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Investing in the Future, not in the Past: Green Business as Key to Tackling Climate Change

By Geovanny Vicente, Guest Blogger
“Invest in the future, not in the past,” is the battle cry for green business to win the fight against climate change, according to the United Nations’ Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who opened the One Planet Summit in Paris with these words on December 12, 2017.

At this international event, held under the leadership of French President Emmanuel Macrón, the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, and the Head of the United Nations Guterres, decided to reject the fatalist and defeatist theory about climate change and instead issue a call to action to world leaders and committed citizens across the globe. Only through collective action does the world have a chance to confront the major challenges of this environmental emergency that are growing increasingly harder to ignore.

The importance of this meeting led by these three leaders was the launch of an ambitious project to address the principal effects of climate change.  The leaders agreed upon 12 initiatives and created the One Planet Coalition.  This trilateral leadership will secure that these commitments are kept, and to achieve these goals over the following months they have been working diligently toward their implementation prior to their next meeting to measure progress at the 2nd One Planet Summit.

This is a $2 billion initiative with the goal of deepening local capital markets, as well as expanding and releasing private funds for climate-related projects.  To-date, more than $1 billion has been committed to the fund.

These efforts have motivated global leaders today more than ever to create alliances between and among governments, civil society, the private sector, and foundations that can identify and fund solutions to this global threat. The private sector is already seeing that, green business is good business.  To this end, Antonio Guterres pointed out that in dozens of developed and developing countries, renewable energies are now cheaper than energy from carbon sources, and as a result, it is critical to invest in the world’s future energy sources, rather than its past.  Traditional heavy oil and gas sources can emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere if not utilizing the latest technological advancements to reduce their environmental footprint.

For example, in the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean island vulnerable to climate change, a local power generator (EGE Haina) recently completed the groundbreaking of the construction of its 4th wind energy farm, called Larimar 2, located in Enriquillo, Barahona, in the southwest of the country.  The wind energy farm Los Cocos in the southern Dominican province of Pedernales, was the first, followed by another in the nearby province of Bani, along with another in Montecristi, near the border with Haiti.  This company EGE Haina generates 18 percent of Dominican Republic’s energy, a growing percentage of which comes from wind turbines.

Costa Rica is another country utilizing its natural resources for energy security. The country’s high precipitation rate allows it to increase the amount of water in its hydroelectric dams.  Increasing its capture rate of the rain is helping to make Costa Rica’s energy grid derived from renewable sources by 2021, when combined with solar and biomass. Costa Rica is close to becoming the first Latin American country to power all of its energy from renewable sources, and lead the way for the hemisphere.  With the increase in extreme weather events, collective action is needed to harvest the surplus waters, winds, and heat as smart sources of energy.

Imagine a future emergency power-generator fueled by winds and water that can help places like Dominica and Puerto Rico recover more quickly from the devastating hurricanes, like those seen this year.  Well, that future is upon us, through forums like the One Planet Summit and public-private sector partnerships, such as that between the government of Puerto Rico and Tesla Motors.  The Puerto Rico-Tesla relationship began years ago when the island tried attracting new jobs and has been strengthened in the wake of Hurricane Maria and the offer made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, to restore power on the island through the solar energy micro-grids. Musk and Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello connected after Hurricane Maria and restored the energy in a children’s hospital in San Juan as well as 6 similiar energy projects that scale-up Puerto Rico’s solar energy potential.

Tesla’s Elon Musk was among the 164 prominent figures at the One Planet Summit in Paris.  Tesla and many others in attendance are helping countries think creatively and act expeditiously to maximize local and global impact that improves our chances against climate change.

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The Economics of Climate Change: Challenges Facing Latin America and the Caribbean

By Geovanny Vicente, Guest Blogger
Latin America and the Caribbean contribute barely 9 percent of air pollutant emissions globally, according to data from the Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).  However, Central America and the Caribbean are considerably vulnerable to the impact of climate change. The region has begun to feel the direct effects of climate change and is threatened by the resurgence of diseases that were already considered eradicated, as well as the prevalence of other tropical diseases such as dengue and malaria.

Climate change also significantly impacts the region’s economic trajectory. While the world continues to work toward eradicating poverty, we must ensure that the agricultural production of Latin America is not unduly affected by harmful emissions. On the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, I asked the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, how to end this problem. Clark, through her official Twitter account @HelenClarkNZ replied, “Use of cash transfers, job creation and free education.” To that equation of three, I would add investing in food security—a critical source of future growth for Latin America. The region plays a large role in securing global food security due to the vast expanse of arable land and water—a quarter of the agricultural land on the planet and a third of global sources of fresh water.

International organizations have long advocated for the need to act immediately to reduce the effects of pollutants on the planet. The effect generated by emissions is already causing higher temperatures, colder winters and hotter summers, floods, droughts, hurricanes of unpredictable and more dangerous trajectories, as well as the disappearance of some beaches.

According to ECLAC data for 2014, if the temperature increases by 2.5 degrees Celsius compared to the historical average, the economic burden of climate change could represent between 1.5 percent and 5 percent of GDP in Latin American and the Caribbean. However, the costs generated by adaptation measures to climate change could represent below 0.5 percent of the region’s GDP. Thus, preventing the costly risks that rising emissions present makes good economic sense. With the knowledge of these data, a greater investment in renewable energies and sustainable infrastructure is urgently needed, together with the fulfillment of the commitment assumed in the Paris Agreement for a sustainable development model.

Climate change presents a crosscutting challenge to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations; insufficient action to combat the negative impact jeopardizes the achievement of the proposed 2030 Agenda. Sustainable Development Goal #13 calls for action to help the environment, while SDG #6 calls for clean water and universal sanitary best practices.  Similarly, SDG #7 urges investment in affordable and clean energy, while SDG #9 advocates for innovation and infrastructure, and SDG #12 promotes responsible production and consumption. The Paris Agreement provides an excellent model and lesson learned related to the 17th, and final, SDG: without a strategic alliance, it is impossible to achieve the 16 previous objectives.

