According to estimates released this week by Guido van der Werf on the Global Fire Emissions Database, there have been nearly 100,000 active fire detections in Indonesia so far in 2015, which since September have generated emissions each day exceeding the average daily emissions from all U.S. economic activity. Following several recent intense outbreaks of fires—in June 2013, March 2014 and November 2014—the country is now on track to experience more fires this year than it did during the 2006 fire season, one of its worst on record.On 26 of the past 44 days (indicated in gold), daily estimated GHG emissions from fires in Indonesia surpassed average daily emissions from the entire US economy (approximately 15.95 Mt CO2 per day). A massive spike in emissions can be seen on October 14, when 4,719 fires were observed. On October 14, which had the highest number of fires to date this year with 4,719, MODIS Terra imagery reveals smoke plumes from massive peat fires on Kalimantan. How did we compare emissions from Indonesia’s fires to US emissions?Van der Werf’s research team developed rough estimates of the greenhouse gas emissions arising from recent Indonesia fires using estimates from past years based on satellite data and fire emissions models. They calculated that the 96,937 fires in Indonesia detected to date this year emitted roughly 1,043 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions (Mt CO2eq) cumulatively. Based on the modeled relationship of fire counts to emissions, it is possible to estimate daily emissions based on the number of fires occurring on a specific day.Using this information, it becomes apparent that on 26 of the past 44 days (up to October 14), daily estimated greenhouse gas emissions from fires in Indonesia surpassed average daily emissions from the entire US economy (approximately 15.95 Mt CO2 per day). Fire emission estimates based on the Global Fire Emissions Database (GFED4s, >www.globalfiredata.org<) updated for 2015 using NASA MODIS active fire data (Figure courtesy Guido van der Werf). Emissions Spikes Caused by Burning PeatlandsGlobal Forest Watch Fires shows that more than half of these fires have occurred on peatland areas, concentrated mainly in South Sumatra, South and Central Kalimantan, and Papua. These regions continue to suffer major fires as the fire alerts density map below shows, with few signs that occurrences are diminishing. The burning of tropical peatlands is so significant for greenhouse gas emissions because these areas store some of the highest quantities of carbon on Earth, accumulated over thousands of years. Draining and burning these lands for agricultural expansion (such as conversion to oil palm or pulpwood plantations) leads to huge spikes in greenhouse gas emissions. Fires also emit methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2), but peat fires may emit up to 10 times more methane than fires occurring on other types of land. Taken together, the impact of peat fires on global warming may be more than 200 times greater than fires on other lands.Putting the Data in PerspectiveWhat does a climate catastrophe look like in a real world context? Since September, daily emissions from Indonesia’s fires exceeded daily emissions from the entire U.S. economy on 26 days. To put it into perspective, the U.S. economy is 20 times larger than Indonesia’s. Van der Werf pointed out in a recent report that emissions from these fires over a three-week period are also already higher than the total annual CO2 emissions of Germany. Global Forest Watch Fires heatmap shows areas with highest concentrations of fires. For Indonesia, the Climate Challenge Is a Land Management ChallengeReducing emissions from fires is a significant challenge. Last month, Indonesia released a draft of its new climate plan, or Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), ahead of the climate negotiations taking place at the Paris COP in December. The draft INDC calls for at least a 29 percent emissions reduction below business as usual by 2030— and up to 41 percent in reduction with international assistance and cooperation. While the new data shows how fires present a major challenge to reaching this goal, Indonesia can still make progress if the government focuses on better land planning, improved law enforcement, and alternatives for small farmers to burning land. If Indonesia is to meet its climate commitment, making significant investments in these areas to prevent future fires must be the first step.Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post omitted the word “million” from a figure for the overall emissions of Indonesia’s fires this year. The number has been updated to read “1,043 million metric tons”.
This post originally appeared on Grist.org.As President Obama and Indonesian President Joko Widodo meet today, climate change will be high on their agenda. A related, unexpected issue should also be on their radar: massive forest and land fires that have turned into a national, regional, and now global crisis for the new Indonesian administration.The fires in Indonesia are truly out of control, having spiked in recent weeks to their highest levels in years. More than 300,000 Indonesians have sought medical help for respiratory illnesses linked to the choking haze. Pollution levels are up to five times above what the World Health Organization considers to be hazardous levels. Schools and airports have been closed. The Indonesian government has already spent about $200 million to fight the fires and has recently accepted help from Singapore, Malaysia, and Australia. Yet this year’s fires will likely keep burning for at least another month. The total economic costs may exceed $14 billion.Further, the fires, which are largely burning on high-carbon peatland, have caused a spike in greenhouse gas emissions. New analysis finds several days recently where Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions from fires surpassed the daily level of emissions of the entire U.S. economy.These fires in Indonesia do not occur naturally. They are largely the result of a history of destructive land management, poor law enforcement, inadequate preparation, and sheer bad luck with an extended dry season caused by the El Niño now upsetting weather patterns globally.When the presidents meet, they should work together to respond to this crisis and reduce the risks of future fires. The U.S. can support better land management in Indonesia in three keys ways:Encourage responsible market forces and financial incentives: The United States can join global efforts to encourage more sustainable production of commodities like timber, pulp and paper, and palm oil. Forthcoming analysis from the World Resources Institute shows that company concessions certified as “sustainable” by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil have a markedly lower number of fires. Strong certification standards also exist for other products, including wood and paper. Consumers in the United States, including the government, buy vast quantities of paper, packaging and products containing palm oil — which is found in everything from shampoo to candy bars — and could give preference to manufacturers that source certified materials. This would send a signal to producers in Indonesia who manage vast areas of land. An even bolder move could be for the United States to join Norway in contributing “pay for performance” incentives if Indonesia achieves key milestones in better managing its forests and reducing emissions.Provide technical and scientific support: The U.S. government could expand technical support to Indonesia, like current projects by the U.S. Agency for International Development, on land use management and emissions reductions. Land conflict is often an underlying condition of fires in Indonesia. More resources are needed for Indonesia’s “One Map” initiative to resolve land conflicts by creating a single consistent and harmonized map of land use and ownership for all government agencies to work from. In addition, Indonesia needs support to better monitor its emissions from peat soil decomposition and burning. One idea would be to create competition for funding among U.S. and Indonesian universities to find creative solutions to these knotty technical challenges.Advance innovative technology: More U.S. support in technology should be marshalled. Leading technology companies, including Google, Esri, and satellite-operator Digital Globe, are already assisting with the fire-fighting effort by providing technology and expertise to Global Forest Watch, a platform coordinated by WRI that provides real-time maps and updates on the fires. An electronic permitting system in Indonesia would be extremely useful to streamline the murky world of licenses and maps for palm oil, pulpwood and logging concessions, which cover more than half of Indonesia’s forest land. Government, business and civil society should work together to develop procedures and systems for transparent, corruption-free land-use licensing.The timing of this visit between Obama and Widodo is fortuitous. Obama, of course, is very familiar with Indonesia, having spent some of his childhood years in the country. Now he has a chance to strengthen America’s ties with Indonesia, which is the second-largest democracy in Asia and has the fourth-largest population in the world. Together, these two leaders can deepen a partnership that will help improve the health of Indonesians, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enhance sustainable commodity production, and lead to a healthier world for us all.
With air, water and soil pollution coming to the brink of crisis in China, there’s much interest in shifting to a more sustainable economy. But that’s hard to do when financial sector design doesn’t support it. Despite some progress, the financial system hasn’t yet created the right incentives to move capital from polluting industries to clean sectors on a large scale. Costs to the environment are not accounted for. For example, the absence of a carbon price and lack of lender’s liability for borrower’s environmental damages means that fossil fuel consumption and related business risks do not easily flow into corporations’ and financial institutions’ risk assessments.But that may be changing. Today, the Green Finance Task Force of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED), a commission established by the Chinese government and of which WRI’s President Andrew Steer is a co-chair, has released its new report, Green Finance Reform and Green Transformation. It lays out clear recommendations for how the national government can put the right institutions in place to help shift investments from polluting to sustainable industries. If the government adopts this set of recommendations, it could help push China forward in its shift to a low-carbon economy.China Active in the Game ChangeInterest in greening China’s financial sector is growing. Since 2007, China has been trying to channel bank loans away from resource- and emissions-intensive industries to green sectors through its Green Credit Guidelines. More recently, a task force led by the People’s Bank of China participated in the UNEP Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System. Following the release of the report, the Bank established a Green Finance Committee to organize activities such as developing a green bonds standard, facilitating environmental stress tests for the banking sector, publishing papers on international green finance practices, and organizing discussions on greening China’s overseas investment.And earlier this year, the Chinese government established the CCICED Green Finance Task Force to push the financial sector even further forward. The Task Force’s recommendations for the Government of China include priority policy changes such as:Create enabling legal conditions to encourage behavioral change. These legal measures include changing commercial banking laws to make lenders liable for environmental damages caused by borrowers; mandate environmental information disclosure for listed companies and high-polluting entities; and make environmental insurance compulsory for sectors with high probability of damaging the environment. Use fiscal and tax incentives to leverage public finance. This entails establishing an interest rate subsidy for green credits, creating a loan guarantee mechanism supported by public funds for green projects, and using tax incentives to generate revenue from green bonds. Set up institutional infrastructure to facilitate green investment. These infrastructure additions include a credit rating system that incorporates environmental factors, a network to move investors towards green investments, a national database on companies’ environmental records, and more. Provide financial tools and instruments to scale up green investment. The most important ones in this category are setting up a National Green Development Fund, scaling up green credits from the banking sector, and issuing green bonds. Green Chinese overseas investment and China’s emerging investment banks. In addition to encouraging environmental and social risk management with Chinese corporations investing beyond China’s borders, this entails greening the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank, the Silk Road Fund, and the Belt and Road Initiative.A Prime Time to Go GreenThese recommendations come at a critical moment when China is at the center of several changes. China has been selling the Belt and Road Initiative to neighboring countries, and is poised to fast-grow its overseas investment along the routes. China is central to the creation of a number of multilateral institutions and new funds, including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank and the Silk Road Fund. And in 2016, China will host the G20 Summit. By adopting a greener financial regime, China can influence the outcome of these institutions and is better positioned to spread best practices internationally.At this historic juncture, China has an unprecedented opportunity to promote green finance globally. The question now is: Will the country capitalize on the opportunity before it?
