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‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ Motivates World Environment Day

 Monkey investigates plastic trash on the roof of a hut near the Taj Mahal, Agra, India, February 18, 2017 (Photo by Malcolm Payne) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Monkey investigates plastic trash on the roof of a hut near the Taj Mahal, Agra, India, February 18, 2017 (Photo by Malcolm Payne) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW DELHI, India, June 5, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “Greetings on World Environment Day,” said India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. “Together, let us ensure that our future generations live in a clean and green planet, in harmony with nature.”

As global host of World Environment Day 2018, India today launched an historic slate of activities from nationwide clean-ups, to single-use plastic bans across states, universities and national parks.

For World Environment Day, the government of India says it will be cleaning up 100 of its historic monuments, including the world-famous Taj Mahal.

Each World Environment Day is organized around a theme that focuses attention on a pressing environmental concern. The theme for 2018, “Beat Plastic Pollution,” is a call to action, and it invites everyone to consider how we can make changes in our lives to reduce the heavy burden of plastic pollution on our natural places, our oceans, our wildlife, and our own health.

While plastic has many valuable uses, we have become over-reliant on single-use or disposable plastic, with severe environmental consequences, says UN Sectretary-General António Guterres.

“Our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste,” Guterres said. “Every year, more than eight million tonnes end up in the oceans. Microplastics in the seas now outnumber stars in our galaxy. From remote islands to the Arctic, nowhere is untouched. If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish.”

“On World Environment Day, the message is simple: reject single-use plastic. Refuse what you can’t re-use,” the secretary-general said. “Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world.”

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (Photo by British High Commission) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (Photo by British High Commission) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Urging all stakeholders at both national and international levels to work towards betterment of the environment, India’s Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that to India “Beat Plastic Pollution” is more than a slogan – India means business about it.

Delivering the inaugural address of the State Environment Ministers Conference Monday in the run-up to World Environment Day, Dr. Vardhan said that environmental protection is not merely a technical, but a moral issue.

He pointed out that India generates 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day. In India, 70 percent of total plastic consumption is discarded as waste.

Humans have created 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastics since large-scale production of the synthetic materials began in the early 1950s, and most of it now resides in landfills or the natural environment, according to a 2017 study by scientists at American universities led by the University of Georgia.

Global production of plastics increased from two million metric tons in 1950 to over 400 million metric tons in 2015, according to the study, “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made,” outgrowing most other human-made materials.

By 2015, human beings had generated 8.3 billion metric tons of plastics, 6.3 billion tons of which had already become waste. Of that, only nine percent was recycled, 12 percent was incinerated and 79 percent accumulated in landfills or the natural environment.

If current trends continue, roughly 12 billion metric tonnes of plastic waste will be in landfills or the natural environment by 2050, the scientists estimate.

Speaking to the state environment mininsters, Vardhan asserted that there is no waste which cannot be transformed into wealth. He gave the example of a plant in the city of Kashipur, where 10 tonnes of biomass has been converted into 3,000 liters of ethanol.

The environment minister called on the developed world to provide technology, funds and research results to solve this environmental problem.

He asked the state environment mininsters to inspire people to take up Green Good Deeds and build small, social movements.

“If every Indian adopts one Green Good Deed per day, a revolutionary change can be brought about in the nation,” Vardhan urged.

In his address, Minister of State Dr. Mahesh Sharma recalled the Gandhian thought “Cleanliness is Godliness,” and identified this as the spirit behind the theme of “Beat Plastic Pollution.”

Minister Sharma advocated implementation of Prime Minister Modi’s mantra of Six Rs: Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, Retrieve, Recover, Redesign and remanufacture to eliminate single use plastic,

Addressing the gathering, Erik Solheim, executive director of United Nations Environment (UNEP) pointed out that in India efforts are needed not only from the government side, but also from the people.

“We need to make environment a citizen’s issue,” Solheim said.  The senior UN representative felt that universities should form rules and regulations for students to follow environmental norms. He said that UN leadership will help take Indian practices to the world.

“India has demonstrated the magnitude of what is possible when leaders, individuals and businesses come together to tackle a challenge – even one as great as plastic pollution,” said Solheim.

“The momentum for World Environment Day on June 5 is picking up,” he said, “and all across India we are witnessing exactly the kind of global leadership we need to save our planet from the rising tide of plastic pollution.”

Solheim is hopeful that humans can reverse the plastic disaster. Released today, a new report from his agency, UN Environment, finds a “surging momentum in global efforts to address plastic pollution.”

The first-of-its-kind accounting finds governments are increasing the pace of implementation and the scope of action to curb the use of single-use plastics.

Single-use Plastics: A roadmap for Sustainability,” is a global outlook, developed in cooperation with the Indian Government and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. It presents case studies from more than 60 countries.

Among the recommendations are specific actions policy makers can take to improve waste management, promote eco-friendly alternatives, educate consumers, enable voluntary reduction strategies and successfully implement bans or levies on the use and sale of single-use plastics.

The report was launched in New Delhi today by Prime Minister Modi and Solheim on the occasion of World Environment Day.

“The assessment shows that action can be painless and profitable, with huge gains for people and the planet that help avert the costly downstream costs of pollution,” said Solheim. In the report’s foreword he writes, “Plastic isn’t the problem. It’s what we do with it.”

Featured Image: Wild boars and a dog root through the plastic garbage on a street in Bundi, Rajasthan, India, November 8, 2012 (Photo by Oliver Laumann) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Egypt Funded for Africa’s Largest Solar Array

Solar panels at the 3rd project in Aswan province under the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development's Egypt Renewable Energy Framework (Photo courtesy EBRD) Posted for media use

Solar panels at the 3rd project in Aswan province under the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s Egypt Renewable Energy Framework (Photo courtesy EBRD) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

LONDON, UK, November 9, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Solar Alliance (ISA) have agreed that they will strengthen their cooperation to mobilize green energy financing.

The ISA is an alliance of more than 121 countries, most of them sunshine countries, which lie completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn.

A joint declaration to promote solar energy in the countries where both organizations operate, was signed November 2 in New Delhi by Nandita Parshad, the EBRD’s managing director for energy and natural resources, and the ISA’s interim Director General Upendra Tripathy.

The ceremony was attended by Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitely and visiting EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti.

Signing the declaration, the EBRD President said the bank has always been eager to share its expertise with new partners and also to learn from them. “With the ISA,” he said, “we share the vision of sustainable development and of green energy, which ultimately benefits the global economy.”

During a panel discussion at the Prabodhan Leaders’ Conclave, entitled “Smart Cities: what can India learn and unlearn from Europe?” Sir Suma presented the bank’s work to modernize urban infrastructure in the 38 emerging economies where the multilateral development bank invests.

Under its Green Energy Transition approach, launched in 2015, the EBRD seeks to increase the volume of green financing from an average of 24 percent of its annual business investment in the 10 years up to 2016 to 40 percent by 2020.

To date, the EBRD has invested more than €3.7 billion directly in renewable energy, supporting 111 projects in 23 countries and funding more than 5.7 GW of generating capacity.

For instance, the bank has set its course to help build the largest solar installation in Africa near a village in the Aswan governate in the sunny land of Egypt.

The EBRD, the Green Climate Fund  and the Dutch Development Bank (FMO) are supporting the expansion of renewable energy in Egypt with a US$87 million syndicated loan to Infinity Solar Energy SAE, an Egyptian renewable energy developer, and to ib vogt GmbH, an international solar developer based in Germany.

The funds will be used to construct and operate two solar photovoltaic power plants located at the Benban solar complex in Egypt’s southern governorate of Aswan.

There, the country’s first solar power complex is being built on an area of 14.4 square miles in Benban village.

The land for the Benban solar development complex was dedicated to the state-run New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA) by presidential decree in 2014.

The NREA divided the site into 41 plots and made them available to developers and companies to carry out individual projects. The Benban complex consists of 41 solar power plants with a total capacity of 1.8 GW.

The project began in 2015 and is expected to be complete by 2018 with an investment worth 40 billion Egyptian pounds (US$2.26 billion).

Benben is expected to be one of the largest solar generation facilities in the world, certainly the largest solar installation in Africa, with a planned total capacity of 1.8 GW.

The village of Benben takes its name from the Benben Stone, one of the most important of the Egyptian religious symbols. The sun temple, located in the city of Heliopolis, Egypt, was dedicated to the solar deity Ra, and housed the sacred Benben Stone.

A pyramid-shaped capstone on top of an obelisk, the discovery of the Benben Stone led to the construction of the famous Egyptian pyramids. The Benben stone was discovered in the Temple of the Phoenix. It is a symbol of this bird with red and golden feathers that sheltered in the Tree of Life and had the power to be reborn.

The two EBRD solar plants at Benben will be built by Alfanar Energy, a Saudi-based construction and electric manufacturing company.

Each development will be funded through loans of US$87 million under an A/B structure, comprising EBRD A Loans of US$58 million, of which US$44 million will be from the Bank’s own account and US$14 million from the Green Climate Fund. FMO will provide B Loans of US$29 million.

The investment is part of the EBRD’s US$500 million framework for renewable energy in Egypt, adopted by the bank’s Board of Directors earlier this year. The framework focuses on developing Egypt’s potential in renewables and strengthening private sector involvement in the power and energy sector.

The EBRD loan will be complemented by a parallel loan of up to US$28.5 million from the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) , the private sector arm of the Islamic Development Bank.

