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Cities Pledge Net Zero Carbon New Buildings by 2030

The Science and Technology Facility at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab is a 100 percent net zero energy building where solar cell, thin-film, and nanostructure research are conducted, 2018, Golden, Colorado (Photo courtesy NREL) Public domain.

The Science and Technology Facility at the U.S. National Renewable Energy Lab is a 100 percent net zero energy building where solar cell, thin-film, and nanostructure research are conducted, 2018, Golden, Colorado (Photo courtesy NREL) Public domain.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, September 4, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Nineteen pioneering mayors, representing 130 million urban residents, have committed their cities to cut greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring that all new buildings operate at net zero carbon by 2030.

By joining the Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment of the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC), the leaders of: Copenhagen; Johannesburg; London; Los Angeles; Montreal; New York City; Newburyport, Massachusetts; Paris; Portland, Oregon; San Francisco; San Jose; Santa Monica; Stockholm; Sydney, Tokyo; Toronto; Tshwane, South Africa; Vancouver, Canada; and Washington, DC, also pledged to ensure all buildings in their cities, old and new, will meet the net zero carbon standard by 2050.

The Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment will officially launch at the Global Climate Action Summit <globalclimateactionsummit.org>in San Francisco, California on September 13, 2018.

A zero carbon building is one with zero net energy consumption or zero net carbon emissions on an annual basis.

Commitment signatories will track, verify and report publicly on building performance metrics with a focus on energy use and associated emissions. They will advocate across their supply chains for all suppliers and partners to establish and follow their own commitments to reach net zero by 2030.

Delivering on commitments made now will require a united effort, as city governments do not have direct control over all the buildings in a city. This commitment includes a pledge to work together with state and regional governments and the private sector to drive this transformation, and calls on national governments for equal action.

In June, WorldGBC celebrated the first three founding private sector signatories of the commitment, among them Majid Al Futtaim, a pioneer in shopping mall, retail and leisure destinations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Majid Al Futtaim, an Emirati holding company based in Dubai, has committed to eliminating operational carbon emissions from all its assets across 15 countries by 2030, including more than 12 malls and shopping centres, 12 hotels and three mixed-use living communities. Their corporate strategy drives emission reductions by requiring green energy leases for mall retail units.

The other two founding private sector signatories are Integral Group, a global engineering firm specializing in delivery of net zero buildings, and Signify formerly known as Philips Lighting – the lighting company for the Internet of Things. With a presence in over 70 countries, Signify has committed to net zero carbon for all its more than 300 buildings.

By setting ambitious absolute targets, the Commitment aims to maximize the chances of limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, as specified in the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate, by reducing operating emissions from buildings.

Globally, almost 40 percent of energy related greenhouse emissions come from buildings, with 28 percent coming from the operations of buildings themselves. This equals the total emissions of China and the European Union combined.

In 2015, 82 percent of final energy consumption in buildings was supplied by fossil fuels, whereas to meet the Paris Agreement, this must become zero percent.

The WorldGBC definition of a net zero carbon building is a one that is highly energy efficient and fully powered by renewable energy sources, either on-site or off-site.

Urban buildings are some of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, and typically account for over half of a city’s total emissions.

In London, Los Angeles and Paris, buildings account for well over 70 percent of the cities’ overall emissions, creating an enormous opportunity for progress on bringing emissions down.

Currently, half a million people die prematurely each year due to outdoor air pollution caused by energy used in buildings, according to research prepared for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis by a team led by Diana Ürge-Vorsatz of the Central European University, Hungary – Fagship-Projects.

The Commitment has been orchestrated by C40 Cities, a global group of major cities committed to delivering on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement at the local level. This pledge from cities is part of the World Green Building Council’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment for businesses, cities, states and regions, which opened for recruitment in June.

Cities making this commitment will:

  • Establish a roadmap for our commitment to reach net zero carbon buildings;
  • Develop a suite of supporting incentives and programs;
  • Report annually on progress towards meeting our targets, and
  • Evaluate the feasibility of reporting on emissions beyond operational carbon, such as refrigerants.

In addition, 13 cities: Copenhagen, Johannesburg, Montreal, Newburyport, Paris, Portland, San Jose, Santa Monica, Stockholm, Sydney, Toronto, Tshwane and Vancouver, have committed to owning, occupying and developing only assets that are net-zero carbon by 2030.

To achieve this, cities will:

  • Evaluate the current energy demand and carbon emissions from their municipal buildings, and identify opportunities for reduction.
  • Establish a roadmap for their commitment to reach net zero carbon municipal buildings
  • Report annually on progress towards meeting their targets, and
  • Evaluate the feasibility of including emissions beyond operational carbon, such as refrigerants.

C40 Cities Executive Director Mark Watts blogged earlier this year, “By 2030 the majority of privately owned buildings will need to have been retrofitted to high energy efficiency standards in all categories of cities except the two lowest income groupings, where the primary focus is on new build. In the two highest income categories, 95-100 percent of privately owned buildings will have been retrofitted.”

Watts wrote, “…it is possible for major cities to decarbonise fast and deeply enough to meet the Paris Agreement goals. But there is now an incredible urgency to get on track.”

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development has launched a major initiative to support the development of zero-energy building. Led by Gregory Hayes, the CEO of United Technologies, and Eric Olsen, Chairman of Lafarge, the organization has the support of large global companies and the expertise to mobilize the corporate world and governmental support to make zero-energy building a reality.

Their first report, a survey of key players in real estate and construction, indicates that the costs of building green are overestimated by 300 percent.

Climate and carbon, human health and high technology are among the top trends expected to drive the global green building market in 2018.

Green Building Council of Australia’s Chief Executive Officer Romilly Madew said, “In 2018, the UN will undertake a global stock take of emissions reduction actions and progress, and signatories to the Paris Agreement will be required to demonstrate their progress towards accelerating emissions reductions.”

Romilly says this stock taking will “undoubtedly reveal the leaders and laggards on climate action, and will put pressure on national governments to step up.”

Terri Wills, CEO, World Green Building Council, said, “Achieving net zero carbon buildings at the mass scale required is complex, multi-faceted and challenging.

“Whether developed as a new standard, adapting an existing certification scheme, or developing a compliance pathway in collaboration with national government,” said Wills, “these voluntary standards provide an opportunity for companies to embrace net zero carbon buildings as business as usual.”

Featured Image: Tokyo, Japan, a city of 13 million people, is one of the cities that has committed to having all new buildings operating at net zero carbon by 2030. July 26, 2018 (Photo by diamory) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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One Planet Summit Inspires Climate Action

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, December 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – Two years to the day after the historic Paris Agreement on climate, more than 50 heads of state, as well as environment ministers and regional leaders, bank and finance executives and celebrities are meeting today to drive action that will finance global efforts to meet the goals of the agreement.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The agreement also aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.

Today’s invitation-only One Planet Summit, convened by President of France Emmanuel Macron, was attended by British Prime Minister Theresa May, Spain’s Mariano Rajoy, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, among many others.

President Juncker said, “The time has now come to raise our game and set all the wheels in motion — regulatory, financial and other — to enable us to meet the ambitious targets we have set ourselves. This is a necessity dictated by our current living conditions as well as those of future generations. This is the time that we must act together for the planet. Tomorrow will be too late.”

The European Commission released its 10 item Action Plan for the Planet, consisting of: putting the financial sector at the Service of the Climate, investment in Africa and the EU Neighbourhood region, urban investment support, clean energy for islands, support for the transition of coal and carbon intensive regions, youth, smart buildings, clean industrial technology and clean, connected and competitive mobility.

Prime Minister May announced a big increase in UK aid for Caribbean countries devastated by hurricanes as part of a £140 million climate change grant for the world’s least developed countries.

“Tackling climate change and mitigating its effects for the world’s poorest are among the most critical challenges that we face,” said May.

“And by redoubling our efforts to phase out coal, as well as build on our world leading electric car production, we are showing we can cut emissions in a way that supports economic growth,” she said.

U.S. President Donald Trump was not invited to the summit, as he is streamlining fossil fuel exploration and development, even removing U.S. public lands from federal protection so industry can have at them.

Trump has vowed to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, a lengthy process that cannot begin until 2020, after that year’s presidential election. Countries cannot withdraw until three years after the Paris Agreement took effect on November 4, 2016. After that, the rules mandate a one-year notice period. Still, because the accord is non-binding, Trump could choose to just ignore the accord’s terms.

President Macron told NBC News in an interview in June, “I’m pretty sure that my friend President Trump will change his mind in the coming months or years, I do hope. It’s extremely aggressive to decide on its own just to leave, and no way to push the others to renegotiate because one decided to leave the floor.”

Syria last month ratified the Paris Agreement, leaving the United States as the only country to reject the accord.

