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Greenwashing Is Out, Let’s ‘Out’ the Greenwashers

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Business leaders are shifting their priorities, embracing the idea of the “double bottom line”, supplanting shareholder primacy with stakeholder primacy, and committing – at least notionally – to environmental sustainability.

That’s good news, said Caroline Anstey, Senior Advisor to Sustainable Markets at the World Economic Forum. But not all of this environmental commitment is genuine. “A lot of companies are still thinking about corporate social responsibility. They’re not running it through the business and through the strategy. They’re not really putting it into their plans and my worry is that without any durable metrics, consumers and investors and others really don’t know who is sustainable and who’s doing greenwashing. My worry is that over time there will be a big scandal over this and people will become disillusioned.”

In a panel session on transforming markets, Anstey called for product labelling to give consumers a clear sense of a product’s environmental impact. “Consumers control about 60% of global GDP. They make choices every day, using their pocketbooks, their wallets,” she said. “If there’s proper labelling and disclosure – the same as food labelling, but for product production, supply chains – consumers can make that choice. But it’s very important that consumers don’t have to pay more for doing the right thing.”

Governments have a critical role to play in ensuring that green choices aren’t more expensive choices. “We have to change our system of taxation and subsidies and incentives to align with a sustainable future,” Anstey said.

The grim realities of climate change and the urgency of the situation were driven home by Allen Chastenet, Prime Minister of the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia. “We’re facing two things:” said Chastenet, “extinction and the environment. Unfortunately, the extinction part comes first,” he said, noting that 2018’s Hurricane Maria – the second of two hurricanes to hit the island in a month – did damage equivalent to 200% of the island nation’s GDP. Of those who survived the disaster, he said, it was self-employed farmers who tended to remain, while “teachers, doctors, nurses leave and never come back.”

“The final nail in the coffin for us is that we become now uninsurable,” he added.

Melati Wijsen, who with her sister launched a successful initiative called Bye Bye Plastic Bags six years ago, at age 12, to ban plastic bags on her native island of Bali in Indonesia, made an impassioned case during the panel for including and taking seriously the views of youth in all conversations about sustainability.

“Involve the young people. Take our ideas, as crazy as they might be. We have something to offer. We’re smart, we’re passionate and we’re motivated, and we’re ready to be part of these opening markets,” she said. “We not only expect to be heard, but we expect to be part of the decisions that are being made today.”

Feike Sijbesma, Chief Executive Officer of the Dutch company Royal DSM, echoed Anstey’s dismissal of corporate social responsibility. “CSR is out,” he said. “You do this in the mainstream of your business,” noting that this is what distinguishes a genuine commitment to sustainability from mere “greenwashing”.

Anstey noted that the classical economic theory and its assumption that people will act only in their own self-interest has fallen away as behavioural economists present data to the contrary. “They will act in the interest of their community – even if it’s not in their own self-interest,” she said.

Scepticism over motivations dies hard, however. A Twitter poll put out on Monday from the World Economic Forum asking whether respondents believed business leaders when they say they want to be more sustainable found that 55% of respondents said no, with only 23% answering in the affirmative and 22% saying they weren’t sure.

“This is a devastating score,” Sijbesma said. Noting that people working for social good are now termed “social entrepreneurs”, he added: “I think all entrepreneurs, all business leaders, should be social entrepreneurs. You should go to jail if you are not a social entrepreneur.”

In a video message delivered at the end of the panel, His Royal Highness Prince Charles announced the creation of the Sustainable Markets Council in partnership with the World Economic Forum. The council will explore creative solutions, model sustainable leadership and champion sustainable markets at a global scale.

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Year-old peace agreement must be implemented for ‘lasting peace’ in Central African Republic

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Following a visit to the Central African Republic, a UN independent expert said that everyone must take all measures necessary to effectively implement the peace agreement that was signed in Bangui a year ago.

“The first anniversary of the Khartoum Peace Agreement, celebrated on 6 February, provided an opportunity for all parties to review its implementation, which will lead to a lasting peace”, Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said on Thursday.

In pointing out that the agreement allowed armed groups to join the Government, he said it is considered “a symbol of the unification of the Republic”.

“But”, he maintained, “for the agreement to be effective, all parties must sincerely implement its provisions, and justice measures must be taken”.

Minding the security situation

During his visit, Mr. Agbetse took note of ongoing reform of the security sector as well as the beginning of the Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration and Repatriation (DDRR) process whereby weapons are physically removed from ex-belligerents, armed groups are disbanded, and former combatants are reintegrated into civilian society.

He urged all involved to mobilize the necessary technical and financial resources to implement the nationwide process as early as possible.

Despite the steps already taken to improve the security situation, much remains to be done to prevent a resurgence of violence, keep young people at home, support the peace process, and punish Peace Agreement violations, according to the UN expert.

He observed that despite laudable efforts by local actors, school closures, especially in the countryside, forces children out of the education system, making them vulnerable to human trafficking and recruitment by armed groups.

Transitional justice

Mr. Agbetse called on the National Assembly to promptly adopt several bills required by the Agreement, including on freedom of communication and the creation of a Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission.

Upon being informed of the establishment of transitional justice institutions, he underscored the importance that they be “provided with appropriate resources to carry out their mission”.

“Swift and substantial assistance from international partners is essential,” he said.

