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COP24 Approves Paris Climate Accord Guidelines

Participants in a civil society action organized by Corporate Accountability International call for ambition and equity at COP24, presenting the "People's Demands for Climate Justice." Dec. 4, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

Participants in a civil society action organized by Corporate Accountability International call for ambition and equity at COP24, presenting the “People’s Demands for Climate Justice.” Dec. 4, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

By Sunny Lewis

KATOWICE, Poland, December 18, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Glaciers are still melting, sea levels are still rising, extreme weather is still causing floods and droughts, but the planet may be better able to withstand these consequences of climate change now that delegates at the UN’s COP24 climate change summit in Poland have adopted implementing guidelines for the 2015 Paris Accord.

The nearly 200 governments gathered in Katowice early Sunday adopted the guidelines that will breathe life into the Paris Agreement, which is aimed at keeping global warming below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels.

As the Katowice Climate Package is adopted, delegates cheer and Michal Kurtyka, COP 24 President, jumps for joy. December 16, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

As the Katowice Climate Package is adopted, delegates cheer and Michal Kurtyka, COP 24 President, jumps for joy. December 16, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

He thanked the hundreds of delegates in the room for their “patience,” noting that the last night “was a long night.” Laughter rippled through the hall as the big screens showed a delegate yawning profoundly.

The meeting had been scheduled to wrap on Friday, December 14. But the conference continued Saturday, as delegates consulted throughout the day to finalize the decisions for the Paris Agreement Work Programme. The final plenary session was gaveled to a close early Sunday morning.

Agreement was not unanimous. The United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia are not onboard with the views of the majority of governments at COP24.

Judith Garber, principal deputy assistant secretary with the U.S. Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, delivered the U.S. National Statement, saying, “As President Trump announced last year, the United States intends to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, absent the identification of terms that are more favorable to the American people. He also made clear that the United States will continue to be a leader in clean energy, innovation, and emissions reduction.”

But many delegates at COP24 did not believe that the Trump administration’s championship of “clean coal” is the way to avert climate change.

On December 10 in Katowice, as the United States hosted a side event focused on the role of “clean coal,” carbon capture and storage technologies, delegates stormed out of the event and flooded the hallways, calling on the United States to “keep fossil fuels in the ground.”

That action followed a split last week among delegates over the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s special report on the disastrous consequences if average global temperatures rise by 1.5°Celsius, and how to ensure they don’t go higher.

The IPCC report was widely regarded as a wake-up call for policy makers when it was released in October. Almost all the nearly 200 countries present in Katowice had wanted to “welcome” the IPCC report, making it a benchmark for future action.

But the United States sided with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in blocking endorsement of the study, calling for it to be “noted” but not “welcomed.”

“The United States was willing to note the report and express appreciation to the scientists who developed it, but not to welcome it, as that would denote endorsement of the report,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement. “As we have made clear in the IPCC and other bodies, the United States has not endorsed the findings of the report.”

The objections of the four governments to the IPCC report was based on its suggestion that fossil-fuel use must be phased out by 2050 to avoid the worst catastrophes of climate change. Coal, oil and gas are major sources of carbon dioxide, which traps heat in the atmosphere close to the planet.

Blasting the efforts of the United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Russia to undermine climate science as a “suicide mission” and “criminal enterprise,” California Governor Jerry Brown sent a video message imploring the world’s leaders to “wake up” and “take action now.”

In addition, several other alarming climate studies have been released during the past two months, including the

Global Carbon Budget 2018” published in this month’s issue of the journal “Earth System Science Data.” In this study, an international team of scientists shows that the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere has increased from roughly 277 parts per million in 1750, the beginning of the industrial era, to 405 ppm in 2017.

“Over the last decade we have seen unprecedented changes in the human and biophysical environments (e.g. changes in the growth of fossil fuel emissions, Earth’s temperatures, and strength of the carbon sinks), which call for frequent assessments of the state of the planet and a growing understanding of and improved capacity to anticipate the evolution of the carbon cycle in the future.”

This means that a continuous stream of accurate data is necessary to allow scientists to understand and governments to have some control over climate warming.

What Is the Paris Agreement Work Programme?

One of the key components of the Katowice agreement approved by delegates is a detailed transparency framework, meant to promote trust among nations. It sets out how countries will provide information about their national climate action plans, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions as well as mitigation and adaptation measures.

In Katowice, agreement was reached on how to uniformly count greenhouse gas emissions and that, too, is part of the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

On the difficult question of financing from developed countries in support of climate action in developing countries, the Katowice guidelines set a way to decide on new, more ambitious targets from 2025 onwards, from the current commitment to mobilize US$100 billion a year as of 2020.

Nations also agreed on how to collectively assess the effectiveness of climate action in 2023 and how to monitor and report progress on the development and transfer of technology.

“The guidelines that delegations have been working on day and night are balanced and clearly reflect how responsibilities are distributed amongst the world’s nations,” said Patricia Espinosa, who heads the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, secretariat.

“They incorporate the fact that countries have different capabilities and economic and social realities at home, while providing the foundation for ever increasing ambition,” said Espinosa.

There was one key issue upon which delegates could not agree – the matter known as “Article 6,” about carbon markets or carbon trading, which enable countries to buy and sell their emissions allowances to meet a part of their domestic mitigation goals.

The Paris Agreement recognizes the need for global rules on this matter to safeguard the integrity of all countries’ efforts and ensure that each tonne of emissions released into the atmosphere is accounted for.

But agreement was not reached in Katowice, and the issue will be back on the table at the next UN climate change conference, COP25, set to take place next December in Chile.

Commenting on the adoption of the Paris Agreement Work Programme, Chair of the Least Developed Countries Group, Gebru Jember Endalew of Ethiopia, said, “While there are parts of the package that could and should have been stronger, the implementation guidelines adopted today provide a strong basis to start implementing the Agreement. The next step, of course, is for countries to take urgent, ambitious action to fulfil their Paris Agreement commitments.”

“This year, it has been made very clear that no country is immune to the impacts of climate change, but it is the nearly one billion people living in the 47 least developed countries that are often hit the hardest, suffer the most, and have the least capacity to cope,” said Endalew.

“Parties need to revise and enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions before 2020 in line with their fair share,” he said. “It is well known that current pledges will not be nearly enough to limit warming to 1.5°C. To achieve the visions and the goals of the Paris Agreement, countries must commit to greater levels of climate action and support, and follow through on those commitments.”

Ambition Cruicial, But Achievement Relies on Funding

“From now on, my five priorities will be: ambition, ambition, ambition, ambition and ambition,” said UN chief António Guterres told delegates at the closing planery through spokeswoman Espinosa. “Ambition in mitigation. Ambition in adaptation. Ambition in finance. Ambition in technical cooperation and capacity building. Ambition in technological innovation.”

To achieve this, the UN Secretary-General is convening a Climate Summit on 23 September, at UN Headquarters in New York, to engage governments at the highest levels.

Some financial engagement is already underway. The Green Climate Fund has to date funded 93 climate-calming projects and the Fund’s first replenishment drive received top-level support from both developing and developed nations during COP24.

In October, the Green Climate Fund Board approved over US$1 billion of new projects and programs to support climate action in developing countries.

The most costly of the newly approved projects is US$280 million for Transforming financial systems for climate in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, and Uganda with the Agence Française de Développement.

Another high-dollar project approved in this round is US$100 million for the Indonesia Geothermal Resource Risk Mitigation Project with the World Bank. See the entire list here.

The two-week climate conference began on a positive note for the Green Climate Fund with an announcement by the German Government it will double its pledge to GCF to €1.5 billion. This was followed by Norway’s announcement that it will double its contribution to GCF’s replenishment. Ireland also indicated that it will commit additional financing to the Fund by the end of this year.

Other encouraging financial commitments for climate action were made. The World Bank announced it would increase its commitment to climate action after 2021 to $200 billion; and the Climate Adaptation Fund received a total of $129 million.

The private sector showed strong engagement with the goals of the Paris Agreement. Among the highlights of this COP, two major industries – the sports and the fashion worlds – joined the movement to align their business practices with the goals of the Paris Agreement, through the launch of the Sports for Climate Action Framework, and the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action.

The COP24 Presidency announced the Driving Change Together – Katowice Partnership for Electromobility and the associated partnership between Poland and the United Kingdom.

The Driving Change Together Partnership will establish a platform for cities, regional and national governments, as well as nongovernmental organizations to develop and exchange their knowledge and experiences of e-mobility and foster establishing new practical initiatives at local and international levels.

Civil Society Critical of Progress in Katowice

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Dec. 14, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa, Dec. 14, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

In addition to the political negotiations among UNFCCC Member States on the Paris guidelines over the past two weeks, the halls of COP24 were packed with 28,000 participants exchanging views, sharing innovative ideas, attending cultural events, and building partnerships for cross-sectoral and collaborative efforts.

Fossil Free, a worldwide campaign to end the age of fossil fuels, says country delegates “failed to deliver a strong enough set of guidelines.”

“Our movement has shown that we’re ready to fill the ambition gap – from the growing wave of kids’ school strikes to the way we’ve blown through a major milestone with over 1,024 divestment commitments” from institutions announced at COP24.

On Thursday in Katowice, a press conference celebrated the divestment commitments spanning 37 countries since 2012: cities like New York, Berlin and Cape Town; medical institutions like the American Public Health Association; faith groups like the Diocese of Assisi; insurance giants and investment funds like Norway’s sovereign wealth fund and the country of Ireland.

“To keep warming below 1.5°C we demand an immediate freeze on all new fossil fuel projects and a rapid and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy for all,” says Fossil Free.

Answering Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg’s call for school strikes, youth in Poland, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, and Australia skipped school for the climate. And the #climatestrike continues to spread.

And back in the United States, more than 1,000 young people flooded the halls of Congress to demand action on a Green New Deal before the end of the year, resulting in over 100 arrests. And the call for a Green New Deal has spread to Canada.

A day before the start of COP24, 75,000 people marched in Brussels, Belgium and 35,000 came out in Berlin and Cologne, Germany. On December 8, activists staged a peaceful march in Katowice and took actions to sound the climate alarm around France and Europe.

The Paris Agreement, unanimously agreed by world leaders in 2015, has already produced positive results. According to the United Nations, notable achievements include:

  • At least 57 countries have managed to bring their greenhouse gas emissions down to the levels required to curb global warming.
  • There are at least 51 “carbon pricing” initiatives in the works; charging those who emit carbon dioxide per tonne emitted.
  • In 2015, 18 high-income countries committed to donating US$100 billion a year for climate action in developing countries. So far, over $70 billion has been mobilized.
  • The Paris Agreement, which provides the world with the only viable option for addressing climate change, has been ratified by 184 parties, and entered into force in November 2016.

The commitments contained in it are:

– Limit global average temperature rise to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.

– Ramp up financing for climate action, including the annual $100 billion goal from donor nations for lower-income countries.

– Develop national climate plans by 2020, including their self-determined goals and targets.

– Protect beneficial ecosystems that absorb greenhouse gases, including forests.

– Strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change.

– Finalize a work program to implement the agreement in 2018.

That last point, the Paris Agreement Work Programme, was indeed finalized by delegates at COP24 in Katowice, despite some disagreements.

Chile will host the next UN climate summit, working with Costa Rica and other Latin American nations.

Brazil withdrew its candidacy to host the COP25 conference citing budget limitations, but environmental groups believe the move is a favor to the incoming government led by the far-right Jair Bolsonaro, who has threatened to pull Brazil out of the Paris Agreement.

The next summit was expected to take place between November 11 and 22, 2019, but Chilean President Sebastian Piñera now says COP25 will be held in January 2020.


Maxtraining

Wallets Open for Climate at Poland’s COP24

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, State Secretary in Poland's Ministry of Energy, welcomes the delegates during the conference's opening plenary session, December 2, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, State Secretary in Poland’s Ministry of Energy, welcomes the delegates during the conference’s opening plenary session, December 2, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

By Sunny Lewis

KATOWICE, Poland, December 4, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News) – Heads of state and government, diplomats and climate scientists, economists and bankers have gathered in Katowice for the UN’s annual climate conference, and this one is anything but routine. Known as COP24, it has a daunting task.

Over the next 12 days, negotiators are expected to finalize the rules for implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change, unanimously agreed by 196 world leaders three years ago.

The Paris Agreement requests that each country outline and communicate their post-2020 climate actions, known as Nationally Determined Contributions.

The goal is to limit global warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

COP24, formally the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, opened today under extreme pressure. A blizzard of dire climate science reports from the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even the U.S. government, have all come out within the past two months warning that time is running out quickly to do anything about the climate crisis.

Extreme weather, droughts, wildfires, floods, sea level rise, wildlife displacement, melting glaciers, tropical disease spread, hunger, water scarcity, and climate migrants desperate to escape these disasters – all are being forecast for the near future – to appear in a decade or two at most.

COP24 President Michal Kurtyka, Poland’s Energy Secretary, said, “The 2015 Paris Agreement entered into force faster than any other agreement of its kind. I now call on all countries to come together, to build upon this success and to make the agreement fully functional.”

“We are ready to work with all nations to ensure that we leave Katowice with a full set of implementation guidelines and with the knowledge that we have served the world and its people,” Kurtyka said.

The Paris Agreement is voluntary, no country is forced to do anything, countries do only what they agree to do.

U.S. President Donald Trump, for instance, has decided to pull the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases out of the Paris Agreement altogether.

World Bank Pledges $200 Billion

Most countries want to participate, but for many the barriers are financial. The World Bank Group is stepping up to help them.

In 2018, the World Bank Group provided a record-breaking $20.5 billion in finance for climate action, doubling delivery from the year before the Paris Agreement and meeting its 2020 target two years ahead of schedule. Now the Bank has set a new target.

The World Bank Monday announced the doubling of its current five-year investments for 2021-2025 to around $200 billion in support of ambitious climate action to boost adaptation and resilience in the world’s poorest countries.

Entering the plenary hall, (from left) María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President, UN General Assembly; UN Secretary-General António Guterres; Poland's President Andrzej Duda, December 3, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

Entering the plenary hall, (from left) María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President, UN General Assembly; UN Secretary-General António Guterres; Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, December 3, 2018, Katowice, Poland. (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

“Climate change is an existential threat to the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. These new targets demonstrate how seriously we are taking this issue, investing and mobilizing $200 billion over five years to combat climate change,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said.

“We are pushing ourselves to do more and to go faster on climate and we call on the global community to do the same,” urged Kim. “This is about putting countries and communities in charge of building a safer, more climate-resilient future.”

The $200 billion across the Group is made up of $100 billion in direct finance from the World Bank, and $100 billion of combined direct finance from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and private capital mobilized by the World Bank Group.

“There are literally trillions of dollars of opportunities for the private sector to invest in projects that will help save the planet,” said IFC CEO Philippe Le Houérou. “Our job is to go out and proactively find those opportunities, use our de-risking tools, and crowd in private sector investment. We will do much more in helping finance renewable energy, green buildings, climate-smart agribusiness, urban transportation, water, and urban waste management.”

Multilateral Banks Join Forces

In a joint declaration issued on opening day, the nine multilateral development banks (MDBs) committed to working together in key areas considered central to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“The global development agenda is at a pivotal point,” the banks declared. “There is international consensus on the urgent need to ensure that policy engagements and financial flows are consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.”

“To realize this vision, we are working together to develop a dedicated approach,” the banks said.

The MDBs plan to break their joint approach down into practical work on: aligning their operations against mitigation and climate-resilience goals; ramping up climate finance; capacity building support for countries and other clients; plus an emphasis on climate reporting.

This approach builds on the ongoing MDB contribution to climate finance, which, in 2017, amounted to $35 billion to tackle climate change in developing and emerging economies, while mobilizing an additional $52 billion from private and public sector sources.

The MDBs will report back to next year’s COP25 gathering on their progress.

The nine MDBs are: the African Development Bank Group, the Asian Development Bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank Group, the Islamic Development Bank, the New Development Bank, and the World Bank Group.

Africa in the Spotlight

Today, the opening day of COP24, was devoted to Africa Day, a joint initiative of the African Development Bank, the African Union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

They estimate that Africa would need US$3 trillion to implement the adaptation and mitigation targets in their Nationally Determined Contributions by 2030.

But in reality Africa is receiving much less. Sub-Saharan Africa received an average of US$12 billion a year in 2015 and 2016.

The Africa Day meetings were focused on enhancing Africa’s access to funding, capacity-building, technology development and transfer.

As of November 2018, 49 African countries out of 54 – 90 percent – had ratified their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), demonstrating the continent’s level of awareness of and commitment to fight climate change.

“The People’s Seat” Initiative

British broadcaster Sir David Attenborough used his opening day speech to launch a new UN campaign – “The People’s Seat” initiative. Working through ActNow.bot, the campaign is designed to give people the power and knowledge to take personal action against climate change directly on the Facebook Messenger Platform.

The speech was preceded by a video produced with social media content posted in advance of COP24 using the hashtag #TakeYourSeat.

Attenborough called “The People’s Seat” initiative the result of new activism shaped by people from around the world. The initiative allows people from around the world to send direct messages to decision makers by posting contributions on social media.

“In the last two weeks,” Attenborough said of ActNow.bot, “the world’s people have taken part in creating this address, answering polls, creating videos and voicing their opinions.”

“The world’s people have spoken and their message is clear – time is running out. They want you, the decision makers to act now,” Attenborough declared.

“The people are behind you, supporting you in making tough decisions, but they are also willing to make sacrifices in their daily lives,” Attenborough said. “To make this even easier, the UN is launching the Act Now bot. Helping people to discover simple everyday actions that they can take, because they recognise that they too must play their part.”

What’s Next?

During COP24 action events will be held on human settlements, industry, transport, water, oceans and coastal zones, energy, forests, agriculture and land use. A high-level event on education will take place.

Roundtables will be held on:

Finance and climate action;

Resilience and climate action;

Land use, water and energy;

Oceans and coastal zones and transport; and

Three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:

SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and climate;

SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure) and climate.

SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and climate;

Other groups will meet on: intergenerational inquiry; the fashion industry charter for climate action; sports for climate action; and tourism for climate action

Patricia Espinosa, the UN’s Climate Chief, told the opening day audience, “This year is likely to be one of the four hottest years on record. Greenhouses gas concentrations in the atmosphere are at record levels and emissions continue to rise. Climate change impacts have never been worse. This reality is telling us that we need to do much more – COP24 needs to make that happen.”

The outcome – a finalized set of implementation guidelines – is expected to unleash practical climate actions with respect to all the targets and goals of the Paris Agreement – adapting to climate change impacts, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing financial and other support to developing countries.

Featured image source: Sir David Attenborough delivers “The People’s Seat” address to delegates at COP24, December 3, 2018, Katowice, Poland (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission


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UN, 28 Banks Draft Global Impact Standards

Barclays Bank Fulwell Branch, Seaburn, Sunderland, England, August 4, 2009, Photo by Peter Richmond)

Barclays Bank Fulwell Branch, Seaburn, Sunderland, England, August 4, 2009, Photo by Peter Richmond)

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, November 29, 2018, (Maximpact.com News ) – “The global banking industry is stepping up to the sustainability challenge,” said Satya Tripathi of India, UN assistant secretary-general, UN Environment. “I’m optimistic we’ll see a realignment of business practice – one that embraces the fact that green and socially responsible business is the best business.”

In August UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of Tripathi as assistant secretary-general and head of the New York Office of the UN Environment Programme, (UNEP).

A development economist and lawyer, Tripathi has worked for the UN since 1998 in Europe, Asia and Africa on sustainable development, human rights, democratic governance and legal affairs. Since 2017 he has served as senior adviser on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at UNEP.

Tripathi’s role expanded, at least temporarily, as Secretary-General Guterres last week accepted the resignation of former UNEP head Erik Solheim of Norway whose spending on travel was deemed excessive.

In a bid to define the banking industry’s role and responsibilities in shaping a sustainable future, UN Environment Finance Initiative, UNEP FI) and 28 banks from around the world today launched the Principles for Responsible Banking for global public consultation at its biennial Global Roundtable at thePalais Brongniart in Paris.

The announcement came during the 4th Climate Finance Day and the UNEP FI’s Global Roundtable, which took place in Paris this week from November 26-28.

Finance for Tomorrow and UNEP FI co-organized their two flagship events into a major global rendez-vous this year for mobilizing the financial sector to deliver a sustainable financial system.

By developing the Principles, the 28 founding banks set out a clear purpose for the banking industry. It is intended to enable investors, policy makers and regulators, clients and civil society to compare banks and hold them accountable for their environmental, social and economic impacts.

The Principles require banks to be transparent and accountable. Banks are required to report publicly on the positive and negative social and environmental impacts of their investments, their contribution to society’s goals and their progress in implementing the Principles, and to engage with key stakeholders on their impacts.

The Principles are supported by an Implementation Guidance , which provides details of the rationale for each Principle and practical guidance on how banks can approach the implementation of the Principles.

The 28 founding banks developing the Principles for Responsible Banking are from five continents and 20+ countries:

Access Bank, Nigeria; Arab African International Bank, Egypt; Banco Pichincha, Ecuador; Banorte, Mexico; Barclays, United Kingdom; BBVA, Spain; BNP Paribas, France; Bradesco, Brazil; Commercial International Bank, Egypt; CIMB Bank, Malaysia; First Rand, South Africa; Garanti Bank, Turkey; Golomt Bank, Mongolia; Hana Financial Group, South Korea; Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China; ING, Netherlands; Kenya Commercial Bank Group, Kenya; Land Bank, South Africa; National Australia Bank, Australia; Nordea, Sweden; Piraeus Bank, Greece; Santander, Spain; Shinhan Financial Group, South Korea; Societe Generale, France; Standard Bank, South Africa; Triodos Bank, Netherlands; Westpac, Australia; YES Bank, India.

Here is an overview  of what will be required of the signatory banks.

By committing to the new framework, banks will be aligning their businesses with the objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement.

The British multinational investment bank Barclays  is one of the 28 founding banks and has been part of UNFI for more than 20 years. Said Jes Staley, Group CEO, Barclays PLC, “Barclays exists to help develop sustainable economies and to empower people to build better futures. We are committed to playing our part to deliver the SDGs and we do this by helping our clients to raise billions of dollars of social and environmental financing, upskilling millions of people and helping to drive job creation.”

Hassan Abdalla, CEO, Arab African International Bank, said, “The current environmental and social issues pose a multitude of opportunities and threats for financial institutions. Banks can either seize the opportunities and grow, or ignore the threats and go under. The Principles for Responsible Banking allow banks to generate new revenue streams by genuinely connecting to the environment and the society.”

The Principles now enter a six-month global public consultation period before they will be implemented in September 2019.

To find out how you can take part in the global public consultation, click here.

By signing the Principles for Responsible Banking, banks will commit to being publicly accountable for their positive and negative social, environmental and economic impacts.

They agree to set public targets for addressing their negative impacts and scaling up their positive impacts to contribute to national and international sustainable development and climate targets.

Signing the Principles will be a serious commitment: banks that continuously fail to meet transparency requirements, set adequate targets and demonstrate progress will face removal from the list of signatories.

“The Principles for Responsible Banking align the banking industry with the Paris Agreement and with the Sustainable Development Goals, and they demonstrate a clear commitment from the banking industry to assume its defining role in creating a sustainable future,” said Christiana Figueres, convener Mission 2020  and former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC).

“This is the only future that is acceptable, and profitable for everyone. Every bank should become a signatory, and all regulators, investors, policy makers and civil society should support the banking industry’s implementations of the Principles,” said Figueres.

Said Daniel Wild, Co-CEO of RobecoSAM, the Swiss international investment company with a focus on sustainability investments, “The Principles for Responsible Banking will drive the banking industry’s alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.”

“We are integrating part of the requirements of these Principles in the RobecoSAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment, CSA; the leading annual survey of companies seeking to benchmark their sustainability performance and competing for membership in the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices, DJSI;” said Wild.

“Banks that want to be best in class in the CSA and members of the DJSI should therefore seek to align with this new global standard,” he said.

Satya Tripathi, UN assistant secretary-general, UN Environment, speaking at COP21, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC COP21; where the Paris Agreement on climate was finalized unanimously by world leaders. Paris, France December 7, 2015., Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

Satya Tripathi, UN assistant secretary-general, UN Environment, speaking at COP21, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC COP21; where the Paris Agreement on climate was finalized unanimously by world leaders. Paris, France December 7, 2015., Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

Martin Skancke, chair of the Principles for Responsible Investment, PRI; said, “The PRI has helped drive the integration of environmental, social and governance considerations into investor decision-making. It is now time for the banking sector to step up in both assessing the risks they are exposed to, and the impacts of their financing activities in realizing the sustainable development goals.”

The Roadmap is available on the UNEP FI and PRI websites, as well as at Fiduciary Duty 21.

Banks and stakeholders around the world are invited to provide feedback and input to guide their further development, and to signal their support by becoming Endorsers of the Principles for Responsible Banking and help shape the future of banking.

Finance in France, the last in a series of market analyses from the Fiduciary Duty in the 21st Century program, was also launched Tuesday at UNEP FI’s 2018 Global Roundtable in Paris. It was presented to Brune Poirson, Secretary of State, Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition.

After extensive consultation with major French institutional investors, regulators and industry associations, Finance in France sets out recommendations for the French market to build upon its leadership position and achieve further progress in mainstreaming responsible investment.

Environmental, social and governance, ESG) are the three central factors in measuring the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a company or business.

While France is recognized as one of the leaders in sustainable finance, obstacles remain to the full integration of ESG issues into investment practice. Regulatory developments in France and Europe require actors in the financial sector to clarify their fiduciary duty and incorporate ESG issues into investment strategies.

“This project, driven by France’s leadership in sustainable finance and recent momentum in responsible investment, builds knowledge and shares experience among policy makers and investors,” said Eric Usher, who heads UNEP FI. “It provides guidance on how to fully integrate ESG factors into investment practice and align investment with the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, including encouraging analysis and measurement of the impacts of investment activities.”

Augustin de Romanet, chairman, Paris EUROPLACE  and Chairman and CEO of ADP payroll and HR services group said, “In this new international context, marked by the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement and by an increased involvement of Europe and new driving forces – China and India – in favor of the fight against global warming, it is today, more than ever, essential to increase the contribution of the global financial industry to these issues and to consolidate and promote the position of the Paris Financial Center as a world leader in green and sustainable finance.”

Image Source: Euros on a spreadsheet, November 14, 2018, Cologne, Germany, Photo by Marco Verce) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Winners Change the Course of Climate Change

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into "biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company, is making Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge into clean energy. All three treatment plants will be zero waste, energy self-sufficient, and carbon neutral by 2022. (Photo courtesy Aguas Andinas)

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 13, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – From a mobile app that fights food waste and hunger to a government that is taking 100 percent responsibility for its greenhouse gas emissions, 15 projects from around the world are demonstrating how fresh ideas, large and small, can change the course of climate change.

“These activities shine a light on scalable climate action around the world,” said Patricia Espinosa of Brazil, executive secretary of UN Climate Change . “They are proof that climate action isn’t only possible, it’s innovative, it’s exciting and it makes a difference.”

Human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, have triggered a change in the Earth’s climate system that could leave the planet uninhabitable before the end of this century, warns the latest scientific evaluation from hundreds of scientists with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

And only human activities that protect the climate can reverse that calamitous course.

“Climate action leaders, including those recognized by the Momentum for Change initiative, are stepping up to meet the global climate challenge by delivering on the Paris Agreement,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

“These inspirational leaders, from communities, governments, businesses and organizations, come from all corners of the globe and all levels of society,” Guterres said. “Their winning projects range from transformative financial investments to women-led solutions to protect people and the planet.”

“Through their leadership and creativity, we see essential change,” said the UN chief.

The Momentum for Change initiative, advanced by the UN Climate Change secretariat, illuminates some of the most practical examples of what people are doing to combat climate change.

“There is an enormous groundswell of activities underway across the globe that are moving the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future. Momentum for Change recognizes innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges,” UN Climate Change said in a statement.

The 2018 Lighthouse Activities were selected by an international advisory panel as part of the secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, which is implemented with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, and operates in partnership with the World Economic Forum, Masdar’s Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy Forum (WiSER) initiative, and Climate Neutral Now.

The 15 projects were chosen from more than 560 applications from businesses and governments, communities and nongovernmental organizations throughout the world.

Each of the 15 winning projects, called Lighthouse Activities, falls within one of Momentum for Change’s four focus areas: Planetary Health, Climate Neutral Now, Women for Results and Financing for Climate Friendly Investment.

They will be showcased in a series of special events during this year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) taking place December 2-14 in Katowice, Poland.

The 2018 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities are:

Planetary Health

* Climate-Efficient School Kitchens and Plant-Powered Pupils | Germany: ProVeg International is providing healthy, climate-friendly meals in German schools. ProVeg International wants animal agriculture placed on the agenda for COP24, saying, “Animal agriculture is one of the world’s largest contributors to climate change. This issue must be prioritized at COP24.”

  • Santiago Biofactory | Chile: Aguas Andinas, Chile’s largest water utility company together with its main shareholder SUEZ, is transforming Santiago’s three wastewater treatment plants into “biofactories” that convert wastewater and sewer sludge, a wastewater treatment by-product, into clean energy.
  • Composting Waste Treatment: An Ecological Solution to Poverty and Climate Change | Haiti: Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods (SOIL) is building composting toilets in Haiti, reducing the spread of diseases like cholera and typhoid, creating jobs, and restoring local environments.
  • Sri Lanka Mangrove Conservation Project | Sri Lanka: Seacology, a nonprofit environmental conservation organization, is helping Sri Lanka become the first nation in history to preserve and replant all of its mangrove forests.

Climate Neutral Now

  • Creating the Greenest Football Club in the World – Forest Green Rovers | United Kingdom: The Forest Green Rovers is bringing eco-thinking and technology to a new and large audience: football fans. In 2010, the team began its journey to becoming the world’s first carbon neutral football club. In 2017 FGR became the world’s first vegan football club because of the huge environmental and animal welfare impacts of livestock farming, as well as to improve player performance and give fans healthier, tastier food on matchdays. The club has since been described by FIFA, as “the world’s greenest football club.”
  • Monash’s Net Zero Initiative | Australia: Monash University, Australia’s largest university, has committed to reach net zero emissions by 2030 for all four of its Australian campuses.
  • Klimanjaro – Climate Neutral Supply Chain | Norway: Fjordkraft, the second largest electricity retailer in Norway, is using its purchasing power to inspire all its suppliers to be climate neutral by 2019.
  • Carbon Neutral Government Program | Canada: In 2010, the province of British Columbiabecame the first government at the provincial, territorial, or state level in North America to take 100 percent responsibility for the greenhouse gas pollution from all 128 of its public-sector organizations. B.C. is committed to reaching its 2050 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2007 levels.

Women for Results

  • Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative | Syria: With the Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative women are defying traditional gender roles and combatting overcrowded streets by promoting bicycling as a healthy and sustainable mode of transportation in the war-torn city of Damascus.
  • Women Leading a Food Sharing Revolution! | UK, Sweden, USA: Women are leading a food revolution with OLIO, the world’s only neighbor-to-neighbor food sharing app. OLIO is co-founded and led by women and two-thirds of the app’s users are women.
A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

A Syrian woman participates in a Yalla Let’s Bike event in the city of Damascus. September 1, 2018 (Photo courtesy Yalla Let’s Bike Initiative) Posted for media use

Between 33-50 percent of all food produced globally is never eaten, and the value of this wasted food is worth over US$1 trillion annually.

OLIO points out that it takes a land mass larger than China to grow the food each year that is never eaten – land deforested, species driven to extinction, indigenous populations moved, soil degraded – all to produce food that we throw away. Food that is never eaten accounts for 25 percent of all fresh water consumption globally. Meanwhile 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.

  • HelpUsGreen | India: Women are creating compost from ceremonial flowers and simultaneously cleaning up the River Ganges. Through HelpUsGreen women collect 8.4 tons of floral-waste from temples in Uttar Pradesh on a daily basis. These sacred flowers are handcrafted into charcoal-free incense, organic vermicompost and biodegradable packaging material through the organization’s ‘Flowercycling®’ technology.

“Today,” says HelpUsGreen, “orthodox temples and religious authorities want to be a part of our mission -pointing to a change against a century old harmful religious practice of dumping temple-waste in the Indian rivers.”

  • Feminist Electrification: Ensuring Pro-Women Outcomes in Rural Energy Access | Haiti: Energy poverty, a lack of access to modern energy services, is disproportionally affecting women in rural areas. So, EarthSpark International, a women-run enterprise, is approaching all its energy access projects with a gender lens, referring to this as “feminist electrification.”

In 2012, EarthSpark turned on a first-of-its-kind privately operated, pre-pay microgrid in Les Anglais, Haiti, a small town that had never before had grid electricity. EarthSpark aims to build 80 microgrids in Haiti by the end of 2022.

Financing for Climate Friendly Investment

  • Rwanda Green Fund – FONERWA | Rwanda: The Rwanda Green Fund (FONERWA) is investing in public and private projects that drive transformative change. It is one of the first national environment and climate change investment funds in Africa.

The fund invests in the best public and private projects that have the potential for transformative change and that align with Rwanda’s commitment to building a strong green economy.

  • The MAIS Program | Brazil: The MAIS Program (Modulo Agroclimático Inteligente e Sustentável) is helping family agricultural operations adapt to climate change in the Jacuípe Basin, Brazil’s semi-arid region. It is one of the first ever climate-smart agricultural programs to mainstream climate disruptive technologies among farmers in Brazil.
  • Catalytic Finance Initiative | Global: Bank of America Merrill Lynch is working with partners to mobilize US$10 billion for innovative and high-impact climate mitigation and sustainability-focused investments.

Projects announced to date by Bank of America under the Catalytic Finance Initiative include new energy efficiency financing in partnership with the New York State Green Bank totaling $800 million, arranging a $204 million green project bond for wind developer Energia Eolica S.A. in Peru, and helping to structure a new $100 million facility with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

“A central way in which we are helping to build sustainable economies is through our financing of clean energy,” said Anne Finucane, vice chairman, Bank of America. “The Catalytic Finance Initiative demonstrates how all partners working together will achieve a greater collective impact.”

The UN’s Momentum for Change initiative is part of a broader effort to mobilize action and ambition as national governments work toward implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Featured Image: Tessa Cook, left, and Saasha Celestial-One, Co-founders of OLIO, the food sharing app. 2018 (Photo courtesy OLIO) Posted for media use.


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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


MAXIMPACT_TRAINING

Maximpact Offers Language Help for Refugees

Syrian boys in Raqqa, June 2013 (Photo by Beshr Abdulhadi) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Syrian boys in Raqqa, June 2013 (Photo by Beshr Abdulhadi) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, April 26, 2018 (Maximpact.com  News – “I want to help” is “Ana bady asa’ed” in Arabic, the language of much of Syria. This simple translation illustrates the steep learning curve Syrian refugees face trying to re-start their lives in an English-speaking country, such as Canada, the United States or the United Kingdom, which together have taken nearly 100,000 Syrians fleeing the conflict.

Of course, the learning curve is just as steep for Syrians resettling in Germany, Sweden or Austria, the European countries that have taken the greatest number of refugees from this war-wracked country.

Nearly 13 million Syrians are displaced after seven years of conflict, a total that amounts to about six-in-10 of Syria’s pre-conflict population, according to the Pew Research Center. No nation in recent decades has had such a large percentage of its population displaced.

