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12 Asian Entrepreneurs awarded for forward-thinking environmental solutions

MD Staff

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Pamela Nicole Mejia (Phinix)

Twelve environmentalists in the Asia-Pacific region have won US$10,000 each to support their energy-efficient, low-waste, and low-carbon business ideas.

The winners of the Asia Pacific Low Carbon Lifestyles Challenge are from China, Bhutan, the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Samoa, Sri Lanka and Thailand. As well as the start-up funding, the winners, selected across three categories of mobility, plastic waste, and energy efficiency also receive mentoring and support.

UN Environment’s Director for the Asia-Pacific region, Dechen Tsering, said, “From plastic waste to climate change, we who live in Asia and the Pacific are confronting environmental challenges face-to-face almost daily. The natural ingenuity we find across our region is the key to solving these problems.”

The winning project address a variety of sustainability challenges across the region, offering innovative solutions for local, regional or even global environmental issues.

Plastic waste

In the plastic waste category, Samoan national Angelica Salele got awarded for her project producing reusable cotton feminine hygiene products. Disposable feminine sanitary pads contribute to household waste across the globe and put a strain on the Pacific island’s waste management systems. The cotton pads will dramatically reduce the cost and waste impacts of female hygiene products.

Pratvadee (Bonnie) Sananvatananont won in the same category, for her idea to add a plastic cutlery opt-out system to Thailand’s popular food delivery service food panda. If only 10% of orders opt out, that would mean the service removes 276,000 sets of plastic cutlery in a year.

Pamela Nicole Mejia from the Philippines tackled one of the biggest polluters in the world with her ideas: the fashion industry. Phinix is a textile upcycling startup that collects textile wastes and transforms them into higher valued products such as footwear, fashion accessories and lifestyle pieces, in lieu of leaving them to be discarded in landfills.

Indonesia’s Achmad Solikhin was awarded for his technology, BIOTIC, a plastic product based on recycled and bio based plastic .. His first product line will feature stylish helmets, but plans to expand into compostable packaging and furniture production in the future.

Energy efficiency

In Energy Efficiency, Mohammed Saquib from Pakistan received an award for setting up Modulus Tech, an organization that produces ultra energy efficient, low-cost modular flat-pack housing built from recycled materials. Pakistan’s housing shortage is up to 10 million units, and there is a large market for low-cost housing, including in refugee and displaced persons camps.

In the Philippines, Mark-Anthony Villaflor is taking a sustainable and award-winning look at the tourism industry. By using his property as a solar panel guinea pig, he will gather baseline data on energy efficiency, look at the fuel costs of local businesses, and help them covert to renewable energy to reduce the carbon footprint of El Nido.

An environmental architect from Thimphu, Bhutan, was awarded for his ideas on improving energy efficiency across the country. Deependra Pourel is planning to install smart energy meters in homes, offices, and hotels to provide building owners insight into their energy use. His startup will also leverage his architectural skills to help building owners reduce energy use through behavior change, efficient appliances and architectural redesign.

Monish Siripurapu, an architect based in New Delhi, received an award for a biomimicry cooling system inspired by the structure of a beehive. Customized through advanced computational analysis and modern calibration techniques, the device passes water through earthen cones that facilitate evaporative cooling, using little energy and zero ozone depleting or carbon intensive refrigerants.

Low Carbon Mobility

Hassam Ud-din set out to improve the efficiency of roads in Pakistan, where most cars and trucks on the road operate at 30% capacity. His startup increases access to affordable, efficient mobility through an app called RASAI, which allows for peer-to-peer sharing of a vehicle’s extra space and seats, offering inter-city ridesharing and freight-shipping capabilities.

Sri Lankan nationa Sasiranga De Silva won an award in the Low Carbon Mobility category for bringing the iconic tuk tuk into the eVehicle market. His startup is developing an affordable conversion kit that will allow tuk-tuk drivers to convert their existing iconic vehicles to an electric powertrain that will generate zero tailpipe emissions. .

