More from UN DESA Vol 25, No. 04 - April 2021

Setting the sights on a carbon neutral future

Achieving a zero-carbon future may seem to some like a wild ask, but some of the world’s biggest countries and corporations are already envisioning the financial and environmental benefits of carbon neutrality. For instance, the government of China has said it will aim to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060, and General Motors, the largest U.S. automaker, has announced plans to be carbon-neutral by 2040.

With the transport sector making up 23 per cent of total energy-related carbon-dioxide emissions, much of the world’s efforts towards carbon neutrality will focus on rethinking these systems.

As highlighted by the recent Managing Infrastructure Assets for Sustainable Development handbook developed by UN DESA and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), older assets such as transport systems often remain neglected, and new ones are built without putting in place sustainable, effective frameworks for keeping them running over the long term. Both energy and transport are critical, high impact areas for investing in local capacities to mobilize financing for sustainable development, including for reducing climate change-related shocks to infrastructure assets.

To highlight practical solutions, UN DESA will host a virtual event on 28 April, “Imagining the carbon-neutral future: Transformations in energy and transport,” the second session in the UN DESA Global Policy Dialogues for Climate Action series. The Department will bring together innovators and leading voices in the fields of clean energy and sustainable transport to discuss ways to rebuild these systems to minimize their negative impacts on the environment.

The dialogue will serve as a stepping stone to the upcoming UN High-level Dialogue on Energy (New York, September 2021), the UN Sustainable Transport Conference (Beijing, date tbc), and UN Climate Change Conference (Glasgow, November 2021), advancing the global conversation on the many interlinkages between energy, transport and climate action.

The Global Policy Dialogue on “Imagining the carbon-neutral future: Transformations in energy and transport” will be held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. EDT on 28 April. It will be broadcast live on UN DESA’s Facebook page. Stay up-to-date on upcoming events by browsing this page.

Photo: UNDP Moldova

Transfer pricing – helping countries get their fair share

Correct transfer pricing can help developing countries fight tax avoidance and profit shifting by big transnational corporations, ensuring more funds to spend on public health and recovery from the shock of COVID-19. But what is transfer pricing?

It refers to an accounting practice where related companies, such as affiliates or subsidiaries, charge each other for goods or services rendered across borders. The relationship between the companies means that the companies can overcharge or undercharge each other in order to shift profits to territories with little or no taxation.

Sometimes, even unintentional mispricing by companies can impact the funds available for countries to finance education, health care or other Sustainable Development Goals. In times of a global pandemic and the worst economic crisis in 90 years, every dollar that countries can mobilize for their development makes a difference.

The United Nations is helping developing countries combat profit shifting and artificial transfer pricing arrangements to ensure that the profits are taxed in the country where the value was created.

The forthcoming third edition of the UN Practical Manual on Transfer Pricing for Developing Countries, developed by the UN Tax Committee through its multi-stakeholder Subcommittee, brings much needed guidance on what constitutes transfer mispricing and how to conduct a transfer pricing analysis. It also shares real-world developing country experiences.

While especially designed to assist policy makers and administrators in dealing with complex transfer pricing issues, the manual also assists taxpayers in dealing with tax administrations.

The manual is expected to be launched at the 22nd Session of the UN Tax Committee on 19-28 April 2021, complementing the Committee’s other guidance materials on issues as diverse as taxation of the extractive industries, carbon taxation, dispute avoidance and resolution, and taxation of an increasingly digitalized economy.

In the run up to this critical meeting, UN DESA organized two tax webinars on:

The webinars gave participants access to a renowned group of transfer pricing experts, bringing together different views from international organizations, government officials, civil society, the private sector and academia. If you have missed these, you can still catch them here.

We need effective institutions to get out of this crisis

Conflict, insecurity, weak institutions and limited access to justice remain a great threat to sustainable development. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored these challenges, creating disruptions to the functioning of governments and their delivery of critical functions, including the provision of basic services, law enforcement and a functioning justice system. In many countries, temporary changes in rules and processes have been implemented in order to protect people at greatest risk and to ensure effective delivery of such functions.

The UN Secretary-General has called for governments to be transparent, responsive and accountable and ensure that emergency measures are proportionate, necessary and non-discriminatory, noting that “The best response is one that responds proportionately to immediate threats while protecting human rights and the rule of law”.

How can we build strong public institutions for achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) and for building back better and recovering from the pandemic? How can we put the principle of leaving no one behind into action during these challenging times? What concrete steps should be taken to address exclusion and inequalities?  These are some of the questions to be considered by the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) at its upcoming session.

The Committee, comprising 24 members, meets annually to support governments in their pursuit of building effective public administration and governance for the SDGs.

The 20th session of CEPA will be held virtually from 12th to 21st April under the theme “Building inclusive, effective & resilient institutions for sustainable recovery from COVID-19 and implementation of the SDGs”. The Committee will explore key institutional aspects in achieving sustainable development, including strengthening the analytical basis for reform policies, integrating the SDGs into national and subnational budgeting and financial management, sustainable public procurement, impact of the pandemic on essential workers in the public sector, and building strong institutions in conflict-affected countries. It will be broadcast live on UN WebTV

Find more information here.

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