In Fiji, within the framework of COP23, the name of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change 2017 (UNFCCC), an initiative was launched that will provide resources and technical assistance to small, developing islands. This is an alliance between the World Health Organization (WHO), the COP23 and the UNFCCC.  The Director General of WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom, indicated that, “they are launching the initiative for these small, developing islands because they are the ones that will disproportionately bear the burden of climate change.” The objective is for these islands to learn to understand, manage, and prevent the negative effects on health and the economy.  Islands such as Puerto Rico and Dominica are prime examples of the region’s vulnerability to natural phenomena, such as hurricanes, which have massively disrupted the economies of both islands.

More international and regional programs, such as the UNFCCC, focused on developing local solutions to shared challenges that multiple countries face can help effectively pool resources to invest in new technologies that will mitigate the long and short-term economic impact of climate change on Latin America and the Caribbean.

End Violence against Women

Beginning on November 25th and ending on December 10th is a movement of 16 days of activism. As global awareness rises, millions of people have shown support for a campaign that speaks out against gender-based violence. From the viral hashtag #MeToo to the accusations against prominent media, social, and political figures around the world, we are seeing women breaking their silence about the abuses and mistreatment they have undergone.

According to UN Women’s Global Database on Violence against Women, 1 in every 3 women experience some form of violence in their lifetime. In recognition of this fact, this year’s theme is “Leave No One Behind – End Violence against Women, “which seeks to eradicate violence against women and reduce the number of abuse instances. Ending violence against women is possible and the world has to come together to be able to eradicate it. According to UN Women, support must be gathered and shared by communities in order to promote effective laws and policies that punish offenders and advocates for the rights of women.

In San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic, hundreds of women joined the global movement in a march where they voiced their concerns about violence against women. An issue that has become epidemic in the country, violence against women has claimed over 170 lives every year, according with El Nuevo Diario newspaper. The women’s’ march was organized by Movimiento Campesino Dominicano (MCD), an organization that seeks to promote women’s rights and demands the creation of policies focused on the prevention of violence and education of the populace on the subject.

The MCD believes that the measures implemented by the government in recent years have not been sufficient to deal with the problem at hand. Sandra Daniela Rodriguez, who serves as spokesperson for the organization, points out that the problem is complex, but that it is indeed possible to highlight harmful behaviors in male-dominated societies and promote education in a way that teaches men to respect women and not view them as property.

Rodriguez has called for all of the citizens of the Dominican Republic to work together to defeat violence against women.

UN OBSERVANCE: World Tourism Day – September 27

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Over the past six decades, tourism has experienced continued expansion and diversification, and it has become one of the fastest growing and most important economic sectors in the world, benefiting destinations and communities worldwide.

International tourist arrivals worldwide have grown from 25 million in 1950 to nearly 1.2 billion in 2015!

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Similarly, international tourism revenues earned by destinations around the world have grown from 2 billion US dollars in 1950 to 1260 trillion in 2015. The sector represents an estimated 10% of the world’s GDP and 1 in 10 jobs globally.

This growth over the second half of the 20th century and the 21st is due to the fact that access to tourism has progressively expanded thanks to the recognition of the right to holidays in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the improved adoption of labour rights in many countries and the growing middle class worldwide.

As the United Nations General Assembly affirmed when announcing the adoption of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, tourism can contribute to all the three dimensions of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – and each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Not only does the sector spearhead growth, it also improves the quality of people’s lives. It can bolster environmental protection, champion diverse cultural heritage, and strengthen peace in the world. beach1

In this spirit, World Tourism Day 2017 presents a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the contribution of sustainable tourism to development among public and private sector decision-makers and the international community, while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change.

Join us in celebrating this special day! #WTD2017 #IY2017 #TravelEnjoyRespect #SDGs

Celebrate World Tourism Day by taking the pledge to #TravelEnjoyRespect

UN Observance: International Day of Peace – September 21st

international day of peace (Earth map furnished by NASA)

In 2016 the global economy lost $14.3 trillion to violence and conflict in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms (Global Peace Index 2017). This is equivalent to 12.6 percent of the world Gross Domestic Product (GDP), or 12.6 percent of everything the world produces and consumes!

Join GFDD on September 21st to help commemorate the International Day of Peace.

The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

The theme for 2017 is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

The theme honors the spirit of TOGETHER, a global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life. TOGETHER unites the organizations of the United Nations System, the 193 Member States of the United Nations, the private sector, civil society, academic institutions and individual citizens in a global partnership in support of diversity, non-discrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants. It was initiated during the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016.

“In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbors as ‘the other’. Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people — and societies — from achieving their full potential.” He added, “Together, let us stand up against bigotry and for human rights. Together, let us build bridges. Together, let us transform fear into hope.”

refugees leaving Hungary

This year, the International Day of Peace will focus on engaging and mobilizing people throughout the world to show support for refugees and migrants. Its messages will be shared with communities hosting refugees and migrants as well as people concerned that refugees and migrants may bring physical and economic insecurity to their lives.

The Day will highlight solidarity with refugees and migrants and showcase the shared benefits of migration to economies and nations, while also acknowledging legitimate concerns of host communities. Ultimately, it will be about bringing people together and reminding them of their common humanity.

Young people will have a vital role to play. For example, they can volunteer to welcome and help refugees and migrants in their communities. They can also extend the hand of friendship to young refugees and migrants who they might meet in their classrooms and neighborhoods.

To find out what events will be taking place in your area please check out this virtual map:

http://internationaldayofpeace.org/event-map/