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Blog Posts: sustainable development

  • 3 Important Messages from this Week’s UNFCCC Workshop on Scaling Up Climate Finance

    The last in a series of expert workshops and consultations under the UNFCCC’s work-programme on long-term finance concluded late yesterday. This 2013 extended work programme on long-term climate finance is designed to “identify pathways for mobilizing the scaling up of climate finance to USD 100 billion per year by 2020 from public, private, and alternative sources” and inform “enabling environments and policy frameworks to facilitate the mobilization and effective deployment of climate finance in developing countries.”I had the opportunity to participate quite actively in this year’s series, as WRI is working with co-chairs from the Philippines and Sweden to facilitate discussions on how to mobilize scaled-up finance for climate action.

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  • 3 Beginning Steps to Designing a National Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program

    A number of programs that require businesses to report their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have emerged in the past decade at the regional, national, and sub-national levels. Most of these programs operate in developed countries, but some developing countries are also showing an interest in adopting mandatory emissions disclosure programs.

    Establishing these programs is a resource- and time-intensive exercise. It can be a daunting task for developing countries with competing priorities and limited resources. So where can these countries begin as they consider setting up their greenhouse gas reporting schemes?

    WRI’s new working paper, Designing Greenhouse Gas Reporting Systems: Learning from Existing Programs, reviews corporate and facility-level greenhouse gas reporting programs in Australia, California, Canada, the European Union, France, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The paper identifies steps to implement a mandatory reporting program and discusses factors to be considered at each step in designing the program.

    It also discusses some strategies for developing countries keen to set up reporting programs. Developing countries may find it easier to adopt a gradual, phased approach to develop a reporting program. Engaging in the following three key steps allows developing nations to make the most of their more limited resources:

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  • In China, Waste No Time in Stopping Waste

    Being "thrifty" means spending one cent as if you have only half a cent. This is an old Chinese saying to warn people to handle affluence without forgetting about a potential crisis. Underlying this common sense is an ethic rooted in Chinese culture: wasting is bad.

    President Xi Jinping has urged Chinese people to "build a thrifty society", because if we persist with our business-as-usual production and consumption pattern we would invite a resource and environmental crisis.

    One "inconvenient truth" is that China uses about 20 percent of the total global energy to produce about 12 percent of the world GDP. The country's energy consumption per unit of GDP is 2.2 times that of the world average. A similar pattern is seen in the consumption of other resources such as steel, cement and other raw materials, as highlighted by State leaders and experts at the International Forum on Building Ecological Civilization hold in Guiyang, Guizhou province, last month. In doing so, the leaders indicated that huge amounts of energy could be saved in China by improving efficiency.

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  • Rio de Janeiro Poised to Update Its Greenhouse Gas Inventory

    Rio de Janeiro is a leader among the Brazilian cities aggressively promoting low-carbon development. In 2011, the city passed a landmark climate change law with a target to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 8% below the business-as-usual (BAU) emissions scenario by 2012, 16% by 2016, and 20% by 2020.

    Now Rio is conducting a GHG inventory for 2012, the first target year under its climate change law. The inventory will measure the city’s emissions against its 8% reduction target for 2012, and assess the effectiveness of GHG mitigation actions implemented so far. On July 2, the city government of Rio invited me and my colleagues from the Greater London Authority and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (COPPE) to a seminar to share our experiences in conducting GHG inventories and to discuss Rio’s 2012 inventory. At the seminar, Nelson Moreira Franco, Director for Climate Change Management and Sustainable Development for the City of Rio, stressed that GHG inventories help identify emission sources and provide scientific evidence on GHG levels, so it is extremely important that the city gets it right. To me, the seminar covered four important items:

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  • A Look at China's New Environmental Guidelines on Overseas Investments

    Few countries are unaffected by China’s overseas investments. The country’s outward foreign direct investments (OFDI) have grownfrom $29 billion in 2002 to more than $424 billion in 2011. While these investments can bring economic opportunities to recipient countries, they also have the potential to create negative economic, social, and environmental impacts and spur tension with local communities.

    To address these risks, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and Ministry of Environment (MEP)—with support from several think tanks—recently issued Guidelines on Environmental Protection and Cooperation. These Guidelines are the first-ever to establish criteria for Chinese companies’ behaviors when doing business overseas—including their environmental impact. But what exactly do the Guidelines cover, and how effective will they be? Here, we’ll answer these questions and more.

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  • 10 Ways to Cut Global Food Loss and Waste

    This post is the third installment of WRI’s blog series, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.” The series explores strategies to sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050. All pieces are based on research being conducted for the 2013-2014 World Resources Report.

    An amazing 24 percent of all food calories produced today go uneaten. Reducing this loss and waste is a critical step toward generating enough food for a population set to reach more than 9 billion by 2050.

    Fortunately, there are low-cost methods that can begin saving food immediately in both the developing and the developed world. WRI’s new working paper, Reducing Food Loss and Waste, identifies a number of these strategies. Some methods cut loss “close to the farm,” while others reduce waste “close to the fork.”