President Macron unveiled the winners of the first “Make Our Planet Great Again” climate research grants established after Trump announced his intention to pull out of the Paris accord. The French president said that Trump’s decision was a “deep wake-up call for the private sector” to take action.

Thirteen of the 18 multi-year award winners are American scientists; all winners will conduct climate research in France. The three-year to five-year grants are worth up to €1.5 million each. Overall, the program totals about €60 million in direct funding and in-kind support.

Macron told the winners Monday night, “What you are showing here this evening, with your commitment, with the projects that have been chosen … is that we do not want climate change, and we can produce, create jobs, do things differently if we decide to.”

In any case, the One Planet Summit featured dire warnings, rich pledges and actions that two years ago were not even on the horizon.

“Those who fail to bet on a green economy will be living in a grey future,” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres warned today, calling for greater ambition by governments, civil society, the private sector and finance partners to help tackle the global climate challenge.

“Green business is good business,” the UN chief said, speaking at the opening of the One Planet Summit. “Renewables are now cheaper than coal-powered energy in dozens of developed and developing countries.”

Guterres stressed that for climate action, it is not funding but trust that is lacking. To fix it, he said, first and foremost, rich countries must honor their commitment and provide US$100 billion a year through 2020 for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to the already-changing climate.

It also means that the Green Climate Fund must become an effective and flexible instrument, especially for the most vulnerable countries such as small island states and least developed countries.

“These two conditions are essential for trust between developed and developing countries,” said Guterres.

“Everyone is looking for paths to economic growth that are low carbon,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, as he announced that the World Bank <worldbank.org> will no longer finance upstream oil and gas, after 2019.

In exceptional circumstances, said Kim, consideration will be given to financing upstream gas in the poorest countries where there is a clear benefit in terms of energy access for the poor and the project fits within a country’s Paris Agreement commitments.

Alex Doukas, director of the Stop Funding Fossils Program at Oil Change International, said, “The World Bank’s monumental announcement that they are moving out of upstream oil and gas finance after 2019 stole the show in Paris. This move from the World Bank demonstrates real climate leadership, and could help signal a broader shift away from the tens of billions of dollars in public finance that G20 governments and multilateral development banks dump into fossil fuels each year.”

“These institutions still provide $72 billion in public finance to fossil fuels annually,” said Doukas, “which is why a shift away from fossil fuel finance is crucial if we hope to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement.”

“Government commitments to scale up climate finance are important, but they’re not enough. Others need to follow the lead of the World Bank and signal that they will stop funding fossils,” said Doukas.

Kim said that the World Bank Group is on track to meet its target of 28 percent of its lending going to climate action by 2020 and to meeting the goals of its Climate Change Action Plan, developed following the Paris Agreement.

For instance, last week, the World Bank and the Government of Egypt signed a US$1.15 billion development policy loan aimed at reducing fossil fuel subsidies and creating the environment for low-carbon energy development.

The World Bank Group will accelerate energy efficiency in India; scale up solar energy in Ethiopia, Pakistan and Senegal; establish a West Africa Coastal Areas investment platform to build resilience for coastlines there; and introduce the City Resilience Platform with the Global Covenant of Mayors so that up to 500 cities will have access to finance for climate change resilience.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a subsidiary of the World Bank Group has pledged invest up to US$325 million in the Green Cornerstone Bond Fund, a partnership with the European asset management company, Amundi, to create the largest-ever green bond fund exclusively dedicated to emerging markets.

“This is a $2 billion initiative aiming to deepen local capital markets, and expand and unlock private funding for climate-related projects. The fund is already subscribed at over $1 billion,” the IFC announced.

European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) President Sir Suma Chakrabarti said his bank intends to invest up to US$100 million in “Amundi Planet – Emerging Green One.”

The EBRD joined other global development organizations in stepping up the momentum for global climate action.

Chakrabarti told summit participants that the bank expects to meet its ambitious climate finance goals set at the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement three years ahead of time. The EBRD is already dedicating close to 40 percent of its annual investments to climate finance, a target it had initially set for 2020.

In Paris, Chakrabarti unveiled plans to step up EBRD support for the promotion of green cities, launching the Green Cities Climate Finance Accelerator with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy (GCoM), an international alliance of 7,498 cities and local governments moving towards a low-emission and climate-resilient society.

Under the new partnership, the EBRD and the GCoM are seeking to drive climate action in up to 60 cities, including many that to date have not been a focus for climate support.

At the One Planet Summit, from left, President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. December 12, 2017 (Photo courtesy Office of President Peña Nieto) Posted for media use

At the One Planet Summit, from left, President of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. December 12, 2017 (Photo courtesy Office of President Peña Nieto) Posted for media use

The World Bank, too, is partnering with the Global Covenant of Mayors and will lend US$4.5 billion to ensure 150 cities have the funds to implement initiatives to increase sustainability and resilience and fight climate change.

Marking the two-year anniversary of COP21 where the Paris Agreement was signed, the Global Covenant of Mayors joined with C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI, and various regional covenant partners, to announce the One Planet Charter – a new commitment campaign that will help cities swiftly implement actions to ensure Paris Agreement goals are met.

Through the One Planet Charter, cities will commit to specific climate action that drives investments, green public procurement, and policy decisions in renewable energy, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, and efforts for zero emission buildings and zero waste.

Cities will bring detailed descriptions of their commitments to the 2018 Global Action Summit in California.

Chakrabarti said, “We are delighted by our new financing initiative and partnership with the Global Covenant of Mayors

for Climate and Energy. … As cities around the world drive climate leadership, we are pleased that this investment will ultimately support the quality of life at the local level and contribute to addressing the global climate challenge.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, board member of the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, who also chairs C40 Cities: “C40’s Deadline 2020 research revealed precisely what needs to be delivered by the cities of more than 100,000 citizens around the world, to deliver on the ambition of the Paris Agreement. The decisions being made by mayors right now on investments for sustainable and resilient infrastructure will determine the future of generations to come. The One Planet Charter will make it easier to build the argument for bold climate action and investment in these crucial months and years ahead.”

In a separate initiative, nine of Europe’s largest industrial issuers of green bonds – EDF, Enel, ENGIE, Iberdrola, Icade, Paprec, SNCF Réseau, SSE and TenneT – announced their joint pledge to further develop “one of the most dynamic segments of sustainable finance today, the green bond market.”

Their pledge came on Monday, Paris 2017 Climate Finance Day, the day before the One Planet Summit.

Ten years after the first green bond was issued, this market has turned into “an exciting place,” said the nine companies, who say they are committed to tackling climate change, to a growing awareness to environmental protection, low carbon

transport and buildings, as well as energy efficiency.

Said José Sainz Armada, chief financial officer of the Spanish public multinational electric utility Iberdrola, “Ever since incorporating Sustainable Development Goals to the company’s strategy, Iberdrola has become the largest European issuer of green bonds, the perfect source of long-term finance for projects making an environmental difference. Through independent certification, private investors guided by ethical principles ensure their funds are managed with a sustainable perspective and the strictest social criteria.”

To date, all nine companies have issued a total of €26 billion in green bonds, which accounts for over 10 percent of all the world’s outstanding green bonds.

The nine signatories of Monday’s pledge commit to a long-term presence in the market. They say that green bonds will be at the heart of their project financing and business lines, and that they will implement stringent reporting procedures. The pledge also calls upon other industrial corporations to consider issuing green bonds.

Also announced at the One Planet Summit is Climate Action 100+, a new initiative backed by 225 investors, including nearly 70 North American investors, with $26.3 trillion in assets under management.

Climate Action 100+ is a five-year global effort led by investors to scale up engagement with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to improve governance on climate change, curb emissions and strengthen climate-related financial disclosures.

“Moving 100 of the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to align their business plans with the goals of the Paris Agreement will have considerable ripple effects,” said Anne Simpson, member of the Climate Action 100+ Steering Committee and investment director of sustainability at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. public pension fund.

“Our collaborative engagements with the largest emitters will spur actions across all sectors as companies work to avoid being vulnerable to climate risk and left behind,” said Simpson.

As part of today’s launch, investors released the list of the first 100 companies that they plan to engage as part of the initiative. The list includes companies in the oil and gas, electric power and transportation sectors that have been identified as the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.

But all these actions and promises did not go far enough for the conservationists in the Climate Action Network, a global group of over 1,200 NGOs working to promote government and individual action to limit human-induced climate change to ecologically sustainable levels.

Pointing out that 2017 is likely to be among the five-warmest years since the Industrial Revolution, and that the planet has suffered massive hurricanes in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, devastating floods in south Asia, and out of control wildfires in California, the Climate Action Network is pressing for even more urgent action.

