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1t.org Announced to Accelerate Nature Restoration to Tackle Climate and Biodiversity Crises

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1t.org is a World Economic Forum initiative, designed to support the trillion tree community. It is being set up with the initial financial support of Marc and Lynne Benioff. 1t.org is a platform for leading governments, businesses, civil society and ecopreneurs committed to restoring and reforesting the planet.

The plan, outlined at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2020 by the Forum’s Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab, represents a major initiative in the global effort to tackle the climate change and biodiversity crises.

Nature-based solutions – locking-up carbon in the world’s forests, grasslands and wetlands – can provide up to one-third of the emissions reductions required by 2030 to meet the Paris Agreement targets. They are one of four critical transitions needed to tackle the climate crisis in the coming decade, alongside transforming the energy, heavy industry and finance sectors. Several recent science publications have highlighted the significant restoration potential in every country to reverse centuries of decline and to restore previously forested lands, including lands recovering from fires.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said: “The next decade must see unprecedented levels of collaboration if we are to meet global climate, biodiversity and Sustainable Development Goals. 1t.org presents an important example of how stakeholders from all walks of life and all ages can work together to achieve a single, globally significant goal.”

In a special address, Donald J. Trump, President of the United States, announced US backing of the initiative: “I am pleased to announce that the United States will join the 1 Trillion Trees initiative being launched here at the World Economic Forum. We will continue to show strong leadership in restoring, growing and better managing our trees and our forests.”

Significant momentum exists on reforestation – many initiatives and organizations are working to conserve and restore forests at scale such as the Bonn Challenge, the Global Partnership for Forest Landscape Restoration, and the work of many environmental NGOs like American Forests, or the Trillion Trees Initiative (led by Birdlife International, WCS and WWF UK). 1t.org offers an opportunity to help join-up these initiatives in a unifying platform and provide support in critical areas, including the mobilization of funds and political support. 1t.org will also enable improved connectivity of initiatives and help to inspire and enable more champions and entrepreneurs.

1t.org is being created to serve all actors working on restoration and reforestation and will provide a global platform for any reforestation commitment, initiative or campaign, from the grassroots level to large, multi-country efforts. It will provide a pathway for anyone who wants to join the reforestation movement. 1t.org work to support the Saudi Arabian G20 Presidency, which has made Safeguarding the Planet a key aim; and the UK Presidency of COP26. It also aims to make a major contribution to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 led by UNEP and FAO. Specifically, 1t.org will focus on the following three key action areas:

1t.org will encourage and enable millions more grassroots reforestation champions by providing a digital platform (UpLink) to connect them with the opportunities, tools and resources they need to thrive.

1t.org will work to overcome the many socio-economic barriers that hold reforestation back by catalysing top-down system change – such as policy change, incentives, market creation and access to funding and technology.

1t.org will work to raise the level of ambition and spending from business, governments and philanthropists, and provide guidance to turn that ambition into action.

Reforestation: The science

Greenhouse gas emissions reached a record high of 55.3 Gigatonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2018. According to UNEP’s Emissions Gap Report, the Earth’s ability to have a two-thirds chance of keeping climate change below 1.5 degrees Celsius means that we have to reduce emissions by 55% between now and 2030. At current emission levels, our “carbon budget” for the 1.5 degrees Celsius warming limit will be depleted before 2030.

Meanwhile, GHG emissions are showing no sign of peaking any time soon. While this prognosis is bleak, nature-based solutions offer the prospect of buying valuable time. Growing, restoring and conserving 1 trillion trees over the coming decade could result in up to 12Gt CO2 being sequestered from the atmosphere each year, with the same trees storing up to 205 Gt of CO2-equivalent once mature. In total, it is estimated that nature-based solutions such as reforestation could provide up to one-third of the needed climate solutions by 2030 to meet the 1.5 degree goal.

What the leaders say

The 2019 UNEP Emissions Gap Report shows that we are on the brink of missing the 1.5°C target, thereby resulting in a future of serious climate change impacts,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). “Nature is one of our best allies to significantly reduce emissions and build resilient societies, but time is running out. The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) is an important initiative which brings together countries, businesses and individuals from across the world, to restore ecosystems and restore the planet. The 1t.org platform convened by the World Economic Forum provides a global public-private action platform to help translate these commitments and accelerate reforestation, restoration and conservation of forests.”

