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India’s Biggest Challenge: Pursuing Reforms Needed to Sustain 8% Growth for Decades

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With India expected to achieve 7.6% GDP growth this year and its global competitiveness rising, the country is at an inflection point, business, government and academic leaders told participants in the opening plenary of the World Economic Forum’s 32nd India Economic Summit. “The biggest challenge is to have sustainable growth of 8% for a couple of decades,” said Gita Gopinath, Professor of Economics at Harvard University. “Can India sustain this growth across political cycles?” To keep that pace of progress would entail further structural and institutional reforms, argued Gopinath, a Summit Co-Chair. “But if that is done, then it will be mind-blowing for India.”

“It is achievable,” declared Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry of India. “Across the states, we see that urge now – to see brighter days and to find the issues where we can come together, removing obstructions [to doing business] and moving forward on using technology.” John Rice, Vice-Chairman of GE in Hong Kong SAR and another Summit Co-Chair, agreed. “It is sustainable, but you have to think what is required for the 21st century and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With the convergence of digital and industrial, a different set of skills is required to win,” he said. The Indian government has the responsibility to ensure that people receive the necessary training. Added Rice: “You have to make sure you are investing in the right things, including basic infrastructure. You can’t do it if you have 200 million people without electricity.”

The opportunities for India and its 1.3 billion people are “tremendous”, said fellow Summit Co-Chair Anil Agarwal, Executive Chairman of Vedanta Resources in the United Kingdom. “I have never felt this buzz about India in the last two decades.” The prospects for small and medium-sized enterprises are especially good, he noted. In particular, development of India’s natural resources would contribute significantly to eradicating poverty, Agarwal explained. India’s many entrepreneurs are focusing on the domestic market, observed Summit Co-Chair Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Paytm, an Indian e-commerce company based in Noida, an industrial development in the National Capital Region. “For the first time, Indians are very proud of producing for India. Indian entrepreneurs are now accepting that we should build something for India, working for technology that will serve Indians.”

The impact that Indian entrepreneurs have had on Silicon Valley is proof of India’s edge in technology and innovation. “I greatly believe in it,” said Amitabh Kant, Chief Executive Officer of NITI Aayog, or the National Institute for Transforming India, a government policy think-tank. “India is used to innovating. But India needs to innovate in urbanization, sewage and for clean water. It has to innovate for people.” India’s start-ups “will disrupt the world,” predicted Kant, also a Co-Chair of the Summit. “They will disrupt health, education. They will do a lot more social innovation.”

“The promise of India has always been there,” said Johan C. Aurik, Global Managing Partner and Chairman of the Board of global consulting group A.T. Kearney in the US and a Summit Co-Chair. He remarked that India has broken into the ranks of the top 10 destinations for foreign direct investment in the world. “The government has become the facilitator of change,” he said, applauding the “Make in India” initiative launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 to encourage foreign and domestic companies to manufacture products in the country and create millions of jobs. “The challenges will be daunting with the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the tensions between jobs and digital developments,” Aurik reckoned. “But we have to make sure that progress is inclusive.”

In remarks earlier in the session, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, said that, to drive new economic growth, it is critical for his country and its neighbours to build partnerships not just within South Asia, but also across the world, particularly in South-East Asia, Japan, Korea and Europe. Asia has emerged as an economic growth engine of the world, he said. And, while the West may have written the rules of globalization so far, “Asia will bail out the world” and will move to create its own system. He told participants that he and Indian Prime Minister Modi aim to conclude the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) by the end of this year. Sri Lanka is also working with five southern Indian states on a sub-regional cooperative arrangement. “We have the potential to work together,” Wickremesinghe said. “Let’s have the whole area around the Bay of Bengal be a vibrant place of economic cooperation. The growth is here.” Colombo is also discussing a free-trade agreement with Singapore.

In a video message to welcome participants, Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said that India has to continue its efforts to promote inclusion and master the challenges posed by the rapid technological changes of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. “Inclusiveness in India and in the world will be one of the most decisive objectives the world community and Indian society have to achieve,” he said.

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New Satellite Data Reveals Progress: Global Gas Flaring Declined in 2017

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New satellite data released today shows a significant decline in gas flaring at oil production sites around the world in 2017, despite a half-percent increase in global oil production. The nearly 5 percent flaring decline begins to reverse years of increases in global gas flaring that started in 2010.

The data reveals about 141 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas was flared in 2017, down from nearly 148 bcm in 2016. While Russia remains the world’s largest gas flaring country, it also saw the largest decline in flaring last year. Venezuela and Mexico also reduced their flaring significantly in 2017. In Iran and Libya there were notable increases in gas flaring.

