Author Archives: Daniel Shepard

Smoke exposure from cookstoves kills 4 million every year: World Bank

November 3– Common pollutants like soot are accelerating climate change and proving fatal for health, according to a new report issued by the World Bank today.

The carbon pollutants, along with methane gas, are short-lived climate pollutants that are playing a major role in accelerating melting of the earth’s regions of snow and ice—the “cryosphere,” says the new World Bank report, “On Thin Ice: How Cutting Pollution can Slow Warming and Save Lives.”  It finds that the melting that is taking place at a pace unprecedented in the historic record has the potential to trigger disastrous feedback mechanisms from the cryosphere into the global climate system.

Current estimates place the total annual deaths from all household smoke exposure from cookstoves, both outdoor and indoor, at four million annually, greater than the current annual toll from HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

The report recommends 14 specific measures we could take by 2030 to reduce short-lived climate pollutants and slow the melting of ice and snow that must stay frozen to keep oceans and global temperatures from rising rapidly.

The health of people around the world will improve greatly if we reduce emissions of black carbon and methane. Limiting these emissions also will be an important contributor to the fight against climate change,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group.

Cookstove reduction measures offer a global, optimally beneficial plan for human health and delaying cryosphere warming. Climate benefits are visible in every cryosphere region of the world even in Antarctica after the introduction of advanced cookstoves. These cookstoves use less or cleaner fuel and can save one million lives annually.

 These report says that the reduction measures will provide important agriculture and development benefits as well. Reductions in emissions of methane and nitrogen oxide from diesel use could result in more than 16 million tons of additional yield in crops such as rice, soy and wheat, especially in Southeast Asia.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development adds that the aim now “is to work with countries to transform investments that have an impact on pollutants like black carbon into investments that reduce emissions where ever possible.”

 

In Copenhagen, Ban calls for clean energy transformation for more sustainable future

22 October 2013 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for a clean energy transformation to help put the world on a more sustainable path, stressing that this will require innovation, investment and collaboration by all partners.

“Achieving a clean energy transformation will need the combined efforts of governments, multilateral investment banks, private finance, civil society, the knowledge community and the private sector,” Mr. Ban said in a keynote address at the Third Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen. “We are partners on a path to sustainability… But we have no time to waste.”

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the Global Green Growth Forum in Copenhagen, Denmark. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

He noted that the way energy is produced and used is “the dominant cause” of climate change. “The impact on our global economy is increasingly clear. We count the cost in human lives and economic loss,” he stated. “But, we are forging solutions together all over the world.”

In September 2011, the Secretary-General launched the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which aims to achieve three inter-linked global targets by 2030: universal access to modern energy services; the doubling of energy efficiency; and the doubling of the share of renewable energy in the world’s energy mix.

“Each of these objectives serves a common end: clean, low-carbon growth. This is critical for sustainable development,” said Mr. Ban.

He highlighted the fact that the world is fast approaching a triple deadline. The target date for achieving the global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) falls at end of 2015. World leaders have also agreed on 2015 as the year for establishing a new sustainable development framework and reaching an agreement on climate change.

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

“2015 thus represents an historic opportunity to set the world on a sustainable path,” Mr. Ban stated. “To do that we must eradicate extreme poverty and hold global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

“These objectives are mutually reinforcing and interdependent. Achieving them will require significant global momentum – beginning with a concerted push to accelerate progress towards the MDGs.

“On that foundation we must agree an inclusive post-2015 development framework with poverty reduction at its core and sustainable development as its guide. And to support these efforts, we must increase action and ambition on climate change.”

To that end, Mr. Ban has proposed convening a Climate Summit next September to bring together government, business, finance and civil society leaders from around the world to mobilize political will for the climate negotiations, deliver concrete new commitments and spark “a race to the top” in climate action.

He asked leaders to bring solutions and initiatives with targets, deliverables and investment plans. He also urged them to raise their level of ambition by scaling up the investments and financial flows necessary for making the transformation to a low-carbon economy.

“We need large amounts of capital for the rapid development of low-carbon infrastructure,” he stated. “We are seeing progress – but not fast enough; and not at sufficient scale.

“Climate change is the single greatest threat to sustainable development. Yet, too often, one important fact gets lost amid the fear: addressing climate change is one of our greatest opportunities,” he noted.

“With enlightened action, we can create jobs, improve public health, protect the environment and spur sustainable green growth. In the coming year we should all do our utmost to unlock the barriers to climate finance that exist across the global economy.”

The Secretary-General said he is personally engaged in trying to move the financial actors, regularly meeting with financial actors and investors. Today he attended a meeting with pension fund executives, at which he asked them to help in unlocking new opportunities for capital investment in climate and development.