The project is expected to abate up to 100,000 tons of CO2-equivalent every year, supporting Egypt’s emission reduction targets under the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as promoting sustainable energy development and private sector participation in the country’s energy landscape.

Sabah Mohammed Al Mutlaq, chairman of Alfa Solar and vice-chairman of Alfanar Group, commented, “Globally, countries are experiencing the effects of climate change and renewable energy investors and financier’s role is vital to cultivate more investment in the region for green energy and scale down the effects of global warming.”

“This partnership will assist the socio-economic development in Benban by providing local population with infrastructure, job creation and skills training. The region has tremendous potential when generating power from the natural resources, and Alfanar will continue to actively consider venturing with ICD for additional renewable technology projects in solar, wind as well as energy from waste.”

Support for the EBRD framework is provided by the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) Energy Efficiency Policy Dialogue Framework, funded by the European Union’s Neighbourhood Investment Facility, and the SEMED Multi-Donor Account.

The Green Climate Fund is picking up the pace in implementing its project portfolio, and has now reached the milestone of $100 million in project disbursements, GCF officials say.

Ayaan Adam, private sector facility director for the Green Climate Fund, said, “This first investment with the EBRD under our Egypt Renewable Energy Financing Framework project is a big step forward. It shows the potential for public and private climate finance to drive the transition to low-emission energy in support of Egypt’s climate goals.”

Once the Benben solar power plants are completed, the energy generated will be connected to the national grid and then distributed across the country. Officials estimate the whole Benben project’s generated power to equal 90 percent of the electricity generated by Egypt’s Aswan High Dam.

Egypt aims to increase its use of renewable energy to 22 percent by 2020, the country’s Investment and International Cooperation Minister Sahar Nasr said during a corporate meeting in Cairo in April.

Egypt is a founding member of the EBRD and has been receiving funding since 2012. To date, the bank has invested €2.7 billion in 51 projects in the country.

The EBRD strives to be ahead of the field in green investment. Together with the Green Climate Fund, the bank signed an agreement on cooperation in April 2017 that cements the EBRD’s position as the largest single recipient of Green Climate Fund resources and paves the way for more joint projects aimed at combating climate change in the bank’s regions. In October 2016 the Green Climate Fund decided to allocate US$378 million to support green investments by the EBRD.

International institutional interest in solar has helped some 30 companies close on power plants in Benben, “African Review” reports.

The International Finance Corporation has been among the international finance institutions to dish out some of the US$1.8 billion pledged to the Benban solar complex, helping companies in the project reach financial close.

The UK government announced it would be taking part in the IFC’s debt package through the state-owned CDC Group, which is investing US$97 million in the complex.

Meanwhile, the African Development Bank’s infrastructure fund for Africa, Africa50, signed financing documentation with Scatec Solar and Norfund for developing 400 MW in solar plants in Benban by contributing equity and leveraging total funding of close to US$450 million.

Featured Image: Benben stone from the Pyramid of Amenemhat III, 12th Dynasty. Egyptian Museum, Cairo. (Photo by Jon Bodsworth courtesy Wikipedia) Creative Commons license


Equator Prize Winners Demonstrate Maximum Impact

2017EquatorPrizeStage

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the Winners Are:

Sub-Saharan Africa

1. Mikoko Pamoja, Kenya

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

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

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

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

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

2. The Kuruwitu Conservation & Welfare Association, Kenya

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: ocean restoration, coasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. The Mali Elephant Project, Mali

Area of Focus: Wildlife

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

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

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

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

Latin America and the Caribbean

4. Alianza Internacional de Reforestación (AIRES), Guatemala

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, mountains

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

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

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

5. Associação Ashaninka do Rio Amônia Apiwtxa, Brazil

Area of Focus: Sustainable Forestry

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

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

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

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

6. Associação Terra Indígena Xingu (ATIX), Brazil

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Area of Focus: Sustainable Forestry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eastern Europe & Central Asia

10. Public Foundation “Zhassyl Azyk,” Kazakhstan

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Drylands, ecosystem restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asia & the Pacific

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. Swayam Shikshan Prayog, India

Area of Focus: Grasslands, drylands

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

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

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

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

15. Yayasan Planet Indonesia

Area of Focus: Biodiversity: Forests, coasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Featured image: Equator Prize 2017, Equator Initiative www.equatorinitiative.org
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Phone Route to Wealth for the Unbanked

MobilePhone

Customers in many Indian villages no longer need to go get cash to make purchases. They can access digital payment machines, making buying convenient in the many places without a bank. (Screengrab from video courtesy ITU News)

By Sunny Lewis

GENEVA, Switzerland, August 10, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Imagine being without a bank account, having no means of carrying out formal financial transactions, storing money, sending and receiving payments. That is the case for roughly 40 percent of the world’s working-age adults, about two billion people. They are often residents of developing countries, often living in rural areas, and many are women.

Today, the unbanked may be excluded from financial systems, but many do have mobile phones that in the near future could serve as a route to financial inclusion.

A new global program to accelerate digital financial inclusion in developing countries has been initiated by the World Bank Group, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI), with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The first step is the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative, a three-year program focused on three very different developing countries – China, Egypt and Mexico.

China, Egypt and Mexico are already part of the Universal Financial Access 2020 (UFA2020) initiative . Led by the World Bank Group, this seeks to bring two billion unbanked adults in 25 countries into formal financial systems by 2020.

The Financial Inclusion Global Initiative consists of two complementary operational and knowledge work streams.

The operational work stream supports each country’s national authority – countries in which digital financial inclusion can significantly improve access to financial services for a large number of people without access to financial services.

The knowledge work stream is designed to advance research and develop policy recommendations in three key areas of digital finance:

  • security of information and communication technology infrastructure and trust in digital financial services;
  • digital IDs for financial services;
  • acceptance and use of e-payments by micro and small-scale merchants and their customers.

The World Bank Group leads the operational work, while the ITU is handling activities related to telecommunications authorities.

“An estimated two billion adults are still without access to a bank account, and yet some 1.6 billion of them have access to a mobile phone, creating the potential for e-finance access,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

“The ITU community is excited to leverage our unique technical expertise to make e-finance a reality for millions of people through the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative, and in so doing, contribute to poverty eradication and the achievement of the global Sustainable Development Goals,” said Zhao.

Digital financial services offer great potential to meet the financial needs of poor and unbanked consumers. Using agents and digital channels for financial transactions can lower costs and eliminate travel time compared with similar transactions at physical branches of financial service providers.

This evolution of inclusion is already happening in India.

In the last three years, 280 million people have become financially included, India’s Telecommunications and IT Secretary, Aruna Sundararajan told ITU News.

She said India now has a direct benefit transfer program that allows 340 million people to have entitlement benefits transferred directly to their bank accounts, cutting out layers of government bureaucracy that previously hindered their access.

“We today have one billion people who have access to the mobile phone, which is large,” said Sundararajan. “Second, we have one billion people who have digital identities, called Aadhaar. So that enables everyone to join the digital economy. Third, we now have one billion people on digital payment systems.”

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim has called for Universal Financial Access by 2020.

“Universal access to financial services is within reach – thanks to new technologies, transformative business models and ambitious reforms,” said President Kim. “As early as 2020, such instruments as e-money accounts, along with debit cards and low-cost regular bank accounts, can significantly increase financial access for those who are now excluded.”

More than 50 countries have now made commitments to financial inclusion targets. “If they fulfill their commitments, if other countries also set bold targets, and if the private sector responds by unleashing its resources and know-how – then we can reach universal access by 2020,” said Kim.

“We are excited to work with ITU and CPMI on this new global initiative that will enable our partner countries to better harness the potential of digital technologies for financial inclusion, and to manage associated risks,” said Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, senior director for the Finance and Markets Global Practice, World Bank Group.

As part of the initiative, the three model countries are receiving technical assistance from the World Bank Group with a view to putting into practice the guiding principles set out by the CPMI-WBG report on Payment Aspects of Financial Inclusion (PAFI).

This assistance will contribute to strengthening public and private-sector commitment and improving legal and regulatory frameworks, financial markets and ICT infrastructure for financial access and inclusion.

It will also focus on improving financial product design; financial literacy and awareness; diversified access points; and large-volume, recurring payment streams.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is pleased to support the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative, which we believe will bring digital financial services to some of the world’s most vulnerable unbanked populations as well as advance knowledge on creating a robust digital payments ecosystem,” said Jason Lamb, deputy director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The three countries selected – China, Egypt and Mexico – were chosen based on potential for country programs, level of national government and private-sector commitment to financial inclusion, number of people that could be reached through digital financial services, and potential for reforms to encourage innovation and digital technologies use.

According to analyses carried out by the World Bank Group, Egypt has the potential to bring more than 44 million adults into the formal financial sector. Analysts found that Egypt has adequate laws, regulations and financial and ICT infrastructure, but a lack of funding to cover related reforms.

The People’s Bank of China has requested support from the World Bank Group for digital financial inclusion measures to reach rural people without access to financial services.

Considered a last-mile challenge, China has an increasingly well-developed legal and regulatory environment and financial infrastructure, as well as a supportive ICT infrastructure.

Mexico has shown a strong commitment to financial inclusion with its new National Financial Inclusion Strategy launched in June 2016, as well as a draft fintech law.

Mexico has the potential to become a regional and global model for digital financial inclusion, despite today’s relatively low levels of financial inclusion, analysts conclude.

