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China’s Belt & Road Risks Environmental Ruin

Crowd in Hong Kong, July 1, 2014 (Photo by doctorho) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Crowd in Hong Kong, July 1, 2014 (Photo by doctorho) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

CAIRNS, Australia, August 30, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – A global expert on infrastructure warns that China’s plan to string massive transportation and energy projects halfway around the Earth is “environmentally the riskiest venture ever undertaken.”

China's President Xi Jinping at the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre, South Africa. BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. July 26, 2018 (Photo courtesy Government of South Africa)

China’s President Xi Jinping at the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre, South Africa. BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. July 26, 2018 (Photo courtesy Government of South Africa)

China’s President Xi Jinping at the 10th BRICS Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre, South Africa. BRICS is an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. July 26, 2018 (Photo courtesy Government of South Africa)

China’s President Xi Jinping proposed the idea of a new “Silk Road Economic Belt” five years ago. Now known as the Belt and Road Initiative, the project includes the building of new roads, railway lines, and ports in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the creation of oil and gas pipelines to Russia, Kazakhstan, and Myanmar.

“China has enormous ambitions,” said lead author and Distinguished Research Professor Bill Laurance from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia. “But with that comes enormous responsibilities.”

Writing in the journal “Nature Sustainability,” Professor Laurance joined an international team urging China to undertake “rigorous strategic planning” before embarking on its Belt and Road Initiative, which is supposed to span at least 64 nations across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Pacific.

“The Belt and Road Initiative will greatly influence the future of global trade. However, it may also promote permanent environmental degradation,” wrote Laurence and his co-authors, who hail from Australia, China, Germany, Portugal, Canada, and the United States.

They called for “rigorous strategic environmental and social assessments, raising the bar for environmental protection worldwide.”

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has two parts. The economic belt is made up of six corridors that direct land-based trade to and from China with roads, railways, bridges and power plants. The second part, the maritime silk road, is a chain of seaports from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean that will facilitate ocean-going trade to and from China.

China is loaning trillions to countries that will host these projects. By mid-century, the Belt and Road Initiative could involve 7,000 infrastructure projects and US$8 trillion in investment, Laurence and his team of researchers said.

Henrique Pereira, a co-author with the Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources in Portugal, warns that the exploitation of oil and gas reserves through the BRI will mean greater reliance on fossil fuels.

“Raw materials and fossil fuels use, and increased oil and gas reserves exploitation constitute a scenario of an increasing dependency on fossil-fuel and high greenhouse gas emissions,” Pereira said.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) undertook a spatial assessment of the possible impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative on habitats.

The global conservation group warns that the initiative could impact over 1,700 critical biodiversity areas and hundreds of threatened species.

“We found BRI corridors overlap with the range of 265 threatened species including saiga antelopes, tigers and giant pandas,” said WWF.

BRI corridors also overlap with 1,739 Important Bird Areas or Key Biodiversity Areas and 46 biodiversity hotspots or Global 200 ecoregions, the conservation group reports.

In April, 27 out of 28 European Union ambassadors to China signed a report criticizing the Belt and Road Initiative. The Hungarian ambassador was the only exception.

The ambassadors’ main critique of the Initiative is that it “runs counter to the EU agenda for liberalizing trade and pushes the balance of power in favor of subsidized Chinese companies.”

But China shrugged off their concerns. The report, “does not conform to the facts,” Hua Chunying, the ministry spokesperson, told a press briefing in Beijing.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said Monday at a seminar in Beijing to mark the five-year anniversary of his signature project, that the Belt and Road Initiative is an economic cooperation proposal, not a “China club.”

President Xi said China welcomes any interest in the plan, as the BRI is not a geopolitical coalition, military alliance or exclusive circle. “We do not demarcate by ideology and do not play zero-sum games,” he stressed.

But not everyone is a critic. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Sunday that he has a positive attitude towards the Belt and Road Initiative and hopes that Malaysia will maintain a friendly and cooperative relationship with China.

The Malaysian leader made the remarks during a speech to local entrepreneurs in Beijing, during which he welcomed the investment of Chinese businesses in his Southeast Asian nation.

In 2016, President Xi called for the Belt and Road Initiative to be “green, healthy, intelligent and peaceful,” adding that participating countries should “deepen cooperation in environmental protection, intensify ecological preservation and build a green Silk Road.”

“China claims its Belt and Road will be a blueprint for responsible development, but that’s going to require it to fundamentally change the way it does business internationally,” said Professor Laurance.

“Too many Chinese firms and financiers operating overseas are poorly controlled by their government, in large part because they are so profitable,” he said.

“In the last two decades I’ve seen countless examples of aggressive and even predatory exploitation by Chinese firms, especially in developing nations with weak environmental controls.”

Distinguished Research Professor Professor Bill Laurance from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia (Photo courtesy JCU)

Distinguished Research Professor Professor Bill Laurance from James Cook University in Cairns, Australia (Photo courtesy JCU)

Professor Laurance and his co-authors say China has a unique opportunity to change its model of development and become a world leader in sustainability.

“China is doing a much better job of improving environmental safeguards inside China than internationally,” said Professor Laurance.

“It’s produced a mountain of green documents and promises about the Belt and Road, but a leopard doesn’t just change its spots overnight.”

“China has a unique opportunity,” said Laurence, “but if it’s business as usual then I think the costs for the environment and economic risks for investors could be flat-out scary.”


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EU Extends Multi-Billion Euro Support to Migrants

By Sunny Lewis

BRUSSELS, Belgium, July 17, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – While the United States attempts to limit migration through punitive action at its southern border, the European Union is taking the opposite approach to the flood of migrants from Africa and neighboring countries seeking sanctuary.

Internally displaced Nigerians at an IOM displacement camp in Bama in Borno State, Nigeria, 2017 (Photo by Julia Burpee / UN Migration Agency (IOM)) Posted for media use

Internally displaced Nigerians at an IOM displacement camp in Bama in Borno State, Nigeria, 2017 (Photo by Julia Burpee / UN Migration Agency (IOM)) Posted for media use

The EU’s External Investment Plan’s first projects in Africa and the Neighbourhood, approved July 10, aim to promote inclusive growth, job creation and sustainable development in Africa and in this way to tackle some of the root causes of “irregular” migration.

The pace of migration attempts appears to be slowing this year. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Migration Agency, reports that through July 15 this year, 50,872 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea. That total compares to 109,746 at this time last year, and 241,859 at this time in 2016.

But many people are still dying en route. The IOM reports that 1,443 migrants have died so far this year fleeing intolerable situations in their home countries.

IOM Rome’s Flavio Di Giacomo reported Monday that 447 migrants, who left aboard a wooden fishing boat July 11 from the Libyan port of Zuwara, arrived in Pozzalo, Sicily, southern Italy on Sunday. The group was rescued Saturday morning by a ship of the law enforcement agency Italian Guardia di Finanza and another from the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, Frontex.

Di Giacomo said they had to wait in the harbor over 24 hours before being authorized to disembark, although the migrants arrived in “severe” health conditions due to terrible detentions experienced in Libya’s informal detention centers.

Migrants arriving at the port of Pozzalo told IOM staff that four travelling companions died last Friday. Witnesses said all were on board the wooden fishing boat, without water or food, when they spotted another vessel, still not identified. Driven by despair, about 30 people jumped into the water trying to reach the ship, which was much too far away. Four drowned, all of Somali origin, including one 17-year-old boy.

To make life in Africa safe and bearable enough to deter such desperate migration, the EU gave its green light to a package of financial guarantee programs worth around €800 million on July 10. This is expected to leverage an estimated €8-9 billion in public and private investment in Africa and the Neighbourhood.

Add this to the €1.6 billion mobilized for blending operations – the mixing of public grants and loans – which is expected to mobilize up to €14.6 billion, and this investment translates into over €22 billion to support sustainable development and decent job creation in Africa.

Overall, the EU’s External Investment Plan (EIP), is expected to leverage €44 billion of investments by 2020 through an EU contribution worth €4.1 billion.

“This plan is about building a new present for many people and for their countries, it is about changing lives, now and for good,” said High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini of Italy.

What Will These Investments Support?

The EU has identified five areas of intervention where the External Investment Plan can have the highest impact for sustainable development. The first four are covered by the guarantee programs approved on July 10 by the Strategic Board of the European Fund for Sustainable Development.

They are:

  • financing for small businesses, including ones involved in agriculture
  • sustainable cities
  • sustainable energy and connectivity and
  • access to the internet and digital services.

The Commission will review proposals in the field of agri-business in autumn 2018.

One of the new programs will benefit people who have trouble borrowing money at affordable rates, such as internally displaced people, refugees or returnees, women and young people aged 18-30.

With €75 million EU input and managed by FMO, the Dutch development bank, the NASIRA Risk-Sharing Facility is expected to generate a total investment of €750 million to €1 billion.

Linda Broekhuizen, Chief Investment Officer at FMO, said, “The support of the EU and Dutch government for this new risk-sharing facility NASIRA is a major step forward to ensure that financing reaches the young, migrant and female entrepreneurs that are potentially great job creators in countries where employment is much needed now and in the future.”

Another new program, InclusiFI, will enable over 25,000 small businesses to access mobile accounts and long-term credit, to support the financial inclusion driven by diasporas, migrants’ families and people who have recently returned to their country of origin, in Sub-Saharan Africa and the EU Neighbourhood.