Sarawak, a Malaysian state on the historically richly forested island of Borneo suffers from high rates of deforestation, but understanding this dynamic is made difficult by government secrecy and lack of transparency. Official maps of logging, oil palm and wood fiber concessions for Sarawak are hard to come by; the government does not publish this data in a publicly usable format. It is not surprising that Sarawak wanted to keep this information opaque. According to new maps of industrial logging, oil palm, and planted forest concessions complied and published by Global Forest Watch, these concessions cover over half the state of Sarawak, often overlapping with sensitive intact forests that are being exploited and degraded at one of the highest rates in the world.The new data launched by GFW offers the first detailed look at the extent of industrial concessions in Sarawak. These maps show the presence and extent of industrial forest timber licenses, oil palm concessions and license planted forests (LPF). This data was assembled from official documents in the public domain, including two State Forestry Department (SFD) 2010 maps, and supplemented with information from Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). While the resulting datasets are likely incomplete, they represent the most comprehensive and interactive picture of the distribution of concessions across Sarawak to date. (WRI invited the Sarawak State Forest Department to share information for inclusion on Global Forest Watch, but they did not respond).When combined with other data on Global Forest Watch, the impacts of logging and other land uses on forests can be monitored with more consistency and precision than ever before. Powerful remote sensing data, combined with the boundaries of concessions, sheds light on where forests are being cleared or degraded, how quickly and by whom.Animation of tree cover loss over time within Sarawak logging concessionsThese new maps reveal that timber license concessions alone cover a total of 6,542,852 hectares (nearly 16 million acres), over half (53 percent) of Sarawak’s total land area. The logging concessions are concentrated toward inland Borneo, on the border with Indonesian Kalimantan, home to some of the densest and most biodiverse remaining forests on the island. However, as previous research confirms, this area has been “impacted by selective logging, fire and conversion to plantations at unprecedented scales since industrial-scale extractive industries began in the early 1970s.”The data also reveals where logging concessions overlap with the last remaining Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) in the country. Although Sarawak has very few remaining IFLs compared to neighboring Indonesia, Malaysia has one of the highest rates of IFL degradation in the world in both area and percentage. These new maps confirm that logging is in part responsible for the degradation of these landscapes in Sarawak between 2000 and 2013. Satellite images of deforestation in Shin Yan T/3342 concession. Image Courtesy of DigitalGlobe © 2015. Includes material © CNES 2015, Distribution Airbus DS Geo SA / Airbus DS Geo Inc., all rights reserved For example, the Shin Yang T/3342 logging concession, located on the border with Kalimantan, covers around 200,000 hectares (nearly 500,000 acres) of forest, much of which was considered intact as of 2000. But logging activity within this concession boundary fragmented and degraded one of the few remaining IFLs in Sarawak. Since 2000, almost 40,000 hectares (nearly 100,000 acres) of trees have been cleared within this concession, over 70 percent of which occurred within an IFL.Animation of tree cover loss/IFL degradation over time within Shin Yan T/3342 concessionAccording to our analysis, only 26 percent of land with tree cover in Sarawak remains outside industrial concessions and protected areas. While reforms have been promised, much of the damage is already done: Sarawak is running out of forests. The new data show just how urgent it has become for the government of Sarawak to preserve what is left. The international business community must also play a role by sourcing only truly sustainable timber and looking with caution at logs and oil palm flowing from the highly deforested areas of Sarawak. This is relevant to all consumers. Take a look at GFW today to learn more about the link between commodities and deforestation and what you can do.Explore Sarawak logging, oil palm and planted forest concessions on Global Forest Watch or learn more about the history of forest exploitation in Sarawak in our blog 25 Years of So-Called “Sustainable Forest Management” in Sarawak.
37 46 Country 4 1 Russia Australia Indonesia Brazil Rank by Forest Area (2015) 6 Canada As countries refine their national commitments (called INDCs) presented at the climate negotiations under way in Paris, it is important to think beyond power plants and automobiles. Forestry, agriculture and other land use represent more than 20 percent of global emissions, and are the dominant source of greenhouse gases in many developing nations. And encouragingly, many countries are starting to pay attention to these emissions sources.WRI analysis shows that the INDCs submitted so far represent the greatest collective commitment to reduce land use emissions ever seen in international climate negotiations. China, Brazil, Bolivia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have put forth targets that could alone contribute to the protection of more than 50 million hectares of forest over the next 15 years, an area the size of Spain. This could achieve a reduction of 17 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2 over 15 years, or 2.5 percent of the current total annual emissions globally. 9 United States 4 12 6 5 India 1 China China, Brazil, Bolivia and DRC all included INDC commitments to curb deforestation, which together will reduce global emissions by 2.5 percent. China accounts for nearly 70 percent of this pledge with its robust restoration and forest management efforts.Other countries, like Indonesia, Colombia and Peru, while not listing specific land use targets, mention the importance of land use in their overall carbon budget, which holds promise of forests and land use being included in their country-level implementation plans.Africa and Latin America Lead on Land Use Opportunities and PledgesLow- and medium-income countries in Africa and Latin America also have much to contribute by focusing on land use, even if they aren’t heavily forested. We looked at 34 African and 14 Latin American countries that submitted INDCs (as of November 1, 2015) with land use specific goals and found:Thirteen of the 34 African countries have strong, measurable land use commitments that include restoration, REDD+ and “climate-smart” agriculture (focused on increasing yields, economic gain and reducing GHG emissions). These would cumulatively lead to an estimated reduction of 1.2 Gt CO2eq over the next 10 years, or 36 percent of Africa’s annual emissions and 0.25 percent of global emissions. An additional 16 countries have less prescriptive goals that could still lead to further reductions. For many of these African countries, land use targets have the bonus of also providing economic benefits. Twenty-six of the 34 countries expect benefits like higher crop yields, reduced erosion, better use of degraded land, and greater availability of fire wood, fertilizer and shade trees. Of the 14 Latin American countries examined, six had quantitative targets that together could achieve a reduction of up to 6 Gt CO2 eq over next 15 years, or a 10 percent reduction of Latin America’s annual emissions and 1 percent of global emissions. Another five had qualitative targets.More Transparency Needed from Key CountriesUnfortunately, despite the good example set by countries in Africa and Latin America, many other countries do not have specific land use targets in their INDCs. Although countries are not required to provide sector-specific information in their climate pledges, additional transparency could create the trust and clarity needed to help secure the global climate deal.Three important countries in this category are Russia, Canada and the United States. They are among the four most forested countries in the world (along with Brazil). If managed well, their forests could significantly help reduce global emissions by absorbing excess carbon. But counting on forests as a perennial carbon sink could reduce ambitions in other sectors. Russia’s INDC, for example, may actually increase emissions partly by assuming that Russia forests will absorb carbon at maximum capacity. But in a changing climate, nothing is so certain as forest fires and tree pest infestations have spiked in all three countries recently, releasing massive amounts of carbon. A recent study suggests that U.S. forests could cease to be a carbon sink in the next 25 years.Other countries could strengthen their current targets and strategies to address emissions from land use. While Indonesia includes ambitious land use targets in its INDC, its lacks sufficient details on the modelling of its carbon stock target, goals for restoration, and a plan to deal with out-of-control forest and land fires.Forests and Land Use Can’t Be Overlooked in ParisFor all countries, rich and poor, the land use sector is critical to achieving climate targets. The added economic benefits for low- and medium-income countries further strengthen the case. Many countries examined in this analysis are on their way with strong, measurable land use pledges. As the Paris negotiations carry on, countries that haven’t done so yet should follow the leaders and include measurable land use-specific targets in their contributions to the global deal. Democratic Republic of Congo 5 Rank in Total Annual Emissions (2012) 3 Peru 7 10 3 Still, commitments to reduce emissions from land use fall short of what must ultimately be done, leaving room for even more progress during the ongoing climate negotiations.Forests and Land Use Present an OpportunityMany of the top emitting countries are also some of the most heavily forested, and emissions from land use are especially outsized in Africa and Latin America where, according to WRI’s CAIT Climate Data Explorer, they contribute about 30 percent of all emissions. A tropical wet forest in these regions can store around 250 tonnes of carbon per hectare. Thus, a heavily forested country like the Democratic Republic of Congo with its 150 million hectares of forests holds around 37 Gt of carbon. And if this forest was lost, it would generate 135 Gt CO2eq, or 3 times the total global annual emissions in 2012. 2 8 2 8
Chronic dry spells in southern Zambia’s Sinazongwe district have had devastating effects on local communities. So it came as a surprise when a government-run dam and irrigation project was met with hostility by citizens.Recognizing the country’s vulnerability to climate change, the Zambian government declared climate adaptation a national priority, promising to implement projects to help local communities become more resilient. However, the government failed to include people in these affected areas in its design and decision-making processes for adaptation projects like the Sinazongwe dam. The project displaced many and prevented them from sowing their land. Fearing the threat to their livelihoods, local communities resisted the project, and have delayed its completion.While the Zambian case may seem very specific, it actually reflects a vital component of climate action that is often overshadowed—namely, that of governance. Negotiators made major and encouraging promises when they adopted the new Paris Agreement at COP21 last week. Yet the future success of this Agreement relies on tough questions about accountability, participation, transparency and effectiveness—all of which have governance challenges at their core.An Empowered Public Essential for Holding Politicians AccountablePolitical leaders in Paris made impressive commitments on national actions to tackle climate change—but now comes the hard part of following through. Politicians often change, and new leaders may not honor previous commitments. Or, as new circumstances arise— such as a tighter fiscal environment—politicians have been known to backtrack. We saw this in Denmark, a country often considered at the forefront of climate action, when it cut back on its emissions-reduction goals, citing they would “impose extra costs on the business community.”While the Paris Agreement has built-in mechanisms to ensure accountability, transparency and ambition, consistency of commitments is also a matter of political accountability; politicians should be held accountable for their public commitments and decisions by the electorate. An active civil society and media can serve as powerful forces able to exert accountability on political leaders.Yet in many countries around the world, civil society simply lacks the freedoms necessary to hold their governments accountable. Laws may not allow for the existence of organizations that understand and advocate on climate issues. Even