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EU & China Shape ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’

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

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Women Innovators Empower the World

Winners and presenters of the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators at the awards ceremony, from left: Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness; Petra Wadström, founder and CEO of Solvatten AB; Claudia Gärtner, founder of microfluidic ChipShop; Kristina Tsvetanova, co-founder and CEO of BLITAB Technology; Michela Magas, founder of Stromatolite; Carlos Moedas, EU Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, Brussels, Belgium, March 8, 2017 Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 9, 2017 (Maximpact News) – Four innovative European women won rich prizes last night at a ceremony in Brussels in celebration of International Women’s Day March 8. All winners have recently founded or co-founded a successful company based on their groundbreaking ideas, and all have received research and innovation funding in the past.

Funding for the EU Prize for Women Innovators comes from Horizon 2020, the largest-ever EU research and innovation program  with nearly €80 billion of funding available over seven years, 2014 to 2020, in addition to the private investment this money is attracting.

The winners of the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators are:

1st Prize (€100,000): Michela Magas, of Croatian/British nationality, is founder of Stromatolite, a UK Design Innovation Lab with a studio in Sweden, building a new generation of incubation and creative technology toolkits for innovation.

The Design Innovation Lab has built the Music Tech Fest platform – one of the first real Innovation Ecosystems with a community of over 5,000 innovators. With this, Magas has established a unique innovation ecosystem, policy context and support structure for radical and disruptive innovation by a wide community of creative developers.

Her practice-based PhD research investigated music interpretation systems and led to her co-authoring Sonaris, an innovative music search technology, as well as launching the Open Product Licenses, enabling design by attribution.

Magas directed MIReS.cc, investigating the future of music technology with seven top European research centers. She founded the global Music Tech Fest, which brings music industry, SMEs, innovators and researchers together.

Rather than taking a single product to market, her ecosystem has created a fast track to innovation, yielding multiple innovative products and services.

Stromatolite has participated in four projects funded by Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research, coordinating two of them.

2nd Prize (€50,000): Petra Wadström from Sweden, is founder of Solvatten, which produces a portable water purifier and water heater that are powered by solar energy. Solvatten is a durable, efficient and easy-to-use way to make water safe and hot.

Wadström is a biochemical research technician and mother of four. After years of research she turned a passion for art into a career. She says being an artist has helped her to think outside the box, combining elements of science and creativity.

3rd Prize (€30,000): Claudia Gärtner from Germany is founder of microfluidic ChipShop, which provides “lab-on-a-chip” systems as miniaturized solutions for better diagnostics. Microfluidics are considered to be the enabling tool for a novel approach to analytics and diagnostics, enabling the production of a wide range of tailor-made products and on-chip applications.

She leads a wide variety of research projects for the development of lab-on-a-chip systems for life science applications.

In 2002 Dr. Gärtner was nominated for the German Founders Prize and received the Thuringian award for the best business concept for ChipShop.

Microfluidic ChipShop coordinated the EU-funded Multisense Chip project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

A new category was introduced this year – the Rising Innovators Award – which recognizes excellence in female entrepreneurs aged 30 years or under.

The first winner of the prize worth €20,000 is Kristina Tsvetanova from Bulgaria, co-founder and chief executive of the Austrian company, BLITAB Technology, which has produced the first tablet for blind users, called BLITAB®. Tsvetanova is the co-inventor of BLITAB, the first tactile tablet for blind and visually impaired people.

This is the fourth edition of the contest, which began in 2011. To be eligible to compete, participants must have founded or co-founded a company before January 2015 with a turnover of at least €100,000, and either they themselves or their companies must have previously benefitted from public or private funding for research and innovation, whatever the source.

At the award ceremony, EU Commissioner Carlos Moedas and Vice-President of the European Parliament Mairead McGuinness announced the four winners of the this year’s EU Prize for Women Innovators.

Moedas, commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation, said, “The winners of this year’s EU Prizes for Women innovators are truly inspiring. Europe needs more women innovators like them, with great ideas and the courage and determination to take risks and succeed.

The innovations that the four winners have brought from idea to market are remarkable not only from a business point of view but also because they will benefit and improve the lives of many people in Europe and beyond,” said Moedas.

McGuinness, vice-president of the European Parliament, said, “This prize demonstrates the significant contribution of women innovators in bringing many life-changing innovations to the market. It is very fitting that on this International Women’s Day 2017 we recognize and celebrate their entrepreneurial spirit and achievements.

