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The World Needs to Move Faster on Climate Change to Avoid Disaster

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Time is running out for action to stem climate change and, while the world is still debating whether the change is real, weather migrants and refugees are becoming a reality, experts told a session on environmental risks at the World Economic Forum.

In a few months’ time, Cape Town in South Africa will become the first major city in the world to completely run out of water, if nothing changes before then, as a result of drought. Other parts of the world are facing weather-related crises on a similar scale.

There is insufficient urgency in meeting the goals on climate change set in the Paris Agreement and more radical measures are required to address the issues, speakers said.

The issues of environment and sustainability need to be pushed to the top of the corporate agenda as the problem is too large for governments alone to tackle. “We need a new contract between capital, corporations and government,” said Philipp M. Hildebrand, Vice-Chairman, BlackRock Inc.

He said he was starting to see a “sea change” in the way corporations are looking at climate issues. This relates, in part, to the transfer of wealth to a generation that cares about sustainability and climate issues, and also to the growing commitment by companies to environmental, social and governance principles, especially as research is starting to show that these practices, when integrated into business, may actually offer better returns to investors.

Al Gore, Vice-President of the United States (1993-2001); Chairman and Co-Founder, Generation Investment Management, USA, said humanity still has the opportunity to take control of its destiny but it will only happen if more people accept the imminent danger and cost of climate change. This is beginning to happen. “There is a building wave. We are in the early stages of a sustainability revolution. It has the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution but the speed of the digital revolution,” he said. However, he cautioned, time is of the essence.

Peter O’Neill, Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, said the climate issue had become more mainstream in conversations over the past few years but this did not help countries such as his, which recently experienced a long drought that precipitated serious food shortages. He warned that climate change not only threatened communities but also nations. At least a third of countries in the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, to which Papua New Guinea belongs, are in danger of disappearing as a result of climate change.

“The world seems to think they have time. But there are real communities already suffering,” he said.

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, Coordinator, Association for Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad (AFPAT), Chad, said the rainy season was now much shorter, causing hardship for local farmers. Lake Chad is an example of an extreme weather development, with 90% of the lake having evaporated over the past 40 years. This has resulted in food shortages and an increase in conflict among lakeside communities over resources.

She said local solutions to the problem are necessary as countries cannot wait for solutions to be crafted at a global level. “It is difficult to change the consumer behaviour of people trying to survive. Energy is a luxury for a country like mine.” She added her voice to the call for faster and more radical change to turn the situation around.

A spotlight was shone on the consumer as a driver of change. If individuals insist on climate and environmentally friendly alternatives, it will pressure manufacturers and other companies to change the way they operate and what they provide. Governments can also use incentives and legislation to change behaviour.

Renewable energy is widely seen as a significant part of the solution in the fight against climate change, particularly as costs have dropped dramatically. However, the reality is that more than 30% of energy is provided by fossil fuels and this will not change dramatically in the near future unless cheap and easy solutions are found to store alternative energy.

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ADB Approves $300 Million to Reform Pakistan’s Energy Sector

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today approved a $300 million policy-based loan that will help the Government of Pakistan to address financial sustainability, governance, and energy infrastructure policy constraints in Pakistan’s energy sector.

The financing will support the first of three subprograms totaling $1 billion under the Energy Sector Reforms and Financial Sustainability Program, a key component of a comprehensive multidonor economic reform program led by the International Monetary Fund that aims to put Pakistan’s economy on the path to sustainable and inclusive growth after a deterioration in its fiscal and financial position in recent years.

“The cash shortfall across the power supply chain in Pakistan, also known as circular debt, has shot up to more than $10 billion and is a longstanding chronic issue ailing the country’s power sector,” said ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Mr. Werner Liepach. “A comprehensive and realistic Circular Debt Reduction Plan, assisted by ADB in close coordination with other development partners, is the cornerstone of this subprogram. The plan aims to drastically cut the new flows of circular debt and provides policy directions on addressing accumulated circular debt.”

While Pakistan has made significant effort in recent years to expand its electricity generation capacity and stabilize supply, the country is yet to overcome the challenge of inefficiencies, distortions, and uneven reform progress in the sector. These inefficiencies were estimated to have cost the country’s economy up to $18 billion, or 6.5% of gross domestic product, in 2015.

