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APEC Ministers Seed Sustainable Forest Product Trade

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Ministers from APEC member economies are stepping up their push to salvage the majority of the world’s dwindling forests and the livelihoods of millions of people that depend on these resources as consumer demand in the region surges.

Ministers meeting in Seoul launched growth-friendly actions for realizing their ambitious goal of increasing forest cover by at least 20 million hectares by 2020 across APEC. Together, APEC economies account for half the world’s forests and 80 per cent of global timber trade.

A viable step towards mitigating climate change, the move sets the tone for the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week in Da Nang on 6-11 November that will aim to improve trade-driven growth in the region and the sustainability and equity of its economic and social outcomes.

“The huge increase in the middle class in APEC made possible by greater connectivity and trade is driving a consumption-led growth recovery but also putting pressure on high demand resources like wood and timber products,” explained Dr Alan Bollard, Executive Director of the APEC Secretariat.

“APEC economies are enacting measures to boost legitimate trade flows that weed out illegally harvested wood before they hit consumer markets and undercut legal producers,” Dr Bollard continued. “Eliminating price distortions caused by illicit timber could have a major impact on forest preservation and the large numbers of jobs they support.”

Ministers are focused on raising governance and transparency standards among APEC economies for the trade of timber and wood products such as lumber, paper, flooring and furniture, in coordination with Interpol, industry and conservation groups.

This includes building on work administered by the APEC Experts Group on Illegal Logging and Associated Trade to enhance customs inspections of timber and wood products at borders, implement timber legality methodologies and establish efficient lines of communication with law enforcement agencies.

Parallel measures to be taken forward by APEC economies center on facilitating sustainable forest management practices and community support needed to help forests re-germinate and promote emerging business and employment opportunities.

“The growth potential of sectors such as agriculture, education, healthcare and tourism depends in no small part on forest resources in APEC,” concluded Dr Bollard. “The progress of efforts to create sustainable supply chains could go a long way to ensuring the future of the region’s forests.”

The Seoul Statement endorsed at the conclusion of the Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Forestry outlines the actions to be advanced by APEC member economies towards this objective.

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Environment

Major Environmental Groups Call On Businesses To Lead On Climate Policy

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Eleven leading environmental and sustainable business organizations published an open letter in the New York Times today, urging the CEOs of Corporate America to step up their engagement on climate policy. Signatories include the heads of BSR, C2ES, CDP, Ceres, Conservation International, Environmental Defense Fund, The Climate Group, The Nature Conservancy, the Union of Concerned Scientists, World Resources Institute, and World Wildlife Fund.

In the letter, the organizations call on businesses to adopt a science-based climate policy agenda that is aligned with the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and with the goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

The letter highlights three essential actions for businesses to execute this agenda:

  1. Advocate for policies at the national, subnational and/or sectoral level that are consistent with achieving net-zero emissions by 2050;
  2. Align their trade associations’ climate policy advocacy to be consistent with the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050; and
  3. Allocate advocacy spending to advance climate policies, not obstruct them.

Additionally, the signatories call for “robust disclosure of the above actions to ensure transparency and demonstrate leadership, as well as strong corporate governance to enable sustained, strategic and effective engagement in climate policy.”

The recommended actions follow a statement from 200 institutional investors, with a combined $6.5 trillion in assets under management, who recently called on publicly traded corporations to align their climate lobbying with the goals of the Paris Agreement. They also build on momentum from the U.N. Global Climate Action Summit in September, when many companies announced ambitious commitments to reduce their emissions to net zero by 2050 and unprecedented global youth strikes demanded accountability from business leaders.

Further, the groups’ call for corporate leadership on climate policy is in line with the goals of upcoming Santiago Climate Change Conference (COP 25), which will focus on increasing ambitious actions to tackle climate change.

“Corporate voluntary science-based commitments have spurred progress and innovation. But alone they’re not enough. We need strong national policy and regulations to protect business and their customers from the greatest risks of climate change. And we need the voice of business to insist that our government leaders deliver the policies we need. ” said Carter Roberts, President and CEO of  World Wildlife Fund, United States. “It’s time for business to make this a policy priority – not only for their own government relations teams but also for the trade organizations that represent their interests.”

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Human Rights

Venezuela, Poland and Sudan amongst 14 new Human Rights Council members

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14 new members were elected to the Human Rights Council on Thursday, following a secret ballot held in the General Assembly Hall in New York.

The Council, which meets throughout the year at the UN Office in Geneva, is an international body, within the UN system, made up of 47 States, and is responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world. It has the power to launch fact-finding missions and establish commissions of inquiry into specific situations.

Three times a year, it reviews the human rights records of UN Member States, in a special process designed to give countries the chance to present the actions they have taken, and what they’ve done, to advance human rights. This is known as the Universal Periodic Review.

