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Vote for 2018 Young Champions of the Earth

A healthy reef in Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge, located 1,305 nautical miles south of Honolulu. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) Public domain.

A healthy reef in Jarvis Island National Wildlife Refuge, located 1,305 nautical miles south of Honolulu. (Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, June 21, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Mohamed Abdirahman, 29, of Hargeisa, Somaliland established his own tree-planting program in 2015, the same year he graduated from the University of Hargeisa with a degree in Environmental Science. He is now one of 35 finalists worldwide in the contest for the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth prize.

“My big idea is to plant trees in cities while educating youth in schools and universities about the importance of forests and mobilizing them to participate in a nationwide reforestation program,” said Abdirahman. “This will build on work that I have already undertaken to promote tree-planting at weddings, graduation ceremonies, and schools. My goal is to bring back the forests of Somaliland and foster a national culture in which caring for the environment is recognized by everyone as their moral responsibility.”

Now in its second year, Young Champions of the Earth is a global competition that seeks out entrepreneurs and innovators with big ideas to secure a sustainable future. All of the finalists’ ideas address urgent environmental issues in innovative ways.

Their proposals range from land-based coral farms to replenish the dying coral reefs around the world and a plan for breeding fatty insects as a source of biofuel, to be used as an alternative for palm oil.

There are educational initiatives involving board games, music and digital platforms to raise environmental awareness; tackling plastic pollution through recycling and upcycling into bricks and urinals, and an integrated system of wildfire detectors that could prevent destructive fires.

Mohamed Abdirahman, 29, of Somaliland is one of five finalists from Africa in the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth competition. (Photo courtesy UNEP) Posted for media use

Mohamed Abdirahman, 29, of Somaliland is one of five finalists from Africa in the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth competition. (Photo courtesy UNEP) Posted for media use

“The Young Champions of the Earth prize is highlighting exactly how creative, dedicated and driven young people can be when it comes to the future of our environment,” said UN Environment chief Erik Solheim. “These regional finalists are an inspiration to all of us, that hard work and a positive outlook are a powerful way to reach a goal, even one as ambitious as a sustainable world for all.”

Seven final winners will each receive the prestigious prize along with US$15,000 in seed funding, mentorship from industry leaders and access to a wide network of influencers to bring their ideas into fruition.

Members of the public can view and rate the 35 proposals here. The non-binding public vote will close at 4 pm Eastern Africa Time, three hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), on Monday, June 25.

The public online vote will inform a global jury that will select the winning 2018 Young Champions in September.

Here are some of the big ideas that have attracted attention in the online voting.

Europe

Maria Sousa, 25, a systems engineer from Portugal, is a finalist in the Young Champions contest. Her big idea centers on early fire detection through remote sensing using artificial intelligence.

A research fellow at the Center of Intelligent Systems at IDMEC-Institute of Mechanical Engineering in Lisbon, Sousa’s big idea is to have a dynamic network of sensors that can relay real-time data when there are forecasts of increased fire risk. Her system relies on static sensors as well as mobile aerial platforms such as drones and high-altitude balloons for extensive area coverage.

Asia & the Pacific

Natalie Kyriacou, 30, of Australia, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit My Green World, the Creator of World of the Wild mobile game app, and the Australian Director of Sri Lankan-based NGO, Dogstar Foundation, is a sitting member of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper  and a Forbes 30 Under 30  honoree. She is also a finalist in the 2018 Young Champions of the Earth competition.

Kyriacou’s big idea is Kids’ Corner, a digital classroom inspiring children and educators to participate in wildlife and environmental conservation and sciences through workshop-based environmental programs, animation videos, fact sheets, infographics, reading materials, teachers’ notes, games and home activities. “Kids’ Corner breaks down complex issues into easy, fun, positive and actionable concepts that can be used in any setting,” she says. Kids’ Corner will be available online and offline, and in homes, schools and hospitals.

North America

This Majik Water proof of concept prototype "hacks" existing technology to generate 10 liters of water per day from the air using solar technology. (Photo courtesy Majik Water) Posted for media use

This Majik Water proof of concept prototype “hacks” existing technology to generate 10 liters of water per day from the air using solar technology. (Photo courtesy Majik Water) Posted for media use

Anastasia Kaschenko, 23, of Canada, has already founded three sustainability ventures, raising more than $60,000 to seed those projects. She was on a finalist team competing in the $20 million Carbon XPRIZE. Kaschenko was recently selected as a Singularity University Fellow, at NASA Ames Research Center  in MountainView, California. There, she launched Majik Water, which harvests clean drinking water from air. Majik Water received the MIT Water Innovation Award and was recognized by “Financial Times” as one of 50 Ideas to Change the World.

Majik Water uses novel technology combined with locally-adapted design to harvest clean drinking water from the air and deliver it to people and communities in the world’s driest places, starting in Kenya.