He upheld that the international community continue to support the organization of presidential elections within the constitutional time frame, saying “all actors, including political parties and the media, must refrain from any hate speech and avoid inciting hatred”.

“Necessary action for a peaceful election must be taken now,” concluded the UN expert.

Mr. Agbetse will present his findings to the UN Human Rights Council during a high-level interactive dialogue scheduled for 18 March.

Independent experts are appointed by the Geneva-based Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.

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EU Politics

Climate-neutral Europe: EU invests more than €100 million in new LIFE Programme projects

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The European Commission today announced an investment of €101.2 million for the latest projects under the LIFE programme for the Environment and Climate Action. The funding will support 10 large-scale environment and climate projects in nine Member States, helping Europe’s transition to a sustainable economy and climate neutrality. Theseprojects are located in Cyprus, Estonia, France, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Slovakia, Czechia and Spain.

Executive Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans said: “The  European Green Deal is about improving the well-being and prosperity of our citizens, while protecting nature and the climate. LIFE projects have played an important role for many years and have a big impact on the ground. With today’s €100 million investment we will help to preserve precious natural habitats, keep the air clean, and cut pollution in many lakes and rivers in Europe.”

Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said: “LIFE integrated projects enable Member States’ authorities to make a real difference to the environment and people’s lives. The projects will help Member States to conserve nature, improve air and water quality, and make the economy greener. This will improve our resilience to the changing climate.”

Integrated projects improve citizens’ quality of life by helping Member States comply with EU legislation in six areas: nature, water, air, waste, climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation. They support implementation of environmental and climate legislation in a coordinated manner and on a large territorial scale, leveraging funding from other EU sources, national and regional actors and private investors.

The LIFE investment is set to mobilise over €6.5 billion of complementary funds, as Member States can also make use of other EU funding sources, including agricultural, regional and structural funds, Horizon 2020, as well as national funds and private sector investment.

The large-scale projects will support the European Green Deal and the EU’s ambition of becoming the world’s first climate-neutral continent by 2050. They will help to restore and conserve ecosystems and species we all depend on, move towards a circular economy, improve air and water quality, boost sustainable finance and increase climate resilience in Europe.

Impact on the ground

Nature conservation: Integrated projects in Estonia, Ireland and Cyprus will help to conserve Europe’s nature and improve the management of the EU Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Many important habitats and species will benefit, from forests, farmlands, grasslands, coastal areas and peatlands to pollinators. These habitats also serve as valuable carbon sinks.

Waste management: A project in Greece will promote waste prevention and re-use, reducing the amount of municipal waste going to landfill. New waste indicators and standards will be developed to help build the circular economy.

Air quality: LIFE funding will assist Slovakia in complying with EU directives on air quality, reducing the population’s exposure to harmful air pollutants. Neighbouring Czechia, affected by similar air quality problems, will also benefit.

Water: Integrated projects working at river basin-scale will protect and improve water quality in Ireland and Latvia’s rivers and lakes, enabling the countries to meet their obligations under the EU Water Framework Directive.

Climate change adaptation: LIFE funding will also support increased resilience to climate change. Projects will integrate climate change adaptation into planning and other policy areas in Spain as well as building adaptation capacity in France using nature-based solutions.

Sustainable finance: Also in France, an integrated project will help bridge significant knowledge gaps in this area and bring green financial products into the mainstream.

Background

The LIFE programme is the EU’s funding instrument for the environment and climate action. It has been running since 1992 and has co-financed more than 5,400 projects across the EU and in third countries. At any given moment some 1,100 projects are in progress. The budget for 2014-2020 is set at €3.4 billion in current prices. LIFE integrated projects were introduced in 2014 to help Member States comply with key EU environmental, nature and climate legislation. For the next long-term EU budget for 2021-2027, the Commission is proposing to increase funding by almost 60% for LIFE.

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Environment

Mobile game aims to bridge gap between citizens and leaders on climate action

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UN staff and their families gather at UN Headquarters in New York in support of the youth-led global climate strike. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Millions of people worldwide will get to share their views on climate action through a UN campaign launched on Thursday aimed at connecting them with Governments and policy makers. 

The Mission 1.5 campaign is built around an internet and mobile video game that educates people about climate policy and allows them to vote on possible solutions. 

The campaign was developed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), alongside experts in game development, climate science and public polling. 

“Together with partners from across the private and public sectors, we have the ability with this campaign to connect millions of people with their governments in an innovative two-way discussion on solutions to the climate crisis, and increase ambition ahead of the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow later this year”, said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator. 

Mission 1.5 takes its name from the collective effort to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, as agreed by world leaders meeting in Paris in 2015. 

Described as the world’s biggest survey of public opinion on climate change, it aims to give 20 million people a chance to have their say. A previous survey ahead of the Paris talks canvassed 10,000 people in 76 countries. 

Players will take on the role of climate policymakers who make decisions to meet the 1.5 degree goal. 

Afterwards, they will vote on key climate actions that they would like to see adopted. The data will be analyzed and delivered to Governments. 

The hope is that the game will bridge the gap between citizens and governments on climate action.  

“People often feel disconnected from the leaders that must make urgent decisions on the climate crisis,” said Cassie Flynn, UNDP Climate Change Advisor. 

“Mission 1.5 is a way to help people understand climate solutions and make their voices heard. In many ways, it is the People’s Climate Vote.” 

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