Lead InclusiFI financial institutions are the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation; Compañía Española de Financiación del Desarrollo, a joint state-private company also in Spain; and the Italian investment bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti.

A program to help offset some of the risks that local banks perceive in financing solar power will help bring solar power kits to thousands of homes in Sub-Saharan Africa. With an input of €50 million from the EU and led by the African Development Bank, this guarantee tool will support access to clean electricity to an estimated 3.5 million people in the Sahel region.

A digital transformation platform and a broadband investment program will support rural access to broadband in the EU’s southern and eastern neighboring countries, with an EU input of €70 million and managed by the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

This program is expected to bring fast broadband to up to 600,000 homes in rural areas of 17 southern and eastern neighboring countries: Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Kyrgyz Republic, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

Finally, the initiative Boosting Investment in Renewable Energy, will receive an EU input of €100 million, and will be managed by the Association of European Development Finance Institutions and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

By supporting investments in renewable energy in Sub-Saharan Africa and EU neighboring countries, this program is expected to:

  • Cut carbon emissions by an estimated two to three million tonnes per year
  • Create an additional 1.5 – 2 Gigawatts of renewable energy
  • Increase power production from renewable energy sources to 4,500-6000 GWh/year.

The EU also welcomed the first major contribution from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, of around €53 million. This is expected to attract further investment to incentivize research and innovation in e-health in less developed and fragile environments.

Mogherini said, “The EU’s External Investment Plan has already started to bring real benefits to the people in our partner countries. These guarantee programs for sustainable investment give now access to affordable loans to people who have been forced to flee their country and those who have recently returned home to rebuild their lives, to start small businesses or to have access to new technologies.”

Later this year, the European Commission is expected sign the first EIP guarantee agreements with partner financial institutions that will then use the guarantees to finance new development projects and attract more private investments.

Financial institutions should start to roll out projects in early 2019.

Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn said on July 11, “We want to see the new EU guarantees that we have announced yesterday translate into concrete, innovative and sustainable projects on the ground, making a real change for the people.”

“More prosperity in the EU’s immediate neighborhood is not only good for our European economies and businesses,” said Hahn. “It is a long-term investment in the stability and security of our partners in the neighborhood and for Europe.”

Featured Images: Displaced Somali woman wears a Little Sun solar lamp, June 2017, Ethiopia (Photo by Rikka Tupaz / UN Migration Agency (IOM)) Posted for media use


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Caption: Internally displaced Nigerians at an IOM displacement camp in Bama in Borno State, Nigeria, 2017 (Photo by Julia Burpee / UN Migration Agency (IOM)) Posted for media use

http://medialib.iom.int/galleries/176/iom-dg-swing-visits-northeast-nigeria

Photo 3: FatherAutisticBoy.jpg

Caption: Norair, an internally displaced person in the Ukranian city of Zhytomyr, holds his autistic son. “I would like to try a bakery business, to bake traditional Armenian bread,” he says. “If people get some assistance, they can manage.” 2015 (Photo by Varvara Zhluktenko / IOM) Posted for media use

http://medialib.iom.int/galleries/72/joining-hands

Sustainable Development = Happiness

Delegates at the opening session of the 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo by Kiara Worth courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Delegates at the opening session of the 2018 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo by Kiara Worth courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission.

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, July 10, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “It is literally the truth, that sustainable development is the path to happiness,” Professor Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, told this year’s meeting of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) that opened on Monday at UN Headquarters in New York.

In the days between now and July 18, the HLPF will bring together more than 1,000 government, business and civil society leaders. More than 80 ministers and vice‑ministers will be attending the Forum, as well as 2,500 no‑state actors.

They will evaluate the progress made by dozens of countries towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – unanimously adopted by the United Nations’ 193 Member States in 2015 – to determine what is and what is not working, based on UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ annual progress report.

HLPF is the official forum to review progress towards the goals, and, under the theme, “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies,” this year’s Forum focuses on six of the 17 goals: SDGs 6 (water), 7 (energy), 11 (cities), 12 (consumption and production), 15 (terrestrial ecosystems), and 17 (partnership).

The Forum meets annually under the auspices of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), including a three-day ministerial segment. It will meet once every four years at the level of Heads of State and Government under the auspices of the UN General Assembly.

During the 2018 Forum, 47 countries are sharing their experiences, including the successes, challenges and lessons learned.

“The goals are this generation’s only hope for creating peaceful, safe, fair and sustainable societies,” said Sachs. “We have to make them work, but the biggest obstacle is greed.”

Sachs told of the greed and vested interests of coal, oil and gas companies, and he called out the global food industry’s unsustainable supply chains and unhealthy products.

Citing parallel sustainable development and happiness rankings, Sachs observed that the list of the top 10 countries closest to achieving the goals mirrors a complementary ranking of the world’s happiest countries.

Sustainable development promotes wellbeing and happiness, said Sachs, while tax cuts for the rich undermine infrastructure, education and health services.

He called on rich countries and individuals to address the gap of US$200 billion in financing to achieve the SDGs, by:

  • increasing official development assistance;
  • using one percent of the wealth of the world’s 2,208 billionaires to ensure education for every child and universal health care access;
  • closing down off-shore tax regimes, and and taxing the $20 trillion held in offshore accounts in a “tax haven archipelago” designed by the United States, the United Kingdom and others.
  • taxing the five big technology monopoly companies given their use of public data;
  • taxing financial transactions;
  • establishing a global carbon tax; and
  • adopting measures to address tax evasion.

Sachs said that there are enough resources in the world for everyone to live free of poverty and it should not require a big effort on the part of large developed countries, to profoundly help those struggling in poverty.

Most important is quality education, declared Sachs, followed by universal access to health care, clean energy “without which the planet will be wrecked,” sustainable land and food, smarter cities with decent infrastructure, and proper use of digital technologies.

The aim is to ensure that every child has a future. Otherwise, he said, “we don’t have a future.”

He said Sweden is the country most on course to achieving the SDGs, and that Europe is to date “by far” the region doing the best.

The happiest countries are the ones that tax themselves the most, he said, pointing out that Swedes think it is a good thing to pay half their national income to finance quality education and healthcare.

Left, Marie Chatardová, President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), right, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General, Economic and Social Affairs, UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

Left, Marie Chatardová, President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), right, Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General, Economic and Social Affairs, UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission

The United States, on the other hand, is “all about tax cuts for rich people,” Sachs declared. “To achieve sustainable development, you have to pay for it,” he said, adding that tax cuts for the rich stifle sustainable development.

The Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Monday released the 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards Report, “Global Responsibilities: Implementing the Goals,” which tracks data on how all 193 UN member states are progressing towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year, three Nordic countries, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, top the global SDG Index ranking, yet all three still face major challenges in achieving the goals. Sweden, for instance, scores red on sustainable consumption and production as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

As the trends data show, Sweden is making progress towards achieving the goals, but it’s not on track to meet the climate SDG 13 or to make land-use and food systems sustainable (Goals 2 and 14).

Forum participants say progress has been made on achieving the goals of ending poverty and hunger, but meeting the targets by the 2030 deadline will require more effort.

“It will require policy makers’ unwavering attention, a laser-sharp focus on implementation of these goals, and a true sense of urgency,” said Liu Zhenmin of China, the UN Under-Secretary-General of Economic and Social Affairs.

“We have only 12 more years to fully realize this transformative agenda, but these goals are absolutely within our reach,” he told the conference.

Introducing the UN Secretary‑General’s report on progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals , Liu cited gains in lowering maternal and child mortality and challenges such as climate change consequences and conflict that are obstructing progress.

He pointed out that few developing countries have fully funded statistical plans and the share of official development assistance for statistics has been just 0.3 percent since 2010. Liu said “to understand accomplishments and setbacks and chart our way forward, we need reliable, timely, open and disaggregated data to inform all our actions.”

“It has been three years since world leaders committed to end poverty and hunger, to protect our planet, to foster peaceful societies, and to unleash economic, social and technological progress – and in implementing this vision they committed to reach those furthest behind,” Liu said.

For the first time in more than a decade, there are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.

According to the Secretary‑General’s report, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries.

In 2017, a record 68.5 million people around the world have been displaced by persecution, conflict and mass atrocities.

Also in 2017, the world experienced the costliest North Atlantic hurricane season on record, driving the global economic losses attributed to disasters to over $300 billion.

Yet many people are living better lives than they were a decade ago, even in regions facing the greatest development challenges, the Index shows.

The proportion of the world’s workers and their families now living below the extreme poverty line has dropped from 27 percent in 2000 to nine percent in 2017, Liu noted.

“However, drought and disasters linked to climate change, and surging conflicts in parts of the world, are hindering faster progress,” Liu warned.

ECOSOC President Marie Chatardová of the Czech Republic, who is chairing the meeting, said that achieving the goals requires more than just the “dedication and good will” of governments.

“We explored how civil society, the private sector, academia and other actors can help move the SDGs forward,” she said.

“The worst thing is not that the world is unfree, but that people have unlearned their liberty,” said Chatardová, quoting the Czech author Milan Kundera, adding that “too many people have unlearned their right to engage in policy and decision making.”

Chatardová said she expects that the Declaration, an outcome document to be adopted at the end of the Forum, will present a strong political message on the international community’s unwavering commitment to realize the aspirations of the 2030 Agenda.