when civil society is actively engaged on climate issues, it may be constrained by the fact that climate issues don’t always command a high profile in domestic affairs. And in still other cases, many countries around the world have introduced restrictive legislation that limits the freedom of civil society to campaign freely, and constrains or censors the media.Instead, governments should encourage open dialogue and create a safe operating environment for civil society. For example, strides made by the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which includes 70 countries worldwide, have strengthened government commitments to collaborate more with civil society and allow their voices to be heard on transparency and accountability issues. OGP National Action Plans offer the potential to build in commitments on climate and sustainable development through dialogue with civil society.A Need for Transparency and EfficiencyTwo other critical governance dimensions of climate actions concern transparency of budgets and the efficiency of governmental decision making. Before and during Paris, countries committed substantially more funding to help less developed nations mitigate and adapt to climate change. Open budgets are vital for tracking these funds. They enable civil society to provide oversight on fund flows from national to local levels, and ensure that budgets are spent on their intended purposes. The Philippines, for example, lacked a centralized climate finance monitoring agency, prompting civil society organizations to launch a comprehensive investigation on where funds were being spent. They discovered that a significant portion of climate funds were going unreported, and only a fraction was reaching the vulnerable communities who need climate finance the most. By uncovering these discrepancies, Philippine civil society was able to pressure their Congress to establish the Oversight Committee on Climate Change.Financial flows also highlight the importance of government effectiveness. Currently, most budget systems have adaptation funds flowing from central to local governments. Starting with the ministries of finance, funds flow invariably to allocated budgets of different ministries that work on climate change adaptation. Then, these ministries delegate much of the responsibility of managing these funds to the local governments, which often lack the capacity to implement proactive adaptation strategies. The lack of communication and coordination between these levels of government undermines climate commitments and adaptation projects. Research conducted by the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative found that when funding goes directly to local governments instead of starting at the top and trickling down, the central government is better positioned to help build capacity locally and effectively implement projects. These dimensions of governance all have a bearing on the implementation of climate commitments post-Paris. While the Agreement itself outlines standards for monitoring and verification, this narrow scope ignores the political and technical dimensions that improve the quality of governance itself. Improving governance throughout the nations of the world—especially those with weak democracies and civil rights—will be key for ensuring they follow through on their climate ambitions.
Figure 2. A mill’s sourcing area overlaps Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia (included in the World Database on Protected Areas).Mill DistributionThis unprecedented data set consists of 782 palm oil mills, spread across 15 countries. As anticipated, the vast majority of these mills are found in Malaysia (50 percent) and Indonesia (44 percent). Production outside of the Southeast Asia region now accounts for 6 percent of the global market, as detected by WRI’s new data set, in countries as diverse as Ecuador, Colombia, Ghana and Sudan. Of these, Colombia possesses the most mills with just under 2 percent, or 15 mills, surpassing the Asian palm oil producing countries like Thailand and India.Within Indonesia, palm oil mills are largely concentrated in a few provinces. Nearly 13 percent of all mills included in the data are in the Riau province of Sumatra, Indonesia, which is also a hotspot for recent fires that caused severe haze and alarming air quality. Palm oil production, a major driver of deforestation in the humid tropics, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, poses potential reputational risks to companies associated with it. Recognizing these risks, a growing number of firms have announced ambitious commitments to reduce or even completely remove deforestation from their supply chains. The zero-deforestation pledges of more than 50 companies leave the world awaiting the translation of commitments to change.One of the big challenges facing corporations in is tracing palm oil through large and complex supply chains to commercial product. By locating areas of production, companies can identify deforestation risk throughout their supply chains and then engage suppliers and monitor behavior to make progress. But for most companies, tracking palm oil to the farm where it’s grown is difficult, costly and time-consuming. An increasing number of processors, traders, and buyers have, however, begun taking the important interim step of tracing their supply chains to the mill level.A new data set launched on Global Forest Watch Commodities helps to globally map palm oil supply chains by showing the locations of almost 800 mills. Created by World Resources Institute, the traceability platform KnownSources, from FoodReg and several processors, traders, and buyers, the mill data provides a clearest picture of palm oil production publicly available. It creates new opportunities to analyze production areas and mills on a global scale, as well as to focus attention on new areas where palm oil production is having an impact on forests.Changing the Game for Deforestation AnalysesMill locations can indicate where palm fruit is processed as well as where palm plantations are located. Because it is highly perishable, fresh palm fruit must be processed within 24 hours of harvest, limiting plantation sourcing to an approximate 30-mile (50 km) radius around the mill, according to company estimates (though this may vary depending on available infrastructure, such as road density and quality). This means analyzing the area immediately surrounding a mill can reveal useful information about plantations that fall within its sourcing area. When used with other data layers on the Global Forest Watch Commodities platform, the new mill data set can help companies identify mills in environmentally sensitive areas. Figure 1. A mill’s sourcing radius (outlined by the red circle) contains oil palm concessions and overlaps both intact and degraded primary forest. Figure 3. Distribution of mills.Implications for the FutureThe new data represents the most comprehensive set of palm oil mills assembled to date. However, the total number of palm oil mills in the world is unknown and the data set, although large, only represents the mills within the supply chains of a handful of traders and buyers. It is difficult to determine what portion of total mills is captured in the data, but it is certainly a significant improvement in transparency and traceability for the palm oil industry. Continuing contributions will add to this data set as more companies realize the importance of traceability and good stewardship in a globally competitive market.
5) African logging bans are ineffective thus far.In order to increase the added value of forest exports and create more employment benefits for local people, a number of African countries, including Cameroon, Mozambique and Gabon, have introduced national bans or restrictions on the export of unprocessed logs in recent years.In practice, however, weak forest governance within these countries has rendered such bans ineffective. Despite log export bans, China is still importing a significant amount of logs from major African countries such as Mozambique. In other cases, Chinese companies shift their supply chains to different countries to continue sourcing logs. While Chinese log imports from Gabon have dropped significantly after the country enacted its log export ban in 2010, China has begun to import more logs from other countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cameroon. Moving ForwardThe rapid growth of Chinese investment in African forests has significant implications for forest management—and the trends are going in the wrong direction. It’s up to governments and companies in both China and Africa to create more sustainable investment pathways. The Chinese government could establish laws and regulations to make sure the country is importing legally and sustainably sourced timber. Chinese companies could adopt more rigorous social and environmental safeguards for their overseas investments. And in Africa, governments could strengthen forest governance and law enforcement to make sure all forest managers operating in their countries are properly managing ecosystems for the good of the planet, people and the economy. EDITOR’S NOTE: 2/29/15: An earlier version of this post included a graph showing the value of logs imported by China and those exported by Mozambique. Upon further reflection, WRI’s experts realized that we would need quantity data rather than value data in order to accurately illustrate the thesis in section #5. We have since removed the graph and updated the post to link to other studies highlighting the ineffectiveness of log bans in some African nations. This post originally appeared in Quartz Africa.China’s investments in Africa have exploded in recent years, with outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) stock growing from $1 billion in 2004 to more than $30 billion in 2014. Investment in forests—particularly the timber sector—is no different. China’s overseas forest project investments grew from eight in 2007 to 84 in July of 2015. Today, Chinese forest investment can be found in 25 African countries.Yet in many cases this expanded investment has come at a cost to people and the planet. Five trends shine a light on the impact Chinese investments have had on Africa’s forests, and point to how both governments and companies should proceed in the future.1) Most African timber exports go to China. In the face of a growing demand for timber and tighter domestic forest protection laws, China has become the world’s largest importer and processor of logs, and a lot of them come from Africa. Around 75 percent of African timber exports are sent to China every year, according to the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).2) Investments have mixed impacts on local communities and environment.The impact of Chinese forest-related investment in Africa varies significantly. On the one hand, research from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) finds that Chinese forest investment can improve market access and increase income sources for local, small-scale operators in countries such as Zambia and Cameroon. On the other, IIED, Forest Trends, and CIFOR report negative impacts like low contribution to local employment, inferior labor practices, deforestation, and involvement in illegal logging and timber trade. These impacts also pose reputational risks for China’s government and companies in Africa. 3) Investment is mainly coming from harder-to-regulate small and medium enterprises.While large, state-owned enterprises (SOEs) are traditionally the main players in China’s overseas investment, privately owned small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are playing a larger role in the African forest sector. More than 80 percent of the Chinese companies that have invested in the African forest sector since 2007 have less than $10 million in registered capital. Several of these SMEs have reported that they do not receive any government funding or even loans from Chinese commercial banks, unlike larger companies, which typically obtain 80 to 90 percent of their funding from Chinese commercial and policy banks. Due to their limited financial ties with the Chinese government and banks, SMEs are less likely to comply with the country’s voluntary guidelines for social and environmental safeguards for overseas investment. For example, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) found one Chinese company engaged in illegal log export in Mozambique just one month after its representatives attended a guideline training.4) Investments are moving upstream in the timber supply chain.Instead of directly acquiring forest concessions, many Chinese companies began as trading companies that purchased timber from local concessions and forest operators. Now, however, a CIFOR study finds that several Chinese companies in Gabon and Mozambique have moved upstream, acquiring forest land concessions and setting up local factories to directly engage in timber harvesting. More direct access to forests allows Chinese investments to play a bigger role in forest management in Africa.