About one million displaced Syrians have moved to Europe as asylum seekers or refugees since the conflict began, according to data from Eurostat, Europe’s statistical agency, and data on refugee resettlement from the UN High Commission for Refugees.

The humanitarian impact of the Syria crisis remains deep and far-reaching:

  • 13.1 million people in need of humanitarian assistance
  • 6.3 million people are food insecure
  • 5.6 million people have fled the country
  • 1 in 3 schools are damaged or destroyed

Delegates to a major EU and United Nations donor conference in Brussels April 24-25 pledged some US$4.4 billion in 2018 to meet the deepening needs of displaced Syrians, as well as the main refugee hosting countries in the region – Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.

By the close of the conference on Wednesday, a further US$3.4 billion had been pledged for humanitarian and development programmes in 2019 and 2020.

The conference was held at the ministerial level, and brought together 57 countries, 10 regional organizations and 19 UN agencies. More than 200 NGOs met in Brussels on Tuesday to provide operational recommendations to the ministerial part of the conference held the following day.

NGOs emphasized the vital importance of education for the future of young Syrian refugees. Two key issues emerged across the hosting countries of Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey: low school attendance among refugee populations, linked to protection issues, and poor quality education.

A lack of adequate adaptation processes was highlighted, particularly in Lebanon, with refugee children attending schools where they do not speak the language of tuition, preventing them from learning effectively and increasing drop-out rates.

In his address to the conference, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said that a quarter of the world’s refugees are Syrians, and that a quarter of all Syrians are themselves refugees.

Despite generous support from hosts, up to 80 percent of refugees from Syria are living below the poverty line in some countries, and 35 percent of child refugees are out of school.

The pledging event opened with a video of six-year-old Syrian refugee Farah, who lives in Zaatri refugee camp in Jordan. She loves learning languages and science, dreams of becoming a teacher and a poet.

But learning a foreign language remains a high barrier for resettling refugees.

Now, Maximpact is stepping up to help.

Based in Europe, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, Maximpact is a unique platform offering comprehensive development and support services to the circular, impact and sustainability sectors.

Employers, donors, NGOs or government organizations who want to change Syrian refugees’ lives for the better and facilitate the integration process can do so through Maximpact’s Language and Vocational Training for Employment.

Within three to four months, refugees will have general and working language skills, technical vocational skills and potential placements after graduating in fields such as: nursing, caregiving, hospitality, fruit picking and packaging, and waste management.

The languages covered are English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and others upon request.

All trainings are demand-oriented and build specific skills tailored to prospective employers’ needs. By bridging refugees’ and employers’ needs, Maximpact aims to improve job prospects for refugees in their host countries.

Dr. Linda Morrice, an education professor at the UK’s University of Sussex, said, “Refugees who are starting a new life in Britain want to work and see this as a key pathway to integrating. This government needs to improve the current resettlement system in order to ensure refugees resettling in Britain now, like those from Syria, have the best opportunity and support to gain employment which meet their skills.”

“We must shift the focus from talking about ‘meeting numbers and targets’ to ensuring that we have fast-track learning routes in place, especially English language learning,” Morrice said.

The Maximpact project will provide an opportunity for Syrian and other refugees to expand or adapt their skill sets, increase their confidence, and offer productive services to the communities where they are now living.

Contact Caroline Kennedy at carolinek@maximpact.com to find out more about the Maximpact refugee training program.

Meanwhile, the United Nations is negotiating a new global compact on refugees with its Member States.

As the number of people forced to flee their homes continues to climb, the new compact aims to transform the way the international community responds to refugee crises, by providing more predictable and equitable support for the countries and communities which host them.

“With unprecedented levels of forced displacement, we need a new deal on how we manage refugee situations globally,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Türk.

“The compact embodies a new approach where the major host countries – typically among the poorest in the world – get the robust and sustained support they need, and refugees can contribute to their own futures and the communities where they live,” he said.

UNHCR was given the task of developing a global compact on refugees by the UN General Assembly in the historic New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, of September 19, 2016, in which 193 governments pledged to forge a fairer global system.

The draft refugee compact is being discussed in a series of formal consultations with UN Member States at the Palais des Nations in Geneva between February and July 2018. NGOs and other stakeholders have observer status.

The expected outcome is a non-binding document, reflecting consensus among UN Member States. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees will present a proposed draft compact in his 2018 report to the UN General Assembly at the end of 2018.

Featured Image: Two Syrian girls, aged 12, study at a temporary school in northern Lebanon, set up by UNICEF and the Lebanese NGO Beyond Association with the help of UK aid. (Photo courtesy DFID, UK Department for International Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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


BUSINESS_SERVICES

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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Climate-Neutral COP23 Aims for Sustainability

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Bonn’s electric buses will transport conference attendees around the city free of greenhouse gas emissions. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, November 7, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – This year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, which opened Monday and continues through November 17 under the presidency of Fiji, gives nations an opportunity to showcase their own climate actions at this “climate-neutral” event.

Up to 25,000 people are expected to participate in the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, known as COP23, including government delegates, representatives of observer organizations, businesses and journalists.

One year has passed since the entry into force of the Paris Agreement on climate change, adopted by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in December 2015. The agreement allows countries to make individual pledges of action to reverse climate change, called Nationally Determined Contributions.

The Paris Agreement aims to limit the rise of the global temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius and, if possible, below 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

These goals appear increasingly difficult to achieve. Last week, the World Meteorological Organization announced that atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, CO2, had surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

A new report from the UN Environment agency finds that even full implementation of current unconditional and conditional Nationally Determined Contributions makes a temperature increase of at least 3 degrees C by 2100 very likely.

The 8th edition of UN Environment’s Emissions Gap report, released ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn, finds that national pledges only bring a third of the reduction in emissions required by 2030 to meet climate targets, with private sector and sub-national action not increasing at a rate that would help close this worrying gap.

This means that governments must deliver much stronger pledges when they are revised in 2020.

The organizers of COP23 have made sustainability the watchword of this year’s annual conference. In this context, unless stated differently, organizers say, the term sustainability refers to the environmental dimension of sustainable development as defined in 1987 by “Our Common Future,” the Brundtland Report, from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development.

The Brundtland Commission defined sustainable development as “development which meets the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

To that end, COP23 organizers are managing transport, waste management, catering, energy and offsetting, providing clean transportation and clean electricity to the greatest extent possible.

The COP23 Sustainability Taskforce estimates that most emissions caused by COP 23 are the result of transport, with delegates’ international travel responsible for the largest share.

Emissions from local travel will be reduced by renewable energy-powered electric vehicle shuttles that will transfer delegates between the two conference zones, Bula and Bonn.

The conference venue itself will be managed sustainably, including its use of resources such as energy, waste and water.

“The most important aspect is that local public transportation is free of charge for all registered participants from Parties, observer organizations and media,” says Dennis Winkler, who heads the COP 23 Sustainability Taskforce and is responsible for the sustainability of UN climate change conferences.

“Also, 600 bikes will be provided free of charge for participants to get from one conference zone to another, or even to the city,” Winkler said.

The city of Bonn has several electric and hybrid buses in service and special electric COP 23 shuttles, running on 100 percent renewable energy, will connect a brand-new UN Campus train stop with the nearby metro stop and the two conference zones.

“We think it is important for there to be electric transport at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, as it absolutely meets the key goals of COP23,” says Anja Wenmakers of Bonn’s public transport provider, Stadtwerke-Bonn. “We are committed to supporting climate action goals and believe that public transport in general can make an important contribution to quickly achieving these goals.”

In addition, a shuttle service with smaller electric vehicles through the Rheinaue Park will be organized by the German Environment Ministry. Electric buses will be clearly identified with a special label.

In an effort to use energy efficiently, COP23 organizers are seeking to keep all indoor areas at an average temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, and not warmer. Participants are requested to turn off room lights and ventilation as well as ICT equipment when not in use.

In addition to maximizing energy efficiency, the organizers are making sure that the energy that is used in buildings is from renewable sources when possible.

“We have a target of 80 percent renewable energy all over the conference,” said Winkler. He and his team will have to make an assessment of whether this target has been reached at the end of the conference.

The UNFCCC Secretariat runs on 100 percent renewable energy, some of it sourced from solar panels on the roof of its headquarters building.

In a another effort to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transport, the UNFCCC has announced a partnership with Ethanol Europe Renewables Ltd, which aims to promote the use of biofuels as lower-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels.

When COP23 is over on November 17, the UNFCCC Sustainability Taskforce will calculate the overall greenhouse gas footprint of all aspects of the conference, including travel, food, local transport and accommodation.

Their calculations will be verified under the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme. All unavoidable emissions resulting from COP23 will be offset.

The Government of Germany has committed to the purchase of certified emission credits, preferably from Clean Development Mechanism projects registered in small island developing States, in recognition of the Fijian Presidency of COP 23.

“The human suffering caused by intensifying hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods and threats to food security caused by climate change means there is no time to waste,” said Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji, who took over as president of the COP23 conference from Morocco during the opening.

“We must preserve the global consensus for decisive action enshrined in the Paris Agreement and aim for the most ambitious part of that target – to limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5 degrees above that of the pre-industrial age,” he said. “Wherever we live, we are all vulnerable and need to act.”

COP23 is structured according to the principle of one conference, two zones. The UN intergovernmental negotiations take place in Zone Bula, a Fijian word expressing warm welcome.

Negotiating countries plan to design and launch the Talanoa dialogue, named after the spirit of open exchange and constructive debate of Pacific island nations, to run during 2018.

The dialogue will conclude at COP24 in Poland next year with the aim of setting the stage for a more ambitious response that better reflects the scientific state of climate change during 2019-2020.

Governments will work on the Paris Agreement’s operating system – the detailed ways and means to assist all governments to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement now and in the future.

“Fiji is helping build a Grand Coalition for decisive, coordinated action by governments at every level, by civil society, the private sector and all citizens on Earth,” said Bainimarama. “That’s why we installed an ocean-going Fijian ‘drua’ canoe in the entrance here to remind everyone of the need to fill its sail with collective determination to make COP23 a success and confront the biggest challenge humanity has faced.”

Featured Image: COP23 dignitaries ride bicycles through the streets of Bonn, Germany ahead of the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). From right: Frank Bainimarama, the Prime Minister of Fiji and COP23 president; Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC. Nov. 5, 2017 (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) Creative Commons license via Flickr


Equator Prize Winners Demonstrate Maximum Impact

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Winners Are:

Sub-Saharan Africa

1. Mikoko Pamoja, Kenya

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Kuruwitu Conservation & Welfare Association, Kenya

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: ocean restoration, coasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Mali Elephant Project, Mali

Area of Focus: Wildlife

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

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

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

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

Latin America and the Caribbean

4. Alianza Internacional de Reforestación (AIRES), Guatemala

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, mountains

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

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

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

5. Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia Apiwtxa, Brazil

Area of Focus: Sustainable Forestry

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

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

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

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

6. Associação Terra Indígena Xingu (ATIX), Brazil

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Area of Focus: Sustainable Forestry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastern Europe & Central Asia

10. Public Foundation “Zhassyl Azyk,” Kazakhstan

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Drylands, ecosystem restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asia & the Pacific

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Swayam Shikshan Prayog, India

Area of Focus: Grasslands, drylands

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

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

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

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

15. Yayasan Planet Indonesia

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, coasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Featured image: Equator Prize 2017, Equator Initiative www.equatorinitiative.org
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Empowering Cities With the New Urban Agenda

Johannesburg, South Africa, July 26, 2015 (Photo by Paul Saad) Creative Comons license via Flickr

Johannesburg, South Africa, July 26, 2015 (Photo by Paul Saad) Creative Comons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 14, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Regions, cities, towns, localities – this is where people live and as local people they want their voices heard not only locally, but nationally and around the world. Now, they are making new strides towards recognition and power by implementing the New Urban Agenda.

In October 2016, at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, Habitat III, in Quita, Ecuador, member states signed the New Urban Agenda, an action-oriented document that sets global standards of achievement for sustainable urban development.

Ani Dasupta, global director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities, said then, “The world took a step forward today in its journey to create cities where all can live, move and thrive. Tens of thousands of people—leaders, citizens, community organizers, business women and men, youth and urban planning experts—came together here in Quito to recognize that sustainable, livable cities for all are not only a moral imperative, but also a scientific one.”

Adopted by a resolution of the UN General Assembly in December 2016, the New Urban Agenda is aimed at “readdressing the way cities and human settlements are planned, designed, financed, developed, governed and managed…”

The Resolution of adoption reads, “While the specific circumstances of cities of all sizes, towns and villages vary, we affirm that the New Urban Agenda is universal in scope, participatory and people-centred, protects the planet and has a long-term vision, setting out priorities and actions at the global, regional, national, subnational and local levels that

Governments and other relevant stakeholders in every country can adopt based on their needs.”

Rethinking the way we build, manage, and live in cities is center stage as the UN General Assembly embarks on its 72nd session, which opened September 12.

Miroslav Lajčák (right), president of the seventy-second session of the General Assembly, with Secretary-General António Guterres during the opening meeting of the session. September 12, 2017 United Nations, New York (UN photo by Kim Haughton) Posted for media use

Miroslav Lajčák (right), president of the seventy-second session of the General Assembly, with Secretary-General António Guterres during the opening meeting of the session. September 12, 2017 United Nations, New York (UN photo by Kim Haughton) Posted for media use

“The UN was created for people,” Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia said in his first address as President of the General Assembly. “The people who need the UN the most are not sitting in this hall today. They are not involved in the negotiation of resolutions. They do not take the floor at high-level events. It is one of the tasks of the General Assembly to make sure that their voices can still be heard.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres also emphasized the importance of focusing on people in the UN’s work.

“People around the world are rightly demanding change and looking for governments and institutions to deliver,” he said. “We all agree that the United Nations must do even more to adapt and deliver. That is the aim of the reform proposals that this Assembly will consider.”

Guterres said that one key change within and beyond the UN must be the empowerment of women and girls around the world, an important part of the New Urban Agenda.

As part of the reforms planned for the coming year, the effectiveness of UN-Habitat, the UN agency for human settlements and sustainable urban development, is under scrutiny.

To that end, mayors, local and regional leaders and representatives of the Global Taskforce of Local and Regional Governments took part in the high-level meeting on September 5-6 in New York, convened by then President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji on the New Urban Agenda.

The meeting was called to discuss the report of the Independent Panel to Assess, Enhance Effectiveness of UN-Habitat after the Adoption of the New Urban Agenda. And then, to try to map out the next steps towards achievement of that agenda.

The panel’s report calls for a formal role for a Local Government Committee in a renewed UN Habitat governance structure. It acknowledges that, to date, the UN system has failed to recognize the “fundamental role” played by local governments in urban development.

The eight-member panel includes Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, and, in the role of co-chair, the new United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) President Parks Tau, who was the mayor of the city of Johannesburg, South Africa from 2011-2016.

Presenting the panel’s report in the High Level Meeting, Tau told the conference, “The challenges are so great that there needs to be total change in the way we approach development and we will need to include a greater number of actors.”

“Our report makes a clear case for universality and for taking the involvement of non-state actors and local governments to a different level,” Tau said.

Panel Co-Chair and Mexico’s Secretary of Agrarian, Territorial and Urban Development Rosario Robles, said, “By its very nature the New Urban Agenda is a territorial agenda, an agenda that deals with towns, cities and their rural surroundings. It therefore cannot be achieved without the active commitment and participation of local and regional governments who are in direct contract with territories.”

The local leaders met with UN Secretary-General António Guterres to emphasize the contributions of local and regional governments to the overall UN sustainable development agenda.

Guterres expressed appreciation for the support of local and regional governments and his will for the United Nations to explore new ways of collaboration with this constituency to achieve the successful implementation of the New Urban Agenda.

What is it then, this New Urban Agenda?

First, it is intended to aid in the implementation and localization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in an integrated manner, and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and targets, especially Goal 11 of making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

The problems are many. By 2050, the world’s urban population is expected to nearly double, making urbanization one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends.

Populations, economic activities, social and cultural interactions, environmental and humanitarian impacts, are increasingly urban.

And in our cities massive sustainability challenges arise when needs for housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety and natural resources must be met for the millions of new urban residents.

The General Assembly hopes the ambitious new agenda will make life better for all city residents.

The UN Resolution of adoption reads, “The New Urban Agenda will help to end poverty and hunger in all its forms and dimensions; reduce inequalities; promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth; achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in order to fully harness their vital contribution to sustainable development; improve human health and wellbeing; foster resilience; and protect the environment.”

The New Urban Agenda “recognizes that culture should be taken into account in the promotion and implementation of new sustainable consumption and production patterns that contribute to the responsible use of resources and address the adverse impact of climate change.”

Throughout the world, organizations that represent cities and regions are already moving toward the concepts embodied in the New Urban Agenda, dealing with climate change as a priority.

Cities already account for more than 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. With urbanization on the rise, at least 66 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050, making cities the potential epicenters of climate solutions.

Plans are now underway for phasing out greenhouse gas emissions in cities with local solutions to limit climate change.

Japanese local and regional governments released the Nagano Declaration September 8 at the Local Renewables Conference 2017 in Nagano, Japan in support of a future in which Japanese cities and regions are fully powered by renewable energy.

With some 500 participants from across Japan and elsewhere, the Local Renewables Conference 2017 offered a stage for local and regional governments, energy service providers, business reps and experts to plan the switch from imported, fossil-fuel energy sources to local renewable energy resources.

This conference was a special edition of the Local Renewables Conference Series initiated and organized biannually in Europe by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the City of Freiburg, Germany. This one was hosted by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, Nagano Prefecture and ICLEI.

Last December, the newly created Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy was introduced during the C40 Cities Mayors Summit in Mexico City.

“The leadership of cities is more important than ever in the fight against climate change,” said Michael Bloomberg, three-term mayor of New York City, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change and Co-Chair of the new Global Covenant of Mayors.

“This group’s diverse experience from cities on every continent will help support local action and speed global progress,” Bloomberg said.