Majik technology uses solar thermal energy and abundantly available, non-toxic, sponge-like desiccant materials, to generate 10 liters of water per day from the air, making it possible to get water in a low cost, energy efficient way.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Gator Halpern, 27, of the Bahamas, spent time as a teenager living with indigenous Mayan communities, where he learned that he wanted to devote his life “to protecting the environment from the forces threatening their livelihoods.”

Halpern calls his big idea Coral Vita, the creation of land-based coral farms to restore and sustain the world’s coral reefs.

“Over 30 percent of global coral reefs are dead, and more than 75 percent are projected to die by 2050. This is an ecological tragedy and a serious socio-economic problem, as reefs sustain one-third of all marine life, support some one billion people globally, and generate US$30 billion annually through tourism, fisheries, and coastal protection,” says Halpern.

Coral Vita is creating a global network of innovative land-based coral farms, using breakthrough methods developed at the Mote Marine Lab and the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology to grow corals up to 50 times faster while strengthening their resiliency to climate change. The land-based farms are scalable, potentially growing millions of corals from a single site. Coral Vita’s business model can support restoration at unprecedented scales. By taking a community-based approach, locals are engaged to promote long-term reef stewardship.

West Asia

Karim Shrayedeh, 29, of Jordan, is the current Project Proposals Writer of The Jordanian Hashemite Fund for Human Development, the largest and oldest nonprofit organization in Jordan.

Shrayedeh’s big idea is the Protection of Water Dams in Jordan that aims to protect the environment by increasing vegetation coverage in the catchment areas of two dams that supply Jordan’s capital city Amman and Al-Karak with water.

“Both the Wadi Almujab and Wadi Al-Karak dams are facing increased accumulation of sand and other sediments. This has diminished their storage capacities, threatening vital supplies of water to agriculture. Without the dam water, farmers will be forced to tap precious limited groundwater resources, an unsustainable scenario,” says Sharayedeh.

Jordanians and Syrian refugees will be employed for a total of 75,000 working days to increase vegetation coverage in the catchment areas, creating new job opportunities, enhancing social inclusion and fostering a sense of shared responsibility for the maintenance of the dams and their catchment areas.

The 35 finalists were selected from a pool of 760 submitted project ideas across a wide spectrum of impact areas.

The review of applications was conducted by a global team of 20 UN Environment staff in conjunction with representatives and affiliates of CoalitionWILD.

The Young Champions competition is supported by Covestro, one of the world’s largest polymer companies. Covestro CEO Dr. Markus Steilemann said, “As one of the world’s leading contributors of materials for sustainable development, we’re honored to partner with UN Environment to inspire and motivate young people across the world to contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.”


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First Mover Banks Come Clean on Climate Risk

Mark Carney, left, and Michael Bloomberg are authors of the final recommendations of the G20 Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. Carney is a Canadian economist who currently serves as Governor of the Bank of England and chairs the Financial Stability Board. American businessman, author, politician, and philanthropist, Bloomberg is a former mayor of New York City. His current net worth is estimated at US$50.4 billion, ranking him as the world's sixth richest person. (Photo courtesy G20 Financial Stability Board) posted for media use.

Mark Carney, left, and Michael Bloomberg are authors of the final recommendations of the G20 Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. Carney is a Canadian economist who currently serves as Governor of the Bank of England and chairs the Financial Stability Board. American businessman, author, politician, and philanthropist, Bloomberg is a former mayor of New York City. His current net worth is estimated at US$50.4 billion, ranking him as the world’s sixth richest person. (Photo courtesy G20 Financial Stability Board) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, July 18, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Eleven of the world’s most influential banks have committed to work with the UN Environment Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) to promote climate transparency in financial markets. The banks will develop analytical tools to strengthen their assessment and disclosure of climate-related risks and opportunities.

“The message from financial heavyweights is clear – climate change poses a real and serious threat to our economy,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, formerly known as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

“At the same time, there are enormous business opportunities in taking climate action,” Solheim said. “Transparency on how financial institutions mitigate the risks and seize the opportunities of a two degrees pathway is crucial to move international markets towards actively supporting a low-carbon and climate-resilient future.”

The “two degrees pathway” is a reference to the Paris Agreement on climate, which has near unanimous support among world governments, for its goal of holding any rise in the global warming to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures.

UNEP FI, a partnership between UN Environment and the global financial sector created after the 1992 Earth Summit, works to promote sustainable finance. Over 200 financial institutions – banks, insurers and investors – work with UN Environment to understand today’s environmental challenges, why they matter to finance, and how to actively participate in addressing them.