He also noted, in the meeting, his intention to include pension fund leaders in the Climate Summit, and discussed the possibilities for using the event as a unique opportunity to leverage unprecedented financial, political and organizational capital.

“I will continue to engage and challenge pension funds, insurance companies and sovereign wealth funds to look beyond the fossil-related segments of the global economy. Less than 1 per cent of pension fund assets are currently invested in sustainable infrastructure projects,” Mr. Ban told the forum.

“Our hope is that greater investment can move towards low-carbon assets, for the good of the world and the long-term financial health of investors. At the same time, development and commercial banks can and should unlock capital to enable low-carbon investments. And regulators can break barriers to facilitating these flows.

“There are enormous untapped investment opportunities in developing countries. All financial actors have to work together to create the mechanisms for making these investments possible. Companies and countries have to make sure that bankable projects are ready, when the money is available.

“With focus, resolve and ambition, we can lower the global thermostat and raise the level of economic opportunity for all – from the poorest households to the largest enterprises.”

Ban meets with financial leaders to mobilize investments to combat climate change

13 October 2013 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the international community to step up its financial investment in technologies, policies and practices that can help combat climate change, adding that time is running out to address this global threat.

“Climate change is the single greatest threat to sustainable development. Yet too often, one important fact gets lost amid the fear: addressing climate change is one of our greatest opportunities,” Mr. Ban said at the annual meeting of the International Development Finance Club (IFDC) in Washington, D.C.

“With enlightened action, we can create jobs, improve public health and protect the environment.”

In his remarks, Mr. Ban underlined the role that the development finance community and the financial sector have in forging solutions to climate change. For example, large amounts of capital are needed to develop low-carbon infrastructure, and green enterprises need investments to close the gap between low-emissions and fossil-fueled based projects.

As the economic impact of climate change grows, more needs to be done, Mr. Ban stressed, calling on the IDFC to actively engage in next year’s Climate Summit, which will bring together Heads of State, global leaders from business, finance and civil society.

“Our goal is mobilize political will for the negotiations, deliver concrete new commitments and spark a race to the top in climate action,” he said. “I hope you will collectively use the 2014 Climate Summit to reach the goal of $100 billion-a-year for new climate finance commitments. I also encourage you to double your portfolio of adaptation financing.”

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with members of the International Development Finance Club (IDFC) in Washington, D.C. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Mr. Ban emphasized that action from development banks would not just help make economies and financial institutions more climate-resilient, but would also inspire other financial actors to follow suit.

“Development banks have proven that smart public financing can spur local and international private sector investments and meet the growing demand for energy and climate resilience.

I urge you to do even more at the global and national level: by helping to open new markets… facilitate new business models and support entrepreneurs in the developing world where demand for clean investment solutions is greatest,” he said.

Mr. Ban later had lunch with members of the IDFC, and thanked them for their leadership and commitment to further strengthen collaboration between IDFC development banks and the UN system.

Call for climate resilient cities ahead of World Habitat Day

4 October 2013 – Cities must boost efforts to become more resilient to natural disasters as well as provide their citizens with methods of alternative transportation to thrive, senior United Nations officials said today.

“As the effects of climate change increase, urban resilience becomes ever more necessary,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his remarks at an event at UN Headquarters to mark World Habitat Day, observed annually on the first Monday of October.“All actors need to work together to save lives, protect assets and guarantee services when disasters strike. Planning is essential.”

A new study that looks at how rapid urbanization affected biodiversity and ecosystems, the Urbanization, Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Challenges and Opportunities,  was also launched during the events for the Day.   The study, which was produced by the Stockholm Resilience Centre, in collaboration with UN-Habitat, other United Nations agencies and some 200 scientists worldwide, is the first global assessment of its kind.

It is now expected that urban areas would grow to about the size of South Africa by 2050, according to Thomas Elmqvist, the report”s scientific editor.   Prime agricultural land would significantly be covered by a lot of buildings, straining local infrastructure and posing challenges to local governments.  In that regard, investment must be made in those cities in a way that positively impacted health, food and water securities and global resilience.

Mr. Ban noted that the humanitarian and economic cost of natural disasters is mounting, with natural hazards having killed some 1.1 million people since 2000. Since then, more than 2.7 billion have been affected and the economic cost is estimated at $1.3 trillion.

“The poor, who are hit first and worst, have the least means to recover,” Mr. Ban stressed, adding that urban resilience is a sustainable development priority.

“Getting mobility right can mean the difference between a struggling city and a thriving one,” Mr. Ban said. “Mobility is not a question of building wider or longer roads. It is about providing appropriate and efficient systems that serve the most people in the best, most equitable manner.”

Alternative methods of transportation such as bicycles, buses and trains, can help tackle pollution and congestion, provide transport for those who cannot afford it, and benefit those who do not use cars due to impracticality such as the elderly and persons with disabilities. Increasing well-lit sidewalks for pedestrians will also addresses the issue of safety, which is of particular concern for women, young persons and minorities.