Maroš Šefčovič of Slovakia, a vice president of the European Commission and co-chair of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy, said, “Bringing together the EU Covenant of Mayors with the Compact of Mayors was a step forward for both coalitions, as it allowed us to expand our global reach to mobilize and galvanize local leadership in every corner of the world.”

The new emphasis on local governments, means more opportunities for impact investors.

Writing on the International Institute for Environment and Development website, Katharina Neureiter said September 7, “It’s 10 years since the term ‘impact investing’ was coined to reflect investments that bring about social and environmental benefits alongside financial returns. Since then, the impact investing sector has grown to US$77 billion.”

Examining the pros and cons of investing in underserved localities, Neureiter writes, “Engaging with residents could solve many problems. Locals can help prospective investors understand land use patterns. If residents see the benefits of an investment in their area they might be prepared to mediate between developers and local governments, clarify land access, and use their relationships to advocate on behalf of the investor.”


Featured image: Cityscape (Photo by Lau_wo) Creative Comons license via Pixabay

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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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Oceans Inspire Global Call to Action

FijiSoftCoralCave

Diver explores a soft coral cave in Fiji, June 6, 2009 (Photo by thundafunda) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, June 13, 2017 (Maximapct.com) – Ending the United Nations’ inaugural Ocean Conference on a wave of enthusiastic determination, the 193 UN Member States Friday agreed on a Call to Action  listing specific measures to restore health to Earth’s degraded oceans by 2030.

This outcome document, together with 1,328 voluntary commitments to action, represents a breakthrough in the global approach to the management and conservation of the ocean.

The commitments address Sustainable Development Goal #14, Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

“The Ocean Conference has changed our relationship with the ocean,” said President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji, which co-organized the conference with Sweden.

“Henceforth,” said Thomson, “none can say they were not aware of the harm humanity has done to the ocean’s health. We are now working around the world to restore a relationship of balance and respect towards the ocean.”

Recognizing that the wellbeing of present and future generations is linked to the health and productivity of the ocean, all countries agreed, “to act decisively and urgently, convinced that our collective action will make a meaningful difference to our people, to our planet and to our prosperity.”

The Call to Action recognizes the importance of the Paris Agreement on Climate; countries agreed to develop and implement measures to address the effects of climate warming on the oceans, such as acidification, sea-level rise and increase in ocean temperatures that harm corals and other marine life.

“We are particularly alarmed by the adverse impacts of climate change on the ocean, including the rise in ocean temperatures, ocean and coastal acidification, deoxygenation, sea-level rise, the decrease in polar ice coverage, coastal erosion and extreme weather events,” the UN Member States declared in their Call to Action.

“We acknowledge the need to address the adverse impacts that impair the crucial ability of the ocean to act as climate regulator, source of marine biodiversity, and as key provider of food and nutrition, tourism and ecosystem services, and as an engine for sustainable economic development and growth,” they stated.

“We are committed to halting and reversing the decline in the health and productivity of our ocean and its ecosystems and to protecting and restoring its resilience and ecological integrity,” they stated. “We recognise that the wellbeing of present and future generations is inextricably linked to the health and productivity of our ocean.”

The Call to Action includes measures to protect coastal and blue carbon ecosystems, such as mangroves, tidal marshes, seagrass and coral reefs, and wider interconnected ecosystems, as well as enhancing sustainable fisheries management, including to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield.

Wu Hongbo, UN under-secretary-general for economic and social affairs and secretary-general of the Ocean Conference, said the conference moved the world closer to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals agreed unanimously by UN Member States in 2015.

OceansConfOrganizers

At the Oceans Conference, from left: President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji; Sweden’s Deputy Prime Minister and Green Party spokesperson Isabella Lövin; UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Ocean Conference Wu Hongbo of China. June 8, 2017 (Photo by Evan Schneider courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

“Participants from member States, NGOs, civil society, the private sector, the scientific community and academia engaged in wide-ranging discussion and shared state-of-the-art knowledge and latest information on marine science and challenges,” Wu said. “They showcased and put forward many innovative solutions, which can help us achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14, and through its interlinkages the other SDGs and targets.”

Fiji’s President Frank Bainimarama emphasized the threats of climate change and ocean litter, declaring that greedy nations and commercial interests threaten livelihoods in small island developing states such as his South Pacific island home.

Among its many voluntary commitments as co-organizer of the Ocean Conference, the Government of Fiji launched the Fiji Whale and Dolphin Action Plan to protect whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. This commitment is a follow-up to Fiji’s declaration of its Exclusive Economic Zone as a whale sanctuary in 2003.

There are 10 confirmed species of whales and dolphins in Fijian waters. Humpback whales breed and calve there, and as many as 15 other cetacean species pass through on their migrations or reside there is small numbers.

But population levels of humpback whales and other whale species are at critically low levels, and the Oceania humpback whale sub-population has been declared endangered.

Sweden, the other Ocean Conference co-organizer, also has made many voluntary commitments to ocean restoration, including a contribution of 50 million SEK (US$5.5 million) to The Blue Action Fund, which makes funding available for the activities of national and international nongovernmental organizations in their efforts to help conserve marine and coastal ecosystems.

The German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in cooperation with KfW Development Bank founded the Blue Action Fund as a response to the funding gap for the conservation of marine biodiversity, networks of marine protected areas and transboundary conservation measures. The Fund will work in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific region.

“Do what you can, do it wisely, and most importantly do it now. A healthy ocean is not a luxury item. It is a necessity for survival,” Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden told the Stockholm Resilience Centre event on engaging the private sector in SDG 14 held on June 9 at UN headquarters.

“All alarm bells are ringing: We are coming dangerously close to fatal tipping points,” the princess said, emphasizing the critical role of the ocean in sustaining life on Earth. “Taking care of the ocean means taking care of ourselves,” she said.

The Crown Princess spoke at the side event featuring the efforts of nine of the world’s largest seafood companies, members of the science-based sustainability initiative Seafood Business for Ocean Stewardship (SeaBOS).

The princess praised the SeaBOS commitment to sustainable seafood by connecting the global seafood business to science; wild capture fisheries to aquaculture; and European and North American companies to Asian companies.

Conference organizers say commitments made at the conference indicate that the world is on track to designate more than 10 percent of the oceans as Marine Protected Areas by 2020.

Many countries announced steps to reduce or eliminate single use plastics and microplastics that end up in the oceans, where they harm sea birds and animals.

Numerous countries announced that they are stepping up their efforts to reduce the amount of sewage and pollution entering the ocean from land-based activities.

Many commitments focused on expanding scientific knowledge about the ocean and developing and sharing innovative technologies to address ocean challenges.

There were new commitments to protect and manage fisheries. Some countries announced “no-take zones” for certain fisheries.

Commitments were made to establish systems that allow consumers to more easily source sustainable fish.

New commitments were made to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and to curtail fishing subsidies that result in depleted fish populations.

In the Call to Action, the UN Member States agreed to develop an “international legally binding instrument” under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to govern the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, the so-called high seas.

They want the UN General Assembly to decide on the convening and on the starting date of an intergovernmental conference to negotiate this legally binding agreement on high seas governance before the end of its 72nd session on September 25.


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Featured Image: Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden at the UN Ocean Conference, June 9, 2017 (Photo courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Mayday: All Hands on Deck for Oceans

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Common dolphins off the coast of Monterey Bay, California, Feb. 17, 2013 (Photo by John Kay) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, June 6, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – “We are here on behalf of humanity to restore sustainability, balance and respect to our relationship with our primal mother, the source of life, the ocean,” President of the UN General Assembly Peter Thomson of Fiji declared on opening day of the inaugural UN Oceans Conference .

At UN headquarters in New York on Monday, he told thousands of participants: heads of State and Government, civil society representatives and business people as well as ocean and marine life advocates, “The time has come for us to correct our wrongful ways.”

Thomson spoke out against “inexcusable” actions, such as dumping the equivalent of one large garbage truck of plastic into the oceans every minute of every day, driving fish stocks to the points of collapse, and destroying marine life through acidification and deoxygenation.

The five-day Ocean Conference, initiated by Sweden and Fiji, opened Monday on the UN’s annual World Environment Day with a Fijian traditional welcome ceremony.

It is the first UN conference to focus on one specific Sustainable Development Goal: Number 14 – conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources to benefit present and future generations.

Isabella Lövin, Swedish deputy prime minister, minister for International Development

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Isabella Lövin, Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden. (Photo by Mark Garten courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

Cooperation and a Green Party member, said, “Saving our oceans requires global leadership now. The situation is urgent. The trend we are seeing with overfishing, emissions and littering means that unless we do something by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.”

As conference organizers, Sweden and Fiji want to mobilize and accelerate engagement on sustainable ocean management and development to strengthen sustainable development in the most vulnerable countries and regions.

Warning that the special relationship between people and the ocean that brings untold benefits for life is under threat as never before, UN Secretary-General António Guterres told the opening of the Ocean Conference that the problems of the ocean—all created by human activity, can all be reversed and prevented with decisive, coordinated action.

“Oceans are a testing ground for the principle of multilateralism,” said Guterres. “The health of our oceans and seas requires us to put aside short-term national gain, to avoid long-term global catastrophe. Conserving our oceans and using them sustainably is preserving life itself.”

The sustainable oceans, seas and marine resources goal is central to the entire UN development agenda and is closely linked to other goals, such as combating poverty, food security, combating climate change, sustainable production and consumption, and supply of clean water and sanitation for all.

“Oceans are of vital importance to our survival and that of the entire planet. They are a crucial source of protein for the world’s poorest people. Failing to save the oceans will lead to widespread global insecurity,” warned Lövin.

But Lövin struck a note of optimism on opening day. “We are truly looking forward to seeing new partnerships being formed, and new voluntary commitments on SDG 14 being submitted during and after the conference, and warmly welcome the commitments already made,” she said. “The momentum is really energizing.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, the incoming president of the next UN Climate Conference in November, emphasized the links between ocean and climate health.

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The United Nations Oceans Conference opened with a traditional Fijian welcome ceremony in the Hall of the UN General Assembly, New York, NY, June 5, 2017 (Photo by Ariana Lindquist courtesy United Nations) Posted for media use

“Climate change poses the biggest threat the world has ever known. And the quality of our oceans and seas is also deteriorating at an alarming rate. They are interlinked, because rising sea levels, as well as ocean acidity and warmer waters have a direct effect on our reefs and fish stocks and the prosperity of our coastal communities,” said the Fijian leader.

The main areas of work at the Ocean Conference will be a political call to action, a segment on partnership dialogues and voluntary commitments. To date, more than 830 voluntary commitments have been registered. See them at: Ocean Conference Commitments

The commitments should be specific, measurable, achievable, resource based, with time-based deliverables.

“The Ocean Conference is where we truly begin the process of reversing the cycle of decline into which our accumulated activities have placed the ocean,” said Thomson.

“By adding to the conference’s register of voluntary commitments; of producing practical solutions to Ocean’s problems at the Partnership Dialogues; and through the affirmation of the conference’s Call for Action, we have begun that process of reversing the wrongs,” he said.

A sampling of the voluntary commitments registered to date shows a wide variety of ocean protection efforts:

  • The International Labour Organization commits to achieving decent work through the elimination of exploitative labor conditions for fishers and seafarers
  • Panama commits to emissions reduction from international shipping through the Panama Canal.
  • Canada commits to protecting at least 10 percent of its marine environment by 2020 with 0.9 percent of its coastal and marine areas as of 2017 already protected.
  • Samoa commits to establish a National Marine Sanctuary together with scientific research, monitoring, and education programs to foster a marine ethic of conservation and marine stewardship.
  • Greece commits to establishment of a Marine Protected Area at the coastline of Plakias, Crete to protect endangered species, increase biodiversity, conserve important ecosystems and increase eco-tourism.
  • Turkey commits to conclude Marine Litter Action Plans at the end of 2018 which will be prepared for each province that borders the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea or Sea of Marmara. Strong waste management policies as well as reduction, reuse and recycling activities are encouraged by Turkish government.
  • Adidas, the shoe manufacturer, commits to produce one million pairs of shoes made from with recycled ocean plastic by the end of 2017, Phase out the use of virgin plastic, and invest to divert plastic litter from coastal communities and turn it into products.
  • The Walton Family Foundation commits to work with Indonesia, the United States, Mexico, Peru, and Chile to improve fisheries management for the benefit of fishing communities and ocean habitats over the next 10 to 20 years and work to ensure that fish entering the European Union, Japan and the United States are sustainably caught.
  • The civil society organization oneocean.fm commits to raise awareness for ocean conservation through the power of music. Collaborations bring together Dr. Sylvia Earle, Sir Richard Branson, Fabien Cousteau, and like minded platforms, organizations, businesses and radio stations from around the world.

Maximpact+WASTE

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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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.

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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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Stock Exchanges Adopt Sustainability Reporting

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Trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange, May 15, 2014 (Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid ) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, December 13, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – As many as 21 more of the world’s stock exchanges could introduce sustainability reporting standards before the end of the year, bringing the total number to 38, says an official with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development .

Seventeen stock exchanges already recommend that their listed companies report on environmental, social, and governance, known as ESG, issues.

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James Zhan, director of investment and enterprise, UNCTAD (Photo courtesy UNCTAD) Posted for media use.

And James Zhan, director of the Division on Investment and Enterprise at UNCTAD, which co-organizes the UN’s Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) initiative, said that 23 stock exchanges have committed to introduce new standards on sustainability reporting in 2016.

Just two have implemented so far, but more are expected to introduce new standards before the end of the year or early in 2017, he said.

The upsurge in sustainability reporting standards follows the launch of the SSE Model Guidance on Reporting ESG Information to Investors.

Twenty-one stock exchanges have confirmed to us they will introduce new guidelines either this year or within the first quarter of next year, and we know that many of them are close because they have posted draft guidelines on their websites for comment and discussion,” Zhan said.

Sustainability reporting has come of age,” he said, adding that the UN and nongovernmental organizations are no longer the only ones to advocate sustainability reporting and that “the markets themselves are demanding it.

In a newly published biennial report “2016 Report on Progress” on the progress made by Sustainable Stock Exchanges, SSE, the authors examined the environmental, social, and governance practices of 82 stock exchanges and found that exchanges are increasingly taking actions that contribute to the creation of more sustainable capital markets.

The report was prepared for the fifth SSE Global Dialogue held in September in Singapore. Representatives from 16 countries, including stock exchange chief executives, institutional investors and companies, senior government policymakers and United Nations representatives gathered to discuss the theme, “A New Global Agenda.

One development in the new agenda is the number of exchanges now partnering with the SSE initiative. Fifty-eight stock exchanges, representing over 70 percent of listed equity markets, have made public commitments to advancing sustainability in their markets and are now official SSE Partner Exchanges.

Market transparency is gaining in acceptability too. Twelve exchanges currently incorporate ESG reporting into their listing rules and 15 provide formal guidance to stock issuers.

The progress of SSE’s campaign to encourage exchanges to issue guidance signals that the industry is ready to take the lead when presented with practical opportunities to develop more sustainable markets.

Another significant development is the growth of green finance. Green bond listings grew considerably and there is increasing interest among equity investors in issues like stranded assets and carbon risk.

The Luxembourg Stock Exchange now lists 110 green bonds and represents half of all listed green bonds globally.

Today 11 stock exchanges offer green bond listings, demonstrating that exchanges are already supporting the transition to a green economy and there is room for further growth.

ESG indices remain the most popular sustainability instrument among exchanges, with 38 of 82 exchanges providing them.

Upon joining the ESG guidance campaign in September 2015, Oscar Onyema, CEO of the Nigerian Stock Exchange, said, “The Nigerian Stock Exchange is using its unique platform to advocate for the adoption of global corporate governance standards and sustainable business practices. We are committed to developing principle-based sustainability reporting guidelines and a roadmap that will inspire sustainability imperatives in the Nigerian capital market.

Looking at the policy landscape, many governments, too, are encouraging corporate disclosure of ESG factors, with 30 of the largest 50 country economies having at least one regulation on disclosure of ESG factors in place.

Government involvement on the investment side is less developed, with eight of the 50 countries implementing an investor stewardship code that addresses ESG factors.

Despite many reasons to be optimistic, the SSE’s data show that more action is needed if stock exchanges are going to play an important role in promoting the reorientation of financial markets to support the Sustainable Development Goals.

By reporting on sustainability issues, companies tend to act more sustainably too, Zhan said. They may have an incentive to do so, since analysts increasingly see a positive correlation between sustainable performance and strong financial performance too.

Zhan said the SSE initiative had helped spread corporate sustainability reporting, by distributing model guidelines for use by the stock exchanges themselves and their listed members.

The SSE initiative works to “advance sustainability” in the markets. It is organized by UNCTAD, the United Nations Global Compact, the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP-FI) and the Principles for Responsible Investment.

The private sector is seen as critical to achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals , and the SSE initiative is viewed as an important channel to get the private sector more involved in accomplishing these goals.

Launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2009, the SSE initiative now includes 58 stock exchanges, representing more than 70 percent of listed equity markets, and some 30,000 companies with a market capitalization of over US$55 trillion.

The SSE initiative was built on the demand from exchanges for a place to come together with investors, companies and policymakers to share good practices and challenges in a multi-stakeholder environment.

Since 2012 when the first five stock exchanges – BM&FBOVESPA in São Paulo, Brazil; Borsa Istanbul; Egyptian Exchange (EGX); Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE); and Nasdaq – made a public commitment to advancing sustainability in their market, the initiative has grown into a global partnership platform including most of the world’s exchanges.

Through the SSE, exchanges have access to consensus and capacity building activities, guidance, research and other support to assist in their efforts to contribute to sustainable development.

Market expectations are shifting quickly and we see more and more stock exchanges viewing sustainability reporting as necessary and inevitable,” said Anthony Miller, UNCTAD’s SSE initiative coordinator. “Those expectations create their own momentum.”

