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World Bank Helps Bangladesh Modernize Cash Transfer Programs for Poor

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The government of Bangladesh today signed a $300 million financing agreement with the World Bank to improve the transparency and efficiency of its major cash transfer programs for the poorest and vulnerable, including the elderly, widows, and people with disabilities.

The Cash Transfer Modernization Project will help the Department of Social Services (DSS) modernize the country’s four major social protection programs using cash transfers by improving beneficiary targeting, program administration, and benefit payments. The programs are: the Old Age Allowance, Allowances for the Widow, Deserted and Destitute Women, Allowances for the Financially Insolvent Disabled, and Stipends for Disabled Students. These programs collectively reach more than six and a half million of the country’s poorest people.

An efficient, automated and transparent social protection service delivery system is critical to build resilience and create opportunities for the poorest people,” said Qimiao Fan, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal. “The World Bank is helping the government build common digital platforms to better administer safety net programs. This will help reduce administrative costs and errors by identifying the most vulnerable people with greater accuracy and transferring cash in a timely manner.”

In fiscal year 2018, Bangladesh spent about $5.8 billion on social protection, or about 2 percent of its Gross Domestic Product, and improving the efficiency of these programs will help Bangladesh to use public resources more effectively.

The DSS has already started digitizing beneficiary records of its cash transfer programs, and the project will help further strengthen case management and payment processes. To accurately identify recipients of cash transfers, the project will help integrate DSS’s management information system with the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics’ National Household Database. For more secure and accessible payments to beneficiaries, the system will be linked to the Finance Division’s centralized payment platform, and use a network of banking agents, among others. Such actions—utilizing existing or emerging systems—will help further develop an integrated social protection service delivery system in the country.

The government is committed to develop a digitized modern social protection service delivery system,” said Mahmuda Begum, Additional Secretary, Economic Relations Division. “This project is a critical step forward towards this vision and aligned with the National Social Security Strategy, 2015.

The agreement was signed at the Economic Relations Division by Mahmuda Begum and Qimiao Fan on behalf of the Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank, respectively.

The credit is provided by the International Development Association, the World Bank’s concessional lending arm, which provides grants or zero-interest loans.  The credit has a 38-year term, including a six-year grace period, and a service charge of 0.75 percent.

The World Bank was among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. The World Bank has since committed more than $29 billion in grants and interest-free credits to the country. Bangladesh currently has the largest IDA program totaling $11.3 billion.

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Health & Wellness

Minimal risk of monkeypox transmission in UK following confirmed case

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Risk of monkeypox transmission in the United Kingdom is minimal following a confirmed case of the rare and sometimes fatal animal-bourne disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday. 

On 7 May, UK health authorities notified WHO of the confirmed case in an individual who had recently returned to the country from Nigeria. 

Monkeypox is a viral disease that occurs primarily in tropical rainforest areas of Central and West Africa.  It is occasionally exported to other regions. 

Modes of transmission 

The monkeypox virus is mostly transmitted to people from wild animals such as rodents and primates, though human-to-human transmission also occurs.   

The disease typically presents with fever, rash and swollen lymph nodes

Contact with live and dead animals – for example through hunting and consumption of wild game or bush meat – are known risk factors. 

Extensive contact tracing 

WHO said the case travelled to Nigeria in late April, staying in Lagos and Delta states, and developed a rash on 29 April. 

They returned to the UK on 4 May and went to a hospital that same day. As monkeypox was suspected, they were immediately isolated.  

Extensive contact tracing has identified exposed persons in the community, the healthcare setting, and on the international flight.  So far, none has reported compatible symptoms. 

“Since the case was immediately isolated and contact tracing was performed, the risk of onward transmission related to this case in the United Kingdom is minimal. However, as the source of infection in Nigeria is not known, there remains a risk of ongoing transmission in this country,” the UN agency said. 

No travel or trade restrictions 

Nigerian authorities were informed about the case on 7 May.  

The individual did not report contact with anyone with a rash illness, or known monkeypox, in Nigeria. Details of travel and contacts within the country have also been shared for follow up as necessary. 

WHO currently does not recommend any restriction for travel to, and trade with, Nigeria or the UK, based on available information at this time. 

More about monkeypox 

The monkeypox virus belongs to the orthopoxvirus family, which includes smallpox. 

It can be transmitted by contact and droplet exposure, and the incubation period is usually from six to 13 days but can range from 5 to 21 days. 

Symptoms can be mild or severe, and usually resolve spontaneously within 14 to 21 days. However, lesions can be very itchy or painful. 

There have been seven cases of monkeypox previously reported in the UK, all of which were related to a travel history to or from Nigeria. 