Brett Fleishman, 350.org senior finance campaigner, said, “President Macron and other world leaders, are meeting right now to supposedly discuss shifting capital to climate solutions. But we are here to ring the alarm by bringing attention to the unabated support of the fossil fuel industry. We have research that clearly demonstrates that the French government, through its many agencies, is still invested in the energies sources of the past. This acts as a drag on the climate finance summit. This charade of caring about the planet can’t go on. Every euro and dollar spent on adaptation and mitigation is undercut by even more money spent on the fossil fuel industry.”

“Whatever the outcomes from this summit,” said Fleishman, “the global climate movement will keep on pushing through 2018 to accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy for all.”

MOre than 1,000 delegates participated the summit, which will continue Wednesday with various side events.

The One Planet Summit is organized jointly by France, the United Nations and the World Bank, in partnership with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the We Mean Business Coalition, the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy, the European Commission, the C40 Cities Network, the OECD and Bloomberg Philanthropies.


Featured Image: President of France Emmanual Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May at the One Planet Summit, Paris, France, December 12, 2017 (Photo courtesy #10 Downing Street) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Insuring the Vulnerable in a Warming World

Devastation on the Caribbean island of Dominica after Hurricane Maria, November 19, 2017 (Photo by Tanya Holden/DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Devastation on the Caribbean island of Dominica after Hurricane Maria, November 19, 2017 (Photo by Tanya Holden/DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

BONN, Germany, December 4, 2017 (Maximpact.com  News) – The German government has just contributed €110 million (US$125 million) to bring affordable insurance against climate and other natural disasters to 400 million vulnerable people around the world by 2020.

The contribution from German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ, made in November follows a £30 million (US$39 million) commitment from the Government of the United Kingdom in July.

These contributions are earmarked for the InsuResilience Global Partnership for Climate and Disaster Risk Finance and Insurance Solutions, headquartered in Bonn.

Between 1980 and 2015, more than 60 percent of the people who lost their lives as a result of climate-related extreme weather events had an income of less than US$3 a day, according to the reinsurance company Munich Re in a 2016 statement.

The effects of extreme weather events force some 26 million people into poverty every year, according to a World Bank study published this year entitled “Unbreakable: Building the Resilience of the Poor in the Face of Natural Disasters.”

Although absolute economic losses are much higher in high-income countries, they only account for 0.2 percent of GDP, as compared to five percent in low income countries.

To close this protection gap, the G7 countries: Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Canada, the UK and the United States, launched the InsuResilience initiative for climate risk insurance at their summit in Elmau, Germany in June 2015.

The initiative aims to offer insurance against climate risks to an additional 400 million poor and vulnerable people in developing countries by 2020.

At the start of the initiative, only around 100 million poor and vulnerable people in Africa, Asia and Latin America were insured against climate-related risks.

At the climate negotiations in Paris in 2015 (COP21), the G7 partners made a commitment to provide US$420 million in funding for InsuResilience as a first step.

One year later, at COP22 in Marrakesh, two new partners joined the initiative: the European Union and the Netherlands. Together, the InsuResilience partners confirmed their commitment and increased their financial contributions for InsuResilience to US$550 million.

More progress on insuring the world’s most vulnerable people was made this year. The Insuring Resilient and Sustainable Cities Summit held on May 5 in Bonn was convened by the UN Environment Principles for Sustainable Insurance (PSI) Initiative and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.

Gino Van Begin, ICLEI’s Secretary General, said, “Cities are on the front line of sustainable development challenges such as climate change and natural disasters. That’s why cities are working more and more with the insurance industry to better manage risk.”

The PSI, the largest collaborative initiative between the United Nations and the insurance industry, and ICLEI, the global network of more than 1,500 cities, towns and regions, joined forces in December 2016 to create the largest collaboration between the insurance industry and cities for resilience.

The Summit was sponsored by Munich Re, a founding PSI signatory, and supported by other PSI signatories such as Allianz and Risk Management Solutions, as well as by city mayors and officials from ICLEI’s global network – from Iloilo in the Philippines and Honiara in the Solomon Islands, to Copenhagen, Denmark and Oslo, Morway.

Dr. Michael Menhart, head of Economics, Sustainability and Public Affairs at Munich Re, and a PSI Board member, said, “We are committed to implementing the UN Principles for Sustainable Insurance in our core business activities. By supporting the push for more resilient and sustainable cities, we can help turn the PSI into practice and make a contribution through our risk and resilience expertise. This is a great example of how the insurance industry can promote economic, social and environmental sustainability.”

Resilience is not only about climate. The main outcome of the PSI-ICLEI Summit was the “Bonn Ambition”, which aims to achieve three goals by June 2018, when ICLEI hosts its World Congress in Montréal, Canada.

The Bonn Ambition is strategically linked to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Bonn Ambition seeks to create “Insurance Development Goals for Cities,” which would harness the insurance industry’s triple role as risk managers, risk carriers and investors in the context of the SDGs, focusing on SDG 11 – “Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.”

The idea is for the PSI and ICLEI to convert SDG 11’s stated targets into Insurance Development Goals that would set the long-term global agenda for the insurance industry and cities.

Participants plan to organize the first-ever roundtable of insurance industry CEOs and city mayors at the 2018 ICLEI World Congress to accelerate global and local action. The Congress is held every three years and assembles hundreds of local governments and key stakeholders to set the course for globalizing urban sustainability.

Butch Bacani, who leads the PSI at UN Environment, and who conceptualized and chaired the PSI-ICLEI Summit, said, “The Bonn Ambition clearly supports the PSI’s vision of a risk-aware world, where the insurance industry is trusted and plays its full role in enabling a healthy, safe, resilient and sustainable society. We need ambitious and decisive action now – not in 2020 or 2030 – to make the transformation to resilient and sustainable cities a reality. Time is non-renewable.”

The PSI-ICLEI Summit showed how the insurance industry could support cities as risk managers, risk carriers and investors. It explored various ways to close three key gaps in cities:

  • Closing the disaster risk reduction gap – through catastrophe risk modelling, ecosystem-based adaptation, insurance loss data sharing, land-use planning, loss prevention, and disaster preparedness
  • Closing the insurance protection gap – through insurance solutions for low-income people, SMEs, local governments and green technologies, including index-based insurance and usage-based insurance
  • Closing the financing gap – through investments in sustainable infrastructure, energy, buildings and transportation, and instruments such as green bonds and catastrophe and resilience bonds

Jed Patrick Mabilog, mayor of Iloilo City in the Philippines, said, “To survive and thrive, we need a whole-of-society approach to climate change adaptation and mitigation and disaster risk reduction. I fully support the Bonn Ambition and look forward to its implementation.”

Andrew Leonard Mua, mayor of Honiara City in the Solomon Islands, one of the most climate and disaster-vulnerable countries, said, “No man is an island. Honiara needs to work with other cities and key stakeholders such as the insurance industry in shaping a resilient and sustainable urban future. We need to act urgently—the future is happening now.”


Featured image: Strong winds brought by Typhoon Haima toppled electric poles, damaged homes and flooded fields in the Isabela and Cagayan provinces of the Philippines, October 20, 2016 (Photo by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

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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Cities Seek US$1 Trillion for Low-Carbon Construction

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Women at the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum, from left: Naoko Ishii, CEO and chairperson of the Global Environment Facility; Sue Tindal, chief financial officer at Auckland Council; Val Smith, director, Corporate Sustainability at Citi; Shirley Rodrigues, Deputy Mayor of London for Environment and Energy.

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, April 12, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The world’s largest cities are not sitting around waiting for national governments to hand them a climate-safe future. They are taking the initiative to build their own low-carbon opportunities.

To address climate change arising from urban development, there are over 3,000 low-carbon infrastructure projects in the planning stages across a network of 90 of the world’s megacities known as C40 Cities .

Cities have reported costs for just 15 percent of these projects, but even this small percentage amounts to US$15.5 billion in required investment.

There are 90 megacities in the C40 Cities network. They include: Durban, Nairobi, Lagos, and Addis Ababa in Africa; Delhi, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Tokyo, in Asia; Auckland, New Zealand in Oceana; Amman, Jordan in the Middle East; Copenhagen, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, Athens and Amsterdam in Europe; Bogota, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Buenos Aires in South America; and in North America, Houston, New York, San Francisco, Washington, DC, and Vancouver.

Roughly one in every 12 people in the world lives in a C40 city, and these 90 cities generate about one-quarter of the world’s wealth, as expressed by GDP, or Gross Domestic Product.

These numbers highlight an enormous opportunity for collaboration between cities and the private sector to invest in sustainable projects, and also the need to accelerate investment and development in sustainable infrastructure to deliver a climate-safe future.

Rachel Kyte, chief executive, Sustainable Energy for All, an initiative of the United Nations Secretary-General, has said, “Buildings account for one-third of global energy use and with cities growing rapidly, there’s an urgent need for partnerships that help cities and citizens use energy better.”

