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Wallets Open for Climate at Poland’s COP24

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

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

World Bank Pledges $200 Billion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Multilateral Banks Join Forces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Africa in the Spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

“The People’s Seat” Initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Next?

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

Roundtables will be held on:

Finance and climate action;

Resilience and climate action;

Land use, water and energy;

Oceans and coastal zones and transport; and

Three of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals:

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

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

SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production) and climate;

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

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

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

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


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Pioneer Global Blockchain Bond Stirs ‘Huge Interest’

A branch office of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, April 2, 2015 (Photo by Maksym Kozlenko)

A branch office of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Sydney, April 2, 2015 (Photo by Maksym Kozlenko)

By Sunny Lewis

SYDNEY, Australia, September 11, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Using the Commonwealth Bank of Australia as arranger, the World Bank has launched the world’s first bond to be created, allocated, transferred and managed through its life cycle using blockchain distributed ledger technology.

Named bond-i, or Blockchain Offered New Debt Instrument, the two-year bond has raised A$110 million. The name is also a reference to Bondi Beach, a famous Sydney recreational haven.

This is the first time that investors have supported the World Bank’s development activities in a transaction that is fully managed using blockchain technology.

Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that enables permissioned sharing of an immutable record among parties to create consensus and trust. It empowers multiple trading partners to collaborate and establish a single shared view of a contract without compromising details, privacy or confidentiality.

The World Bank mandated Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) as arranger for the bond on August 10. The announcement was followed by a two-week consultation period with the market, with key investors indicating strong support for the bond’s issuance.

James Wall, executive general manager of IB&M International, CBA said, “It is clear the market is ready and open to the uptake of emerging technologies and sees the potential evolution of the capital markets. It has been a pleasure to work on such a ground-breaking transaction with a forward-thinking organization like the World Bank.”

Investors in the bond-i include Commonwealth Bank of Australia, First State Super, New South Wales Treasury Corporation, Northern Trust, QBE Insurance Group, SAFA, and Treasury Corporation of Victoria.

The bond is part of a broader strategic focus of the World Bank to harness the potential of disruptive technologies for development.

In June 2017, the World Bank launched a Blockchain Innovation Lab to understand the impact of blockchain and other disruptive technologies in areas such as land administration, supply chain management, health, education, cross-border payments, and carbon market trading.

World Bank Treasurer Arunma Oteh said, “I am delighted that this pioneer bond transaction using the distributed ledger technology, bond-i, was extremely well received by investors. We are particularly impressed with the breath of interest from official institutions, fund managers, and banks. We were no doubt successful in moving from concept to reality because these high-quality investors understood the value of leveraging technology for innovation in capital markets.

“Our painstaking work, over the last year, and in partnership with Commonwealth Bank of Australia, was equally instrumental to the success of the transaction. Commendation also to our other service providers, King & Wood Mallesons, IHS Markit, Microsoft and Toronto Dominion Securities,” said Oteh, who hails from Nigeria.

“We welcome the huge interest that this transaction has generated from various stakeholders,” she said.

The bond-i blockchain platform was built and developed by the CBA Blockchain Centre of Excellence, housed in the Sydney Innovation Lab. This project builds on the leadership and experience of CBA’s dedicated blockchain team, which has taken a lead role in applying blockchain technology to capital markets.

Foundation investors in bond-i contributed to the project through their feedback on the platform structure and functionality.

Derek Yung, COO Group Investments, QBE Insurance Group Limited, said, “We believe there is untapped potential for the application of this product to capital markets and are pleased to be involved as an early investor.”

William Whitford, managing director, Treasury Corporation of Victoria, said, “TCV is proud to play a part in the first global blockchain bond. The opportunity to be involved in innovation like this is a privilege, and both CBA and the World Bank Treasury team are to be congratulated in their leadership in this space.”

Service providers to the bond’s platform include TD Securities as market maker, IHS Markit as independent valuation provider, Microsoft as independent code reviewer, and King & Wood Mallesons as deal counsel.

The World Bank issues between US$50 billion and US$60 billion annually in bonds for sustainable development. It has a 70-year track record of innovation in the capital markets.

Bond-i will come to maturity on August 28, 2020. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the World Bank say they will welcome investor interest in the bond throughout its two-year life cycle, as well as inquiries about the platform from other market participants.

Australia is moving to establish itself as a blockchain-friendly country with which to do business.

Late last month, the Australian government research agency CSIRO formed a consortium with law firm Herbert Smith Freehills and IBM to build Australia’s first cross-industry, large-scale, digital platform so Australian businesses can collaborate using blockchain-based smart legal contracts.

Known as the Australian National Blockchain (ANB), the new platform represents a new piece of infrastructure in Australia’s digital economy, enabling companies nationwide to join the network to use digitized contracts, exchange data and confirm the authenticity and status of legal contracts.

Blockchain is a public register in which transactions between multiple users belonging to the same network are stored in a secure, verifiable and permanent way. The data relating to the exchanges are saved inside cryptographic blocks, connected to each other in a hierarchical manner.

This creates an endless chain of data blocks – hence the name blockchain – that allows a user to trace and verify all the transactions he or she has ever made.

Blockchain technology enables secure trading without a centralized exchange, making it attractive for cryptocurrency, where it was applied first to bypass banks, and for large decentralized energy systems with a high share of renewable energy.

Once completed, the Australian National Blockchain will enable organizations to digitally manage the lifecycle of a contract, not just from negotiation to signing, but also continuing over the term of the agreement, with transparency and permissioned-based access among parties in the network. The service will provide organizations the ability to use blockchain-based smart contracts to trigger business processes and events.

ANB will provide smart legal contracts that contain smart clauses with the ability to record external data sources such as Internet of Things device data, enabling these clauses to self-execute if specified contract conditions are met.

For example, construction site sensors could record the time and date of a delivery of a load on blockchain and trigger a smart contract between the construction company and the bank that would automatically notify the bank when terms are met to provide payment on that delivery.

Paul Hutchison, vice president and partner, Cognitive Process Transformation, IBM Global Business Services, said, “Blockchain will be to transactions what the internet was to communication – what starts as a tool for sharing information becomes transformational once adoption is widespread. The ANB could be that inflection point for commercial blockchain, spurring innovation and economic development throughout Australia.”