Improved mobility can regenerate urban centres, boost productivity and make a city attractive for all users – from investors to visitors and residents, Mr. Ban said.

President of the General Assembly John Ashe underlined that working towards improved resilience and mobility requires the involvement of multiple stakeholders including Governments, international, regional and local organizations, the private sector and civil society.

“For far too long, the international community has worked in silos: humanitarian action, poverty eradication, environmental protection, and disaster reduction were dealt with separately,” Mr. Ashe said. “To build resilient cities, serviced by sustainable transport, we must recognize the interconnectedness of all these dimensions and pull together knowledge, skills and best practices from different areas of expertise.”

In a press conference at Headquarters, Executive Director of UN-Habitat Joan Clos, once the Mayor of Barcelona, Spain,  emphasized that citizens need better mobility not just to go to work, but also to have access services, education and recreational activities. He added that countries face environmental and economic sustainability challenges to improve mobility.

“We need to change the patterns of mobility so that transport systems in the future are less dependent on for-sale energy,” Mr. Clos said. Cities also need to find ways to ensue that accessibility to transport system is not stopped by economical barriers. This, he added, is particularly pressing in the developing world.  He said the cities of the future must be planned for sustainability. “While cities were created by humans, they must not be left to spontaneity.”

In his statement on the Day, issues earlier, Mr. Clos said urban planning and design should focus on how to bring people and places together, by creating cities that focus on accessibility, rather than simply increasing the length and capacity of urban transport infrastructure.

“By optimizing urban densities and minimizing land zoning we start to make the city work for its citizens proximity of goods and services takes advantage of the urban advantage and encourages investment and opportunity,” he said, adding that compact, well-designed cities can also be cleaner and have less impact on their environment per resident than more spread out areas.

“In an environment characterized by scarcity, this is not only preferable to our standard of living but vital if we are to grow our urban space in a sustainable and desirable way. We need to ensure the cities of the future are well-planned, sustainable and accessible to all,” he said.

Asia-Pacific nations at UN call for urgent global approach to mitigate climate change

28 September 2013 – Asia-Pacific countries, some of them threatened with extinction from rising sea levels, took to the podium of the United Nations General Assembly today to call for an urgent global approach to mitigate climate change, voicing concern at the lack of progress so far.

“Climate change is no longer an environmental or political issue,” said Deputy Prime Minister Vete Palakua Sakaio of Tuvalu, a low-lying country of atolls in the direct line of onslaught from rising oceans.

“It is a borderless human security issue. Everybody must act to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide adaptation,” he added, echoing concerns already expressed by other leaders of small island developing states and least developed countries at this year’s 68th Assembly General Debate.

On a new post-2015 development agenda to succeed the current Millennium Development Goals cycle, the theme of this year’s 68th Assembly, he stressed the importance of partnerships. “The UN continues to be a beacon of hope and through strategic advocacy, and awareness-campaigns, brings the real issues and current events into the consciousness of the public and membership to propel action and redress,” he said.

“The scale of challenges can only be addressed by reforming ourselves, the UN and each member country.”

Manasseh Maelanga, Deputy Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga of the Solomon Islands called for a new spirit of partnership to reform the global economic architecture. “Climate change remains a global issue that needs a global solution,” he said.

“We join all SIDS and LDCs in conveying our concern on the slow progress of climate change negotiations. The alarming pace of climate change is posing unprecedented threats to humanity’s survival.”

Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion of Papua New Guinea called for SIDS to remain a special case for sustainable development as the UN draws up a post-2015 blueprint for long-term sustainable development for the decades following the end of the current Millennium Development Goals cycle.

“The adverse impacts of climate change continue to be of serious concern to the global community but especially for small island developing States,” he said. “While contributing the least to this threat, small island countries are not only suffering the most from the serious impacts of climate change but also run the risk of being submerged by rising sea levels…

“We therefore reiterate the challenge to the international community to accept its responsibility and leadership role.”

The Pacific countries received support from another small island but highly developed State – Singapore, which called for the views and concerns of small nations to be incorporated in the post-2015 development agenda as a priority.

“Many, especially small island developing States are among the more vulnerable members of the UN family,” Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said. “Singapore identifies closely with our fellow SIDS countries” urgent concerns.”

He also cited two other priority areas: allowing countries flexibility in which goals they choose to prioritize and how they will achieve them and emphasizing urban management and the intertwined issues of water and sanitation.

“The UN has a critical role in the evolution of the post-2015 development agenda,” he declared. “Only the UN, with its universal membership and access to global data, has the standing to establish a new global development agenda that is inclusive, effective and adaptable.”