Representing over US$7 trillion, the first-mover 11 banks are:

  • the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group;
  • the British multinational bank and financial services company Barclays;
  • Brazilian banking and financial services company Bradesco;
  • New York-based multinational bank and financial services company Citi;
  • Itaú Unibanco Holding S.A, the largest financial conglomerate in the Southern Hemisphere;
  • National Australia Bank;
  • Royal Bank of Canada;
  • Santander Group, which serves more than 100 million customers in the United Kingdom, Latin America, and Europe;
  • Standard Chartered, a British banking and financial services company operating more than 1,200 branches in 70 countries;
  • TD Bank Group, a Canadian multinational banking and financial services corporation headquartered in Toronto;
  • UBS, a Swiss global financial services company.

These banks’ commitments follow the publication late last month of the final recommendations by the G20’s Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) .

The initiative will enable banks to follow the recommendations of the Task Force headed by Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg. The Task Force recommendations were presented in Hamburg, Germany at the G20 annual meeting last week.

“Increasing transparency makes markets more efficient and economies more stable and resilient,” said Bloomberg in the Executive Summary of the Task Force report.

Key features of the recommendations are that they must be: adoptable by all organizations, included in financial filings, designed to solicit decision-useful, forward-looking information on financial impacts, and have a strong focus on risks and opportunities related to transition to a lower-carbon economy.

The Task Force presents the financial side of climate change, saying, “For many investors, climate change poses significant financial challenges and opportunities, now and in the future. The expected transition to a lower-carbon economy is estimated to require around $1 trillion of investments a year for the foreseeable future, generating new investment opportunities. At the same time, the risk-return profile of organizations exposed to climate-related risks may change significantly as such organizations may be more affected by physical impacts of climate change, climate policy, and new technologies.”

The banks not only welcome the Task Force’s recommendations but are the first from their industry to work towards adopting key elements of the unique framework.

Bank executives say that by improving their understanding of climate-related risks and opportunities, financial institutions are better placed to help finance the transition to a more stable and sustainable economy.

Ed Skyler, ‎executive vice president for global public affairs at Citi, said, “The scale and sophistication of climate risk and opportunity continue to grow, and the finance sector has an important role in shaping the path forward. Working together to refine our approaches to enhanced disclosure will help accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.”‎

The Financial Stability Board, chaired by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, asked the Task Force to develop voluntary, consistent climate-related financial risk disclosures for use by companies, investors, lenders and insurers.

Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays PLC, said, “As a contributing member to the work of the FSB Task Force over the past 18 months, Barclays is pleased to be able to continue our involvement by joining this UNEP FI Working Group.  Putting the theory into practice – or exploring how best the Recommendations can be implemented – and creating greater transparency for all participants, is an endeavour we look forward to working on with our fellow Working Group participants.”

The Task Force warns in no uncertain terms about the dangers of continuing with fossil fuel business as usual, particularly after the Paris Agreement was adopted in December 2015.

“To stem the disastrous effects of climate change within this century, nearly 200 countries agreed in December 2015 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate the transition to a lower-carbon economy. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions implies movement away from fossil fuel energy and related physical assets. This coupled with rapidly declining costs and increased deployment of clean and energy-efficient technologies could have significant, near-term financial implications for organizations dependent on extracting, producing, and using coal, oil, and natural gas.”

“While such organizations may face significant climate-related risks, they are not alone. In fact, climate-related risks and the expected transition to a lower-carbon economy affect most economic sectors and industries,” the Task Force states.

Its recommendations are being welcomed by financial institutions and civil society alike, as the role of the finance sector in meeting the Paris Climate Agreement’s goals becomes crystal clear.

This first mover project to implement the recommendations puts the 11 UNEP FI members in the vanguard of this effort. Its results will be made public to encourage banks worldwide to adopt the scenarios, models and approaches developed.

“Sustainable finance is about two imperatives – improving the contribution of finance to sustainable, low-carbon and inclusive growth, and ensuring financial stability in light of environmental risks such as climate change,” said Christian Thimann, group head of strategy, sustainability and public affairs at the AXA Group, and co-chair of UNEP FI and TCFD vice-chair.

“The TCFD framework emphasizes how achieving these two goals requires that financial and non-financial corporations provide more transparency on how they plan to address the risks and opportunities related to climate change,” said Thimann.

Denise Hills, sustainability superintendent, Itaú, and co-chair of the UNEP FI Steering Committee, said, “Our participation in this UNEP FI initiative strengthens our commitment to a global economy in transition. At the same time, it reinforces our purpose to be a transformation agent to add value for our clients, shareholders and society in an ethical, consistent and responsible way.”

“After the G20,” said Thimann, “the issue now is about implementation. How can the finance industry put the framework into practice and deliver disclosure that is meaningful? Through this and other industry-led working groups UNEP FI is helping the finance sector to do just that: move from awareness to action.”


