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Why independent media matter for the SDGs

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The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are an excellent entry point into media development, UNESCO’s Guy Berger told a meeting at the OECD recently.

He was addressing a meeting on 31 January titled “Confronting the crisis in independent media: strategic approaches for international donors”. It was convened by Swedish donor agency SIDA and the Centre for International Media Assistance based in the USA.

The UNESCO director for freedom of expression and media development highlighted how the 2030 development agenda underlined the importance of partnerships in SDG 17 and the importance of access to information and fundamental freedoms in SDG 16.

These two goals pointed donors to ways they could help deal with the sustainability of independent media, which is a sector facing unprecedented attacks as well as major business problems.

“SDG 16.10 on public access to information and fundamental freedoms cannot be achieved without independent media which can help in achieving all SDGs – whether gender equality, climate change eliminating poverty, reducing inequalities, and sustainable cities,” noted Berger. He referenced a discussion paper on this subject produced jointly by UNDP and UNESCO.

“In the spirit of SDG 17, coalitions, especially with internet-related issues, are crucial for media development because multi-stakeholder actors bring different propositions to the cause,” said Berger. Amongst actors like the media, journalism schools and civil society, a big contribution to media development can be made by foundations, governments and intergovernmental organizations like UNESCO, he added.

Berger said that the imperative of media development needed action at two levels: first, building independent media institutions as the foundation for journalism; and second, creating an enabling environment for such media through putting in place appropriate law, economic policy and technology.

“We have to get it right with these two – both the media institutions and media environment – if we want to have journalism play its role for democracy and sustainable development.”

In current times, argued Berger citing a recent UNESCO publication, journalism is especially important as:

  • A truth-seeking alternative to disinformation and misinformation, because its professional verification standards can debunk lies and fabrications;
  • A vehicle for exposing the weaponization of information and investigating its orchestration and financing.
  • A watchdog to highlight the roles of Internet companies which mediate communications in regard to search, social media and social messaging.

“The supply of journalism through strong media institutions and a truly enabling environment needs to be supported more than ever,” said Berger.

The UNESCO director also urged international donors to give attention to the “demand side”, referring to the audiences who consume, share and comment on the news. “Unless these people are empowered to be active agents, they risk being passively manipulated by communications,” said Berger.

Media and Information Literacy (MIL) is UNESCO’s antidote to such manipulation, he stated. “These competencies are essential if people are to recognise journalism, and distinguish it from advertising, propaganda, and gossip.

“With MIL, the public can demand, cherish and support journalism as a reliable resource for individual and group decision-making as we strive for sustainable development,” he concluded.

UNESCO

Energy News

Public and Private Sectors Unite on Need for More Renewables

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Current energy systems are falling short of supporting the transition to a renewables-based system, participants of the third Public-Private Dialogue, organised by IRENA’s Coalition for Action, agreed. The policy makers, legislators, private sector and civil society representatives present, called for greater system flexibility, more active participation of market actors, and a redesign of today’s power system setup to accommodate higher shares of renewables.

“We should be seeing explosive renewable energy growth, yet this is not the case everywhere in the world. Creating encouraging market designs will be key,” emphasised Ben Backwell, CEO of the Global Wind Energy Council and co-Chair of the Coalition’s ‘Business and Investors Group’. This sentiment set the tone for discussions focused on how to achieve a 100% renewables-based power system.

Over the past decade, many countries have witnessed tremendous advancements in renewables according to the latest findings of the Coalition for Action in its white paper on utilities in transition to 100% renewables. Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, Vice-President of the European Renewable Energies Federation and co-Chair of the Coalition’s ‘Towards 100% renewable energy’ working group, pointed out that: “More and more countries, regions, cities and utilities around the world recognise the benefits of shifting to very high shares of renewables, not only in the power but in all end-use sectors too.”

Addressing perceived risk

Scaling-up investment is critical to advancing renewable energy, particularly in regions with high renewable energy potential, such as Africa. Participants of the dialogue demonstrated significant interest in investing in Africa, however the presence of real and perceived risks limits the flow of bankable renewable energy projects — both small and large.

While each country presents unique investment landscapes, a number of common solutions were identified to manage and mitigate risk including the creation of long-term and stable policy frameworks; improving market design (with a focus on de-risking investments); and adopting renewable-focused integrated planning strategies.

