk-free. Any measures would have to be carefully calibrated, and based on a clear EU classification.”

Finally, said Dombrovskis, “Further development of the green bond market can drive the investment that we need. With a unified classification system for sustainable assets, we could establish criteria and labels for green bonds and investment funds. These labels would help investors to easily identify financial products that comply with green or low-carbon criteria. We could extend the existing European Eco-label to financial products.”

The EU has set itself ambitious climate, environmental and sustainability targets, through its 2030 Energy and Climate framework, the Energy Union and its Circular Economy Action Plan.

These commitments, and the growing awareness of the urgency to address environmental challenges and sustainability risks, call for an effective EU strategy on sustainable finance.

Jyrki Katainen, vice-president responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, said, “The EU is already at the forefront of investing in resource efficiency and social infrastructure, not least through the European Fund for Strategic Investments and its reinforced focus on climate action.”

“At the same time,” said Katainen, “creating an enabling framework for private investors is crucial to achieving the transition to a cleaner, more resource-efficient, circular economy.”

“The High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance’s final report provides us with a roadmap to do just that, and we welcome their invaluable contribution to this very important issue,” he said.

The group’s report will form the basis of the Commission’s comprehensive Action Plan on sustainable finance that it will put forward in the coming weeks. Both the findings of the report and the Commission’s Action Plan will be discussed at a high-level conference on March 22 in Brussels.

Similar ideas are taking hold at banks across the European Union.

Green Tagging is emerging as the new strategy for Europe’s banks to scale up financing of energy-efficient housing and real estate, finds a report released in Paris in December alongside the One Planet Summit hosted by France’s President Emmanuel Macron.

Green Tagging is a systematic process where banks identify the environmental attributes of their loans and underlying asset collateral as a tool for scaling up sustainable finance.

The report, from the consulting firm Climate Strategy & Partners  and the UN Environment Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, finds that green tagging around real estate and energy efficiency is growing at a critical time.

Nick Robins, co-author and co-director of the UN Environment Inquiry, said, “Green Tagging is in an early stage of development, but the pace of change is now striking. Key banks are now recognizing that they need to understand the environmental performance of their real estate lending book in order to better serve their clients and deliver their sustainability goals.”

This report describes how 10 European banks “are beginning to identify, analyze and promote green finance for housing and real estate through the direct attribution of environmental characteristics in their lending and debt capital markets operations,” said Peter Sweatman, co-author of the report and chief executive of Climate Strategy & Partners.

The 10 pioneer banks are: ABN AMRO Bank in the Netherlands; Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria in Spain; Berlin Hyp in Germany; HSBC a British multinational bank with roots in Hong Kong; ING Real Estate Finance, a global financial institution of Dutch origin; Lloyds Bank, a British retail and commercial bank; Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB, a Swedish financial group; Italian bankds Suedtiroler Volksbank and UniCredit; and Triodos Bank, a Netherlands-based commercial bank.

The Green Tagging of bank assets allows for easier access to green bond markets, better tracking of green loan performance and provides greater transparency of climate risks and portfolio resilience.

“Tagging our commercial real estate and mortgage loans to existing energy and environmental standards enabled our internal transparency and supported our issuance of the first green covered bond,” said Bodo Winkler from Berlin Hyp, currently the largest European commercial bank issuer of green bonds. “The green tagging data provided us valuable insights into the relative credit and economic performance for our loans to green buildings compared to standard ones.”

Joop Hessels from ABN AMRO said, “Identifying and tagging green buildings in the bank systems in a European context was essential for the world’s first green bond to define green real estate, issued by ABN AMRO, and in advising other new green real estate backed bond issuers.”

Featured image:  Euro banknotes and coins, February 19, 2016 (Photo by verkeorg) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Training


Hammering Out a Global Platform for Forests

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

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

COP23 Fertilizes Climate-Smart Agriculture

COP23LeadersHighLevel

COP23 leaders, from left: UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa of Brazil; President Emmanuel Macron, France; Frank Bainimarama, prime minister of Fiji and COP 23 president; Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany; and UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the opening of the High-Level Segment of the conference, November 15, 2017 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – New commitments and initiatives in the agriculture and water sectors were announced as nearly 200 countries gathered at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP23) hosted by the government of Fiji in Bonn, November 6-17.

Delegates made concrete progress on turning the historic 2015 Paris Agreement into action on the ground across the world, ahead of next year’s UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland.

COP23 delegates aimed at motivating greater climate action by public and private stakeholders as the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, enables countries to combat climate change by limiting the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and strive not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.

About one degree of that rise has already happened, increasing the pressure on governments and the private sector to progress further and faster to cut the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.

For the first time in the history of UN climate negotiations, governments reached an agreement on agriculture that will help countries develop and implement new strategies to both reduce emissions from agriculture and build resilience to the effects of climate change.

“Agriculture is a key factor for the sustainability of rural areas, the responsibility for food security and its potential to offer climate change solutions is enormous,” said Christian Schmidt, Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture.

Investing more quickly and broadly in agricultural climate action and to support the sustainable livelihoods of small-scale farmers will unlock much greater potential to curb emissions and protect people against climate change, sector leaders and experts said.

New COP23 initiatives include a US$400 million fund established by the Government of Norway and the corporation Unilever for public and private investment in business models that combine investments in high productivity agriculture, smallholder inclusion and forest protection.

The European Investment Bank will provide US$75 million for a new US$405 million investment program by the Water Authority of Fiji. The plan will strengthen resilience of water distribution and wastewater treatment following Cyclone Winston, the world’s second strongest storm ever recorded, which hit Fiji in February 2016.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development signed up to free US$37.6 million of GCF grant financing in the US$243.1 million Saïss Water Conservation Project to make Moroccan agriculture more resilient.

The nonprofit World Resources Institute announced a landmark US$2.1 billion of private investment to restore degraded lands in Latin America and the Caribbean through Initiative 20×20.

“Climate change is a fundamental threat to the Sustainable Development Goal 2 that aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition,” said José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  at a high-level event on hunger at the conference.

“To achieve SDG2 and effectively respond to climate change, we require a transformation of our agriculture sectors and food systems,” he said.

According to FAO’s “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017” report, hunger has grown for the first time in over a decade, mainly due to conflicts and climate change. An estimated 815 million people are now hungry.

Extreme climate impacts come down hard on small-scale farmers and pastoralists as well as fishing and forest communities, who still provide the bulk of the planet’s food.

Supporting these communities with innovative solutions to reduce their emissions and protect their communities meets many of the objectives of every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Over 70 percent of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. They are also the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition, natural resource scarcity, conflict, and climate impacts.

“The rural poor are part of a comprehensive response to climate change,” said da Silva. “They are key agents of change who need to be strengthened in their roles as stewards of biodiversity, natural resources and vital ecosystem services.”

Requests to direct more resources to the agriculture sector as a key strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were made during Agriculture Action Day November 10.

“Countries now have the opportunity to transform their agricultural sectors to achieve food security for all through sustainable agriculture and strategies that boost resource-use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change,” said René Castro, FAO assistant-director general.

In the livestock sector, for example, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.

At COP23, the FAO released a new “Sourcebook on Climate-Smart Agriculture,” which recommends scaling up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, spurring public-private partnerships, strengthening a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue, investing in knowledge and information, and building capacity to address barriers to climate action.

The book features knowledge and stories about on-the-ground projects to guide policymakers and program managers to make the agricultural sectors more sustainable and productive, while contributing to food security and lower carbon intensity.

The COP23 meeting agreed that land needs to be managed in ways to increase soil carbon, particularly in grasslands, and that robust protocols for assessing and monitoring carbon stocks need to be developed with stakeholders.

Rehabilitating agricultural and degraded soils can remove up to 51 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, according to some estimates.

For the livestock sector, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.

Tom Driscoll, director of conservation policy with the U.S. National Farmers Union, says, “Farming is one of the few professions with the ability to not only reduce ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, but to also remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. National Farmers Union supports policies and programs that maximize agriculture’s GHG elimination potential by offering value to farmers for either climate-smart or emissions-reducing and carbon-sinking production and conservation practices.”