Featured Image: Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Development addresses the opening session of the HLPF, holding aloft the 2018 SDG Index and Dashboards Report, “Global Responsibilities: Implementing the Goals,” which tracks data on how all 193 UN member states are progressing towards the Sustainable Development Goals. UN Headquarters, New York, July 9, 2018 (Photo by Kiara Worth courtesy Earth Negotiations Bulletin) Used with permission


MAXIMPACT_TRAINING

What Rubbish! Europe’s New Waste Rules

Tagged wheelie bins in London, England, July 16, 2017. (Photo by Tee Cee) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Tagged wheelie bins in London, England, July 16, 2017. (Photo by Tee Cee) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

STRASBOURG, France, May 1, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – The European Parliament has formally approved higher recycling targets and new measures to reduce waste across Europe.

Environment ministers from all 28 EU countries are expected to approve the agreement in the coming weeks. Their approval must be secured before the new laws can officially be transposed into national legislation within 24 months from that moment.

The Parliament’s vote comes four months after the same laws and targets were agreed by the European Commission, Parliament and EU governments.

Under the new measures, EU countries will be required to recycle at least 55 percent of their municipal waste by 2025, 60 percent by 2030 and 65 percent by 2035.

Other approved measures include a 10 percent cap on landfills by 2035, mandatory separate collection of biowaste and stricter schemes to make producers pay for the collection of key recyclables.

Recommendations include economic incentives for reuse, deposit-return schemes, food donations and the phase out of subsidies that promote waste.

In addition to the separate collection which already exists for paper and cardboard, glass, metals and plastic, new provisions for separate collection, including of bio-waste, will boost the quality of secondary raw materials and their uptake.

Hazardous household waste will have to be collected separately by 2022, biowaste by 2023 and textiles by 2025.

“After lengthy negotiations with the Council, we have succeeded in bringing home a great result that lays new foundations for sustainable European economic and social development,” said lead MEP Simona Bonafè of Italy, a member of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

“Member states will be obliged to follow clear and common measures on the life cycle of raw materials and waste disposal,” she said.

“The package, in line with the United Nations’ sustainable development objectives, also reduces food waste by 50 percent and aims for a 65 percent recycling threshold by all member states. A battle that will make the economy of the Old Continent one of the most virtuous in the world,” Bonafè added.

The new package of laws and targets is a key element of the Circular Economy Action Plan the European Commission adopted in December 2015.

Environmentalists wanted the agreement to do more, but they say now it’s time to activate the new measures.

Said Piotr Barczak, waste policy officer at the European Environmental Bureau, a coalition of more than 140 environmental groups, “Cities across Europe have already made steps forward to reduce waste and improve recycling. The new laws could have been more ambitious, but their successful implementation will help governments consolidate this progress with benefits for the people and society as a whole.”

“After years of discussions, it is now time for EU countries to walk the talk on waste reduction,” said Barczak. “These laws are necessary to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues such as pollution in our cities and environment.”

The Dublin Waste-to-Energy Plant, locally referred to as the Poolbeg Incinerator, is a waste-to-energy plant serving the Greater Dublin Area. The facility was designed to process 600,000 tonnes of waste per year and produce 60 megawatts of electricity every year, enough to heat 80,000 homes. The plant took its first delivery of waste on April 24, 2017. (Photo by William Murphy) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The Dublin Waste-to-Energy Plant, locally referred to as the Poolbeg Incinerator, is a waste-to-energy plant serving the Greater Dublin Area. The facility was designed to process 600,000 tonnes of waste per year and produce 60 megawatts of electricity every year, enough to heat 80,000 homes. The plant took its first delivery of waste on April 24, 2017. (Photo by William Murphy) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Weaker Waste Incineration Rules

A three-year process to update EU environmental standards for waste incineration plants could be about to lead to new rules that most currently operating facilities already comply with.

The latest draft even weakens some key protections compared to existing guidelines, reveals a report published April 18.

The EEB report, “A Wasted Opportunity? EU environmental standards for waste incineration plants under review” also contains a scorecard revealing the position taken by national government representatives during the drafting process.

While the Netherlands, Sweden, Austria and Belgium are commended for their efforts to raise standards, Germany, the UK, Spain, Portugal, Hungary and the Czech Republic are condemned for their efforts to weaken the new rules.

EEB technical expert Aliki Kriekouki, who has taken part in working group meetings that provided advice to those drafting the rules, said, “People in Europe expect the EU to have the world’s best environmental standards, yet after three years of work to update the rules for waste incineration, we’re stuck with a proposal that makes some progress but falls short of boosting the deployment of effective, readily available technologies that prevent or minimise harmful pollution.”

More than 80 million tons of waste is burned in Europe every year, which campaigners warn is incompatible with the aim of moving to a circular economy, where waste is prevented and products reused or recycled.

“For air pollution, maximum emissions levels have largely remained unchanged, with the levels of some critical pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and mercury being raised compared to the existing guidance. Sadly, especially for people living near these plants, it’s a clear cut case of one step forward, two steps back,” said Kriekouki.

Waste incineration plants are responsible for toxic emissions of health-harming substances including dioxins, heavy metals and particulate matter known to cause respiratory diseases, cancers, immune system damage and reproductive and developmental problems.

The EEB report calls for a tightening of levels for the emissions of key pollutants to air and water. It demands that current flexibilities be removed and that exceptions be tightened or erased. It also recommends that certain techniques be made compulsory and that the requirements to monitor harmful emissions be strengthened.

The EU sets minimum binding standards for industry as part of the Industrial Emissions Directive. Standards documents are known as BREFs. Along with industry and Member State representatives the EEB takes part in a consultation process that informs the European Commission while drafting these standards.

The current draft proposals for an updated Waste Incineration BREF to replace the last one adopted in 2006 have been under development for almost three years and will likely not need to be complied with until 2024.

This agreement further strengthens the “waste hierarchy” by placing prevention, re-use and recycling clearly above landfilling and incineration.

MEPs say managing waste in a more efficient manner is the first step towards a circular economy, where most if not all products and materials are recycled or repeatedly re-used.



How do NGOs change people’s lives? Read Joyce Mary’s heartening story

 

Hear other people’s stories…

Maximpact presents War on Want – an NGO celebrating this year its 56th anniversary of working with poor communities in Africa.

By Eithne McNulty Overseas, Officer for War On Want Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland, December 27, 2017 (WOWNI) War On Want Northern Ireland (WOWNI) is a small, independent International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) based in Belfast Northern Ireland. WOWNI implements programmes in Uganda and Malawi focusing on supporting local groups of farmers to reduce poverty and promote equitable and sustainable development through building their capacity to produce more food to feed their  families and have a surplus to take to market. Fostering entrepreneurship and building income generation are important aspect of how the organization works and special care is taken to target the most vulnerable of the poor such as orphans, women, elderly, child headed households and  people living with HIV/Aids. Care for the environment is central to WOWNI’s work ethic as is gender equality.

Joyce Mary’s story is a heartening one. It shows how a little help can go a long way when there are people as enterprising and entrepreneurial as she. And the vast majority of people in poor communities in Africa have this amazing ability to be business people in their own right. Joyce Mary talks about her “business dream coming through” with the help she got from WOWNI. She now has her chicken rearing farm! She talks too about the training she received on business development and agricultural technologies. WOWNI hears this said all the time.

Training is such a key element of the success of the projects (visit Maximpact Advisory for training services).

Joyce Mary references borrowing from her local Village Savings and Loans Scheme (VSLA) – a kind of credit union set up and managed by local people. VSLAs are a lifeline to people and form part of every intervention WOWNI designs with local people. VSLAs provide a safe savings scheme locally, they provide borrowing facilities for business set up and importantly, they become a lifeline when a ‘rainy day’ hits. Ironically, a ‘rainy day’ in the East African context more typically means drought!. This leads to failed crops as does other disasters such as floods and pest invasion like the army worms which are sweeping Sub Saharan Africa at the moment and destroying poor peoples’ livelihoods. So, the challenges are many. Fortunately, the resilience and talent Joyce Mary exudes, as do so many other of the poor, sees communities through the tough times. Ironically too, when you visit these communities what you meet is not despondency and desolation – not at all. It is always song, dance, ceremony and celebration. Always a smile and a welcome.

WOWNI has a deep belief in the capabilities and capacity of local communities in the developing world. They  know best how to respond to the needs and challenges they face; how to lift themselves out of the poverty that surrounds them. Their challenges and obstacles are manifold;  the structural nature of poverty; did you know that the developed/rich world takes more in  taxes from the developing world than it gives to it in aid?. Other major challenges include climate change, lack of resources, education, jobs, land, gender inequality. Because local people and their communities are best placed to plan and implement development projects, WOWNI  operates the ‘partnership approach’, meaning it identifies locally based Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and work through them. They become the delivery mechanism for development projects.  They invariably know what’s needed by way of planning, budgeting,  training, raw materials, tracking, monitoring and much more. They get results. WOWNI is simply the conduit between its Northern Irish  donors and its governmental donors, who generously give to the organization, and the farmers groups who, when they receive that assistance, work innovatively, imaginatively, diligently and with unbelievable resourcefulness and resoluteness.