We do so in a very visible way to give inspiration to other women and, in particular, to young women and girls to look towards innovation and entrepreneurship,” McGuinness said.

Following an open call for submissions in autumn 2016, the winners were chosen by a high-level jury of independent experts  from business, venture capital, entrepreneurship and academia.

Forty-seven applications were submitted from across the 28 countries currently in the European Union and additional countries associated to Horizon 2020. These associated countries include: Albania, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Faroe Islands, Georgia, Iceland, Israel, Moldova, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey and Ukraine.

The other nine women chosen as finalists for the 2017 EU Prize for Women Innovators are also interesting.

Here’s a little more information about the 12 finalists, presented in alphabetical order.

1) Gema Climent is the founder, R&D director and the only administrator of Nesplora technology and behavior. Nesplora is a company funded with the objective of analyzing human behavior using emerging technologies, making it more scientific, functional and objective. It offers a disruptive conception of evaluating human cognition and behavior using standardized and scientifically validated virtual reality scenarios.

2) Barbara Demeneix is professor of Physiology at the Natural History Museum in Paris, where she studies evolution of hormone systems. She invented and brought to market the first method for screening chemicals and environmental samples using genetically-engineered fluorescent embryos. She co-founded WatchFrog, a company marketing biological tests for screening chemicals and assessing water quality. Demeneix was recognized for her mentoring, particularly of young women scientists, with the Nature Mentorship Award, 2011. WatchFrog has participated in six actions that received EU funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research; two are ongoing.

3) Mary Franzese cofounded Neuron Guard, a start-up that is developing a life-saving medical device for brain damage directly at the site of the event. Having both an economic and communicative soul, she dreams of being “Chief Love Officer” of a company leader in the development of standard of care technologies for Therapeutic Temperature Management, where gender equality and the inclusion act as master. The company has received funding from the Emilia Romagna (Italian Region) Start Up Innovative fund.

4) Dr. Gemma Galdon Clavell is a policy analyst working on the social, ethical and legal impacts of data-intensive technologies. She is the founder and director of Eticas Research and Consulting, a rapidly-growing organization with aninternational presence that brings together social scientists, computer scientists and IT experts to help clients tackle the challenges and opportunities of the data society by building values into the design process. The company has received EU funding from both Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

5) Dr. Claudia Gärtner is a founder of microfluidic ChipShop in Jena, Germany. Microfluidics or “lab-on-a-chip” systems are considered to be the enabling tool for a novel approach to analytics and diagnostics, enabling the production of a wide range of tailored-made products and on-chip applications. In 2002 she was nominated for the German Founders Prize and received the Thuringian award for the best business concept for ChipShop. She leads a wide variety of research projects for the development of lab-on-a-chip systems for life science applications. Microfluidic ChipShop coordinated the EU-funded Multisense Chip project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research.

6) África González Fernández is a full professor in Immunology and Director of the Biomedical Research Center (CINBIO) at the University of Vigo in Spain. She is also co-founder of the company NanoImmunoTech, the first European company dealing with biomedical characterisation and synthesis of nanomaterials, bioconjugation and biosensing. NanoImmunoTech has received EU funding under Phase 1 and 2 of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument, to develop the Heatsens technology.

7) Michela Magas is the founder of Stromatolite, a Design Innovation Lab that has built the Music Tech Fest platform – one of the first real Innovation Ecosystems with a community of over 5,000 innovators. Her ecosystem has yielded multiple innovative products and services enabled by her ideas of Open Product, Market Adoption, and Innovation IP, creating a fast track to innovation. Stromatolite has participated in four projects funded by Horizon 2020 and the 7th Framework Programme for Research, coordinating two of them.

8) Dr. Kamila Markram is a neuroscientist at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne and co-founder and CEO of Frontiers, one of the largest and most influential Open Access publishers in the world. Frontiers is a digital-age scholarly publishing company with a mission to bring Open Access publishing and Open Science IT solutions to academics and the general public. In 2014, Frontiers received the ALPSP Gold Award for Innovation in Publishing. In 2016, Markram was named a L’Hebdo Forum 100 personality, a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and recipient of the Gold Stevie Award for Women in Business. Frontiers has taken part in one project funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research, and is participating in two projects funded by Horizon 2020.