Recent C40 research, contained in the report “Deadline 2020,” estimates that C40 cities need to spend US$375 billion over the next four years on low carbon infrastructure in order to be on the right track to meet the ambition of the Paris Agreement on Climate that took effect in November 2016.

Under this agreement, world governments pledged to keep Earth’s temperature increase to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

Deadline 2020” estimates before 2050, C40 cities will need to invest over US$1 trillion on new climate action and in renewing and expanding infrastructure to get on the trajectory required to meet the goal of the Paris Agreement.

But how are the megacities to attract this mega-investment?

On April 4, the C40 Financing Sustainable Cities Forum gathered over 200 delegates from cities, investors, national governments, academics, private sector experts, civil society groups and technology providers to identify the key barriers in financing sustainable urban infrastructure.

The Forum was hosted in London by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the Greater London Authority, with the support of the Citi Foundation and World Resources Institute’s Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

City action can deliver 40 percent of the Paris goal,” Mark Watts, executive director, C40 Cities, said at the Forum.

Participants looked at unlocking finance for low-carbon investments in cities. They agreed that cities must improve project development information in order to accelerate climate action, a conclusion articulated in a new report, “The Low Carbon Investment Landscape in C40 Cities.

They recognized that accessing and attracting finance are some of the biggest barriers that mayors face in delivering their climate change plans, especially in developing countries and emerging economies with a lack of expertise in securing investment.

To help solve this problem, the C40 Cities Finance Facility was launched during COP21, the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where the Paris Agreement on Climate was approved by world governments.

The C40 Cities Finance Facility will provide US$20 million of support by 2020 to help unlock and access up to US$1 billion of additional capital funding, by providing the connections, advice and legal and financial support to enable C40 cities in developing and emerging countries to develop more financeable projects.

For developing markets, public-private partnerships are key to getting sustainable projects off the ground,” said Val Smith, director, Corporate Sustainability at Citi.

But the financial industry tells C40 Cities that they are experiencing a lack of corporate understanding of the low carbon technology being deployed.

They lack understanding of the financing models cities use to fund low carbon infrastructure and, in addition, financiers are seeing inadequate capacity within city governments to form partnerships and collaborate on sustainable infrastructure projects.

CDP’s Matchmaker program aims to overcome these challenges by engaging cities early in the project development process and standardizing how these projects are disseminated to the market.

CDP, formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project, is a not-for-profit that runs the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts.

Since the Paris Agreement was adopted in 2015, CDP says they have seen a 70 percent increase in cities disclosing their carbon emissions.

CDP says this year’s disclosures reveal that many cities are actively looking to partner with the private sector on climate change. Cities highlighted a total 720 climate change-related projects, worth a combined US$26 billion, that they want to work with business on.

Matchmaker will publicize these low-carbon infrastructure projects to CDP’s growing number of investor signatories that currently represent over US$100 trillion in assets.

And these are by no means all of the opportunities for sustainable investment in urban low-carbon construction.

On April 4, at a meeting of the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York City April 3, five new cities and districts committed to improve their buildings by adopting new policies, demonstration projects and tracking progress against their goals.

They joined the Building Efficiency Accelerator (BEA), a public-private collaboration that now includes over 35 global organizations and 28 cities in 18 countries.

The cities and districts joining the BEA are Kisii County, Kenya; Merida, Mexico; Nairobi City County, Kenya; Pasig City, Philippines; and Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

World Resources Institute (WRI) leads the BEA, convening businesses, nonprofits and multilateral development organizations to support local governments in implementing policies and programs that make their buildings more efficient.

Jennifer Layke, global director, Energy Program, World Resources Institute, encapsulated the push for sustainable construction, saying, “People want schools, homes, and offices that are healthy and comfortable without the burden of high energy costs due to inefficiency. Prioritizing efficiency in buildings can save money and reduce pollution. Our new Building Efficiency Accelerator partners are signaling their intent to avoid the lock-in of decades of inefficient development.

Supporting these new members are ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, the India Green Building Council, the Kenya Green Building Society, Pasig and WRI Mexico.

We must transform our urban systems to meet the challenges of sustainability and climate,” said Naoko Ishii, CEO and Chairperson of the Global Environment Facility, a funding organization. “Through this partnership, we can provide awareness raising, policy advice and technology transfer directly to sub-national governments ready to take action.”

Follow C40 Cities on Twitter


Featured Image: Duke Energy Center in Charlotte, North Carolina is a LEED Certified Platinum building, the highest sustainability rating awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council. (Photo by U.S. Green Building Council) Posted for media use

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Top 10 U.S. Carbon Market Trends of 2017

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Sea level rise caused by climate warming has inundated Louisiana’s Isle de Jean Charles, displacing the Biloxi-Chitimacha Tribe, the first official U.S. climate refugees. (Photo by Karen Apricot) Creative commons license via Flickr.

By Sunny Lewis

PORTLAND, Oregon, January 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The Climate Trust, a nonprofit that specializes in mobilizing conservation finance for climate benefit, announced its fourth annual prediction list of 10 carbon market trends to watch in the coming year.

Trends range from U.S. citizens becoming climate refugees in one of the hottest years on record, to more native tribes joining carbon markets, to China taking the global climate leadership role, to environmental justice concerns playing an increased role in climate policy decisions.

These trends were identified by The Climate Trust based on interactions with their group of working partners: governments, investors, project developers, large businesses, and the philanthropic community.

Our team has identified areas of potential advancement, despite the anticipated inaction around climate at the federal level,” said Sean Penrith, executive director for The Climate Trust.

This year, more than ever, we felt there was a need for positivity, and have primarily chosen to share industry insights that are positive in nature, yet still strongly based in reality,” said Penrith. “We expect that the New Year will bring together unlikely, yet strong, domestic partnerships with corresponding resolve to address climate change, and we look forward to seeing what we can accomplish by banding together.

The Top 10 U.S. Carbon Market Trends

1. As our nation heads into uncertain times with respect to climate change policy and action, states, cities, and regional collaborative groups are going to lead the fight against climate change.

In New York City, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned that if the Trump Administration withdraws from the Paris Accord, mayors from 128 cities will pick up the cause.

In the Midwest, wind turbines continue to rise out of the cornfields.

In Oregon, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken recently issued an opinion and order  denying the U.S. government and fossil fuel industry’s motions to dismiss a climate change lawsuit filed by 21 young people.

In Oregon, the Department of Environmental Quality is wrapping up the draft considerations for a cap-and-trade program for the state. In the vacuum created by a Scott Pruitt-led EPA, and a Rex Tillerson-led State Department, rulings like the one issued by Judge Aiken, and statements like the one from California Governor Jerry Brown challenging Trump on climate change, indicate where the action on climate change is going to be for the next four years.

2. Progressive states and foundations will pick up support for domestic climate finance in the absence of federal action. We expect that climate denial from federal leaders will alarm foundations and progressive states. Many foundations previously had an international climate focus, and The Climate Trust anticipates that these institutions will refocus on their U.S. agenda.

The political will for carbon pricing will grow in progressive states, demanding more immediate state action.

Increasingly, public entities are aware that their dollars are most effectively used when they leverage private capital. In 2017, states and foundations will look for opportunities to mitigate risks to private climate finance providers investing in the United States through new financial mechanisms like first loss capital contributions, loan guarantees, credit enhancements, and other new structures.

YouthPlaintiffs

The 21 young plaintiffs in Our Childrens’ Trust’s landmark lawsuit against the federal government celebrate the judge’s order backing their right to sue. November 2016 (Photo courtesy Our Childrens’ Trust) Post for media use.

3. Global climate litigation campaigns will gain momentum during 2017, legitimizing our children’s right to a healthy planet.

This is no ordinary lawsuit,” U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken wrote in her ruling on November 10, 2016 on a landmark case filed in Oregon by 21 young people and Our Children’s Trust. The plaintiffs allege that over the last 50 years, the government, including President Barack Obama, violated their constitutional rights and imperiled their future by failing to adequately reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Also acting as a plaintiff is world-renowned climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, serving as guardian for future generations and his granddaughter, who is a youth plaintiff in the case.

Whether the case is heard in federal court or settled, it provides a solid legal foundation for future climate litigation, and gives hope to the growing ranks of youth climate activists and their supporters.

We believe that more judges will acknowledge that the climate change crisis is within their purview, and that the constitutional rights of youth plaintiffs will be upheld against other governmental branches.

The world is watching this historic precedent set in Oregon. We predict the optimism gained from this victory will encourage judges and activists to look to the courts to validate the science behind climate change and allow judicial systems to require governments to take tangible action.