Cap-and-trade programs, which limit ongoing emissions from major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, are one means of offering farmers value for climate-smart practices.

Cap-and-trade programs can drive emissions reductions where they can happen in the most cost-effective manner, and farmers can often achieve emissions reductions and sequester atmospheric greenhouse gases for less money than the emitters these programs primarily regulate, says Driscoll on the NFU website.

The state of California has implemented a cap-and-trade program that allows for the creation and transfer-for-value of offset credits that meet regulatory criteria. Regulated entities may meet up to eight percent of their triennial compliance requirements by purchasing these credits.

In California, each credit must be quantified using a compliance offset protocol approved by the California Air Resources Board. Currently, ARB will approve credits some U.S. farmers create by capturing and destroying methane from manure management systems.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), an organizer of COP23’s Agriculture Action day, announced that the Coalition will work in the next few years to create the conditions for greater agricultural climate action.

The voluntary partnership of more than 100 governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations aims to help give countries the confidence to set realistic yet ambitious targets through the next revision of their national climate plans – the Nationally Determined Contributions.

“Agriculture is a large source of powerful greenhouse gases like methane and other short-lived climate pollutants but has great potential to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in our lifetime, that’s why we support and advocate for countries to improve their livestock emissions inventories,” said Helena Molin Valdes, head of the CCAC Secretariat.

CCAC partners signed onto the Coalition’s Bonn Communiqué which prioritizes initiatives to reduce methane and black carbon emissions from agriculture and municipal solid waste.

These initiatives support broader efforts to reduce air pollution, end hunger, and build sustainable cities and communities, while helping to limit global warming.

James Shaw, New Zealand Minister for Climate Change, said he was pleased with the Communiqué’s focus on agriculture as it was a large source of his country’s greenhouse gases.

“We hope this encourages partners to develop policies to reduce emissions from agriculture, while at the same time improving the productivity, resilience and profitability of farmers,” said Shaw.

Other agriculture-based solutions for addressing climate change were also presented at COP23. Discussions involved people from governments, civil society, the private sector, small scale and young farmers centered on livestock, traditional agriculture systems, water, soil, food loss and waste, and integrated landscape management.

Among the recommended actions and initiatives were to:

  • Scale up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, and use them in a catalytic manner. Climate finance flows continue to favor mitigation over adaptation, and focus overwhelmingly on energy systems and infrastructure. These imbalances should be addressed.
  • Incentivize public-private partnerships. Strong dialogue and collaboration between the public and private sectors is key to ensure alignment between public policy and private sector investment decisions in agriculture and throughout the entire food system.
  • Strengthen a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue towards more integrated approaches to landscape management. This will require enhanced coordination of policy and climate action across multiple public and private entities.
  • Invest in knowledge and information. Additional analyses are needed to better identify the institutional barriers and market failures that are inhibiting broader adoption of climate-resilient and low-emissions agricultural practices in individual countries, regions and communities.
  • Build capacity to address barriers to implement climate action. Agricultural producers require additional capacities to understand the climate risks and vulnerabilities they face, and respond accordingly.

In the water sector, most national climate plans with an adaptation component prioritize action on water, yet financing would need to triple to US$295 billion per year to meet such targets, said experts at COP23.

“Sustainable use of water for multiple purposes must remain a way of life and needs to be at the center of building resilient cities and human settlements and ensuring food security in a climate change context,” said Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, president of the Women for Water Partnership.

The international water community co-signed what it called a “nature based solution declaration” to encourage the use of natural systems in managing healthy water supplies.

Around 40 percent of the world’s population will face water shortages by 2050, accelerating migration and triggering onflict, while some regions could lose up to six percent of their economic output, unless water is better managed, warned Verhoef-Cohen.

She said, “Involving both women and men in decision making and integrated water resources initiatives leads to better sustainability, governance and efficiency.”


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Featured Image: G.H. MUMM champagne 2017 harvest in champagne vineyard near Verzenay, France, September 7, 2017 (Photo by Intercontinental Hong Kong) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Our Drying Planet

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An aerial view of the Tigris River as it flows through Baghdad, Iraq, population 8.76 million, the second largest city in the Arab world, July 31, 2016. (U.S. Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, March 16, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The world faces an acute water crisis within a decade that will affect food supplies, megacities and industry globally, warns Australian science writer Julian Cribb, author of the new book “Surviving the 21st Century.

The water crisis is sneaking up on humanity unawares. People turn on the tap and assume clean, safe water will always flow. But the reality is that supplies are already critical for 4.2 billion people – over half the world’s population,” says Cribb. “During times of drought, megacities like Sao Paulo, La Paz, Los Angeles, Santiago, 32 Indian cities and 400 Chinese cities are now at risk.

World water use is already more than 10 trillion tonnes a year. While the human population has tripled since 1950, our water use has grown six-fold,” says Cribb.

In his book, Cribb cites some disturbing facts:
  • Groundwater is running out in practically every country in the world where it is used to grow food, posing risks to food security in northern India, northern China, Central Asia, the central and western United States, and the Middle East. Most of this groundwater will take thousands of years to replenish.
  • The icepack on high mountain chains is shrinking, emptying the rivers it once fed in practically every continent.
  • Around the world, large lakes are drying up, especially in Central Asia, China, sub-Saharan Africa and the South American Andes.
  • Most of the world’s large rivers are polluted with chemicals, nutrients and sediment.
  • 50,000 dams break up the world’s major rivers, sparking increased disputes over water between neighboring countries.

Pope Francis has warned that humanity could be moving toward a “world war over water.”

Addressing an international seminar on the human right to water hosted in February by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope said, “It is painful to see when in the legislation of a country or a group of countries, water is not considered a human right. It is even more painful when it is removed from legislation and this human right is denied. I ask myself if in the midst of this third World War happening in pieces, are we on the way to a larger world war over water?

Each of the last three UN secretaries-general – Ban Ki-Moon, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali – has warned of the dangers of world water scarcity and of future water wars.

To counter this danger, José Graziano da Silva, who heads the Rome-based UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, is focusing on the cradle of civilization, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and the entire Gulf region, as one of the areas most exposed to the risks posed by climate change, particularly water scarcity.

In an opinion article written in January, Graziano da Silva cited research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the authority for his warning, “The Gulf region is poised to experience a significant uptick in the frequency of consecutive dry days…

If we fail to keep average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, the region often known as the cradle of human civilization will increasingly face extreme heat waves of the kind that disable the human body’s ability to cool itself,” the FAO leader wrote.

He says avoiding that fate is within our means, but requires that governments muster the will to “increase food output by around 50 percent by 2050,” and we have to do that, he says, “without depleting strained natural resources beyond the tipping point.

Of course, food production requires plenty of water.

In the Gulf region particularly, says Graziano da Silva, no government can accomplish this alone. The region imports about half of all its wheat, barley and maize, and 60 percent of the region’s fresh water flows across national boundaries.

Graziano da Silva draws his hope for the future from the Near East and North Africa’s Water Scarcity Initiative , a partnership for water reform in the Gulf region.

This network of partners, which includes over 30 regional and international organizations, is working to provide member countries with opportunities to learn and share practices in the sustainable use and management of water.

Water scarcity in the Near East and North Africa region is already severe.

Fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world. They have fallen by two-thirds during last 40 years and are expected to drop at least more 50 percent by 2050.

Ninety percent of the region’s land lies within arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, while 45 percent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, according to the FAO.

At the same time, agriculture in the region uses roughly 85 percent of the available freshwater.

The Initiative is attempting to bring scientific tools to bear on these grim facts. Water accounting, food-supply cost curve, gap-analysis and regular monitoring of agricultural water productivity are some of the advanced tools that the Initiative will use to quantify the benefits and costs of alternative policy options to address food insecurity while sustaining water resources.

Data collection, management and analysis are the backbone of the Initiative that will support the strategic planning for water resources and provide evidence for policy formulation.

Making use of the expertise developed by FAO and its partners, the Initiative will advise governments and the private sector on the adoption of modern technologies and institutional solutions to increase the efficiency and productivity of water use in agriculture for the benefit of millions of farmers and rural communities in the region.