9) Sandra Rey co-founded Glowee which develops a biological lighting system that works due to the natural properties of bacteria to revolutionize the way we produce, consume and illuminate. Glowee has received funding from the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) InnoEnergy programme.

10) Isabel Trillas Gay is full Professor at the Faculty of Biology, Universitat de Barcelona and has co-founded the spin-off Biocontrol Technologies, S.L. for the development of her discovery, a pesticide based on the natural microorganism, Trichoderma asperellum strain T34, to control crop diseases. In Biocontrol Technologies she is partner, member of the direction committee and scientific adviser. In 2016 the company was awarded a Seal of Excellence under Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument Phase I.

11) Kristina Tsvetanova is the co-founder and CEO of BLITAB Technology GmbH – the World’s Most Creative Start-up 2015 and European Winner of Social Entrepreneurship and Disability. She is the co-inventor of the award-winning innovation BLITAB®. Thanks to the international recognition that she has received in Europe, USA, Mexico, Singapore, China and Japan, and her persistance in empowering unprivileged children via technology, Tsvetanova was named as one of the “Social Movers” of today by Agora+D in 2015. Blitab has received EU funding from the 7th Framework Programme for Research’s CREATI-FI calls

12) Petra Wadström, born in Stockholm and mother of four children, is the founder and CEO of Solvatten AB. Solvatten is a portable, durable, highly efficient and easy-to-use way to make water safe and hot, just by harnessing the power of the sun. She is a biochemical research technician but after years of research she turned a passion for art into a career. Being an artist has helped her to think outside the box, combining elements of science and creativity. Solvatten has received EU funding from Phase 1 of Horizon 2020’s SME Instrument.

The aim of the EU Prize for Women Innovators is to raise public awareness of the need for more innovation and more women entrepreneurs, to recognize the success of women in innovation and create strong role models.

Women are underrepresented in terms of creating innovative enterprises. Only 31 percent of entrepreneurs in the European Union are women. Prize organizers say this imbalance between the genders represents an untapped potential for Europe, which needs to use all its human resources to their full potential to remain competitive and find solutions to economic and societal challenges.


Featured image: First Prize winner Michela Magas has engaged in 20 years of innovation. Her work brings together science and art, design and technology, academic research and industry. (Photo courtesy European Commission) Posted for media use

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Europe’s Microcredit Providers Have It EaSI

Europes Microcredit Providers Have It EaSIBy Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, February 28, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Investment Fund and Nest Bank earlier this month signed a microfinance agreement aimed at supporting micro-businesses in Poland under the new EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).

EaSI is a new source of funding, offered by the European Investment Fund and the European Commission, to help micro-credit and social enterprise finance providers develop their businesses.

The EaSI guarantee plan provides support to financial intermediaries that offer microloans to entrepreneurs or finance to social enterprises that would not have been able to obtain financing otherwise due to risk considerations.

The goal is to increase access to microfinance for vulnerable groups who want to set up or develop their business and micro-enterprises, through loans of up to €25,000.

EaSI aims to contribute to the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy by supporting the EU’s objective of high level employment, guaranteeing adequate social protection, fighting against social exclusion and poverty and improving working conditions.

The new EaSI Capacity Building Investments Window will reinforce the capacity of selected financial intermediaries in the areas of microfinance and social enterprise finance.

Through equity investments such as seed financing and risk capital, EaSI will support the development of these finance providers in their efforts to do things such as open a new branch, invest in human resources, develop a new IT tool or finance expenses.

PolandBitspirationWoman

Dorota Zys is a Polish entrepreneur in the field of Internet and mobile applications with extensive experience in website design and digital marketing consultancy. She has advised professionals and trained over 100 companies in Inbound Marketing principles and their application. (Photo courtesy Bitspiration 2016) Posted for media use.


In Poland, with the financial backing of the European Commission, the European Investment Fund is providing a guarantee that will enable Nest Bank to provide over €9 million worth of loans on favorable conditions to about 1,300 microbusinesses in Poland over the next three years.

Earlier this month, France became the first EU Member State to benefit under EaSI from the support of the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the heart of the Investment Plan for Europe.

This guarantee will allow Initiative France to award more than €10 million in interest-free loans to more than 500 French microenterprises over the next three years.

The European Investment Fund is using its EaSI guarantee to support Initiative France in the context of its Initiative Remarquable unsecured loans intended for businesses taking an economically responsible approach and creating jobs.

Announcing the new capacity building project, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen said in December, “Ultimately, these investments will help increase the offer and opportunities for micro-borrowers and social enterprises.”