Restoration efforts added 18,000 hectares (45,000 acres) of new mangroves between 2001 and 2008, but more restoration is needed to adapt to the increasing threat of climate change and severe weather events. In its new national climate plan (known as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC), Vietnam pledged to increase forest coverage to 45 percent and increase the area of protected forest in coastal areas to 380,000 hectares (939,000 acres), including an additional 20,000 to 50,000 hectares (49,000 to 124,000 acres) of mangrove planting by 2030.Combating Sandstorms in ChinaSoil erosion in China’s Loess Plateau created massive sand storms in Beijing throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including the infamous “Black Wind” of 1993. Soil erosion reached such extremes that the plateau contributed more than 90 percent of the total sediment entering the Yellow River. Farmers were forced to abandon their land due to soil degradation, resulting in economic losses of approximately $1.28 billion and threatening food security.So the government turned to restoring degraded landscapes through policy changes. After 1999, the government banned cutting trees, growing crops on slopes, and allowing unrestricted grazing in the Loess region. Combined with the replanting of vegetation, these bans allowed the perennial vegetation cover to double by the mid-2000s and decreased the number of sandstorms. Learning from the Successes—and the FailuresEven though Vietnam, China and South Korea successfully restored areas of forests, the Restoration Diagnostic reveals that challenges remain. For example, South Korea focused almost exclusively on planting coniferous forests—the resulting lack of species diversity and tree age increased susceptibility to pest and disease outbreaks in recent years. Furthermore, South Korea is among the major destinations for timber exports from countries most badly affected by illegal logging. Effective forest landscape restoration should avoid transferring forest-clearing activities to other locations (known as “leakage”).While China focused heavily on afforesting the Loess Plateau, scientists are increasingly debating the long-term sustainability of this practice in such a semi-arid environment. For instance, of the 400,000 Chinese pine trees planted in northern Shaanxi, only 25 percent survived. Many people misinterpret restoration as being synonymous with tree planting. Whilst trees can stop storms and deserts, they are not the only solution, but one in a toolbox of restoration options, such as grassland restoration, climate smart-agriculture and agroforestry.In the coming months, we’ll take you on a global tour of restoration successes, looking at highlights from Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America. In the meantime, check out our Restoration Diagnostic for more information. This is the first installment of our Restoration Global Tour blog series. The series examines restoration success stories in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Europe and North America. Tune in over the coming months for additional installments, or check out our Restoration Diagnostic for more information. A history of deforestation has made Asian nations like Vietnam, China and South Korea especially vulnerable to coastal storms, floods and sandstorms. Yet just as these nations have experienced similar crises, they’re also all pursuing a solution—restoring degraded landscapes.In fact, reforestation, afforestation and changing agricultural policies have played a large role in bringing these countries from the brink to prosperity. WRI recently analyzed Asia’s restoration practices to inform the design of our Restoration Diagnostic, a method for evaluating existing and missing success factors for countries or landscapes with restoration opportunities. Here’s a look at how these countries overcame disasters by restoring degraded land:Protecting Mangroves in VietnamVietnam has lost more than 80 percent of its mangrove forests since the 1950s. During the American War with Vietnam (1955–75), the U.S. military sprayed 36 percent of the mangroves with defoliant in order to destroy strongholds for military resistance. Since then, extensive areas have been converted into aquaculture, agricultural lands, salt beds and human settlements. More than 102,000 hectares (252,000 acres) of mangroves were cleared for shrimp farming from 1983 to 1987 alone.With diminishing mangroves, the country’s coast became increasingly vulnerable to natural disasters like tropical cyclones. Over the past 30 years, more than 500 people died or went missing every year due to natural disasters, thousands were injured, and annual economic losses totaled 1.5 percent of GDP.So Vietnam turned to restoration in 2001. Northern parts of the country established mangrove plantations, while the South pursued mangrove protection in order to alleviate poverty and diversify livelihoods. The country incentivizes mangrove restoration, conservation and management by allowing citizens to use the benefits these ecosystems provide, such as non-cultivated seafood like clams and crabs. Restoring an area of just 150 hectares (371 acres) with mangroves is estimated to generate VN$21 billion ($938,000) over 22 years. China’s new climate plan aims to build on these restoration successes by increasing forest carbon stocks by 4.5 billion cubic meters. This amount of forest would create a roughly 1-gigaton carbon sink, equivalent to stopping tropical deforestation for almost a full year, or taking 770 million cars off the road.Planting Trees in South KoreaAlmost half a century of war wreaked havoc on South Korea’s forests during the first half of the 20th century due to excessive harvesting of wood for timber and fuel. By 1952, the nation’s forest stocks were less than 50 percent of pre-war levels, threatening national energy security because firewood and charcoal accounted for a majority of power production.Today, it’s a different story, as South Korea is widely regarded as one of the world’s most significant restoration successes. Between 1953 and 2010, national tree-planting and public-pride campaigns increased the country’s forest cover almost two-fold and its tree density 13-fold, while the population doubled and the economy grew 25-fold. The estimated monetary value of the benefits from these restoration efforts—including increased water storage capacity and curtailed erosion—is greater than $92 billion, approximately 9 percent of the country’s GDP.
As the largest greenhouse gas emitting nation, China clearly needs to show strong leadership to avoid the worst global impacts of climate change. In recent years, China has taken positive steps to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. But China also emits a significant amount of GHGs besides carbon dioxide — methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride — collectively referred to as non-CO2 GHG emissions. In 2012, China’s non-CO2 GHG emissions comprised nearly one-fifth of the country’s total GHG inventory. Moreover, in a new publication, Opportunities to Enhance Non-Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Gas Mitigation in China, WRI researchers find that these emissions could nearly double by 2030 (relative to 2005 levels) if China doesn’t take additional measures to curb them. WRI analysis finds that, just by scaling up existing initiatives, China can reduce its non-CO2 GHG emissions by nearly 30 percent by 2030. But more can still be done.As China shifts toward a more environmentally and economically sustainable model of development, the moment is ripe to do more to tackle non-CO2 GHG emissions. Our study shows that many of the building blocks are already in place to support China in cutting these emissions:The Chinese government has set reduction targets for two of its largest sources of non-CO2 GHGs: coal bed methane and HFC emissions. These targets are also supported by financial subsidies and more favorable tax policies. The 2015 Circular Economy Promotion Plan details actions and targets for scaling up waste recycling and reuse (thereby reducing methane emissions) and generating power from low-concentration methane. The 2012 Cleaner Production Promotion Law promotes initiatives that eradicate waste, improve resource utilization, and stimulate cleaner production processes—activities that go hand-in-hand with the mitigation of non-CO2 GHGs. The 13th Five Year Plan (which outlines the strategic vision for China through 2020) explicitly states the need to control non-CO2 GHGs.Three key abatement actions can help China to achieve further deep cuts in non-CO2 GHG emissions.1. Tackle methane emissions from coal mining and rice fieldsMore than half of China’s non-CO2 GHG emissions come in the form of methane, which can trap 28 times as much heat as carbon dioxide on a per metric tonne basis. Methane is released predominantly from the country’s agricultural activities and extensive coal mining operations. China’s post-2020 national climate action plan, known as an INDC, indicates commitment to addressing both of these emission sources, setting goals for increased coal bed methane production and controlling emissions from rice fields. The combined non-CO2 GHG reduction potential for these sources is estimated at nearly 300 million metric tonnes (330 million U.S. tons) of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030—more than the Netherlands’ total annual GHG emissions.2. Curb HFC emissions from industryChina’s HFC emissions are on the rise as these gases are increasingly used as refrigerants in place of CFCs and HCFCs, which are being phased out under the Montreal Protocol. Although the country has been working to phase down HFC emissions since its joint announcement with the United States in 2013, more work remains. The introduction of financial subsidies in 2015 to stimulate reductions in HFC-23 — the most potent of all HFC gases — represents a promising start. If industry can fully utilize these subsidies, HFC emissions could be cut by close to 90 percent by 2030, or around 200 million metric tonnes (220 million U.S. tons) of carbon dioxide equivalent.3. Reduce nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer applicationChina’s nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer application are the highest of any country, accounting for nearly a third of the world’s total. Chinese farmers are currently experimenting with new fertilization techniques to reduce these emissions, including employing precision agriculture and applying organic compounds, known as bio-inhibitors, to slow the release of nitrous oxide formation. The Chinese government also plans to achieve zero growth in fertilizer use by 2020. This could bring a 10 percent reduction in emissions from this key source, with further mitigation potential if these new fertilization techniques reach commercial scale.Getting ThereTo fully exploit these opportunities, China first needs to develop a comprehensive understanding of its non-CO2 GHG emissions. The country developed its last official national GHG inventory for the 2005 calendar year, which makes it challenging to get an accurate read on current non-CO2 GHG emissions. Timely, robust and credible GHG data forms is essential to identify key non-CO2 GHG emissions sources, assess emissions changes over time and prioritize actions to curb emissions, not to mention serving as a key indicator for tracking policy implementation and effectiveness.With accurate GHG data, China can turn its attention toward setting source-specific non-CO2 GHG reduction targets. Over time, these targets can be scaled up to sector-level emissions reduction goals and, ultimately, economy-wide GHG targets. In China, targets have proven to be valuable tools for enhancing policy implementation and effectiveness, driving the consistent implementation of actions, delegating responsibility, promoting transparency and building political will. This will allow the country to move the world closer to a safer climate.