Ivan Duque, President of Colombia, said that “Our responsibility to conserve and protect biodiversity and to fight against climate change is motivated by the urgency we share to prevent the degradation of forests and other ecosystems. I committed to planting 180 million native trees by 2022 to restore 300,000 hectares of Colombian ecosystem. Today, we have planted 24.5 million trees and restored 40,227 hectares. I trust that the 1t.org platform will help scale these efforts and accelerate restoration action globally.”

The need for accelerated action was also highlighted by Marc Benioff, Chairman and co-Chief Executive Officer of Salesforce,who said:“We are facing a planetary climate crisis and trees are one of the most effective ways to sequester carbon and stop the worst effects of climate change.” Benioff also announced that, “in support of the 1t.org mission, Salesforce has set a goal to support and mobilize the conservation and restoration of 100 million trees over the next decade.”

For Dame Jane Goodall, Founder, Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace: “1t.org offers innovative technologies which will serve to connect tens of thousands of small and large groups around the world that are engaged in tree planting and forest restoration. Creating this ‘greening global community’ will allow for sharing critically needed funding and best practices – just what is needed to achieve the trillion trees goal in 10 years. Towards the 1t.org goal, I am proud to announce that our Roots & Shoots programme, which empowers young people in 60 countries, has committed to planting over 5 million new trees over the coming year. Now is the time for everyone on the planet to do their part.”

“Forests are not only exceptional ecosystems; but, for indigenous peoples, they are also our pharmacies, our supermarket, our school,” said Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, President of the Association of Indigenous Women and Peoples of Chad. “As indigenous peoples, we will not watch our forest burn without acting. We are ready to protect and repair the forests. The 1t.org platform offers exciting opportunities to combine science, finance and indigenous peoples knowledges for climate action.”

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Environment

Can financial institutions invest in ocean health?

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New, pivotal guidance published today by the UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) provides a market-first, practical toolkit for financial institutions to take immediate action on their lending, investment and underwriting activities which negatively impact ocean health.

The ocean covers 70% of the earth’s surface, holding 97% of all water and 80% of all life forms. Major ocean sectors such as tourism, shipping, fishing, aquaculture and marine renewable energy collectively contribute to a ‘blue’ economy, estimated at a global gross value added of USD 1.5trn in 2010. This is projected to double in size to USD 3trn by 2030, with some ocean industries set to grow faster than the global economy (OECD, 2016).

However, ocean health is under existential threat. Faced with the triple crises of pollution, nature loss and climate change, two-thirds of our oceans have been negatively altered by human activity; leaving industries, businesses and livelihoods exposed. With existing financing still largely directed towards unsustainable sectors and activities, it is critical that all sectors of the blue economy are rapidly transitioned towards sustainable pathways.

Banks, insurers and investors have a major role to play in financing this transition to a sustainable blue economy, helping to rebuild ocean prosperity and restore biodiversity to the ocean. Through their activities, and client relationships, financial institutions have a major impact on ocean health and hold the power to accelerate and mainstream the sustainable transformation of ocean-linked industries. They thereby play essential roles in wider ocean governance, engaging in public-private partnerships, and propelling local-to-global actions for sustainability.  

“Momentum is building as more banks, insurers and investors wake up to the realisation that their financial activities can have a sizeable impact on ocean health, creating a negative feedback loop for key ocean industries such as shipping, fishing, tourism and marine renewables” said Eric Usher, Head of UN Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI).

“A new sustainable pathway for the blue economy is thus both an environmental and economic necessity. This critical new guidance provides a practical toolkit for financial institutions to understand their impact and discover how a new sustainable finance approach can help them identify key risks and opportunities in ocean-linked sectors” he added.

Leveraging best practice based on input from more than 50 pioneering institutions and experts, this guidance sets out pathways to sustainable growth across five key ocean sectors, chosen for their established connection to private finance. It presents a detailed breakdown of which activities to seek out as best practice, which activities to challenge, and which activities to avoid financing completely due to their damaging nature.

