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New and better deal’ needed for climate resilience in Caribbean

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Caribbean countries need “a new and better deal” – one that includes access to concessional finance and adequate insurance – if they are to build climate resilience, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said Tuesday at an international conference to mobilize support for the reconstruction of communities devastated by a series of powerful hurricanes.

“During my visits to Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda, I saw a level of devastation that I have never witnessed before in my life,” Mr. Guterres said, noting that in these islands alone, damage is estimated at $1.1 billion, and total economic losses at $400 million.

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season was particularly active, with storms having been more frequent, and stronger. Of the 13 named storms, eight were hurricanes and of those, four were major hurricanes, including Irma and Maria. Across the entire Caribbean region, there was tragic loss of life and widespread devastation.

The pledging conference today at UN Headquarters in New York, was co-organized by the UN and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which is a regional grouping of 20 countries.

“Let’s not forget that these island States are not only interlinked by geography, but also interlinked by the economy, so when one country suffers, all countries suffer,” Mr. Guterres said.

He noted that extreme weather is becoming the new normal and sea levels have risen more than 10 inches since 1870. Over the past 30 years, the number of annual climate-related disasters has nearly tripled and economic losses have quintupled.

Countries in the Caribbean need a new generation of infrastructure that is risk-informed, to underpin resilient economies, communities and livelihoods, and to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015 by 193 UN Member States.

But financing is a key challenge for many Caribbean countries, which have limited access to concessional finance because of their ‘middle income’ classification. They also have high levels of debt, much of it incurred through investment in recovery and resilience.

Caribbean countries are also paying hundreds of millions of dollars a year in remittance fees. Disaster insurance has also proved inadequate to this unprecedented hurricane season. Debt instruments should be sensitive to the ability to pay, and have catastrophe clauses built in.

“In short: we need a new and better deal for the Caribbean, if these countries are to build climate resilience and achieve the SDGs,” Mr. Guterres said, urging international financial institutions and donors to coordinate risk sharing and concessional lending terms.

“Today must be about more than speeches and pledges,” he said. “It is an opportunity to forge a partnership for a better future, and to deepen a vision for recovery that brings together all actors and puts people at its centre, as active development agents.”

Also addressing the conference was UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák, who highlighted three key steps the international community can take.

First is commitment to support the rebuilding effort. Funding and technical assistance are urgently needed to help the affected countries to get back on their feet. Housing, telecommunications, water and sanitation, healthcare services and education facilities are needed.

Second is to rebuild with greater resilience, he said, commending CARICOM’s goal of becoming the first climate-resilient region in the world.

Third, he continued, there is a need to recognize that small island developing States (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable to climate change, natural disasters and external shocks. To compound this, middle income small island developing Stated face inadequate access to grant and concessional funding because of how their development is measured.

“We should not let the people be punished once by nature and twice by outdated economic policies,” he said.

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Only 4 out of 38 clean-energy technologies are on track to meet long-term climate goals

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The International Energy Agency’s new and most comprehensive analysis of the clean-energy transition finds that only 4 out of 38 energy technologies and sectors were on track to meet long-term climate, energy access and air pollution goals in 2017.

The findings are part of the IEA’s latest Tracking Clean Energy Progress (TCEP), a newly updated website released today that assesses the latest progress made by key energy technologies, and how quickly each technology is moving towards the goals of the IEA’s Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS).

Some technologies made tremendous progress in 2017, with solar PV seeing record deployment, LEDs quickly becoming the dominant source of lighting in the residential sector, and electric vehicle sales jumping by 54%. But IEA analysis finds that most technologies are not on track to meet long-term sustainability goals. Energy efficiency improvements, for example, have slowed and progress on key technologies like carbon capture and storage remains stalled. This contributed to an increase in global energy-related CO2 emissions of 1.4% last year.

TCEP provides a comprehensive, rigorous and up-to-date analysis of the status of the clean-energy transition across a full range of technologies and sectors, their recent progress, deployment rates, investment levels, and innovation needs. It is the result of a bottom-up approach backed by the IEA’s unique understanding of markets, modeling and energy statistics across all fuels and technologies, and its extensive global technology network, totaling 6,000 researchers across nearly 40 technology collaboration programmes.

The analysis includes a series of high-level indicators that provide an overall assessment of clean energy trends and highlight the most important actions needed for the complex energy sector transformation.

For the first time, the analysis also highlights more than 100 key innovation gaps that need to be addressed to speed up the development and deployment of these clean energy technologies. It provides an extensive analysis of public and private clean energy research and development investment. It found that total public spending on low-carbon energy technology innovation rose 13% in 2017, to more than USD 20 billion.

“There is a critical need for more vigorous action by governments, industry, and other stakeholders to drive advances in energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director. “The world doesn’t have an energy problem but an emissions problem, and this is where we should focus our efforts.”