The inter-agency working groups tackling these issues will share findings at annual symposia. The first of these, the Financial Inclusion Global Initiative Symposium 2017, will be held in Bangalore, India, from November 29 to December 1, hosted by the Government of India.


Featured image: Now restricted to notepad and calculator, this Egyptian storekeeper could soon have access to digital banking services. (Photo by Karen Green) Creative Commons license via Flickr
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China Leads the New Clean Energy Reality

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Jim Carr, Minister of Energy, Canada; Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology, China; Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency; Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, USA; Terje Søviknes, Minister of Petroleum and Energy, Norway (Photo courtesy IEA) Posted for media use.

By Sunny Lewis

BEIJING, China, June 8, 2017 (Maximpact.com) – Now that President Donald Trump has announced that he will exit the Paris Agreement on climate, the world’s major emerging economies, including China and India, are replacing the United States at the center stage of the clean energy transition.

By betting on energy efficiency, wind, solar and other renewables, these countries are increasingly leading the way, while the United States falls behind as Trump moves the country towards greater reliance on coal and oil.

The International Energy Agency projects that all of the growth in energy demand in the next 25 years will take place in emerging and developing countries.

“There is a new reality in clean energy,” says Christian Zinglersen of the International Energy Agency (IEA), who heads the new Clean Energy Ministerial Secretariat. Based at the IEA headquarters in Paris, the Clean Energy Ministerial is a global forum that promotes clean energy policies.

This is the importance of the top-level meeting of energy ministers from the world’s biggest economies taking plan in Beijing this week, said Zinglersen, formerly deputy permanent secretary at the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate.

“The fact that representatives from fossil-fuel producers like Mexico and Saudi Arabia will join renewable-energy pioneers like Denmark and Germany for a top-level meeting in China is not a coincidence,” he said. “We are witnessing a global consensus that the key to the energy transition will reside with decisions made in emerging economies.”

China, the world’s biggest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, is changing its coal-burning ways. “China is now the undisputable global leader of renewable energy expansion worldwide, and the IEA forecasts that by 2021, more than one-third of global cumulative solar PV and onshore wind capacity will be located in China,” said Zinglersen.

India was the first country to set comprehensive quality and performance standards for light emitting diodes (LEDs), and it expects to save as much as 277 terawatt-hours of electricity between 2015 and 2030, avoiding 254 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of 90 coal-fired power plants.

On June 6, during a side event on efficient lighting at the Clean Energy Ministerial, 13 companies announced new commitments to the Global Lighting Challenge totaling nearly six billion LED lighting products.

The Global Lighting Challenge has now reached 14 billion high-efficiency, high-quality lighting products committed, surpassing its 10 billion light goal set at the sixth Clean Energy Ministerial two years ago.

Twelve Chinese solid-state lighting companies committed to deploy 3.29 billion LED Lamps and 5.77 million LED streetlights by the end of 2018.

Based on these commitments, the total cumulative energy savings from 2017–2018 is estimated at more than 45 billion kWh, which is roughly half of the Three Gorges Hydropower Station’s annual power generation (93.5 billion kWh in 2016).

These energy savings lead to CO2 a emissions reduction estimated at more than 40.5 million tons.

LEDVANCE, an international company for lighting products and networked light applications based in Germany, announced its commitment to sell 2.5 billion LED lamps by 2023.

LEDVANCE’s goal will save the equivalent amount of energy produced by 75 medium-sized coal-fired power plants, the company estimates.

“We made a very conscious choice in pledging this commitment and are very proud in taking part in the Global Lighting Challenge,” said Thomas Dreier, global head of research and development at LEDVANCE.

“LED lamps are not only ecologically sensible but also economically. In combination with smart lighting solutions, LED lamps in the current generation have a potential of reducing energy consumption and costs by 90 percent,” Dreier said.

“At LEDVANCE, we have been investing a lot in researching the potential of tomorrow’s LED lamps, which will continue to increase the scope of what is possible in energy efficiency.”

The number of electric cars on the roads around the world rose to two million in 2016, following a year of strong growth in 2015, according to the latest edition of the International Energy Agency’s Global EV Outlook.

China remained the largest market in 2016, accounting for more than 40 percent of the electric cars sold in the world.

With more than 200 million electric two-wheelers and more than 300,000 electric buses, China is by far the global leader in the electrification of transport. China, the United States and Europe made up the three main markets, totaling over 90 percent of all electric vehicles sold around the world.

Four large U.S. cities: Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco and Portland, are leading a partnership of over 30 cities to mass-purchase EVs for their public fleets including police cruisers, street sweepers and trash haulers. The group of cities is currently seeking to purchase over 110,000 EVs, a significant number when compared to the 160,000 total EVs sold in the entire United States in 2016.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry told his counterparts in Beijing, “I don’t believe you can have a real conversation about clean energy without including carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). The United States understands the importance of this clean technology and its vital role in the future of energy production.”

Perry made these comments at a meeting of the energy ministers of Canada, China, Norway, and the United States, as well as heads of delegation from Australia and the European Commission, business leaders and civil society organizations held ahead of the Clean Energy Ministerial in Beijing.

Carbon capture, utilization and storage is a process that captures CO2 emissions from sources like coal-fired power plants and either reuses it or stores it so it will not enter the atmosphere.

The ministers were invited by the International Energy Agency and China to review how to increase collaboration to drive further deployment of carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS).

The meeting was held ahead of the 8th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM8), in Beijing.

“We have already seen the success of projects like Petra Nova in Texas, which is the world’s largest post-combustion carbon-capture system,” Perry said. “Our experience with CCUS proves that you can do the right thing for the environment and the economy too.”

The system at Petra Nova can capture 1.6 million tons of CO2 each year from an existing coal-fired power plant unit, a capture rate of up to 90 percent from a supplied slipstream of flue gas. By using CO2 captured from the plant, oil production at West Ranch oilfield is expected to increase from around 500 barrels per day to up to 15,000 barrels per day.

Jim Carr, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources said, “Carbon capture, use and storage holds enormous potential to enable economic growth and create jobs, while ensuring the environment is protected.”

“Canada hopes to continue working with domestic and international partners, including through the Clean Energy Ministerial and Mission Innovation, to help us all address the technical and policy challenges around wide scale implementation of this important technology,” Carr said.

“There are many reasons to stand for clean energy today,” said Zinglersen. “These can range from reducing greenhouse gas emissions but also battling the scourge of air pollution, improving energy security by reducing the dependency of fossil fuels, diversifying supply, creating high-tech jobs or fostering innovation. As such, approaches to clean energy will vary from country to country.”

By committing to these new clean technologies, he said, countries like China are helping drive down costs for the benefit of the world.


Featured Image: Dabancheng is said to be China’s the wind power capital. The Dabancheng Wind Farm is situated on the road from Urumqi to Turpan in northwestern China. (Photo courtesy Asian Development Bank) Creative commons license via Flickr

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A Child’s Right to Savings

ChildCashRegisterMoneyBy Sunny Lewis

MUMBAI, India, April 14, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Gone are the days when the only financial education a child would receive was a piggy bank with a coin or two tucked through the slot and parental instructions to save his or her loose change. Now young people, even street kids, can have access to e-banking thanks to an award-winning social entrepreneur from India.

On April 2, the nonprofit Child & Youth Finance International (CYFI) together with Mastercard launched a unique comprehensive guide on banking and payment products for minors.

The guide, “Safer Payment Products for Minors,” identifies recommended practices on how Financial Service Providers can develop age-appropriate payment products for minors.

These products are intended to promote responsible spending and financial decision making while incorporating functions that allow for parental guidance to help children achieve financial autonomy.

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Jeroo Billimoria of India is an award-winning advocate for youth financial independence. (Photo courtesy Child and Youth Finance International) Posted for media use

Today’s children can look to social entrepreneur Jeroo Billimoria as an inspiration for their own effective ways of handling of money.

In 2011, Billimoria founded Child and Youth Finance International, which unites policymakers and experts from private, public and civil society sectors to elevate the financial rights of children to a higher priority on national and international agendas.

Worldwide, young people are more tech-savvy and digitally included than ever before, yet many lack the much needed financial know-how to make wise decisions about money later in life,” wrote Billimoria in “Huffington Post.”

The fast-growing world of financial technology offers many opportunities; building the tools needed to successfully include children and youth in banking services, the chance to gain expertise from the private sector, and the impetus to create regulations around the financial needs of youth,” she wrote.

Born in 1965 in Mumbai, India to a family of professionals, Billimoria has dedicated herself to support of the economic rights of children.

She began working with street children in Mumbai, many of whom had run away from home and had no one to depend upon except themselves.

Answering their calls through helplines she established, she realized that many of these children demonstrated the attributes of good entrepreneurs – they were brave, smart, innovative and creative. But they were not integrated into the normal financial system and so were financially vulnerable.

Billimoria decided to make her vision of children having and managing their own savings accounts a reality.

Starting with just her own telephone number and her personal savings, Billimoria founded Child Helpline International, an organization that now helps millions of street children each year in countries around the world.

Billimoria really broke through when she created a fun-loving and mischievous cartoon character called Aflatoun as a fireball from outer space. Aflatoun inspires children to explore and engage with the world around them through activities, stories and games, and teaches them about their rights, and about money.

She developed a curriculum for teaching children to take responsibility for themselves, to plan for a better life, and to save money through school-based Aflatoun Clubs.

Aflatoun educates children about their rights and responsibilities. It equips them with skills to save and manage money, and set up their own social and financial enterprises.