“Decades of unsustainable consumption and production is leading to environmental risks and losses in natural capital, eroding the ocean’s resource base. Without engagement by financial institutions, we will not be able to change the course to sustain a healthy ocean and unlock its enormous potential. 1$ of sustainable ocean investments can yield 5x higher global benefits” said Leticia Carvalho, Head of the Marine and Freshwater Branch, UN Environment Programme.

“This new guidance can help financial institutions invest in good ocean governance at local, regional and global levels. In a nutshell, making sustainable blue economy opportunities too hard to resist” she added.

This guidance provides decision-makers across banking, insurance and investment with a science-based and actionable toolkit, giving easy-to-follow recommendations on how to approach financial activity related to:

  • Seafood, including both fisheries and aquaculture as well as their supply chains;
  • Ports;
  • Maritime transportation;
  • Marine renewable energy, notably offshore wind; and
  • Coastal and marine tourism, including cruising.

It builds on the foundation of the Sustainable Blue Economy Finance Principles – a keystone for financing activities in the blue economy, supported by a community of over 50 institutions worldwide with a collective total asset size of over USD 6trn.

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Duck conservation takes flight in Jamaica

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On January 20, 2021, the day of the inauguration of American president Joe Biden, two ducks named “Joe” and “Kamala” took flight from a remote wetland near Negril, Jamaica. And, like their namesakes, the fowl will be the focus of international attention.

That’s because Joe and Kamala are West Indian whistling ducks, the rarest duck species in the Americas, with fewer than 20,000 remaining, found only in the northern Caribbean. Conservationists released the pair, which were outfitted with GPS trackers, into the wild on 20 January, kicking off a study to learn more about their species and, researchers hope, ensure their survival.

BirdsCaribbean is a partner of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The whistling duck study is supported by UNEP’s Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (IWEco) project.

With one million species are at risk of extinction, biodiversity is a key priority of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).  Ecosystems are fundamental to human health and prosperity, availing food and water, regulating temperature, stimulating economic growth, putting roofs over heads and clothing on backs. As ecosystems degrade, so do human lives.

As the world faces the stark reality that none of the Aichi targets were met and prepares for a new, ambitious post-2020 framework, the issue is more urgent than ever.  In fact, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse are ranked among the top five threats to humanity in the coming decade.

Whistling ducks’ long-term survival has been threatened by the destruction of their wetland habitats, as well as climate change, pollution, poaching and predators. Little is known about the large waterbird that is between the size of a large duck and a goose, has a long neck, and is mostly brown in colour, but may have black-and-white patches on its neck and flanks. The duck’s characteristic features is its distinctive whistling call.

“We are thrilled with the launch of this exciting project,” said Lisa Sorenson, the Executive Director of BirdsCaribbean. “I expect it will lead to major improvements in our knowledge of the ducks’ movements and habitat use.”

The trackers attached to Joe and Kamala  are expected to plot their positions every hour to within a few metres and will help the scientists to know about the species, their migration patterns, nesting sites, feeding zones and roosting locales. Researchers are aiming to use the information gathered through the initiative to plan for the species’ recovery.

Led by UNEP with the backing of the Global Environment Facility, IWEco is helping 10 Caribbean countries manage their water and land resources while safeguarding biodiversity. A key part of the project has been the protection and monitoring of endemic species, like West Indian whistling ducks.

As one of the three founding Global Environment Facility partners, UNEP has been working on conservation projects supported by the facility for almost 30 years.

“Together, UNEP and the Global Environment Facility have successfully worked to address global transboundary issues since 1992, and we look forward to further strengthening and implementing actions for nature,” said Sinikinesh Beyene Jimma head of UNEP’s GEF International Waters Unit.

And while biodiversity targets have not been met, evidence indicates that efforts have produced results. Where action was taken, habitat loss was controlled and decades of degradation were reversed.

UN Environment

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After steep drop in 2020, global carbon dioxide emissions have rebounded strongly

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The Covid-19 crisis in 2020 triggered the largest annual drop in global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions since the Second World War, according to IEA data released today, but the overall decline of about 6% masks wide variations depending on the region and the time of year.