Featured Image: The Citigroup Center in Chicago, Illinois (Photo by anokarina) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

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Rio Summer Olympics ‘Embrace’ Sustainability

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The Estádio do Maracanã is a 78,838 seat open-air stadium in the city of Rio owned by the Rio de Janeiro state government. South America’s largest stadium, it will be the venue for the Rio Olympics opening ceremonies on August 5 and closing ceremonies on August 21. (Photo by Luciano Silva) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

RIO de JANEIRO, Brazil, July 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – A new set of sustainability measures to support the greening of the Rio Summer Olympic Games were agreed by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics Organizing Committee as far back as 2013.

Expressing its commitment to achieving sustainability, the “Embrace” Rio 2016 plan is based on three pillars: Planet, People and Prosperity, and has been established with the input of the federal, state and municipal governments.

The slogan “Embrace” Rio 2016 is being used in all Games communications related to the Sustainability Plan. The idea behind the name is to engage people, inviting them to be part of the transformation promoted by the event, which opens on Friday, August 5 and ends on Sunday, August 21.

A technical cooperation agreement with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was signed at the launch of the sustainability program in August 2013. It expected to provide an evaluation plan and mediation around the subject of sustainability between Rio 2016 and the people of Brazil.

Denise Hamú, UNEP’s representative in Brazil, said, “Our goal is to integrate sustainability in all organizational processes, reducing the impact of the Games and setting an example of good practice for society as a whole. Together, sports and environment are powerful tools for sustainable development. For this reason, the UNEP has worked in partnership with the Olympic Movement over the last two decades.

Sustainability round tables originated during dialogue between the Organizing Committee and civil society groups in 2013. They began in 2014 and examined six topics in depth: urban mobility, climate change, sustainability education, protection of children and teenagers, diversity and inclusion, and transparency.

The Games will inevitably generate environmental impacts,” says the Organizing Committee. “We are talking about high consumption of water, energy, raw materials, food and so on. Rio 2016 undertakes to use all resources conscientiously and rationally, prioritizing certified, reusable and recyclable materials.”

 Discussions led to awareness, and the Organizing Committee has acted responsibly in many ways during planning and preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

  • 100 percent certified wood: Rio 2016 undertook to buy all the timber items required for the Games from sources with chain of custody certification. That means that the timber is logged sustainably and traceability is guaranteed from the time the timber leaves the forest through to the end user.
  • Sustainable headquarters: Rio 2016 has its headquarters in a temporary building. After the Olympics are over, it will be taken down, and 80 percent of the material will be reused in future structures. While in use, the building consumes 70 percent less energy than ordinary buildings. Timers on bathroom wash basins, intelligent flushes and a rainwater collection system enables the Organizing Committee to cut water consumption.
  • Material life-cycle analysis: The Organizing Committee has analyzed the life-cycles of 106 materials being used by the Games visual identity team to ensure conscientious and sustainable choices and minimize their environmental impact.

With the intention of delivering low-impact Games, the Organizing Committee has completed a study of the carbon footprint of the Rio Games and defined an emissions management strategy, based on impact measurement, cutting emissions, mitigation where possible and offsetting what cannot be mitigated.

To avert some of the consequences of energy use at the Games, Rio 2016 and Worldwide TOP Partner Dow announced the most comprehensive carbon dioxide (CO2) offset program in Olympic Games history. As the Official Carbon Partner of Rio 2016, Dow will mitigate 500,000 tons of CO2 equivalents through third party-verified emissions reductions somewhere else.

  • Technology-based carbon mitigation plan: This plan aims to mitigate 100 percent of the emissions generated by the Rio 2016 Games, which will amount to 500,000 tonnes of co2eq direct emissions from operation of the Games and 1.5 million tonnes of co2eq from spectators. Mitigation projects involve the agriculture, manufacturing and civil engineering sectors, and they will reap short, medium and long-term benefits.
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One of Rio’s new state-of-the-art trams makes its way through the new-look waterfront district (Photo by Bruno Bartholini / Porto Maravilha) Posted for media use

Known as the VLT, Rio’s new light rail system started running in June. The high-tech trams have transformed public transport in the city center and given a futuristic look to the business district. The trams connect Santos Dumont domestic airport to the long-distance bus station, running through the waterfront district and stopping along the way at new museums and the busy cruise ship terminal. More than 200,000 people have already used the service.

Fleets of buses and trucks will be fueled by diesel containing 20 percent recycled cooking oil. Biodiesel emits less carbon and sulphur than petroleum diesel. It is estimated that 20,000 oil collectors will be involved, boosting the development of this production chain.

  • Logistics efficiency program: Logistics are a major factor in boosting the Games’ CO2 emissions. Rio 2016 is designing an intelligent route model to cut transportation time, fuel consumption and carbon emissions for the more than 30 million items to be brought in for the Games.