The report concludes with recommendations for exchanges that range from introducing ESG reporting guidance to promoting gender-diverse boards to listing green bonds.

By putting the recommendations into action, exchanges can take leadership roles in creating more stable capital markets and a sustainable society.


Featured image: Nasdaq displays the SSE logo in Times Square, New York City, March 2016 (Photo courtesy UNCTAD) Posted for media use

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COP22: Paris Climate Pact ‘Irreversible’

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Hundreds of delegates gather for the largest-ever UNFCCC family photo, Nov. 18, 2016, Marrakech, Morocco (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) [Note: ENB would like a link in return for the image, please link: www.iisd.ca]

By Sunny Lewis

MARRAKECH, Morocco, November 21, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – In the early hours of Saturday morning in Marrakech, more than 190 governments agreed to the Marrakech Action Proclamation , which sends a strong message of global unity towards taking effective action to limit climate change.

The document proclaims that was issued “to signal a shift towards a new era of implementation and action on climate and sustainable development.

Our climate is warming at an alarming and unprecedented rate and we have an urgent duty to respond,” the Proclamation warns.

 The 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 22, hosted by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, saw nearly 500 heads of state or government and ministers in attendance.

By the end of the two-week climate summit, more than 100 countries, representing over 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, had formally joined the Paris Agreement on climate.

On November 15, Marrakech hosted CMA 1, the first official Meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement, its top governing body, following the accord’s early entry into force on November 4, less than a year after it was adopted.

 Watch a video of the CMA1 here

Agreed at COP21 last December in Paris, the Agreement sets the goal of keeping the global average temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). A further aim is to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The November 8 election of climate denier Donald Trump as president of the United States sent shock waves through the gathering, but it did not deter delegates from moving forward to tackle climate change with determination.

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UNFCCC, said, “The landmark Paris Agreement set the course and the destination for global climate action. Here in Marrakesh, governments underlined that this shift is now urgent, irreversible and unstoppable.

The governments proclaimed their support for the Paris Agreement, which is the first global climate accord that includes

all the large greenhouse gas emitters, whether they are developed or developing countries.

 “We welcome the Paris Agreement, adopted under the Convention, its rapid entry into force, with its ambitious goals, its inclusive nature and its reflection of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in the light of different national circumstances, and we affirm our commitment to its full implementation,” the governments proclaimed.

Indeed, this year, we have seen extraordinary momentum on climate change worldwide,” they proclaimed. “This momentum is irreversible, it is being driven not only by governments, but by science, business and global action of all types at all levels.

Our task now is to rapidly build on that momentum, together, moving forward purposefully to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to foster adaptation efforts,” they stated. “We call for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority.

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Participants in the ministerial dialogue, titled “A multi-stakeholder approach to mobilization and delivery of adaptation finance.” Nov. 15, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) please link as before.

During the high-level segment of the conference, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry underlined the commitment of the American people to climate action.

The United States, Canada, Germany and Mexico announced ambitious climate strategies out to 2050, reflecting the long-term goal of the Paris Agreement to achieve climate neutrality and a low-emission world in the second half of this century.

 The Kingdom of Morocco announced its Blue Belt Initiative aimed at building the resilience of coastal communities and promoting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.

The financing to forestall the planet’s rising temperature is beginning to flow – from many different sources.

Multi-billion and multi-million dollar packages of support for clean technologies; building capacity to report on climate action plans; and initiatives for boosting water and food security in developing countries were among the many new initiatives launched in Marrakech.

The Global Environment Facility, GEF, a multilateral funding facility, announced the US$50 million Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency backed by 11 developed country donors.

Countries pledged more than $81 million to the Adaptation Fund, surpassing its target for the year.

Countries pledged over $23 million to the Climate Technology Centre and Network, CTCN, which supports developing countries with climate technology development and transfer.

The Green Climate Fund announced the approval of the first two proposals for the formulation of National Adaptation Plans – Liberia for $2.2 million and Nepal for $2.9 million.

Another 20 countries are expected to have their proposals approved soon with up to $3 million each. Overall, the Green Climate Fund is on track to approve $2.5 billion worth of projects.

During COP 22, governments learned that in 2016 more than 30 projects for cutting emissions with technology transfer objectives were approved by the Global Environment Facility, with $188.7 million in GEF funding and $5.9 billion in co-financing.

 Businesses, investors, cities and local governments issued new climate change commitments, adding to the thousands announced in the run-up to the Paris climate conference.

A club of subnational governments, the Under2 Coalition, who have committed to reduce their emissions by at least 80 percent by 2020, announced their membership has grown to 165 jurisdictions.

 The combined GDP of these 165 member governments is close to $26 trillion – a third of the global economy – and cover a population of around one billion people living in North America, Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, World Bank and the African Development Bank announced the African Package for Climate-Resilient Ocean Economies, an ambitious package of technical and financial assistance to support ocean economies in Africa and build greater resilience to climate change in coastal areas.

All these funds and much more will be needed to avert climate change, said Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco’s environment minister, who presided over COP22.

 “It will be necessary to respect the commitment of $100 billion dollars from now until 2020,” he said, referring to developed countries’ pledge to contribute US$100 billion annually to help developing countries cope with the existing impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts and disease.

Faced with the magnitude of what is required for dealing with the impacts of climate change, turning billions into trillions is indispensable,” Mezouar said. “2017 must be the year of large-scale projects, of mobilizing finance, and accessing financial facilities that will be necessary for adaptation.

At the close, Fiji was announced as the incoming President of the 2017 UN climate conference, COP23, which will be hosted by the UNFCCC in Bonn, Germany.

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has attended all of the COP meetings held during his 10 year tenure. He told the COP22 delegates, “I leave you with the strong hope that we will have the courage, tenacity and wisdom to live up to our responsibility to future generations by protecting our only home: this beautiful planet Earth.


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Featured Image : UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and Morocco’s Environment Minister Salaheddine Mezouar, COP 22 president, sychronize their watches for climate action, Nov. 15, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) please link as before.

Climate Denier Trump Wins

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Informal consultations on gender and climate change at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, November 9, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 10, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The surprising election of Donald Trump, a Republican and climate denier, to the White House on Tuesday changes the global balance of power on climate change.

 The defeat of Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former Secretary of State under President Barack Obama, comes just as delegates to COP22, this year’s annual Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Morocco, work to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate, which entered into force November 4.

 While Clinton supported the Obama administration in making the climate a priority, Trump has called global warming a Chinese hoax.

Trump has said he wants to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord. Under the agreement, the United States cannot withdraw for four years, but it is possible that the Trump administration could ignore that rule.

Trump has said he wants to repeal all federal spending on clean energy, including research and development for electric vehicles as well as for nuclear, solar and wind power.

With the Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress, this is doable.

President Trump could propose a bill preventing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from regulating carbon dioxide, CO2. A Republican Congress would almost surely pass such a bill.

These policies would mean the U.S. will burn more coal, oil and gas, resulting in more air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, the world is moving in the opposite direction. At the Morocco climate conference on Tuesday Japan ratified the Paris Agreement, pledging to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from 2013 levels by 2030.

 Many country leaders, ministers and top level CEOs are expected to make announcements at the conference’s High Level Event on November 17, including King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

On Wednesday, European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker sent a joint letter of congratulation to Trump that reminded him of the importance of limiting climate change.

Today, it is more important than ever to strengthen transatlantic relations,” the presidents wrote. “Only by cooperating closely can the EU and the US continue to make a difference when dealing with unprecedented challenges such as Da’esh, the threats to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, climate change and migration. Fortunately, the EU – US strategic partnership is broad and deep…

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UNFCCC Global Climate Action Champion and Morocco’s Environment Minister Hakima El Haité at COP22 in Marrakech, November 9, 2016 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Posted for media use.

Also on Tuesday in Marrakech, UNFCCC Global Climate Action Champion Dr. Hakima El Haite, Morocco’s minister delegate in charge of environment, and French economist and diplomat Laurence Tubiana together launched Global Climate Action, a roadmap to help countries meet and exceed their national climate actions commitments.

At the launch the new NAZCA portal to track progress on climate action was unveiled. NAZCA captures the commitments to climate action by companies, cities, subnational entities, regions, investors, and civil society organizations.

Corporations are getting on board the climate action train. More than a third of the 2,000 largest companies with aggregate revenues total $32.5 trillion are taking action, according to the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC.

More than a third of the 2,000 largest companies with aggregate revenues total $32.5 trillion are taking action.

Fifteen of the world’s 20 largest banks totaling close to $2 trillion in market value are taking climate action.

 The Royal Bank of Canada, for instance, has pledged to reduce operational CO2e emissions intensity of properties located in Canada, the United States, and the British Isles by 20 percent per square meter from 2012 to 2018 through increased energy efficiency and renewable energy purchases.

 In addition, 20 investors, representing $3.2 trillion, have committed to decarbonization of $600 billion in assets, while over 800 companies and regions have committed to put a price on carbon emissions.

Apple, Bank of America, General Motors and Wells Fargo have all joined the global RE100 initiative of influential businesses committed to obtaining 100 percent of the electricity they need for their operations from renewable sources like wind and solar.

 Still, civil society groups are very worried about what will happen to the climate when Trump moves into the White House.

Many nongovernmental organizations believe that a climate denier in the White House is a “death sentence” for grassroots movements and the Global South.

 World Resources Institute’s President and CEO Andrew Steer said, “As the new Trump administration comes into office, America must press forward with critical issues that are at the heart of people’s well-being and future prosperity. This includes holding off climate change, investing in clean energy, and revitalizing America with sustainable and resilient infrastructure.

Wilfred D’Costa from the Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD) said, “For communities in the global south, the U.S. citizens’ choice to elect Donald Trump seems like a death sentence. Already we are suffering the effects of climate change after years of inaction by rich countries like the U.S., and with an unhinged climate change denier now in the White House, the relatively small progress made is under threat.”

The international community must not allow itself to be dragged into a race to the bottom. Other developed countries like Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan must increase their pledges for pollution cuts and increase their financial support for our communities,” D’Costa urged.

Friends of the Earth International believes, “The election of Trump is a disaster for climate and especially for the African continent. This is a moment where the rest of the world must not waver and must redouble commitments to tackle dangerous climate change.

Africa is already burning,” said Geoffrey Kamese from Friends of the Earth Africa . “The election of Trump is a disaster for our continent. The United States, if it follows through on its new president’s rash words about withdrawing from the international climate regime, will become a pariah state in global efforts for climate action.

Jean Su with California-based Center for Biological Diversity said, “The Paris Agreement was signed and ratified not by a president, but by the United States itself. One man alone, especially in the 21st century, should not strip the globe of the climate progress that it has made and should continue to make.

 Said Su, “As a matter of international law, and as a matter of human survival, the nations of the world can, must, and will hold the United States to its climate commitments.

 Ceres President Mindy Lubber held out some hope for climate action even under a President Trump.

The stunning U.S. election results are in, but we should refrain from thinking they will completely thwart climate action and the clean energy economy in the U.S. and around the world,” said Lubber.

Today’s reality is that the transition to the low-carbon economy is irreversible, inevitable and fully underway. There’s no turning back. More investors and businesses than at any time in history are working to seize the opportunities embedded in this emerging economy,” she said.

 Ceres is a non-profit organization that seeks to inspire a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.

The facts are on our side. Tackling climate change is one of the greatest economic opportunities of the 21st century,” said Lubber. “The business case for climate action and sustainability is stronger than ever, and the climate science is incontrovertible.

Short-term political and economic changes will not slow our momentum,” Lubber declared. “We are committed to work with the new administration and our bipartisan allies in Washington. We want to make sure they fully understand what is at stake and to protect the gains that we have achieved in the face of climate change and other sustainability threats. Investors and businesses are now, more than ever, the best messengers to deliver our message.


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Featured image : U.S. President-elect Donald Trump makes a point at a campaign rally October 31, 2016 (Photo courtesy Donald J. Trump for President) Posted for media use.

US$100 Billion to Finance Climate Triage

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Clever Kanga works for the Foundation for Irrigation and Sustainable Development in the central African country of Malawi, working to install solar powered irrigation projects, April 2016. (Photo by Trocaire) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, November 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – Finance is always a hot button issue at the UN’s annual climate negotiations, and this year’s 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP22, will focus even more intently on financing – this time to support the first global greenhouse gas limitation pact, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

At COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, taking place November 7-18, nations are expected to continue strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, with the central focus placed on enhancing ambition, promoting implementation and providing support, especially financial support.

The process is energized by the unexpectedly rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement on November 4, just before the opening of COP22.

The Paris Agreement was adopted at the UN climate conference in December 2015. To enter into force, at least 55 Parties accounting for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions were required to join the pact, which enters into force 30 days later.

On October 5, those thresholds were reached. Countries joining the Agreement include the biggest and smallest greenhouse gas emitters, as well as the richest and the most vulnerable nations.

The Paris Agreement is clear that all finance flows – both public and private – must become consistent with a low-emission and climate-resilient development path.

Several new studies make clear that meeting the agreement’s central goal of holding temperature rise to well below 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), and aiming for 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), requires quickly shifting investments from fossil fuels and other high-emissions activities towards clean energy, green infrastructure and climate resilience.

In the United States, 2016 is the first year that investment in renewable energy sources has outpaced investment in fossil fuels, said John Morton, director for energy and climate change for the National Security Council, speaking to reporters today on a conference call.

At COP 22 in Marrakech, work to develop the rules that deliver on this goal continues.

Here are five key climate finance issues to watch as outlined by the World Resources Institute, a global research organization that spans more than 50 countries, with offices in Brazil, China, Europe, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and the United States, where it is headquartered in Washington, DC.

1. Pathway to US$100 Billion

In Paris last December, developed countries were asked for a concrete roadmap for mobilizing US$100 billion in climate finance for developing countries by 2020. This roadmap – which can help build trust that developing countries will be supported in taking urgent climate action – is now being finalized, with the aim of presenting it at a “pre-COP” gathering of ministers next week.

In Copenhagen in 2009 and in Cancún in 2010, developed countries committed to jointly raising $100 billion annually from 2020 to 2025 to help developing countries cope with climate change by building low carbon and climate resilient economies. This pledge was re-affirmed in the Paris at COP21.

This sum may come from bilateral or multilateral, public or private sources, including innovative financing, for example, the French contribution to the financial transaction tax.

Public financing may take several forms: multilateral funds such as the Green Climate Fund; multilateral or regional institutions such as the World Bank; government contributions; and bilateral institutions such as the Agence Française de Développement, the French Development Agency.

The $100 billion in funding should not be confused with the Green Climate Fund; only part of this sum will pass through the Fund.

On October 17, developed countries released a Roadmap for how they will mobilize climate finance between now and 2020.

The Roadmap “aims to provide increased predictability and transparency about how the goal will be reached, and sets out the range of actions developed countries will take to meet it.

An analysis of the Roadmap by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finds that by 2020, developed countries are expected to have mobilized between $90 billion and 92 billion of climate finance, depending on how effective public finance is in mobilizing private finance.

By comparison, the overall total for mobilized public and private finance in 2014 was $62 billion.

The OECD analysis predicts that the $100 billion goal will be reachable for 2020, due to increased leverage ratios for private finance.

2. What Counts?

Determining progress towards the $100 billion goal is tricky, say WRI analysts, since countries have never agreed on what counts as climate finance.

After considering this issue at climate negotiations earlier this year, countries agreed to hold a workshop in Marrakech to advance progress on the Paris commitment to develop modes for accounting of climate finance.

Consistency in finance reporting will help all countries to accurately track progress on commitments and ensure improved quantity and quality of climate finance flows.

3. Rules for Reporting Finance

Countries will be developing formats for how finance will be reported, based on these reporting mandates:

  • Developed countries must report projected levels of finance they will provide to developing countries and finance they already have provided to developing countries. Other countries providing finance are encouraged to report voluntarily.
  • Developing countries should report on finance needed and received.

These requirements build on earlier rules, but have the potential to be more comprehensive and systematic. Countries need to ensure the reports provide useful information for the global stocktaking process under the Paris Agreement that will assess progress every five years.

4. Scaling Up Adaptation Finance

The Paris Agreement called for a balance between support for adaptation and mitigation, but there remains some way to go.

Adaptation refers to making changes in the way humans respond to changes in climate.

Mitigation refers to controlling emissions of greenhouse gases so that the total accumulation is limited.

Developed countries’ most recent reporting to the UN shows that 14 percent of bilateral funding went to adaptation in 2014. An additional 17 percent went to both adaptation and mitigation.

In Paris, countries called for increasing adaptation finance. A clear commitment for how adaptation funding will be increased up to 2020 would bolster confidence that the most vulnerable countries’ most urgent needs will be supported.

Proposed options include a 50:50 allocation between mitigation and adaptation, a doubling of the current share of adaptation finance and a doubling of the amount of adaptation finance from current levels.

5. Adaptation Fund, Renewed?

One mechanism for channeling adaptation finance to developing countries is the Adaptation Fund, which was created at the 2001 COP in Marrakech, to serve the Kyoto Protocol. With the Kyoto Protocol’s commitment period ending in 2020, the Fund’s future is uncertain.

Countries are considering whether and how the Adaptation Fund can support the Paris Agreement.

The Adaptation Fund has a good niche in supporting relatively small-scale adaptation projects and prioritizing direct access to funding. It can provide money directly to national institutions in developing countries, without going through international intermediaries.

Creating a mandate for the Adaptation Fund to serve the Paris Agreement in Marrakech would give it a new lease on life to continue supporting vital adaptation efforts around the world.

What is Being Done Today?

Financial institutions have already been busy finding and allocating funding to climate projects.

The two operating entities of the UNFCCC Financial Mechanism, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) approved more than two dozen projects in recent meetings.