“It responds to the needs of financial institutions that want to build up their capacity and reinforce the offer on the market,” Thyssen said. “Through this instrument, we confirm our commitment to give a boost to jobs and growth and help the most vulnerable people in the labour market.

At the signature event in Paris in December, EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle said “The Juncker Plan continues to develop in France, with 46 operations signed in France so far, accounting for a total amount of €3.1 billion, which is expected to generate an additional €15.9 billion.

This new agreement with Initiative France marks an important milestone in the EIB Group’s support for small French firms,” said Fayolle. “By extending the scheme to businesses in the weakest regions, to job creators in priority districts and young student entrepreneurs, we will further develop our financing and support aims.”

The 222 platforms of the Initiative France associative network of creative financing and corporate buyers provide unsecured loans to 19,000 entrepreneurs each year.

At least 60 percent are unemployed. They are expected to create and develop over 16,000 businesses, creating more than 40,000 jobs.

The progress of 55,000 entrepreneurs is being followed, and 9,000 of them are being mentored.

Louis Schweitzer, president of Initiative France, explained, “This new support from the European Investment Fund confirms the effectiveness of the unique Initiative France model in general and of the Initiative Remarquable program in particular.  We are also very proud to be the first beneficiaries in Europe of EU support under its EaSI program.

In 2015, €176 million of unsecured loans led to over €1 billion in bank loans. These local associations, well-integrated into their local areas, have 950 staff and 16,180 volunteers, including 4,640 business mentors to support new entrepreneurs.

The combination of the mentoring, the loans, and the banking services has helped these enterprises to achieve a 88 percent survival rate over three years, compared with a national rate of 70 percent, according to the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies.

EIF Chief Executive Pier Luigi Gilibert, said, “I am confident that the EaSI Capacity Building Investments Window will be instrumental in strengthening the operational and institutional capabilities of micro-credit and social finance providers.”

Capacity building is fundamental for finance providers to be able to deliver on their investment objectives in an effective and sustainable manner,” Gilibert emphasized. “I am pleased to see that EIF will support those finance providers in creating an investment friendly environment.”

Gilibert said the EaSI Capacity Building Investments Window reflects the European Commission’s “strong commitment” to launch initiatives aiming at boosting jobs, growth and investment.

Launched in June 2015, EaSI is managed directly by the European Commission. The total budget for 2014-2020 is €919,469,000 in 2013 prices.

Also, for the first time, the European Commission is helping social enterprises through investments of up to €500,000.

The European Commission is reinforcing the social dimension of the European Fund for Strategic Investments for both microfinance and social entrepreneurship. Overall, the total amount of support to these areas is expected to increase from €193 million under the EaSI program to about €1 billion, mobilizing roughly €3 billion in additional investment.

The European Investment Fund is part of the European Investment Bank Group. Its central mission is to support Europe’s micro, small and medium-sized businesses by helping them to access finance.

In this role, EIF designs and develops venture and growth capital, guarantees and microfinance instruments which specifically target this market segment. EIF aims to foster EU objectives in support of innovation, research and development, entrepreneurship, growth, and employment.


Featured image: The European Commission is investing in micro-businesses to create jobs and support new entrepreneurs. (Photo by Peter Linke) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Tropical Forests Thrive on Radical Transparency

ForestIndonesia

The Ulu Masen forest ecosystem in the northern part of Indonesia’s Aceh province forms part of the largest single forested area in Southeast Asia. (Photo by Abbie Trayler-Smith / DFID) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, February 15, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Commodity production drives two-thirds of tropical deforestation worldwide, asserts Trase, a new online information and decision-support platform aimed at improving the transparency, clarity and accessibility of information on the commodity supply chains that drive tropical deforestation.

Formally known as Transparency for Sustainable Economies, Trase is led by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Global Canopy Programme.

Trase draws on deep untapped sets of data tracking the flows of globally-traded commodities, such as palm oil, soy, beef and timber, responsible for tropical deforestation.

Trase responds to the urgent need for a breakthrough in assessing and monitoring sustainability triggered by the ambitious commitments made by government leaders to achieve deforestation-free supply chains by 2020.

In Morocco last November, a Trase-led side event at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), attracted experts in environmental policy, data analysis and commodity supply chains who strategized on upgrading supply-chain transparency to achieve trade that is free of deforestation.