Do you want to help War on Want or have your story to tell? Contact us at info@maximpact.com

Maximpact provides support services to public and private organizations, visit www.Maximpact.com to find out how we can help you, or contact us at info@maximpact.com

 

Latin America’s Top 100 Sustainable Companies

BrazilLightForAll

Indexed as one of the Top 100 companies in Latin America, the Spanish utility Iberdrola has brought sustainable electricity to this Brazilian family many thousands of others through its Luz para Todos (Light for All) program, a joint initiative with the Brazilian government. (Photo courtesy Iberdrola) Posted for media use

By Sunny Lewis

November 24, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – A new corporate sustainability index that assesses companies operating in Latin America and the Caribbean based on their corporate governance and environmental and social performance has just released its first listing of the Top 100 companies in the region.

IndexAmericas  is the first index of its kind established by a multilateral development bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the first to evaluate socio-economic development as a key component of sustainability.

To be updated twice a year, the index lists the 100 most sustainable global companies operating in the region as well as the top 30 multilatinas.

But the new listing must be taken with a grain of salt, as not everyone would agree with all the selections.

It includes some companies, such as the Dutch multi-national Unilever, that are recognized the world over for their sustainability efforts.

For instance, Unilever has committed to achieving zero net deforestation associated with four commodities – palm oil, soy, paper and board, and beef – no later than 2020.

Hannah Hislop of Unilever’s Global Sustainability Office, writes in a post on the company website, “Our particular focus is on palm oil where, as the world’s largest single buyer, we have the scale and influence to make a difference.”

The production of palm oil in Latin America is growing fast. Colombia, Latin America’s largest palm oil producer, has plans to increase production six-fold by 2020. Palm oil production in Ecuador has grown seven percent per year over the past decade. Peru quadrupled production between 2000 and 2013. And Guatemala, the largest palm oil exporter in Latin America, has increased the amount of land available for oil palm cultivation by 10 percent annually for the last few years, reported Aditi Sen of Oxfam in October 2016.

Unilever’s approach has three elements: transforming its supply chain, so what the company buys is “fully traceable and certified sustainable;” encouraging the whole industry, from growers and traders, to manufacturers and retailers, “to set and meet high standards;” and working with governments and other partners “to embed no-deforestation pledges into national and international policies.”

But IndexAmericas also includes in its 100 most sustainable list, companies such as the Chevron Corporation, that have come under strong criticism and legal action by local residents and environmentalists for their practices.

Residents of Eccuador’s Lago Agrio region have sought to force Chevron to pay for soil and water contamination caused from 1964 to 1992 by Texaco, which Chevron acquired in 2001. Chevron has said a 1998 agreement between Texaco and Ecuador absolved it of further liability.

The class action case was originally filed in 1993 on behalf of an estimated 30,000 rainforest villagers in federal court in New York, but in 2001 a U.S. federal judge moved it to Ecuador’s courts at Chevron’s request after the company accepted jurisdiction there.

On February 14, 2011, following an eight-year environmental trial that generated a 220,000-page record, a local court in Ecuador ordered Chevron Corporation to pay US$18.1 billion to the affected communities.

The court designated the funds to be placed in a trust account to compensate the affected communities for environmental harm resulting from the abandonment of hundreds of unlined waste pits and the dumping of billions of gallons of toxic oil waste into waterways relied on by local inhabitants for their drinking water.

The verdict, believed to be the largest environmental judgment ever from a trial court, was unanimously affirmed by an intermediate appellate court in 2012 and by Ecuador’s Supreme Court in 2013, but the latter court later reduced the award to $9.5 billion.

Chevron has refused to pay the award and vowed to fight the claimants “until hell freezes over.” Chevron claims it had been victimized by fraud in Ecuador, including the bribery of the trial judge. Ecuador’s appellate courts rejected Chevron’s fraud allegations.

The lengthy legal battle was documented in “Crude,” a 2009 documentary film.

Companies must be publicly listed to be assessed by IndexAmericas, and they must be active in the Inter-American Development Bank 26 borrowing member countries.

IndexAmericas rates firms’ environmental, social and corporate governance, or ESG, performance and “commitment to development.”

The ESG criteria is a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious investors use to screen investments. The standards apply to: how a company performs as a steward of the natural environment; how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers and the communities where it operates; and a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits and internal controls, and shareholder rights.

IndexAmericas defines “commitment to development” in the region as “advancing sustainable growth and reducing poverty and inequality,” according to a new institutional strategy affirmed by the Inter-American Development Bank in 2010 and updated in 2015.

IndexAmericas also applies a proprietary IDB methodology to analyze the development commitment of all assessed companies.

The IDB looks at how corporations handle three development challenges: social exclusion and inequality, low productivity and innovation and lack of regional economic integration.

The bank says it strives to address three cross-cutting issues that apply to all these challenges: gender equality and diversity, climate change and environmental sustainability, and institutional capacity and the rule of law.

IndexAmericas was created by the IDB and IDB Invest, the newly rebranded private-sector arm of the IDB Group, in partnership with S-Network Global Indexes and Florida International University (FIU).

“We wholly support IndexAmericas because it aligns with the College of Business’ mission and vision,” said José Aldrich, acting dean of the FIU College of Business.

The FIU College of Business will do research and education around the index. College of Business faculty, and its Capital Markets Lab, will offer regional workshops and forums designed to help companies improve their corporate sustainability performance based on the index.

“At the IDB, our close partnerships with the private sector have allowed us to witness firsthand the evolution of corporate sustainability both in the region and around the world,” commented Bernardo Guillamon, manager of the IDB Office of Outreach and Partnerships.

“IndexAmericas is a testament to the growing importance of sustainability in Latin America and the Caribbean, and both celebrates corporate champions and encourages more companies to do the right thing,” said Guillamon.

The methodology, developed by IDB/IIC, is based on 172 ESG indicators including 15 specific to the Latin America and Caribbean region.

The ESG data is powered by Thomson Reuters Global ESG Research. S-Network provided methodology verification and the ranking calculation and IndexAmericas will be recalculated and reconstituted semi-annually by S-Network with oversight by the IndexAmericas Committee.

Gregg Sgambati, head of ESG Solutions at S-Network Global Indexes, explains in an interview with “AlphaQ” that the IndexAmericas is not a financial index, published on an exchange, but step towards creating such an index.

“All involved feel it’s an obvious next step,” Sgambati said. “The driver comes from the IDB and their desire to encourage a greater amount of sustainable behavior for companies in the Latin American region, reflecting an approach towards shared value, which does good for the company but also has an impact for the region.”

The new index is based on financial information, but it reflects a ranking related to the region rather than a general world ranking.

“The index does not have any financial stock price information so it wouldn’t be used by investors at this point,” Sgambati says. “However, when you have a company that has achieved the status and recognition of a ranking, which we believe this is, then it does have some value that investors might consider.”

The aim is to encourage companies to take steps towards greater sustainability and shared value in the region.

IndexAmericas relies on more than 400 data points to evaluate the practices, standards, policies, and activities of companies with a presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, assessing them along environmental, social, and corporate governance lines.

The practice of socially responsible investing is booming as investors look for more than financial returns. According to the US SIF Foundation , as of year-end 2015, more than $1 out of every $5 under professional management in the United States – at least US$8.72 trillion – was invested according to socially responsible strategies.

“IndexAmericas recognizes the leading companies in Latin America and the Caribbean for their efforts in the field of sustainability,” the IDB said in a statement. “It is the first initiative of its kind led by the largest multilateral agency for economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean.”


2-DAY GRANT

Featured Images: Puerto Madero is a revamped dockside area in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sleek skyscrapers house multinational corporations and high-value apartments. Trails loop around several lakes at the wildlife-rich Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve. February 2011 (Photo by Alex Proimos) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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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Empowering Cities With the New Urban Agenda

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

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is it then, this New Urban Agenda?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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A Sixth Scenario for Europe: The NGO Vision

Caption: Standing in solidarity with Young Friends of the Earth Norway, to save Norway’s fjords, 2016. (Photo © Luka Tomac / Friends of the Earth Europe) Published in FOE Europe 2016 Annual Review.

Standing in solidarity with Young Friends of the Earth Norway, to save Norway’s fjords, 2016. (Photo © Luka Tomac / Friends of the Earth Europe) Published in FOE Europe 2016 Annual Review.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 27, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Non-governmental organizations across the European Union have just issued their alternative vision for the future of the EU, as the bloc moves forward without Britain, as a group of 27, rather than 28, member states.

Grounded in the principles of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and initiated by Friends of the Earth Europe and SDG Watch Europe, the NGO vision is distinct from the five Future of Europe scenarios proposed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in March.

These five scenarios are currently under consultation with member states, with the first conclusions due at the end of the year.

Intended to influence the ongoing debate on the future direction of Europe, this sixth scenario, an alternative vision of “a more democratic, just and sustainable Europe” is endorsed by 256 organizations, including labour rights, culture, development, environment, health, women’s rights, youth, and anti-discrimination groups.

Speaking for SDG Watch Europe and Friends of the Earth Europe, Leida Rijnhout said, “The five scenarios for the future of Europe put forward by President Juncker are all deeply disappointing and have little connection to the challenges that the European Union faces. Instead we need a bold vision – an alternative sixth scenario – that puts social and environmental wellbeing at the core.

“The implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development should be absolutely key for a future that serves people and the planet, not vested interests,” Rijnhout said.