Water provision in Ali Addeh camp in Djibouti. A combination of high food prices, water scarcity, climate change and reduced pasture has increased food insecurity. This year’s El Niño has led to even dryer weather. Humanitarian funding from the European Commission provides refugees with access to clean water and sanitation as well as shelter, protection, nutrition and health care. May 2016 (Photo by European Commission DG ECHO) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

The GCF Board approved funding proposals for 10 projects, totaling US$745 million, and the GEF Council approved its Work Program, comprising 16 project concepts and three programmatic frameworks, with total resources amounting to US$302 million.

In addition, the Adaptation Fund Board approved two new projects totaling US$7 million,

World Bank Head Calls for Slowing Down Coal Finance

Speaking at the World Bank-International Monetary Fund Annual Meetings 2016 Climate Ministerial meeting in October, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim called on ministers to accelerate the transition to low carbon power sources, noting that the Paris Agreement goals cannot be met if current plans for coal-fired stations are implemented.

Kim called for concessional finance that is well targeted and “follows the carbon,” is leveraged and blended to crowd in the private sector, and is available quickly, at scale and easily deployed.


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167 Nations Adopt New Urban Agenda

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Paris Climate Pact ‘Unstoppable’

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Celebrating the adoption of the Paris Agreement, from left, then UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), President François Hollande of France, December 12, 2015. (Photo courtesy UNFCCC) posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis,

NEW YORK, New York, October 6, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The Paris Agreement on climate change is set to enter into force on November 4, less than a year after it was adopted by world leaders. With the ratifications deposited Wednesday, enough countries have approved the landmark accord to bring it to the emissions threshold that will trigger its implementation.

 “What once seemed unthinkable, is now unstoppable,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as he accepted the latest instruments of ratification that pushed the agreement over the threshold.

Strong international support for the Paris Agreement entering into force is a testament to the urgency for action, and reflects the consensus of governments that robust global cooperation, grounded in national action, is essential to meet the climate challenge,” Ban said.

 Ban, who will step down as secretary-general on December 31, has made adoption of the world’s first global climate agreement a priority of his 10 years as UN leader.

 Over the past decade, Ban has labored to accelerate the global response to climate change. He has visited communities on the climate frontlines, from the Arctic to the Amazon, and has witnessed how climate impacts are already devastating lives, livelihoods and prospects for a better future.

On Wednesday, he reminded world leaders that the work of implementing the agreement still lies ahead, saying, “Now we must move from words to deeds and put Paris into action. We need all hands on deck – every part of society must be mobilized to reduce emissions and help communities adapt to inevitable climate impacts.

Adopted in Paris by the 195 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at a conference known as COP21 this past December, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, as well as to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It seeks to limit global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels to well below two degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The pact was signed in New York on April 22, Earth Day, by 175 countries at the largest, single-day signing ceremony in history.

It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance or accession with the secretary-general.

The requirements for entry into force were satisfied today when Austria, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Malta, Nepal, Portugal and Slovakia, as well as the European Union, deposited their instruments of ratification with the Secretary-General.

Earlier this week, New Zealand and India signed onto the Agreement, following the 31 countries which joined at a special event at the United Nations on September 21 during the UN General Assembly’s general debate.

Early in September, the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters, China and the United States, joined the Paris Agreement.

Wednesday in the Rose Garden at the White House, President Barack Obama said, “Today, the world meets the moment. And if we follow through on the commitments that this agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet.”

Now, the Paris Agreement alone will not solve the climate crisis. Even if we meet every target embodied in the agreement, we’ll only get to part of where we need to go,” said Obama. “But make no mistake, this agreement will help delay or avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change. It will help other nations ratchet down their dangerous carbon emissions over time, and set bolder targets as technology advances, all under a strong system of transparency that allows each nation to evaluate the progress of all other nations.

By sending a signal that this is going to be our future – a clean energy future – it opens up the floodgates for businesses, and scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation at a scale that we’ve never seen before,” Obama said. “So this gives us the best possible shot to save the one planet we’ve got.

Mindy Lubber, president of the non-profit Ceres, said, “The world must ratchet up global investment in clean energy by an additional $1 trillion a year to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. Global investment in clean energy is currently tracking at about $300 to $350 billion a year, which is far short of the Clean Trillion target we need to hit every year to avoid catastrophic climate warming.”

 Based in Boston, Massachusetts, Ceres mobilizes investor and business leadership to build a sustainable global economy.

We have much more to do to navigate the transition to a sustainable economy, but today represents a major step forward,” Lubber said.

The Paris Agreement will enter into force in time for the Climate Conference (COP 22) in Morocco in November, where countries will convene the first Meeting of the Parties to the Agreement. Countries that have not yet joined may participate as observers.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said, “Above all, entry into force bodes well for the urgent, accelerated implementation of climate action that is now needed to realize a better, more secure world and to support also the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.

It also brings a renewed urgency to the many issues governments are advancing to ensure full implementation of the Agreement,” Espinosa said. “This includes development of a rule book to operationalize the agreement and how international cooperation and much bigger flows of finance can speed up and scale up national climate action plans.”

 In Strasbourg, France, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said, “Our collective task is to turn our commitments into action on the ground. And here Europe is ahead of the curve. We have the policies and tools to meet our targets, steer the global clean energy transition and modernise our economy. The world is moving and Europe is in a driver’s seat, confident and proud of leading the work to tackle climate change.

Congratulating all of the signatories of the Agreement, the Secretary-General encouraged all countries to accelerate their domestic processes to ratify the Agreement as soon as possible.

 Specifically, the Agreement calls on countries to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low-carbon future, and to adapt to the increasing impacts of climate change.

It also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. The Agreement calls for appropriate financial flows, a new technology framework and an enhanced capacity-building framework to support action by developing countries and the most vulnerable countries in line with their own national objectives.


Featured Image: Open water in the usually frozen Canadian Arctic, Labrador, February 18, 2015 (Photo by Sterling College) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Climate Change Takes Its Toll

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A wildfire devours the forest next to Highway 63, 24 kilometers south of Fort McMurray on Saturday, May 7. The “Beast”, as it was called by Wood Buffalo fire chief Darby Allen, caused the mass evacuation of nearly 90,000 people from the northern Alberta city. (Photo by Chris Schwarz / Government of Alberta) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

MUNICH, Germany, September 21, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Monetary losses caused by natural disasters in the first half of 2016 were “significantly higher” than the corresponding figures for the previous year, although fewer people died in these events, according to a report by the German insurance and re-insurance firm Munich Re.

In total, losses to the end of June came to US$70bn (previous year US$59bn), of which US$27bn (US$19bn) were insured.

The main loss drivers were powerful earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador, storms in Europe and the United States, and forest fires in Canada.

A raging wildfire consumed the parched forest south of the oil sands city of Fort McMurray, Alberta on May 7. The 1,500 square kilometer inferno caused the evacuation of nearly 90,000 people.

The European storms are likely linked to climate change, explains Peter Höppe, who heads Munich Re’s Geo Risks Research Unit.

 “Scientific studies have shown that heavy rainfall has become more frequent in certain regions of Europe over the last few decades. For example, in the period 1951–2010 severe spring rainfall events that used to have a mathematical occurrence probability of once every 20 years have already increased by a factor of 1.7. Climate change is likely to have been partly responsible for this,” said Höppe.

Natural catastrophe figures for the first half of 2016:

Overall losses were above the inflation-adjusted average for the last 30 years (US$63bn), but below the average for the last 10 years (US$92bn).

Insured losses were in line with the inflation-adjusted average for the last 10 years and above the average for the last 30 years (US$15bn).

Just 3,800 people lost their lives to natural disasters in the first six months of 2016, fewer than during the same time period in 2015, (21,000) and the averages for the last 10 and 30 years (47,000 and 28,000).

The greatest number of fatalities was caused by an Mw 7.8 earthquake which hit the Pacific coast of Ecuador at almost the same time as the quakes hit Japan. Many buildings were destroyed and shopping mall roofs collapsed. Nearly 700 people were killed. As is so often the case in emerging countries, a relatively small share of the overall loss of US$2.5bn was insured: US$400m.

The highest losses were caused by two earthquakes on the Japanese island of Kyushu in April (US$25bn, just US$6bn was insured).

 Munich Re Board member Torsten Jeworrek said, “These events clearly show the importance of loss prevention, such as protection against flash floods or the construction of earthquake-resistant buildings in high-risk areas. The good news is that improved building codes and a more intelligent approach by emergency services and authorities offer people much better protection than used to be the case.

Catastrophe activity in the United States led to $3.8 billion in insured losses in 29 states during the 2016 first quarter, with much of the damage hitting Texas. Those events were the worst in a decade in terms of frequency and severity, according to a new industry report.

The first quarter is usually mild … since the major perils are hail and winter storm,” the Property Claims Services unit of Verisk Insurance Solutions explained in its first-quarter 2016 catastrophe review, which encompassed 13 catastrophe events.

But this year, said PCS, some of the first-quarter U.S. storms “packed a serious wallop.” One storm alone caused $1.1 billion in insured losses when it hit Texas in March.

The Global Federation of Insurance Associations (GFIA) , a Brussels-based industry group, warned as far back as 2013 that “loss trends and climate scientists indicate that, in the future, more and more insurance will be needed to help economies recover from a growing frequency of weather related losses: tornados, hailstorms, hurricanes/typhoons.

Natural disasters triggered by climate change are tragic and costly, but these are not the only losses people are experiencing due to the warming climate.

The rising price – in money and in health – of extreme weather events amid rapid urbanization, and the value of applying science and technology to reduce these risks, is explored in six research papers released at a United Nations forum in Malaysia on July 19.

Assembled by UN University’s Malaysia-based International Institute for Global Health (UNU-IIGH), the research is published in a special issue of the “Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health.”

The papers include a stern warning about productivity loss due to heat stress. The latest estimates show productivity in many jobs will fall by up to 40 percent by 2030 due to heat stress. The global economic cost of this reduced productivity may be more than US$2 trillion by 2030. 

 The jobs most susceptible include the lowest paid – heavy labor and low-skill agricultural and manufacturing.

In Southeast Asia alone as much as 15 to 20 percent of annual work hours may already be lost in low-paid, heat-exposed occupations, a figure that may double by 2030. 

Author Tord Kjellstrom of the Health and Environment International Trust, New Zealand, said, “Current climate conditions in tropical and subtropical parts of the world are already so hot during the hot seasons that occupational health effects occur and work capacity for many people is affected.

Dr. Kjellstrom’s paper cites estimated GDP losses due to heat stress for 43 countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Costa Rica, Denmark, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mexico, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Saint Lucia, Samoa, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Tanzania, Thailand, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

The situation in Malaysia is typical of the Southeast Asian countries. As work slows or stops to avoid dangerous heat stress, the country’s Gross Domestic Product is projected to decline by an estimated 5.9 percent (value: US $95 billion) by 2030, more than double the estimated 2.8 percent GDP lost to heat stress in 2010.

 In 2030, in both India and China, the GDP losses could total $450 billion, although mitigation may be made possible by a major shift in working hours, among other measures employers will need to take to reduce losses.

This situation already is straining electricity infrastructure, Dr. Kiellstrom observes. The additional energy needed for a single city the size of Bangkok for each 1°C increase of average ambient temperature can be as much as 2000 MW, roughly the output of a major power plant.

It is very important to develop and apply adaptation measures now to protect people from the disasters that current climate and slowing changing climate brings,” said Kjellstrom. “However, adaptation is only half an answer; we must also take decisive action now to mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases.

Failure will cause the frequency and intensity of disasters to worsen dramatically beyond 2050, and the situation at the end of this century will be especially alarming for the world’s poorest people,” he warned.

Climate change will bring increasingly difficult situations, according to the papers:

  • Disastrously heavy rains can expand insect breeding sites, drive rodents from their burrows, and contaminate freshwater resources, leading to the spread of disease and compromising safe drinking water supplies.
  • Warmer temperatures often promote the spread of mosquito-borne parasitic and viral diseases by shifting the vectors’ geographic range and shortening the pathogen incubation period.
  • Climate change can worsen air quality by triggering fires and dust storms and promoting certain chemical reactions causing respiratory illness and other health problems.
  • In extreme disasters, harm is often amplified by the destruction of medical facilities and disruption of health services
  • Central and south China can anticipate the greatest number of casualties and highest economic losses from extreme weather events in the Asia Pacific region – the world’s most disaster-prone region – and a more integrated, multidisciplinary approach is needed to upgrade the nation’s emergency response system for natural disasters.
  • From 1980 to 2012, roughly 2.1 million people worldwide died as a direct result of nearly 21,000 natural catastrophes such as floods, mudslides, extreme heat, drought, high winds or fires. The cost of those disasters exceeded $4 trillion (US) – a loss comparable to the current annual GDP of Germany.
  • In Asia Pacific 1.2 billion people have been affected by 1,215 disasters since the millennium. Some 92 percent of human exposure to floods occurs in Asia Pacific, along with 91 percent of exposure to cyclones and two-thirds of all exposure to landslides. Between 1970 and 2011, two million people in the region – 75 percent of the world total – were killed by disasters.
  • From 1993 to 2012, the Philippines experienced the highest number of extreme weather events (311), Thailand experienced the greatest financial loss (US$5.4 billion) and Myanmar experienced the highest death rate (13.5 deaths per 100,000 people).
  • In just 40 years, from 1970 to 2010, the regional population exposed to flooding risk more than doubled from about 30 million to 64 million while those in cyclone-prone areas rose from roughly 72 to 121 million.
  • Cities cover two percent of world land cover, generate 60 to 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and half of all waste, and are expanding at a rate of one million people per week. In a single generation – from 2000 to 2030 – urban land extents are expected to have tripled.

The authors underline that fast-rising numbers of people are being exposed to the impacts of climate change, with much of the increase occurring in cities in flood-prone coastal areas or on hills susceptible to mudslides or landslides. Especially vulnerable are people living in poverty, including about one billion in slums.

Cities, concentrated sources of energy consumption, heat and pollution, covered in surfaces that absorb warmth, create local heat islands and impair air quality, both threats to health.

And rising demand for cooling contributes to warming the world. Air conditioners not only pump heat out directly, the electricity required is typically produced by burning fossil fuels, adding to atmospheric greenhouse gases. As well, people acclimatized to air conditioning become less heat tolerant, further increasing demand for cooling.

On the other hand, better urban planning presents “tremendous opportunity” to mitigate the health impacts of more extreme weather events, authors emphasize.

Urban planners, the authors say, can help by designing cities “in ways that enhance health, sustainability, and resilience all at once,” incorporating better building design, facilitating a shift to renewable energy, and fostering the protection and expansion of tree cover, wetlands and other carbon sinks, for example.

To mitigate the health impacts of longer, more severe extreme weather events, the authors stress the need to replace piecemeal reactive responses with integrated, multi-disciplinary planning approaches.

Beyond better preparation and warning systems to improve disaster response, recommended steps include enhancing drainage to reduce flood risks and strengthening health care, especially in poor areas.

The six papers, published by the “Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health,” are:

  • Climate Change, Extreme Weather Events, and Human Health Implications in the Asia Pacific Region, by Jamal Hisham Hashim and Zailina Hashim (http://bit.ly/29AXLlM)
  •  Urbanization, Extreme Events, and Health: The Case for Systems Approaches in Mitigation, Management, and Response, by José G. Siri, Barry Newell, Katrina Proust, and Anthony Capon (http://bit.ly/29N9IBA)
  • Impact of Climate Conditions on Occupational Health and Related Economic Losses: A New Feature of Global and Urban Health in the Context of Climate Change, by Tord Kjellstrom (http://bit.ly/29BL0Dn)
  • Impact of Climate Change on Air Quality and Public Health in Urban Areas, by Noor Artika Hassan, Zailina Hashim, and Jamal Hisham Hashim (http://bit.ly/29EX6y4)
  • Review of Climate Change and Water-Related Diseases in Cambodia and Findings From Stakeholder Knowledge Assessments, by Lachlan McIver, Vibol Chan, Kathyrn Bowen, Steven Iddings, Kol Hero and Piseth Raingsey (http://bit.ly/29EWWXw)
  • Emergency Response to and Preparedness for Extreme Weather Events and Environmental Changes in China, by Li Wang, Yongfeng Liao, Linsheng Yang, Hairong Li, Bixiong Ye, and Wuyi Wang (http://bit.ly/29UhBI7)

Featured Image: Rescue vehicles address Cypress Creek flooding near Houston, Texas, April 19, 2016 (Photo by muypronto) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Sustainability Takes Flight

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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

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

Gates Offers $80M to Close Gender Data Gap

WomenComputers

By Sunny Lewis

SEATTLE, Washington, May 31, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Compared to the lives of men, little is known about the lives of the world’s women – how much time they spend on unpaid work, if they own land, if they can get credit, if they die in childbirth, which programs meant to help them are succeeding and which are not.

To narrow these gender data gaps and accelerate progress for women and girls throughout the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed to invest US$80 million over the next three years.

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Melinda Gates, who co-chairs the Seattle-based foundation with her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, announced the new funding in her keynote speech at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen earlier this month.

Gates and the foundation’s team have concluded that if the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are to be reached by 2030, the world must expand its knowledge about the lives and livelihoods of women and girls, their welfare and well-being, and the contributions they make to their communities, countries and economies.

By adopting the SDGs the world agreed to achieve gender equality by 2030. But we cannot close the gender gap without first closing the data gap,” said Melinda Gates.

“We simply don’t know enough about the barriers holding women and girls back, nor do we have sufficient information to track progress against the promises made to women and girls,” she said. “We are committed to changing that by investing in better data, policies and accountability.”

“Data holds power,” explained Gates. “It demonstrates the size and nature of social or economic problems, and brings clarity around who is falling through the cracks. Through reliable data, women and girls’ lives can become visible and counted, helping to inform programming and hold leaders to account.”

Yet, despite the need and the power, there is still a lack of comprehensive, current information about women and girls, especially in developing countries, hindering efforts to advance gender equality.

The Gates Foundation‘s new $80 million commitment will support efforts intended to fill critical gender data gaps. One example would be learning much time women and girls devote to unpaid work, and how this affects their ability to complete an education, get a job or start a business.