Enact legislation and regulations that establish a formal and transparent documentation process. Measures that are complex to navigate and expensive to implement will put formal recognition out of most communities’ reach. Kenya enacted a Community Land Act just two weeks ago that calls for communities to define and register themselves, and then wait for the government to adjudicate, survey and register their land. Past experience suggests that relying on the Kenyan government often leads to poor and painfully slow results. Policymakers have yet to prepare enabling regulations under the act, but they should consider mandating government action within a prescribed period of time to ensure the process can be completed in a timely manner. Indigenous Peoples and other communities rely on their collectively held lands for food, water, livelihoods and well-being. Yet around the world, these groups face barriers to legally registering and titling these lands—and it’s getting worse.While 50-65 percent of the world’s land is occupied and used by Indigenous Peoples and communities, only an estimated 10 percent of the world’s land is legally recognized as belonging to them, with another 8 percent designated by governments for them. Many countries had been taking important steps to protect indigenous and community land rights over the past 20 to 30 years, but more recently, there’s been a slowdown in the formal recognition of these lands, leaving communities vulnerable to losing their spaces to companies, governments and others.In some cases, the pace of titling of indigenous and community land has fallen short of legal requirements, and in most countries, it has fallen far short of popular expectations. Government actions have contributed to this slowdown by, for example, defunding responsible government agencies and establishing new administrative measures that act as barriers to the community land recognition process.In Peru, Indigenous forest communities must clear 27 bureaucratic hurdles to obtain official recognition and formal land titles, a costly process that can take more than a decade. It took 12 years and the murder of four traditional leaders for Alto Tamaya-Saweto, an indigenous community in the Peruvian Amazon, to receive a land title. In contrast, companies seeking permits for logging or mining concessions in Peru face just three to seven bureaucratic steps, and can obtain their paperwork in only a few months. To help ensure all indigenous and community lands are formally recognized, countries around the world can take three actions:Immediately halt proposed measures that would unnecessarily slow the process of formal recognition of indigenous and community land. For example, in Brazil, a proposed Constitutional Amendment 215 (PEC 215) would pass the authority of demarcating indigenous lands from the Fundação Nacional do Índio (FUNAI), the government’s indigenous affairs department, to the legislature. If approved, the shift would likely cause significant delays in the recognition of indigenous lands, and many indigenous lands could be reduced in size. In Australia, under the Native Title Act of 1993, Aboriginal people must prove a continuity of traditional laws and customs on the land since European settlement, when the Crown asserted sovereignty over Australia. This connection is often difficult to prove, especially where there has been widespread urbanization or agricultural development, both of which extinguish native title. Connection reports can take several years to research, and may take up to three years for the government to assess them. Plus, they can be quite expensive for the community.1Maasai tribe in Tanzania. Photo by William Warby/Flickr In Tanzania, under the Village Land Act of 1999, villages can demarcate their land, register their rights and obtain certificates evidencing their rights. There are, however, significant technical and financial barriers to registering land, such as the cost of land surveying and preparing a comprehensive land-use management plan. As a result, most of the more than 14,000 villages in the country remain without certificates. As of 2009, 10,397 villages were registered, but only 753 had obtained certificates. Prioritize the registration and titling of indigenous and community lands. Delays can result in communities losing their land. In Kenya, land remains vested in local government until communities secure formal title, but records show that the government has a history of using community land to meet short-term political purposes, such as allocating land to powerful individuals to help win elections. In Cambodia, there are 501 indigenous communities, but just 11 have received collective land titles. Many applications are stalled, creating a legal limbo. “We were better able to protect our lands before the government began registering it than we are now” said Lout Sang, an ethnic Kouy villager from Preah Vihear, bemoaning the lack of progress in his community’s land titling application.In November 2015, hundreds of individuals and organizations from around the world launched the Land Rights Now campaign, with a target to double the amount of land recognized as owned or controlled by Indigenous Peoples and local communities by 2020. Establishing streamlined processes to formally recognize community land is central to achieving this goal, to protecting community lands and to promoting sustainable development.LEARN MORE: In a forthcoming report, WRI will explore the economic benefits and costs of securing indigenous land rights. Stay tuned for the release in early October.1 Similar requirements exist in the US for Native American communities to obtain federal recognition. As the process currently stands, tribes must prove they maintained a continuous community with political authority dating back to their first contact with non-Indians — a difficult process because of intermarriage and divided ancestral land.
The WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities’ Sustainable and Livable Cities Initiative supports key leaders in China, India and Brazil in improving urban quality of life and environmental sustainability. WRI’s blog series on the Initiative will highlight some of the projects that are working to create better cities. Without dramatic change in cities, the world will hold more than 2 billion cars by 2050, putting human health and the planet at risk. Belo Horizonte, Brazil is finding that changing the world’s car-centric culture starts in the workplace.Local governments throughout Brazil have long-struggled with how to solve the problems caused by rising car ownership, such as air pollution, traffic congestion and auto crashes. Cities like Porto Alegre and São Paulo have experimented with Traffic Demand Management (TDM) policies like license plate restrictions, increased parking prices and more, but they’ve met with mixed results. Many Brazilian cities simply lack the necessary public transport infrastructure, economic stability and political will to make city-wide TDM policies feasible.Changing Travel Habits in the WorkplaceA project in Belo Horizonte offers a solution.WRI Brasil Sustainable Cities partnered with the state government of Minas Gerais to encourage more sustainable transportation habits by the workers of the Cidade Administrativa de Minas Gerais (CAMG, Administrative City of Minas Gerais). The state government headquarters employs about 17,000 people, many of whom spend more than two hours per day commuting by private car or motorcycle.WRI researchers and staff from CAMG started with a step-by-step guide on how to develop a corporate mobility plan, researching employees’ commuting habits and workplace infrastructure and transportation-related costs to develop a Corporate Mobility Diagnosis Report. From there, the two organizations identified potential opportunities for decreasing employees’ vehicle use while improving their commutes and overall quality of life.When WRI and CAMG asked workers driving cars and motorcycles every day about what would make them change their habits, 84 percent said a high-quality public transport system. Forty-nine percent said they would use the city’s Bus Rapid Transit system, MOVE, if lines connected to stations close to CAMG.So now CAMG is working with Belo Horizonte’s Transit Agency (BHTRANS) to replace two bus lines with faster, cheaper and more reliable MOVE lines. The new lines will also connect important bus terminals not served by previous bus routes, giving more CAMG workers access to public transit. These new services will start operating in late 2016.CAMG is also installing bike parking and showers for employees, and a new bike lane will connect the office to the nearest public transit terminal. CAMG is also considering implementing carpool policies and parking fees to further discourage private vehicle use and incentivize more sustainable commuting options.Belo Horizonte’s MOVE BRT system. Photo by Mariana Gil/EMBARQ Brasil A Good Policy for Employees and for CompaniesIf done correctly, CAMG’s plan will save employees money and commuting time while also reducing car use.There are benefits for CAMG and other companies that implement TDM policies, too. Policies that improve quality of life and value employees’ time have the power to attract and retain talent. According to Fortune Business Magazine, 90 of the 100 Best Places to Work in 2014 had corporate mobility plans in place.Scaling Up SuccessThe Belo Horizonte project was not only an opportunity for CAMG, but for city officials to experience the process and benefits of a workplace TDM plan. Now, Belo Horizonte is planning to launch the first corporate mobility public policy in Latin America. The city-wide policy will require large companies to implement a corporate mobility plan in order to offset the impact of thousands of employees’ daily commutes. This pioneering policy will become an example for other Brazilian cities to follow, as well as cities around the world.The Sustainable and Livable Cities Initiative was made possible through the generous support of the Caterpillar Foundation.