The NGO vision states, “In a scenario where sustainability sits firmly at the heart of the European project,the EU27 will prioritise the interests of citizens, in the EU and beyond. Europe will have a strong focus on Europe’s core social values

– democracy and participation, social justice, solidarity and sustainability, respect for the rule of law and human rights, both within Europe and around the globe.”

The NGO vision statement turns the spotlight on economic, social and environmental wellbeing as the three forms of wellness that EU citizens are seeking.

The NGOs are seeking, “Economic wellbeing in the form of prosperity for all, starting with redistribution of wealth.”

They want, “Social wellbeing in the provision of quality, inclusive and affordable public services, the promotion of cultural diversity and a caring society.”

And the vision statement emphasizes, “Environmental wellbeing residing in a healthy natural environment that sustains all life on Earth and protects our soils, waters and air, provides nutritious, healthy food and where climate change is minimized.”

The NGOs released their vision statement through the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the largest network of environmental citizens’ organizations in Europe. The EEB stands for a more sustainable future.

“As a result of this focus,” said the EEB in a statement, the EU27 will ensure a better health and quality of life for its citizens. This will increase public trust in European institutions. It will move away from the current focus where commercial and corporate interests are all too often prioritized over the public interest. Decisions are made in the public interest and transparent, accountable and inclusive institutions will be the norm.”

Releasing his White Paper on the five scenarios in March, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recalled the founding of the EU 60 years ago, “with the force of the law rather than with armed forces.”

“As we mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome, it is time for a united Europe of 27 to shape a vision for its future. It’s time for leadership, unity and common resolve.

President Juncker said, “The Commission’s White Paper presents a series of different paths this united EU at 27 could choose to follow. It is the start of the process, not the end, and I hope that now an honest and wide-ranging debate will take place. The form will then follow the function. We have Europe’s future in our own hands.”

The Commission’s five scenarios each offer a glimpse into the potential state of the Union by 2025 depending on the choices Europe will make. “They are neither mutually exclusive, nor exhaustive,” the Commission said.

They are:

Scenario 1: Carrying On – The EU27 focuses on delivering its positive reform agenda in the spirit of the Commission’s New Start for Europe from 2014 and of the Bratislava Declaration agreed by all 27 Member States in 2016.

Scenario 2: Nothing but the Single Market – The EU27 is gradually re-centred on the single market as the 27 Member States are not able to find common ground on an increasing number of policy areas. By 2025 this could mean crossing borders for business or tourism becomes difficult. Finding a job abroad is harder and the transfer of pension rights to another country not guaranteed.

Scenario 3: Those Who Want More Do More – The EU27 proceeds as today but allows willing Member States to do more together in specific areas such as defence, internal security or social matters. One or several “coalitions of the willing” emerge.

Scenario 4: Doing Less More Efficiently – The EU27 focuses on delivering more and faster in selected policy areas, while doing less where it is perceived not to have an added value. Attention and limited resources are focused on selected policy areas.

Scenario 5: Doing Much More Together – Member States decide to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board. Decisions are agreed faster at European level and rapidly enforced. By 2025 this could mean connected cars drive seamlessly across Europe as clear EU-wide rules exist.

But Petr Hlobil, director of the non-governmental CEE Bankwatch Network, reacted to the five scenarios by saying, “There is a crisis of imagination in Brussels.”

“Reforming the EU Budget holds part of the key to unlocking a progressive and inspiring new vision for Europe. Innovating in how we involve citizens and civil society in EU spending to build flourishing, sustainable futures, and designing EU finance to create more equal societies through this great transition to sustainable well-being, hold the highest potential to reconnect people with the European project,” Hlobil said.

In advance of the June 28 release by the European Commission of a reflection paper on the future of Europe’s finances, a growing movement of civil society across Europe has launched its own call for a reformed EU budget that unlocks a positive, people-centered and sustainable future for a new Europe.

The People’s Budget campaign calls for a rethink of the EU budget to guide a sixth scenario for Europe, and demands that citizens and civil society be allowed into the Future of Europe debate, which is currently happening behind closed doors.

According to the NGOs’ vision statement, by 2025, the sixth scenario would mean:

Delivering the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the principles and Sustainable Development Goals: leaving no one behind, living within Europe’s fair share of our planetary boundaries, and putting respect for human rights at the core of EU and national policy-making.

The full implementation of the Paris Agreement by decarbonising our economy, enhancing energy efficiency and accelerating the just and sustainable transition to clean and affordable renewable energy, based on the principles of climate justice, in order to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

The idea of Better Regulation implies that all EU policies, laws and regulations are focused on ensuring policy coherence for sustainable development and on enforcement of high standards for jobs, health, safety and the environment, delivering tangible benefits to all citizens and the regeneration of environmental capital.

Policy coherence as a key objective will result in an end to negative externalities of domestic policies for the Global South and the phasing out of perverse public subsidies, especially for unsustainable food production and fossil fuels.

Jan Willem Goudriaan, general secretary of the European Public Service Union, said, “Public services and decent work are key ingredients for a fairer, more cohesive and sustainable Europe. Everyone benefits from investment in, for example, high quality public healthcare, social services, education, and environmental services.”


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Featured Image: The light at the end of a road in the Forêt de Soignes, Brussels, Belgium (Photo by Vincent Brassinne) Creative Commons license via Flickr.

Mayday: All Hands on Deck for Oceans

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Transforming Africa

TanzaniaChildren

Children in Tanzania wait for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Photo by Derek Hansen) Creative Commons license via Flickr

 By Sunny Lewis

BADEN BADEN, Germany, March 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Following a meeting with G20 finance ministers and central bank governors on Sunday in Baden Baden, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim announced a record US$57 billion in financing for Sub-Saharan African countries over the next three years.

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President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim of the United States (Photo by Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Kim said the fresh infusion of funds will scale up investments and de-risk private sector participation for accelerated growth and development across Sub-Saharan Africa .

This represents an unprecedented opportunity to change the development trajectory of the countries in the region,” he said.

With this commitment,” he said, “we will work with our clients to substantially expand programs in education, basic health services, clean water and sanitation, agriculture, business climate, infrastructure, and institutional reform.

Kim then left to visit Rwanda in the central Sub-Saharan region and Tanzania in the east to emphasize the Bank Group’s support for the entire region.

With a population of just over one billion people, Sub-Saharan Africa is defined as those African countries situated south of the Sahara Desert.

Economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remains strong,” the World Bank stated three years ago, in March 2014. “Almost a third of countries in the region are growing at six percent.

But income inequality is extreme in the Sub-Saharan region. Some of these countries, such as Nigeria and South Africa, are rich in oil or mineral wealth, but many others are desperately poor.

First Priorities: Food and Water

Earlier this month, the World Bank president issued a warning on the “devastating levels of food insecurity” in sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen. “Famine is a stain on our collective conscience,” Kim said. “Millions of lives are at risk and more will die if we do not act quickly and decisively.

We at the World Bank Group stand in solidarity with the people now threatened by famine,” Kim said March 8. “We are mobilizing an immediate response for Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen. Our first priority is to work with partners to make sure that families have access to food and water.

Much of the newly announced financing, $45 billion, will come from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries.

In December, development partners agreed to a record $75 billion for IDA, based on an innovative move to blend donor contributions to IDA with World Bank Group internal resources, and with funds raised through capital markets.

The IDA financing for Africa is targeted to addressing roadblocks that prevent the region from reaching its potential. The scaled-up IDA financing will build on a portfolio of 448 ongoing projects across the continent.

A $1.6 billion financing package is being developed to tackle the impending threat of famine in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Expected IDA outcomes include essential health and nutrition services for up to 400 million people, access to improved water sources for up to 45 million, and 5 GW of renewable energy generating capacity.

Next: Building Resilience

In support of countries’ own development priorities, the scaled-up investments will focus on tackling conflict, fragility, and violence; building resilience to crises including forced displacement, climate change, and pandemics; and reducing gender inequality.

The new financing for Sub-Saharan Africa will include an estimated $8 billion in private sector investments from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a private sector arm of the World Bank Group.

IFC will deepen its engagement in fragile and conflict-affected states and increase climate-related investments.

In addition, there will be $4 billion in financing from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), its non-concessional public sector arm.

IBRD priorities will include health, education, and infrastructure projects such as expanding water distribution and access to power.

Efforts will also promote governance and institution building, as well as jobs and economic transformation.

This financing will help African countries continue to grow, create opportunities for their citizens, and build resilience to shocks and crises,” Kim said.

While much of the estimated $45 billion in IDA financing will be dedicated to country-specific programs, Kim says significant amounts will be available through special “windows” to finance regional initiatives and transformative projects, support refugees and their host communities, and help countries in the aftermath of crises.

This will be complemented by a newly established Private Sector Window, especially important in Africa, where many sound investments go untapped due to lack of capital and perceived risks.

The Private Sector Window will supplement existing instruments to spur sound investments through de-risking, blended finance, and local currency lending.

The priorities for private sector investment will include infrastructure, financial markets, and agribusiness.