Featured image: Gold metallic blockchain extruding from encrypted code background, March 13, 2018 (Image by QuoteInspector) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Countries Failing to Educate Girls Lose Trillions

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Students in a second grade classroom at Nyamachaki Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya, April 2017 (Photo by Kelley Lynch / Global Partnership for Education) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, July 25, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Limited educational opportunities for girls and barriers to completing 12 years of education cost countries between $15 trillion and $30 trillion in lost lifetime productivity and earnings, says a new World Bank report.

The report was released in honor of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and co-founder of  Malala Fund, based out of Birmingham, England, which works to provide safe, quality secondary education and opportunities for girls.

When the Taliban took control of her hometown in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, writes Yousafzai, “…they banned many things, such as owning a television and playing music. They enforced harsh punishments for those who defied their orders. And they said girls could no longer go to school.”

Yousafzai’s father was a teacher who ran the girls’ school in her town, so she continued attending school. At the age of 15, on her way home from school, Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Malala Yousafzai during the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York on the day that the European Union and the United Nations launched a Spotlight Initiative to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. September 20, 2017 (Photo by Ryan Brown / UN Women) Creative Commons license via Flickr

She survived – and now, at 21, Yousafzai is furthering her education, studying for a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford.

She is a world-renowned activist, campaigning for education, equality and peace for all children everywhere. The United Nations has declared July 12 to be Malala Day.

The World Bank report, “Missed Opportunities: The High Cost of Not Educating Girls,” documents that fewer than two-thirds of girls in low-income countries complete primary school, and only one in three girls completes lower secondary school.

Globally 89 percent of girls complete primary education, but only 77 percent complete lower secondary education, usually nine years of schooling.

The report finds that on average, women who have a secondary education are more likely to work, and they earn almost twice as much as women with no education.

Other positive effects of secondary school education for girls include: near-elimination of child marriage before the age of 18, lowering fertility rates by a third in countries with high population growth, and reducing child mortality and malnutrition.

“When 130 million girls are unable to become engineers or journalists or CEOs because education is out of their reach, our world misses out on trillions of dollars that could strengthen the global economy, public health and stability,” said Yousafzai.

“If leaders are serious about building a better world, they need to start with serious investments in girls’ secondary education,” she said. “This report is more proof that we cannot afford to delay investing in girls.”

Tech giant Apple® is doing just that. In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 13, Apple launched a new collaboration between its 10 Apple Developer Academies in Brazil and Malala Fund to advance girls’ educational opportunities.

Apple’s academies are preparing thousands of future developers to code the advancements of the future. Apple CEO Tim Cook has long said that the company expects to bring the program to countries around the world.

“We share Malala’s goal of getting more girls into quality education and are thrilled to be deepening our partnership with Malala Fund by mobilizing thousands of Apple Developer Academy students and alumni across Brazil,” said Cook, announcing the new partnership.

“Apple has been committed to education since day one, and we can’t wait to see what our creative student developers come up with to help Malala Fund make a difference for girls around the world,” said Cook.

As part of its new expansion into Latin America, Malala Fund, too, has offered grants to local advocates in Brazil.

The advocates join Malala Fund’s network and will implement projects across the country designed to empower girls, teachers and policymakers through skills development, school enrollment efforts and education advocacy.

“My hope is that every girl, from Rio to Riyadh, can be free to choose her own future,” said Yousafzai in Rio. “Whether she wants to be a developer, a pilot, a dancer or a politician, education is the best path to a brighter future. By tapping into Apple’s network of student developers, Malala Fund will gain access to new tools to support our mission of free, safe, quality education.”

Many of the potential impacts of education on development outcomes apply to both boys and girls. But the World Bank report finds that not educating girls is especially costly because of the relationships between education, child marriage, and early childbearing, and the risks that they entail for young mothers and their children.

“We cannot keep letting gender inequality get in the way of global progress,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria.

“Inequality in education is yet another fixable issue that is costing the world trillions. It is time to close the gender gap in education and give girls and boys an equal chance to succeed, for the good of everyone,” Georgieva said.

Today, some 132 million girls around the world between the ages of six and 17, the majority of whom are adolescents, are still not in school.

To remedy these missed opportunities, investments in education – both access and quality – are crucial. This is  especially true in some regions, such as Sub-Saharan Africa where, on average, only 40 percent of girls complete lower secondary school, says the World Bank report.

Countries also need policies to support healthy economic growth that will generate jobs for an expanding educated workforce.

The World Bank reports that universal secondary education for girls could increase their knowledge of HIV/AIDS and empower them to make decisions about their own health care. It could reduce the risk of intimate partner violence, improve their sense of psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of under-five mortality and malnutrition among their children.

Educating girls and promoting gender equality is part of a broader and holistic effort at the World Bank, which includes financing and analytical work to remove financial barriers that keep girls out of school, prevent child marriage, improve access to reproductive health services, and strengthen skills and job opportunities for adolescent girls and young women.

Since 2016, the World Bank has invested more than $3.2 billion in education projects benefiting adolescent girls.

The World Bank report was published with support from the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the Global Partnership for Education, and Malala Fund.

Featured Images: Girls from the tiny village of Karche Khar near Kargil, India. From left: Maqsuma is in class 5 at the army school; Fatima is in class 4 at the local school.


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G7 Turns Spotlight on Women’s Empowerment

Women bear their burdens in rural Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2008 (Photo by Richard Evea) Creative Commons license via Flickr

Women bear their burdens in rural Rajasthan, India, November 18, 2008 (Photo by Richard Evea) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, DC, June 1, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – Globally, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men. This amounts to an average of $23,620 for each person in the 141 countries studied by the World Bank Group for a new report released this week.

“The world is essentially leaving $160 trillion on the table when we neglect inequality in earnings over the lifetime between men and women,” said World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva.

“This is a stark reminder that world leaders need to act now and act decisively to invest in policies that promote more and better jobs for women and equal pay at work,” she said.

The study, “Unrealized Potential: The High Cost of Gender Inequality in Earnings,” examines the economic cost of gender inequality in lost human capital.