A total of 11 of 38 technologies surveyed by the IEA were significantly not on track. In particular, unabated coal electricity generation (meaning generation without Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage, or CCUS), which is responsible for 72% of power sector emissions, rebounded in 2017 after falling over the last three years.

Meanwhile, two technologies, onshore wind and energy storage, were downgraded this year, as their progress slowed. This brought the number of technologies “in need of improvement” to a total of 23.

This year, the TCEP tracks progress against the Sustainable Development Scenario, introduced in the World Energy Outlook 2017, which depicts a rapid but achievable transformation of the energy sector. It outlines a path to limiting the rise of average global temperatures to “well below 2°C,” as specified in the Paris Agreement, as well as increasing energy access around the world and reducing air pollution.

In this scenario, meeting long-term sustainability goals requires an ambitious combination of more energy efficient buildings, industry and transport, and more renewables and flexibility in power.

The findings this year are compiled in an updated website, which provides easy navigation across technologies and sectors, and draws links across the IEA’s resources. The report will be updated throughout the year as new data becomes available, and will be complemented by cutting-edge analysis and commentary on notable developments on the global clean energy transition.

The findings for each technology and sector will be updated on a continuous basis with the latest information and findings from the IEA. Find out more at www.iea.org/tcep/.

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Record-high opium production in Afghanistan creates multiple challenges for region and beyond

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Opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record-high last year, leading to unprecedented levels of potential heroin on the world market, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a new report released on Monday.

The report noted opium cultivation increased by 63 per cent; from 201,000 hectares in 2016 to an estimated 328,000 hectares in 2017.

UNODC said that it would be possible to produce between 550 and 900 tons of export-quality heroin from the poppies harvested throughout the country during 2017.

The report highlighted that the record level of cultivation creates multiple challenges for the country and its neighbours, as opiate-based illegal drugs make their way across the Afghan border.

Poppy production and illicit trafficking of opiates also fuel political instability, and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan who profit from the trade.

The report revealed that the record-high production led to a rapid expansion of the illegal economy in 2017. Being worth between $4.1 billion to $6.6 billion in 2017 – or 20 and 32 per cent of gross domestic product – the value of the opiate-based economy exceeded by far, the value of Afghanistan’s legal exports of goods and services during 2016.

Opium poppy production has become so engrained in the livelihood of many Afghans, that it is often the main source of income for not only farmers, but also many local and migrant workers hired as day-labourers on farms. In 2017, opium poppy weeding and harvesting provided the equivalent of up to 354,000 full-time jobs to rural areas.

The report concluded that addressing the opiate problem in Afghanistan remains a shared responsibility. Reducing production, requires an international approach that targets the supply chain of opiates at every stage; from source to destination.

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African Development Bank and UNIDO join forces to accelerate Africa’s industrialization

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The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to step up collaboration to boost Africa’s industrialization.

“The Bank launched in 2016 its Industrialization Strategy for Africa 2016-2025, which was the outcome of collaborative work with UNIDO and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The signing of the present MoU is key to our Strategy’s implementation,” said African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina. “The Bank already benefits enormously from UNIDO’s expertise in developing policies, programmes and knowledge tools which supports our member countries to industrialize.” In 2017, the Bank allocated US$1.2bn to Industrialize Africa – one of the Bank’s High 5 development priorities – mostly to projects for financial sector operations.

The new agreement facilitates the Bank and UNIDO cooperation on joint activities of shared interest in areas such as agro-industry development, circular economy, eco-industrial parks, investment in innovation and technology, enterprise development, trade and capacity-building, and access to finance, among others. The MoU is in line with objectives set in the Bank’s High 5 strategy, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Third Industrial Development Decade for Africa (IDDA III), the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the G20 Initiative on Supporting Industrialization in Africa.

“Achieving Africa’s industrial potential will not happen by chance; strong partnerships such as the one our two organizations have now formalized are key,” said Philippe Scholtès, Managing Director at UNIDO. “This partnership will create significant opportunities and facilitate our work together towards the operationalization of IDDA III 2016–2025”.

The two entities have already initiated working level collaboration including within the framework of UNIDO’s flagship Programme for Country Partnership (PCP) model, which helps synchronize development efforts and mobilize resources to support countries in accelerating industrialization. The Bank and UNIDO recently undertook a joint mission to Morocco as part of the initial development of the PCP and will continue exploring cooperation opportunities in the ongoing PCPs in Senegal and Ethiopia. Collaboration has also been initiated for the establishment of staple crop processing zones in a select number of African countries.

The Memorandum was signed by Adesina and Scholtès in Busan, Republic of Korea, on the sidelines of the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the African Development Bank Group, held under the theme of “Accelerating Africa’s industrialization.” The signing ceremony was attended by African Industry Ministers, representatives of regional Member States, development partners and private-sector executives.

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