On September 21st Bangladesh, Brunei, Kiribati, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, United Arab Emirates Vanuatu, Asia Pacific Norway, United States Bahamas, Guyana, Peru, St Vincent & the Grenadines Fiji, Maldives, Marshall Island, Palau, Nauru, Tuvalu, Mauritius, Cook Island, Samoa, Palestine Cameroon Africa Some members of the EU, like Germany, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland committed to ratify by the end of the year, while the UK announced yesterday that it has started its ratification process. If the eight countries that committed to join by the end of this year actually do so, we will reach 54.98 percent of global emissions. With the EU’s total emissions counted, the amount would be 66.97 percent of emissions. Ukraine Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Brazil, Dominica, Honduras, Panama, Mexico Belize, Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia Eastern Europe This morning gave us every reason to believe that this final threshold will be crossed this year, as the following countries also used the event to commit to formally join by the end of the year: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan, New Zealand and South Korea. Also, in its video statement, the European Commission noted its readiness to have the EU join by the end of this year, and encouraged its member states to speed up their process accordingly. Countries formally join the Agreement by signing it, getting it approved domestically, and then submitting their “instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval” to the UN.Countries that Have Joined the Paris Agreement Western Europe and North America Ghana, Guinea, Madagascar, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, Swaziland, Uganda Albania, Belarus Between April 23rd and September 20th Somalia, China, Laos, Micronesia, North Korea, Seychelles Latin American and Caribbean On April 22nd The Paris Agreement on climate change took a significant step forward this morning as 31 countries formally joined it at a special event during the UN General Assembly in New York. Sixty countries representing almost 48 percent of global emissions have now joined the Agreement, crossing one of the two thresholds needed to trigger its entry into force. The Agreement takes effect once 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions join. Iceland Date of Joining This is all great news for global action on climate change and demonstrates the broad, global support for the transformational goals of the Paris Agreement. But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon went even further, and used his platform to urge leaders to reach higher and advance other international actions on climate change. He called for leaders to use an upcoming meeting in Kigali, Rwanda to amend the Montreal Protocol to phase down hydrofluorocarbons (HFC), potent greenhouse gases used widely as refrigerants. He also urged leaders to support a global deal to limit rapidly growing emissions from the aviation sector at the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly (ICAO) later this month.Reaching these outcomes will buttress the action that countries are already taking to achieve their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), the domestic climate plans they committed to at COP21 in Paris. Together, all of this momentum increases the confidence with which leaders in all sectors can plan for a zero-carbon and climate-resilient future.As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said to those assembled today, we will continue to write this new ending to the climate story. For those of us who were standing in the UN’s chamber this morning, the sense of momentum, cooperation and inclusiveness that characterized the Paris Agreement’s conception was palpable.Onwards…
By 2050, sub-Saharan Africa’s cities will increase by almost 800 million people, nearly half of the projected rise in urban population globally. Urbanization in sub-Saharan Africa has been something of a missed opportunity so far, as it hasn’t been accompanied by economic transformation. Many cities already suffer from severe traffic congestion, long travel times, high road fatality rates, low energy efficiency, rising outdoor air pollution and rising GHG emissions. While urban populations are growing rapidly, in many cases, cities’ physical footprints are growing even faster, creating urban sprawl. Kampala, for instance, grew geographically by more than 10 percent a year from 1990-2000, while population grew by 4.3%. A shift towards more compact, connected and coordinated cities will assist in creating a more productive, inclusive and clean urbanization.5. Foster a modern energy transitionEconomic transformation in sub-Saharan Africa will require a large increase in energy supply. At present electricity consumption per capita is 17 of the world average, not enough to continuously power a 50-watt light bulb. Some 620 million people lack access to electricity. Sub-Saharan Africa has a few good things going for it on energy, though. For one, it has an enormously rich portfolio of clean energy assets: about 1,100 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity, 350 GW of hydro, and 109 GW of wind. In addition, global technological progress has created the potential for developing countries to leapfrog to much more energy efficient processes and products than were available to other countries as they developed decades ago.To read Africa’s New Climate Economy, click here. Low crop yields and rapid population growth have pushed the expansion of cropland in sub-Saharan Africa far beyond the global rate, since more farmland is needed to grow more food for more people. This contributes to deforestation, exacerbates vulnerability to climate change and puts pressure on the fragile ecology in the region’s vast drylands. Intensifying agriculture to boost yields, combined with climate-smart farming techniques, can help boost farmers’ incomes, reduce environmental degradation and strengthen resilience to climate change. Landscape management efforts in Niger have allowed farmers to produce 100 kg/ha (90 lbs/acre) more grain than before, with gross real annual incomes increasing $1,000 per household for more than a million households. These approaches should be mainstreamed into national agriculture plans.3. Diversify into manufacturing and other high-productivity sectorsSub-Saharan countries have the potential to make robust gains in manufacturing and other modern sectors. Africa’s share of world manufactured export markets is so tiny – less than 1 percent – that even a modest increase could have a big impact on the sector’s growth. To build up manufacturing, there is an urgent need to strengthen infrastructure, in particular for electricity. Focused efforts are needed to promote manufactured and tradable service exports through better logistics, special economic zones and other initiatives. Selective industrial promotion policies can help overcome market failures, as long as they’re accompanied by transparency and accountability.4. Unleash the power of urbanizationWomen in Accra, Ghana, where urban density actually declined from 2000-2010. Photo by David Stanley/Flickr Sub-Saharan Africa is at a crossroads. With a still largely agricultural workforce, it has enormous potential for economic transformation and growth. At the same time, it is expected to be the region worst affected by climate change, with potentially devastating crop losses of up to 30 percent by mid-century.The good news is that sub-Saharan Africa can transform its economy to improve productivity, reduce poverty and reduce the risk of climate change at once.Regional economic transformation weds growth and climate actionIn the first decade and a half of this century, sub-Saharan Africa has experienced a “growth miracle”, with annual economic growth of almost 5 percent putting an important dent in poverty. But sharp declines in oil and commodity prices in the past two years have reduced its projected growth to 1.6 percent in 2016. Despite progress, nearly 400 million people remain in extreme poverty.To build a modern, inclusive economy, policymakers in sub-Saharan Africa have begun to focus on economic transformation, moving workers from low-productivity sectors like agriculture to higher-productivity areas like industry and the service sector, as well as increasing productivity growth within sectors. This is the typical path that advanced economies have taken in the past.The New Climate Economy project has demonstrated on the global scale that climate action and economic growth can go hand in hand. Now it takes those lessons to the African context in a comprehensive look at its potential for green growth. Good policies that recognize the close links between economic, social and environmental priorities can unlock major benefits over the long run.A new report, Africa’s New Climate Economy: Economic Transformation and Social and Environmental Change, lays out five action areas for governments to consider as they form their development strategies for the next few decades.1. Get the fundamentals rightA few basics can help underpin an inclusive and sustainable economic transformation. These include macroeconomic stability, access to finance and better management of sub-Saharan Africa’s abundant natural resources Greater voice and accountability are essential to ensure government responds to people’s needs, in the fight against corruption and for more effective management of public budgets. On the social side, the fundamentals include social and human development policies, with an emphasis on public health, education and gender equality.2. Transform agriculture and land useHarvest in Ethiopia. Photo by SarahTz/Flickr
Guiding principles for long-term sectoral transformation. The plan lays out a broad vision for the transformation that each economic sector will need to undergo over the coming decades. For instance, it touches on the need to achieve a climate-neutral building stock, due to the long lifespan of buildings and their emissions-generating activities, highlighting the need for further development of building energy standards and funding for renewable heating systems. With regard to transport, the plan notes the need for adequate infrastructure and electric mobility. Germany showed the world this week that it is forging ahead with a strategy to rapidly phase out greenhouse gas emissions. Coinciding with climate negotiations in Marrakech, Morocco (COP22), the German cabinet approved a plan on November 14th to guide climate action through 2050, known as the Climate Protection Plan 2050. Germany is the first country to come forward with a “mid-century, long-term low GHG emissions development strategy,” which the Paris Agreement invited Parties to communicate by 2020.These long-term strategies are critical for achieving the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting warming to 1.5-2 degrees C (2.7-3.6 degrees F) and preventing some of the worst impacts of climate change. Countries’ current national climate plans are only set to limit warming to 2.7-3.7 degrees C (4.9-6.7 degrees F). Ambitious plans that take a long-term view are essential for closing the gap.They can also help guide the implementation of current shorter-term climate commitments so they do not lock in high-carbon pathways. As Germany put it, “With the decision to build a new coal-fired power station, the expectation would be to make money in the next 30 years. Against the backdrop of German and international climate protection targets, this is certainly no longer realistic.… The Federal Government wants to provide incentives for investment in climate-friendly technologies, buildings and infrastructure.”Germany has advanced a long-term vision on climate action for some time. For example, its 2010 Energiekonzept (energy strategy) set out to reduce energy-related emissions by 80-95 percent by 2050 and increase renewable energy supply 80 percent by 2050. The famous German energy transition, or “Energiewende,” was embraced by Chancellor Merkel in the aftermath of Fukushima, leading to a shift of nuclear and fossil fuel power to renewable energy.The Climate Protection Plan 2050, adopted on Monday, builds on these plans and sets a new bar for other countries preparing their own long-term emissions-reduction strategies. Key elements of the plan include:Steep GHG reduction target with reference to GHG neutrality. In 2010, Germany committed to reduce emissions by 80 to 95 percent by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. The new plan reiterates that goal, and states that Germany will target “extensive greenhouse gas neutrality” by 2050. The relationship between the neutrality goal and the GHG reduction goal (which excludes the land sector) remains to be seen. Greenhouse gas neutrality suggests that any GHG emissions would be balanced by equal removals (for example, via enhanced sequestration in the land sector or from negative emissions generated through technologies such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, a technology which remains unproven at scale). Noting Germany’s relatively high per-capita emissions and its status as a strong, industrialized economy, the plan states that Germany must reach the Paris Agreement goal of GHG neutrality “early.” Sector-specific targets for 2030. While Germany already had a target to reduce emissions by at least 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, notably the Plan lays out specific GHG reduction targets for each economic sector: energy (61-62 percent below 1990 levels by 2030), buildings (66-67 percent), transport (40-42 percent), industry (49-51 percent), agriculture (31-34 percent) and “other” (87 percent). While these measures do not enhance the overall ambition of Germany’s 2030 target, they do provide greater certainty for each sector as to their expected contribution. Notably, the plan fails to establish a specific date by which coal will be phased out – a point of contention throughout the negotiation of the plan over the past several months. Instead, Germany notes that the targets “can only be achieved if coal is gradually reduced,” and provides for a commission on Growth, Structural Change, and Regional Development to address the issue. Likewise, the plan has been criticized for lacking specific measures to achieve the targets, but detailed action programs are to be drawn up for each sector. GHG reductions will be quantified, and economic, social and environmental impacts evaluated. An annual climate action report will track implementation, facilitating swift policy adjustments as needed.The plan notes that while Germany’s targets are largely achievable with existing technology, research and development will nonetheless play an important role, including for certain industrial applications.Looking ahead, Germany will update the plan at regular intervals, considering technical progress and economic development. The plan leaves open the possibility that the updates could shift mitigation obligations between sectors, stating that “in this way, we allow flexibility without jeopardizing compliance with the climate targets.” Ideally, the plan would be updated to include measures for reaching the higher end of the target’s ambition, a 95 percent emissions reduction by 2050. This is important because in order to have a likely chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), global CO2 emissions must reach net zero by 2045-2050. To meet the Paris Agreement goals at least-cost, the EU and the OECD should phase out coal by 2030.In the wake of the U.S. election, the world desperately needs every government to stand committed to climate action. While the German 2050 plan has room for improvement, it sends necessary signals to cities, businesses and citizens that a zero-carbon society is inevitable. We hope that others follow in Germany’s footsteps and provide strong visions for a long-term transformation.