Costa Rica, Iraq and Moldova lose out

Elections to some seats – those reserved for countries from the Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, and Latin America and Caribbean regions – were competitive, with more candidates than available places.

Costa Rica’s late decision, on 3 October, to throw its hat in the ring, meant that three countries contested the two available Latin America and Caribbean places. However, their bid failed, and Venezuela and Brazil took the seats.

Five nations – Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Marshall Islands and Republic of Korea – put themselves up as candidates for the Asia-Pacific region, for which four seats were reserved: following the vote, Iraq failed to get the support it needed.

As for Eastern Europe, three nations vied for two places. Armenia and Poland won the requisite votes, whilst Moldova did not make the cut.

Africa had four seats up for grabs, and four candidates, who were duly elected: Libya, Mauritania, Namibia and Sudan. Western Europe was also a non-competitive election, with Germany and Netherlands taking the two seats reserved for their region.

Time to make way

The newly elected countries will serve for three years and take up their seats after 31 December. As only 47 of the UN’s 193 Member States can sit on the Council at any one time, an equal number will be giving up their places.

The African States stepping down will be Egypt, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia; the Asia-Pacific States bowing out are China, Iraq, Japan and Saudi Arabia; for Eastern Europe the retirees are Croatia and Hungary; and the States leaving from the Western European and other States region, are Iceland and the United Kingdom.

As for the Latin American and Caribbean States, Cuba’s time on the Council will come to an end, and it will be replaced by Venezuela. Although Brazil’s current term comes to an end, its successful re-election means that it will serve another three years (according to Council rules, members can serve two consecutive terms).

The new members in full

Here is the how the Human Rights Council will look, as of 1 January 2020:

African States

Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Mauritania, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, Togo

Asia-Pacific

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Marshall Islands, Republic of Korea Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar

Eastern Europe

Armenia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine

Latin American and Caribbean States

Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela

Western Europe and other States

Australia, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain

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World Economic Forum 50th Annual Meeting in Davos: Defining Stakeholder Capitalism

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The World Economic Forum today announced the theme and details for its 50th Annual Meeting, to be held 21-24 January in Davos, Switzerland. The Meeting’s theme will be Stakeholders for a Cohesive and Sustainable World. It will bring together 3,000 participants from around the world, and aim to give concrete meaning to “stakeholder capitalism”, assist governments and international institutions in tracking progress towards the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, and facilitate discussions on technology and trade governance.

“People are revolting against the economic ‘elites’ they believe have betrayed them, and our efforts to keep global warming limited to 1.5°C are falling dangerously short,” said Professor Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman at the World Economic Forum. “With the world at such critical crossroads, this year we must develop a ‘Davos Manifesto 2020’ to reimagine the purpose and scorecards for companies and governments. It is what the World Economic Forum was founded for 50 years ago, and it is what we want to contribute to for the next 50 years.”

The Programme for the Annual Meeting will prioritize six key areas:

Ecology: How to mobilize business to respond to the risks of climate change and ensure that measures to protect biodiversity reach forest floors and ocean beds.

Economy: How to remove the long-term debt burden and keep the economy working at a pace that allows higher inclusion.

Technology: How to create a global consensus on deployment of Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies and avoid a ‘technology war’.

Society: How to reskill and upskill a billion people in the next decade.

Geopolitics: How the ‘spirit of Davos’ can create bridgesto resolve conflicts in global hotspots. Informal meetings to set kickstart conciliation.

Industry: How to help business create the models necessary to drive enterprise in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. How to navigate an enterprise in a world exposed to political tensions and driven by exponential technological change as well as increasing expectations from all stakeholders.

The World Economic Forum and stakeholder capitalism

The Forum’s first meeting in 1971 was established to further the idea put forward by Professor Klaus Schwab that business should serve all stakeholders – customers, employees, communities, as well as shareholders. It was reaffirmed in 1973 in the “Davos Manifesto,” a document that has shaped the work of the Forum ever since. In a major update, this year’s Annual Meeting will see the publication of a universal “ESG scorecard” by the Forum’s International Business Council, which is currently chaired by Brian Moynihan, Chief Executive Officer of Bank of America.

A more sustainable Annual Meeting

The 2020 Annual Meeting will be among the most sustainable international summits ever held. Awarded the IS0 20121 standard for sustainable events in 2018, the Annual Meeting is fully carbon neutral through reducing, calculating and offsetting event-related emissions. Initiatives put in place to achieve this goal include using locally-sourced food suppliers, introducing alternative sources of protein to reduce meat consumption, sourcing 100% renewable electricity, and reducing or eliminating the use of materials that cannot easily be recycled or re-used, such as carpets and introducing more electric vehicles.

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