4. Private industry picks up U.S. government slack, making progress towards Paris commitments. During his campaign, President-elect Trump referred to climate change as a Chinese hoax and asserted that he will cancel the Paris Agreement. While he has walked back these statements, most recently saying that “nobody really knows” if climate change is real, his choice of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency suggests that Trump is going to try and make his campaign promises.

In the days after the November 2016 election, business leaders called on Trump to honor America’s agreement to the Paris Accord. Savvy business leaders and people like Bill Gates who recently drew attention to his $1 billion clean-technology fund, not only understand that climate change is real, but understand that taking no action will have a negative impact on their bottom line.

Progress will be made toward our U.S. Paris commitments due to the efforts of private industry. The Climate Trust anticipates that the Trump Administration will be left on the sidelines while the rest of the world rallies to meet the commitments made in Paris to keep greenhouse gas emissions at levels that will prevent global climate change increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

5. Environmental justice community concerns are increasingly built into climate policy discussions throughout the United States. The environmental justice community in California has brought into sharp focus the need to balance the impact on disadvantaged communities with climate policy and programs.

Meeting the ambitious greenhouse gas goals now required by law in California in the cheapest manner possible is a central equity issue.

There will be continued attention given to these environmental justice concerns both in California and across the country as state climate policy evolves.

6. U.S. citizens become climate refugees in one of the hottest years on record. The top 10 hottest years in human history have all occurred since 1998, and 2016 is among them. It is anticipated that this continued trend will give rise to an increasing number of climate refugees within U.S. borders.

The Biloxi-Chitimacha Tribe in Louisiana is considered the first official community of climate refugees in this country. Whether it’s a 1,000-year flooding event in Louisiana, or wildfires on the west coast, global warming is altering the country in ways that will displace thousands of Americans.

This changing geography will necessitate the development of new solutions that not only sequester carbon, but also focus on adaptation. Some of these solutions are already under development, such as the Blue Carbon Initiative, which seeks to restore coastal wetlands to sequester carbon in plants and soils and protect against dangerous storm surges.

7. More native tribes will join carbon markets. The California Compliance Offset Protocol, U.S. Forest Projects, now has more than 34 million offset credits issued, including over 7.7 million tons from properties owned by Native American Tribes; nine projects located in six different states. The second largest individual issuance to date in the California carbon market is from the White Mountain Apache tribe project in Arizona.

Tribes that have taken part in carbon transactions have indicated that credit sales provide a new way to make money while improving wildlife habitat, expanding the tribe’s natural resource program, and acquiring and protecting land in its ancestral territory.

Last year, the protocol rules for the California market were expanded beyond the lower 48 U.S. states to include Alaska, opening the door for even more tribes to engage.

8. China takes the lead in carbon markets, encouraging linkages. The year of the rooster in the Chinese calendar is also the year China will take a leading role in using markets to fight global climate change.

After several years of piloting regional emissions trading programs, China will launch a national system that will cover over four billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions, making it twice as large as the next biggest market in Europe.

As a developing nation and large emitter, China’s bold commitment to carbon markets will send a signal that will be felt in America and beyond,” says Erika Anderson, a climate change attorney doing business in China.  

9. U.S.-based institutional investors will increase commitments to investments that hedge out carbon risk. Following the example of Norway’s sovereign fund, and other large European institutional investors, U.S.-based pensions and family offices will continue to de-risk their portfolios from the negative impacts of climate change, and take advantage of opportunities in the sustainable real assets space.

Lindsey Brace Martinez, founder of StarPoint Advisors, LLC and advisor to institutional investors and asset managers, says, “Given the prevailing sentiment for a low return environment, U.S. institutional investors are looking for investment managers who have a competitive edge and can deliver value over the long-term. Investment managers who systematically review and update their risk management approaches and apply their expertise through focused strategies will have a competitive edge.”

10. California Air Resources Board prevails in CalChamber lawsuit and commits to cap and trade. A long-standing lawsuit filed by the California Chamber of Commerce, Morning Star Packing Co.,and the National Association of Manufacturers has hung over the cap and trade market. The lawsuit argues that the auctioning of the cap and trade allowances constitutes an illegal tax since it does not have the approval of two-thirds of the Legislature.

Oral arguments are scheduled in Sacramento for January 24, 2017.

There are three possible outcomes for the lawsuit. It may be deemed a tax, and cause California to have a cap and trade system without the auction element unless the Legislature approves with a two-thirds vote.

It could be deemed a regulatory fee, and thus uphold the validity of the allowance auctions. Or, the third possibility is that the court finds that the auction is neither a tax nor a fee but something else not subject to the strictures of tax voting requirements under the state constitution.

The Climate Trust believes that this third option will be the outcome of the suit and be a complete victory for the cap and trade program.

In 2016, a number of our predictions came to fruition, including an increased number of institutions committing to divest from fossil fuel companies as part of the transition to a clean energy future,” said Kristen Kleiman, director of investments for The Climate Trust.

The divest movement has provided a valuable market signal to support the needed flows of conservation finance,” Kleiman said. “Riding this wave of interest from large institutions, late last year, The Trust executed a milestone contract with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, securing a $5.5M Program-Related Investment to seed our first-of-its-kind carbon investment fund.


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Hopscotching Through Davos 2017

WECDavos

Snow on the peaks above Davos, Switzerland where just two weeks ago there was little snow. (Photo by Valeriano Di Domenico courtesy World Economic Forum) Posted for media use on Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

DAVOS, Switzerland, January 17, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab welcomed participants to the 47th Annual Meeting today with the thought that despite the “disruptive economic and political models,” now underway, the meeting is a way to construct a positive vision for the future.

Sometimes it seems that the world is overwhelmed by pessimism and cynicism,” said Schwab. “But we have to look in a confident way into the future.

Co-chair Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, called for optimism “amid a daunting wave of technological change,” offering hope that technology can help resolve the toughest problems.

Convening under the theme Responsive and Responsible Leadership, more than 3,000 participants from nearly 100 countries are taking part in over 400 sessions.

The meeting is focusing on critical leadership challenges for 2017 – strengthening global collaboration, revitalizing economic growth, reforming capitalism, preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and restoring a sense of shared identity.

Responsive means that we listen to and interact with those who have entrusted us with leadership,” Schwab said, emphasizing  values and ethics. “It is always important to prioritize the public social good over our own interests. We must emphasize humanization over robotization.

Networked sensors, machine to machine communications, and data analytics are just a few of the trends driving a global transformation of today’s cities into the smart cities of the future, Johnson Controls chairman and CEO Alex Molinaroli informed the participants today in Davos.

Around the world, governments are investing in innovative technologies and private-sector solutions to make their cities safer, smarter and more sustainable, he blogged at the annual event.

Yet, Molinaroli calls networked sensors a “foundational component of smart cities,” explaining that the technology exists today to “mimic all five of the human senses plus many additional ones” and use that data in computerized monitoring and management systems.

Whether “seeing” security incidents through video surveillance, “hearing” gun shots through audio processing or “smelling” polluted air through chemical and particulate detectors, networked arrays of sensors provide the basis for more accurate analysis and decision-making,” Molinaroli explained.

He points to one growing concern for highly interconnected systems, such as the electric power grid – the risk of cybersecurity breaches.

While individuals have always been at financial and privacy risk from their use of the Internet, interconnected devices and systems communicating and operating autonomously over networks raise significant safety and security concerns,” said Molinaroli. “The cybersecurity of critical infrastructure and the IoT [Internet of Things] is currently being addressed by a number of government bodies and business alliances.

Improving efficiency and resilience are two of the most important drivers of smart city investment, he said.

In 2016, Johnson Controls completed its 10th Energy Efficiency Indicator survey of more than 1,200 organizations with commercial, institutional and industrial facilities in Brazil, China, Germany, India and the United States. Of those polled, 72 percent said they were planning to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in 2017.

From cities to forests, this year’s World Economic Forum covers a lot of ground.

Florian Reber, manager, Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a global public-private partnership to reduce the deforestation associated with harvesting palm oil, soy, beef, and paper and pulp, told the Forum that, “Globally, the link between climate change, forests, land use and economic development is one of the most urgent challenges to solve if we are to avoid costly and irreversible impacts of climate change.

Climate change has already come to Davos, Reber points out. Switzerland is experiencing record low snow levels after the driest December since recordkeeping began in 1864.

The now snowy streets and frosty temperatures in Davos certainly meet the weather expectations of those participants who have travelled to the Forum’s Annual Meeting,” Reber said. “Yet, had they come to the highest town of the Alps just two weeks earlier, they would have experienced a very different backdrop: no snow at all up until high altitudes with only thin slopes made with artificially produced snow.

In a normal year, the natural seasonal hazard would be avalanches,” he said. “This year, not far away from Davos in the southern parts of Graubünden, some of the biggest forest fires in the recent history of Switzerland happened between Christmas and early January. The now missing forest will increase the exposure of villages to future avalanche and rock-fall risk.”