Allowing for public involvement has been an key part of the Organizing Committee’s work. Initial dialogue with civil society took place in 2013 and brought together 34 representatives of 24 organizations to assess the content of the Sustainability Management Plan. These meetings were held annually until this year. Organizers hope they will encourage a strong and effective post-Games transformation network.

  • Rio Alimentação Sustentável: Since 2013, Rio 2016 has been working in partnership with this voluntary organization focusing on healthy, sustainable foods. It is proposed that the Games act as a driving force to improve this sector in Brazil.

Rio 2016 has entered into partnerships with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council so that suppliers can obtain sustainability certification for fish and seafood to be eaten during the Games.

For Rio 2016, one of the key points is waste management, since large volumes of waste will be generated daily during the Games. The great challenge is to minimize waste and raise awareness among spectators, athletes, volunteers about the best way to dispose of and recycle waste.

  • Rio 2016 headquarters waste management: The Organizing Committee has been operating without buying plastic cups, reducing the number of printers available and not providing individual waste bins.
  • Guide to sustainability for packaging: One of the critical points in the generation of waste is packaging. With this in mind, in April 2013, Rio 2016 published a guide to sustainable packaging, in which the committee laid down sustainability options and mandatory requirements for this category of items, including labeling, eco-design, accessibility of information and packaging materials.
  • Games waste management strategies: The strategy began during the preparatory phase and will end when the venues are dismantled. Recycling cooperatives will be involved, and the strategy is based on this sequence: waste generation avoidance → minimizing volume → managing inevitable waste → promoting behavioral change. The strategy also includes treatment of organic waste through composting, in order to reduce the amount that is sent to landfills.
  • Olympic Games Impact (OGI) study: In 2014, the Organizing Committee published its first OGI study, carried out by the Rio de Janeiro Federal University School of Engineering and containing an analysis of 22 environmental, 76 socio-cultural and 25 economic indicators. The first edition relates to the period 2007-2013. A further three reports are to be published, covering impacts up to 2019.

After successfully hosting 44 test events, the Rio 2016 team and the venues are ready for action, with all the facilities receiving their final Olympic touches before the athletes start to arrive. The velodrome and equestrian venues, which were being monitored closely by the organizers, are in the final stage of preparation, and will be ready for the Games.

Golf as an Olympic sport was added just this year, and Rio created a golf course in the previously degraded area of Marapendi, west of Rio to host the new sport. Before the start of work, about 80 percent of the golf course land was degraded by sand extraction, and by the manufacturing and storage of pre-cast concrete.

Over at the Olympic Golf Course, Rio 2016 Sustainability Coordinator Carina Flores says the fresh vegetation has led to “a positive spiral for the development of wildlife.”

 Records indicate the presence of 263 animal species in the region today, as compared with 118 mapped before construction.

 An inspection of the golf course was conducted in December 2015, after a public civil action was filed by state prosecutors who questioned the environmental impact of the golf course construction work. Prosecutors, legal advisors and technicians environmentalists were among the inspectors.

 The forensic report from Brazil’s Court of Justice concluded, “The environmental gain in the region with the construction of the golf course is visible. In addition to the flora, which increased extensively, we can observe the different animal species that have returned to the area.

Rio 2016 is ready to welcome the world,” said International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission Chair Nawal el Moutawakel.

The Olympians of 2016 can look forward to living in an outstanding Olympic Village and competing in absolutely stunning venues,” she said. “From views of the Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain to the new state-of-the-art facilities in Barra or Deodoro and the iconic Maracanã Stadium and Copacabana Beach, I cannot imagine more spectacular backdrops for the world’s top sportsmen and women to showcase their talents to a watching world.


World Environment Day Goes Wild for Life

WorldEnvironmentDayPosterBy Sunny Lewis,

NEW YORK, New York, June 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The environmental concerns of the 1970s – industrial pollution of air and water, oil spills, toxic dumps, pesticides, loss of wilderness and biodiversity – inspired people to set aside two distinct days each year for activities aimed at saving the planet.

In 1970, environmental activists in the United States celebrated Planet Earth on April 22 and dubbed it Earth Day. Now, Earth Day motivates millions to take action in countries throughout the world, not just on April 22 but for weeks both before and after that date.

 Then, in 1972, the United Nations General Assembly adopted June 5 as World Environment Day with the goal of encouraging everyone to prevent the growing strain on the planet’s natural systems from reaching the breaking point.

On June 5, 1974 the UN held the first World Environment Day in the city of Spokane, in the U.S. state of Washington at Expo ’74, the first environmentally themed world’s fair.

Forty-two years later, the two separate days of environmental action reached harmony this year on April 22, Earth Day, at UN Headquarters in New York as the leaders of 175 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement negotiated in December.

The event broke the record for number of countries to sign a UN pact in a single day. The Paris agreement moves the world toward what EU Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič told fellow signatories is “a fundamental and ground-breaking transition to a low-carbon economy and society.”