Shutong Liu’s venture aims to produce biodiesel from waste cooking oil. Biofuel produced from cooking oil is interchangeable with diesel fuel, so there is no need for vehicles to convert engines to use it. Liu, based in China, aims to connect the source of waste oil, namely restaurant chains, with final users to build a circular economy loop. As and added bonus, this diverts waste cooking oil from illegal and unsafe reuse as food.

Lathika Chandra Mouli, also based in China, aims to facilitate transactions between building owners  with solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations and drivers, through her business Energo Labs. As the price of electricity in most Asia-Pacific countries is cheaper than the cost of fuel, such a solution can help encourage electric vehicle adoption and simultaneously incentivize homeowners to install solar panels.

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Côte d’Ivoire: Robust growth under the looming threat of climate change impacts

MD Staff

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According to the Economic Update for Côte d’Ivoire, published today, the short- and medium-term outlook for the Ivorian economy remains positive. The economy is expected to maintain a steady trajectory, with GDP growth of 7 to 7.5% in the coming years. Titled “So Tomorrow Never Dies: Côte d’Ivoire and Climate Change,” the report highlights the urgent need to implement measures to ensure that climate change impacts do not imperil this economic progress and plunge millions of Ivorians into poverty.

“The solid performance of the Ivorian economy, which registered growth of almost 8% in 2017, is essentially due to the agricultural sector, which experienced positive climate conditions. The economy also benefited from a period of calm after the political and social instability of the first half of 2017 and from more favorable conditions on international markets,” said Jacques Morisset, Program Leader for Côte d’Ivoire and Lead Author of the report. “The Government also successfully managed its accounts, with a lower-than-expected deficit of 4.2% of GDP, while continuing its ambitious investment policy, partly financed by a judicious debt policy on financial markets.

However, the report notes that private sector activity slowed in 2017 compared with 2016 and especially 2015, which may curb the pace of growth of the Ivorian economy in the coming years. Against the backdrop of fiscal adjustment projected for 2018 and 2019, it is critical that the private sector remain dynamic and become the main driver of growth. This is particularly important in light of the uncertainty associated with the upcoming elections in 2020, which could prompt investors to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

As economic growth in Côte d’Ivoire relies in part on use of its natural resource base, the authors of the report devote a chapter to the impact of climate change on the economy. They raise an alarming point: the stock of natural resources is believed to have diminished by 26% between 1990 and 2014. Several visible phenomena attest to this degradation, such as deforestation, the depletion of water reserves, and coastal erosion. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change could reduce GDP across Africa by 2% to 4% by 2040 and by 10% to 25% by 2100. For Côte d’Ivoire, this would correspond to a loss of some CFAF 380 billion to 770 billion in 2040.

This report sounds an alarm in order to spark a rapid and collective wake-up call,” said Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director for Côte d’Ivoire. “Combating climate change will require prompt decisions and must become a priority for the country to maintain accelerated and sustainable growth over time.”

The report pays special attention to coastal erosion and to the cocoa sector, which represents one third of the country’s exports and directly affects over 5 million people. With 566 km of coast, Côte d’Ivoire now boasts a coastal population of almost 7.5 million people, who produce close to 80% of the national GDP. Two thirds of this coast is affected by coastal erosion, with severe consequences for the communities and the country’s economy.

The Ivorian Government, which is already aware of this challenge and has prepared a strategy to confront it, must expedite its implementation. This would have the two-fold effect of developing a “green” economy and creating new jobs.

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A future of work based on sustainable production and employment

Simel Esim

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On the first Saturday of July each year, the international community celebrates the International Day of Cooperatives. This year’s theme, Sustainable consumption and production of goods and services is timely, as the ILO works towards a future of work that is based on sustainable production and employment models.

As head of the ILO’s Cooperative Unit, I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of cooperatives’ commitment to sustainable consumption and production.

In Northern Sri Lanka, for instance, after years of civil war, I saw how cooperatives helped build the resilience of local communities.

A rapid assessment at the start of the ILO’s Local Empowerment through Economic Development project (LEED) indicated that cooperatives were the only “stable” structures present in Northern Sri Lanka before, during, and after the conflict. Since 2010, the project has been supporting agriculture and fishery cooperatives by securing fair trade certification for their products and helping them establish market links.