In 2006, one year after she created Aflatoun, Billimoria received the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship, a $1.25 million, three-year core support investment to scale her work and increase her impact.

Today, Aflatoun is an international network of nongovernmental organizations based in Amsterdam. Currently, more than 2.3 million children receive social and financial education each year through more than 27,000 education centers in 109 countries.

Forty percent of students enrolled in the Aflatoun program save small amounts of money each week, building savings that average €2.23 euros per child per year – €2.76 million total.

To date, Aflatoun students have launched 5,177 social enterprises and 11,449 financial enterprises.

In 2012, Billimoria stepped down as executive director of Aflatoun to found another new venture – Child and Youth Finance International.

This global advocacy organization is the one partnering with Mastercard to create the guide for financial service providers, “Safer Payment Products for Minors.”

Walt Macnee, Mastercard Vice Chairman says, “Today’s minors are the adults of tomorrow. As they grow up, we need to ensure that they are prepared to fully participate in the formal and increasingly digital economy. By ensuring that the tools and products that they are given are age-appropriate, we contribute to that preparation.

Many of the tips for children in the minors’ guide are the same that people of any age should abide by.

For instance, the guide advises young people to keep their bank card in a safe place, write strong passwords and don’t share them, and research online websites and companies and read customer reviews before buying anything.

Another tip: “Trust your instincts – if you have any doubts about a website, do not purchase anything from it; there are

many other online stores to shop from.”

And to avoid fraud, “Be aware of your surroundings when talking about your account. Check who can overhear you or see what you’re doing when using a public wifi hotspot.

The guide was created by Mastercard, Child & Youth Finance International, ParentPay, nimbl and Mirador Digital, with contributions from a range of organizations in the financial sector.

Speaking to financial services providers, the guide advises, “The minor’s needs, interests and levels of comprehension would form the basis for all product communications.

Parent-targeted initiatives and minor-friendly communication are both emphasized. The guide suggests that annual fees and monthly bills would be sent to the parent, but communications from the financial services provider can encourage that they are reviewed regularly with the child.

Billimoria gives an example of minor-centered financial service happening right now in Uganda, where the Private Education Development Network has collaborated with the software development company Oratec Ltd. to create an automated school deposit and withdrawal management information system to promote savings among students.

Offering the opportunity for kids to understand how e-banking works by opening and managing their own account, the system also enables financial service providers to equip students with banking skills and fund financial inclusion through mobile money initiatives,” she wrote.

Billimoria warns that money saved in a piggy bank could be stolen or lost in a fire or flood.

She says everyone at Child and Youth Finance International believes that young people have a right to safe and appropriate child and youth friendly savings accounts at formal financial institutions.


Featured Image: Child plays at running a shop, June 2015, United Kingdom (Photo by Sarah Joy) Creative commons license via Flickr

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Green Bond Market Shoots Up

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By Sunny Lewis

 WASHINGTON, DC, October 27, 2016 – (Maximpact.com News) – The green bond market reported a worldwide milestone in August when aggregate green bond issuance topped US$150 billion for the first time since the World Bank issued the inaugural green bond in 2008. It was a US$400 million four-year bond issued in Sweden during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

 Green bonds finance projects that achieve energy efficiency, pollution prevention, sustainable agriculture, fishery and forestry, the protection of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, clean transportation, sustainable water management, and the cultivation of environmentally friendly technologies.

 Green bonds are similar to traditional bonds in terms of deal structure, but they have different requirements for reporting, auditing and proceed allocations.

A green bond is distinguished by its “use of proceeds” pledge, which earmarks the proceeds from sale of the bonds for specific projects with environmental benefits. Marketing and branding values not available to traditional bonds arise from this difference.

With the heightened awareness of global environmental and climate challenges, green bonds are increasingly seen as a tool that could allow the private sector to take an active part in raising the funds needed to put our society on a more environmentally sustainable footing,” wrote Charles Smith in an article ‘How the green bond market works‘ for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) earlier this month.

 The EBRD first started issuing green bonds in 2010, and its portfolios of green projects now include 261 investments worth a total of €2.7 billion.

Smith, who is responsible for the day-to-day running of green bond issuance for the EBRD, views green bonds as “a new tool for helping the private sector green the world.”

Mobilising green projects is the goal but, ultimately, I think it is a much larger transition process,” Smith told a roundtable organized by the publication “Environmental Finance” last November. “It is about changing the way companies and entire societies think about and engage with the environment. And that is not done in a day.

At the same roundtable, some of the challenges were outlined by Yo Takatsuki, associate director, Governance and Sustainable Investment, BMO Global Asset Management. BMO Financial Group is a service mark of the Bank of Montreal.

I think one of the challenges is that the underlying assets that are being financed through green bonds are mostly renewable energy or energy efficiency. If we want a broader range of corporates to come to the market we need to encourage opening up the focus of projects beyond just climate change,” said Takatsuki.

I think people are struggling with impact reporting,” Takatsuki said. “For renewable energy, it is relatively straightforward, but for other types of projects the impact reporting is either not agreed or is not sufficiently established.

Smith comments on this issue in his article on the EBRD site, writing, “The reporting is made more complicated by the broadening range of issuer types – from banks to corporates in various industries – with different green assets and operating in dissimilar regions.

This makes comparing the bonds challenging to say the least, and the reputational risk for the issuer in making a mistake in the reporting could be considerable,” Smith writes.

Despite the challenges, the green bond market is growing quickly.

In 2015, green bond issuance hit what was then a record high, amounting to US$41.8 billion worth of investment worldwide. Compare that to 2012, when green bond issuance worldwide amounted to just $2.6 billion.

Of all the green bonds issued in 2015, $18 billion worth was issued in the European Union and $10.5 billion was issued in the United States, making these regions the leaders in the green bond initiative.

India and China are expected to get more involved in this type of investment in the near future.

The World Bank is a important issuer of green bonds. The bank has been very active through the first half of 2016, especially in the United States, where its issuances total over US$496 million and in India, where its issuances total over US$2.7 billion Indian rupees.

World Bank green bonds finance projects such as India’s Rampur Hydropower Project, which aims to provide low-carbon hydroelectric power to northern India’s electricity grid.

The World Bank Green Bond raises funds from fixed income investors to support World Bank lending for eligible projects that seek to mitigate climate change or help affected people adapt to it.

The product was designed in partnership with Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken (SEB) to respond to specific investor demand for a triple-A rated fixed income product that supports projects that address the climate challenge.

 Since 2008, the World Bank has issued over US$9 billion equivalent in green bonds through more than 125 transactions in 18 currencies.

World Bank Vice President and Treasurer Arunma Oteh said, “We have a responsibility to our clients to help them both recognize and respond to the risks that climate change poses.” 

To date, green bond issuer groups include supranationals, government agencies, cities, states, and also corporate entities.

Investors have expressed a desire for more choice of products for their growing portfolios – green bonds from more issuers and more diverse types of green bond products that offer different risk profiles, according to the World Bank.

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Green-bond supported wind farm in Penonome, Panama. (Photo by Alessandra Bazan Testino / International Finance Corporation) Posted for media use

There are several types of tax incentives policy makers can put in place to support the issuance of green bonds. The incentives can be provided either to the investor or to the issuer.

With tax credit bonds, bond investors receive tax credits instead of interest payments, so issuers do not have to pay interest on their green bond issuances.

An example of tax credit bonds in the area of clean energy is the U.S. federal government Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) and Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds (QECBs) program. The program allows for the issuance of taxable bonds by municipalities for clean energy and energy conservation, where 70 percent of the coupon from the municipality is provided by a tax credit or subsidy to the bondholder from the federal government.

With direct subsidy bonds, bond issuers receive cash rebates from the government to subsidize their net interest payments.

This structure also is used under the U.S. federal government CREBs and QECBs program.

With tax-exempt bonds, bond investors do not have to pay income tax on interest from the green bonds they hold, so the issuer can get a lower interest rate. An example is tax-exempt bond issuance for financing of wind projects in Brazil.

Green bond issuers report both use of proceeds and the impact achieved. Still, specific reporting requirements are under development and currently non-standard.

A coalition of organizations including leading issuers and buyers are working together to establish reporting procedures. Anticipated reporting standards include third party review by an auditor of the sustainability of qualifying projects, and annual reporting on a universal template.

Meanwhile, the Green Bond Principles (GBP) are voluntary process guidelines that recommend transparency and disclosure and promote integrity in the development of the Green Bond market by clarifying the approach for issuance of a Green Bond.

The Green Bond Principles are intended for broad use by the market, according to the World Bank. They provide issuers guidance on the key components for launching a credible Green Bond; they aid investors by ensuring availability of information for evaluating the environmental impact of their Green Bond investments; and they assist underwriters by moving the market towards standard disclosures that will facilitate transactions.


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Image: Green shoots growing in the kitchen gardens, Tatton Park, Cheshire, England, May 2010 (Photo by Will Clayton) Creative Commons license via Flickr

India, World Bank Empower Sunshine Nations

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India One, a 1 megawatt solar thermal power plant in Rajasthan, India is due for completion in 2016. It uses 770 newly developed 60m2 parabolic dishes and features thermal storage for continuous operation. The plant will generate enough heat and power for a campus of 25,000 people and is a milestone for clean power generation in India. (Photo by Brahma Kumaris) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NEW DELHI, India, July 13, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Solar power prospects are brightening with a new global focus on renewable energy to avert climate change. A burst of financial power was added at the end of June as the World Bank Group signed an agreement with the International Solar Alliance (ISA) – 121 countries led by sunny India – with the goal of mobilizing US$1 trillion in investments by 2030.

