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New Focus on SDGs Needed to Rebuild After COVID-19

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A renewed focus on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be essential as countries seek to rebuild from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, says ADB’s first report showcasing its contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Achieving the SDGs will require vast sums of finance to be mobilized from the widest range of sources in support of the agenda at a time when governments face mounting pressure on their budgets and soaring public debt,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa. “In 2021, as we map a path to recovery from the pandemic, we must refocus on the SDGs. ADB’s investments must meet the highest standards of sustainable development and deliver real results that help countries realize the vision set out in Strategy 2030 and rebuild for the SDGs.”

The year 2020 was to be the start of a decade of action to accelerate progress on the SDGs, but the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the region’s prospects for achieving the goals. Asia and the Pacific were already off track to meet these ambitious goals before the pandemic began. The ensuing crisis is estimated to have pushed 162 million people in the region back into poverty, and economic growth in developing Asia contracted for the first time in 60 years.

At the same time, there has been limited progress on SDGs that protect the environment, and the region is at the front lines of the climate change crisis. There is a huge financing gap to make the SDGs a reality. A green, resilient, inclusive, and sustainable recovery from COVID-19 that aligns with the SDGs will be imperative, the report says. 

The report explains ADB’s institutional approach to integrating the 17 SDGs and their associated targets into its strategies, programs, and financing under its long-term Strategy 2030 through its seven operational priorities. ADB’s Corporate Results Framework is fully aligned with the SDGs. ADB is helping countries mobilize the finance necessary to achieve the SDGs, particularly from the private sector, and through stronger domestic resource mobilization.

The report also highlights ADB projects and programs that help countries achieve the SDGs. For example, in Indonesia, ADB has helped the government establish institutions to coordinate the SDGs and develop a Road Map for SDG implementation, while also supporting the national infrastructure finance company PT SMI to establish the SDG One fund. In Kazakhstan, ADB helped the government establish platforms for donor coordination in support of national implementation of the SDGs. The ADB Ventures platform established in 2020 deploys venture capital investments and technical assistance to support early-stage technology businesses that address the SDGs. ADB also partners with the United Nations and others to support knowledge and policy dialogue that enables developing member countries to implement the SDGs.

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Decade of Disruption: Global Real Estate CEOs Plan for Industry Transformation

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The real estate industry needs to transform to serve the needs of people and cities in the next decade, according to a new report released today by the World Economic Forum. COVID-19 has revealed vulnerabilities throughout the real estate industry, ranging from indoor air quality problems to excess supply and accelerated underlying demand drivers, which need to be addressed for buildings and cities to be healthier, prosperous and more sustainable.

The new World Economic Forum report, “A Framework for the Future of Real Estate,” acts as a road map for industry change. Developed with global real estate chief executives, the framework provides a pathway to transform buildings and cities to become liveable, sustainable, resilient and affordable.

“Real estate stands at a crossroads as cities adjust to the new realities of a post-COVID era, climate change and the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Jeff Merritt, Head of IoT and Urban Transformation at the World Economic Forum. “This transformation of real estate – and the market disruption that comes along with it – is long overdue but, if fully embraced, promises to help us all live healthier, happier and more connected lives.”

“Today the real estate industry is facing challenges and consequently is given a chance to do better, to take more steps towards a healthier future and to make a global sustainable impact,” says Coen van Oostrom, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, EDGE, OVG Real Estate. “To optimize buildings, not only should we rethink spaces, users’ behaviours, and energy efficiency but we should also bring a stronger focus on redevelopment opportunities, circular economy, and digitalization. Let us stop waiting for others to set the example and start today, by committing to everyday incremental changes. Ultimately, we must keep a close eye on the bigger picture to be leaders in the transition to a more sustainable way of operating.”