The Gates funding will be directed to improving the accuracy and reliability of data collection, which can reveal who owns assets like land, property or credit.

The funds are expected to equip decision makers with more timely and clearer evidence about programs and interventions that are working and those that are not.

On the political level, the Gates funds will support civil society in holding leaders to account for the commitments they make to women and girls, fostering the political will to achieve gender equality.

Finally, the new money will amplify and strengthen organizations and platforms that keep gender equality at the center of global and national development efforts.

At the conference, governments, nonprofits and funding organizations agreed on a new statement of principles regarding gender data and its importance for accelerating development outcomes.

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, chief executive of the children’s rights organization Plan International, told reporters that there is a huge data gap when it comes to recording the number of girls under age 15 who give birth each year.

Globally it is estimated over two million girls younger than 15 become mothers each year, and an estimated 70,000 girls aged 10 to 19 die from birth-related complications every year. But the figures are uncertain as official data usually tracks births by women aged 15 to 49 although girls can get pregnant from approximately age 10.

At the Women Deliver conference, Plan International launched a partnership with the International Women’s Health Coalition, the accountancy firm KPMG, ONE Campaign and Women Deliver, to find ways to compile better data on women and girls.

The Gates funding for gender data came just before the first World Humanitarian Summit held May 23-24 in Istanbul, Turkey, where women’s empowerment was a central part of the discussion.

The summit gathered 9,000 participants from 173 UN Member States, including 55 heads of state and government, hundreds of private sector representatives, and thousands of people from civil society and nongovernmental organizations.

In its outcome document, Summit delegates overwhelmingly affirmed an approach that engages communities, civil society and youth, “and for the equal participation of women in leadership roles and peace-building processes.”

There were widespread calls at the Summit for gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights to become pillars of humanitarian action. Participants committed to increased programming to enable women and girls to take on roles as leaders and decision-makers.

New methods and new financial support for creating accountability to gender equality programming were announced.

Plans to end tolerance of gender-based violence against women and girls were launched, and commitments were made to ensure the right to sexual and reproductive health care is fulfilled for all women and adolescent girls in crisis settings.

Several participating government officials pledged national measures to enhance the protection of women and girls against sexual violence.

The Summit pledged to leave no one behind in the quest for sustainable development for all.

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World leaders and participants across the board affirmed that those most at risk of being left behind – the more than 60 million displaced, particularly women and children, will receive the global attention and support they deserve to live in safety and dignity, with opportunities to thrive.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of the agency UN Women, said the Gates Foundation’s support for data enhancement will be to the benefit of women and girls around the world.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims ‘to leave no one behind.’ To bring all women and girls to the finishing line in 2030 at the same time as everyone else, we must be able to target them and their needs, and see what progress we are making,” she said.

 “Through our new flagship program initiative, Making Every Woman and Girl Count, pledged Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women commits to supporting countries to improve the production, accessibility and use of gender statistics.”


Main Image: UN Women offers computer training to Internally Displaced Persons living in the Protection of Civilians site 3 in Juba, South Sudan. Students are taught to type, to organize and file computer records, to access and browse the internet, and to send email. (Photo by United Nations Mission in South Sudan) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Image 01: Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen, May 17, 2016 (Photo courtesy UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Faetured Image: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (center right) and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with two young participants during the closing ceremony of the World Humanitarian Summit, May 24, 2016, Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Eskinder Debebe / United Nations) Posted for media use.

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 

 

Carbon Pricing Gathers Momentum

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@Maximpactdotcom

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, April 26, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “There is a growing sense of inevitability about putting a price on carbon pollution,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim on the eve of the April 22 signing ceremony at UN Headquarters of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Kim joined government and corporate leaders in issuing a set of fast-moving goals – to expand carbon pricing to cover 25 percent of global emissions by 2020, and achieve 50 percent coverage within the next decade.

“In order to deliver on the promises of the historic Paris Climate Agreement, a price on carbon pollution will be essential to help cut emissions and drive investments into innovation and cleaner technologies,” said Kim.

“Prices for producing renewable energy are falling fast, and putting a price on carbon has the potential to make them even cheaper than fuels that pollute our planet,” he said.

Currently, some 40 governments and 23 cities, states and regions put a price on carbon emissions, accounting for 12 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. This is a three-fold increase over the past decade.

The latest call for action comes from members of the Carbon Pricing Panel, including: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, together with World Bank Group President Kim, International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde, California Governor Jerry Brown, Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, left, and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde at the Spring Meeting, Washington, DC, April 16, 2016. (Photo courtesy World Bank Group) Creative Commons via Flickr

The Vision Statement accompanying their announcement defines three steps to widen, deepen and promote global cooperation on carbon pricing.

First, the number of countries and businesses that participate in a carbon pricing system needs to increase.

Second, prices need to be significant enough to account for pollution as an operating cost, and incentives for investments in low carbon solutions need to be established.

And third, better links between the various regional and national pricing systems already in place need to be set up.

There are two main types of carbon pricing – emissions trading systems and carbon taxes.

An emissions trading system, such as the EU’s pioneering system established in 2005, is sometimes called a cap-and-trade system. It caps the total level of greenhouse gas emissions and allows those industries with low emissions to sell their extra allowances to larger emitters, establishing a market price for greenhouse gas emissions.

The cap helps ensure that the required emission reductions will take place to keep all emitters within their pre-allocated carbon budget.

A carbon tax directly sets a price on carbon by defining a tax rate on greenhouse gas emissions or on the carbon content of fossil fuels. It is different from an ETS – the emission reduction outcome of a carbon tax is not pre-defined but the carbon price is.

Other forms of pricing carbon emissions can occur through fuel taxes, the removal of fossil fuel subsidies and regulations that incorporate a “social cost of carbon.”

Greenhouse gas emissions also can be priced through payments for emission reductions. Private entities or sovereigns can purchase emission reductions to compensate for their own emissions (so-called offsets) or to support mitigation activities through results-based finance.

In any case, say the carbon pricing leaders, carbon emissions must be priced so that pollution becomes an operating cost.

Speaking at this month’s high level meeting of the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition, the IMF’s Lagarde emphasized the value of cutting emissions.

“If the top 20 emitters in the world were to impose carbon charges that reflect only their domestic and environmental benefits, this would already reduce global emissions by over 10 percent,” she explained.

The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition is a global initiative that includes more than 20 national and state governments, more than 90 businesses, and civil society organizations and international agencies, aims at garnering public-private support for carbon pricing around the world.

As 175 world leaders signed the Paris Agreement at United Nations Headquarters on April 22, Earth Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the next critical step is to ensure that the landmark accord for global action on climate change enters into force as soon as possible.

“Today is an historic day,” Ban told reporters after the signing event. “This is by far the largest number of countries ever to sign an international agreement on a single day.”

Ban said the participation by so many countries and the attendance by so many world leaders leaves “no doubt” that the international community is determined to take climate action. He also welcomed the strong presence of the private sector and civil society, saying they are “crucial to realizing the great promise of the Paris Agreement.”

Adopted in Paris by the 196 Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at a conference known as COP21 last December, the Agreement’s objective is to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius, and to strive for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

It will enter into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification.

“If all the countries that have signed today take the next step at the national level and join the Agreement, the world will have met the requirement needed for the Paris Agreement to enter into force,” Ban said, congratulating the 15 governments that have already deposited their instruments for ratification.

Ban has said, “We must put a price on pollution and provide incentives to accelerate low carbon pathways. Market prices, market indices, and investment portfolios can no longer continue to ignore the growing cost of unsustainable production and consumption behaviors on the health of our planet.”

At the Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group earlier this month in Washington, DC, Kim said more action is needed on carbon pricing to help halt global warming and spur more investments into clean technologies.

“The current situation won’t put us on a pathway to limiting global warning. We need greater ambition, and greater leadership,” he said.

Globally, momentum for putting a price on carbon emissions is growing. At least 90 countries included mention of carbon pricing in their national plans, called the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), prepared for the Paris climate conference.

In addition, more than 450 companies around the world report using a voluntary, internal price on carbon in their business plans and more plan to follow suit in the next two years.

The number of implemented or scheduled carbon pricing plans has nearly doubled since 2012, amounting to a total value of US$50 billion.


 

Main image:  A steel works emits carbon dioxide at Teesside, England. (Photo by Ian Britton) Creative Commons license at Freefoto.com

 

One Billion Take Part in Earth Day 2016

HarvestingCashewEastDarfur

Earth-Day-2016-Poster-Earth-Day-NetworkWASHINGTON, DC, April 20, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – As Earth Day approaches its 50th anniversary in 2020, the Earth Day Network has set five major goals. Planting trees is the first; this year volunteers throughout the world plan to plant 7.8 billion trees.

The Earth Day Network’s 2016 Trees for the Earth campaign will focus on regions of the world most affected by deforestation. To achieve its goal of 7.8 billion trees planted, the Earth Day Network will work with partners from all levels of society, integrate trees into all of its existing campaigns, and create coalitions with national and subnational governments, mayors, faith leaders, businesses, and civil society across the globe.

Trees reverse the impacts of land degradation and provide food, energy, and income. They work as a natural, resilient, and long-lasting safety buffer to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and blizzards, helping to avert the worst effects of climate change.

The Earth Day Network has already planted millions of trees on six different continents, and the longer the trees and forests grow undisturbed, the more powerful these protections become. Using sapling and seed distribution, urban forestry, agroforestry, and tree care training, the Earth Day Network has empowered both rural and urban people to conserve, repair, and restore trees to cover their lands.

“Earth Day is the largest, most recognizable face of the environmental movement,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network.

“Millions of people in dozens of different countries will become lifelong environmentalists this and every Earth Day. Hundreds of thousands will be children – our planet’s future,” said Rogers. “They will join the more than one billion people who already use Earth Day to focus on the urgent need to stabilize and reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, fight climate change, act locally, become climate voters, and protect their children’s futures.”

Valuable as it is, tree planting is by no means the only global push planned for Earth Day.

This year, Earth Day coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change at UN Headquarters in New York. The Agreement was adopted by all 196 Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP21 in Paris on December 12, 2015.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomes the statement of China, this year’s President of the Group of 20, affirming the G20’s full support for the April 22 signing of the Paris Agreement on climate change, and calling for the accord’s entry into force as early as possible.

“The Secretary-General thanks China for its continued strong leadership in promoting global cooperation, grounded in ambitious national action, on climate change,” said Ban’s office in a statement.

More than 130 countries have confirmed their intention to sign the accord on April 22, and Ban is urging all other countries to join them in the signing ceremony.

Earth Day Network’s Rogers said, “We have no higher priority this year than to make sure the United States, China, India, the EU, and all the largest CO2 emitters sign the Paris Agreement.”

An Interfaith Climate Change Statement to World Leaders from 270 religious leaders supporting the Paris Agreement while also urging “much more ambitious action” was handed to the President of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador Mogens Lykketoft, at a high-level event on April 18.

Eminent signatories include: Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences of the Holy See; Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town the Most Rev. Desmond Tutu; and Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches.

The Interfaith Statement is supported by 86 groups of all faiths from around the world who have shown their support online by using the hashtag #Faiths4ParisAgreement.

Earth Day Network has launched a petition calling on world leaders, especially U.S. President Barack Obama, to show leadership by signing the Paris Agreement.

“We need to prove that what happened in Paris last December was not all talk. We need to take action. Signing the Paris Agreement this Earth Day at the United Nations is just the beginning,” Rogers said.

“That, coupled with our global activities, will make this the largest, most significant Earth Day in years,” she said. “And it’s the perfect start in our countdown to Earth Day 2020, our 50th!”

This Earth Day, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is inviting people around the world to share on social media what they are doing to celebrate and improve planet Earth, while the space agency shares aspects of a “day in the life” of NASA’s Earth science research.

In the brick and mortar world, NASA will feature Earth Day exhibits, hands-on activities, demonstrations and talks from NASA scientists, April 21 and 22 at Union Station in Washington, DC.

At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA activities will showcase sustainability, energy saving solutions and renewable energy. More than a dozen electric cars will be on display with test drives available. Master gardeners and pollinator specialists will answer questions and offer tips. And wildlife and natural conservation specialists will discuss methods to safeguard wildlife, preserve natural resources, and protect Florida waters

GenerationEarth

Earth Day at the Young SouthEast Asian Leaders Initiative Generation: EARTH workshop, Siem Reap, Cambodia, April 22, 2015 (U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh photo by Un Yarat) Public domain.

In South Korea, the Daegu Civilian Eco Festival features a race that pits teams against the clock navigating through a strip of downtown Daegu lined with Earth Day booths to complete 100 eco-missions in 90 minutes. Teams will go to assigned locations, complete an assigned task, take a cellphone picture of that task and send it to the organizers. The grand prize is the equivalent of US$525.

More than 120,000 people are expected gather in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park for Earth Day Tokyo, Japan’s largest global festival organized by citizens. Festivities began last Sunday and continue for the entire week. On April 23, at the Earth Day Concert, a wide variety of musicians and speakers will commit to peace and a positive future for the Earth this year.

Some Japanese are pledging to plant trees; others will work to make life better for the survivors of a series of earthquakes in the southern Japanese city of Kumamoto on April 14 and 16 that claimed at least a dozen lives.

In India, Earth Day Network sees the mandate of grassroots women leaders, or Panchayati Raj, as an opportunity to solve the most pressing environmental issues through a series of hands on educational workshops. Sample workshops include: the importance of growing more trees; spearheading movements against deforestation; advocating for clean alternative energies over fossil fuels; and conserving and building up natural resources.

Environmental groups large and small are making special efforts to celebrate Earth Day 2016.

Conservation International is releasing a new short film “Sky,” voiced by Chinese-American actress, director, screenwriter, and producer Joan Chen, the newest addition to its award-winning series “Nature Is Speaking.”

“We are pushing the Earth’s climate to its limits,” Chen said. “Climate change is drastically altering our planet, threatening not only the nature people rely on, but also people themselves.”

Earth Day may get people thinking about recycling, cutting back on driving or getting out into nature, but the Center for Biological Diversity is also asking them to think about saving the planet through safe sex.

The Center is distributing 25,000 free Endangered Species Condoms nationwide for Earth Day to highlight the connection between reproductive rights and the wildlife extinction crisis. The condoms will be given away by 300 volunteers at Earth Day events, rallies, and on college campuses in 46 states.

The first Earth Day on April 22, 1970, activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life and is credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

Twenty years later, Earth Day went global, mobilizing 200 million people in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage.

More than one billion people now participate in Earth Day activities each year, making it the largest civic observance in the world.


Featured image: Freshly planting pine seedling in a U.S. forest. (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service) Public domain.

Main image: United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) sector leader Landing Badjie harvests the first cashew tree planted in war-torn Darfur in 2014. Since then, the UNAMID has distributed more than 15,000 seedlings to be planted in all schools in the state. (Photo by Abdulrasheed Yakubu, UNAMID) Creative Commons License via Flickr

Paris Climate Pact Supports REDD+ Forest Credits

ColombiaForestCIATBy Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 29, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – When forests are cleared, climate warming is accelerated as the trees that were cut can no longer store carbon dioxide (CO2). Support for financial incentives that encourage the conservation of forested lands, known as REDD+, is included in the Paris Climate Agreement that 195 governments reached in December.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an international effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests through a market in carbon credits.

The UN-REDD Programme donors are Denmark, the European Union, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. To date, donor contributions total US$215.2 million. For an overview of current funds and budget allocations, see the Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Gateway

The UN-backed program encourages results-based payments for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development.

REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation to include the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

REDD+ was developed by Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to create an incentive for developing countries to protect, better manage and wisely use their forest resources, conserving biodiversity and assisting the global fight against climate change.

In addition to the environmental benefits, REDD+ offers social and economic benefits and is being integrated into green economy strategies. REDD+ projects have been opened in at least 47 developing countries.

The role of REDD+ in reducing climate change is recognized in the Paris Climate Agreement that 195 governments reached in December. The agreement will be opened for signature at UN Headquarters in New York on Earth Day, April 22, 2016.

The pact will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification.

Article 5.2 of the Paris Agreement is devoted to REDD+, capping a decade of negotiations. It cements REDD+ as a core element of the global climate regime.

The Warsaw Framework for REDD+, agreed in March 2014, outlines key UNFCCC requirements that must be met by developing countries in order to realize results-based payments for REDD+ actions.

“REDD+ can be put in place as an incentive system through which sustainable development can take place without having to cut down the forests,” said Mario Boccucci, who heads the UN-REDD Programme Secretariat.

In an interview with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, he gave examples that include: increasing agricultural productivity; shifting toward agroforestry practices; and finding, financing, investing in and rewarding land-use management practices that do not reduce the forest cover.

Boccucci called the Paris Agreement “a turning point for humanity and for climate change” because “it sends a very strong and powerful signal that a global transformation towards a low-emission economy is not only needed, but it’s possible and it’s underway.”

The agreement brings together in a very powerful way the climate change agenda with the sustainable development agenda, said Boccucci. “It says: You have to do these two things together to reach the level of emissions reductions needed to meet the climate change mitigation target of keeping this planet at a less-than-2°C temperature increase, or as close as possible to 1.5°C.”

The inclusion of REDD+ in the agreement, “really signals that there is both political and financial confidence in REDD+ as a climate change mitigation solution that can work at scale in the near future,” Boccucci declared.

“This signal will energize, catalyze and scale up actions that so far we have seen delivered on a more opportunistic or smaller scale, as the level of investment that will be required will start to flow,” he said.

“Countries are now able to implement forest management policy changes with the confidence that they will be rewarded through a climate change regime that recognizes the value of emissions reduction produced through the forest system.”

The UN-REDD Programme donors are Denmark, the European Union, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain and Switzerland. To date, donor contributions total US$215.2 million. For an overview of current funds and budget allocations, consult the Programme’s Multi-Partner Trust Fund Gateway .