After hitting a low in April, global emissions rebounded strongly and rose above 2019 levels in December. The latest data show that global emissions were 2%, or 60 million tonnes, higher in December 2020 than they were in the same month a year earlier. Major economies led the resurgence as a pick-up in economic activity pushed energy demand higher and significant policies measures to boost clean energy were lacking. Many economies are now seeing emissions climbing above pre-crisis levels.

“The rebound in global carbon emissions toward the end of last year is a stark warning that not enough is being done to accelerate clean energy transitions worldwide. If governments don’t move quickly with the right energy policies, this could put at risk the world’s historic opportunity to make 2019 the definitive peak in global emissions,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director. “In March 2020, the IEA urged governments to put clean energy at the heart of their economic stimulus plans to ensure a sustainable recovery. But our numbers show we are returning to carbon-intensive business-as-usual. This year is pivotal for international climate action – and it began with high hopes – but these latest numbers are a sharp reminder of the immense challenge we face in rapidly transforming the global energy system.”

The 2020 trends underscore the challenge of curbing emissions while ensuring economic growth and energy security. Amid a growing number of pledges by countries and companies to reach net-zero emissions by mid-century, the rebound in emissions shows what is likely to happen if those ambitions are not met with rapid and tangible action.

Emissions in China for the whole of 2020 increased by 0.8%, or 75 million tonnes, from 2019 levels driven by China’s economic recovery over the course of the year. China was the first major economy to emerge from the pandemic and lift restrictions, prompting its economic activity and emissions to rebound from April onward. China was the only major economy that grew in 2020.

In India, emissions rose above 2019 levels from September as economic activity improved and restrictions were relaxed. In Brazil, the rebound of road transport activity after the April low drove a recovery in oil demand, while increases in gas demand in the later months of 2020 pushed emissions above 2019 levels throughout the final quarter.

Emissions in the United States fell by 10% in 2020. But on a monthly basis, after hitting their lowest levels in the spring, they started to bounce back. In December, US emissions were approaching the level seen in the same month in 2019. This was the result of accelerating economic activity as well as the combination of higher natural gas prices and colder weather favouring an increase in coal use.

“If current expectations for a global economic rebound this year are confirmed – and in the absence of major policy changes in the world’s largest economies – global emissions are likely to increase in 2021,” Dr Birol said. “Nonetheless, there are still reasons for optimism. China has set an ambitious carbon-neutrality target; the new US administration has rejoined the Paris Agreement and is putting climate at the heart of its policy-making; the European Union is pushing ahead with its Green Deal and sustainable recovery plans; India’s stunning success with renewables could transform its energy future; and the United Kingdom is building global momentum toward stronger climate action at COP26 in November.”

Global emissions plunged by almost 2 billion tonnes in 2020, the largest absolute decline in history. Most of this – around 1 billion tonnes, which is more than the annual emissions of Japan – was due to lower use of oil for road transport and aviation. As travel and economic activities pick up around the world, oil consumption and its emissions are rising again. The record increase in sales of electric vehicles is insufficient to offset the growth in emissions caused by the uptick in road traffic around the world.

Global emissions from the electricity sector dropped by 450 million tonnes in 2020. This resulted partly from lower electricity demand but also from increases in electricity generation by solar PV and wind. For the world to achieve the climate goals of the Paris Agreement, notably of limiting global warming to well below 2 °C, a decline in electricity sector emissions of around 500 million tonnes would need to occur every single year. Even greater annual drops in emissions from electricity generation would be required to put the world on a path in line with warming of 1.5 °C.

In order to show a sustainable path forward, the IEA will publish on 18 May the world’s first comprehensive roadmap for the energy sector to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. As part of its focus on leading clean energy transitions worldwide, the IEA is working with the United Kingdom’s COP26 Presidency to bring together heads of government and ministers at the IEA-COP26 Net Zero Summit on 31 March to step up international efforts to turn net zero pledges into concrete energy policies and actions.

In April, the IEA will release its Global Energy Review 2021, which will examine this year’s emerging trends in global energy demand and CO2 emissions.

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