For more than a decade, the real estate industry has experienced tremendous profitability with successful growth rates and rising investment volumes with +14% compound annual growth rates. Initially, this success put less pressure on industry leaders to innovate, but now the industry is coming under pressure from consumers, investors and regulators to better serve the health and resilience of their communities. At the same time, the lasting effects of the pandemic and the acceleration of existing trends have brought the industry to a tipping point.

“The pandemic has accelerated changes in work and lifestyles that had already been gathering pace over recent years, driven in large part by new technology,” said Christian Ulbrich, Global Chief Executive Officer and President, JLL. “As we plan for a sustainable global post-pandemic recovery, this World Economic Forum framework shows how our industry has a vital part to play in coming together to shape the future of real estate for a better world.”

The Future of Real Estate Framework identifies key enablers real estate leaders can use to ensure they are working throughout the industry to provide real estate options that are liveable, sustainable, resilient and affordable.

Key enablers

  • Accelerating digitalization and innovation to address everything from construction costs to the occupant experience
  • Value-proof business cases that are transparent and demonstrate a clear return on investment in relation to technology, sustainability and affordable housing
  • Prioritizing talent and knowledge by upskilling existing workers and attracting talent dedicate to areas of innovation while ensuring diversity and inclusion
  • Engaging stakeholders, throughout the industry value chain and within the local community, to ensure projects are mutually beneficial
  • Ensuring regulatory frameworks effectively address supply challenges, sustainability goals and provide proper zoning and density

The framework also includes case studies from various real estate companies and exemplify the vision of the four key pillars of liveable, sustainable, resilient and affordable buildings and cities.

Industry action

Industry leaders have already taken decisive action towards transformation throughout the real estate industry. Gensler’s GC3 Commitment aims to achieve net zero by 2030 in all Gensler projects and JLL’s work with the Washington Metro will provide clean energy to more than 1,500 homes.

Swire Properties has joined the Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaign and Lendlease has pledged to harness digitization to be net carbon zero by 2025 and absolute carbon zero by 2040.

Majid Al Futtaim has become the first and only conglomerate in the world to achieve LEED Platinum certification for its entire portfolio of hotels.

Signify has embraced sustainability and resilience by developing and deploying UV-C disinfection systems, an energy efficient and chemical-free way to sanitize buildings.

Schneider Electric has set clear, measurable 2025 targets around sustainability to achieve 80% green revenues, deliver 800 million tons of saved and avoided emissions to their customers and have 1000 of their top suppliers reduce emissions by 50% from their operations.

Learnings from these companies’ initiatives and many others were used to help develop the Future of Real Estate Framework which aims to accelerate these types of transformation across the industry.

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Resilience Needed to Jump Start Final Stages of Energy Transition

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As countries continue their progress in transitioning to clean energy, it is critical to root the transition in economic, political and social practices to ensure progress is irreversible, according to the latest edition of World Economic Forum’s Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2021 report published today.

In its 10th edition, the report, published in collaboration with Accenture, draws on insights from the Energy Transition Index (ETI) 2021. The index benchmarks 115 countries on the current performance of their energy systems across the three dimensions of the energy triangle: economic development and growth, environmental sustainability, and energy security and access indicators – and their readiness to transition to secure, sustainable, affordable, and inclusive energy systems. This year’s report uses a revised ETI methodology, which takes into account recent changes in the global energy landscape and the increasing urgency of climate change action.

“As we enter into the decade of action and delivery on climate change, the focus must also encompass speed and resilience of the transition. With the energy transition moving beyond the low hanging fruit, sustained incremental progress will be more challenging due to the evolving landscape of risks to the energy transition,” said Roberto Bocca, Head of Energy and Materials at the World Economic Forum.

The results for 2021 show that 92 out of 115 countries tracked on the ETI increased their aggregate score over the past 10 years, which affirms the positive direction and steady momentum of the global energy transition.