At an official COP21 side event on December 8 in Paris, Helen Clark, UNDP administrator and UN Development Group chair said, “The UN-REDD Programme can make a strong contribution to strengthening delivery of REDD+ support post-2015.”

“The new UN-REDD Strategic Framework for 2016-2020  will be important in this regard,” said Clark. “It prioritizes national-level actions, helping governments to craft and implement policies and measures for REDD+, supported by multi-stakeholder dialogues and partnerships to address key drivers of deforestation.”

One example is a REDD+ project that has been operating since 2014.

The Lower Zambezi REDD+ Project is reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation on 38,781 hectares of privately-owned land in Zambia’s Rufunsa District.

Known as the Rufunsa Conservancy, this is one of the last intact areas of forest within Lusaka Province. It provides a 60-kilometer buffer to Lower Zambezi National Park, a strategic protected area in Zambia in a globally significant trans-frontier conservation area.

Lower Zambezi National Park is adjacent to Mana Pools National Park in Zimbabwe, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Some 8,300 people live in 28 villages in the project area. The project proponent is BioCarbon Partners.

Carbon credits are authenticated by the Verified Carbon Standard Project Database, a global benchmark for carbon.

Every Verified Carbon Unit in the program can be tracked from issuance to retirement in the database, allowing buyers to ensure every credit is real, additional, permanent, independently verified, uniquely numbered and fully traceable online.

NoREDDProtestBut critics say financing reduction of deforestation through the trade of carbon credits is unworkable.

While the Paris agreement permits such trading in principle, it requires that the sale of carbon credits needthe consent of the country in which a project is located, dampening the enthusiasm of the private sector for this international trade mechanism, writes Jutta Kill in “German Climate Finance” of February 23.

“Even after almost ten years of ‘REDD+ Readiness,’ there is no evidence that REDD+ is an effective instrument against large-scale forest destruction,” writes Kill.

Problems in the implementation of REDD+ are increasingly apparent, according to the case book “REDD+ on the Ground” by the Center for International Forestry Research, which states, “Following the Bali COP in 2007, international funding for REDD+ quickly ramped up, with large pledges from governments and the development of voluntary markets. Since 2010, however, the flow of funds has been smaller…”

Also critical is the World Rainforest Movement, an international NGO and Indigenous Peoples’ Groups network. In 2014, this group published “REDD: A Collection of Conflicts, Contradictions and Lies,” an account of 24 controversial REDD+ initiatives.

“As offset projects, they all fail to address the climate crisis because by definition, offset projects do not reduce overall emissions: emission reductions claimed in one place justify extra emissions elsewhere,” claims the World Rainforest Movement.

Winnie Overbeek, international coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement, said in an August 2015 interview  “REDD is not only a false solution to climate change, REDD also represents a severe threat for communities that depend on forests. This is what we have learned from communities affected by REDD+ projects that we could visit and/or whom we have talked with over the years.”

Even so, UN officials still see the REDD+ mechanism as a sharp tool in the fight against climate change.

Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN Environment Programme, said, “REDD+ and the significant investments we are seeing can act as a catalyst for a green economy transformation. This is more true as we increasingly engage the private sector in our efforts. Like a rising tide that lifts all ships, investments into REDD+ readiness and implementation can also trigger broader policy changes.”

Boccucci said, “The Paris Agreement demonstrates an unprecedented level of ambition and commitment by global leaders to address climate change issues. The UN-REDD Programme stands ready and prepared in this post-Paris ‘era of implementation’ to continue to support developing countries to realize their reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation goals and harness the long-term social, environmental and economic benefits of REDD+.”


Featured image: An elephant in Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia, a REDD+ project, October 2014 (Photo by Naiyaru) Creative Commons license via Flickr
Header image: Measuring carbon in Reserva Natural El Hatico, familia Molina Durán, near Palmira, Colombia, as part of a workshop on REDD+ hosted by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), May 2011. (Photo by Neil Palmer / CIAT)
image 01: Friends of the Earth International, Alliance against REDD, Indigenous Environmental Network, Grassroots Global Justice, No REDD+ in Africa Network and Global protest in solidarity with the communities threatened by REDD+, December 8, 2015 at the COP21 climate conference, Le Bourget, Paris, France. (Photo by Friends of the Earth International) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Best Sustainable Development Moves Need Decision Analysis

SDGs

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.

ShepherdKeith

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.

Global Climate Consensus Forged in Paris

COP21VictoryHandsUp

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, December 15, 2015 (Maximpact News) – “The Paris Agreement on climate change is a monumental triumph for people and planet,” declared UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as delegates from 195 countries approved the world’s first universal pact to take common climate action.

“We have solid results on all key points,” said Ban. “The agreement demonstrates solidarity. It is ambitious, flexible, credible and durable.”

The Paris Climate Agreement is not a formal treaty. It doesn’t contain legally-binding carbon targets. Instead, each country has put forth its own voluntary proposals for ambitious carbon reductions.

The Paris agreement is built on these Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by 187 countries in advance of COP21. The remaining countries are encouraged to issue their INDCs.

The proposals made to date will, at best, take the world about halfway to the target of 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial temperatures.

World leaders agreed on the 2 degree goal at the UN climate conference in 2009, confirmed it in 2010, and enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement on December 12.

But although commitments made under the Paris Agreement don’t meet the target goal, most stakeholders view the document as an effective instrument that will at least begin to limit the greenhouse gases responsible for planetary warming.

For one thing, the Parties put in language that requires them to work toward holding the increase to 1.5 degrees C, or 2.7 degrees F.

Scientists agree that we must hold total warming below 2 degrees to avoid dangerous climate change. Yet even at that level, island and coastal communities would be at risk of inundation by rising seas.

To date, average global temperatures have risen by about one degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees F higher than 150 years ago. Most of the warming has happened in the past 50 years.

Keeping total warming 1.5 degrees is crucially important, countries agreed in Paris.

To approach the lower 1.5 degree target, the agreement calls on nations to assess their progress every two years. They agreed to come back together five years from now to build on those gains by setting even lower goals going forward.

Gaveling the agreement in with a green hammer Saturday evening, Laurent Fabius, COP21 president and the French foreign minister, announced the historic news – a moment greeted with loud applause and cheers, as the delegates rose in a standing ovation.

The jubilation followed two weeks of round-the-clock negotiations at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) and years of preliminary talks that finally bore fruit.

“I have been attending many difficult multilateral negotiations, but by any standard, by far, this negotiation … is the most important for humanity,” Ban said in the tense hours before agreement was reached.

The toughest outstanding issues – the target temperature limit, climate financing, and the differing roles for developed and developing countries – were resolved at last, if only with agreement to do more in the future.

For the first time, countries must take inventory of their major sources of greenhouse gas pollution and share that information with the rest of the world.

Countries must monitor carbon emissions, using standard measuring practices subject to expert international review, and report regularly on their progress in reducing those emissions.

Ban said that enforcement of the agreement will depend on the will power of the Parties to adhere to it.

“Governments have agreed to binding, robust, transparent rules of the road to ensure that all countries do what they have agreed across a range of issues,” he explained.

Highlighting the role of the private sector, the UN chief said business leaders came to Paris in unprecedented numbers and that “powerful” clean energy solutions are already available, while many more are to come.

“With these elements in place, markets now have the clear signal they need to unleash the full force of human ingenuity and scale up investments that will generate low-emissions, resilient growth,” said Ban.

The agreement supports the global transition to a low-carbon economy.

The fossil fuels – coal, gas and oil – that are driving global climate change account for roughly 80 percent of world energy use.

But that is changing quickly.

Financial experts estimate that $50 trillion will be invested in the global energy system over the next 20 years, much of it in clean, renewable energy like wind and solar and to systems to distribute and store the electricity generated.

In the United States, General Motors, Apple computers, Google, Walmart and 150 other major American companies have pledged to reduce their carbon footprint, invest in clean energy and otherwise work toward sustainable practices in a private effort to fight climate change.

The Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup have said they would invest a minimum of $325 billion in clean energy technologies over the next 10 years.

The United States, France and 17 other countries that together account for 80 percent of global research and development in clean energy technologies have promised to double that investment over the next five years.

And Bill Gates of Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com and 25 other billionaire investors are creating a private-public initiative to help bring clean energy ideas to market.

Still, World Coal Association Chief Executive Benjamin Sporton is confident that coal will be burned for many decades to come and that carbon capture and storage (CCS) will help keep climate change under control.

“The foundation of this Paris Agreement are the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by countries in the lead-up to COP21,” said Sporton. “Countries must be supported in the implementation of their INDCs, which for many include a role for low emission coal technologies, such as high efficiency low emissions coal and carbon capture and storage (CCS).”

Taking all the INDCs into account, the International Energy Agency projects that electricity generation from coal would grow by 24 percent by 2040.

Sporton sees carbon capture and storage as the way of the future. “The increased ambition of this agreement underscores the need to speed up efforts to deploy carbon capture and storage. We call on governments to move quickly to support increased investment in CCS and through providing policy parity for CCS alongside other low emission technologies.”

The Paris Climate Agreement will take effect in 2020. The document will be deposited at the UN in New York and be opened for one year for signature on April 22, 2016 Earth Day.

The agreement will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55 percent of global emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification, a standard UN percentage.

Historically, the international political response to climate change began with the adoption of the UNFCCC on May 9, 1992.

The UNFCCC sets out a framework for action aimed at stabilizing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic interference” with the climate system. The UNFCCC entered into force on March 21, 1994, and now has 196 parties.

Now the Paris Climate Agreement will take its place in history.

“When historians look back on this day, they will say that global cooperation to secure a future safe from climate change took a dramatic new turn here in Paris,” Ban said Saturday. “Today, we can look into the eyes of our children and grandchildren, and we can finally say, tell them that we have joined hands to bequeath a more habitable world to them and to future generations.”

“For today, congratulations again on a job well done,” Ban smiled. “Let us work together, with renewed commitment, to make this a better world.”


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: Laurence Tubiana, COP21 Presidency; UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; COP21 President Laurent Fabius, foreign minister, France; and President François Hollande, France, celebrate the adoption of the Paris Agreement
Slide Show: 01. Applause rings through the Paris-Le Bourget conference center as delegates celebrate their approval of the Paris Climate Agreement, Dec. 12, 2015 (Photo courtesy United Nations) 02. US Secretary of State John Kerry gestures to emphasize a point, while UN Environment Programme chief Achim Steiner, green tie, listens. Paris, Dec. 8, 2015 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) 03. Members of the Like-Minded Developing Countries negotiating group huddle during the final negotiations at COP21 Paris, Dec. 12, 2015

 

Businesses Vow Action at Paris Climate Talks

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PARIS, France, December 10, 2015 (ENS) – Corporate actions on key climate issues such as carbon pricing, finance, responsible policy engagement and science-based emissions targets were announced on the 8th December at the Caring for Climate Business Forum, the official avenue for business at COP21 in Paris.

COP21 is shorthand for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At the Paris-Le Bourget conference hall, government negotiators toiled over the language of a legally-binding agreement that would require all nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to levels that would keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This target was agreed at the 2009 COP in Copenhagen and made official at the 2010 COP in Cancun.

Meanwhile, during this parallel event, more than 450 CEOs from 65 countries across 30 sectors pledged to set emissions targets, report on progress and work with policymakers through the Caring for Climate initiative.

Participants from business, finance, government, civil society and the United Nations gathered for two days to advance the role of the private sector in combating climate change.

The UN Global Compact, UN Environment Programme and the UNFCCC Secretariat gathered the group under the banner of Caring for Climate, the world’s largest business coalition for climate change.

The event was attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, France’s Minister of Environment, Sustainable Development and Energy Ségolène Royal, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Ban credited the business sector for its work in the global effort to limit damaging climate change. “The collective momentum among the private sector for climate action is growing daily. More companies and investors are leading on climate action than at any time in history,” Ban said.

“But to limit global temperature rise to less than two degrees we must go much further and faster,” said the UN leader. “We need 100 percent participation from the business community.”

On the issue of carbon pricing, he indicated that companies have been “instrumental” in ensuring that a price on carbon is recognized as a necessary and effective tool.

According to the Carbon Disclosure Project, more than 1,000 companies now say that they have set an internal price or plan to do so in the future. This compares to 100 companies a year ago – a 10-fold increase.

“The private sector can help to fill the gap between what has been committed by governments through the INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions] and what is needed to reach a carbon neutral economy by mid-century,” said Lise Kingo, executive director of the UN Global Compact. “The momentum is unstoppable.”

“The new targets announced at COP21, if achieved, will generate an estimated annual emissions savings of 93.6 million metric tons CO2e or more than the annual carbon emissions of Peru,” Kingo said.

Launched in 2000, at the turn of the millenium, the UN Global Compact is a leadership platform for responsible corporate policies and practices. It is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world, with over 8,000 companies and 4,000 non-business signatories based in 170 countries.

“Our job coming out of Paris is to mobilize the great majority of companies that are not yet part of this movement,” Kingo said.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted the support of 154 U.S. companies for action on climate change through their commitment to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

“As you leave Paris, carry a clear message that how we do business today will determine if we do business in the future,” said Kerry. “In the end, it’s business – the choices you make and the products you make – that will make the difference.”

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CEOs offered commitments to climate solutions:

65 CEOs with a total market capitalization of US$1.9 trillion across 20 sectors have integrated carbon pricing into corporate long-term strategies and investment decisions. They pledged to set an internal carbon price, report publicly, and call for carbon markets through the Business Leadership Criteria on Carbon Pricing.

114 companies have committed to set up processes to internally audit all activities that influence climate policy; work to ensure that all of this activity is consistent; and communicate policy positions, actions and outcomes.

114 companies committed to align their emissions reductions targets with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2°C through the Science-Based Targets initiative.

79 chief executives, representing US$2.13 trillion in revenue, announced that their companies would reduce environmental and carbon footprints, set targets to reduce their emissions, and collaborate with supply chains and across sectors.

140 companies with a total market capitalization of over US$100 billion, and nearly 30 institutional investment firms with assets estimated at US$2.5 trillion, committed to producing climate change-related information in their mainstream reports.

39 French companies pledged to combat climate change, committing at least €45 billion over the next five years for investments and financing in renewable energies, energy efficiency and other technologies accelerating the transition to a clean energy, low carbon future.

Global capital market leaders met separately to discuss how stock exchanges, investors and regulators can support the global climate agenda. The gathering of CEOs began with a special opening bell ceremony December 7 at Euronext Paris dedicated to the success of COP21.

Euronext is one of 11 stock exchanges that showed their commitment to sustainable capital markets, and their support for the evolving climate agenda, by becoming a United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) Partner Exchange.

The SSE initiative now has participation from 47 stock exchanges across five continents, including four out of the top five largest exchanges in the world.

Addressing the stock exchange CEOs at a luncheon, economist Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, encouraged them to act boldly on climate, and congratulated them for work already accomplished.

“Capital markets will be the main driver of the transformation,” said Professor Sachs, “and we will be on the right track when stock markets say ‘shame on you,’ punishing those who continue to add stranded assets to their portfolios.”

Many other corporations are promising action and pressing governments to forge a strong global climate pact.

Citing droughts, temperature shifts and other impacts that will make apparel production “more difficult and costly,” the CEOs of seven top global apparel companies December 3 called on government leaders to reach a strong climate change agreement in Paris that will stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions causing damaging global warming.

Top executives at Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., VF Corporation, H&M, Eileen Fisher, Adidas Group and Burton Snowboards wrote, “We come together … to acknowledge that climate change is harming the world in which we operate. … Therefore, we call on you to reach a global agreement that provides the certainty businesses need and ambition climate science demands.”

Food company CEOs such as the heads of Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, the Hain Celestial Group Inc., General Mills, Unilever, Kellogg and Hershey’s announced in October that they signed a joint letter to U.S. and world leaders urging a robust international climate agreement in Paris.

The letter cites the growing impacts of drought, flooding and hotter growing conditions on the world’s food supply.

“Combating climate change is not simply about the environment. Promoting clean energy and conserving natural resources today will help create the thriving companies and societies of tomorrow,” said Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo chairman and CEO.

Muhtar Kent, chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, said, “As we face a resource-stressed world with growing global demands on food and water, we must seek solutions that drive mutual benefit for business, communities and nature. Companies who successfully balance social, environmental and economic values will be sustainably successful in the 21st century.”

Both the apparel and the food company statements were coordinated by Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit mobilizing business leadership on global sustainability challenges.

Ceres President Mindy Lubber said, “Increasingly more companies, even long-standing competitors, are uniting at this pivotal moment to urge our political leaders to act swiftly and decisively on global warming.”

Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of more than 110 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $13 trillion.

Throughout the world, investors groups are paying close attention to the COP21 negotiations.

The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, based in London, says an agreement on temperature target of 1.5 degrees is “within reach.”

Big emitters, including China, the United States, Canada, and the European Union, have expressed support for the principle of a 1.5 degree Celsius global temperature target.

While this tightening of the 2 degree Celsius target is a key demand from vulnerable developing countries, small island nations and environmental groups, it is opposed by many big developing countries, which argue it would limit their ability to develop modern economies.

UN Secretary-General Ban, who has criss-crossed the globe tirelessly for years to bring about an effective climate agreement, said today, “Across the world, businesses and investors are standing up for a strong agreement in Paris that sends the right market signals. They are asking for a clear message that the transition to cleaner, low emissions energy sources is necessary, inevitable, irreversible and beneficial.”


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: Human Energy à la Tour Eiffel à Paris by Yann Caradec (Photo courtesy Flickr)
Header image: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, left, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry open the Caring for Climate Business Forum, Paris, France, December 8, 2015 (Photo courtesy United Nations)
Image 01: Global capital market leaders gather in Paris to support UN climate talks. The stock market CEOs began their meeting with a special opening bell ceremony December 7 at Euronext Paris dedicated to the success of COP21. (Photo courtesy UN Environment Programme)

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)