President Xi Jinping spoke at the opening plenary this morning, offering Chinese remedies for the world’s economic ailments. It is the first time a top Chinese leader has attended the event.

The Chinese economy is experiencing “unprecedented and profound changes,” Xi said. He spoke of “innovative, coordinated, green, open and shared” development that offers solutions for China’s current economic problems and indicates a direction for its long-term development.

Xi said that efforts to promote deeper overall reforms, the simplifying of administrative procedures and the delegating of central government power to lower levels of government, along with innovation-driven development, the rule of law, and the fight against corruption, will carry the world’s most populous country into the future.

Big business rules, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Fewer than 10 percent of the world’s public companies account for 80 percent of all profits. Firms with more than US$1 billion in annual revenue account for nearly 60 percent of total global revenues and 65 percent of market capitalization. “The quest for size is producing a global bull market in mergers and acquisitions,” the McKinsey data shows.

One session coming up later today aims to explore what operating at this gigantic scale means for competition, collaboration and innovation.

Sir Martin Sorrell, who heads Great Britain’s WPP plc, the world’s largest advertising company by revenues, tweeted today, “Brexit and [U.S. President-elect Donald] Trump’s victory have generated a populist trend where big business is in the front line.

But Sorrell also gave an encouraging nod to small business, saying, “Leveraging the benefits of scale and size are crucial, but small businesses create jobs.

Ruth Porat, CFO of Google parent company Alphabet, believes that progress results when people take risks and push the frontiers. “Success is just as much about what you do, as what you stop doing,” she declared. “Competition is fierce, and you need to remain focused on that.

Brian Moynihan, CEO of the Bank of America, says inclusiveness and sustainability are important as the global economy grows.

We have to grow, no excuse, but you have to do it the right way,” Moynihan said. “The growth that has to take place has to focus on all participants, it has to include everybody, it has to deal with the ups and downs of market-based forces.”

Growth has to avoid excessive risk and be environmentally sustainable, he said, as well as being “sustainable in building safety nets around the world to make sure all citizens are dealt with fairly.

The World Economic Forum continues through January 20 at Davos.


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Private Transport Sector Embraces Climate Action

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Young people at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco will live with the consequences of the decisions made there. (Photo by UNFCCC) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

MARRAKECH, Morocco, November 15, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Sustainable transport leaders from the private sector met at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech (COP22) on Saturday for the Global Climate Action event on Transport to move the world towards a cooler future.

They discussed how progress made on 15 initiatives covering all transport modes and more than 100 countries demonstrates that tackling emissions from transport is both possible and cost effective.

The transport sector has made a great start, leading by example and spearheading the development of the broader Global Climate Action Agenda,” said Ségolène Royal, France’s Minister of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, responsible for International Climate Relations.

The 15 non-state actor transport initiatives whose progress are being reported in Marrakech have such a scope and scale that they are well on the way to triggering a broad transformation of the transport sector, as required to deliver on the Paris Agreement,” said Royal.

Prepared for the Marrakech conference, a report on the 15 Global Climate Action Agenda Transport Initiatives was released earlier this month.

The 15 initiatives are:

1. Airport Carbon Accreditation: Airport Carbon Accreditation, developed and launched by Airports Council International (ACI) Europe in 2009, is the only global carbon management standard for airports. The initiative aims to increase airport accreditations in all regions with a commitment for 50 carbon neutral airports in Europe by 2030.

 2. Aviation’s Climate Action Takes Off: Collaborative climate action across the air transport sector aims to control growth of international aviation CO2 emissions through measures that include a goal of carbon-neutral growth through a global market-based mechanism.

 A landmark agreement, adopted at the last International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly in October 2016, makes the aviation industry the first sector to adopt a global market-based measure to address climate change.

3. The C40 Clean Bus Declaration, led by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, aims to decarbonize urban mass transport.

Participating cities will incorporate over 160,000 buses in their fleets by 2020 and have committed to switching 42,000 buses to low emission. Greenhouse gas savings will be almost 900,000 tons a year, with a potential overall savings of 2.8 million tons each year if the cities switch their entire bus fleets.

To date, 26 cities around the world have signed the Clean Bus Declaration, demonstrating strong global demand.

4. Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GEFI) aims to double the average fuel economy of new light duty vehicles globally by 2030, and all vehicles by 2050.

For COP21 last year in Paris, GFEI launched “100 for 50 by 50,” a campaign to encourage new countries to commit to GFEI’s fuel economy improvement goals by developing and adopting national fuel economy policies, and to dedicate time and resources to supporting GFEI’s work. At COP21 GFEI announced funding for 40 new countries joining their work, with more expressing interest.

5. Global Green Freight Action Plan: Reducing the climate and health impacts of goods transport. The three main objectives are: 1) To align and enhance existing green freight programs; 2) To develop and support new green freight programs globally; and 3) To incorporate black carbon reductions into green freight programs.

Steering group partners include Canada, United States, International Council on Clean Transportation, Clean Air Asia, Smart Freight Centre, and the World Bank. The initiative has received support from 24 countries, 28 nongovernmental organizations, and four private sector companies.

6. ITS for Climate: Using Intelligent Transportation Systems to work towards a low carbon, resilient world and to limit global warming below the 2-degree target and contribute to adaptation to climate change in large cities and isolated territories.

7. Low Carbon Road and Road Transport Initiative: Led by the World Road Association (PIARC), with its 121 government members, the initiative is committed to reducing the carbon footprint of road construction, maintenance and operation through technological innovation, green tendering and contracting. Will develop road networks in line with electric propulsion, autonomous cars, road-vehicle and vehicle-vehicle interactions, and enhancing intermodal cooperation.

8. MobiliseYourCity: 100 cities engaged in sustainable urban mobility planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in urban transport in developing countries. This initiative was unveiled during the World Climate and Territories Summit that took place in July in Lyon, France.

9. Navigating a Changing Climate: Think Climate, a multi-stakeholder coalition of 10 associations with interests in waterborne transport infrastructure, is committed to promoting a shift to low carbon inland and maritime navigation infrastructure.

10. The UIC Low Carbon Sustainable Rail Transport Challenge: This challenge sets out ambitious but achievable targets for improvement of rail sector energy efficiency, reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a more sustainable balance between transport modes.

Implementation of the Challenge will result in 50 percent reduction in CO2 emissions from train operations by 2030, and a 75 percent reduction by 2050, as well as a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption from train operations by 2030, and a 60 percent reduction by 2050.

11. UITP Declaration on Climate Change Leadership: UITP, the International Association of Public Transport, brings 350 future commitments and actions from 110 public transport undertakings in 80 cities. UITP’s goal is to double the market share of public transport by 2025, which would prevent half a billion tons of CO2 equivalent in 2025.

12. Urban Electric Mobility Initiative: The UEMI aims to boost the share of electric vehicles in urban transport and integrate electric mobility into a wider concept of sustainable urban transport that achieves a 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas by 2030.

The UEMI is an active partnership that aims to track international action on electric mobility and to initiate local action. Current partners include: UN-Habitat, Wuppertal Institute, the International Energy Agency, Michelin, Clean Air Asia and the European Commission.

13. World Cycling Alliance and European Cyclists’ Federation have committed to increase the modal share of cycling worldwide and to double cycling in Europe by 2020. The commitment is supported by ECF and WCA, representing about 100 civil society organizations worldwide.

14. Worldwide Taxis4SmartCities: This initiative aims to accelerate the introduction of low emission vehicles in taxis fleets by 2020 and 2030 and promote sustainability. Nineteen companies representing more than 120,000 vehicles have committed to date.

15. ZEV Alliance: The International Zero-Emission Vehicle Alliance (ZEV Alliance) is a collaboration of governments acting together to accelerate the adoption of zero-emission vehicles – electric, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicles.

British Columbia, California, Connecticut, Germany, Maryland, Massachusetts, the Netherlands, New York, Norway, Oregon, Québec, Rhode Island, United Kingdom, Vermont have signed up to the ZEV Alliance.

Scaled-up actions taken by the Global Climate Action Agenda Transport initiatives since COP21 in December 2015 include:

  • The Global Fuel Economy Initiative is supporting an additional 40 countries to realize the financial and CO2 benefits of improved vehicle fuel economy.
  • The Airport Carbon Accreditation Scheme now has 173 certified airports worldwide, including 26 carbon neutral airports; and 36 percent of air passengers now travel through an Airport Carbon Accredited airport.
  • The MobiliseYourCity initiative secured 35 million euro in funding over the last 12 months and is making use of COP22 to announce the start of developing Sustainable Urban Mobility plans in Morocco and Cameroon.

As the COP22 host country, Morocco is taking a leading role in reducing transport emissions. Morocco’s Transport Minister Mohamed Boussaid said Morocco is launching the new African Association for Sustainable Road Transport at COP22.