Powering Africa, Both On and Off the Grid

In the western sub-Saharan African country of Côte d’Ivoire last week, former UN Secretary-General

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. Born in Ghana, was the first UN Secretary-General from Sub-Saharan Africa. Annan now heads the Africa Progress Panel, and serves as chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation and chair of The Elders. (Photo courtesy Africa Progress Panel) Posted for media use

Kofi Annan issued a new report, “Lights Power Action: Electrifying Africa” that calls for investment in quickly solving Africa’s energy crisis.

Speaking March 13 at African Development Bank headquarters in Abidjan, Annan said, “Achieving universal access to modern energy is critical to Africa’s transformation.”

Nearly two-thirds of Africans – 620 million people – still do not have access to ‘affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern electricity,‘” said Annan, the energy goal that is central to Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

The core message of “Lights Power Action” emphasizes that grid-connected mega projects such as large dams and power pools are essential to scale up national and regional energy generation and transmission, but they are slow and expensive.

Through the report, Annan is urging governments to increase investment in off-grid and mini-grid solutions, which are cheaper and quicker to install.

What we are advocating is for African governments to harness every available option, in as cost-effective and technologically efficient a manner as possible, so that everyone is included and no one is left behind” said Annan, who chairs the Africa Progress Panel that wrote the report.

Of the 315 million people who will gain access to electricity in Africa’s rural areas by 2040, it is estimated that only 30 percent will be connected to national grids. Most will be powered by off-grid household or mini-grid systems.

Annan told the audience in Abidjan, “As well as leading the way in promoting wider use of off-grid and mini-grid technology, African governments must continue to work hard to transform national energy grids that are often unreliable and financially fragile.

Many energy utilities are mismanaged and inefficient. A lack of accountability and transparency in their governance also nurtures corruption,” he warned.

Electricity theft at staggering scale is often the result of this malpractice; rolling black-outs are the result of mismanagement,” said Annan. “All continue to feed a deep sense of frustration among citizens.”

It’s not just energy mismanagement, Annan explained. “Poor energy governance reflects the wider governance deficit that threatens to derail development efforts in a number of countries.

Governments need to intensify their efforts to put in place regulatory environments that give the energy sector incentives to deliver on its transformative potential,” he said.

Africa’s leadership, in both public and private sectors, need to “champion the energy for all agenda,” Annan urged.

The private sector, African and non-African,” said the former secretary-general, “should be encouraged to enter energy generation, transmission and distribution markets, deepen linkages throughout the value chain, and build the investment partnerships that can drive growth and create jobs.

He is not saying countries should immediately stop using fossil fuels and switch to renewables. The cost of transitioning to renewables may be prohibitively high in the short term, especially for countries that use their sizable endowments of coal and other fossil fuels to generate energy.

The report advocates that African governments harness every available energy option, so that no one is left behind. Said Annan, “Each country needs to decide on the most cost-effective, technologically efficient energy mix that works best for its own needs.

As widespread adoption of mobile phone technology has already helped Africa leapfrog over conventional technology and improve financial and social inclusion, Annan predicts that “innovation will bring millions of Africans into the energy loop,” setting the stage for improved quality of life.

The ultimate goal should be to interlink Africa’s numerous and fragmented power initiatives to create a single pan-African power grid,” he said in Abidjan.

We know what is needed to reduce and ultimately eliminate Africa’s energy deficit,” declared Annan. “Now we must focus on implementation. The time for excuses is over. It’s time for action.


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Our Drying Planet

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An aerial view of the Tigris River as it flows through Baghdad, Iraq, population 8.76 million, the second largest city in the Arab world, July 31, 2016. (U.S. Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro) Public domain

By Sunny Lewis

ROME, Italy, March 16, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – The world faces an acute water crisis within a decade that will affect food supplies, megacities and industry globally, warns Australian science writer Julian Cribb, author of the new book “Surviving the 21st Century.

The water crisis is sneaking up on humanity unawares. People turn on the tap and assume clean, safe water will always flow. But the reality is that supplies are already critical for 4.2 billion people – over half the world’s population,” says Cribb. “During times of drought, megacities like Sao Paulo, La Paz, Los Angeles, Santiago, 32 Indian cities and 400 Chinese cities are now at risk.

World water use is already more than 10 trillion tonnes a year. While the human population has tripled since 1950, our water use has grown six-fold,” says Cribb.

In his book, Cribb cites some disturbing facts:
  • Groundwater is running out in practically every country in the world where it is used to grow food, posing risks to food security in northern India, northern China, Central Asia, the central and western United States, and the Middle East. Most of this groundwater will take thousands of years to replenish.
  • The icepack on high mountain chains is shrinking, emptying the rivers it once fed in practically every continent.
  • Around the world, large lakes are drying up, especially in Central Asia, China, sub-Saharan Africa and the South American Andes.
  • Most of the world’s large rivers are polluted with chemicals, nutrients and sediment.
  • 50,000 dams break up the world’s major rivers, sparking increased disputes over water between neighboring countries.

Pope Francis has warned that humanity could be moving toward a “world war over water.”

Addressing an international seminar on the human right to water hosted in February by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pope said, “It is painful to see when in the legislation of a country or a group of countries, water is not considered a human right. It is even more painful when it is removed from legislation and this human right is denied. I ask myself if in the midst of this third World War happening in pieces, are we on the way to a larger world war over water?

Each of the last three UN secretaries-general – Ban Ki-Moon, Kofi Annan and Boutros Boutros-Ghali – has warned of the dangers of world water scarcity and of future water wars.

To counter this danger, José Graziano da Silva, who heads the Rome-based UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, is focusing on the cradle of civilization, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, and the entire Gulf region, as one of the areas most exposed to the risks posed by climate change, particularly water scarcity.

In an opinion article written in January, Graziano da Silva cited research by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as the authority for his warning, “The Gulf region is poised to experience a significant uptick in the frequency of consecutive dry days…

If we fail to keep average global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius, the region often known as the cradle of human civilization will increasingly face extreme heat waves of the kind that disable the human body’s ability to cool itself,” the FAO leader wrote.

He says avoiding that fate is within our means, but requires that governments muster the will to “increase food output by around 50 percent by 2050,” and we have to do that, he says, “without depleting strained natural resources beyond the tipping point.

Of course, food production requires plenty of water.

In the Gulf region particularly, says Graziano da Silva, no government can accomplish this alone. The region imports about half of all its wheat, barley and maize, and 60 percent of the region’s fresh water flows across national boundaries.

Graziano da Silva draws his hope for the future from the Near East and North Africa’s Water Scarcity Initiative , a partnership for water reform in the Gulf region.

This network of partners, which includes over 30 regional and international organizations, is working to provide member countries with opportunities to learn and share practices in the sustainable use and management of water.

Water scarcity in the Near East and North Africa region is already severe.

Fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world. They have fallen by two-thirds during last 40 years and are expected to drop at least more 50 percent by 2050.

Ninety percent of the region’s land lies within arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, while 45 percent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, according to the FAO.

At the same time, agriculture in the region uses roughly 85 percent of the available freshwater.

The Initiative is attempting to bring scientific tools to bear on these grim facts. Water accounting, food-supply cost curve, gap-analysis and regular monitoring of agricultural water productivity are some of the advanced tools that the Initiative will use to quantify the benefits and costs of alternative policy options to address food insecurity while sustaining water resources.

Data collection, management and analysis are the backbone of the Initiative that will support the strategic planning for water resources and provide evidence for policy formulation.

Making use of the expertise developed by FAO and its partners, the Initiative will advise governments and the private sector on the adoption of modern technologies and institutional solutions to increase the efficiency and productivity of water use in agriculture for the benefit of millions of farmers and rural communities in the region.

Options to save water all along the food value chain will be shared with the private sector, while governments will be encouraged to promote incentive frameworks that reposition farmers at the center of the sustainable management of land and water resources.

The Initiative will support the ongoing major policy processes in the region, including the Arab Water Security Strategy 2010-2030 and the Regional Initiative for the Assessment of Climate Change Impacts on Water Resources and Socio-Economic Vulnerability in the Arab Region.

FAO’s work in the region ranges from emergency efforts in response to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen to running Farmer Field Schools in Egypt and helping the United Arab Emirates develop their first national agricultural policy.

The UAE is planning to roll out water meters on farms, while at the same time introducing smart subsidies targeting those who consume less water than average.

Benefits range from better diagnostic data on actual water use and incentives to actual conservation practices to allocating the savings to farmers who can invest in their businesses for even more efficiency.

That climate change poses such threats to an area known as the cradle of civilization underscores the need for urgent action to put agriculture at the center of the sustainability agenda,” says Graziano da Silva.

World Water Day, on March 22 every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water.

This year’s theme: Why waste water? is in support of Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

And now it’s not just a day, or just a week, like the prestigious annual World Water Week in Stockholm in September, but the United Nations has designated another decade to mobilize for water conservation and sustainable use.

The UN Water for Life Decade 2005-2015  a knowledge hub, a best practices program, encouraged communications regarding water and integrated into its work the accomplishments of the UN-Water technical advisory unit.

In December 2016, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution “International Decade (2018–2028) for Action – Water for Sustainable Development” to help put a greater focus on water during 10 years.

Emphasizing that water is critical for sustainable development and the eradication of poverty and hunger, UN Member States expressed deep concern over the lack of access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene as well as concern over water-related disasters, scarcity and pollution worsened by urbanization, population growth, desertification, drought and climate change.

The new Decade will focus on the sustainable development and integrated management of water resources for the achievement of social, economic and environmental objectives.