Two separate cases were also reported in the United States last year, also imported from Nigeria. 

Since September 2017, the West African country has continued to report cases of the disease, with 558 suspected cases up to 30 April of this year.   

The figure includes 241 confirmed cases, including eight deaths from the disease. 

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Zero Waste Europe endorses ENVI Commitee decisions in RED III and ETS

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Today, the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) committee voted on the Renewable Energy Directive (RED III) and the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). Zero Waste Europe (ZWE) supports the decisions taken to help accelerate the transition to a circular economy in Europe.

RED  III (Renewable Energy Directive)

The ENVI committee has agreed to limit the use of mixed waste for the ‘renewable energy’ generation purposes. 

Mixed waste sorting & support schemes

The ENVI Committee is modifying the definition of biomass, removing the expression “fraction of” in reference to the waste,  and introducing a mandatory mixed waste sorting system. The two changes ensure that only non-recyclable biogenic waste will be used for renewable energy purposes. Moreover, waste incineration of biogenic waste (biowaste, paper, etc.)  can only be supported if separate collection, recycling,  and reuse obligations are fully met. 

For Janek Vähk, ZWE’s Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme Coordinator: “The change is very positive because, at incineration plants, the ‘biodegradable fraction of waste’  is always combusted with fossil-derived materials. This will put an end to generating renewable energy using a technology that is powered by a substance – mixed waste-  which is far from being renewable”. 

Recycled Carbon Fuel – RCF

The agreed text also improves the European Commission’s wording to limit the potential use of fossil waste-derived ‘recycled carbon fuels’ – such as plastic-to-fuels.  

In the proposed methodology to assess the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions savings for recycled carbon fuel, the ENVI Committee has removed the reference to the concept of ‘avoided emissions’. The concept would have allowed plastic-to-fuels manufacturers to subtract emissions that are ‘avoided’ from alternative use, such as waste incineration, making it easier for those fuels to meet the 70% GHG savings threshold required, in the transport sector to contribute towards renewable energy targets. A recent study on plastic-to-fuels shows that plastic-derived fuels produce high exhaust emissions compared to diesel.  
 
Lauriane Veillard, ZWE Chemical Recycling and Plastic-to-Fuels Policy Officer said: “We welcome the committee decision to exclude ‘avoided emissions’ from the calculation rules for recycled carbon fuels.  From a ZWE perspective, supporting the development of RCF in the context of RED III would  have undermined the higher tiers of the waste hierarchy by discouraging ‘reduce and reuse’ behaviour”.  

ZWE calls on the European Parliament to improve the wording. in its upcoming vote in September. to fully exclude the use of fossil-based fuels in the Renewable Energy Directive.

ETS  (EU Emissions Trading System)

The ENVI committee has proposed the inclusion of municipal waste incineration under the EU ETS. This means that, from 2026,  these highly climate polluting facilities will have to pay an ETS carbon price (fee) per each tonne of fossil CO2 they emit. This additional cost of incineration will act as an incentive for waste prevention and recycling, which will then become more competitive (i.e. less costly) than incineration.  Moreover, additional jobs will be created since recycling and waste prevention activities are more labour-intensive than waste incineration. 

Janek Vähk, ZWE’s Climate, Energy and Air Pollution Programme Coordinator: “The proposed inclusion of incinerators is extremely positive as the doubling of fossil CO2 emissions from those facilities have gone unnoticed and unaddressed for decades”. 
 
A recent report shows that one-third of the CO2 emissions from the plastics system are caused by incineration of plastic waste. The inclusion of incinerators is needed to incentivise plastics circularity and waste prevention, and to reduce CO2 emissions (see  ZWE’s report on ETS). 
 
Nevertheless, the ENVI committee is only  proposing to include incinerators from 2026 after conducting a review in 2024 to consider potential measures to avoid ‘unintended consequences’ of the inclusion.

Janek Vähk added: “From ZWE’s perspective, the late inclusion and the review are not justified. Shipping and landfilling of waste are both well regulated and have specific targets such as landfill minimisation and pre-treatment obligations.  These rules will be further tightened with the current review of Waste Shipment regulation and the Waste Framework Directive“.

“The inclusion is of fundamental importance to allow the EU climate and circularity goals to be successfully met. We hope that the European Parliament will support the ENVI committee position in its upcoming vote in June  by supporting the inclusion of  municipal waste incinerators in the EU ETS”. 

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Energy News

Q&A: ‘People have to be at the centre of the energy transformation’

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Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Vice-Chair, GCSA

In June 2021, the EU’s Group of chief Scientific Advisors (GCSA) published the Scientific Opinion entitled “A systemic approach to the energy transition in Europe”, arguing that the clean energy transition in the European Green Deal must keep people at its centre. In light of tomorrow’s RePowerEU announcement that is critical to the future of energy supply in Europe, we invite GCSA Vice-Chair Nebojsa Nakicenovic to comment on the centrality of a just transition and the importance on staying focused on a clean energy future even at times of intensifying pressure. 