 The ISA was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris on November 30, 2015 by Prime Minister Modi and French President Francois Hollande. Most of the sunshine countries lie between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, including Mexico, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and China. The United States and European Union also are involved.

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World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, left, meets with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi before attending the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City, September 25, 2015. (Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

On a two-day trip to New Delhi at the end of June, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim established the Bank as a financial partner for the ISA and pledged to collaborate on expanding the use of solar energy in India.

After meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, World Bank Group chief Kim said with a smile, “One of the reasons that I always appreciate my meetings with the Prime Minister is that he always pushes us to move faster and faster – to keep pace with him. We promised that we would do so, and in particular talked about supporting his government’s pace on expanding renewable energy sources.

The Prime Minister emphasized the importance of adequate climate change financing for countries like India which are “consciously choosing to follow an environmentally sustainable path.

India’s plans to virtually triple the share of renewable energy by 2030 will both transform the country’s energy supply and have far-reaching global implications in the fight against climate change,” the banker said.

The International Energy Agency calculates that India is set to contribute more than any other country to the projected rise in global energy demand. Steep rises in power production and consumption are expected to accompany India’s economic growth.

 “Prime Minister Modi’s personal commitment toward renewable energy, particularly solar, is the driving force behind these investments,” said Kim. “The World Bank Group will do all it can to help India meet its ambitious targets, especially around scaling up solar energy.”

Kim said he envisions the ISA as using its global development network, global knowledge and financing capacity to promote the use of solar energy throughout the world.

 India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy identified the initial joint projects to actualize the new agreement as:

  • Developing a roadmap to mobilize financing.
  • Developing financing instruments including credit enhancement, reduce hedging. costs/currency risk, bond raising in locally denominated currencies etc. which support solar energy development and deployment.
  • Supporting ISA’s plans for solar energy through technical assistance and knowledge transfer.
  • Working on mobilization of concessional financing through existing or, if needed, new trust funds.
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Solar panels on the rooftop of the Reserve Bank of India in Jaipur. (Photo by Kirti Solar Limited) Posted for media use by India PRwire

In addition, India will receive a loan of more than US$1 billion dollars to support expanding solar power through investments in solar generation.

 Projects now under development include solar rooftop technology, infrastructure for solar parks, bringing innovative solar and hybrid technologies to market, and transmission lines for sun-rich Indian states.

As part of our $1 billion dollar solar commitment to India, today we signed an agreement with the Government of India for a $625 million dollar grid connected rooftop solar program,” said Kim.

The project will finance installation of at least 400 megawatts of solar photovoltaic installations.

These investments for India will together become the Bank’s largest financing of solar projects for any country in the world. The banker said. “India has become a global leader in implementing the promises made in Paris for COP21 and the global efforts to tackle climate change.”

 India’s pledge to the Paris summit offered to bring 40 percent of its electricity generation capacity, not actual production, from non-fossil sources – renewable, large hydro, and nuclear – by the year 2030.

India has capacity of 4GW and the Modi Government has set a target of adding 100 GW of solar power by 2022.

In January, Modi and Hollande jointly laid the foundation stone of the International Solar Alliance headquarters and inaugurated the interim Secretariat of the ISA in National Institute of Solar Energy in Gwal Pahari in the Gurgaon District of Haryana state in northern India.

At that ceremony, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and the Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) each announced a contribution of US$1 million to the ISA.

Prime Minister Modi has described the ISA as “the sunrise of new hope, not just for clean energy but for villages and homes still in darkness, for mornings and evening filled with a clear view of the glory of the Sun.


 Featured image: Solar Panels | by Jeremy Levine Design flickr.com

Demand for Electric Cars Hits New Highs

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Charging a Nissan LEAF in Amsterdam, the Netherlands (Photo courtesy Heijmans)

By Sunny Lewis

PALO ALTO, California, April 14, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Luxury electric automaker Tesla unveiled its latest model at a March 31 event, and demand was so strong for the $35,000 Tesla Model 3 that within the week 325,000 would-be customers purchased preorders at US$1,000 each.

The preorder offering raised US$14 billion, tweeted Tesla founder, chairman, CEO and product architect Elon Musk. He will use funds to finish building an enormous lithium-ion battery factory near Reno, Nevada and begin Model 3 production at the Tesla assembly plant in Fremont, California.

Everyone will have to be patient though – production of the Model 3 is not scheduled to begin until the second half of 2017.

The sheer number of Model 3 orders amazed many people including “EV World” publisher Bill Moore, who wrote to his newsletter subscribers, “The market’s not only ‘spoken,’ it bloody ROARED.”

“Fifteen years ago, some three years after I launched EV World,” wrote Moore, “there were maybe 5,000 OEM-built electric cars on the road in the United States; and roughly a comparable number in Europe, mainly in France.”

Now, he compared, “In just seven days time, Tesla now has pre-orders and $1000 deposits for more than 30 times the number of all the electric cars in the world back just over a decade and a half ago.”

Tesla Model 3s are revealed to an admiring crowd, March 31, 2016 (video courtesy Tesla Motors)

As of March 31, Tesla Motors had sold nearly 125,000 electric cars worldwide since delivery of its first Tesla Roadster in 2008.

The current world leader in zero-emission mobility, the Renault-Nissan Alliance, sold its 250,000th electric vehicle – a white Renault ZOE – in June 2015.

The 250,000th owner is Yves Nivelle, a computer engineer from Bordeaux, who traded in his 21-year-old diesel car for the subcompact Renault ZOE.

Nivelle bought his EV after the French government introduced an environmental bonus in April 2015 to allow owners of older, polluting diesel cars to trade them in and get a rebate of €10,000 on a new electric vehicle.

“The government’s environmental bonus was a big factor in my decision to get an EV,” Nivelle said. “But I have to say, I was convinced the first time I drove the car. It’s a real pleasure to drive and it feels good to do my part for the environment.”

Watch a video  of Nivelle getting into his historic Renault ZOE at the dealership. Renault Nissan Bordeaux

In addition to the LEAF, Nissan also makes the e-NV200 van, which has been on sale in Europe and Japan since 2014. In addition to the ZOE, Renault also sells the Renault Kangoo Z.E van, the SM3 Z.E. sedan and the Twizy, a two-seater urban commuter vehicle.

“Demand for our electric vehicles continues to grow thanks to government incentives and the expanding charging infrastructure,” said Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, formed in 1999.

“The positive response of our customers is also driving demand. These vehicles enjoy some of the highest levels of satisfaction rates from our customers around the world,” Ghosn said.

As public fast-charging infrastructure proliferates so that a nearly full charge is possible in less than half an hour at many locations, and electric vehicle batteries offer ranges up to 250 miles on a single charge, public acceptance of EVs grows stronger.

An all-electric vehicle offering more than 200 miles of range per charge for an affordable price in the neighborhood of US$30,000 – that’s what a growing segment of the driving public wants and an increasing number of automakers are answering that demand.

There are more than 20 models of electric vehicles on the market today, including, among others, the Chinese BYD e6, the Chevrolet Spark EV, Fiat 500e, Kia Soul EV, India’s Mahindra Reva e2o, all Mercedes B-class cars, the Mitsubishi i-MiEV, the Smart EV, Volvo’s XC90 T8 and the VW e-Golf.

Across the industry, at least 24 newly announced electric vehicle models are expected to be on the market before 2019.

General Motors will have the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV for sale late this year; it offers 200 miles of range for about $30,000 after the federal government rebate.

GM head Mary Barra believes a real “revolution” is underway. She told the World Economic Forum annual meeting in January that soon petrol-fueled cars will be “a thing of the past.”

“In the auto industry, the revolution is being driven by the convergence of connectivity, electrification and changing customer needs,” Barra said. “It is allowing automakers like GM to develop dramatically cleaner, safer, smarter and more energy-efficient vehicles for customers in every market around the world.”

Ford delivered its first Focus E in 2011, but now has fallen behind. The 2017 Ford Focus Electric will have just 100 miles of range, according a Ford media presentation in Dearborn, Michigan last December.

But Ford will add DC fast charging to the car, so it can recharge to 80 percent of battery capacity in 30 minutes at a growing network of Combined Charging System sites in the USA and Europe.

Many other companies are jumping into the strengthening EV market.

At the 2016 Geneva International Motor Show, Hyundai Motor introduced the IONIQ – the world’s first model with three distinct electrified powertrains: the IONIQ Hybrid, the IONIQ Plug-in and the IONIQ Electric.

German automaker Audi is preparing its international production network to make autonomous cars, electric cars and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Production of the first all-electric SUV from Audi will begin in Brussels in 2018, the company says. It will offer a range of more than 250 miles on a single charge. In a decade, the company projects, 25 percent of Audi’s sales will be electric vehicles.

As production increases, the market grows, especially in India and China.

India’s Minister of State for Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal wants to make every car on India’s roads an electric vehicle by 2030.

“We have created a working group under the leadership of Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, who is good at coming up with large scale programs. Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, and I are members of this group,” Goyal told a conference of Indian youth in late March.

Goyal suggested that drivers could buy bare bones electric cars with no money down. The buyers could pay for their EVs over time from the savings realized by not having to purchase fuel.

In China, electric car sales surged to 220,000 in 2015, surpassing the United States to rank first worldwide, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

BYD, which stands for Build Your Dream, sold more EVs than any other Chinese company in 2015. CAAM projects sales of 300,000 EVs in China this year.