Options to save water all along the food value chain will be shared with the private sector, while governments will be encouraged to promote incentive frameworks that reposition farmers at the center of the sustainable management of land and water resources.

The Initiative will support the ongoing major policy processes in the region, including the Arab Water Security Strategy 2010-2030 and the Regional Initiative for the Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources and Socio-Economic Vulnerability in the Arab Region.

FAO’s work in the region ranges from emergency efforts in response to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen to running Farmer Field Schools in Egypt and helping the United Arab Emirates develop their first national agricultural policy.

The UAE is planning to roll out water meters on farms, while at the same time introducing smart subsidies targeting those who consume less water than average.

Benefits range from better diagnostic data on actual water use and incentives to actual conservation practices to allocating the savings to farmers who can invest in their businesses for even more efficiency.

That climate change poses such threats to an area known as the cradle of civilization underscores the need for urgent action to put agriculture at the center of the sustainability agenda,” says Graziano da Silva.

World Water Day, on March 22 every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

This year’s theme: Why waste water? is in support of Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

And now it’s not just a day, or just a week, like the prestigious annual World Water Week in Stockholm in September, but the United Nations has designated another decade to mobilize for water conservation and sustainable use.

The UN Water for Life Decade 2005-2015  a knowledge hub, a best practices program, encouraged communications regarding water and integrated into its work the accomplishments of the UN-Water technical advisory unit.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution “International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development” to help put a greater focus on water during 10 years.

Emphasizing that water is critical for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger, UN Member States expressed deep concern over the lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene as well as concern over water-related disasters, scarcity and pollution worsened by urbanization, population growth, desertification, drought and climate change.

The new Decade will focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic and environmental objectives.

To set the agenda in motion, UN-Water, in its 26th meeting in Geneva in February, decided on the establishment of a Task Force to facilitate its support to the planning and organization of the International Decade for Action – Water for Sustainable Development.

The Decade will commence on World Water Day March 22, 2018, and end on World Water Day, March 22, 2028. It could be the last decade that humanity can use to avert the predicted water crisis.


Featured Image: Mullah Neoka and his sons are wheat farmers in Afghanistan’s Herat province, once the bread basket of central Asia before land mines made farming impossible. HALO Trust, a UK-supported project to clear land mines has restored the land for agriculture. 2011. (Photo by Catherine Belfield-Haines / UK Department for International Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Positive Impact Finance Stands on Principles

BankofAfricaMadagascar

A crowd waits for a Bank of Africa branch to open in Madagascar, Oct 1, 2014 (Photo by Bruce Thomson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, February 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Nineteen global banks and investors, worth a total of US$6.6 trillion in assets, have agreed on a set of standards for financing sustainable development framed as the first-ever Principles for Positive Impact Finance.

On the last Monday in January, the set of four unpublished Positive Impact Principles was launched to provide a global framework for financiers and investors to analyze, monitor and disclose the social, environmental and economic impacts of the financial products and services they deliver.

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance are a direct response to the challenge of financing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals . Adopted by the world’s governments in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, each of the 17 SDGs has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

The principles are intended to provide a global framework for impact financing that applies across different business lines, including retail and wholesale lending, corporate and investment lending, and asset management.

Principle One: Definition

This principle is simple, “It’s a good idea to make a donation.

Eric Usher, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP-FI) looks at what it will cost to make the SDGs a reality. “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – the Global Program of Action to End the Poverty, fight climate change and protect the environment – should cost between $5 and $7 billion a year by 2030,” he said.

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance will change the situation,” said Usher. “They will allow us to direct hundreds of billions of dollars managed by banks and investors towards clean low-carbon emissions, benefiting everyone.

The scope here is broad; this first principle covers loans of all kinds – corporate, retail, municipal, sovereign, inter-bank, project-related; bonds; equity; notes and credit-linked notes.

In all these cases the positive impact of the financial activity should be defined.

Principle Two: Frameworks

Entities, whether financial or non-financial, need adequate processes, methodologies, and tools to identify and monitor the positive impact of the activities, projects, programs, and/or entities to be financed or invested in. They should implement specific processes, criteria and methodologies to identify positive impact.

The Principles do not prescribe which methodologies and key performance indicators to use to identify, analyze and verify positive impact, instead they require that there be transparency and disclosure.

Principle Three: Transparency

Entities, financial or non-financial providing Positive Impact Finance should provide transparency and disclosure on the activities, projects, programs, and/or entities financed.

The intended use of funds released via financial instruments and their positive contribution should be clearly marked on the corresponding documentation.

Methodologies, key performance indicators and achieved impacts should be identified and disclosed.

Principle Four: Assessment

The assessment of positive impact should be based on the actual impacts achieved, this principle states. The assessment can be internally processed, or undertaken by qualified third parties such as audit research institutes and rating agencies.

The principles require a holistic appraisal of positive and negative impacts on economic development, human well-being and the environment, this is what makes them innovative.

These principles are timely from the financial sector. They demonstrate the willingness of the financial resources to go beyond current practices and contribute to more sustainable development,” affirmed the French Minister of Economy and Finance Michel Sapin. “These principles should strengthen the cooperation between public and private actors in this field.

The principles were developed by the Positive Impact Working Group, a group of UN Environment Finance Initiative banking and investment members, as part of the implementation of the roadmap outlined in the Positive Impact Manifesto released in October 2015.

The Manifesto calls for a new, impact-based financing paradigm to bridge the gap in financing for sustainable development.

As of January 1, 2017, the Positive Impact initiative is made up of the following members of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative: Australian Ethical, Banco Itaú, BNP Paribas, BMCE Bank of Africa, Caisse des Dépôts Group, Desjardins Group, First Rand, Hermes Investment Management, ING, Mirova, NedBank, Pax World, Piraeus Bank, SEB, Société Générale, Standard Bank, Triodos Bank, Westpac and YES Bank.

Séverin Cabannes, deputy CEO of Société Générale, a founding member of the group, says there is urgency pushing this initiative along – the urgency of confronting what’s happening to the planet.

With global challenges such as climate change, population growth and resource scarcity accelerating, there is an increased urgency for the finance sector both to adapt and to help bring about the necessary changes in our economic and business models,” said Cabannes.

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance provide an ambitious yet practical framework by which we can take the broader angle view we need to meet the deeply complex and interconnected challenges of our time,” he said.

Gérard Mestrallet, chairman of Paris EUROPLACE and chairman of the Board of the French multinational electric utility company ENGIE, views the principles as another tool in his problem-solving toolbox.

They are “the tool that is needed to enable the business and finance community to work and innovate together, and to address the challenge of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

The financial sector has already moved forward in that direction,” said Mestrallet, “and we hope that the principles as well as the Paris Green and Sustainable Finance Initiative we launched last year will help marking a new stage.”

The UNEP-FI is a partnership between UN Environment and the global financial sector created after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro with a mission to promote sustainable finance.

Over 200 financial institutions, including banks, insurers and fund managers, work with UN Environment to understand today’s environmental challenges, why they matter to finance, and how to actively participate in addressing them.

The need to align capital markets to a two degree world is urgent and necessary,” said Fiona Reynolds, managing director of the Principles for Responsible Investment. “The UN Environment Finance Initiative Principles for Positive Impact Finance are an important tool for investors to frame their positive contribution to the environment, the society and the economy.”


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Fintech Goes Green

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, February 7, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – A UN-backed app is transforming green finance. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, the UN Environment Programme and Ant Financial Services Group, the Chinese online and mobile financial services provider, unveiled the Green Digital Finance Alliance, a joint initiative to stimulate the advancement of digital technologies in green finance.

Erik Solheim, executive director of the Nairobi-based UN Environment agency, formerly UNEP, says the new endeavor will rely on “fintech,” the evolving intersection of financial services and technology.

The Green Digital Finance Alliance is a unique partnership,” said Solheim, “ensuring that we can align tomorrow’s fintech-powered global financial system with sustainable development.

AllianceFounders

At the Green Digital Finance Alliance launch in Davos, Switzerland, from left: Erik Solheim, Under-Secretary General and Head, UN Environment, Doris Leuthard, President, Swiss Confederation, Eric Jing, CEO, Ant Financial Services Group, January 19, 2017 (Photo courtesy Green Digital Finance Alliance) posted for media use

Through market innovation, collaborative action and public awareness, the initiative aims to drive environmental risks, opportunities, incentives and choices into decision-making across the financing value chain.