Its release precedes this year’s meeting of the G7, currently headed by Canada, which has committed to ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all G7 activities during its presidency.

This informal group of seven advanced economies consists of: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The European Union also attends.

As G7 president, Canada will host the G7 Summit June 8-9 at the Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in the Charlevoix region of Quebec.

Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment is one of the five themes that will occupy G7 leaders this year, says Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“The themes we have chosen for the year will help focus our discussions on finding real, concrete solutions to promote gender equality, women’s empowerment, clean energy, and economic growth that works for everyone,” said Trudeau.

On January 23, Trudeau announced the creation of the Gender Equality Advisory Council , which will ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are integrated across all themes, activities and initiatives of Canada’s G7 Presidency. The Council is co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Isabelle Hudon.

The Prime Minister said, “Women’s empowerment is a key driver of economic growth that works for everyone. All of us benefit when women can participate freely, fully, and equally in our economies and society, and supporting and empowering women and girls must be at the heart of the decisions we make.”

“That is why we made gender equality and women’s empowerment a central theme of Canada’s G7 Presidency – and created the Gender Equality Advisory Council for Canada’s G7 Presidency,” Trudeau said. “Thanks to the Council, we will make sure a focus on gender equality guides the work done at the G7 Leaders’ Summit – and set a precedent for the G7 going forward.”

For the first time, the G7 engagement process included a summit of diverse feminist leaders, the W7 . In April, over 60 feminist leaders from Canada, G7 countries and around the world met in Ottawa with Trudeau and Canada’s Minister for the Status of Women.

The W7 called for a more just and equitable economy that moves away from exploitation and extractivism. Too many women around the world are facing precarious, dangerous and exploitative work situations, and the current economic model is fueling conflict and violence against women, they said.

“The greatest threats my community in Guatemala faces today are caused by extractive industries from G7 countries; and most of them are actually Canadian,” said Irma Alicia Velasquez Nimatuj, an indigenous Guatemalan journalist and anthropologist, in speaking to Prime Minister Trudeau.

In nearly every country today, women face barriers to full participation in the work force and earning as much as men. As a result, women account for only 38 percent of their country’s human capital wealth, defined as the value of the future earnings of their adult citizens – as compared with 62 percent for men, according to the World Bank report.

In low income and lower-middle income countries, women account for just a third or less of human capital wealth.

Programs and policies that make it easier for women to get to work, access basic infrastructure and financial services, and control land could help achieve gender equality in earnings, the World Bank report suggests.

“Human capital wealth accounts for two-thirds of the global changing wealth of nations, well ahead of natural and other forms of capital,” said the report’s author Quentin Wodon, World Bank Group lead economist. “Because women earn less than men, human capital wealth worldwide is about 20 percent lower than it could be.”

The losses in wealth from inequality in earnings between men and women vary by region. The largest losses – each between $40 trillion and $50 trillion – are observed in East Asia and the Pacific, North America, and Europe and Central Asia.

This is because these regions account for most of the world’s human capital wealth, but losses in other regions are also substantial.

In South Asia, losses from gender inequality are estimated at $9.1 trillion, while they are estimated at $6.7 trillion in Latin America and the Caribbean and $3.1 trillion in the Middle East and North Africa.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the losses are estimated at $2.5 trillion. While losses in low income countries are smaller in absolute terms than in other regions, as a share of the initial endowment in human capital, the losses are larger than for the world.

The study is part of a broader research program at the World Bank that benefits from support from Government of Canada, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, and the Global Partnership for Education.

“There are estimates showing the costs and benefits of gender equality to key economic sectors and economic growth,” said World Bank Group Senior Director for Gender Caren Grown.

“By focusing on wealth,” said Grown, “this study is a unique addition to that literature since wealth, and especially human capital, is the assets base that enables countries to generate future income.”

Featured Image: This textile factory in Shtip, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, employs about 120 women, who make garments for Italian and German brands. There is still no minimum wage in the FYRM textile industry. December 7, 2016 (Photo by Rena Effendi / UN Women Europe and Central Asia) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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Global Wealth Grows, Inequality Gap Widens

The wealthy enjoy the sun at St. Tropez, a coastal town on the French Riviera known for its beaches and nightlife. (Photo by Vinicius Pinheiro) Creative Commons license via Flickr

The wealthy enjoy the sun at St. Tropez, a coastal town on the French Riviera known for its beaches and nightlife. (Photo by Vinicius Pinheiro) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

WASHINGTON, February 6, 2018 (Maximpact.com News) – “Growth will be short-term if it is based on depleting natural capital such as forests and fisheries. What our research has shown is that the value of natural capital per person tends to rise with income,” says Karin Kemper, senior director, Environment and Natural Resources Global Practice at The World Bank.

“This contradicts traditional wisdom that development necessarily entails depletion of natural resources,” Kemper said, commenting on a freshly minted World Bank report.

Global wealth “grew significantly” over the past two decades but per capita wealth “declined or stagnated” in more than two dozen countries in a range of income brackets, finds the new report.

The Changing Wealth of Nations 2018” tracks the wealth of 141 countries between 1995 and 2014 by aggregating natural capital, such as forests and minerals; human capital, earnings over a person’s lifetime; produced capital, such as buildings and infrastructure; and net foreign assets.

It follows similar World Bank assessments in 2006 and 2011, but, for the first time, this report includes estimates of human capital.

Human capital accounts for two-thirds of global wealth, the researchers calculate.

Using household surveys to estimate lifetime earnings, the researchers measured human capital as the value of earnings over a person’s remaining work life, thereby incorporating the roles of health and education.

Women account for less than 40 percent of global human capital because of lower lifetime earnings. Achieving gender equity could increase human capital wealth by 18 percent, the report finds.

Produced capital accounts for a quarter of all wealth, according to the report.

Natural capital accounts for one tenth of global wealth, and it remains the largest component of wealth in low-income countries (47 percent in 2014).

Natural capital accounts for more than one-quarter of wealth in lower-middle income countries.

The report finds that global wealth grew an estimated 66 percent – from $690 trillion to $1,143 trillion in constant 2014 U.S. dollars at market prices.