The data was released by the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), a World Bank-managed organization comprised of governments, oil companies, and international institutions working to reduce gas flaring. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and GGFR have developed the flaring estimates in cooperation with the University of Colorado, based on observations from advanced sensors in a satellite launched in 2012.

Gas flaring – the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction – takes place because of technical, regulatory, and/or economic constraints. It causes more than 350 million tons of CO2 emissions every year, with serious harmful impacts from un-combusted methane and black carbon emissions. Gas flaring is also a substantial waste of energy resources the world can ill afford.

“The latest global gas flaring data is encouraging, but we will have to wait a few more years to know whether it represents a much-needed turning point,” said Riccardo Puliti, the World Bank’s Senior Director and head of its Energy & Extractives Global Practice. “Ending routine gas flaring is a key component of our climate change mitigation agenda, and the global flaring reduction Initiative we launched just three years ago now has 77 endorsers, covering about 60 percent of the total gas flared around the world.”

In 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and 25 initial endorsers launched the “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” Initiative that commits endorsers to not routinely flare gas in new oil field developments and to seek solutions to end routine flaring at existing oil production sites as soon as possible and no later than 2030. It has now been endorsed by 27 governments, 35 oil companies, and 15 development institutions.

“The Initiative is an essential tool for ending routine flaring,” said Bjorn Hamso, GGFR’s Program Manager. “Going forward, it is paramount that oil field operators continue to address ongoing “legacy” flaring, and that new business models are developed that will enable more investors to participate in flaring reduction projects.”

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World Tourism Day Places Focus on Innovation & Digital Transformation

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The importance of digital technologies in tourism, providing opportunities for innovation and preparing the sector for the future of work, is at the centre of World Tourism Day 2018, to be celebrated in Budapest, Hungary (27 September 2018).

World Tourism Day, celebrated every 27 September around the world, is a unique opportunity to raise awareness on tourism’s actual and potential contribution to sustainable development.

This year’s World Tourism Day (WTD) will help to put the opportunities provided to tourism, by technological advances including big data, artificial intelligence and digital platforms, on the map of sustainable development. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) sees digital advances and innovation as part of the solution to the challenge of marrying continued growth with a more sustainable and responsible tourism sector.

“Harnessing innovation and digital advances provides tourism with opportunities to improve inclusiveness, local community empowerment and efficient resource management, amongst other objectives within the wider sustainable development agenda”, said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

The WTD official celebration will be held in Budapest, Hungary, a country enjoying steady growth of tourism backed by consistent policy support and a commitment to the digital future. Other celebrations will take place worldwide.

The official celebration will also see the announcement of the semi-finalists of the 1st UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition, launched by UNWTO and Globalia to give visibility to startups with innovative ideas capable of revolutionizing the way we travel and enjoy tourism.

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EU and China step up cooperation on climate change and clean energy

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At the China-EU Summit on 16 July in Beijing, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the Council, Donald Tusk, and the Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang adopted a “Leaders’ Statement on Climate Change and Clean Energy”. Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen and the Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Li Ganjie signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation on emissions trading between China and the EU.

In the Leaders’ Statement, China and the EU underline the need to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC process, and to get the Paris Agreement Work Programme – the rulebook for the implementation of the Paris Agreement – adopted at the next global climate conference in December 2018 in Katowice, Poland.

The Statement shows how the EU and China will intensify their political, technical, economic and scientific cooperation on climate change and clean energy to drive forward a world-wide transformation to a thriving low carbon and climate-resilient economy and society and clean energy system. It clearly shows their commitment to climate action and achieving a clean energy transition are urgent imperatives.

In the Memorandum of Understanding China and the EU acknowledge emissions trading as a cost-effective policy tool with significant potential to contribute to a low-carbon economy and the necessary innovation and deployment of low carbon technologies.

Welcoming this commitment, President Juncker said: We have underlined our joint, strong determination to fight climate change and demonstrate global leadership. It shows our commitment to multilateralism and recognises that climate change is a global challenge affecting all countries on earth. There is no time for us to sit back and watch passively. Now is the time for decisive action.

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy Miguel Arias Cañete said: Further developing cooperation between the two largest emission trading systems of the world is not only in our mutual interest but also necessary to tackle common challenges in the mid- and longer term. The newly established policy dialogue will be instrumental in this context.

The Memorandum of Understanding on EU-China cooperation on emissions trading establishes a policy dialogue, foresees the joint organisation of seminars and workshops, as well as joint research activities.

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