Strong improvements were made on the Environmental Sustainability and Energy Access and Security dimensions. Eight out of the 10 largest economies have pledged net-zero goals by mid-century. The annual global investment in the energy transition surpassed $500 billion for the first time in 2020, despite the pandemic. The number of people without access to electricity has declined to less than 800 million, compared to 1.2 billion people 10 years ago (2010). Increasing renewable energy capacity has in particular helped energy importing countries achieve simultaneous gains on environmental sustainability and energy security.

However, the results also show that only 10% of the countries were able to make steady and consistent gains in their aggregate ETI score over the past decade. This highlights the inherent complexity of the energy transition challenge, as evidenced by thelack of measurable progress in the economic development and growth dimension – primarily through fiscal implications, labour market dislocations, and affordability challenges resulting from the energy transition. Moreover, the carbon intensity of the energy mix has been rising in many emerging economies in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

“A resilient and just energy transition that delivers sustainable, timely results will require systemwide transformation, including reimagining how we live and work, power our economies and produce and consume materials,” said Muqsit Ashraf, a senior managing director who leads Accenture’s energy practice. “This in turn will require strong collaboration between policy makers, business leaders, energy consumers, and innovators. The journey to achieving such a balanced transition has been slow and daunting, but it is picking up momentum and offering countries and companies many opportunities for long-term growth and prosperity.”

The social, economic, and geopolitical interlinkages of the energy transition have exposed vulnerability to systemic risks and disruptions, which may threaten progress on the energy transition. This report makes 3 recommendations to enhance the resilience of the energy transition process: (1) pursue a just transition by prioritizing measures to support the economy, workforces and society; (2) amplify electrification while exploring other options for decarbonizing industries; (3) attract diversified, resilient sources of capital from the public and private sectors to fund multi-year and multi-decade investments.

Stephanie Jamison, a senior managing director who leads Accenture’s utilities practice, said resilience is a very important concept for the journey to clean energy. “The role of electricity in the energy system will increase significantly by 2050, which is a big transformation,” she said. “While it is great to see renewable energy sources stronger coming out of COVID, there is still a lot more work to do to further progress the shift to net-zero -carbon energy and ensure buy-in from a broad set of stakeholders.”

Country highlights from ETI 2021

This year’s report tracks progress over the last decade. The list of top performers in the ETI has stayed broadly consistent over this period, sharing common attributes such as low levels of fossil fuel subsidies, enhanced energy security and a strong regulatory environment to drive the energy transition. The top 10 countries on the ETI 2021 are Western and Northern European countries. Sweden

(1) leads the ETI for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Norway (2) and Denmark (3). All top 10 economies have made strong improvements in environmental sustainability, specifically in decreasing the carbon intensity of their energy mix, supported by strong political commitment and investments in the energy transition.

The United Kingdom (7), France (9) and Germany (18) are the only G20 countries in the top 20. Their progress is supported by strong performance on the environmental sustainability dimension, though their scores on economic growth and development have regressed over the past decade due to affordability challenges.

The United States (24) and Italy (27) have improved on all three dimensions of the energy triangle, while also strengthening their enabling environment. Japan (37) registered moderate improvements in its overall aggregate ETI score, primarily due to strong declines in per capita energy consumption as a result of energy-efficiency improvements, though it continues to face energy security challenges due to rising energy imports.

China (68) and India (87), which collectively account for a third of global energy demand, have both made strong improvements over the past decade, despite coal continuing to play a significant role in their energy mix. China’s improvements primarily result from reducing the energy intensity of the economy, gains in decarbonizing the energy mix through the expansion of renewables and strengthening the enabling environment through investments and infrastructure. India has targeted improvements through subsidy reforms and rapidly scaling energy access, with a strong political commitment and regulatory environment for the energy transition.