For a growing region like Africa which is heavily impacted by climate change we need affordable and locally appropriate transport solutions that support economic and social development, provide access to mobility, and create local value,” said Boussaid.

Through the “we want to share experience and catalyse the development of resilient and intelligent highway infrastructure and the deployment of e-mobility in Morocco and beyond,” said Boussaid.

Transport is already responsible for one fourth of energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. under a business as usual scenario, transport emissions can be expected to grow from 7.7 Gt to around 15Gt by 2050.

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Nissan Leaf electric taxi charging at a Petrobras station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 2013 (Photo by mariordo59) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

This is a global problem. For 45 percent of countries, transport is the largest source of energy related emissions, for the rest it is the second largest source.

But discussions at COP22 indicate that tackling emissions from transport is possible and cost effective, sustainable solutions are available.

“Transport initiatives by non-state actors are key for a successful implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions submitted by over 160 countries on the occasion of COP21 in Paris,” said Dr. Hakima El Haite, Minister of Environment and Climate Champion, Morocco.

“The transport initiatives, by creating a new reality on the ground, increase popular understanding and support for climate action which, in turn, drives up governments’ ambition to tackle climate change.”

To find out more about the 15 initiatives, please read: Global Climate Action Agenda (GCAA) Transport Initiatives: Stock-take on action on the Implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and contribution towards the 2030 Global Goals on Sustainable Development Report


 

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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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Ranking the Top 10 Global Green Cities

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Gardens by the Bay, Singapore (Photo by Jean Baptiste Roux) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

 SINGAPORE, August 3, 2016 (Maximpact.com News ) – Mirror, mirror on the wall, whose city is the greenest of them all? The mirror held up by the corporate strategy consulting firm Solidiance reflects the answer in a new report  that compares the performance of 10 global cities and their green buildings.

To rank these cities’ green building performance, Solidiance developed a set of criteria across four categories. Three focused on the total number of green buildings, their performance and their initiatives, while one category examined each city’s supportive infrastructure, which has a lot to do with fostering a healthy green building movement.

After assessing the 10 Global Cities for green building performance, Paris was determined to be the leader, followed by Singapore and London

Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong came in the fourth, fifth and sixth positions, while New York, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai filled in the other four slots.

 “Singapore can certainly be considered a leader in the field of green building. The city target for 80 per cent of buildings to achieve BCA Green Mark standards by 2030 is ambitious but achievable, and the Singapore Green Building Council will play a key role in delivering this,” said Terri Wills, CEO of World Green Building Council, United Kingdom.

 Singapore is the “standout leader” in the Green Building Codes and Targets assessment Solidiance reports. While all the Global Cities have outlined city-level green building codes, only three cities have achieved their green building targets. Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai are the only cities with both a green building code and green building targets set out by the city.

Paris and Singapore took the top spots by excelling in all four assessment categories: city-wide green building landscape, green building efficiency and performance, green building policies and targets, and green city culture and environment.

They were the only cities that ranked within the Top Five in every category.

Both Paris and Singapore have strong building efficiency and performance, which shows that both local and international certification standards are yielding high-performance on green buildings.

 London benefits from high yield of green buildings in the city, which can be linked to the fact that the United Kingdom was the first country ever to introduce a green building certification system.

Paris fell just slightly short of Singapore in the absolute number of green buildings in the city, and by not setting out a clear city-wide green building target.

Although Sydney, Tokyo, and Hong Kong performed well on the green city culture and environment criteria, Sydney and Hong Kong were negatively affected with the poor results they achieved on their green building landscape and performance.

Sydney, with 67, had the fewest absolute number of green buildings in the city.

Finally, Dubai, Beijing, and Shanghai were the last cities on the Top 10 list. These three cities are among the most recent to join the green building movement, and Solidiance analysts expect that these rankings will change in the future as these newer ‘green building cities’ are setting ambitious targets in order to catch up to other cities’ levels.

Dubai launched its local green building standard last among these 10 Global Cities, in 2010, resulting in fewer locally certified buildings (8th), and only launched its green building regulations and specifications in 2012.

Despite the slow start, Dubai ranks 5th in internationally certified green buildings (104), and has a total of 147 internationally and locally certified green buildings erected on its cityscape. Dubai already ranks 6th for ‘green buildings as a percentage of total buildings’

The current green building development has been focused on new buildings but is shifting towards existing buildings,” said Vincent Cheng, director of building sustainability at ARUP, Hong Kong, an independent firm of designers, planners, engineers, consultants and technical specialists. “For significant progress, the focus of stakeholders in Hong Kong should shift from new to existing buildings which make up the bulk of the building stock. Potentially, more effort can be made to incentivize sustainability for existing buildings, promote microgrid/ renewable systems to reduce dependence on coal-powered electricity, and divert waste from precious landfill space.

When considering the limited number of years that Beijing, Dubai and Shanghai have been working to green their built stock, the achievements of these cities are profound, especially when considering the large number of highly internationally-certified buildings currently standing within these cities,” says Solidiance, explaining the rankings.

Saeed Al Abbar, chairman of the Emirates Green Building Council, United Arab Emirates, states in the study, “It is important to note that a building can be sustainable and incorporate green best practices without having a certification behind it. Certifications, however, are useful tools for measurement and can serve as guidelines for best practice. Nonetheless, Dubai does not have a specific certification or rating systems such as Estidama in Abu Dhabi, but the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system is used and recognised broadly.”

By contrast, Singapore stood out as a pioneer in the industry by setting forth a comprehensive and bold set of policies and targets for greening the city’s built block.

As a city that has committed to greening 80 percent of its built stock by 2030, Singapore proved to be one of the most ambitious on the list of cities evaluated.

Finally, the assessment of the city-level green initiatives established that both Sydney and Hong Kong have set higher than average carbon dioxide (CO2) reduction targets amongst the 10 Global Cities, and have also proven themselves as they perform noticeably well with low CO2 emissions city-wide.

 Paris, Sydney, and Singapore take the highest ranking spots with regards to each city’s green building efficiency. This is due to the three cities not only being very low CO2-polluting cities in general, but also because they each have a very low percentage of emissions which can be attributed to the city’s built-environment.

Roughly eight to 10 million new buildings are constructed each year, worldwide, and now more of them are greener than ever before. Solidiance finds that the number of green buildings is doubling every three years as a response to the current accelerating demand for sustainability.

 Michael Scarpf, head of sustainable construction at the Swiss building materials giant LafargeHolcim told Solidiance, “Singapore and London are the cities which have the highest green building activity, and Costa Rica, France, Singapore, and the United Kingdom are the countries that witness high demand for green building materials.

Buildings are the largest energy-consuming sector, accounting for more than 40 percent of global energy use and responsible for an estimated 30 percent of city-wide emissions, calculates Solidance, which points out that buildings also hold the most promise for global energy savings.


 Featured image: Montparnasse Tower views: Les Invalides, Paris, France (Photo by David McSpadden) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Dirtiest Air in World’s Poorest Cities

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By Sunny Lewis                                                                                           Follow us at: @Maximpactdotcom

GENEVA, Switzerland, May 12, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – The poorest cities on Earth have the worst air pollution, data revealed today by the World Health Organization shows.

More than 80 percent of the people living in cities that monitor pollutants in their air are exposed to levels up to 10 times higher than limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO), that UN-affiliated global health agency said today, releasing the latest figures.

The highest urban air pollution levels were found in low-and middle-income countries in WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia regions, where annual mean levels often measured as much as 10 times WHO limits.

While all regions of the world are affected, residents of low-income cities are the most impacted.

WHO’s latest urban air quality data shows that 98 percent of cities in low-income and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines.

In high-income countries, that percentage decreases to 56 percent.

“Air pollution is a major cause of disease and death. It is good news that more cities are stepping up to monitor air quality, so when they take actions to improve it they have a benchmark,” said Dr. Flavia Bustreo, WHO assistant-director general, Family, Women and Children’s Health.

“When dirty air blankets our cities the most vulnerable urban populations – the youngest, oldest and poorest – are the most impacted,” Dr. Bustreo said.

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At sunset, hazy air lingers over Dakar, Senegal, one the world’s 10 poorest cities. (Photo by Jeff Attaway) Creative Commons licence via Flickr

WHO researchers compared a total of 795 cities in 67 countries for levels of small and fine particulate matter (PM10 and PM2.5) during the five-year period, 2008-2013.

PM10 and PM2.5 include pollutants such as sulfate, nitrates and black carbon. They penetrate deep into the lungs and cardiovascular system, posing the greatest risks to human health.

In the past two years, the database – now covering 3,000 cities in 103 countries – has nearly doubled, with more cities measuring air pollution levels and recognizing the associated health impacts.

