Banks, UN set standards on channelling investments for sustainable development
31 January 2017 Nearly 20 leading global banks and investors, totalling $6.6 trillion in assets, have launched a United Nations-backed global framework aimed at channelling the money they manage towards clean, low carbon and inclusive projects.
The Principles for Positive Impact Finance – a first of its kind set of criteria for investments to be considered sustainable – provide financiers and investors with a global framework applicable across their different business lines, including retail and wholesale lending, corporate and investment lending and asset management.
“Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the global action plan to end poverty, combat climate change and protect the environment – is expected to cost $5 to $7 trillion every year through 2030,” said the head of the UN Environment Finance Initiative, Eric Usher, in a press release.
The UN Environment Finance Initiative is a partnership between the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the global financial sector created in the wake of the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development, widely known as the Earth Summit, with a mission to promote sustainable finance. Over 200 financial institutions, including banks, insurers and fund managers, work with UN Environment to understand today’s environmental challenges, why they matter to finance, and how to actively participate in addressing them.
“The Positive Impact Principles are a game changer, which will help to channel the hundreds of trillions of dollars managed by banks and investors towards clean, low carbon and inclusive projects,” Mr. Usher said.
The Principles provide guidance for financiers and investors to analyse, monitor and disclose the social, environmental and economic impacts of the financial products and services they deliver.
“With global challenges such as climate change, population growth and resource scarcity accelerating, there is an increased urgency for the finance sector both to adapt and to help bring about the necessary changes in our economic and business models,” said Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Société Générale, Séverin Cabannes.
“The Principles for Positive Impact Finance provide an ambitious yet practical framework by which we can take the broader angle view we need to meet the deeply complex and interconnected challenges of our time,” he added.
The Principles were developed by the Positive Impact Working Group, a group of UN Environment Finance Initiative banking and investment members, as part of the implementation of the roadmap outlined in the Positive Impact Manifesto released in October 2015.
Currently, the Positive Impact Working Group includes: Australian Ethical, Banco Itaú, BNP Paribas, BMCE Bank of Africa, Caisse des Dépôts Group, Desjardins Group, First Rand, Hermes Investment Management, ING, Mirova, NedBank, Pax World, Piraeus Bank, SEB, Société Générale, Standard Bank, Triodos Bank, Westpac and YES Bank.
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UN agriculture chief calls for stronger water management, improved access for small farmers
20 January 2017 The head of the United Nations agricultural agency today urged the international community to promote more efficient use of water and to take steps to secure water access, especially for poor family farmers.
Addressing the annual Global Forum for Food and Agriculture now underway in Berlin, the Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, said that growing water scarcity is one of the leading challenges to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Agriculture and food systems bring all of these global goals together and provide opportunities for a transformational change,” Mr. Graziano da Silva told participants at the Summit, being held this year around the theme of water and agriculture.
One of the 17 SDGs aims to improve water access for all people, and water is a theme of other goals related to poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and climate change.
In his speech, Mr. Graziano de Silva noted that as the world population is expected to exceed nine billion by 2050, and with millions of family farmers already lacking access to freshwater, conflicts over water resources will increase.
“It is time to act. Improved management of natural resources translates into better livelihoods now and in the future,” the FAO Director-General urged.
Last December, the UN agency he heads launched a global framework for coping with water scarcity in agriculture. It aims to support the development and implementation of policies and programmes for sustainable use of water in farming.
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Ground-breaking UN-supported digital tool to enhance green finance
20 January 2017 The United Nations environment agency and a the leading Chinese online financial service provider today rolled out an innovative programme at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, aiming to stimulate the advancement of digital technologies in green finance.
The ground-breaking imitative, the ‘Green Digital Finance Alliance,’ is a partnership between the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Ant Financial Services Group (Ant Financial), China’s leading online and mobile financial services provider.
“The Green Digital Finance Alliance is a unique partnership ensuring that we can align tomorrow’s fintech-powered (financial technology) global financial system with sustainable development, said Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment.
Financing sustainable development, as one of the greatest challenges at the moment, requires ambition, innovation, and commitment, underpinned by effective collaboration.
“UN Environment is honoured to partner with Ant Financial in making green finance an integral part of the daily life of every individual and business,” he added.
The new initiative is committed to driving environmental risks, opportunities, incentives and choices into the decision-making across the financing value chain. And these can be achieved through market innovation, collaborative action and increased public awareness of sustainable development and green lifestyle choices.
“Ant Financial is a strong believer in green finance. Several of our products and services have been contributing to sustainable development,” said Eric Jing, Chief Executive Officer of Ant Financial.
One such innovation is Ant Financial’s app, which provides users with a carbon account, in addition to their credit and saving accounts. Ant’s 450 million users in China are now able to benchmark their carbon footprint and to earn “green energy” credits for reducing their footprint.
Moreover, Ant Financial has integrated this function into a social media experience, as well as committing to a complementary, tree-planting carbon offset programme. As of today, 72 million users are participating in the app.
“Leveraging mobile Internet, cloud computing and big data, we can encourage our hundreds of millions of users to participate in a green lifestyle,” said Mr. Jing, adding that “we hope that the Green Digital Finance Alliance will contribute to shaping and accelerating this development.”