Unveiling the Tesla Model 3, Musk addressed the underlying reason behind the rapidly electrifying auto industry.

“Why are we doing this? Why are we making electric cars? Why does it matter?” he asked.

“It’s very important to accelerate the transition to sustainable transport. It’s really important for the future of the world,” he answered his own question.

Musk is concerned about climate change. He pointed to the record high CO2 concentration in the atmosphere: as of March 2016 – 403.5 parts per million – and climbing.

“The last time there was this concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 11 million years ago, when primates first started walking upright,” he told the crowd at the unveiling event, many of them owners of earlier and much more costly Teslas.

Tesla founder, chairman and CEO at the unveiling of the Tesla Model 3. (From video courtesy Tesla Motors)

Musk pointed to the Earth’s steadily rising temperature. He pointed to the fact that 53,000 people a year die in the United States alone from exposure to automobile emissions.

Musk is not alone in his concerns. And research shows that the growing popularity of electric vehicles can indeed help avert climate change.

In September 2015 the California-based Electric Power Research Institute and the U.S. nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) jointly released a study finding that widespread adoption of electric transportation, including the off-road sector, could lead to substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.

The report, “Environmental Assessment of a Full Electric Transportation Portfolio,” projects emissions through 2050 and air quality impacts in 2030.

It finds that greenhouse gas emissions from light-duty vehicles could drop as much as 64 percent below today’s levels as drivers abandon internal combustion engines in favor of electrics.

“This research points to the importance of two fundamental and parallel trends in energy and the environment,” said EPRI President and CEO Mike Howard. “First is the continuing decarbonization of the electricity sector and second is the electrification of energy use in transportation and industry.”


 

 

Gates Funds Climate-Smart Rice Development

RicePlanterIndonesia

By Sunny Lewis

LOS BANOS, Philippines, January 6, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – Climate change-ready rice seeds of several varieties have reached millions of farmers in Asia and Africa under a forward-looking program known as Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia, or STRASA.

Developed by the Los Baños-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the program distributes new rice varieties tolerant of stresses such as the droughts and floods, salinity, and toxicity, to millions of farmers coping with these stresses.

STRASA began at the end of 2007 with IRRI in collaboration with AfricaRice. Conceived as a 10-year project with a vision to deliver the improved varieties to at least 18 million farmers on the two continents, the first two phases of the project have been funded with about US$20 million each.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is funding the third phase of the IRRI-led project with US$32.77 million through 2017.

Rice is the most important human food crop in the world, directly feeding more people than any other crop. In 2012, nearly half of world’s population, more than three billion people, relied on rice every day.

Rice is produced in a wide range of locations and under a variety of climatic conditions, from the wettest areas in the world to the driest deserts. Thousands of rice varieties are cultivated on every continent except Antarctica.

But as the climate changes, more varieties are being developed to help farmers produce their crops regardless of droughts that shrivel the rice plants and floods that rot them.

About three years into the STRASA program, in May 2011, Bill Gates described how he sees the revolution in rice production.

“What’s going on right now in Africa and South Asia is not a collection of anecdotes about improvements to a few people’s lives,” Gates said. “This is the early stage of sweeping change for farming families in the poorest parts of the world. It’s an historic chance to help people and countries move from dependency to self-sufficiency – and fulfill the highest promise of foreign aid.”

STRASA in Africa

Gary Atlin, senior program officer with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the 3rd Africa Rice Congress held in October 2013 in Yaoundé, Cameroon, “The best adaptation to climate change is a breeding and seed system that rapidly develops, deploys, and then replaces varieties so that farmers will always have access to varieties adapted to their current conditions.”

This strategy is at the heart of STRASA, which helps smallholder farmers who are vulnerable to flooding, drought, extreme temperatures, and soil problems, such as high salt and iron toxicity, that reduce yields.

Some of these stresses are forecast to become more frequent and intense with climate change.

Climate change is already having a negative impact on Africa through extreme temperatures, frequent flooding and droughts, and increased salinity according to Baboucarr Manneh, irrigated-rice breeder at Africa Rice Center and coordinator of the African component of the STRASA project.

More than 30 stress-tolerant rice varieties have already been released in nine African countries with support from the STRASA project, said Dr. Manneh.

“One of the key impact points for STRASA will be the quantity of seed produced and disseminated to farmers,” said Dr. Manneh. “As seed production continues to be a major bottleneck in Africa, the main thrust of our recent STRASA meeting was to help countries develop seed road maps.”

Sometimes, various stresses, such as salinity, cold, submergence, and iron toxicity, can occur at the same time.

“That’s why the third phase of the STRASA project will focus on breeding for multiple stress tolerance,” Dr. Manneh explained.

STRASA in India

“Use flood- and drought-tolerant rice to get maximum profit from your small landholdings in the stress-prone areas of Bihar,” said Radha Mohan Singh, Union minister for agriculture and farmers welfare, to a gathering of more than 1,000 farmers at the foundation ceremony of the National Integrated Agriculture Research Centre in Motihari, Bihar, India last August.

Minister Singh told the farmers of how scientists from the Indian Council of Agricultural Research took him to a pond planted with a new flood-tolerant rice variety that was fully submerged in water for 15 days. “I immediately asked them, ‘Why this much water? Wouldn’t the rice rot?’”

But the crop variety that survived 15 days of submergence had “very good yield,” the scientists said.

These flood-tolerant seeds now are available for farmers in Motihari. Trials of a drought-tolerant rice variety are also being conducted in several Motihari villages.

“Following the Minister’s speech, the IRRI booth received a rush of inquiries from farmers,” said Dr. Sudhanshu Singh, International Rice Research Institute scientist and rainfed-lowland agronomist for South Asia, who represented the Institute during the foundation ceremony and exhibit.

About 10 million of the poorest and most disadvantaged rice farmers have been given access to climate-smart rice varieties.

“Swarna-Sub1 changed my life,” said Trilochan Parida, a farmer at the Dekheta Village of Puri in Odisha, India.

Floods ravage Parida’s rice field every year. Flooding of four days or more usually means a loss of the crop as well as of any expected income. But in 2008, Parida saw his rice rise back to life after having been submerged for two weeks.

Swarna-Sub1 is a flood-tolerant rice variety developed by the Philippines-based IRRI. It was bred from a popular Indian variety, Swarna, which has been upgraded with SUB1, the gene for flood tolerance.

“Under the past phases of the project, 16 climate-smart rice varieties tolerant of flood, drought, and salinity were released in various countries in South Asia. About 14 such varieties were released in sub-Saharan Africa. Several more are in the process of being released,” said Abdelbagi Ismail, IRRI scientist and STRASA project leader.

In addition to improving varieties and distributing seeds, the STRASA project also trains farmers and scientists in producing good-quality seeds. Through the project’s capacity-building component, 74,000 farmers, including 19,400 women farmers, underwent training in seed production.

3,000 Rice Genomes Sequenced

Now a scientific advance has made even more progress possible.

A remarkable 3,000 rice genome sequences were made publicly available on World Hunger Day May 29, 2014.

This work is the completion of stage one of the 3000 Rice Genomes Project, a collaborative, international research program that has sequenced 3,024 rice varieties from 89 countries.

The collaboration is made up of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), and is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology.

IRRI Director General Dr. Robert Zeigler said, “Access to 3,000 genomes of rice sequence data will tremendously accelerate the ability of breeding programs to overcome key hurdles mankind faces in the near future.”

“This collaborative project,” said Zeigler, “will add an immense amount of knowledge to rice genetics, and enable detailed analysis by the global research community to ultimately benefit the poorest farmers who grow rice under the most difficult conditions.”

The 3000 Rice Genomes Project is part of an ongoing effort to provide resources for poverty-stricken farmers in Africa and Asia, aiming to reach at least 20 million rice farmers in 16 target countries – eight in Asia and eight in Africa.

Dr. Jun Wang, director of the Beijing Genomics Institute, said, “The population boom and worsening climate crisis have presented big challenges on global food shortage and safety. BGI is dedicated to applying genomics technologies to make a fast, controllable and highly efficient molecular breeding model possible.”

“This opens a new way to carry out agricultural breeding. With the joined forces with CAAS, IRRI and Gates Foundation, we have made a step forward in big-data-based crop research and digitalized breeding,” said Dr. Wang. “We believe every step will get us closer to the ultimate goal of improving the wellbeing of human race.”


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.

 

Editors note: Dr. Jun Wang is no longer the director of the Beijing Genomics Institute, although he was at the comment quoted. Dr. Jun Wang is now a scientist and research group leader with BGI.

Head image: A farmer planting rice in Pangkep, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, 2014 (Photo by Tri Saputro / Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) under creative commons license.
Featured image: Sample seeds from among the 127,000 rice varieties and accessions stored in the International Rice Genebank at the International Rice Research Institute.​​ (Photo courtesy IRRI)

Climate Polluters Collaborate on Nuclear Fusion

ITERComplete

by Sunny Lewis,

PARIS, France, December 17, 2015 (Maximpact.com News) – The breakthrough Paris Climate Agreement approved December 12 commits all countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.

Now, the world is focused on finding clean sources of energy to replace the coal, oil and gas that, when burned to generate electricity, emit heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

All the countries that top the greenhouse gas emissions list are among those cooperating on a long-term energy project that some say is also a long shot – nuclear fusion.