Participants also agreed that early involvement of local communities, continued collaboration among all stakeholders, and inclusive decision-making processes are key to ensuring that renewable energy projects lead to an inclusive development. In this context, Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA highlighted the importance of platforms for public-private exchange and knowledge sharing. “The Public-Private Dialogue has become an important platform for IRENA to engage a variety of stakeholders in the discussion on how we can better work together to scale up deployment of renewables and maximise socio-economic benefits,” he stated.

Throughout the meeting participants expressed concern that renewable energy targets in general, and in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in particular, fall short of what is needed to achieve global climate objectives, especially in wealthy and high-carbon emitting nations.

When reporting back from the meeting at the opening of the IRENA Assembly, Bruce Douglas, Deputy CEO of Solar Power Europe, on behalf of the Coalition for Action, called on all governments to urgently enhance their NDCs this year and reminded countries that, “significantly more ambitious renewable energy targets and domestic frameworks are required to achieve the Paris Agreement goals.”

The dialogue was organised by IRENA’s Coalition for Action on the side-lines of the IRENA Tenth Assembly on January 10. The meeting sought to foster a common understanding of the steps necessary to urgently increase the share of renewable energy and accelerate investments.

Read the Coalition’s full report back from the Public-Private Dialogue to the Assembly.

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Deloitte Shares Insights on the Libra Project

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Deloitte today published its viewpoint on the Libra Project, a payment tool that seeks to facilitate a more connected global payment system, remove inefficiency in global money movement and commerce, and foster financial inclusion and economic participation. At the center of the Libra Project is the Libra — a digital asset with potential global reach.

The Libra Project is a bold new proposition designed to create foundational financial infrastructure with potential unprecedented scale and reach that would uniquely differentiate Libra.

The Project’s governing body, the Libra Association and its members, are part of a larger ecosystem of merchants, users, developers, financial institutions among others, who will likely be pivotal in making the Project successful.

The current efforts of the Project reflect an attempt to set up an inclusive, and transparent collaboration across many jurisdictions. The proactive attempt at regulatory and political scrutiny of the Libra initiative has created awareness and momentum in the form of dialogue and pushbacks around the role of digital assets in the global economy.

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Energy News

ADB Loan to Unlock Long-Term Financing for Solar Power in Viet Nam

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a $37.8 million loan deal with TTC Energy Development Investment Joint Stock Company (TTC Energy) to provide long-term financing to develop and operate a 50-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic solar power plant in Tay Ninh Province in Viet Nam.

ADB’s assistance for the Gulf Solar Power Project was provided through an innovative project finance structure, which ensured the bankability of the project. It will help catalyze commercial financing for one of the first large-scale solar power project finance transactions in the country. The loan is composed of an $11.3 million A loan and a B loan of up to $18.9 million.

An additional $7.6 million loan was provided by the Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund, which is supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The loan marks the first transaction under the fund’s Non-Parallel program and improves the bankability and financial viability of the project to allow other lenders to provide long tenor, US dollar-denominated financing. The B loan will be funded by Bangkok Bank PCL, Siam Commercial Bank PCL, and Standard Chartered Bank (Thai) PCL.

“ADB is excited about this transaction because the project will have a significant impact on the sustainability and security of Viet Nam’s energy sector for years to come,” said the Director of Infrastructure Finance Division of ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department Mr. Jackie B. Surtani. “Apart from providing much-needed financing to develop solar power in Viet Nam, the project will also help reduce perceived risks in the country’s renewable energy sector.”

“We believe the project’s fundamentals were improved significantly as a result of its competitive financing structure and longer tenor led by ADB, and we are confident that the project will be developed successfully according to plan,” said Gulf Energy Development Public Company Limited (GED) Executive Director Ms. Yupapin Wangviwat.

The Government of Viet Nam plans to increase the share of renewable energy sources, such as hydropower, solar, wind, and biomass, as a percentage of total installed capacity to 21% by 2030 to meet rapidly growing energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25% by 2030.

The project will develop and operate the 50 MW solar power plant and its associated facilities in Tay Ninh Province, which is about 50 kilometers northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. The solar power plant will directly serve the electricity demand of residents and businesses of Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas. It will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 29,760 tons by 2020.

TTC Energy, established in 2017, is 90% owned by GED. GED is a leading private power generation company and has the largest portfolio of gas-fired power projects in Thailand.

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