But inequality is clearly apparent, as wealth per capita in high-income OECD countries was 52 times greater than in low-income countries.

Another report confirms the inequality. According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, published in November 2017, the richest one percent of people in the world now own half of the planet’s wealth.

The Credit Suisse study shows how the super-rich have profited from the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, and so are now seeing their proportion of the world’s wealth increase from 42.5 percent in the midst of the crisis to 50.1 percent now.

The wealthiest 10 percent of people, own 87.8 percent of the global wealth.

A report from the Boston Consulting Group last June finds that globally, almost 18 million households control more than $1 million in wealth.

The world’s wealth “gained momentum” last year, Boston Consulting Group report concludes, rising 5.3 percent globally from 2015 to 2016.

The firm expects growth to accelerate to about six percent annually for the next five years, in both the United States and globally.

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said, “By building and fostering human and natural capital, countries around the world can bolster wealth and grow stronger. The World Bank Group is accelerating its effort to help countries invest more – and more effectively – in their people.”

“There cannot be sustained and reliable development if we don’t consider human capital as the largest component of the wealth of nations,” said Kim. A South Korean-American physician and anthropologist, Kim has served as the 12th president of the World Bank since July 1, 2012.

Wealth accounts for countries are compiled from publicly available data drawn from globally recognized data sources and with a methodology that is consistent across all countries.

Some wealth components from natural capital were not tracked in this report, including water, fisheries and renewable energy sources.

The report was funded in part by the Wealth Accounting and the Valuation of Ecosystem Services (WAVES) partnership and by the Global Partnership for Education .

WAVES is a World Bank-led global partnership that aims to promote sustainable development by ensuring that natural resources are mainstreamed in development planning and national economic accounts.

WAVES was launched at the 2010 Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Nagoya, Japan.

Botswana, Colombia, Costa Rica, Madagascar, and the Philippines were the initial core implementing countries that embarked on programs for natural capital accounting endorsed at the highest level of their governments, with extensive technical support from WAVES.

These countries have established national steering committees, carried out stakeholder consultations, identified policy priorities and designed work plans that are now being implemented.

Guatemala, Indonesia and Rwanda joined WAVES as core implementing countries in late 2013.

These countries are compiling accounts for natural resources like forests, water, and minerals, following the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) Central Framework. They are working on experimental accounts for ecosystems like watersheds and mangroves.

The SEEA Framework integrates economic and environmental data to provide a comprehensive and multipurpose view of the interrelationships between the economy and the environment, and the stocks and changes in stocks of environmental assets, as they bring benefits to humanity.

It contains the internationally agreed standard concepts, definitions, classifications, accounting rules and tables for producing internationally comparable statistics and accounts.

WAVES’ work on developing a methodology for ecosystem accounting is guided by a Policy and Technical Experts Committee that includes experts in environmental economics, natural sciences, and national accounting.

WAVES is funded by the European Commission, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom and overseen by a steering committee.

These reports are aimed at policy makers but will interest anyone committed to building a sustainable future for the planet.

Featured Image: World Bank Group President, Jim Yong Kim in Lima, Peru, June 29, 2013. Photo by Dominic Chavez courtesy World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr


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One Planet Summit Inspires Climate Action

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

transport and buildings, as well as energy efficiency.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Phone Route to Wealth for the Unbanked

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This evolution of inclusion is already happening in India.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Featured image: Now restricted to notepad and calculator, this Egyptian storekeeper could soon have access to digital banking services. (Photo by Karen Green) Creative Commons license via Flickr
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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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US$100 Billion to Finance Climate Triage

climatesignmalawi

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Pathway to US$100 Billion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. What Counts?

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

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

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

3. Rules for Reporting Finance

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

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

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

4. Scaling Up Adaptation Finance

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Adaptation Fund, Renewed?

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

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

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

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

What is Being Done Today?

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

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

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

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

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

World Bank Head Calls for Slowing Down Coal Finance

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

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


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Green Bond Market Shoots Up

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By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

India, World Bank Empower Sunshine Nations

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

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Smallholder Diaries Open Doors to Financial Services

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Men cultivating land following heavy rain in Endulen, Tanzania (Photo by Geoff Sayer / Oxfam) Creative Commons license via Flickr)

By Sunny Lewis

DAR ES SALAAM, Tansania, June 23, 2016 (Maximpact.com) – Smallholder households, cultivating less than five acres, have financial needs that have been ignored until now, yet without this information, it’s tough for financial service providers supply smallholders with services, such as mobile money.

 About two years ago, the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), a financial inclusion think tank of 34 organizations housed at the World Bank, decided to bridge this gap and gather smallholders’ information.

So, in June 2014, CGAP launched a year-long project “Financial Diaries with Smallholder Families,” known as the “Smallholder Diaries.”

These diaries offer an in-depth look at ways smallholders are affected by the agricultural cycle and how they manage their money in response to seasonal ebbs and flows.

 Conducted between June 2014 and July 2015, the diaries documented the financial and in-kind transactions of 270 households in impoverished northern Mozambique, the fertile farmlands of western Tanzania, and in Punjab province, the breadbasket of Pakistan.

The findings “National Survey Details Financial Lives of Smallholders in Tanzania” were released at an event held in Dar es Salaam late in May. Among the organizers and panelists were people from CGAP, from research firms Financial Sector Deepening Trust–Tanzania (FSDT) and InterMedia, and from a global strategy consulting firm, Bankable Frontier Associates.

 The diaries point to ways that financial service providers might better meet smallholders’ needs.

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Smallholder Diaries participants in Mozambique record their lives in images. (Photo by Erin Scronce) Posted for media use.

Some of the diaries were written and others were photographed. CGAP equipped a small group of Smallholder Diaries participants in Mozambique with cameras and asked them to record images from their daily lives that represent challenges and successes.

 Smallholder households face many risks: weather, pests, theft, illness and death all threaten the livelihoods of smallholder families by disrupting agricultural activities and depleting financial, emotional, and human resources. In most cases, smallholders are not equipped with the financial tools they need to cope with these risks.

In collaboration with the Financial Sector Deepening Trust–Tanzania (FSDT), CGAP conducted a nationally representative survey of Tanzania’s smallholder households between August and September 2015.