Nearly a year ago in Paris, the world came together around a historic climate agreement that affirmed the global community’s commitment to shift to a zero-carbon economy. The agreement is underpinned by national plans and ambitious goals to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees C, or 1.5 degrees C (3.6 or 2.7 degrees F), achieve net zero emissions in the second half of the century, and promote climate resilience broadly.By the end of the two-week climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco, more than 100 countries, representing over 75 percent of global emissions, had formally joined the Paris Agreement. The Marrakech talks also marked the first official meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement on November 15.The U.S. presidential election sent reverberations through the gathering, but it did not deter participants from moving forward with a spirit of determination. Over 190 governments agreed to the Marrakech Action Proclamation which sent a strong message of global unity on climate change. Shortly before the meeting’s conclusion, the 47-nation Climate Vulnerable Forum made a bold commitment to move towards 100 percent renewable energy between 2030 and 2050.Attention has shifted from the adoption of the Paris Agreement to advancing action on the ground. Signs of progress are everywhere: 33 countries and nine major international institutions launched the NDC Partnership to catalyze implementation of National Climate Plans. Four countries – Germany, the United States, Mexico and Canada – submitted strategies for deep emissions reductions by 2050. New coalitions formed, including the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative and the Africa Agriculture Adaptation (AAA) Initiative. All of these point to the strong global momentum for climate action.The negotiators also took important strides with a roadmap to agree on the rules and processes to implement the Paris Agreement, including a deadline of 2018. The current and next presidents of the COP (the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC) – Morocco and Fiji – will have a new mandate to design a facilitative dialogue process in 2018 to take stock and drive progress. More progress will need to be made to increase transparency and raise ambition over time.Following are highlights of events at COP22 in Marrakech. (For details on the first week of COP22, check out our mid-COP blog post.)Inside the NegotiationsRules and Tools: In Paris, countries agreed to finalize the transparency framework by 2018. In Marrakech, countries agreed to conclude the whole rule book by 2018. This includes not only the transparency framework, but also the modalities for the ambition mechanism and the mechanism facilitating implementation and promoting compliance. However, Parties will need to redouble their efforts to navigate the complex issues highlighted during the summit and reach the milestones in the agreed road map.Boosting implementation: Capacity building was a focal point and Parties delivered on a number of fronts. The Capacity Building Initiative for Transparency (CBIT) is up and running, with about $50 million in pledges. The first set of projects have been approved for Kenya, Costa Rica and South Africa, as well as a global platform to align lessons and experiences on how to fine-tune the details of national climate action plans. The Paris Committee on Capacity Building will start in earnest next May to support countries’ preparations and implementation of their national plans. $23 million was pledged to the Climate Technology Centre and Network, to increase countries’ capacity to identify, develop and deploy the most adequate technologies. And various other initiatives were launched to strengthen the role of universities, South-South cooperation, and other approaches to helping countries overcome specific challenges.Accelerating ambition: Parties set 2018 as a key moment for countries to recalibrate their plans in light of the objectives of the Paris Agreement and create incentives for a more ambitious second round of NDCs that will be set in 2020. The current and next COP presidencies (Morocco and Fiji) were charged with the important task of bringing Parties together in 2017 to begin developing an inclusive, transparent and robust facilitative dialogue in 2018.First Meeting of Parties to the Paris Agreement: Marrakech also hosted the first meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement, known as CMA1, opening a new chapter in international climate action. Holding this first meeting less than a year after the Paris Agreement was adopted was an extraordinary achievement. Parties discussed key steps to implement the Paris Agreement and develop the rulebook to support its objectives and long-term goals. The CMA will reconvene next year in conjunction with COP23 to assess progress in developing the rulebook.Finance: Developing countries came to Marrakech emphasizing the need to significantly increase funding for adaptation. The Paris Agreement called for finance to be balanced between mitigation and adaptation, but the second Biennial Assessment of Climate Finance showed that mitigation represented over 70 percent of public finance to developing countries. Negotiators welcomed the progress developed countries have made in increasing climate funding for developing countries to meet the commitment to mobilize $100 billion a year by 2020, but urged them to channel a substantial share of public finance to adaptation to bring about a more balanced allocation.In a significant step, the CMA’s first substantive decision was that the Adaptation Fund, created in 2001, should serve the Paris Agreement. The final decision on this will be made in 2018, but last week’s decision shows the Fund remains open for business. Indeed, Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Italy made new pledges to the Fund totaling $81 million.The High-Level Ministerial Dialogue on Climate Finance demonstrated the role finance ministers can play to mobilize and shift finance flows from high-emissions activities to low-emission, climate-resilient investments. Negotiators also worked on rules and processes for accounting and reporting of finance, aiming to reach agreement by 2018.Outside the NegotiationsGlobal Climate Action: Climate champions announced the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, which calls for all-hands-on-deck to accelerate climate action as well as a deeper, more coordinated process. New initiatives surfaced, such as “One for All,” a new global campaign to rapidly scale up funding for energy access, and Climate Change Act from Pakistan, which establishes the Climate Change Authority to oversee adaptation projects there.Partnership for Climate Action: On November 15, 33 countries and nine international institutions launched the NDC Partnership, a new effort to help countries achieve their national climate commitments and ensure financial and technical assistance is delivered as efficiently as possible. The Partnership is a platform for countries to come together and deliver ambitious action, with a focus on enabling implementation of countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals. The effort is co-chaired by the governments of Morocco and Germany, while World Resources Institute hosts the Support Unit.Private Sector Mobilizes: The private sector must play a decisive role in advancing the goals of the Paris Agreement. Companies around the world are stepping up their ambition by setting emissions reductions targets that are scientifically consistent with efforts to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. On Wednesday, the Science Based Targets initiative announced that 200 companies, representing $4.8 trillion in market value, have committed to set such targets. These companies span 33 countries and represent a wide range of sectors, demonstrating that the growing momentum for a low-carbon future is global, cross-cutting and in businesses’ best interest.Momentum, Celebration and ResolveBroad political support for climate action and the Paris Agreement continued in Marrakech, where Japan, Australia, United Kingdom, Botswana, Italy, Pakistan, Djibouti, Finland, Burkina Faso, The Gambia and Malaysia formally joined the Paris Agreement, bringing the total number of members to 111 Parties representing 77 percent of global emissions.Representatives from around the globe arrived in Marrakech in a celebratory mood, just days after the Agreement came into force. They should leave feeling satisfied that they got down to work and hammered out important details around the Agreement. In the coming months, country leaders – as well as businesses, states, cities and civil society groups – should show the same collective resolve to accelerate the shift to a climate-resilient, zero-carbon future.
