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sustainable development

The Challenge of Strengthening Environmental Entrepreneurship

This is the first installment of a five-part blog series on scaling environmental entrepreneurship in emerging markets. In forthcoming posts, experts in the field will provide insights on how business accelerators, technical assistance providers, investors, and the philanthropic community can work with developing market entrepreneurs to increase their economic, environmental, and social impacts.

One of the greatest challenges of our time is achieving economic development without harming the planet and local communities. Entrepreneurship can play a critical role in solving this dilemma.

In fact, entrepreneurs and the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) they create contribute up to 78 percent of employment and more than 29 percent of GDP in developing economies. These types of businesses play an invaluable role in creating jobs, spurring community growth, and alleviating poverty. Some of these SMEs create even more value by generating clear, measurable environmental benefits.

But the problem is that these entrepreneurs face a host of challenges when it comes to growing their businesses and succeeding. As Global Entrepreneurship Week is celebrated across the world this week, it’s a good time to examine the importance of environmentally focused entrepreneurs as well as the difficulties they face.

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The False Choice Between Palm Oil and Indonesian Forests

This post originally appeared in the Jakarta Post.

Palm oil is on a lot of people’s minds. In Indonesia, the industry is booming, with $19.7 billion of crude palm oil exports in 2011. But expanding oil palm plantations have taken their toll on remaining forests and other natural habitats in tropical regions and led to conflict over land with local people.

The world’s top scientists are also raising concerns. According to a recent study in Nature Climate Change, from 1990 to 2010, 90 percent of lands converted to oil palm plantations in Kalimantan were forested.

There need not, however, be a trade-off between palm oil, forests, and communities. It is possible to grow more crops--including oil palm--while keeping forests and cutting rural poverty.

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4 Key Factors for the Sustainable Development Goals

Earlier this week, I participated in a United Nations Special Event Panel on “Conceptualizing a Set of Sustainable Development Goals,” which took place before an audience of senior policymakers and UN ambassadors and delegates.

At the Rio+20 summit in June, world leaders agreed to create global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a means to embed sustainability into economic development. This week’s event sought to start a discussion about what these goals might look like and how they could build on the existing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in 2015.

Here are four important messages that I presented about how to make the SDGs effective and why they are critical to our planet’s future:

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Reflections on the 8th International Congress on Sustainable Transport

Who said urban transport was boring? Certainly not the 1,100 people who recently gathered in Mexico City at the 8th annual International Congress on Sustainable Transport. The event, organized by colleagues at EMBARQ Mexico, brought together leading government officials, practitioners, academics, and other professionals to explore lessons and find new solutions to global transportation challenges. I was amazed by the energy and excitement that pervaded the event and by the ideas and innovations emerging in this field.

I had the pleasure of addressing the plenary on the bigger context for urban transport in today’s global society. With nearly a billion people being added to the world’s cities in the coming decades, how transport systems are designed will be pivotal for livelihoods, society, and the global environment. Transportation goes to the heart of how we live and what kind of future we want.

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3 Imperatives for the Next Global Development Agenda

This post was co-authored with Vinod Thomas, Director-General of Independent Evaluation at the Asian Development Bank.

Can extreme poverty be eliminated in the next 20 years? With much of the world still mired in an economic slump, the question might seem ill-timed. Yet, as heads of state arrive in New York on Monday for the 67th United Nations General Assembly, this goal should be at the top of the agenda.

There are two compelling reasons why world leaders should seize this moment. First, this is a crucial chance to build on the hard-won progress in reducing poverty over the past two decades. With the UN-led Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as a galvanizing force, the number of people living below $1.25 a day fell from some 43 percent in 1990 to about 22 percent in 2008. But far more still needs to be done.

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Improved Governance Needed in G20's Report on Infrastructure Development

A few months back, I attended the US-China-Brazil Forum on Sustainable Infrastructure and Development, organized by the International Fund for China’s Environment. I was joined by a few other development experts, including representatives from the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, Pacific Environment, the Brookings Institution, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation of North America. Our “Infrastructure Investment Strategies and Project Selection Criteria” panel provided an opportunity to discuss the final report of the G20 High-Level Panel (HLP) on infrastructure.

The HLP report, “High Level Panel on Infrastructure Recommendations to G20-Final Report,” acts as a guide for infrastructure project selection in the developing world. While the report successfully draws attention to the important topic of infrastructure development in developing countries, it has been criticized by civil society groups for failing to include effective governance strategies and for focusing too much on large-scale projects.

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Andrew Steer Talks Business, Emissions, and “Apocaholics” with Bloomberg News

Just as he prepared to slide into WRI’s president’s seat, Andrew Steer spoke with Eric Roston, Sustainability Editor of Bloomberg News, about the big environment and development issues of the day. He talked about the role of the business, reporting on carbon emissions, Rio+20, and whether environmentalists are “apocaholics” (that is, addicted to an apocalyptic world view, as suggested recently by Wired magazine).

As Steer said in the interview:

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A Message from WRI's New President, Andrew Steer

Today is my first day as President of the World Resources Institute. I’m delighted to be part of this extraordinary organization that seeks enduring solutions to protect the Earth and improve people's lives.

We live in precarious times. The world has achieved unprecedented economic progress, but by living well beyond its means in terms of natural resources and ecosystems. Never has it been more important to understand the links between resources – water, soil, atmosphere, climate, biodiversity, energy, minerals – and human activity. And never has it been more imperative that economic decisions fully reflect the true value of these resources. It is only by doing so that we will succeed in eliminating poverty and enhancing lives and livelihoods permanently.

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Glossary of Financing Instruments

This document provides a glossary of financing instruments and the mechanism of these instruments. These definitions may serve as a useful reference for public sector decision-makers evaluating the broad toolkit
of options available to support private sector climate change mitigation...

publication

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