Ant Financial Services is the first Chinese company to drive a global public-private partnership. Currently, there are 72 million users participating in Ant Financial’s app, called Alipay.

Alipay is a digital financial platform that provides users with a carbon account in addition to their credit and saving accounts.

Ant’s 450 million users can benchmark their carbon footprint and earn “green energy” credits for reducing their footprint, for example, by taking public transit instead of driving.

In addition, Ant Financial has integrated this function into a social media experience, as well as committing to a complementary, tree-planting carbon offset program.

The app is proving to be wildly popular. The number of people that signed up on the day preceding the Green Digital Finance Alliance was nearly the equivalent of the entire population of Switzerland.

Every day tens of millions of users go to their Ant Forest to grow their virtual trees while reducing carbon emissions.

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson of Fiji told a Davos audience at the launch that his office is organizing a series of events aimed at bringing international discussion of sustainable finance into the United Nations.

Given the trillions of dollars that will be needed to finance the Sustainable Development Goals, initiatives like this are essential to ensuring technological developments contribute to the greening of the global financial system, and to achieving a sustainable future for humanity,” said Thomson.

Innovative partnerships like this, which align UNEP’s cutting-edge research with Ant Financial’s expertise in providing inclusive financial services, are central to global efforts to scale up implementation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals,” Thomson said.

Thankfully,” he said, “the transformation towards a sustainable financial system is already underway, with many governments, regulators, central banks, institutional investors and private companies starting to align their operations with the principles of sustainability.

Such efforts need to be scaled up. Digital technologies have the potential to accelerate this transformation – particularly for low-income countries, and small and medium enterprises,” he said.

To this end, in April I will be convening an SDG Financing Lab in New York which will examine existing financing mechanisms for the Sustainable Development Goals, and how they can be best applied to each goal.

We are already seeing fintech disrupt traditional practices in the banking, insurance and microcredit sectors, open new markets in energy, agriculture and health, and contribute to enhancing transparency and accountability,” Thomson said.

Ant Financial CEO Eric Jing said, “Ant Financial is a strong believer in green finance. Several of our products and services have been contributing to sustainable development.

Leveraging mobile Internet, cloud computing and big data, we can encourage our hundreds of millions of users to participate in a green lifestyle. We hope that the Green Digital Finance Alliance will contribute to shaping and accelerating this development.

Getting finance at the right price to the right people at the right time will be critical in both securing clean energy access for all and meeting the climate change challenge,” said Rachel Kyte, a former World Bank executive, who is now CEO of the UN Decade for Sustainable Energy for All, Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL).

Digital finance can be a powerful tool for unlocking barriers to investment and empowering people to meet the challenge and seize the opportunity of clean, affordable future,” said Kyte. “This Alliance will I hope help to catalyze finance so that we transform lives, create jobs, clean air, provide energy, and restore landscapes at the speed and scale needed.

Swiss President Doris Leuthard said, “This is just the beginning!

The Green Digital Finance Alliance is tentatively scheduled to release its first round of global digital green finance practice reviews at the International Monetary Fund annual meeting in October 2017.

The Ant Forest Program will combine the early tests of UNEP’s carbon emissions measurement and the innovation of carbon abatement incentives and present the results to global alliance members to start interaction.

Ant has been able to encourage hundreds of millions of users to participate in a greener and greener lifestyle using technology such as mobile Internet, cloud computing and big data.

The Ant Financial Services Group, the parent company of the global mobile payment platform Alipay, directs its efforts towards serving small and micro enterprises, as well as consumers.

With the vision of bringing “small and beautiful changes to the world,Jing says Ant Financial is dedicated to “building an open ecosystem of Internet thinking and technologies” while working with other financial institutions to support the future financial needs of society.

Businesses now operated by Ant Financial Services Group include Alipay, Ant Fortune, Zhima Credit and MYbank – and this year, Ant is expanding its network with the acquisition of the the publicly-traded Texas-based company MoneyGram, a global provider of innovative money transfer services.

Valued at approximately US$880 million, the transaction announced January 26 will connect MoneyGram’s money transfer network of 2.4 billion bank and mobile accounts and 350,000 physical locations with Ant Financial’s users.

Moneygram will leverage Ant Financial’s global presence and existing network to serve more than 630 million users, including 450 million with Alipay and 180 million with India’s leading mobile payment provider Paytm.

The transaction will help expand Ant Financial’s business in new global markets following its recent partnerships with Paytm in India and Ascend Money in Thailand.

The acquisition of MoneyGram is a significant milestone in our mission to bring inclusive financial services to users around the world,” said Jing. “We believe financial services should be simple, low-cost and accessible to the many, not the few.

The combination of Ant Financial and MoneyGram will provide greater access, security and simplicity for people around the world to remit funds,” said Jing, “especially in major economies such as the United States, China, India, Mexico and the Philippines.

The Green Digital Finance Alliance will be part of all this growth. The Alliance is in the process of establishing a Steering Committee to be co-chaired, at first, by its founders, and will have a secretariat to support its work. In the first instance, UN Environment, based in Nairobi, will act as the secretariat for the Alliance.

Dr. Patrick Njoroge, Governor, Central Bank of Kenya is looking forward to the challenge. “Innovations in financial technologies (fintech) offer the greatest hope for aligning the world’s financial systems with the urgent twin objectives of sustainable development and deepening financial inclusion,” he said. “Further progress requires the close cooperation of all-innovators, regulators, financial institutions.


Featured image: A happy user of the Ant app Alipay (Photo courtesy UNEP) posted for media use

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Sustainability Takes Flight

Aircraft_Istanbul

Airplanes on the tarmac at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport, June 30, 2016 (Photo by Caribb) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada, August 16, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – Every day around the world, more than 100,000 civil aviation flights take off and land – safely for the most part. Now, the global agency responsible for overseeing civil aviation is working to improve the industry’s sustainability.

Sustainability for Civilian Aircraft,” an environmental report released in late July by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), presents the work of more than 600 experts who deal with noise, air quality, climate change, aircraft end-of-life, recycling and climate change adaptation.

This report from ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection, titled “On Board a Sustainable Future,” summarizes the progress made over the last three years across key areas of the agency’s environmental protection activities and serves as the reference document for international aviation and the environment.

The ICAO Environmental report is a crucial step that allows aviation to produce policies that lead to peaking emissions in the industry. This report allows for informed policy decisions based on sound science,” said Christina Figueres, former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The report will provide a strong focus on sustainability as ICAO hosts its 191 member states and industry groups at the ICAO Assembly September 27 to October 7 in Montreal.

ICAO gathers its members in an Assembly at least once every three years. The scenarios presented for the consideration of the Assembly reflect the inputs of: aircraft and engine manufacturers, airlines, air navigation service providers and non-governmental organizations. Panels of independent experts provide unbiased input related to noise, emissions, and operational changes. The effects of traffic growth, fleet turnover, technology improvement, and operational enhancements are captured.

Dr. Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu of Nigeria, president of the ICAO Council, wrote in his introduction to the report that three years ago the ICAO Assembly, “…reaffirmed the collective aspirational goals of two percent fuel efficiency improvement annually, and carbon neutral growth from 2020.

To progress towards these goals, ICAO is advising member states to employ innovative aircraft technologies, more efficient operations, sustainable alternative fuels, and market-based measures for mitigation of climate changing emissions from the air transport industry.

ICAO’s own market-based measure is still a work in progress.

Meanwhile, wrote Aliu, “ICAO’s leadership role on the environment relies in part on our historic ability to guide and assist those who wish to act to protect the environment, but who may not have the means to do so. In the spirit of our ongoing No Country Left Behind initiative, we will continue to pursue capacity-building and assistance measures towards the more effective implementation of ICAO’s global Standards and Policies, a critical enabler of our broader environmental goals.” 