As urban air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, increases for the people who live in them.

Ambient air pollution, made of high concentrations of small and fine particulate matter, is the greatest environmental risk to health, say WHO executives. It causes more than three million premature deaths worldwide each year.

“Urban air pollution continues to  rise at an alarming rate, wreaking havoc on human health,” says Dr. Maria Neira, WHO director, Department of Public Health, Environmental and Social Determinants of Health. “At the same time, awareness is rising and more cities are monitoring their air quality. When air quality improves, global respiratory and cardiovascular-related illnesses decrease.”

 Most sources of urban outdoor air pollution are beyond the control of individuals and demand action by cities, as well as national and international policymakers to promote cleaner transport, more efficient energy production and waste management.

Yet it is possible for cities to clear the air. More than half of the monitored cities in high-income countries and more than one-third in low  and middle income countries reduced their air pollution levels by more than five percent in five years.

The successful cities reduced industrial smokestack emissions, increased their use of renewables, like solar and wind, and prioritized rapid transit, walking and cycling networks.

“It is crucial for city and national governments to make urban air quality a health and development priority,” says WHO’s Dr. Carlos Dora. “When air quality improves, health costs from air pollution-related diseases shrink, worker productivity expands and life expectancy grows. Reducing air pollution also brings an added climate bonus, which can become a part of countries’ commitments to the climate treaty.”

Analysis of the data reveals that during the 2008-2013 period:

  • Global urban air pollution levels increased by eight percent, although there were improvements in some regions.
  • Urban air pollution levels were lowest in high-income countries, with lower levels most prevalent in Europe, the Americas, and the Western Pacific Region.
  •  In the Eastern Mediterranean and South-East Asia Regions and low-income countries in the Western Pacific Region, levels of urban air pollution has increased by more than 5 percent in more than two-thirds of the cities.
  • In the African Region urban air pollution data remains very sparse, however available data revealed particulate matter (PM) levels above the median.

The world’s 10 poorest cities, by UN ranking, are the capitals of sub-Saharan African nations. They are lacking in the most rudimentary of supplies, and clean water, public transportation and overcrowding are major issues. While the UN categorizes these cities as being among the poorest in the world, they are still expanding rapidly.

During the World Health Assembly, May 24-30, Member States will try to map out a better global response to the health effects of air pollution.


 Main Image: An aerial view of Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia, one the world’s 10 poorest cities. (Photo by Christopher Herwig / United Nations) Creative Commons licence via Flickr

Featured Image: 123rf stock photos 

Cities Show Strong Climate Leadership in Paris

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UPDATE December 4, 2015 : For 2015 winners list visit: City Climate Leadership Awards 2015

PARIS, France, December 3, 2015 (Maximpact News) – Cities consume roughly 80 percent of the world’s energy production, and they are responsible for up to 70 percent of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions, according to German government figures. So, while cities are big contributors to climate change, at the same time they offer great potential for emission reductions.

At the UN climate talks in Paris, known as COP21, short for 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC, cities and their mayors are playing a leading role.

Demonstrating their commitment to an ambitious global climate solution, the Compact of Mayors is the world’s largest coalition of city leaders addressing climate change. They are pledging to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, tracking their progress and preparing for the impacts of climate change.

The Compact of Mayors was launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his Special Envoy for Cities and Climate Change, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City.

The Compact of Mayors operates under the leadership of the world’s global city networks – C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group , ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the UCLG – United Cities and Local Governments, with support from UN-Habitat, the UN’s lead agency on urban issues.

Thousands of mayors and local leaders will come together in Paris, from December 3-8, to strengthen the voices of local and regional governments, mobilized by the UCLG network of Regional Sections, Committees and partners.

“In cities, the Road to Paris began more than a decade ago. In 2015, as we come together as a global community around the COP21 negotiating table, cities are factoring into the climate equation in a big way,” said Eduardo Paes, C40 Chair and Mayor of Rio de Janeiro.

In August, Rio became the world’s first city to be fully compliant with the Compact of Mayors, the world’s largest common platform for cities to report their emissions, set targets and develop plans to cut emissions and prepare for the effects of climate change.

“This past year has seen the global significance of cities brought to the fore, with much applause for the decisive work of mayors, and the crucial impact the world’s megacities have on our global future,” said Paes.

Now that Rio has led the way, other cities are following the low-carbon path.

Late last month, ICLEI announced the full compliance of 20 local governments, who join the previous 11 cities that have achieved this status – Buenos Aires, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Melbourne, New York, Oslo, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Stockholm, Sydney and Washington, DC.

These 20 new cities and towns, supported by ICLEI in reporting full compliance, represent 30.77 million inhabitants from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and Oceania.

Among them, Seoul is the city of Mayor Park Won-soon, the president of ICLEI who has been advocating for cities and towns around the globe to join the Compact of Mayors since taking on his presidency in April.

Another highlight is New Taipei City on the island of Taiwan, the first city in Asia to achieve full compliance.

This year’s annual C40 Cities Awards will be handed out during the COP21 meeting in Paris. Their goal is to share replicable best practices across cities, while drawing attention to outstanding performances that have achieved a high level of environmental success in a challenging context.

The C40 Cites Award winner will be announced at the gala event tonight in Paris. Whichever city, wins, each of the 33 finalists, including Paris, is extraordinary in its own way.

The Paris Greening Program is a key part of Paris’s Climate and Energy action plan, its first city-wide adaptation plan.

Creating more green spaces in one of the densest cities in the world is both a challenge and an opportunity to tackle the urban heat island effect, grow food, develop biodiversity corridors and create new social spaces.

The Paris Greening Program requires green roofs on all new buildings. One hundred additional hectares of roofs and facades will be green, and a third of them will be used for the production of fruit and vegetables. There will be 30 hectares of new green spaces, and 20,000 more trees will be planted in Paris.

Cities have been early adopters of low-carbon standards. By June 2015 cities and regions had reported over 1,000 energy and climate commitments, 5,201 climate actions and 1,099 inventories of greenhouse gas emissions.

The aggregated greenhouse gas emissions from local and subnational government operations are greater than those of any of the corporations in the top 10 of the UK Emissions Trading Scheme.

Fifteen local governments have committed to carbon neutrality or 100 percent renewable energy between 2020 and 2050, including Copenhagen, Denmark and Vancouver, Canada.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, just elected for his third term as mayor of Vancouver, says that Vancouver can meet all of its energy needs with 100 percent renewable sources of power, as part of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Even though Vancouver is already recognized as one of the most livable cities in the world, its environmental footprint is currently three times larger than the planet can sustain. Robertson and his team began their work at the beginning of 2009, when he assembled the Greenest City Action Team.

Today, the Greenest City Action Plan is one of the most rigorous roadmaps of any city in the world, ensuring transparency and accountability as it follows 10 long-term goals, with 15 measurable and ambitious targets for 2020.

Robertson wants to ensure that citizens are guaranteed clean air, a healthy economy, strong communities and energy security.

Robertson’s plan is also a beacon for cities around the world by demonstrating how going green is good for the economy, the community and the environment. Mayor Robertson’s work has received international recognition, as demonstrated by his recent invitation to join Pope Francis and other world mayors at the Vatican to address climate change and social justice.

Vijay Nehra, Municipal Commissioner of Rajkot, India, underlined the urgency of action by citing the recent casulties in his city due to heat waves.

Rajkot is currently addressing the problem by analyzing its greenhouse gas inventory which pointed out that 68 percent of the city’s energy is used in the provision of water, noting that much needs to be done to make the system more efficient. Rajkot is one of the model cities of Urban LEDS Project and District Energy Cities initiative of the UN Environment Programme and has already expressed intent to comply with the Compact of Mayors.

Mercè Rius, president for the environment of Barcelona, Spain said, “Barcelona and Catalonia are committed to further strengthen partnerships and cooperation across cities and regions and various cross-cutting initiatives, including the Compact of Mayors and actively contribute in the global advocacy of local and subnational governments.”

Local and subnational governments are leading the way at COP21 in Paris through the Transformative Actions Program – a new initiative to accelerate ambitious, cross-cutting and inclusive local climate actions by supporting climate investment in urban areas over the next 10 years.

The TAP is acting to create trust among sub-national governments, financing institutions and investors to lower the current perception of risk.

The TAP has selected 100 projects from cities around the world to be presented at the COP21, attracting and increasing funding for transformative actions.

At COP21, the TAP’s first pavilion provides a physical space for exchange, with selected presentations of the first 100 proposed projects to national delegations, private and international donors and financing agencies.


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: Vancouver City And Park. Photo courtesy of Commons Wikimedia
Main image: The Paris Greening Programme is a key part of Paris’s Climate and Energy action plan, its first city-wide climate adaptation plan. Photo courtesy C40 Cities