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What's Happening at Rio+20: June 16th

The Rio+20 informal sessions kicked off this week, and WRI’s experts are on the ground for all the action. I just arrived in Rio myself this afternoon. It's a beautiful city--right on the water, with lots of mountains around. I'm looking forward to a very busy and productive week.

Each day, I’ll bring you highlights of upcoming WRI events. Check out the details below on what we’ve got going on tomorrow. And be sure to visit the full list of all WRI events at Rio+20.

Climate Change and Rio+20

Despite 1992 Rio Earth Summit being the birthplace of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, climate change doesn’t have a major place on this year’s official Rio+20 agenda. But we shouldn’t assume that it’s a forgotten issue. In fact, climate change cuts across nearly all of the other sustainable development topics.

However, news on the climate front is not good. Global emissions levels have reached record highs, according to the latest data from the International Energy Agency. We continue to see unusally warm temperatures, like the extraordinarily hot spring we just experienced in the United States. Extreme weather events, such as heat waves and droughts, continue to wreak havoc around the globe, reminding us of what the world will look like if emissions continue to rise.

Rio+20: Seizing the Opportunity for a Sustainable Future

The 1992 Earth Summit was a bright moment for the environmental movement. For the first time, presidents and prime ministers—more than 100 in all—were “coming together to save the earth,” as a headline on the cover of Time magazine put it. What’s more, the U.N.-led conference in Rio de Janeiro yielded some genuine results. Among them were major global treaties on the climate and biodiversity. Rich and poor countries alike also made a broad new commitment to sustainable development— as spelled out in the Rio Declaration and an accompanying “action plan."

Was it too much to hope that humanity had turned a corner?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question appears to be yes. Despite some progress, the world is still waiting for the global response that the original Earth Summit seemed to promise— a promise that will now be revisited, as thousands of representatives of government, civil society, and business return for the Rio+20 conference.

Priorities for the Green Climate Fund in 2012

With the first meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) fast approaching, two regional groups – Asia-Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean – have yet to nominate their Board members. Negotiated over the last two years, the GCF is expected to deliver large-scale finance to developing countries to address climate change. Without completing the nominations, though, the Board cannot begin the important task of making the “main global fund for climate change finance” operational.

Earlier this year, WRI and Climate Analytics facilitated a meeting in New York City of representatives from prospective Board member countries and others involved in the Fund’s design (see summary note). Participants exchanged ideas and perspectives on the Board’s program of work for 2012 and priorities for its first meeting. In addition to the basic administrative arrangements – like selecting a host country and establishing a secretariat – the Board needs to do the following in 2012:

Asian Organizations Commit to Advance Corporate Action on Climate Change

Companies around the world are increasingly measuring and managing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in response to drivers like consumer preference, purchaser demands, and sustainability goals. As a growing number of Asian companies look to manage their emissions, they’ll require training and resources available in their own languages and cultural contexts. To that end, the Greenhouse Gas Protocol recently held a week-long training session in Delhi, India to further build Asian companies’ capacities to measure and curb emissions.

Training participants included government representatives, business and industry council leaders, and NGOs from India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. The workshop focused on providing those in the region with tools to teach companies how to develop GHG inventories based on the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard and establish programs to measure and report their emissions. The Program Design Course provided a forum for participants to share experiences and future plans, and identified the steps involved in designing a blueprint to establish their own programs. The course drew on case studies from existing corporate GHG reporting programs like the Brazil GHG Protocol Program, the Mexico Greenhouse Gas Program, the Israel Voluntary Greenhouse Gas Registry, and the former U.S. EPA Climate Leaders Program, all of which are based on the GHG Protocol.

Clean Energy for All: Strategies for Expanding Access in the Developing World

This is a two-part series on expanding access to clean energy in developing countries. Check out the first installment.

Accessing reliable energy is one of the greatest obstacles the developing world faces. Globally, about 1.3 billion people go without electricity, while 2.7 billion lack modern energy services. Providing these populations with energy is difficult—ensuring that generation occurs in environmentally sustainable and cost-effective ways makes the task significantly more challenging.

Expanding clean energy access has been a big part of the conversations during this week’s Asian Clean Energy Forum, organized by the Asian Development Bank and USAID in partnership with WRI. The talks mirror discussions that clean energy project developers and financiers had at a March 2012 workshop that was organized by WRI and the DOEN Foundation. Knowledge from this group and demonstration of their business models showcase the key elements to in implementing successful clean energy projects.

Paying a Premium for Climate Resilience

What is the best way to protect vulnerable rural communities from the damaging impacts of climate change? Insurance could be an answer, but it raises a number of difficult questions.

To illustrate, the New York Times recently ran a story, “Report Says a Crop Subsidy Cap Could Save Millions.” The piece discusses a new U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that investigated the costs and distributive effects of the federal insurance program that protects farmers against crop failure and low market prices. This is a costly program for the federal government – farmers pay only 38 percent of the premiums, and the rest is covered by federal subsidies. Payouts are skewed toward the largest farms, which may receive very large payments because there is no subsidy cap. The cost to U.S. taxpayers in 2011 was $7.3 billion.

Clean Energy for All: A Global Challenge

This is a two-part series on expanding access to clean energy in developing countries. Tune in tomorrow for the second installment, which will highlight specific ways institutions can implement successful clean energy projects.

This week, key leaders from the policy, industry, government, NGO, banking, and civil society sectors are gathering in the Philippines for the 7th annual Asian Clean Energy Forum (ACEF). The event, organized by the Asian Development Bank and USAID, aims to foster discussions about how to scale up clean energy initiatives and curb climate change in Asian nations.

One the forum’s key themes is access to clean energy. In March 2012, the World Resources Institute and the DOEN Foundation also organized a workshop focused on innovative practices in providing access to clean energy in developing countries (check out the new video about this forward-thinking event). The workshop brought together an inspiring group of practitioners, project developers, and financiers who are all successfully implementing clean energy access projects in communities across the world. These practitioners are bringing efficient cook stoves to Africa, solar home systems to India, and small-scale hydro to Indonesia – reaching poor rural communities who are in great need of clean energy solutions.

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