ICAO Secretary General Dr. Fang Liu of China wrote in her introduction, “Delivering on an ambitious environmental agenda in response to the mandate received from its Member States, ICAO has evolved its environmental activities into a broader, truly global vision for greener air transport. Sustainable development is at the heart of our strategy…

Turning this vision into action,” wrote Dr. Liu, “ICAO’s current Strategic Objectives contribute to 13 out of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), and our environmental work programme alone contributes to 10 of them. Adopted by world leaders in September 2015, the UN SDGs are our common roadmap to transform our world beyond 2030, and global air transport connectivity is an essential enabler for many of them.

Now for the practical side – making the vision work.

When the Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection met in February in Montreal, the 200 participants agreed on a comprehensive set of 17 recommendations that will help ICAO fulfill its mandate on aviation environmental protection.

The set of environmental aircraft design standards cover noise, five pollutants that affect local air quality, and CO2 emissions to protect the global climate.

For the first time the Committee recommended two completely new standards in one meeting:

  • an agreement on a new airplane carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions standard
  • an agreement on a new non-volatile Particulate Matter engine emission standard

 The Committee tabled updated trends for CO2, noise and engine emissions and reviewed the technical work to date on a Global Market Based Measure.

They recommended a new publication on “Community Engagement on Aviation Environmental Management,” and established priorities and work programs for the next work cycle in the years 2016-2019.

In the report, Jane Hupe, secretary to the Committee, explained, “The recommended Aeroplane CO2 Emissions Certification Standard is a technology standard with the aim of encouraging more fuel efficient technologies into aeroplane designs. This technology-based approach is similar to the current ICAO engine emissions standards for Local Air Quality and the aircraft noise standards.

The CO2 standard will apply to subsonic jet and turboprop aeroplanes that are new type designs from 2020, as well as to those aeroplane type designs that are in-production in 2023 and undergo a change,” wrote Hupe.

In 2028, there is a production cut-off. Planes that do not meet the standard can no longer be produced from 2028, unless the designs are modified to comply with the standard.

The Committee’s report identifies these trends. “The CO2 emissions that affect the global climate, and emissions that affect local air quality are expected to increase through 2050, but at a rate slower than aviation demand.

Under an advanced aircraft technology and moderate operational improvement scenario, from 2030, aircraft noise exposure may no longer increase with an increase in traffic.

 “International aviation fuel efficiency is expected to improve through 2050, but measures in addition to those considered in this analysis will be required to achieve ICAO’s two percent annual fuel efficiency aspirational goal.

 “Sustainable alternative fuels have the potential to make a significant contribution, but sufficient data are not available to confidently predict their availability over the long term. Also, considering only aircraft technology and operational improvements, additional measures will be needed to achieve carbon neutral growth relative to 2020,” the Committee projects.

Dr. Boubacar Djibo of Niger, director of ICAO’s Air Transport Bureau, wrote in the report, “Alternative fuels are essential to ICAO’s environmental strategy and are an integral part of airlines’ environmental strategies. Indeed, sustainable alternative drop-in fuels are the only practical renewable energy option available for aircraft today. While the technical feasibility, environmental impacts and safety of biofuels have been well-demonstrated, integrated thinking is now required to accompany their large-scale deployment.

The current ICAO Carbon Calculator for passenger air travel emissions is one of the most popular tools developed by ICAO. It allows passengers to estimate the emissions attributed to their air travel on the ICAO website and on mobile applications. It is simple to use and only requires a limited amount of information from the user.

To complement the ICAO Carbon Calculator for passenger air travel emissions, a method for quantifying air cargo CO2 emissions was recommended by the Committee. This new methodology will predict the CO2 emissions from cargo shipped on board both passenger and dedicated cargo aircraft. This tool will only require information such as origin and destination.

ICAO is a UN specialized agency, established by countries in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, known as the Chicago Convention.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon complimented the Committee on its 2016 report, saying, “This edition of the ICAO Environmental Report shows how air transport is well on its way to carrying out forward-looking solutions – and sets out the strategic path for even greater progress.


Featured image:Plane Silhouette,December 20, 2009 (Photo by David Spinks) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Funding Key to Africa’s Clean Water Solutions

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Woman collects drinking water from a stream in Uganda, June 2015 (Photo by CAFOD) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

DAR es SALAAM, Tanzania, August 1, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Determination to find lasting solutions to Africa’a age-old water and sanitation problems characterized the mood of delegates to the 6th Africa Water Week conference in Dar es Salam last week.

Organized by African Ministers’ Council on Water in collaboration with the African Union Commission and other development partners, the meeting saw political commitments at the highest level to collectively seek solutions to Africa’s many water and sanitation challenges.

From July 18 through 22 government officials, scientists and civil society actors mapped pathways to success for Africa’s effort to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 – the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.

Clean water is essential for life, human dignity, and the health of people and of the planet, the United Nations has declared many times, calling the human right to water and sanitation “foundational to the realization and enjoyment of all other human rights.”

In September 2015, all UN Member States committed themselves to ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation in Goal 6 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, known as Sustainable Development Goal 6.

At the 6th Africa Water Week, 30 African water ministers and high-level delegations from 53 African nations adopted a plan aimed at achieving Goal 6 – sustainable and universal access to safe water and sanitation throughout Africa.

Adoption of the plan, “The Dar es Salaam Roadmap for achieving the N’gor Commitments on Water Security and Sanitation in Africa,” was the high point of the conference.

In her remarks, Tanzania’s Vice President Samia Suluhu focused on finding the funds to accomplish this gigantic task.

She urged delegates to “tackle present and future challenges by diversifying our sources of water and be innovative in financing mechanisms taking into account the huge funding requirements for the sector, and the urgency of mobilizing funds to put the right infrastructure and skilled manpower to develop and manage the sector more efficiently.”

Rhoda Peace Tumusiime, commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture at the African Union Commission, called on Member States to step up efforts to realize the African Agenda 2063 on the “Africa we want” because water is key to reducing poverty in Africa.

There is need for us to put in place sound policies, legal and regulatory frameworks to support investments from various sources in water, sanitation and hygiene and also promote gender equality and women empowerment,” Tumusiime said.

Nigeria’s Water Resources Minister Suleiman Adamu told reporters at the conference, “We are working to ensure that all Nigerians have access to potable water by 2030 through urban water sector reform programme.

The continent’s most populous country, Nigeria is located on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. The government is tasked with providing clean water for its 184 million people.

Adamu said Nigeria was not able to meet its target under the Millennium Development Goals, the precursor to the Sustainable Development Goals, due to sole reliance on the government’s budget.

 Adamu emphasized the need for a change in the public’s attitude toward public utilities, saying “Nigeria must begin to see the importance of paying for water consumed.”

He said the ministry has created a data bank and census covering water supply and sanitation for all water infrastructures in the country to prepare for a renewed effort to reach all Nigerians with clean water.

 Nigeria will soon begin the National Programme on Partnerships for Extending Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, aimed at meeting the Sustainable Development Goal 6 of universal access to water.

 But there are disagreements among African countries over water. The longstanding dispute between Tanzania and Malawi about Lake Nyasa, in which an agreement for a project on the shared water resource has lasted over 40 years without a deal, for example, and the grand mega power project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has stalled for over 40 years.

Still, there are examples of benefits through cooperation. Speaking to members of the Pan African Media Alliance for Climate Change (PACJA),  John Rao Nyoro, executive director for the Nile Basin Initiative, said that the Nile Basin Sustainability Framework is now benefiting all the 10 riparian states along the Nile.

While it is not a legal framework, the NBSF, which is a suite of policies, strategies, and guidance documents, functions as a guide to national policy and planning process development and seeks to build consensus among countries that share the resource,” Nyaoro told the journalists.

The Dar es Salaam Roadmap recognizes the role of innovative financing and budgetary prioritization for the water sector, sanitation and monitoring.

 Water ministers at the 6th Africa Water Week agreed that by increasing transparency and accountability in the sector, governments across the continent can account for financial contributions.

They decided to focus on complementing existing initiatives while avoiding overlap and redundancy, and they pledged to ensure a participatory environment for civil society and citizens in policy formulation, sector planning and monitoring.

Other aspects of the ministers’ plan of action for the continent’s water resources include provision of drinking water, improved sanitation, hygiene, effective and efficient management of wastewater, transboundary water resources, and strengthening Africa’s capacity to respond to climate change.