    Reducing Food Loss Close to the Farm

    Improved storage methods

    Simple, low-cost storage methods can drastically cut food loss, especially for small-scale farmers in the developing world, who frequently lose food to factors like pests, spoilage, and transportation damage. For example, a system developed by researchers at Purdue University in which grain is stored in three interlocking plastic bags locks out pests and keeps grain fresh for months. The Food and Agriculture Organization has built more than 45,000 small, metal storage silos—just big enough for use by a single farmer—in 16 different countries. These silos have cut food loss during the storage phase to almost zero. Even using a plastic crate instead of a plastic sack during transport can cut loss dramatically by preventing bruising and squashing.

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  • The Post-2015 Development Agenda: Linking Sustainability and Poverty Eradication

    The High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda provided a welcome injection of energy and ambition into the future of development with its final report released last week. While the details will be parsed over the coming months, the report’s recommendations were at once bold and practical. The Panel sees that the promise of a world free of extreme poverty is within reach, and achieving this vision requires that sustainability and equity should be at the core of the global development agenda.

    While there have been many such calls to move the world onto a more sustainable and equitable development path, if the Panel’s proposals are to be truly acted upon, the results would be transformational.

    With that in mind, let’s look at how the report stacks up against the four “issues to watch” that we highlighted last week:

    1) Will sustainability be on the margins or at the center of the post-2015 agenda?

    This was a clear winner, as the Panel recognized that environmental sustainability and poverty eradication are inextricably linked. The report identified sustainable development as one of five essential “transformational shifts.” Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which relegated the environment to just one of eight goals, the panel offered four goals--on energy, water, food, and natural resources--that directly connect human well-being with care for the planet.

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  • By the Numbers: Reducing Food Loss and Waste

    This post is the second installment of WRI’s blog series, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.” The series explores strategies to sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050. All pieces are based on research being conducted for the 2013-2014 World Resources Report. Look for the next installment tomorrow, which will highlight a number of solutions to reduce food loss and waste.

    The world produces about 4 billion tons of food per year, or about 6 quadrillion calories. That’s a large amount, but what’s really shocking is that nearly one-quarter of these calories go uneaten.

    This food is lost or wasted in a number of ways. It might rot in the fields, get eaten by pests in storage, or be thrown away by a grocer or consumer, just to name a few. It’s a problem that must be mitigated: The world will need about 60 percent more calories per year by 2050 in order to adequately feed the projected population of more than 9 billion people. WRI’s new working paper, Reducing Food Loss and Waste, shows that cutting current rates of food loss and waste in half would reduce the size of this food gap by about 22 percent.

    The new paper, part of the ongoing 2013-2014 World Resources Report: Creating a Sustainable Food Future working paper series, looks at the scale of the food loss and waste challenge and examines how we as a global community can start tackling this issue. The paper and tomorrow’s blog post explore a number of practical, affordable strategies for governments, businesses, and households to reduce their loss and waste immediately.

    But first, it’s important to understand the extent of the problem. Here are several facts and figures that reveal just how much food the world loses and wastes:

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  • Making the Right Choice on Indonesia’s Forest Moratorium

    This piece originally appeared in the Jakarta Post. It was co-written with Dino Patti Djalal, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia and WRI Board member.

    Ending months of uncertainty, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia made a courageous decision last week to extend the country’s forest moratorium. The new Presidential Instruction adds another two years of protection for over 43 million hectares of primary forests and peat land — an area the size of Japan.

    This was a bold decision by a leader known for his commitment to sustainability. Extending the moratorium is a victory for the Indonesian people, business, and the planet.

    The moratorium will directly benefit more than 80 million Indonesians who rely on forests for their livelihood. Many of these people are extremely poor and have struggled to gain recognition for their land rights. Extending the moratorium provides an opportunity to address these crucial issues.

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  • The Great Balancing Act: 3 Needs for a Sustainable Food Future

    This post is the first installment of WRI’s blog series, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.” The series explores strategies to sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050. All pieces are based on research being conducted for the forthcoming World Resources Report.

    How can the world feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 in a manner that advances economic development and reduces pressure on the environment? This is one of the paramount questions the world faces over the next four decades.

    Answering it requires a “great balancing act” of three needs—all of which must be met simultaneously.

    Balancing 3 Needs

    1. The world needs to close the gap between the amount of food available today and the amount required in 2050. According to new WRI analysis, we’ll need about 60 percent more food calories in 2050 than in 2006 if global demand continues on its current trajectory. This gap is in part a function of increasing population and wealth. The United Nations projects that the global population will likely grow from 7 billion in 2012 to 9.3 billion by 2050. At least 3 billion more people are likely to enter the global middle class by 2030, and they will almost certainly demand more resource-intensive foods like meat and vegetable oils. At the same time, approximately 870 million of the world's poorest people remain undernourished even today.

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