The survey found the next generation of farmers in Tanzania is uncertain and facing many challenges. At least 62 percent of smallholders are over 40 years old, and about 13 percent are under 30. Many live in extreme poverty, depend on their land and have few other income sources or financial tools.

“Smallholders are the backbone of rural Tanzania and as such, their engagement in the financial sector is very important,” said Mwombeki Baregu, head of rural and agriculture finance with the research firm FSDT.

 “Through this forum we want to discuss how to better service smallholder farmers to provide them with the products and services they need and want,” Baregu said. “Financial diaries and surveys give us insights into these needs and wants and what we will try to do is use them to develop solutions.”

In Tanzania, 98 percent of farmers are smallholders who work on less than two hectares of crop land, according to the Tanzania Agriculture Census of 2010, the most recent data available.

Access to basic financial services, mobile phones and other innovative tools can help these families, particularly the most vulnerable, lowest income households, to transition out of extreme poverty.

Mobile money services can be a powerful tool to bring the unbanked and those using only informal financial services into the formal financial sector.

They transform a mobile phone from a communications tool into a channel for low-cost financial services such as payments, transfers, insurance, credit, and savings.

Mobile money is established and maturing in Tanzania overall, serving new business areas and enabling a wider range of digital payments, including among some smallholder households, the CGAP study found.

CGAP financial sector specialist Jamie Anderson said, “This national data collection and research could spark better understanding of smallholder households and hopefully lead to financial innovations for this important group of people. The research provides greater insights into how these families transact, make financial decisions and deal with challenges they face on a daily basis.”

The CGAP study says, “Major advances in financial inclusion will be driven by solutions for the lowest income smallholder families who make up a third of the smallholder sector in Tanzania.”

“This group lacks knowledge of mobile phones, providers or banks and they are not aware of the benefits of financial services. Providing relevant financial solutions that address the priorities and needs of these smallholder families is key to breaking the financial exclusion barrier,” finds the study.

Mobile money is an entry point for broader financial services, the survey concludes. Nearly half of smallholder farmers, 49 percent, have a mobile money account and this tool can be expanded to offer other more sophisticated financial options.

Some smallholders are using mobile money for more advanced services such as savings and merchant and service payments. Providers have the opportunity to offer more and better products to this growing group of customers.

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Tanzanian smallholder uses her mobile phone, Oct. 2014 (Photo by Cilia Schubert) Creative Commons license via Flickr)


2050 Climate Adaptation Costs: $500B a Year

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Funding makes possible this cash-for-work and disaster risk reduction project in the West African country of Niger. These half-moon structures in the drought-stricken village of Gobro collect water when it rains, refilling the water table and encouraging the regrowth of vegetation. Oxfam International runs the project in partnership with the local NGO Mooriben and the UN’s World Food Programme. (Photo by Fatoumata Diabate / Oxfam) Creative Commons license via Flickr

By Sunny Lewis

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – By 2050, the cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries could balloon to $500 billion annually, five times greater than previous estimates, warns a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The report calculates the difference between the costs of climate change adaptation in developing countries and the amount of money available to meet these costs – a difference known as the “adaptation finance gap.”

The 2016 Adaptation Finance Gap Report is written by authors from 15 institutions and reviewed by 31 experts. They conclude that failure to cut the greenhouse gas emissions humans are pumping out will send the annual costs of adaptation to climate change skyrocketing into the stratosphere. By 2050 these costs could be up to five times higher than earlier World Bank estimates.

The second in UNEP’s series of Climate Adaptation Gap reports, this assessment finds that total bilateral and multilateral funding for climate change adaptation in developing countries has risen in the five years leading up to 2014, reaching $22.5 billion.

But the report warns that, despite this increase, there will be a major funding gap by 2050 unless new and additional finance for adaptation appears.

“It is vital that governments understand the costs involved in adapting to climate change,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP deputy executive director.

“This report serves as a powerful reminder that climate change will continue to have serious economic costs. The adaptation finance gap is large, and likely to grow substantially over the coming decades, unless significant progress is made to secure new, additional and innovative financing for adaptation,” said Thiaw.

Previous estimates place the cost of adapting to climate change at between $70 to $100 billion annually for the period 2010-2050, a figure based on a World Bank study from 2010.

After reviewing national and sector studies, the new report finds that the World Bank’s earlier figures are likely to be “a significant underestimate.”

The true cost of adapting to climate change in developing countries could range between $140 and $300 billion per year in 2030, and between $280 and $500 billion per year in 2050.

Adaptation costs are likely to increase sharply over time even if the world succeeds in limiting a global rise in temperatures to below two degrees Celsius by 2100, the report warns.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has called on developed countries to provide $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries mitigate climate change, and adapt to its impacts, such as drought, rising sea levels and floods.

But the UNEP report warns, “There is no agreement as to the type of funding that shall be mobilised to meet this goal. This hampers efforts to monitor progress toward meeting the goal.”

“The adaptation finance gap is large, and likely to grow substantially over the coming decades, unless significant progress is made to secure new and additional finance for adaptation,” the report concludes.

The Green Climate Fund, an operating entity of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’ Financial Mechanism, is mandated to promote a paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways in developing countries.

Based in South Korea, the Green Climate Fund has mobilized about US$10 billion and has already made its first investments. It is the largest entity under the financial mechanism of the Paris Climate Agreement, which 195 countries negotiated in December and 170 of them signed April 22 at UN Headquarters in New York.

Green Climate Fund Executive Director Héla Cheikhrouhou said at the signing ceremony, “We need to ensure that the investments GCF makes today and in the years ahead are indeed groundbreaking. We need developing countries and our partner institutions to bring forward project proposals that meet the ambition of Paris, that unlock innovation, and that will truly drive low-emission, climate-resilient development. It is time to convert the words – and signatures – into action!”

To meet finance needs and avoid an adaptation gap, the total finance for adaptation in 2030 would have to be approximately six to 13 times greater than international public finance today, calculates the UNEP report.

Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, outgoing executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, addresses the Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 10, 2016 (Photo by Maartje_Strijbis) Posted for media use.

Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, outgoing executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, addresses the Adaptation Futures conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 10, 2016 (Photo by Maartje_Strijbis) Posted for media use.

Adaptation costs are already two to three times higher than current international public funding for adaptation, states the report, which was issued May 10 in Rotterdam at Adaptation Futures 2016, the biennial conference of the Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation.

Adaptation Futures 2016 attracted over 1,600 participants from more than 100 countries, people from the business community, from governments and nongovernmental organizations, scientists and climate specialists.


Featured Image: The Adaptation Gap Report 2016 

 

Carbon Pricing Gathers Momentum

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@Maximpactdotcom

By Sunny Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

 

Jordan’s Refugees Must Drink

Jordan_Zaatari_Camp

By Sunny Lewis

AMMAN, Jordan, March 24, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – Jordan, one of the world’s driest countries, is dumping much of its water into the sand – allowing 76 billion liters a year to flow from broken pipes, according to an assessment by the nonprofit aid organization Mercy Corps.

“By one estimate, the amount of water lost nationwide every year could satisfy the basic needs of 2.6 million people, or more than a third of Jordan’s current population. It is a tragedy of waste,” mourns the report, “Tapped Out: Water Scarcity and Refugee Pressures in Jordan.

Published in 2014, the report outlines urgent needs and provides key recommendations to guide institutional donor efforts and policies, advisories that are even more urgent today as distressed refugees from war-torn Syria surge across the border into northern Jordan.

Since the onset of the Syrian crisis five years ago, Jordan has borne the impact of this massive Syrian refugee influx. Today, those refugees account for about 10 percent of the kingdom’s population of 6.3 million, placing severe pressure on its water resources at a difficult economic period.

The Mercy Corps report quotes former deputy prime minister of Jordan Marwan al-Muasher, who warns, “Water scarcity is an existential threat to Jordan.”

An irrigation canal in Jordan, where groundwater levels are falling a meter each year. (Photo courtesy Global Freshwater Initiative)

An irrigation canal in Jordan, where groundwater levels are falling a meter each year. (Photo courtesy Global Freshwater Initiative)

Based on interviews conducted in three northern governorates in Jordan – Amman, Mafraq, and Irbid, the areas taking the greatest number of Syrian refugees – the Mercy Corps report asks donors to invest in long-term infrastructure development, strengthen government agencies and address the nexus of conflict and conservation.

A team of Mercy Corps engineers is working to rebuild the aging water system so that both Jordanian and Syrian refugee families will have enough clean water to stay healthy. Their work has already improved access to clean water for 500,000 people in Jordan.

Ghassan “Gus” Hazboun, Mercy Corps’ Water Engineering Director, said last July that in Jordan’s northern areas the leakage can be up to 70 percent of the water that flows through the network. “So we have water that’s already been treated, already been pumped from the aquifer to far-away places, and then we lose that water in the network,” he said.

“The best thing we can do, the only way forward, is to treat the network – to fix any damage and spare the waste of water. Reclaiming that wasted water is better than finding a new source of water,” said Hazboun.

Mercy Corps started with two wells in the Zaatari refugee camp, and now has three wells there, one well in Azraq camp, and several projects in host communities.

“We recently developed a well near the border between Jordan and Syria,” said Hazboun. “The water comes here, to the water treatment and filter area. And now we are ready to build a new pump station, control building, and a 500-cubic-meter reservoir.”

“This infrastructure is very important for the northern areas, including the city of Mafraq. The water we are providing goes to all the houses and we are supplying everybody, both Jordanians and Syrians,” Hazboun explained.

The World Bank is working to increase Jordan’s water supply in a different way.

On Monday, the bank released an account of its efforts to help the Jordanian government restore ecosystems and improve people’s livelihoods in the Badia desert, which covers about 80 percent of the country.

The World Bank and the Global Environment Facility are collaborating on a US$3.3 million grant to help the government create opportunities for the nomadic Bedouin livestock breeders of the Badia and make them more resilient to climate change and water scarcity.

Through the Badia Ecosystem and Livelihoods Project, this work is focused in Mafraq and Ma’an, impoverished governorates in north and south Badia with diverse, fragile ecosystems, unique archaeology and ancient history.

Livelihoods Project partner National Center for Agriculture Research and Extension (NCARE) is establishing rangeland reserves and reservoirs of rainwater for animal drinking. A mandated rest period in the reserves is allowing endemic plants, gone for 20 years, to re-emerge.

The bank also is supporting “high-value, low-volume ecotourism” by working with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) to establish an ecotourism corridor in Mafraq that is already attracting other donors.

The project is expanding ecotourism by strengthening RSCN’s Al Azraq wetlands reserve and the Shaumari wildlife reserve.

All this work and investment is crucially important to Jordan, one of the world’s most water-vulnerable countries, but more help is needed.

Struggling with low rainfall, limited surface water storage, excessive groundwater mining and high dependence on waters shared by neighboring countries, Jordan now must also provide drinking water to hundreds of thousands of refugees.

In view of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, influential countries such as the United States should consider how to help the region’s vulnerable nations steer clear of destabilizing water crises, says Professor Steven Gorelick who teaches at Stanford School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences and is a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“Jordan is a peaceful and generous country that has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees,” Gorelick said in January. “The U.S. is not sufficiently helping that country deal with the consequent stress of inadequate water supply.”

Countries in the Middle East and North Africa are over-pumping groundwater, he said. In Jordan, where people depend on groundwater for 80 percent of their freshwater, levels are dropping three feet (one meter) each year, and will likely be depleted by 30 to 40 percent within the next 15 years.

“Refugee migrations from conflict-torn lands and global warming-related extreme weather will likely worsen the situation,” said Gorelick.

Gorelick heads the Stanford Woods Institute’s Global Freshwater Initiative, focused on developing a comprehensive national hydro-economic model to evaluate new supply options and demand strategies.

The initiative is coordinating the Jordan Water Project, an international, interdisciplinary research effort aimed at developing new approaches for analyzing strategies to enhance the sustainability of freshwater resources in Jordan and, ultimately, arid regions throughout the world.