 But the challenges are enormous. As the conference was underway, for instance, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) launched a relief program to feed families affected by the severe drought in Malawi.

The El Nino-related drought, the worst drought in more than 30 years, has led to food shortages in much of southern Africa, and more than 18 million people across the region are in need of food aid.

On Tuesday, the 15-country Southern African Development Community (SADC) declared a regional disaster and launched an appeal for US$2.4 billion to support the humanitarian needs and disaster response recovery of the millions affected by the drought caused by the Eastern Pacific ocean warming event known as El-Niño.

Botswana’s President Lt. General Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama, who serves as the SADC chair, said, “The 2016 regional food security and vulnerability assessments indicate that the number of food insecure people in the region is about 40 million, which is about 14 percent of SADC’s total population.

Responding to the appeal, the United States pledged US$300 million, while the United Kingdom pledged £72 million and the European Union pledged €60 million towards humanitarian assistance.

There is a strong effort this year to integrate water issues with climate issues and find mutual solutions for Africa.

Earlier this month, ahead of COP 22, the UN’s annual climate summit, taking place this year in Marrakesh, Morocco, 650 decision makers, researchers, technical experts, financiers and civil society members from 40 countries attended the Water Security for Climate Justice conference in Rabat.

There ministers from 22 African countries issued a statement on the importance of implementing and funding water initiatives in Africa. To be presented in Marrakesh, the “Water for Africa,” declaration noted the opportunities presented by the momentum toward integrating water and sanitation with the climate negotiations.

Underlining the urgency and necessity of acting on resilience and adaptation in the water and sanitation sectors, the ministers called for integrating water and climate, prioritizing water in adaptation discussions, adopting priority action plans for water and the SDGs in Africa, enhancing access to finance for water projects from climate funds, and encouraging civil society involvement.


A woman in Benin drinks clean water following implementation of the Community Driven Development project, September 2010 (Photo by Arne Hoel / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Best Sustainable Development Moves Need Decision Analysis

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By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, January 29, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “It’s about the toughest job any human being could be given,” says David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The London-born UN veteran has the job of mobilizing global efforts to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that make up the 2030 Agenda, adopted unanimously by 193 Heads of State at UN Headquarters in New York in September.

The goals are ambitious: zero poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and affordable clean energy, to decent work and economic growth, innovation, reduced inequalities, sustainable cities, responsible consumption, climate action, unpolluted oceans and land, and creating the partnerships to achieve them.

“The 17 goals represent an indivisible tapestry of thinking and action that applies in every community, everywhere in the world,” said Nabarro. “They are universal. But they’re also indivisible and that means that we really do not believe that any one goal should be separated out from the others.”

“And as you study them,” he said, “you realize that although they’re presented as individual goals, they actually represent a total and completely intertwined lattice of action that is relevant for every human being everywhere.”

These goals “plot out an annual investment pipeline measured in the trillions to end poverty and also marry increased prosperity with social inclusion and environmental regeneration,” says UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner.

Each of the 17 goals has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years – 169 targets in total.

Deciding how to actually achieve each goal and how to measure the potential effectiveness of funding and implementation proposals appears to be a steep mountain to climb.

For measuring progress toward its goals, UN agencies have historically relied on a target-setting process.

But now, to help Nabarro help the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, scientists are calling on the UN and the private sector to dispense with the target-setting approach and adopt a new method – decision analysis.

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Dr. Keith Shepherd is a specialist in decision analysis and soil science. (Photo courtesy World Agroforestry Centre)

Dr. Keith Shepherd and the Land Health Decisions team at the World Agroforestry Centre proposed the use of decision analysis concepts and tools in a September 2015 article in the journal “Nature.”

Shepherd says, “The target setting approach is widely seen as ineffective or counter-productive,” says Shepherd, a soil scientist, who also leads the Information Systems Strategic Research in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems.

This research focuses on decision engagement and analytics using holistic cost-benefit analysis of stakeholder intervention decisions with emphasis on quantifying uncertainty and risks to focus on information needs that have high economic value.

Targeting emphasizes meeting a target rather than learning how to improve performance and solve a problem, Shepherd explains, adding that target setting can incentivize mis-reporting information in order to meet the target.

“And last but not least,” maintains Shepherd, “it’s an incredibly expensive endeavor to monitor and collect data.”

Shepherd says decision analysis will help avoid spending precious funds on another round of target setting and monitoring.

An analysis of more than 80 models from a variety of decisions and industries reveals that “managers tend to choose to measure variables that are unlikely to improve decisions while ignoring more useful ones,” Shepherd says.

“In a way it’s like putting up a whole new learning system rather then setting up a group of targets,” says Shepherd. “Using decision analysis is about supporting people to make better decisions and better choices. We need to work on gathering the right information needed to improve decision making on the ground. We have the tools to do that now.”

In the “Nature” article, Shepherd and his colleagues propose replacing targets with measures of return on investment.

With limited development dollars, decision makers should understand how to maximize the impact of investments, they write. “We should be asking and answering questions such as, ‘were the environmental benefits and reduction of poverty enough to justify the allocation of limited funds?'”

Decision makers should be using economic models that project long-term costs, benefits and risks of intervention options and help choose the best combination of interventions for achieving the desired set of development goals.

Decision analysis uses “value-of-information” analyses that determine how much decision-makers should be willing to pay for additional knowledge on a certain variable before making a decision. Areas that have high information value should be measured.

“The whole process is a learning system.” explains Shepherd. “We project impacts based on current understanding, measure where it will help improve our choices, monitor where things are most likely to go wrong, and continually update our projections and choices based on what we actually observe.”

Shepherd and team advise that the UN, donors and private sector should fund a decision analysis task force. The task force will help clarify key decisions about development interventions, create methods for analyzing choices and tradeoffs, and design a capacity development program in decision analysis.

“I think this will need steering, piloting and proof of application because it is an entirely different approach to what many know in development,” says Shepherd. “It will take quite a bit of work to enact change, however we have seen this transition happen in other fields.”

Sectors that have been using decision analysis for decades include mining, oil, insurance, and cybersecurity, he said.

Nabarro will receive support in his tough task from a select group of people who have much experience in analyzing decisions.

A queen, a crown princess, a president, a prime minister, a Chinese e-commerce pioneer, and a player often ranked as the world’s best footballer are among eminent Advocates appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week to help achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Co-chairs of the SDG Advocates group are Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama and Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

The SDG Advocates are:

  • Queen Mathilde of Belgium
  • Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden
  • Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of the Chinese Alibaba Group of Internet-based businesses
  • Leo Messi, the world renowned Argentine-born footballer
  • Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, co-founder of the Qatar Foundation
  • Richard Curtis, screenwriter, producer and film director
  • Dho Young-Shim, chair of the UN World Tourism Organization’s Sustainable Tourism Foundation
  • Leymah Gbowee, director of the Gbowee Peace
  • Graça Machel, president of the Foundation for Community Development
  • Alaa Murabit; founder of The Voice of Libyan Women
  • Paul Polman, chief executive officer of Unilever
  • Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Colombia University
  • Shakira Mebarak, founder of the Pies Descalzos Foundation
  • Forest Whitaker, actor and founder of the Whitaker Peace & Development Initiative
  • Muhammad Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank and 2006 Nobel Peace Prize laureate
These farmers in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, are part of a project that aims to improve rural livelihoods by raising on-farm productivity, encouraging better environmental management, and improving governance. (Photo by Yusuf Ahmad/ICRAF)

These farmers in South Sulawesi, Indonesia, are part of a project that aims to improve rural livelihoods by raising on-farm productivity, encouraging better environmental management, and improving governance. (Photo by Yusuf Ahmad/ICRAF)


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.

Green Groups Guide Investors to Protected Areas

GLAND, Switzerland, December 1, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Two of the world’s largest and most influential nonprofit groups have made a new 10-year commitment, combining their strengths to enhance the role of protected and conserved areas in achieving sustainable development.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have pledged to expand the number of protected areas reaching IUCN Green List quality standards to at least 1,000 protected areas in 50 countries.

