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UN Observance: International Mother Earth Day

“We all know that reversing the course of climate change will not be easy, but the tools are in our hands – if we apply them before it is too late” stressed Leonardo DiCaprio, during the 2016 World Earth Day on the occasion of the signature of the Paris Agreement.

On April 22, 2017, World Earth Day will aim to raise awareness of the global emergency to take action and protect our planet. This year, the campaign focus is on “Environmental and Climate Literacy”. Using education as a tool to inspire the next generations, the campaign is about providing a better understanding on the unprecedented environmental threats that our planet is facing, and to enable everyone to protect our environment.

static1.squarespace.comMoreover, the 2017 edition of World Earth Day will also host a March for Science recognizing the key role science plays in combating climate change with the development of clean technology.

The 2017 campaign explains that “Science protects our air and water, preserves our planet, saves lives with medical treatments, creates new industries, educates the next generations, and safeguards our future”.

The countdown to the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day in 2020 has already started. To celebrate this anniversary, World Earth Day has announced ambitious goals to achieve by 2020. Following the 2016 campaign, the organizers set the objective to plant 7.8 billion trees, namely one for every person on the planet. This year, the 2017 campaign aims to provide global climate and environmental literacy by 2020.

foreign-trade-62743_1920Gathering more than 1 billion people around the planet, World Earth Day is the largest civic observance day in the world. On April 22, join the global movement and be a proactive protector of your planet. Participate in an event or spread the word on social media using the hashtag #EarthDay2017 and #MarchforScience. You can also contribute to the environmental and climate change literacy campaign by reading and/or broadcasting the toolkits available on the official website.

To find out more about World Earth Day, please, visit the official website: http://www.earthday.org/earthday

Forests: A Valuable Lifeline for Humanity

“Forests are an underappreciated solution to climate change. But even more unappreciated is the range of other development benefits created by forests linked to alleviating hunger, providing clean drinking water and even renewable energy generation”, stated Frances Seymour during an interview for Devex, as part of the launch of her new book “Why Forests? Why Now? The Science, Economics and Politics of Tropical Forests and Climate Change”.

Covering 31% of the world’s land, forests play a key role in mitigating global warming and ensuring a sustainable future. Nevertheless, between 46 and 58 thousand square miles of forest continue to disappear each year, threatening one of the most crucial resources for humanity. Despite the efforts made by the “Save the Rainforest” campaign at the end of the 20th century, deforestation remains one of the greatest challenges of our time. Nowadays, it accounts for 15% of all greenhouse gas emissions. And in the face of the growing needs for economic development, forests are often seen as unused stretches of land with high potential for agriculture or urban sprawling.

tree-stump-395535_1920Indeed, recent analysis about the Amazon region highlight the resurgence of deforestation with reports showing that for the first time in 2015, deforestation levels rose in Brazil. This rise represents a jump from about 1.5 million acres of deforested land within the world’s largest rainforest. This trend can be explained through globalization, which encourages companies to implement strategies, and take advantage of the different legislation concerning forests.

In Brazil, decision makers are committed to forest conservation. In the last decade, deforestation levels have been reduced by two thirds, even though the latest figures illustrate the weakness of national policies. “We are very uncomfortable with the bad news that we had a rise in deforestation, and we are taking every possible measure to reverse it next year”, explained Mr. Everton Lucero, the Secretary of climate change and forests of Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment. In other countries, such as Bolivia, economic priorities are centered around “food sovereignty”, which drives agricultural expansion. Bolivia therefore already expects to clear nearly 14 million more acres of forest by 2025, and is not likely to reinforce its forest protection legislation. In many countries, the challenge will be to find the balance between intensive agriculture, and the forest conservation imperative. “Our concern is in ensuring that intensive agricultural production takes place within a framework that also provides for sustainable forestry and protection for standing forests” emphasized Victor Yucra, Director General of Bolivia’s forest and land management at the Forestry and Land Authority.

Because the protection of the earth is transboundary, this issue also needs to be tackled by the global community. At the United Nations, it is now recognized that forest conservation can be a catalyst for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Indeed, forests contribute to many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as clean water and sanitation and good health and well-being. Moreover, SDG 15 related to Life on Land, aims to “promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally”. The Climate Summit took place previously, in September 2014in New York, during which the New York Declaration on Forests was released. Endorsed by 179 national and subnational governments, NGOs and companies, this historic deal aims to cut natural forest loss in half by 2020, and put an end to it by 2030. But despite this declaration, some companies still contribute to deforestation.

amazon-486353_1920Thus, deforestation is currently threatening our sustainable future. Considering that only 15% of the world’s forest cover remains intact, there is a vital need to preserve this resource. In some countries, deforestation is responsible for more than 80% of total carbon dioxide emissions. In the face of this climate emergency, it is necessary to consider forests as essential ecosystem for the survival of humanity, and not as a burden on the economy. If multinational businesses have the responsibility to promote sustainable production and consumption, then it is also the role of policymakers to implement a policy framework that will protect and save the “lungs of the world”.

To find out more please read the following New York Times article, available here.

UN Observance: World Health Day

“Your friends, your family, your surroundings, your environment, all of these can prevent you from going into depression, and if you unfortunately have gone into it, they can also pull you out of it”, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared, during the 30th edition of Mann ki Baat on March 26.

On April 7, World Health Day aims to raise awareness about depression as a worldwide illness. The one-year campaign launched on October 10, 2016, is about to encourage more people suffering from depression to seek and get help. In this regard, World Health Day is a turning point to spread the word and reach people suffering from depression, but also their family and friends.