Featured image: Refugee child draws water in Zaatari Refugee camp in northern Jordan. Coming from a country with sufficient supply of water however, Syrian refugees are adjusting to water scarcity, especially difficult for mothers and children. (Photo by European Commission) Creative commons license via Flickr
Header image: A view of Zaatari refugee camp, where at least 80,000 refugees live, is located 10 km east of Mafraq, Jordan, June 2014. (Photo by Dominic Chavez / World Bank) Creative Commons license via Flickr

‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ Means Gender Equality

IndiaWomenRiceBy Sunny Lewis

NEW YORK, New York, March 8, 2016 (Maximpact.com News) – “Women and girls are critical to finding sustainable solutions to the challenges of poverty, inequality and the recovery of the communities hardest hit by conflicts, disasters and displacements,” said Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka of South Africa in her message for International Women’s Day – today.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

As UN under-secretary-general and executive director of the agency UN Women, Mlambo-Ngcuka (pronounced: mlam-bo hu-ka) is living proof.

A member of the first democratically elected South African Parliament in 1994, she rose to serve as deputy president of South Africa from 2005 to 2008, the first woman to hold that position.

The UN agency she heads today was created in 2010 to direct UN activities on gender equality.

“The participation of women at all levels and the strengthening of the women’s movement has never been so critical, working together with boys and men, to empower nations, build stronger economies and healthier societies,” she said.

The theme for International Women’s Day 2016 is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality,” and communities throughout the world are taking steps to let their views be heard.

The official International Women’s Day 2016 website enables visitors to browse or search thousands of events celebrating this unique day: global gatherings, conferences, awards, exhibitions, festivals, fun runs, corporate events, performances, political events and online digital gatherings.

Investment and environment are linked in an event being held both online and in person by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in Washington, DC.

Over breakfast, a Q & A discussion on why and how gender equality and women’s empowerment matter for environmental sustainability will feature participants from the World Resources Institute (WRI), Conservation International, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the World Bank, among others.

Members of the public can join in via WebEx meeting or join in by phone. Click here for connection details.

The World Bank is hosting a global live chat on a second draft Environmental and Social Framework that bank personnel believe is “better for people, the environment, and for our borrowers.”

The World Bank has consulted in 33 countries on this proposal, and now wants public comments in a live chat with an expert panel from the World Bank. People can submit questions in advance here .

In Europe, health issues are first and foremost.

To mark the day, the civil society network WECF has published “Women and Chemicals,” an examination of the impacts of highly hazardous pesticides, mercury, and endocrine disrupting chemicals on the health of women everywhere.

Initially called Women in Europe for a Common Future, but now using only the acronym WECF, this international network of 150+ organizations works for a healthy environment and gender-justice in over 50 countries.

In the new publication, WECF calls for more political action for better health protection from harmful chemicals.

Corinne Lepage, chair of the WECF Board of Trustees and a former French environment minister, is worried especially about endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which can interfere with the natural hormones in the bodies of not only females, but males as well.

“Although we know about the threat to environment and human health, the EU Commission so far has not been able to regulate EDCs,” Lepage worries.

“In particular women and men who are planning to have children, need to be better protected from and informed about EDCs,” LePage said. “This report is a good starting point to show the linkage between chemical exposure of women and increasing rates of diseases and that political action is needed now.”

Women may be exposed to toxins when they work as pesticide sprayers, waste pickers, house cleaners or plastics industry employees, and, of course, women consume products that contain toxins.

Exposure to toxic chemicals can lead to non-communicable diseases such as breast cancer, infertility or diabetes. These non-communicable diseases are today the biggest global threat to women’s health – and they are still on the rise.

WECF is one of 68 organizations that co-signed a letter to the 28 environment ministers of the European Union urging them to call on the European Commission to immediately comply with the December 2015 ruling of the European Court of Justice in the case of Sweden vs. Commission on scientific criteria to identify endocrine disruptors.

The letter from EDC-Free Europe states, “Scientists, health professionals and medical doctors have increasingly warned that EDCs can contribute to diseases and disorders like hormonal cancers (prostate, testicular, breast), reproductive health problems, impaired child development, and obesity and diabetes.”

WECF’s Alexandra Caterbow demanded, “Immediate steps have to be taken to end use of highly hazardous pesticides, to strictly regulate EDCs such as bisphenol A from consumer products and packaging, to ban mercury use in artisanal small gold mining, and to promote the use of safer substitutes and non-chemical alternatives.”

To celebrate the launch of its report, WECF will be hosting an Ask Me Anything on Reddit where the general public can ask questions on the findings.

Law enforcement for women is rising to the top as an important function to keep women safe.

UN Women, the Police Cadet Academy, Thailand Institute of Justice and the Embassy of Sweden came together to organize the Youth Dialogue on Gender Equality with Police Cadets in Nakorn Pathom, Thailand on March 7.

UN Women has partnered with the Royal Thai Police and the Office of the Attorney General in training police cadets and police investigative officers to protect women, end violence against women and implement the Domestic Violence Law.

Since 2012, UN Women has helped train 555 police officers.

In another part of the world, Palestinian and Israeli activists took part Friday in a demonstration in the West Bank city of Bethlehem calling for a better future for both peoples ahead of International Women’s Day.

On Monday in Jerusalem, victims of sexual abuse hugged each other after taking part in a project to speak out against sexual violence.

Some actions take the form of non-action. The UN Development Program in Afghanistan plans to stop publishing photographs on its website to highlight the plight of Afghan women, a UN official said Sunday.

Many actions today are a pledge of future action for gender parity.

The campaign theme hash tag of #pledgeforparity urges readers to take the pledge as champions of gender parity.

A host of corporate leaders have pledged to achieve gender parity in their own organizations and in the wider world, people such as Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group; and Sir Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, who said, “Equipping women with the tools to achieve their full potential in the workplace empowers us all.”