The partnership will look at how challenges to protected areas such as poaching, illegal logging and other destructive activities can be addressed through new financing and investment.

The two organizations have promised to seek the application of US$2 billion of new investment funding for the enhanced performance and sustainability of these Green List protected areas.

And the groups say they will generate at least 20 new ambitious protected area commitments for biodiversity and United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals from communities, governments and other organizations.

The two groups, both based in Gland, believe that by combining their strengths they will multiply their chances of making a major contribution towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

The IUCN-WWF partnership was announced on the first anniversary of the IUCN World Parks Congress, which took place in November 2014 in Sydney, Australia and culminated in the Promise of Sydney.

The Promise of Sydney commits signers to invest in protected areas, which help to halt biodiversity loss; mitigate and adapt to climate change; reduce the risk and impact of disasters; improve food and water security, and promote human health and dignity.

The Promise of Sydney encompasses four elements:

A Vision that reflects a set of high-level aspirations and recommendations for the change needed in the coming decade to accomplish conservation and development goals for parks, people and planet.

Twelve Innovative Approaches to transformative change to: achieve conservation goals, respond to climate change, improve health and well-being, support human life, reconcile development challenges, enhance the diversity and quality of governance, respect indigenous and traditional knowledge, inspire a new generation, protect World Heritage sites, conserve the marine environment, develop greater capacity for effective action and create a new social compact.

The third element of the Promise of Sydney is a Panorama of Inspiring Protected Area Solutions to overcome obstacles to the stability of people and protected areas. Supported by IUCN, its Commissions and members, they can serve as reference points and resources for conservation practitioners around the world.

The fourth element is Promises. These are pledges by countries, groups of countries, funders, organizations and other partners to chart the path forward for the world by stepping up or supporting accelerated implementation.

For instance, the U.S. National Park Service committed to setting up a program to engage 100,000 youth in protected areas across the United States.

South Africa committed to more than triple its ocean protection over the next 10 years, from less than 0.5 percent to five percent of its Exclusive Economic Zone within Marine Protected Areas. South Africa will do this to ensure environmental sustainability because MPAs deliver ecosystem services that underpin South African livelihoods, food security and ecotourism.

Russia committed to grow its protected area network by establishing at least 27 federal protected areas and expanding 12 others, increasing the total area of federal protected areas by 22 percent, or 13 million hectares.

Critical habitats for important threatened species, including the Amur tiger in the Bikin River watershed in Russia’s Far East, the polar bear in the Novosibirsk Archipelago, the Siberian crane in Yakutia, and the Beluga whale in the White Sea near the Solovetsky Archipelago, among others, will be granted protection.

Japan’s Ministry of the Environment committed to working with the IUCN Asia Regional Office to enhance collaboration among Asian countries on protected areas management through the Asia Protected Area Partnership, which was officially established during the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014.

China committed to increase its protected areas territory to at least 20 percent by 2020, and to match Chinese categories of protected areas to global standards.

The Promise of Sydney is the foundation for pathways the WWF and IUCN can take over the next 10 years to ensure that protected areas can be perceived as one of the best investments in the planet’s future.

The 10-year partnership aims to make the case for direct investment in protected areas and protected area systems that demonstrate enhanced conservation outcomes.


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: A wildebeest grazes beside a vast flock of flamingos at Tanzania’s Lake Magadi in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. (Photo courtesy IUCN World Parks Congress)
Slideshow Images: A.  The Three Sisters – Australia’s Blue Mountains National Park is located in the Blue Mountains region of New South Wales, in eastern Australia. (Photo courtesy Nosha via Flickr) B. Half Dome seen from Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park, California, USA (Photo courtesy IUCN World Parks Congress) C. Guere Community conservation area, Choiseul, Solomon Islands (Photo courtesy IUCN World Parks Congress)

Financing Sustainable Development: a ‘Quiet Revolution’ Underway

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By Sunny Lewis

LIMA, Peru, October 13, 2015 (ENS) – The world’s leading development banks Friday pledged to boost climate finance by committing $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to a warming planet.

At the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Annual meetings held in Lima October 9-11, bankers explored exactly what financial support is required to keep the planet from tipping into climate catastrophe.

In Lima, they were offered the results of a two-year-long inquiry conducted by the UN Environment Programme summarized in a new report, “The Financial System We Need.”

The UNEP Inquiry  found that “a quiet revolution” is happening right now.

World Bank Vice President and Special Climate Envoy Rachel Kyte called the changes “a new generation of policy innovations that aim to ensure the financial system serves the needs of inclusive, environmentally-sustainable, economic development.”

Financial policymakers and regulators are now integrating sustainable development into financial systems to make them respond to a 21st century facing rising temperatures and a burgeoning population in need of clean energy and clean water.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “UNEP’s Inquiry has for the first time compiled and analyzed inspiring initiatives from across the world that seek to better align the financial system with sustainable development, showing that there is much to be learnt from the developing world.”

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Image: UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner (Photo courtesy UN Environment Programme)

The inquiry documented an upwelling of sustainable development momentum driven by developing and emerging nations including Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Kenya, and Peru, championed by France and the United Kingdom.

The UNEP Inquiry reports that, “Amplifying these experiences through national and international action could channel private capital to finance the transition to an inclusive, green economy and support the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

These 17 goals , adopted by the UN General Assembly in September, range from ending poverty and hunger, ensuring clean water and sanitation for all, urgent action to control climate change, and responsible use of forests and oceans, to making cities safe and resilient, and ensuring gender quality and justice across the world.

The UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System was established in January 2014 with a mandate to advance policy options linking the financial system with sustainable development.

Backed by a high-level Advisory Council of financial leaders, the Inquiry has looked in-depth at practice in more than 15 countries related to banking, bond and equity markets, institutional investment, insurance and monetary policy.

To reach its findings, the Inquiry worked with central banks, environment ministries and international financial institutions as well as major banks, stock exchanges, pension funds and insurance companies.

The Inquiry’s report presents a Framework for Action with a toolbox of 40 different measures, a set of five policy packages for banking, bond and equity markets, institutional investors and insurance, and a set of 10 next steps to promote international financial cooperation.

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Murilo Portugal, the president of Brazil’s banking association, FEBRABAN, and a member of the Inquiry’s Advisory Council, said Friday, “The Inquiry has catalyzed awareness of the need to align financial markets to sustainable development, and highlighted practical pathways to improving such an alignment.”

FEBRABAN offers three key insights based on the UNEP report:

  • Financing for sustainable development can be delivered through measures focused on the financial system, as well as the real economy.
  • A growing number of policy innovations have been introduced by both developing and developed countries, demonstrating how the financial system can be better aligned with sustainable development.
  • Systematic national action can now be taken to shape a sustainable financial system, informed by current trends and complemented by international cooperation.

Bankers and financiers in many countries are already moving towards sustainable development. The UNEP Inquiry found over 100 measures that are already in place, including:

  • In Peru, new due diligence requirements have been introduced for banks to help reduce social and environmental externalities.
  • In China, a portfolio of 14 distinct recommendations advances China’s green financial system, covering information, legal, institutional and fiscal measures.
  • Kenya has advanced financial inclusion through scaling of mobile-based payment services and is now also supporting green financing.
  • In France, new disclosure requirements on climate change have been introduced for institutional investors as part of the country’s energy transition legislation.
  • The United States is emphasizing fiscal measures to accelerate green finance and has made advances in disclosure and investor action.

Naina Kidwai, chairman of India’s branch of British banking and financial services company HSBC and director, HSBC Asia Pacific, is a member of the Inquiry’s Advisory Council.

Kidwai found the UNEP report useful, saying, “Too often the financial system and sustainable development have been tackled in separate silos. The Inquiry has shown for the first time how to systematically connect the dots, demonstrating practical ways in which we can mobilize the scale of capital needed in emerging markets, particularly for clean energy and clean water.”

Speaking in Lima, Yi Gang, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said the UNEP Inquiry report “delivers a vision of embedding sustainable development into the core of financial and capital markets.”

“It should be a very useful guide and reference for many governments, financial institutions and international organizations in thinking about how to advance green finance,” said Yi.

