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Rio+20: Moving Ahead with the Sustainable Development Goals

As the global summit in Rio approaches, negotiations are still in flux, but some ideas that could advance the global sustainability agenda are gaining momentum.

One such idea is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are emerging as a potentially significant outcome with global policy implications for the post-2015 development agenda. With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire in 2015, the idea is for governments to launch a process in Rio to develop broader SDGs that would complement or succeed them.

The MDGs have had a laudable impact on reducing the proportion of the world’s people living in extreme poverty. But they have also been criticized– fairly – for failing to address some key drivers of poverty. These include environmental issues—such as climate change and resource scarcity—that disproportionately impact the poor and most vulnerable, as well as the inequitable distribution of wealth, income, and opportunity.

Q & A with Tao Zhang: Scaling Up Impact Investing in China

Opportunities in China for impact investing are growing, where investors look to create positive social and environmental benefits alongside returns. Impact investors actively choose to put their money into companies that address social and environmental issues through their business models. Tao Zhang, the Chief Operating Officer of New Ventures, WRI’s center for environmental entrepreneurship with local operations in China and five other high growth markets, answers questions on the country’s current investment climate for environmentally-focused small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Three Ideas That Are Good for Both Economy and Environment

This piece was written with Vinod Thomas, Director General, Independent Evaluation, Asian Development Bank. It originally appeared in The Guardian.

As we enter a new year, the world continues to be in the grips of dual crises. A stubborn economic downturn with widespread job losses combined with accelerating global warming threatening vulnerable communities. Many argue that dealing with climate change in the midst of an economic slump will hurt recovery efforts. The underlying reality, however, is quite the opposite. Not only can preparing for climate change offer opportunities for economic growth, it would be unwise to pursue one without the other.

Want Low-Cost Clean Energy? Bank on Innovation

In the United States, there is a heated debate about how much government should support renewable energy innovation. While you won’t find anyone who says they don’t value ‘innovation’, the U.S. federal investment in energy innovation across both fossil and renewable technology is still anemic, badly trailing China and only about one third of the amount recommended by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. That’s unfortunate, because there are compelling reasons to accelerate innovation in the energy sector, and specifically in renewable energy.

A Vision for the UN Panel For Global Sustainability

On October 20, I spoke at an Interactive Dialogue of the UN General Assembly about the imminent report of the High Level Panel for Global Sustainability. The Panel, convened by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, is charged with articulating a new vision for sustainable growth and prosperity. Its report, due at the end of 2011, will set the tone for intergovernmental action in the coming years, including at the 2012 Rio+20 Earth Summit.

With a roster of current and former world leaders (including Mrs. Tarja Halonen, President of Finland and Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa) the Panel is uniquely positioned to set an agenda for green growth and prosperity. As I say in my remarks below, we already know what we need to do to promote sustainability. The real question lies in how to move forward and overcome both the political and behavioral hurdles that have hampered progress so far. Can the Panel craft a vision that is ambitious, politically realistic, and persuasive to the larger public?

Denmark committed to 40% emissions reduction in 2020

Denmark’s new coalition government, elected last month, has adopted a new, more ambitious climate policy committing the country to reduce its GHG emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020 through domestic action. This target brings Denmark into line with the level of reduction proposed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as well as with the targets of several other Nordic and Northern European countries.

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