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.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka – image courtesy of Flicker UN Women Gallery
Header image Caption: Women working in their rice paddy fields in Odisha, India’s poorest region. Trócaire works with communities to help them access government support. (Photo by Justin Kernoghan courtesy Trócaire) creative commons license via Flickr

 

Financing Sustainable Development: a ‘Quiet Revolution’ Underway

KimJimLimaPointing

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)

Impact Investing in the Justice Entrepreneurs

By Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

statue representing justice with scalesAgriculture, healthcare, cleantech and financial services are all now recognized sectors of impact investing with growing track records of success. Businesses from these sectors are frequently the choice of impact investors who want to put their money into related areas of social and environmental benefit such as poverty alleviation or natural resource protection.

But what about investors who are interested in causes such as fairness, the rule of law and universal access to justice? Surely, these aren’t areas where impact investors can place their capital, are they?

Now, thanks to a burgeoning trend for justice entrepreneurship, they just might be.

Once the only way for impact investors to support justice was indirectly, through careful ESG investment screening coupled with impact metrics to assess outcomes. Now thanks to the emergence of bold new approaches to delivering justice, impact investors have the opportunity to put capital behind businesses bringing cost-effective justice solutions to citizens and governments alike.

The justice shortage

Most of us assume that justice is a matter for governments or international bodies like the European Court of Human Rights. But, just as the state monopoly in education is giving way to a more entrepreneurial picture, things are be beginning to change in the justice sector. According to HiiL (The Hague Institute for the Internationalization of Law), a justice sector advisory and research institute, there are important drivers behind this shift.

In the developed world, the cost of delivering access to justice continues to grow while state budgets are contracting. In the US, the number of unrepresented defendants is increasing and more people are representing themselves in court, mainly for financial reasons. Basic legal services, like will writing and land conveyance, are also expensive—too expensive for many who need them.

This means that a growing number of people are unable to afford legal counsel or legal services, a situation that leaves them without basic legal safeguards. This shortfall comes with a high social cost, especially when it denies justice to the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Governments are now actively looking for more cost-effective ways to deliver access to justice to their citizens.

In the developing world, the problem is even more serious, according to recent studies by the World Bank. Many communities are simply unable to get access to justice, even when their constitution guarantees it. They may live too far from courts and legal services to use them. In many countries, only money buys access to the formal legal system. In others, the justice system works so slowly, or is so corrupt, that it is no help to citizens.

All this means that there is large and growing global demand for justice services, both from citizens and from governments who want to ensure access. And where there is a demand, of course, there is a potential market. For impact investors, the question now is: Who is opening this new market and how do we engage with them?

Enter the justice innovators

The Innovating Justice Accelerator is an early entrant into the field of justice sector entrepreneurship. Responding to what it saw as an urgent need for solutions, HiiL established the intermediary body in 2010, providing a platform and network for justice innovators and sponsoring an annual innovation award.

For any impact investor with an interest in justice and the rule of law, their website is an eye-opener. It features a range of innovative ideas and programs to improve justice and the rule of law, some of them potentially investable and scalable:

  • Prison Paralegal Justice Centers is a program that helps prisoners become legal advisors within the prison system.
  • I Paid A Bribe is a web-based tool to decrease corruption and make it more visible by using a platform for reporting instances of paying or not paying a bribe.
  • Aahung, a reproductive rights organization in Pakistan, is producing a TV series with a commercial production house to spread its message in a financially sustainable way throughout the region.
  • Made in a Free World, an anti-slavery organization, created the Forced Labor Risk Assessment Tool a software program for businesses that exposes forced labor in global supply chains and helps companies eliminate slavery from the way they do business.
  • Rechtwijzer 2.0  is a justice platform developed by HiiL, offering legal information and advice to people in the Netherlands. It enables people to work on solving their legal problems in their own words, at their own pace, from their own homes with the support of legal professionals.

Democratizing access to justice

These examples provide a sense of where the global justice marketplace is heading, with digital approaches to delivery and remote support systems democratizing access to justice and making it more affordable for more people.

But there are still barriers. While digital delivery capabilities bring new possibilities, to be successful many of the new approaches require the cooperation of national governments; some require changes to regulation and law. Hiil, which campaigns in these areas, recognizes that bringing real change will take time.

Yet when you consider the potential benefits of a more innovative justice sector—universal access to justice, effective service delivery, reduced costs, and metrics resulting in a more robust rule of law throughout the world—opening the market seems the obvious thing for impact investors to do. In these early days, they are well positioned to play a key role in what could be the birth of an important new impact sector. Watch this space.

Follow the Innovating Justice Awards for 2014.
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[Credit Images: 123RF Stock Photo]

DATA FOR IMPACT

data 302x302by Marta Maretich @maximpactdotcom

Data is a hot topic in the worlds of government, business and philanthropy. As information technologies mature, the increased availability of data, coupled with advances in analysis, mean that many sectors are reaping the long-promised rewards; and feeling the pressure of a new age of data immersion.

This data boom will affect the growing impact investment sector on several levels. First, it will provide new opportunities for research and development. As others follow the lead of institutions like the World Bank and the UNDP, and governments like the Netherlands and Sweden, and begin to make their data public in open data initiatives, huge amounts of information about countries, communities and projects will be available online for the first time. This information is are source for entrepreneurs and investors, who can use it to identify markets, develop deals and target capital where it will have the most impact.

Impact measurement will be another field influenced by the rise of data. As the sector develops, investors from every part of the spectrum will come under increasing pressure to collect data and use it to demonstrate impact. How to measure impact is still an issue and the race is on to find the right tools for the job: IRIS and GIIRS are already available and other systems will emerge as the sector expands. Yet measurement is here to stay. As impact investing gains popularity, the call for evidence-based accountability grows louder and serious players will need to answer.

The call for transparency is another dimension of data. Like many other sectors, the impact sector is coming under more pressure to share its data publicly. ImpactIQ,a nonprofit media platform for social finance, has challenged the sector to “put its data where its mouth is” and contribute deal information to an open database. The aim is to collect data for analysis and research to build the sector. Several Maximpact funds, including Toniic, the Unreasonable Institute and Impact Engine, are already taking part. For more, see this blogpost by ImpactIQ editor David Bank.

The overall message for the sector is to get ready for data: using it, collecting it, analyzing it, sharing it and publishing it as never before. With its philosophy of openness, Maximpact supports this move to a more transparent future for data and for the sector as a whole. By sharing more, we stand to gain a lot.