The side event was hosted by the EU REDD Facility, which supports partner countries in improving land use governance as part of their effort to slow, halt and reverse deforestation.

REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation,” a mechanism that has been under negotiation by the UNFCCC since 2005. The goal is to mitigate climate change by protecting forests, which absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Participants discussed how to bring about step changes in the capacity of supply-chain actors to meet zero deforestation and sustainability commitments. They examined incentives for encouraging governments in consumer and producer countries to cooperate.

Tools such as the platforms launched by Trase to collect and analyze data and information can help purchasers to develop better sourcing strategies and governments to develop policies in the forestry sector and commodity trade.

The international trade in commodities such as soy, palm oil and beef is valued at billions of dollars. These commodities trade along complex supply chains that often have adverse social and environmental impacts, especially in developing countries.

Over the past 10 years, participants acknowledged, agricultural expansion has caused two-thirds of tropical deforestation, which in turn has accelerated climate change and threatened the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples and communities that depend on forests.

Participants agreed that consumers and markets around the world are demanding greater sustainability in producing and trading agricultural commodities.

Nowhere is this demand greater than in the European Union, which has set a goal of halting global forest cover loss by 2030 at the latest, and reducing gross tropical deforestation by at least 50 percent by 2020.

The EU and several EU Member States have endorsed the 2014 New York Declaration on Forests .

In 2015, several EU Member States signed the Amsterdam Declaration , which recognizes the need to eliminate deforestation related to trade in agricultural commodities and supports private and public sector initiatives to halt deforestation no later than 2020.

The EU is also conducting a feasibility study for a EU Action Plan on deforestation.

Some of the most interesting deforestation transparency work is being done in Brazil.

Pedro Moura Costa, founder and CEO, BVRio Environmental Exchange, says his organization and Trase are piloting a program to bring more transparency to Brazilian timber supply chains, to assess the causes of illegally harvested timber and to find solutions to minimize risks.

Through the partnership, BVRio will upload data to the platform on the legal status of forest operations in Brazil. This will enable Trase to track legally and illegally harvested timber from sources to buyers at the end of supply chains.

On the banks of the Tapajós River, in Brazil’s Pará state, is a community forestry project that works with sustainable timber extraction in the Amazon.

Since 2003, Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós (Coomflona) has been operating in the region and today employs 150 managers, as workers in this sector are known. The yearly production is around 42,000 cubic meters of timber, which Costa says could be fully commercialized if not for the competition with illegal timber products.

The issue of legality in supply chains is rarely considered in transparency initiatives, but is vitally important, Costa points out.

Legality is at the core of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Action Plan issued in 2003. The Action Plan sets forth a range of measures available to the EU and its member states to tackle illegal logging in the world’s forests by engaging with national governments on illegal logging.

BVRio Environmental Exchange in 2016 launched a Responsible Timber Exchange, a trading platform to assist traders and buyers of timber in sourcing legal or certified products from all over the world.

The platform is integrated with BVRio’s Due Diligence and Risk Assessment tools, designed to assist traders and buyers of tropical timber in verifying the legality status of the products purchased and their supply chains. The system is based on big data analysis and conducts more than two billion crosschecks of data daily.

Since their release in 2015, the tools have been used by traders and environmental agencies worldwide to screen thousands of timber shipments.

Costa says, “Compliance with local legislation is an essential requirement of any initiative to promote good land-use governance and, ultimately, to achieve zero deforestation supply chains.

Companies too are engaged.

Trase can help us move away from the blame game, to start a practical discussion around issues and solutions,” says Lucas Urbano, project management officer for climate strategy with the Danone, based in Paris, one of the world’s largest dairy and packaged food companies.

Danone has committed to eliminating deforestation from its supply chains by 2020. The company is a signatory of the New York Declaration on Forests as well as a member of the Consumer Goods Forum.

For a company like Danone, transparency and better information about the impacts and conditions in jurisdictions where its supplies originate from are hugely important, Urbano recognizes.

Transparency is the first major step in eliminating deforestation from Danone’s value chains, because supply-chain complexity and opacity are barriers to action, he says.

Transparency initiatives such as Trase help Danone to understand who to convene and engage with in strategic supply chains. At the same time,” Urbano says, “transparency will make it impossible for companies to hide behind the complexity and opacity of supply chains.

Trase is made possible through the financial support of the European Union, the Nature Conservancy, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Swedish Research Council FORMAS and the UK Department for International Development.