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UN agency eyes recycling wastewater for large-scale farming
19 January 2017 With agricultural land thirsty and water increasingly scarce, the United Nations agricultural agency is today hosting an international event to discuss the use of municipal liquid waste for farming.
“Properly managed, wastewater can be used safely to support crop production – directly through irrigation or indirectly by recharging aquifers – but doing so requires diligent management of health risks through adequate treatment or appropriate use,” the Food and Agricultural Organization said in a press release.
Sound management of wastewater in agricultural production is the focus of a discussion by a group of experts today in Berlin, Germany, at the opening day of the annual Global Forum for Food and Agriculture. The Forum – this year organized around agriculture and water – has been convened by FAO, along with the United Nations University, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Leibniz Research Alliance.
“Although more detailed data on the practice is lacking, we can say that, globally, only a small proportion of treated wastewater is being used for agriculture, most of it municipal wastewater,” said Marlos De Souza, a senior officer with FAO’s Land and Water Division.
The use of water recycling is already being used by some small farmers and has shown successful results near cities where wastewater is widely available and inexpensive.
An increasing number of countries are now exploring its use on a larger scale. Among these Egypt, Jordan, Mexico, Spain and the United States.
Participants at the Berlin event will also discuss how to manage risks. The biggest concern is proper treatment of the wastewater, often contains microbes and pathogens, chemical pollution, antibiotic residues, and other threats to the health of farmers, food chain workers, and consumers.
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2016 was the hottest year ever recorded – UN weather agency
18 January 2017 The world has just witnessed the hottest year on record, surpassing the exceptionally high temperatures of 2015, the United Nations weather agency reported today, highlighting new records in indicators of human-caused climate change, as well as loss of Artic sea ice.
The globally averaged temperature in 2016 was about 1.1 degree Celsius higher than the pre-industrial period, according to a consolidated analysis by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), continuing the trend in which 16 of the 17 hottest years on record will have been during this century (1998 is the outlier).
“2016 was an extreme year for the global climate and stands out as the hottest year on record,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, stressing that “temperatures only tell part of the story.”
In a news release, he emphasises that “long-term indicators of human-caused climate change reached new heights in 2016, as carbon dioxide and methane concentrations surged to new records,” adding that carbon dioxide, as well as methane concentrations contribute to climate change.
Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years, trapping heat and causing the earth to warm further. The lifespan of carbon dioxide in the oceans is even longer. It is also the single most important greenhouse gas emitted by human activities. According to the WMO, carbon dioxide is responsible for 85 per cent of the warming effect on the Earth’s climate over the past decade.
Rising sea levels as Greenland glacier melts
Rising temperatures and concentrations of major greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are not the only record-breaking indicators of climate change, also Arctic sea ice remains at very low levels.
“We have also broken sea ice minimum records in the Arctic and Antarctic,” Mr. Taalas noted. “Greenland glacier melt – one of the contributors to sea level rise – started early and fast. Arctic sea ice was the lowest on record both at the start of the melt season in March and at the height of the normal refreezing period in October and November,” he explained.
Based on WMO consolidated analyses Mr. Taalas also concludes that the “Arctic is warming twice as fast the global average,” and adds “the persistent loss of sea ice is driving weather, climate and ocean circulation patterns in other parts of the world.”
Extreme weather causing huge socio-economic disruption and losses
Throughout 2016, there were many extreme weather events which caused huge socio-economic disruption and losses.
“The one degree change means that the amount of disasters related to weather and hydrology have been increasing,” said Mr Taalas recently in an interview with UN News, adding that “it will have a negative impact on the economies of the countries, and it will also impact the lives and wellbeing of all humans.”
WMO has linked weather-related events to conclusions by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which recently reported 19.2 million new displacements due to weather, water, climate and geophysical hazards in 113 countries in 2015. That number is more than twice the number of people displaced due to human-related conflict and violence.
Record ocean heat contributed to widespread coral reef bleaching, including in the Great Barrier Reef, which has seen up to 50 per cent of its coral die in certain parts.
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Climate change will lead to annual coral bleaching, UN-supported study predicts
5 January 2017 If current trends continue and the world fails to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, nearly all of the world’s coral reefs will suffer severe bleaching – the gravest threat to one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems – on annual basis, the United Nations environment agency today reported.
The finding is part of a study funded by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and partners, which reviewed new climate change projections to predict which corals will be affected first and at what rate. The report is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports .
Researchers found that the reefs in Taiwan and the Turks and Caicos archipelago will be among the first to experience annual bleaching, followed by reefs off the coast of Bahrain, in Chile and in French Polynesia.
Calling the predictions “a treasure trove” for environmentalists, the head of the UN agency, Erik Solheim said the projects allow conservationists and governments to prioritize the protection reef protection.
“The projections show us where we still have time to act before it’s too late,” Mr. Solheim said.
On average, the reefs will start to undergo annual bleaching starting in 2014, according to the study. Without the required minimum of five years to regenerate, the annual occurrences will have a deadly effect on the corals and disrupt the ecosystems which they support.
However, if Governments act on emission reduction pledges made in the Paris Agreement, which calls on countries to combat climate change and limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius, the corals would have another 11 years to adapt to the warming seas.
Between 2014 and 2016, the world witnessed the longest global bleaching event recorded. Among the casualties was the Great Barrier Reef, with 90 per cent of it bleached and 20 per cent of the reef’s coral killed.
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