World Environment Day 2016 also has been dramatic. Hosted by the West African country of Angola, this year’s theme “Go Wild for Life,” is dedicated to conserving wildlife and stamping out the illicit wildlife trade.

The 2016 theme highlights the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife, which erodes precious biodiversity and threatens the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers, as well as many other species.

Angola is seeking to restore its elephant herds, conserve Africa’s biodiverse wildlife, and safeguard the environment as it rebuilds after more than a quarter-century of a civil war that ended just 14 years ago.

“Angola is delighted to host World Environment Day, which will focus on an issue close to our hearts,” said Angolan Environment Minister Maria de Fatima Jardim.

“The illegal wildlife trade, particularly the trade in ivory and rhino horn, is a major problem across our continent,” she said. “By hosting this day of celebration and awareness-raising, we aim to send a clear message that such practices will soon be eradicated.”

The government of Angola recently launched several initiatives to enhance conservation and strengthen environmental law enforcement

To demonstrate its commitment to curb elephant poaching, Angola last year submitted a National Ivory Action Plan as part of its membership of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. This international agreement is designed to prevent trade in wild animals and plants from threatening their survival.

Angola’s plan includes stiff penalties for poaching and ivory trafficking and stronger policing, including more training for wildlife rangers and the posting of a wildlife crime unit to the international airport in the capital, Luanda.

In March, Angolan officials presented a draft law banning the sale of ivory, a move that would end the open sale of ivory artefacts at Luanda’s bustling Benfica market.

It is unclear how many elephants remain in Angola, but those that do are facing pressure from poachers seeking to profit from ivory sales and poor communities who rely on bushmeat to survive.

The nation is also a transit country for ivory, with carved goods coming over the border from the Democratic Republic of Congo for re-sale, largely to Asian nations.

The troubles facing Angola are part of a wider global problem. A new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-INTERPOL report, released on June 4, found that transnational criminal networks are making up to $258 billion per year from environmental crimes, including the illegal trade in wildlife – a 26 percent increase over previous estimates.

In response to its problem, Angola is introducing tougher penalties for poaching, shutting down its domestic illegal markets, and looking to provide alternative livelihoods for those at the bottom of the illegal wildlife trade chain. They are also training former combatants to become wildlife rangers.

“We have a big push to manage protected areas and create others for the benefit of our people,” said Abias Huongo, director of Angola’s National Institute of Biodiversity. “For us to survive, other species need to survive. Together with the tourism ministry, we are exploring the potential of ecotourism to address the economic deficit with biodiversity.”

In Cuando-Cubango, a key region for biodiversity, new lodges are opening. A collection of comfortable huts ranged along the leafy banks of a lazy river near Menongue, the Rio Cuebe lodge has been open for three years.

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UN Environment Programme head Achim Steiner argues the case for wildlife conservation on World Environment Day 2016. (Screengrab from video by UNEP) Posted for media use www.unep.org

Regional ministers and biodiversity experts packed the Rio Cuebe for a conference as part of World Environment Day celebrations, but most of the time it sits half empty. When guests come, they are usually expats working in the country.

But UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner believes this situation is about to begin changing.

 “Angola has, over many years, relied on its fossil-fuel economy, whereas the last year has shown that kind of dependence can be a risk,” he said. “So, as Angola is managing the fall-out from the drop in oil prices it is looking at diversifying. This is where the notion of the green economy becomes relevant.

Cuando-Cubango is a region that could provide an enormous opportunity for investment in terms of tourism,” said Steiner, “a unique area where in 20 years’ time the world will be paying thousands of dollars for an overnight stay.”

Angolans are also discussing the establishment of several vast trans-frontier conservation areas. One would cover the wildlife-rich Okavango Delta in Botswana, and another incorporates Namibia’s wild Skeleton Coast.

Whatever can be done to conserve biodiversity everywhere in the world, it must be done quickly, says Bradnee Chambers, the executive secretary of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals.

“Vulture populations in Africa are collapsing. One reason is that farmers lace carcasses with poison bait with the intention of killing predators such as lions or hyenas that take their livestock; vultures are the unintended victims. But more recently poachers have been trying to kill vultures by contaminating dead elephants slaughtered for their ivory, because by circling over the scene of the crime the birds reveal where the poachers are,” explains Chambers.

“There is a real risk that Africa will lose not only its iconic elephants but also some of its most important birds of prey, which play a critical role in human health as nature’s garbage disposers,” he said.

Wildlife crime also occurs at sea. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is tackling pirate fisheries through the new Port State Measures Agreement, which entered into force on June 5 on World Environment Day.

The new agreement among 29 countries and the European Union prevents vessels from selling their illicit catch and facilitates inspections by port authorities.