Featured Image: In Brazil, forest managers with the Cooperativa Mista da Flona Tapajós mark a tree for legal logging. (Photo courtesy BVRio Environmental Exchange) posted for media use

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Europe’s ‘Clean Energy Revolution’

solarpowertower

Gemasolar was the first commercial-scale plant in the world to apply central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. The molten salt storage tank permits independent electrical generation for up to 15 hours without any solar feed. May 7, 2009, Seville, Spain. (Photo by Markel Redondo / Greenpeace)

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – To keep the EU competitive as renewables displace fossil fuels, shaking up global energy markets, the European Commission has proposed a new package of measures to “equip all European citizens and businesses with the means to make the most of the clean energy transition.”

The “Clean Energy for All Europeans” legislative proposals are designed to show that, as the Commission said, “the clean energy transition is the growth sector of the future – that’s where the smart money is.”

The measures are aimed at establishing the EU as a leader of the clean energy transition, not just a country that adapts to a renewable energy future as required by the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate, which more than 100 nations have now formally joined.

In October 2014 the European Council, composed of the heads of state or government of the EU member states, agreed on the 2030 climate and energy policy framework for the EU.

That’s why the EU has committed to cut emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) by at least 40 percent by 2030, less than 15 years away.

Europe is on the brink of a clean energy revolution,” said Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete.

And just as we did in Paris, we can only get this right if we work together.

With these proposals, said Cañete, the Commission has cleared the way to a more competitive, modern and cleaner energy system. “Now,” he said, “we count on European Parliament and our Member States to make it a reality.”

If the new proposals become law, EU consumers of the future may have the possibility of producing and selling their own electricity, a better choice of supply, and access to reliable energy price comparison tools.

Increased transparency and better regulation give civil society more opportunities to become more involved in the energy system and respond to price signals.

The package also contains several measures aimed at protecting the most vulnerable consumers.

The EU is consolidating the enabling environment for the transition to a low carbon economy with a range of interacting policies and instruments reflected under the Energy Union Strategy, one of the 10 priorities of the Juncker Commission.

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Caption: Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker briefs the European Parliament, Oct. 26, 2016 (Photo © European Union 2016 – European Parliament”) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

In his State of the Union Address to the European Parliament, September 14, President Jean-Claude Juncker emphasized investment.

The €315 billion Investment Plan for Europe, which we agreed just 12 months ago, has already raised €116 billion in investments in its first year of operation. And now we will take it further,” said President Juncker, doubling down on the EU’s future.

We propose to double the duration of the Fund and double its financial capacity to provide a total of at least €500 billion of investments by 2020,” Juncker said.

The Commission has already offered CO2 reduction proposals. In 2015, the executive body proposed to reform the EU Emission Trading System to ensure the energy sector and energy intensive industries deliver the needed emissions reductions.

Last summer, the Commission proposed ways of accelerating the low-carbon transition in other key sectors of the European economy.

Today’s proposals present the key remaining pieces to fully implement the EU’s 2030 climate and energy framework on renewables and energy efficiency.

All the Energy Union related legislative proposals presented by the Commission in 2015 and 2016 need to be addressed as a priority by the European Parliament and Council.

Modernising the EU’s economy is key, said Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefcovic. “Having led the global climate action in recent years,” he said, “Europe is now showing by example by creating the conditions for sustainable jobs, growth and investment.

Clean energies, in total, attracted global investment of over €300 billion in 2015, and the Commission sees opportunity for the EU in the clean energy wave of the near future.

By mobilising up to €177 billion of public and private investment a year from 2021, this package can generate up to one percent increase in GDP over the next decade and create 900,000 new jobs, the Commission said.

The Clean Energy for All Europeans legislative proposals cover energy efficiency, renewable energy, the design of the electricity market, security of electricity supply and governance rules for the Energy Union.

The Commission also proposes a new way forward for Ecodesign, the law that sets minimum mandatory requirements for the energy efficiency of household appliances, information and communication technologies and engineering.

The package includes actions to accelerate clean energy innovation, to renovate Europe’s buildings and a strategy for connected and automated mobility.

Commissioner Cañete said, “I’m particularly proud of the binding 30 percent energy efficiency target, as it will reduce our dependency on energy imports, create jobs and cut more emissions.

Our proposals provide a strong market pull for new technologies,” he said, “set the right conditions for investors, empower consumers, make energy markets work better and help us meet our climate targets.