To set the agenda in motion, UN-Water, in its 26th meeting in Geneva in February, decided on the establishment of a Task Force to facilitate its support to the planning and organization of the International Decade for Action – Water for Sustainable Development.

The Decade will commence on World Water Day March 22, 2018, and end on World Water Day, March 22, 2028. It could be the last decade that humanity can use to avert the predicted water crisis.


Featured Image: Mullah Neoka and his sons are wheat farmers in Afghanistan’s Herat province, once the bread basket of central Asia before land mines made farming impossible. HALO Trust, a UK-supported project to clear land mines has restored the land for agriculture. 2011. (Photo by Catherine Belfield-Haines / UK Department for International Development) Creative Commons license via Flickr

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Positive Impact Finance Stands on Principles

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A crowd waits for a Bank of Africa branch to open in Madagascar, Oct 1, 2014 (Photo by Bruce Thomson) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

PARIS, France, February 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – Nineteen global banks and investors, worth a total of US$6.6 trillion in assets, have agreed on a set of standards for financing sustainable development framed as the first-ever Principles for Positive Impact Finance.

On the last Monday in January, the set of four unpublished Positive Impact Principles was launched to provide a global framework for financiers and investors to analyze, monitor and disclose the social, environmental and economic impacts of the financial products and services they deliver.

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance are a direct response to the challenge of financing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals . Adopted by the world’s governments in 2015 to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all, each of the 17 SDGs has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years.

The principles are intended to provide a global framework for impact financing that applies across different business lines, including retail and wholesale lending, corporate and investment lending, and asset management.

Principle One: Definition

This principle is simple, “It’s a good idea to make a donation.

Eric Usher, director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP-FI) looks at what it will cost to make the SDGs a reality. “Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals – the Global Program of Action to End the Poverty, fight climate change and protect the environment – should cost between $5 and $7 billion a year by 2030,” he said.

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance will change the situation,” said Usher. “They will allow us to direct hundreds of billions of dollars managed by banks and investors towards clean low-carbon emissions, benefiting everyone.

The scope here is broad; this first principle covers loans of all kinds – corporate, retail, municipal, sovereign, inter-bank, project-related; bonds; equity; notes and credit-linked notes.

In all these cases the positive impact of the financial activity should be defined.

Principle Two: Frameworks

Entities, whether financial or non-financial, need adequate processes, methodologies, and tools to identify and monitor the positive impact of the activities, projects, programs, and/or entities to be financed or invested in. They should implement specific processes, criteria and methodologies to identify positive impact.

The Principles do not prescribe which methodologies and key performance indicators to use to identify, analyze and verify positive impact, instead they require that there be transparency and disclosure.

Principle Three: Transparency

Entities, financial or non-financial providing Positive Impact Finance should provide transparency and disclosure on the activities, projects, programs, and/or entities financed.

The intended use of funds released via financial instruments and their positive contribution should be clearly marked on the corresponding documentation.

Methodologies, key performance indicators and achieved impacts should be identified and disclosed.

Principle Four: Assessment

The assessment of positive impact should be based on the actual impacts achieved, this principle states. The assessment can be internally processed, or undertaken by qualified third parties such as audit research institutes and rating agencies.

The principles require a holistic appraisal of positive and negative impacts on economic development, human well-being and the environment, this is what makes them innovative.

These principles are timely from the financial sector. They demonstrate the willingness of the financial resources to go beyond current practices and contribute to more sustainable development,” affirmed the French Minister of Economy and Finance Michel Sapin. “These principles should strengthen the cooperation between public and private actors in this field.

The principles were developed by the Positive Impact Working Group, a group of UN Environment Finance Initiative banking and investment members, as part of the implementation of the roadmap outlined in the Positive Impact Manifesto released in October 2015.

The Manifesto calls for a new, impact-based financing paradigm to bridge the gap in financing for sustainable development.

As of January 1, 2017, the Positive Impact initiative is made up of the following members of the United Nations Environment Programme’s Finance Initiative: Australian Ethical, Banco Itaú, BNP Paribas, BMCE Bank of Africa, Caisse des Dépôts Group, Desjardins Group, First Rand, Hermes Investment Management, ING, Mirova, NedBank, Pax World, Piraeus Bank, SEB, Société Générale, Standard Bank, Triodos Bank, Westpac and YES Bank.

Séverin Cabannes, deputy CEO of Société Générale, a founding member of the group, says there is urgency pushing this initiative along – the urgency of confronting what’s happening to the planet.

With global challenges such as climate change, population growth and resource scarcity accelerating, there is an increased urgency for the finance sector both to adapt and to help bring about the necessary changes in our economic and business models,” said Cabannes.

The Principles for Positive Impact Finance provide an ambitious yet practical framework by which we can take the broader angle view we need to meet the deeply complex and interconnected challenges of our time,” he said.

Gérard Mestrallet, chairman of Paris EUROPLACE and chairman of the Board of the French multinational electric utility company ENGIE, views the principles as another tool in his problem-solving toolbox.

They are “the tool that is needed to enable the business and finance community to work and innovate together, and to address the challenge of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.

The financial sector has already moved forward in that direction,” said Mestrallet, “and we hope that the principles as well as the Paris Green and Sustainable Finance Initiative we launched last year will help marking a new stage.”

The UNEP-FI is a partnership between UN Environment and the global financial sector created after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro with a mission to promote sustainable finance.

Over 200 financial institutions, including banks, insurers and fund managers, work with UN Environment to understand today’s environmental challenges, why they matter to finance, and how to actively participate in addressing them.

The need to align capital markets to a two degree world is urgent and necessary,” said Fiona Reynolds, managing director of the Principles for Responsible Investment. “The UN Environment Finance Initiative Principles for Positive Impact Finance are an important tool for investors to frame their positive contribution to the environment, the society and the economy.”


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167 Nations Adopt New Urban Agenda

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Financing Sustainable Development: a ‘Quiet Revolution’ Underway

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By Sunny Lewis

LIMA, Peru, October 13, 2015 (ENS) – The world’s leading development banks Friday pledged to boost climate finance by committing $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to a warming planet.

At the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Annual meetings held in Lima October 9-11, bankers explored exactly what financial support is required to keep the planet from tipping into climate catastrophe.

In Lima, they were offered the results of a two-year-long inquiry conducted by the UN Environment Programme summarized in a new report, “The Financial System We Need.”

The UNEP Inquiry  found that “a quiet revolution” is happening right now.

World Bank Vice President and Special Climate Envoy Rachel Kyte called the changes “a new generation of policy innovations that aim to ensure the financial system serves the needs of inclusive, environmentally-sustainable, economic development.”

Financial policymakers and regulators are now integrating sustainable development into financial systems to make them respond to a 21st century facing rising temperatures and a burgeoning population in need of clean energy and clean water.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “UNEP’s Inquiry has for the first time compiled and analyzed inspiring initiatives from across the world that seek to better align the financial system with sustainable development, showing that there is much to be learnt from the developing world.”

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Image: UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner (Photo courtesy UN Environment Programme)

The inquiry documented an upwelling of sustainable development momentum driven by developing and emerging nations including Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Kenya, and Peru, championed by France and the United Kingdom.

The UNEP Inquiry reports that, “Amplifying these experiences through national and international action could channel private capital to finance the transition to an inclusive, green economy and support the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals.”

These 17 goals , adopted by the UN General Assembly in September, range from ending poverty and hunger, ensuring clean water and sanitation for all, urgent action to control climate change, and responsible use of forests and oceans, to making cities safe and resilient, and ensuring gender quality and justice across the world.

The UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System was established in January 2014 with a mandate to advance policy options linking the financial system with sustainable development.

Backed by a high-level Advisory Council of financial leaders, the Inquiry has looked in-depth at practice in more than 15 countries related to banking, bond and equity markets, institutional investment, insurance and monetary policy.

To reach its findings, the Inquiry worked with central banks, environment ministries and international financial institutions as well as major banks, stock exchanges, pension funds and insurance companies.

The Inquiry’s report presents a Framework for Action with a toolbox of 40 different measures, a set of five policy packages for banking, bond and equity markets, institutional investors and insurance, and a set of 10 next steps to promote international financial cooperation.

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Murilo Portugal, the president of Brazil’s banking association, FEBRABAN, and a member of the Inquiry’s Advisory Council, said Friday, “The Inquiry has catalyzed awareness of the need to align financial markets to sustainable development, and highlighted practical pathways to improving such an alignment.”

FEBRABAN offers three key insights based on the UNEP report:

  • Financing for sustainable development can be delivered through measures focused on the financial system, as well as the real economy.
  • A growing number of policy innovations have been introduced by both developing and developed countries, demonstrating how the financial system can be better aligned with sustainable development.
  • Systematic national action can now be taken to shape a sustainable financial system, informed by current trends and complemented by international cooperation.

Bankers and financiers in many countries are already moving towards sustainable development. The UNEP Inquiry found over 100 measures that are already in place, including:

  • In Peru, new due diligence requirements have been introduced for banks to help reduce social and environmental externalities.
  • In China, a portfolio of 14 distinct recommendations advances China’s green financial system, covering information, legal, institutional and fiscal measures.
  • Kenya has advanced financial inclusion through scaling of mobile-based payment services and is now also supporting green financing.
  • In France, new disclosure requirements on climate change have been introduced for institutional investors as part of the country’s energy transition legislation.
  • The United States is emphasizing fiscal measures to accelerate green finance and has made advances in disclosure and investor action.