The opposite of the nuclear fission that splits atoms to power all current nuclear generating stations, fusion is the process that powers the Sun and the stars.

When light atomic nuclei fuse together to form heavier ones, a large amount of energy is released. Fusion research is aimed at developing a safe, abundant and environmentally responsible energy source.

The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, or ITER, which in Latin means the way, is one of the most ambitious energy projects in the world today. Like the Paris Climate Agreement, ITER is also a first-of-a-kind global collaboration.

In Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in the south of France, 35 nations are collaborating to build the world’s largest Tokamak. This magnetic fusion device is designed to prove the feasibility of fusion as a large-scale and carbon-free source of energy.

ITERconstruction

Thousands of engineers and scientists have contributed to the design of ITER since the idea for an international joint experiment in fusion was first launched in 1985.

The seven ITER Members – China, the European Union (plus Switzerland, as a member of EURATOM), India, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States – are now engaged in a 35-year collaboration to build and operate the ITER experimental device, and together bring fusion to the point where a demonstration fusion reactor can be designed.

ITER is financed by the seven Members. Ninety percent of contributions will be delivered “in-kind.” That means that in the place of cash, the Members will deliver components and buildings directly to the ITER Organization.

The ITER Organization estimates the cost of ITER construction for the seven Members at roughly €13 billion, if all the manufacturing were done in Europe.

But each Member State is producing its contributions in its own country. “As production costs vary from Member to Member, it is impossible to furnish a more precise estimation,” says the ITER Organization.

Europe is contributing almost half of the costs of ITER construction, while the other six Members are contributing equally to fund the rest.

Organizers say the ITER project is “progressing well despite delays.”

On Monday, scientists at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics said they have reached a milestone in the quest to derive energy from nuclear fusion.

They started up one of the world’s largest nuclear fusion machines for the first time and briefly generated a super-heated helium plasma inside a vessel, a key point in the experimental process.

The 16-meter-wide machine is the Wendelstein 7-X, a type of nuclear fusion device called a stellarator. Scientists have been talking about the enormous potential of stellarators for decades, but this is the first time a team has shown that it can produce and control plasma.

The first plasma in the machine lasted one-tenth of a second and reached a temperature of around one million kelvins. “We’re very satisfied,” said Hans-Stephan Bosch, whose division is responsible for the operation of the Wendelstein 7-X. “Everything went according to plan.”

At its 17th Meeting, held on November 18-19, the ITER Council reviewed the progress made by the ITER Organization Central Team and the Members’ Domestic Agencies from the ITER design and early construction phase to the current phase of full construction.

The Council recognized the “tangible progress” made during the past eight months on construction and component manufacturing.

Onsite, in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, the European Domestic Agency has completed the framing of the Assembly Hall and the platform for the first level of the Tokamak. There has also been progress on magnets, the neutral beam injector, remote handling, and other ITER components.

India has completed the fabrication, pre-assembly, and shipment of the initial components of the ITER cryostat, for assembly in the already completed cryostat building onsite, as well as the first cooling water piping for ITER’s chilled water and heat rejection systems.

Four 400kV transformers procured from the United States have been shipped and installed onsite, and the U.S.-procured drain tanks for the cooling water and neutral beam systems have arrived onsite.

China has completed the manufacturing and testing of the first batch of pulsed power electrical network equipment. China also has reached qualification milestones in the manufacturing of magnet feeders, correction coils, and the blanket first wall.

Japan has started the series production of the toroidal field coils. Full-tungsten prototypes of plasma-facing components for the ITER divertor have been manufactured and shipped, and required performance for ITER has been demonstrated.

Russia has fully met its obligations for delivery of superconductor cable for ITER magnets. At Russia’s Divertor Test facility, high heat flux testing is also underway for divertor plasma-facing components from Japan, Europe, and Russia. Beryllium fabrication has begun, and the gyrotron complex prototype facility has passed its acceptance tests.

In Korea, manufacturing is ongoing for the ITER vacuum vessel and thermal shield, and design milestones have been achieved for many of the purpose-built tools ITER will need for assembly.

The Council noted the completion of superconductor production, which has been a coordinated effort involving laboratories and companies of ITER Members in 12 countries.

This complex process involves the multinational harmonization of design attributes, production standards, quality assurance measures, and testing protocols.

The Council recognized “the substantial benefit this will create for all ITER Members, positively impacting the capacity for cross-border trade and innovation, not only in energy industries but also in fields such as medical imaging and transportation applications.”

If ITER is successfully completed, it will be able to claim many firsts. ITER will be the first fusion device to produce net energy. ITER will be the first fusion device to maintain fusion for long periods of time.

And ITER will be the first fusion device to test the integrated technologies, materials, and physics regimes necessary for the commercial production of fusion-based electricity.

MaxPlancktechniciann


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: Visualization of the completed ITER Tokamak courtesy of Jamison Daniel, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility, Oak Ridge National Lab, United States
Image 01: Construction is underway at the 42-hectare ITER site in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, in southern France, where building began in 2010.
Image 02: A technician at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics works inside the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator.

Nonprofit Lawyers: It’s not an Oxymoron, It’s ELAW

ELAWlawyersBy Sunny Lewis

EUGENE, Oregon, October 19, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The nonprofit Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) is the go-to organization for 300+ lawyers in more than 70 countries who act as environmental defenders.

Based in an historic house in downtown Eugene, the ELAW Secretariat helps its partners around the world gain skills and build strong organizations of their own that will work to protect the environment for years to come.

ELAW Executive Director Bern Johnson says, “Our work is better known in Jakarta or Mexico City or New Delhi than it is in Eugene.”

Since 10 lawyers started ELAW in 1989, the organization has offered the legal tools to help associates strengthen existing environmental laws, bring enforcement actions, critique proposed statutes, and replicate model laws.

These advocates rely on ELAW staff scientists to critique plans for proposed developments, develop systems to monitor environmental conditions, provide expert testimony, and recommend cleaner alternatives.

ELAW has hosted more than 100 lawyers for fellowships. They come to Eugene to gain language skills, tap legal and scientific resources, work closely with ELAW staff, and learn from U.S. efforts to protect communities and the environment.

Funded by donations from foundations and private citizens, ELAW has a budget for helping lawyers challenging injustice, who often face serious legal or other consequences for their advocacy.

 

IndiaPollutedRiver

Clearing India’s Ganges River of Industrial Polluters

For 30 years, ELAW partners in India, led by the pioneering Goldman Prize winner M.C. Mehta, have fought to clean up the Ganges River. Contamination in the Ganges far exceeds World Health Organization standards.

A case that began in 2013 when ELAW partners Rahul Choudhary and Ritwick Dutta filed a suit in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against a single polluter in the town of Simbhaoli has mushroomed into a case against some 1,000 industrial polluters along the Ganges River in five states.

Last fall, the Supreme Court gave the NGT exclusive jurisdiction to clean up the Ganges, and the NGT responded by sending teams of inspectors to investigate each polluting industry.

ELAW Staff Scientist Mark Chernaik is reviewing inspection reports and helping partners identify which polluters are violating the law and harming the Ganges.

This approach is yielding results. More than 60 industries that had been operating without wastewater pollution controls have been closed, including dozens of tanneries in the notorious Jajmau industrial district of Kanpur.

Read a report from ELAW on Cleaning up the Ganges.

 

UkraineDam

Ukraine’s Rivers Dammed to Trickles

Remote rivers in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains are among the world’s most beautiful, but ELAW advocates allege that “corrupt investors” are “installing small hydropower projects that are reducing rivers to a trickle, stranding fish.”

More than 300 small hydropower projects are proposed for the region.

ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel traveled to Verkhovyna in the Ivano-Frakivsk region in August to help Ukrainian partners protect the rivers.

Joining her were staff scientist Petro Testov and staff attorneys Marta Pankevych and Nataliia Kuts from ELAW’s partner organization, Environment-People-Law.

“What we saw was devastating,” Weiskel exclaimed. “Dams and pipes were siphoning most of the water out of rivers, leaving small fish ladders so poorly constructed that fish had no chance of survival. Sediment-filled water dumped by powerhouses compromised water quality for hundreds of meters downstream.”

The Carpathians are being destroyed, she says. “In the wake of the new roads servicing the dams and powerhouses, we saw illegal logging, fragmented landscapes, and the disruption of natural migration for many species.”

At a September 7 roundtable in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, Environment-People-Law Executive Director Olena Kravchenko called for a moratorium on small hydropower “until the government, investors, and developers can meet strict criteria to protect the viability of this watershed.”

Globally, water pollution is getting worse as the population grows.

The United Nations says 80 percent of all sewage in developing countries is discharged untreated into waterways. There is the legacy pollution of abandoned mines and drill sites, and polluting industries, such as leather and chemicals, seek to set up shop in emerging economies.

Read the UN report “Sick Waters? – The Central Role of Wastewater Management in Sustainable Development”

1478175758_6dffb8385a_b

Safeguarding Guatemala’s Clean Water

The Motagua River flows from Guatemala’s Western Highlands, gathering the waters of 29 other rivers as it runs to the Gulf of Honduras. But today it does not flow as cleanly as it has for centuries.

“Tons of domestic and industrial waste, untreated effluent, and sewage from urban and rural communities go right into the river,” says ELAW Staff Scientist Meche Lu who toured the Motagua this summer. “The neglect and level of contamination is appalling.”