 Illegal fisheries not only take millions of tonnes of fish each year but are also responsible for by-catch, a driver in the decline of species such as the vaquita, a Critically Endangered marine mammal in the Gulf of California, and the harbor porpoise in the Baltic Sea.

Each UN agency has a different way of marking World Environment Day. UNESCO and Wiki Loves Earth have partnered to create Wiki Loves Earth Biosphere Reserves, a competition to create photographs free for everyone to use and to enrich Wikipedia. 10 winning images will be shared on the UNESCO website and social media and will be entered into the Wiki Loves Earth international competition. Wiki Loves Earth competitions around the world have created over 180,000 images of protected natural sites.

“On this World Environment Day,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, “I urge people and governments everywhere to overcome indifference, combat greed and act to preserve our natural heritage for the benefit of this and future generations.”


Main Image: Kingsley Mamabolo, an official with the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur, plants a tree during World Environment Day ceremonies held at the Mission’s headquarters in El Fasher, North Darfur, June 5, 2016. (Photo by Mohamad Almahady, UNAMID) Posted for media use

Featured Image: Elaborately dressed, with faces painted white, Angolan girls dance to celebrate World Environment Day, June 5, 2016 (Photo courtesy UNEP) Posted for media use www.unep.org

2050 Climate Adaptation Costs: $500B a Year

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Funding makes possible this cash-for-work and disaster risk reduction project in the West African country of Niger. These half-moon structures in the drought-stricken village of Gobro collect water when it rains, refilling the water table and encouraging the regrowth of vegetation. Oxfam International runs the project in partnership with the local NGO Mooriben and the UN’s World Food Programme. (Photo by Fatoumata Diabate / Oxfam) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – By 2050, the cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries could balloon to $500 billion annually, five times greater than previous estimates, warns a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report calculates the difference between the costs of climate change adaptation in developing countries and the amount of money available to meet these costs – a difference known as the “adaptation finance gap.”

The 2016 Adaptation Finance Gap Report is written by authors from 15 institutions and reviewed by 31 experts. They conclude that failure to cut the greenhouse gas emissions humans are pumping out will send the annual costs of adaptation to climate change skyrocketing into the stratosphere. By 2050 these costs could be up to five times higher than earlier World Bank estimates.

The second in UNEP’s series of Climate Adaptation Gap reports, this assessment finds that total bilateral and multilateral funding for climate change adaptation in developing countries has risen in the five years leading up to 2014, reaching $22.5 billion.

But the report warns that, despite this increase, there will be a major funding gap by 2050 unless new and additional finance for adaptation appears.

“It is vital that governments understand the costs involved in adapting to climate change,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP deputy executive director.

“This report serves as a powerful reminder that climate change will continue to have serious economic costs. The adaptation finance gap is large, and likely to grow substantially over the coming decades, unless significant progress is made to secure new, additional and innovative financing for adaptation,” said Thiaw.

Previous estimates place the cost of adapting to climate change at between $70 to $100 billion annually for the period 2010-2050, a figure based on a World Bank study from 2010.

After reviewing national and sector studies, the new report finds that the World Bank’s earlier figures are likely to be “a significant underestimate.”

The true cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries could range between $140 and $300 billion per year in 2030, and between $280 and $500 billion per year in 2050.

Adaptation costs are likely to increase sharply over time even if the world succeeds in limiting a global rise in temperatures to below two degrees Celsius by 2100, the report warns.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has called on developed countries to provide $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries mitigate climate change, and adapt to its impacts, such as drought, rising sea levels and floods.

But the UNEP report warns, “There is no agreement as to the type of funding that shall be mobilised to meet this goal. This hampers efforts to monitor progress toward meeting the goal.”

“The adaptation finance gap is large, and likely to grow substantially over the coming decades, unless significant progress is made to secure new and additional finance for adaptation,” the report concludes.

The Green Climate Fund, an operating entity of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’ Financial Mechanism, is mandated to promote a paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways in developing countries.

Based in South Korea, the Green Climate Fund has mobilized about US$10 billion and has already made its first investments. It is the largest entity under the financial mechanism of the Paris Climate Agreement, which 195 countries negotiated in December and 170 of them signed April 22 at UN Headquarters in New York.

Green Climate Fund Executive Director Héla Cheikhrouhou said at the signing ceremony, “We need to ensure that the investments GCF makes today and in the years ahead are indeed groundbreaking. We need developing countries and our partner institutions to bring forward project proposals that meet the ambition of Paris, that unlock innovation, and that will truly drive low-emission, climate-resilient development. It is time to convert the words – and signatures – into action!”

To meet finance needs and avoid an adaptation gap, the total finance for adaptation in 2030 would have to be approximately six to 13 times greater than international public finance today, calculates the UNEP report.

Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, outgoing executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, addresses the Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 10, 2016 (Photo by Maartje_Strijbis) Posted for media use.

Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, outgoing executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, addresses the Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 10, 2016 (Photo by Maartje_Strijbis) Posted for media use.

Adaptation costs are already two to three times higher than current international public funding for adaptation, states the report, which was issued May 10 in Rotterdam at Adaptation Futures 2016, the biennial conference of the Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation.

Adaptation Futures 2016 attracted over 1,600 participants from more than 100 countries, people from the business community, from governments and nongovernmental organizations, scientists and climate specialists.


Featured Image: The Adaptation Gap Report 2016 

 

Sustainable Standard Set for Half the World’s Main Dish

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MANILA, Philippines, November 11, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The world’s first standard for sustainable rice cultivation debuted late last month, presented by the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP)a global alliance of agricultural research institutions, agri-food businesses, public sector and civil society organizations.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the United Nations Environment Programme convened the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP) five years ago in order to promote resource use efficiency and climate change resilience in rice systems so important to global food security.

At its 5th Annual Plenary Meeting and General Assembly in Manila October 27-29 the Sustainable Rice Platform welcomed representatives of its 29 institutional stakeholders.

Isabelle Louis, Deputy Regional Director and Representative UNEP Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, opened the meeting by reminding the more than 120 delegates that at least half the world’s people rely on rice.

“With more than half the world’s population, 3.5 billion people, depending on rice for 20 percent or more of their daily calories, and almost one billion of the world’s poorest people dependent on rice as a staple, we are reminded of the critical importance of rice,” she said, “rice as a source of livelihoods and food and nutritional security for billions; rice as a consumer of land, water and other natural assets; and on the other hand, rice as a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.”

“According to IRRI, by 2050, we are going to need 50 percent more rice to feed the world’s population,” said Louis, “and most of this increase will have to come from intensification and increased productivity.”

The new Sustainable Rice Standard is made up of 46 requirements, covering issues from productivity, food safety, worker health, and labor rights to biodiversity protection.

One requirement, for instance, is documented proof that the soil is safe from heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, mercury, and lead.

Another that inbound water is obtained from clean sources that are free of biological, saline, and heavy metal contamination.

A third requirement is that measures are in place to enhance water-use efficiency.

An attached set of quantitative Performance Indicators enables farmers and market supply chain participants to gauge the sustainability of a rice system, and to monitor and reward progress or the lack of progress.

“The SRP Standard represents the world’s first initiative that will set environmentally sustainable and socially responsible rice production management standards,” said Robert Zeigler, director general of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

“Our key challenge now,” he said, “is to incentivize and scale up adoption, especially among resource-poor small farmers.”

The SRP says a fifth of the world’s population depends on rice cultivation for their livelihoods.

The SRP Standard uses environmental and socio-economic benchmarks to accomplish three things: maintain yields for rice smallholders, reduce the environmental footprint of rice cultivation, and meet consumer needs for food safety and quality.

Development of the standard draws on global experience in other sustainable commodity initiatives such as sugar, cotton, coffee and palm oil, said the developers: UTZ Certified, Aidenvironment and IRRI and members of the Sustainable Rice Platform.

They took into account the unique challenges rice cultivation presents for environmental protection.

Growing rice uses 30 to 40 percent of the world’s freshwater and contributes between five and 10 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, especially the potent greenhouse gas methane (CH4), according to the IRRI.

The crop yield is declining from 2.2 percent during the 20 years from 1970-90 to less than 0.8 percent since then.

And the global rice production area also is declining due to land conversion, salinization and increased water scarcity.

To complicate matters, pesticides used on rice kill nontarget rice field fauna, accumulate in the food chain, runoff from the ricefields, pollute the water table, and take their toll on farmers’ health.

Paddy fields and irrigation systems facilitate breeding of mosquitoes that act as vectors of malaria, lymphatic filariasis, Japanese encephalitis and dengue.

All these effects can be more extreme in tropical and subtropical environments, where climatic and cultural conditions are more favorable to vector-borne diseases and CH4 production.

Kaveh Zahedi, director of the UNEP Regional Office of Asia and the Pacific, has confidence in the effectiveness of the new standard to solve many of these problems.

“For most of Asia Pacific, rice is a staple. It is part of the social fabric and influences many aspects of our lives – economic, social and religious,” Zahedi said.

“The SRP Standard and Indicators will help ensure that the cultivation of this vital commodity becomes more sustainable and benefits people, communities and the planet.”

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

Main image: Caption: Spring rice planting in Chiba Prefecture, Japan (Photo by Phil Hendley under creative commons license via Flickr)
Featured image: Harvesting rice in northern Vietnam (Photo by Tran Thi Hoa / World Bank under creative commons license via Flickr)
Image 01: Rice terraces in northern Bali, Indonesia (Photo by Patrik M. Loeff under creative commons license via Flickr)

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)