Naina Kidwai, chairman of India’s branch of British banking and financial services company HSBC and director, HSBC Asia Pacific, is a member of the Inquiry’s Advisory Council.

Kidwai found the UNEP report useful, saying, “Too often the financial system and sustainable development have been tackled in separate silos. The Inquiry has shown for the first time how to systematically connect the dots, demonstrating practical ways in which we can mobilize the scale of capital needed in emerging markets, particularly for clean energy and clean water.”

Speaking in Lima, Yi Gang, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said the UNEP Inquiry report “delivers a vision of embedding sustainable development into the core of financial and capital markets.”

“It should be a very useful guide and reference for many governments, financial institutions and international organizations in thinking about how to advance green finance,” said Yi.

The core definition of sustainable development is, “Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

It was first defined in the 1987 publication “Our Common Future,” by the UN World Commission on Environment and Development, also known as the Brundtland Report after former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, who chaired the commission.

Brundtland saw that the many crises facing the planet are interlocking elements of a single crisis of the whole and saw the need for the active participation of all sectors of society in sustainable development consultations and decisions.

These elements stand forth again nearly 30 years later in the UNEP Inquiry report presented to the World Bank and IMF fall meeting in Lima.

Dr. Atiur Rahman, governor of the Bangladesh Bank, and a member of the UNEP Inquiry’s Advisory Council, said in Lima, “For the first time, the Inquiry has mapped the many innovations around the world seeking to ensure that the financial system serves its purpose of financing inclusive, green development.”


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

Featured image: Bank governors and finance ministers pose for a photograph at the IMFC meeting October 9, 2015 during the 2015 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru. (Photo by Stephen Jaffe courtesy IMF)
Header Image: World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim briefs the media at the IMF-World Bank Group Fall meeting in Lima, Peru, October 8, 2015 (Photo courtesy World Bank Group)
Image 03: International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde briefs the press at the 2015 IMF/World Bank Annual Meetings in Lima, Peru, Oct. 8, 2015. (Photo by Stephen Jaffe courtesy IMF)

Aligning Institutional Investment With Sustainable Development

By Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, September 22, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The largest public pension fund in the United States, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), with upwards of US$300 billion in assets, takes sustainability seriously.

Just days ahead of a United Nations summit in New York that will adopt new Sustainable Development Goals to guide international efforts through 2030, CalPERS has joined the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in issuing a report that calls on regulators to build a new culture of sustainable investing.

Entitled “Financial Reform, Institutional Investors and Sustainable Development: A review of current policy initiatives and proposals for further progress,” the report calls for proactive policies putting sustainability at the core of new institutional investment frameworks.

Henry Jones, who chairs the CalPERS Investment Committee, said, “At CalPERS we have no doubt that our focus on sustainability is entirely consistent with our fiduciary duty – indeed it is an essential part of it.”

JonesHenryHenry Jones heads CalPERS Investment Committee (Photo courtesy CalPERS)

“Where doubts on this score remain, they must be dispelled,” Jones said. “And we need institutions that have the knowledge, the skills and the ways of working that are required to embed sustainability in their investments – to manage the risks it brings, and to capitalize upon the opportunities it offers.”

In his forward to the report, Jones writes, “Of all the sustainability challenges we face, climate change is one of the most pressing.”

“This report is being published just a few weeks before the Paris Climate Change Conference. At CalPERS, we earnestly hope the world’s governments will reach an ambitious global agreement to address climate change. Bold action is needed in particular to introduce stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing, and to strengthen regulatory support for clean energy. This will enable us, as investors, to manage the risks and take the opportunities that climate change brings. We hope every country will reflect on how it can best address these challenges,” Jones wrote.

The report’s author, Rob Lake, is a UK-based independent responsible investment advisor and expert, working with asset owners.

With an estimated annual financing gap of up to US$7 trillion a year in infrastructure investments alone, the global financial system, worth more than US$300 trillion, has a potential to transform the international economic landscape to better serve the needs of humanity, Lake’s report concludes.

The report had its genesis in the Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System initiated by UNEP in January 2014 to advance policy options that could improve the financial system’s effectiveness in mobilizing capital towards a green and inclusive economy.

Nick Robins, who serves as co-director of UNEP Inquiry, said, “A package of measures is needed to deliver the full sustainability potential of institutional investors. Disclosure is important, but without effective governance frameworks and incentives, this will not drive sufficient change.”

The report shows that policy intervention has evolved from focusing on disclosure obligations and statements about investors’ core legal duties to a “second generation” approach that addresses the synergy between sustainability and other policy objectives.

CalPERSbuildingSolar panels on the roof of CalPERS’ Sacramento, California headquarters generate some of the electricity that powers the building. (Photo courtesy CalPERS) – Building for the Future, Protecting the Environment.

Seven critical policy objectives that hold the strongest potential for positive change are explored in the report together with 14 policy tools to achieve them.

The seven policy objectives are:

  1.  Aligning Institutional Investment System Design with Sustainability
  2.  Removing Policy Barriers
  3.  Stimulating Demand for Investment that Integrates Sustainability
  4.  Strengthening Asset Owner Governance and Capabilities
  5.  Lengthening Investment Horizons
  6.  Aligning Incentives along the Investment Chain
  7.  Ensuring Investor Accountability

The 14 policy tools are:

  1.  The Design of Pension Systems Investment
  2.  Performance Measurement
  3.  The Legal Duties of Investment Institutions
  4.  The Legal Duties of the Directors of Risk-Taking Financial Institutions
  5.  Solvency and Risk Regulations
  6.  Prudential Regulation
  7.  Investor Disclosure Rules
  8.  Corporate Disclosure Rules
  9.  Fiscal Incentives
  10.  Rules on Equity and Credit Research
  11.  Investor Rights, Codes and Stewardship
  12.  Risk Mitigation and Market Development for Green Assets
  13.  Soft Law Sustainability Frameworks
  14.  Professional Qualifications and Knowledge Transfer

The report concludes, “Enormous potential exists to pursue new policy initiatives designed to achieve sustainability goals through the institutional investment chain while simultaneously strengthening other public policy objectives: better governed asset owner institutions that serve their beneficiaries more effectively, enhanced prudential regulation, increased economic welfare meeting energy, water and food needs, and restored public trust in the financial system.”


 

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.

Asian Development Bank Backs Financial Access for SMEs

ManilaMarket

By Sunny Lewis

MANILA, Philippines, September 11, 2015 (Maximpact News) – The backbone of Asia’s economies are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), but these companies need better access to finance to grow and generate new jobs for the region, says a new Asian Development Bank report.

The Asia SME Finance Monitor 2014, which assesses 20 countries in developing Asia, finds that SMEs make up an average of 96% of all registered firms and employ 62% of the labor force. Yet they contribute only 42% of the region’s economic output.

“Most of Asia’s smaller firms are faced with difficulties in obtaining finance,” said ADB senior adviser for sustainable development Noritaka Akamatsu, at the September 2 introduction of the “Asia SME Finance Monitor.”

“Asia has millions of SMEs but few of them are able to grow to the point where they can innovate or be part of the global supply chain,” said Akamatsu. “To do this, they need more growth capital and opportunities to access various financing channels.”

The bank takes the position that government in the region need to help SMEs become more competitive and able to participate in global value chains.

Limited access to bank credit is a persistent problem in Asia and the Pacific. Lending to SMEs has declined over the course of the global financial crisis and in 2014; they received only 18.7% of total bank loans.

Several countries have made progress tackling this crucial issue.

Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands have made it easier for companies to borrow using movable assets as collateral, Indonesia and the Philippines have introduced mandatory bank lending quotas to SMEs, and Kazakhstan and Mongolia have encouraged loan refinancing schemes.

Still, the region needs to further develop credit bureaus, collateral registries, and credit guarantees to expand financial outreach, particularly in low-income countries, the report said.

The nonbank finance industry, which typically includes finance companies, factoring and leasing firms, for example, in Asia and the Pacific is still too small to meet the financing needs of SMEs, with its lending only one tenth of total outstanding bank loans in the region.

The bank says governments need to put in place comprehensive policy frameworks to help nonbank financial institutions expand their SME financing options.

Ongoing efforts to open up the equity markets to SMEs would also help provide SMEs with the long-term financing they need to mature.

On Wednesday, the bank and the Washington, DC-based global research and development organization World Resources Institute (WRI) announced a new knowledge partnership to support Asian economies toward inclusive and environmentally sustainable growth

The partnership is rooted in common goals and complementary strengths on climate change, energy, cities, water, forests, food, governance and finance.

“We see this partnership combining the intellectual, technical and financial resources of ADB with WRI’s expertise from its global network to jointly deliver solutions to sustainability challenges on the ground,” said Carmela Locsin, director general of ADB’s Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department.

Dr. Andrew Steer, WRI president and chief executive, is enthusiastic about the new endeavor. “There is no doubt that sustainability challenges will not be solved globally unless they are solved in Asia,” he said. “WRI is committed to closely with ADB and other partners scale up solutions in Asia, and to bring these learning’s to the rest of the world.”

PHOTO: Market in Manila, Philippines (Photo by Wayne S. Grazio creative commons license via Flickr)