I’ve also listened to inspiring stories from other parts of the world of how cooperatives have joined forces to contribute to sustainable consumption, production and decent work – often through cooperative-to-cooperative trade.

Some of these stories were shared at a recent meeting in Geneva of cooperative and ethical trade movements.

We heard how Kenyan producer cooperatives’ coffee has found its way on the shelves of Coop Denmark and how biological pineapples from a Togolese youth cooperative are being sold in retail cooperatives across Italy. We heard how consumer cooperatives in East Asia have developed organic and ecolabel products, while educating their members about the working conditions of producers and workers, as well as on reducing food waste and plastic consumption. We also shared ILO experiences in supporting constituents in the field.

The emerging consensus from the meeting was that cooperative-to-cooperative trade can help lower the costs of trade, while ensuring fairer prices and better incomes for cooperative members and their communities. Opportunities exist not only in agricultural supply chains, but also in ready-made garments and other sectors.

Cooperatives at both ends of the supply chain have been joining forces to shorten value chains, improve product traceability and adopt environmentally-friendly practices. At the ILO we have been working with our constituents to improve the social and environmental footprint of cooperatives around the world.

As the ILO continues to promote a future of work that is based on sustainable production and employment models, a priority for us in the coming years is to facilitate the development of linkages between ILO constituents and cooperatives. The aim is to encourage joint action towards responsible production and consumption practices, the advancement of green and circular economies and the promotion of decent work across supply chains.

Source: ILO

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Mongolia’s Growth Prospects Remain Positive but More Efficient Public Investment Needed

MD Staff

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Mongolia’s economic performance has improved dramatically with GDP growth increasing from 1.2 percent in 2016 to 5.1 percent in 2017 and 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2018. While short- and medium-term economic prospects remain positive, Mongolia faces core structural vulnerabilities that hinder its potential, according to Mongolia Economic Update, the latest World Bank report on Mongolia’s economy launched here today. The report also highlights the importance of improving efficiency of its public investment programs given extensive consequences from the overambitious and unrealistic investment programs implemented in the past.

“Last year was a good year for Mongolia with favorable commodities prices and the successful implementation of the government’s economic recovery program,” said Dr. Jean-Pascal N. Nganou, World Bank Senior Economist for Mongolia and Team Leader of the report. “This resulted in improved fiscal and external balances, triggering a slight decline of the country’s public debt.

The recovery is expected to accelerate with a GDP growth rate averaging more than 6 percent between 2019 and 2020, driven by large foreign direct investments in mining. Other than agriculture, which was severely affected by harsh weather conditions during the winter, most major sectors including manufacturing, trade, and transport are expected to expand significantly. On the back of increasing exports and higher commodity prices, economic growth will continue to have a strong positive impact on government revenue, contributing to the reduction of the fiscal deficit.

The unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 percent in the last quarter of 2017, compared to 8.6 percent a year earlier. Still, it increased to 9.7 percent in the first quarter of this year, reflecting Mongolia’s highly seasonal employment patterns due to difficult working conditions in the winter, especially in construction, agriculture, and mining.

The report highlights possible short- and medium-term risks including political risks, regional instability, climate shocks, and natural disasters. The most critical risk identified is a sudden relaxation of the government’s commitment to full implementation of its economic adjustment program supported by development partners.

In addition, the economy remains vulnerable to fluctuations in global commodity prices and a productivity gap. The best long-term protection against these two vulnerabilities is the diversification of the Mongolian economy.

To create a strong buffer against economic vulnerabilities, the government and donors should give a high priority to economic diversification that helps counter the ups and downs of the mining sector. Investing in human capital and strengthening the country’s institutions are the best way to support diversification, together with sound investments in crucial infrastructure,” said James Anderson, World Bank Country Manager for Mongolia.

The report takes a closer look at public investment programs implemented over the past five years, which surged until 2015, contributing to large increases in public finance deficits and the public debt. Mongolia needs to review and reshape its public investment policies and decision-making processes to improve efficiency of public spending, including clear project selection and prioritization criteria, as well as proper maintenance of existing assets.

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