Depression is defined by the World Health Organization as “a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.”. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, which is now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year old.

window-view-1081788_1920This year, the slogan of the campaign is “Depression: Let’s talk”. First of all, the campaign aims to speak up about an obscure illness while depression remains underestimated in many societies. Second, the campaign insists on the importance of dialogue, as a way to prevent and cure depression.

As the illness impacts people from all ages and all societies, everyone can get involved. On April 7, take action by joining an official event, or spreading the word on social medias using the hashtag #LetsTalk. This is also a great opportunity to take some time to look carefully at people counting in your life, to prevent depression. Finally, #LetsTalk is also about allowing people to speak freely about their personal feelings, to get rid of this illness.

To find out more about World Health Day, please, visit: http://www.who.int/campaigns/world-health-day/2017/en/

Why developing nations are the unlikely leaders of green finance

It is completely inconceivable that public finance will play a major role in transitioning to sustainable development. The answer has to be private money”. These words pronounced by Simon Zadek, co-director of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, during an event in Singapore in early 2017, express the urgent need for private investment to achieve global sustainability.

germany-2064517_1920Indeed, despite new records in 2016, there is still a lack of investment in green finance, to ensure the world has a sustainable future. Green finance consists in investments that contribute towards a sustainable, low carbon and climate-resilient economy. In other words, it is the key to reduce our carbon emissions, and achieve the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, a closer look at the world investment trends, illustrates a very paradoxical situation. According to Simon Zadek, innovation in green finance is not driven by nations where the major capitals are located, but by developing nations such as Mongolia, Kenya, or Colombia. “When you look at the amount of innovation taking place there, especially in the financial technology space, you realize there’s a lot of opportunity for the developed world to learn from the developing world” stated Nuru Mugambi, director of communications and public affairs at the Kenya Bankers Association. In her country, the implementation of mobile phone-based funds transfer as a tool for entrepreneurs to access micro-finance, is now a daily way of life. For Erik Solheim, UNEP Executive Director, innovative initiatives in developing economies demonstrate how private finance can adapt to meet the challenges of financing sustainable options.

pudong-1798289_1920Leading global green finance investments, China paves the way to promote sustainable development of the economy. The new 35-point program, of the Chinese government “will improve the function of the capital market in allocating resources and servicing the real economy, and support the development of an ecological civilization”, the People’s Bank of China reported.

Nevertheless, only a global commitment will allow us to raise enough funds to address the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Considering that we need more than twice the current stock of global capital to achieve the 2030 Agenda, there is nothing more important than scaling up private investments, while using the international community as a catalyzer. “It is very hard for the financial system to operate in and of itself, independent of international and national agendas” has stressed Piyush Gupta, CEO of an Indian Bank. Hence the need for a global mobilization of all stakeholders, banks, government and enterprises to work efficiently towards sustainable options. Financing sustainable development is now a vital challenge, as we need to get as close as possible to the 2 Celsius degrees’ temperature rise if we want to ensure a future for the next generation.

For further information, please, visit: http://www.eco-business.com/news/why-developing-nations-are-the-unlikely-leaders-of-green-finance/

French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law: A first step towards a binding global commitment for the private sector on human rights and the environment?

Our global economy companies have a responsibility to make sure that their supply chains, stretching into the far corners of the globe, are free of forced labor”, stressed Barack Obama, former President of the United States of America, during the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2012. Since this landmark speech, awareness about this issue has been continuously rising. And even if forced labor impacts mainly developing countries, developed countries share a part of the responsibility. Illustrating a better understanding of the topic, some national initiatives have been implemented in the last years to end these practices.

On February 2017, France adopted the “corporate duty of vigilance law”. “The law marks a historic step towards improving corporate respect for human rights and the environment” stated the European Coalition for Corporate Justice. With this law, multinational businesses headquartered in France now have to annually assess and address the adverse impacts of their activities on people and the planet. But the most important step forward, is that these plans must not only include an assessment of the impacts of companies under their control, but also those of their suppliers and subcontractors.

Indeed, if these companies don’t respect the new legislation, then judges will be able to apply fines ranging up to €30 million, particularly if the failure to comply resulted in damages that would otherwise have been preventable.

miners-1046845_1920For the first time, therefore, we are in the presence of a law that requires companies to be aware of the social and environmental impact they can have through their supply chain. Therefore, it should prevent some companies from dealing with suppliers where exploitative recruitment practices are the norm.

Moreover, this law also represents a great victory for French civil society. “This law shows how people power can lead to the end of transnational corporate impunity”, explained Lucia Ortiz, from Friends of the Earth International, which have been fighting for the adoption of the law. “It will oblige the world’s largest companies to respect human rights in a way they have never had to do so before” she stated. But beyond its status symbol, the actual efficiency of this law remains to be demonstrated particularly as companies are not required to guarantee results, but only to prove that they have done everything in their power to avoid causing any damages (to the environment or the communities they operate in).

In other countries, such as the Netherlands, human rights protection in labor is being increasingly considered. In the United Kingdom, the 2015 Modern Slavery Act also requires companies to detail what steps they have taken to ensure human rights violations are not occurring throughout their global supply chain.

un-1190183_1920But what can we expect from the global community? At the United Nations, negotiations for a binding treaty on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respects to human rights have already begun. Encouraged by their success in France, Friends of the Earth International now call for a “legally binding instrument to control transnational corporations with respect to human rights”. Even though these current awareness raising efforts have not yet led to an international agreement, ongoing actions in different countries may lead to further change in the future.

To learn more about the French corporate duty of vigilance law please visit: http://www.foei.org/press/france-adopts-corporate-duty-care-law