Links to all documents in the Clean Energy package:


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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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Closing the Loop: Computers, Furniture, Footwear

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OECD 2016 Forum: Lunch Debate: The Algorithmic Society, May 31, 2016, Paris, France (Photo by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr

BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – The European Commission has adopted a new set of ecological criteria for the award of EU Ecolabel status to makers of personal, notebook and tablet computers, as well as to makers of furniture and footwear.

Producers who wish to enjoy the benefits of displaying the EU Ecolabel not only have to comply with strict requirements that focus on environmental performance, but also must ensure that their products are safe and manufactured with respect for human rights and labor rights.

The EU Ecolabel promotes Europe’s transition to a circular economy, supporting both sustainable production and consumption,” said Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella.

Last December, the Commission adopted a Circular Economy Package to help European businesses and consumers make the transition to an economy where resources are used in a more sustainable way.

The package is intended to help close the loop of product lifecycles, from production and consumption to waste management and the market for secondary raw materials.

This transition is being supported financially by European Structural and Investment Funds: €650 million from Horizon 2020, the EU funding program for research and innovation; €5.5 billion from structural funds for waste management; as well as investments in the circular economy at the national level.

The new Ecolabel criteria are intended to help shoppers choose computers, furniture and footwear that tread lightly on the Earth.

Thanks to transparent ecological criteria, consumers can make conscious choices, without compromising on the quality of the products,” Vella said.

The Ecolabel rewards those manufacturers who choose to design products that are durable and repairable, promoting innovation and saving resources,” he said.

On August 10, the Commission adopted new ecological criteria for the award of the EU Ecolabel for computers.

The revised criteria aim to encourage and promote products that have a lower environmental impact and contribute to sustainable development along their life cycle, are energy efficient, durable, repairable and upgradeable. The emission of hazardous substances during both manufacture and use of the product must be minimized.

At the end of their useful life, Ecolabeled products should be easy to dismantle and recover resources from for re-use or recycling.

The Commission’s decision will apply on October 10, two months after its adoption date, but the rule allows a transitional period to give manufacturers a chance to adjust.

On August 5, the Commission adopted the Ecolabel criteria for footwear. They require, among many other criteria, that only raw hides and skins from animals raised for milk or meat production be used in Ecolabel footwear products.

Footwear manufacturers must reduce water consumption, limit emissions of pollutants to water and restrict the tanning of hides and skins.

They will have to control emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and reduce the number and intensity of hazardous substances in the shoe components, and no component shall be on the Restricted Substances List.

Finally, Ecolabel footwear must be durable, the manufacturers must demonstrate corporate social responsibility towards labor, and the packaging must be sustainably sourced.

ecolabel-logoStandards for Ecolabel furniture were the first of the revised criteria to be adopted by the Commission – on July 28.

Furniture manufacturers will have to conduct a more comprehensive life cycle assessment, and pay special attention to hazardous compounds and residues, which could contribute to indoor air pollution.

None of the adhesives, varnishes, paints, primers, wood stains, biocidal products (such as wood preservatives), flame retardants, fillers, waxes, oils, joint fillers, sealants, dyestuff, resins or lubricating oils directly used by an Ecolabel furniture manufacturer can be listed as most hazardous by the 2008 EU regulation on classification, labelling and packaging (CLP) of chemical substances and mixtures.

The Commission acknowleged that the use of chemicals and release of pollutants are “part of the production process,” for furniture. Still, the Commission’s decision tries to cover all the bases, saying that for a product to be awarded Ecolabel status, “the use of hazardous substances are excluded whenever possible or limited to the minimum necessary to provide an adequate function and at the same time strict quality and safety standards for furniture products.”

In an effort to ensure sustainable sourcing of all wood, cork, bamboo and rattan used in Ecolabel furniture, the Commission decided that each material must be covered by a chain of custody certificate issued by an independent third party certification scheme such as the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification.

There cannot be any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in EU Ecolabel furniture. All virgin wood, cork, bamboo and rattan shall not originate from a GMO-free species and must be covered by valid sustainable forest management certificates. All uncertified materials must, at least, be legally sourced.

The revised criteria for Ecolabel computers will be valid for three years, a short time period that takes into account the quick innovation cycle for this product group.

The criteria validity period is six years for furniture and footwear.

New shoes displayed in Milan, Italy, July 2016 (Photo by Marco / Zak) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 


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