The energy reform program aims to address the underlying causes of circular debt with a focus on improving inadequate tariff and subsidy systems, strengthening energy accounting, and reducing generation costs.

ADB will finance the program with support from its development partners. The Export–Import Bank of Korea has confirmed it will provide $80 million in cofinancing for the first subprogram.

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Afghanistan will Need Continued International Support after Political Settlement

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Afghanistan will need continued financial support from the international community following a potential political settlement, says a new World Bank report that examines the country’s overall medium-term financing needs under a range of political and economic scenarios.

The World Bank concludes that Afghanistan will require $6 billion to $8 billion a year in international grants between 2020 and 2024 to fund basic services, support faster economic growth, and consolidate and sustain any potential reduction in violence following a political settlement with the Taliban.

An improving security situation, political stability, and freedom of movement can help increase private sector investment and job creation. But the gap between revenue and public expenditure remains large, and certain expenditure needs may increase following a political settlement,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “While a gradual decline in grant support can and should occur, it needs to be carefully calibrated to economic realities, to avoid deterioration in services and development outcomes. Such a deterioration may, itself, imperil prospects for sustainable peace

While Afghanistan has achieved remarkable progress in increasing revenues over recent years, the gap between revenues and expenditures remains wide. Afghanistan continues to rely on grants to finance 75 percent of its total public expenditures. Total revenues currently amount to around $2.5 billion per year, while expenditures reach around $11 billion per year. 

Due to the current extent of dependence on aid, a sharp reduction in either security or civilian grants would mean insufficient resources to meet pressing expenditure needs, including: security spending, delivery of basic government functions such as social services and infrastructure,  public investments for faster economic growth and poverty reduction, and short-term job creation and community development programs following a political settlement, which will be vital to sustain and consolidate peace.

The report also finds that expectations of a major aid-driven economic dividend following any political settlement are unlikely to be realized. Grant inflows are likely to remain limited under any scenario, relative to the extent of grant support already being provided. The most critical gains for Afghans following any political settlement would rather come from increased private sector investment, job creation, and access to services.

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Renewable Energy Ambition in NDCs Must Double by 2030

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Countries are being urged to significantly raise renewable energy ambition and adopt targets to transform the global energy system in the next round of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), according to a new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) that will be released at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid. The report will show that renewable energy ambition within NDCs would have to more than double by 2030 to put the world in line with the Paris Agreement goals, cost-effectively reaching 7.7 terawatts (TW) of globally installed capacity by then. Today’s renewable energy pledges under the NDCs are falling short of this, targeting only 3.2 TW.

The report NDCs in 2020: Advancing Renewables in the Power Sector and Beyond will be released at IRENA’s official side event on enhancing NDCs and raising ambition on 11 December 2019. It will state that with over 2.3 TW installed renewable capacity today, almost half of the additional renewable energy capacity foreseen by current NDCs has already been installed. The analysis will also highlight that delivering on increased renewable energy ambition can be achieved in a cost-effective way and with considerable socio-economic benefits across the world.

“Increasing renewable energy targets is absolutely necessary,” said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “Much more is possible. There is a decisive opportunity for policy makers to step up climate action by raising ambition on renewables, which are the only immediate solution to meet rising energy demand whilst decarbonising the economy and building resilience”.

“IRENA’s analysis shows that a pathway to a decarbonised economy is technologically possible and socially and economically beneficial,” continued Mr. La Camera. “Renewables are good for growth, good for job creation and deliver significant welfare benefits. With renewables, we can also expand energy access and help eradicate energy poverty in line with the UN Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. IRENA will promote knowledge exchange, strengthen partnerships and work with all stakeholders to catalyse action on the ground. We are engaging with countries and regions worldwide to facilitate renewable energy projects and raise their ambitions”.

NDCs must become a driving force for an accelerated global energy transformation. The current pledges reflect neither the past decade’s rapid growth nor the ongoing market trends for renewables. Through a higher renewable energy ambition, NDCs could serve to advance multiple climate and development objectives.

The report will be available at https://www.irena.org/publications

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