In Guatemala, an ELAW staff scientist is working with the Guatemalan organization Environmental and Water Law Alliance to raise awareness about Motagua River pollution and engage citizens and government authorities in conservation

“Cleaning up the Motagua is not just about protecting nature, it’s about giving local people dignity,” says Lu.

PeruOilCommunityMeeting

De-Oiling Peruvian Rivers

Since 2002 ELAW has helped advocates in Peru protect indigenous communities and rivers of the Peruvian Amazon – the Corrientes, the Tigre, the Pastaza, and the Marañón rivers – from toxic oil industry pollution.

In the early 1970s, multinational oil companies, such as Oxy and PlusPetrol, began drilling for oil in these watersheds. Many pipelines have ruptured and the companies have released contaminated by-products into the water.

The contamination has harmed Quechuea, Achuar, and Cocama Cocamilla indigenous communities, who rely on these rivers for clean water and fish.

The contamination in the four river basins has become so severe that Peruvian authorities declared an environmental emergency in September 2013.

Lu has been helping the indigenous federations in collaboration with PUINAMUDT, an umbrella organization formally named Observatorio Petrolero de la Amazonia Norte.

She has interpreted dozens of water quality reports containing evidence of how the Corrientes, Tigre, Pastaza, and Marañón rivers have been harmed by oil and gas activities and presented this evidence at workshops with community leaders and government representatives.

In April, after lengthy debate, the Peruvian Congress set aside US$50 million to clean up contamination in these watersheds and plan to prevent and respond to future spills.

Now Lu is helping ELAW’s Peruvian partners design and implement a health and toxicology assessment of the affected communities.

ACC cement

Fuming Over Coal in Egypt’s Cement Industry

Egyptians are concerned that without citizen input their government is moving to allow multinational cement corporations to switch from clean burning gas to polluting coal-fired kilns.

The cement companies are facing lack of access to a reliable natural gas supply. The switch saves corporate dollars but threatens public health.

“Natural gas-fired cement plants do not emit any particulate matter or sulfur dioxide,” says ELAW Staff Scientist Chernaik. “By switching to coal, the plants will emit twice as much CO2 [carbon dioxide], and add particulates and SO2 [sulphur dioxide] on top.”

ELAW partners at the Habi Center for Environmental Rights say the plans by Lafarge and Suez Cement “violate the environmental rights of citizens, especially their right to health, healthy clean environment, right to information and participation.”

Habi and eight local organizations are demanding that the companies make public the environmental impacts of switching to coal.

Lafarge is experimenting with municipal waste as a fuel. There’s no access problem. Cairo produces 15,000 tons of municipal waste each day, while the El Sokhna Lafarge plant uses just 15-20 tons a day.

To ensure quality and regularity of supply, Lafarge involved the Zabbaleen, the local informal network who have sorted and resold Cairo’s recyclable waste for the past 80 years. A team of Zabbaleen people was hired and trained to collect, treat and recycle waste for Lafarge Egypt.

Meanwhile, Egypt’s Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy agreed this month to assess the environmental impact of seven out of 19 cement companies that have conducted studies to use coal as an alternative source of energy.


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: ELAW Logo
Header image: ELAW lawyers, partner advocates, scientists and staff at the 2015 ELAW Annual International Meeting, Yachats, Oregon, March 2015.  (Photo courtesy ELAW)
Image 01: Waterway in the Jajmau industrial district of Kanpur, India. (Photo by Mark Chernaik courtesy ELAW)
Image 02: One of the small hydropower dams being built in Ukraine’s Carpathian Mountains (Photo courtesy ELAW)
Image 03: Children Washing Hands at School Handwashing Station in Pahuit, Guatemala photo by Cecilia Snyder photo courtesy Flicker – Water For People/Nancy Haws
Image 05:  Egyptian cement bags courtesy PEi

 

Shipbreaking Moves Off the Beach

ShipbreakingWorkers

SEATTLE, Washington, October 14, 2015 (Maximpact News) – A protest by the environmental justice organization Basel Action Network (BAN) over an obsolete ship owned by Matson, Inc. being sent to a shipbreaker in India, prompted the shipping company to stop scrapping its vessels on the beaches of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

“Because of concerns with recycling practices in South Asia, Matson has decided to expressly prohibit recycling of its vessels in this region going forward,” the company said in a statement last month.

Founded in 1882, Matson provides ships goods Pacific-wide, mainly between the Hawaiian islands and the West Coast of North America. The company’s decision affects 23 vessels that will be scrapped over the next few years.

Shipbreaking companies in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh operate under dangerous and polluting conditions. Workers labor on tidal sands to cut ships by hand. They breathe in toxic fumes and asbestos, and fall victim to explosions and accidental crushing. And these crude practices pollute the beaches where the shipbreaking takes place.

According to the International Federation for Human Rights, children under the age of 15 make up nearly 20 percent of the shipbreaking workforce in Bangladesh. (see report here)

In September there was an accident on the notorious shipbreaking beach at Chittagong that killed four workers. Five other workers were killed in July, and over 200 deaths have been documented over the past five years.

“Ship owners today can no longer claim ignorance,” said Colby Self, the Green Ship Recycling director at BAN, which is based in Seattle. “They know very well the environmental and human health impacts of their ship recycling decisions, which for too long have been ignored to maximize profits.”

“Matson’s off-the-beach commitment reflects a level of corporate leadership which we hope will be echoed by other U.S. shipping companies,” said Self.

In fact, Matson’s decision is part of a growing awareness among shipping companies of the dangers of on-the-beach shipbreaking and a shift in values toward safer, less toxic ship recycling practices.

The Norwegian Shipowners’ Association and its 160 members recently voted not to permit Norwegian-owned ships to be scrapped on South Asian beaches.

Other large ship owners that have also adopted more responsible ship recycling policies include German Hapag-Lloyd, Danish Maersk Line, Royal Dutch Boskalis, Canadian CSL Group, and the Singaporean China Navigation Company.

dismantling on a beach in Bangladesh_

Globally, 1,026 ships were dismantled in 2014.

A total of 641 ships, or 74 percent of the total gross tonnage of dismantled ships, were scrapped in the beach shipbreaking yards of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, according to the NGO Shipbreaking Platform, based in Brussels.

Ships contain both valuable and toxic materials. Old ships are a source of valuable scrap steel for construction industries. In addition, obsolete ships contain aluminum, copper, silver and brass.

But there are toxics in the old ships too: lead; mercury; asbestos; oil sludge; polychlorinated biphenyls; biocidal anti-fouling paint such as tributyltin; bilge water containing oil, urine, detergents and solvents; and ballast water that can contain tiny animals, plants, viruses, and bacteria.

There are greener ways to dismantle ships that keep these toxics out of the environment while recycling the valuable components.

For example, the Scrap Metal Services subsidiary All Star Metals ship recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas has been operating as a licensed ship recycling, metal processing, and environmental remediation contractor since 2003. The company handles such old vessels as the USS Forrestal, the U.S. Navy’s first supercarrier, commissioned in 1955 but now ready for scrapping.

Jacob Sterling, global head of Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility at Maersk Line, the world’s largest container shipping company, is part of the growing consensus that is moving the shipping industry toward greener recycling.

Writing in the publication “gCaptain” last month, Sterling said, “The vast majority of ships are taken to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh to be scrapped on the beach. There is something quite wrong with that. People in flip flops on beaches are OK. But people on beaches wearing flip flops and no safety gear while taking apart massive cargo ships with hand tools is simply wrong.”

Sterling wrote, “NGOs argue that beaching must end now. We agree. In Maersk Line we have a policy on responsible ship recycling. Since 2006, we have recycled 23 ships responsibly, and we have sent none to the beach.”

But he says private corporations need government support to make this shift. “We really don’t think that the issue of unsafe and unsustainable beaching is well addressed by private companies alone,” Sterling wrote.

He says the real answer is global regulation that raises the legally acceptable minimum standard for ship recycling.

In 2009, the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships was adopted. Yet in 2013, only two countries have ratified it, Sterling points out.

“The Hong Kong Convention is not perfect, actually it doesn’t ban beaching, it just makes it a lot harder to scrap ships this way,” wrote Sterling. “But it is the best we have, and if it entered into force, it could be improved over time. So we need more countries to ratify the convention.”

Even before the convention enters into force, it is influencing some South Asian shipbreaking operations to dismantle ships more responsibly.

The Japan-based ship classification company Nippon Kaiji Kyokai, known as ClassNK, has just issued Statements of Compliance (SoC) to two ship recycling facilities in Gujarat, India – the R.L. Kalthia Ship Breaking Pvt. Ltd. and Priya Blue Industries Pvt. Ltd.

The SoCs verify that these two facilities are in line with the Hong Kong Convention.

Although the convention has yet to enter into force, ClassNK said in a statement September 29 that “Kalthia and Priya Blue have both carried out substantial improvements to their facilities in a bid toward safer and greener ship recycling as well as developed the Ship Recycling Facility Plans required for a competent authority’s certification” under the convention.

ScrapMetalCrane


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: Jafrabad Chittagong shipbreaking via Wikimedia Commons
Image 01: Shipbreaking workers on a beach in Bangladesh, 2011 (Photo courtesy International Maritime Organization via Flickr)
Image 02: Ships lined up for dismantling on a beach in Bangladesh, 2011 (Photo courtesy International Maritime Organization via Flickr)
Image 03: Crane dismantles an obsolete ship at the Scrap Metal Services subsidiary All Star Metals ship recycling facility in Brownsville, Texas (Photo courtesy Scrap Metal Services)