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Buoyant South Asian Economies Can Revive Global Demand and Spur Growth

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With its vast workforce, strong growth and expanding purchasing power, South Asia will be the key to reviving global demand, Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry of India, said at a session on Harnessing Regional Cooperation in South Asia at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting. “The world cannot afford to ignore the region that will be key to reviving demand,” the minister said.

Despite the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) annual summit being cancelled in 2016 because of a terrorist incident in India, Sitharaman said, it is important to remember that the South Asian Free Trade Agreement is still going strong and has achieved major gains in intra-regional trade in the past few decades. She cited border haats, or markets, on the India-Bangladesh border and the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway as other examples of increasing regional integration.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh added that the India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal motor vehicles agreement signed two years ago is another sign of closer ties within South Asia. She said better connectivity of this kind will be an indispensable part of any strategy aimed at bringing nations and people together.

With 1.8 billion people, 7% GDP growth rate and 25% of the world’s middle class, South Asia offers trade and commerce that can improve people’s quality of life while also keeping the peace in a volatile region, the panellists agreed. Manvinder S. Banga, Operating Partner, Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, United Kingdom, said that as the world begins to de-globalize, there will be more opportunity for intra-regional trade within South Asia.

He added that countries must set aside political irritants and improve connectivity – a huge advantage for trade – as well as build common physical and social infrastructure, which can be a source of catalytic growth and enable countries to meet the common challenge of fighting hunger and poverty and providing education and healthcare to their people.

Business can help catalyse social infrastructure, particularly through digital technology, Banga said, citing the example of education where information technology offers the opportunity to transform educational reach while reducing the need for brick-and-mortar schools and teachers. Through digital technology, an entrepreneur needs much lower investment and even education to set up a business, Banga said. “There is an opportunity for digitally supported businesses at an unprecedented scale,” he added.

Mosharraf Zaidi, Founder and Campaign Director of Alif Ailaan – Time to End Pakistan’s Education Emergency, Pakistan, highlighted the need for better education for the under-25 population that gives South Asia its unparalleled demographic advantage over other regions. However, he warned that countries’ oversized emphasis on defence spending is leaving little to invest in building the region’s social capital.

Also underlying the discussion was the subtle acknowledgement that political issues such as state-supported terrorism and the legacy of mistrust between nations cannot be wished away.

Ranil Wickremesinghe, Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, admitted that Sri Lanka prefers to deal bilaterally with its larger trading partners outside South Asia as well as those within the region. Nevertheless, he said, intra-regional relations of various kinds continue to thrive between his country and other South Asian countries – such as the “camel trade” between southern India and Sri Lanka in which traders commute daily between the two places. “There is a crisis only when you stop playing cricket with each other,” he said on a lighter note.

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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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