The core definition of sustainable development is, “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

It was first defined in the 1987 publication “Our Common Future,” by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as the Brundtland Report after former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who chaired the commission.

Brundtland saw that the many crises facing the planet are interlocking elements of a single crisis of the whole and saw the need for the active participation of all sectors of society in sustainable development consultations and decisions.

These elements stand forth again nearly 30 years later in the UNEP Inquiry report presented to the World Bank and IMF fall meeting in Lima.

Dr. Atiur Rahman, governor of the Bangladesh Bank, and a member of the UNEP Inquiry’s Advisory Council, said in Lima, “For the first time, the Inquiry has mapped the many innovations around the world seeking to ensure that the financial system serves its purpose of financing inclusive, green development.”


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: Bank governors and finance ministers pose for a photograph at the IMFC meeting October 9, 2015 during the 2015 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Stephen Jaffe courtesy IMF)
Header Image: World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim briefs the media at the IMF-World Bank Group Fall meeting in Lima, Peru, October 8, 2015 (Photo courtesy World Bank Group)
Image 03: International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde briefs the press at the 2015 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru, Oct. 8, 2015. (Photo by Stephen Jaffe courtesy IMF)

UN General Assembly Embraces 17 Sustainable Development Goals

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 28, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Resounding applause filled the UN General Assembly hall Friday as the 193 Member States of the United Nations unanimously approved a new global agenda to end poverty by 2030 and achieve a sustainable future.

Adopted on the UN’s 70th anniversary, the agenda is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.

“The new agenda is a promise by leaders to all people everywhere. It is a universal, integrated and transformative vision for a better world,” declared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“It is an agenda for people, to end poverty in all its forms,” Ban said. “It is an agenda for shared prosperity, peace and partnership that conveys the urgency of climate action and is rooted in gender equality and respect for the rights of all. Above all, it pledges to leave no one behind.”

The official adoption came shortly after Pope Francis addressed the General Assembly. “The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the World Summit, which opens today, is an important sign of hope,” said the pontiff.

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The 17 new Sustainable Development Goals, also called the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, aim to end poverty, hunger and inequality, take action on climate change and the environment, improve access to health and education and build strong institutions.

“Never before have world leaders pledged common action and endeavor across such a broad and universal policy agenda,” states the Declaration adopted by the General Assembly.

“We are setting out together on the path towards sustainable development, devoting ourselves collectively to the pursuit of global development and of ‘win-win’ cooperation which can bring huge gains to all countries and all parts of the world,” the Declaration states.

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark, a former New Zealand Prime Minister, said, “Ours is the last generation which can head off the worst effects of climate change, and the first generation with the wealth and knowledge to eradicate poverty. For this, fearless leadership from us all is needed.”

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner said Friday, “Every so often the world takes a historic step forward as a global community. Today, nations of the world moved forward together on a pathway to a sustainable future.”

“For the first time, we have a development agenda that is focused on sustainability in both the developing and the developed world,” said Steiner. “The 17 Global Goals crucially incorporate environmental sustainability and social equity with economic progress. That integration will be critical to a sustainable pathway forward for the planet and its peoples.”

The Sustainable Development Goals build on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight anti-poverty targets that the world committed to achieving by 2015. Since the MDGs were adopted in 2000, progress has been made, but much more remains to be done.

The Global Goals include issues that were not in the MDGs such as climate change, sustainable consumption, innovation and the importance of peace and justice for all.

In all the enthusiasm for clean sources of energy to limit climate change, the World Coal Association (WCA) does not want to be left behind, even though burning coal emits planet-warming greenhouse gases.

From WCA headquarters in London, Chief Executive Benjamin Sporton welcomed the Global Goals and stressed the link between lack of energy and global poverty.

“Energy poverty is a dire reality,” said Sporton. “Today there are 1.3 billion people across the globe without access to electricity. This is equivalent to the entire population of China.”

“It is also imperative that we adopt the use of the best available technology to ensure coal is used as cleanly as possible,” Sporton said. “This includes high efficiency, low emissions (HELE) coal technologies and carbon capture and storage. HELE coal technologies provide significant immediate CO2 reductions.”

For UN leaders, raising public awareness of the Global Goals is the first order of business.

The UNDP held Social Good Summits in more than 100 countries, running in parallel with the three-day Sustainable Development Summit in New York.

In the first collaboration of its kind the Global Goals were featured on 19 major digital platforms and internet portals including the Google homepage, Yahoo, The Huffington Post and Twitter with a potential reach of up to two billion people.

The world’s largest partnership of 26 mobile network operators sent out almost one billion text messages and connected over 4.8 billion customers in over 100 countries with a message about the Global Goals.

Hans Vestberg, resident and CEO of Ericsson, the Swedish multinational provider of communication technology and services, said, “Uniting leaders in the industry to bring the important message of the Global Goals to billions of people demonstrates how technology is such a powerful force for good.”

Google unveiled the crowd-sourced film “We the People” written by Richard Curtis and Mat Whitecross when the Goals were adopted on the September 25.

No Point Going Half Way“, a short film by Richard Curtis featuring Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt explains why we should finish what we started with the Millennium Development Goals, as we can end poverty by 2030 and tackle inequality and climate change.

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Curtis, founder of Project Everyone, said, “The digital world is the definitive example of how we are all connected. Its collaborations like this that will help us to be the first generation to end extreme poverty, the most determined generation in history to end injustice and inequality, and the last generation to be threatened by climate change.”

Pearl Jam, Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay headlined the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, a free ticketed event on the Great Lawn in New York City’s Central Park on September 26. See the video here at Global Citizen You Tube Channel.

Curtis, who serves as the creative director for the 2015 Global Citizen Festival, said, “We want to give the Global Goals for Sustainable Development the noisiest launch in history in the belief that the more famous they are, the more effective they will be.”

“My particular job is to turn the Festival into an hour-long TV program,” said Curtis, “all part of a huge campaign to get the word of the Goals out through TV, cinema, schools, on-line and through Radio Everyone, a unique global network of broadcasters and talent.”

The YouTube homepage is featuring Global Goals videos for a week from September 25. YouTube live streamed the Global Citizen Festival on September 26, also featured on the Google search homepage.

MSN, which reaches 400 million people a month, is creating a Global Goals “hub” on its platform.

The Wikimedia Foundation is encouraging Wikipedia’s volunteers to translate articles covering the goals into as many languages as possible for its hundreds of millions of users.

Baidu with its 500m+ monthly users will create a special Baidupedia page dedicated to the Global Goals Campaign, containing all the key information in Chinese, including the 17 Goals and the ‘We The People’ Video.

The Bing homepage will feature the Global Goals on September 28. Yahoo with one billion users, will feature dedicated editorial content on each goal on both Yahoo and Tumblr.

Skype will be supporting the World’s Largest Lesson through Skype in the Classroom reaching two million educators.

Over the last four years, through the Global Poverty Project people have taken nearly three million actions against extreme poverty. These actions have resulted in 87 commitments and policy announcements, including cash commitments valued at US$18.3 billion.

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Back at UN Headquarters, Secretary-General Ban said Friday, “The true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation. We need action from everyone, everywhere. Seventeen Sustainable Development Goals are our guide. They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success.”

 The 17 Global Goals are:

  1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere
  2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
  3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
  4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
  5. Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
  7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
  8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full, productive employment and decent work for all
  9. Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
  10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
  11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
  12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  13. Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  14. Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
  16. Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  17. Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development

As of August 2015, there were 169 proposed targets for these goals and 304 proposed indicators to show compliance.

In addition: Here is a great data visualization infographic on impact of construction


 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 : Delegates celebrate in the General Assembly Hall following the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Cia Pak courtesy United Nations)

Image 02: Pope Francis and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at UN Headquarters in New York, September 25, 2015 (Photo by Devra Berkowitz courtesy United Nations)

Image 03: Beyoncé and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam sing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song at the Global Citizens Festival in New York’s Central Park, September 26, 2015 (Photo by Niran Shrestha via Instagram)

Image 04: Ahead of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit from September 25-27, and to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, a 10-minute film introducing the Sustainable Development Goals is projected onto the UN Headquarters Secretariat building and General Assembly building. (Photo by Cia Pak courtesy United Nations)