Among commodity exporting countries, Canada (22), Australia (35), Russia (73) and Saudi Arabia (81) lead globally on energy access and security dimensions, due to abundant domestic reserves. However, they have displayed divergent trajectories over the past decade. Australia has improved its scores through sustained increases in investment and renewable energy capacity, and the gradual phasing out of coal. Russia improved its scores due to the strengthening of the enabling environment for the energy transition, though the uptake of renewable energy remains low and fossil fuel exports remain high. Scores for Canada and Saudi Arabia declined marginally.

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Commodity Prices to Stabilize after Early 2021 Gains

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Commodity prices continued their recovery in the first quarter of 2021 and are expected to remain close to current levels throughout the year, lifted by the global economic rebound and improved growth prospects, according to the World Bank’s semi-annual Commodity Markets Outlook.

However, the outlook is heavily dependent on progress in containing the COVID-19 pandemic as well as policy support measures in advanced economies and production decisions in major commodity producers.

Energy prices are expected to average more than one-third higher this year than in 2020, with oil averaging $56 a barrel. Metal prices are expected to climb 30 percent; and agricultural prices are forecast to rise almost 14 percent. Almost all commodity prices are now above pre-pandemic levels, driven by the upsurge in economic activity, as well as some specific supply factors, particularly for oil, copper, and some food commodities.

“Global growth has been stronger than expected so far and vaccination campaigns are underway, and these trends have buoyed commodity prices. However, the durability of the recovery is highly uncertain,” said Ayhan Kose, World Bank Group Acting Vice President for Equitable Growth, Finance & Institutions and Director of the Prospects Group. “Emerging market and developing economies, both commodity exporters and importers, should strengthen their short-term resilience and prepare for the possibility of growth losing momentum.”

Crude oil prices rebounded from record lows reached during the pandemic, supported by a rapid global economic recovery and continued production cuts by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its partners. Demand is expected to firm over 2021 as vaccines become widely available, especially in advanced economies, pandemic restrictions are eased, and the global recovery is sustained. Prices are expected to average $60 a barrel in 2022. However, if pandemic containment falters, a further deterioration in demand could put pressure on prices.

Metal prices are expected to give back some of this year’s gains as stimulus-driven growth fades in 2022. A faster-than expected withdrawal of stimulus by some major emerging market economies could pose a downside risk to prices; however, a major infrastructure program in the United States could support prices for metals, including aluminum, copper, and iron ore. An intensification of the global energy transition to decarbonization could further strengthen demand for metals.

Agricultural prices have risen substantially this year, particularly for food commodities, driven by supply shortfalls in South America and strong demand from China. However, most global food commodity markets remain adequately supplied by historical standards, and prices are expected to stabilize in 2022.

While global food commodity prices have remained stable recently, emerging evidence continues to confirm the effects of COVID-19 on food insecurity that are expected to continue through 2021 and 2022. An increasing number of countries are facing growing levels of acute food insecurity, reversing years of development gains.

“Although food commodity markets are well supplied globally, COVID-19 has severely impacted local labor and food markets around the world, reducing incomes, disrupting supply chains and intensifying food and nutrition security issues that were present even before the pandemic struck,” Kose said. “It is high time for policymakers to address the underlying sources of food insecurity.”

A Special Focus section investigates the impact of sharp changes in metal prices on metal-exporting countries. Metals, especially copper and aluminum are a major source of export revenue for 35 percent of emerging market and developing economies, with important implications for economic growth, macroeconomic stability, and, hence, poverty reduction. As metal prices are primarily driven by global demand, these countries can be particularly hard-hit by global recessions, which can trigger both a drop in metal prices and export revenue. Windfall revenues from high metal prices, which tend to be short-lived, should therefore be set aside in anticipation of the longer-lasting negative effects of price collapses that would warrant policy support.

“Metal price shocks are primarily driven by external demand factors, such as global recessions and recoveries,” said World Bank Senior Economist John Baffes. “During a recession, metal exporters may be hurt by both the broader downturn as well as a collapse in prices. Output losses associated with price drops are greater than the gains from price increases, and policymakers should prepare accordingly.”

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