 Tell us why the European Commission even needs a scientific opinion at all. Does not the evidence speak for itself?

This publication (A Systemic Approach to energy Transition in Europe) is part of the Science Advice Mechanism (SAM) of the European Commission. From my perspective, this is a very unique way of providing scientific advice to the decision makers.  Many governments have chief scientific advisors with that function. What is unique about SAM in the European Commission is that it has three independent parts. 

First, there is the Group of Chief Scientific Advisors who provide the scientific opinion. There are very clear process rules about how that happens. The other independent part is the so-called SAPEA (Scientific Advice for Policy of the European Academies). This is a consortium of over 100 European academies. They provide a scientific evidence review, similar to the climate change assessment of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).

The assessment is a scientific analysis of what we know about a particular topic. They (SAPEA) do not provide a scientific opinion or scientific advice, importantly they look into the possible options. We, the group of seven chief scientific advisors, based on this evidence review — evidence, so factual scientific knowledge — provide a scientific opinion to the European Commission. 

There is also a unit in the Commission that catalyses this process. The three groups work closely together but we are independent. That explains the context. Why would we provide a scientific opinion? It is because the topic is considered really crucial and central to multiple crisis facing Europe and the world.

Does a just transition require a transformation of the economic model of energy services? People own the problem, should they not own the solution too?  

That is precisely what we have tried to address in our scientific opinion – based on the scientific evidence. We didn’t go beyond the scientific evidence. 

Energy cannot be seen as a silo. We – people – have to be at the centre. That means it has to be an inclusive process involving everybody and, importantly, not leaving anyone behind. Because there is a great danger that any transformation, unfortunately, leads to winners and hopefully there will be many, many winners but also – I wouldn’t say “losers” – but there are people who fall through the cracks who might be left behind and do not have an escape hatch. This is what was a high priority – to identify how to do that.

In our scientific opinion – and in fact we say explicitly, it is essential that sustainable energy, lifestyles, and behaviours become the preferred choice for the people – become a natural choice. For that, we have to create an environment that allows that. This is clearly very, very complex, I don’t think anybody has a silver bullet on that question.  

The world has changed since the paper was published in June 2021. In particular war, inflation and recent dire warnings from the IPCC about rising temperatures. How does that affect your opinion on a just transition?

I have to be very careful to distinguish what is in our scientific opinion based on the evidence and what is my personal view. It’s important not to mix the two or I would not be reflecting the scientific advice mechanism which I think is very unique – I just want to make that clear. Here is my private opinion based on our scientific opinion but not in it.

Geo-politics are changing. There is no doubt that we are in a crucial moment in history. And this is why we argued before – again, my view – that we shouldn’t lose sight of the long term objectives .

We are likely to exceed 1.5 degrees – it is almost certain that by 2040 we will be above (the limit prescribed), perhaps even earlier. From the scientific point of view, this is not new.

From the policy point of view and behavioural point of view, this is something one needs to somehow internalise. We will exceed that goal and we will bear the dangerous consequences. But, we should not lose the perspective of doing our utmost to reach 1.5 degrees in the future – and for that we need to act now.

This is another dimension of justice – intergenerational justice. We have to make sure that we leave the planet to the future generations (hopefully) in better condition than what will occur over the next decade or two.

Is it even possible for the EGD to achieve ‘a clean, circular economy, a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy’ by 2050?

Again, we are in the realm of opinion. Nobody can tell what the future will be like.

I was very enthusiastic when in 2015 all of the world adopted the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and when there was the Paris Agreement on climate change. I think those were the two really important visionary steps towards this aspirational transformation that we were talking about.

I would also argue that the European Green DealFit for 55 and New European Bauhaus initiatives are even more actionable in some sense. They provide a clearer agenda for how the world and life might and should look in 2050.

I don’t want to sound too pessimistic and again let me add, this is my personal perspective – you know, 30 years is a long enough time to achieve this transformation. 

We have done that before. The most recent example is of mobile phones. It all started in 1990 and today, everybody in the world has a phone. Even the poorest people have a phone because it has enabled new economic activities, because it’s beneficial for many (despite the nuisance of always being reachable!)

Another example just to show in principle this is doable, is the replacement of horses by motor vehicles. That also took 30 years in most of the countries. We have 30 years to replace our vehicle fleet by hydrogen and electric. We have just enough time for the transformation if we act immediately.

The research in this article was funded by the EU. This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine.  

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