This blog was originally posted in partnership with Trase on Medium and on the Global Forest Watch blog.Big brands, retailers and agribusiness companies the world over have promised to make their supply chains deforestation-free. But will these voluntary commitments save forests and help people living in them?That depends on how companies measure success. Narrowly defined victories within the boundaries of a company’s own operations or supply chain may have limited impact. Businesses should keep their eyes on the real prize: prosperous and productive rural economies where natural ecosystems are valued and protected and community rights are respected.Supply chains have a big part to play in delivering this prize, but companies need to avoid eight traps that may masquerade as victories:1. The Split Business TrickA business supplies green products to customers that want them and unsustainable products to those that don’t. A corporate group can play a similar game, in which only some subsidiaries promise no deforestation. While customers may be able to claim the specific products they buy are deforestation-free, deforestation in other corners of the supplier’s business will continue.2. Can’t Use It, Ditch ItAn agribusiness may be tempted to excise forested areas from its concessions and land holdings, or dispose of permits that overlap forests altogether, and so claim its operations are deforestation-free. However, this leaves discarded forests vulnerable to the whims of the next owner. The better path is for the company to retain and protect those forests, or entrust them to a body that guarantees their conservation.3. The Blinkered ApproachA narrow focus on avoiding deforestation may mean ignoring pollution, water stewardship, labor rights, social equity and other sustainability issues. Worrying only about forests won’t protect grasslands, shrublands and wetlands. Focusing only on the front end of a supply chain could mean turning a blind eye to child labor in factories, emissions from transport, or manufacturing and food waste. The goal of eliminating deforestation from supply chains should be seen as just one aspect of sustainability, rather than a stand-alone cause.4. Coming Late to the PartyDeforestation-free supply chains need to be mindful of history. If a supplier can earn deforestation-free status the moment it quits deforesting, it may have an incentive to keep the bulldozers running for as long as it takes to convert the forests in its holdings to farms and plantations. If deforestation by a previous landholder doesn’t count, a business may choose to stand by while others cut down forests to plant crops or graze livestock, only to buy these lands or the produce from them after the forest is gone.To avoid perverse incentives to deforest now and quit later, businesses should specify cut-off dates after which deforestation won’t be tolerated. These can be based on commodity certification standards. For the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, for example, new plantations cannot replace primary forest or high-conservation-value areas or primary forests after 2005. Those that deforest areas after the cut-off, or acquire these areas or buy produce from them, should be required to redress the legacy of the deforestation through resolution of social conflicts, ecological restoration and compensatory conservation before they qualify as deforestation-free suppliers.Cattle farming in Acre, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR 7. The Government BypassVoluntary private sector action alone can’t tackle the root causes of deforestation. Deforestation often correlates with governance failings in land zoning, permitting or the recognition of customary resource rights. Yet the instinct of many in the private sector is to focus on matters within their control, and take a poor regulatory environment as a given. While active engagement with governments may be challenging, the enabling conditions for sustainable, deforestation-free development are unlikely to be achieved without bringing government on board.8. Win the Campaign, Lose the WarShort-sighted campaigns risk scaring responsible supply chain actors away from the places where they can have the greatest impact. Reversing a deforestation front will usually require hard work, time and investment to develop capacity and incentives for sustainable land-use choices and practices. Forests are more likely to be saved if progressive companies remain engaged and drive reform in the places most vulnerable to deforestation.As recent reports show, a few leading companies have made great progress in removing deforestation-linked commodities from their supply chains, but most have a long way to go. In addition to action within their own supply chains, companies pledging to go deforestation-free need to keeping asking whether their actions are helping to spur a broader transition to greener, more inclusive economies. Tools like Global Forest Watch and Trase and platforms like the New York Declaration on Forests can help answer these questions.This blog is one of a set based on a panel hosted by the Stockholm Environment Institute and the Global Canopy Programme at the Global Landscapes Forum in Marrakech during COP22. The panel discussion focused on the risks, challenges and opportunities involved in monitoring progress towards more sustainable commodity supply chains. Links to complementary blogs from the same discussion forum by Charlotte Streck of Climate Focus and Frances Seymour of the Center for Global Development can be found here. 5. The Sector BubbleWhile it makes sense to target palm oil, soy, beef and wood as sectors to watch for deforestation, success with these big four commodities won’t prevent others from expanding into their no-go zones. Rubber, sugar, coffee, avocados and cocoa have all been linked to deforestation, as have mining and hydropower, yet these sectors are outside the scope of most corporate deforestation-free commitments.6. Not in My BackyardIt is smart to focus on the most intense deforestation fronts, but success in these places may simply displace deforestation rather than eliminating it. While the Brazilian soy moratorium has slowed deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, it might have accelerated forest clearing for soy in the Brazilian Cerrado (which fell outside the moratorium) or neighboring countries. Further, if companies committed to avoiding deforestation expand their holdings by acquiring land from other farmers, those farmers may secure new land by clearing forests elsewhere.Forests converted into fields in Acre, Brazil. Photo by Kate Evans/CIFOR
2. Safer speed limits don’t necessarily make trips longer.Many people fear that slowing the speed limit in urban areas will dramatically increase journey time. However, average road speeds in cities are more determined by the frequency of intersections than speed limits.A safer speed limit can achieve more uniform speeds and reduce dangerous midblock acceleration, while adding little to overall journey times. Research from Grenoble, France has shown that a speed limit of 30 kmph (18.64 mph) rather than 50 kmph (31 mph) only added 18 seconds of travel time between intersections 1 km (.62 miles) apart. Lower speed limits may even reduce congestion in some cases, as they reduce the likelihood of bottlenecks. This has been observed in Sao Paulo, where lowering the speed limit on major arterials reduced congestion by 10 percent during the first month of implementation, while fatalities also dropped significantly. At lower speeds, even if a crash does occur, the consequences will be less severe, especially if it involves a pedestrian, cyclist or motorcyclist. A pedestrian has a 90 percent chance of survival if hit by a vehicle moving at 30 kmph (18.64 mph). This decreases to 70 percent at 40 kmph (24.85 mph) and less than 20 percent at 50kmph (31 mph). This week is UN Global Road Safety Week, focused on the theme “Slow Down, Save Lives.” WRI works to make cities around the world safer and more sustainable by implementing street design and regulations that reduce vehicle speeds while supporting walking and cycling. There is a growing body of evidence on the impacts and wider benefits of such efforts, which we’ll explore in blog posts this week. Traffic crashes kill 1.25 million people every year and cause permanent disability to millions more. No matter the location, speed is frequently a factor.Deaths and serious injuries are the painful and highly visible result of a lack of road safety, but we have lost more to high car speeds than we realize. What about fear of children playing on sidewalks, walking to school, or learning to ride a bike? What about people who struggle to pay high transport costs, but don’t feel safe commuting by bike?Speeding cars can limit physical activity, use of public space and quality of life, and the impacts are felt most by the least advantaged . Lower-income residents often live in close proximity to roads with dangerously fast-moving traffic. They are also more dependent on walking, biking or public transport, which are most exposed to the danger of speeding cars. These negative impacts are even more dramatic in developing countries, where a rapid increase in car and motorcycle ownership is taking place on roads with little speed regulation.Unfortunately, this can literally be a matter of life and death. But establishing safer speeds in cities can not only save lives, it can also generate many other benefits in the process:1. Lower speeds save lives.Every 1.6 kilometer-per-hour (1 mph) reduction in vehicle speeds on urban streets results in a 6 percent decrease in traffic fatalities. Lower speed limits reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries for a combination of reasons. For one, driving at very high speeds can result in tunnel vision and decreased depth perception for the driver. At lower speeds, drivers have a wider field of vision and are more likely to notice other road-users. 3. Designing for safer speeds fosters healthier communities.Lower car speeds create a more comfortable environment for pedestrians and cyclists. Street design that encourages safer speeds—such as narrower lanes and wider sidewalks, raised crosswalks and curb extensions—also provide more space for pedestrians and make it easier to cross the road. Details on these and other measures can be found in WRI’s Cities Safer by Design report.With speed-slowing infrastructure, cities may see positive trends in residents opting to walk or bike instead of driving. London is currently employing these measures to encourage more walking trips, and anticipates it will reap health and economic benefits. One study found that the United States could save $5.6 billion in health care costs if one in 10 adults started walking regularly. Residents opting to take fewer trips by car also means fewer harmful emissions and a reduced overall risk of traffic collisions.4. Slower speeds are good for the economy.Studies have found that streets that are more inviting for walkers and cyclists are more vibrant and economically successful than streets with high volumes of fast-moving traffic. Benefits include increased real estate value and higher spending on retail and services, boosting the local economy. For example, when street designs with narrower lanes slowed traffic in the Mission District of San Francisco, nearly 60 percent of retailers reported increased spending by local people, and nearly 40 percent reported an overall increase in sales. Meanwhile, London’s Kensington Street saw a 13 percent increase in the price of apartments when safety and design improvements were made to the streetscape, and estimates that better shopping access for pedestrians will generate millions of pounds in increased retail spending.The research is now abundantly clear: Getting drivers to slow down can improve the quality of life for all city dwellers. Driving at lower speeds also enables drivers to stop within a shorter distance. The stopping distance of a vehicle is a combination of the distance travelled during the driver’s reaction time and the distance it takes for the car to stop after the brakes are applied. At higher speeds, a car travels further during this reaction time and the stopping distance is greater. This affects the rate of momentum at the point of a crash, and therefore the possibility of survival.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Manchester Policy Blog following the Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures conference on June 21-23.June 1, 2017, marked a decisive shift in global leadership on climate change following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which all but two countries signed in 2015. This decision has wider ramifications for global politics and for national commitments to keep global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).China seeks to assume the political mantle for global climate leadership, backed by financial resources and massive investments in renewable sources of energy, especially solar power. It perceives huge growth potential in global solar and wind markets. India has ambitious national commitments on solar energy and curbing fossil fuel use, but it has fewer ambitions on the global political stage.Projected declines in coal use in China and India are likely to reduce growth in global carbon emissions by roughly 2-3 billion metric tons (2.2-3.3 billion U.S. tons) by 2030 compared to forecasts made a year back. Coal-fired power stations are increasingly uneconomical compared to solar power. In May, India abandoned planned investments in coal-fired power stations with a combined capacity of 14 gigawatts, equivalent to the whole of the United Kingdom. Both countries are likely to achieve national climate emissions reductions ahead of target, potentially serving as a significant contributor to reduced net global emissions.Market forces favoring solar and wind power threaten to leave the United States behind, with the continued decline of coal, whereas China wants to benefit from new energy markets and plans to invest $360 billion by 2020. This would take the proportion of renewables in domestic energy to 50 percent by then. India expects 40 percent of its energy needs to be met by renewables by 2030. Meanwhile, the global renewable energy market is expected to reach $13 trillion over this period spurred by national commitments under the Paris Agreement.In pursuing these ambitious climate and energy policies, India and China have an opportunity to lend visible support to the German G20 Action Plan on Climate and Energy Growth, which was discussed at the G20 Summit in Hamburg. In a summit declaration, 19 of the 20 members, excluding the United States, agreed that the Paris climate accord was irreversible and reaffirmed their commitment.Solar roof installation at Hongqiao Passenger Rail Terminal in Shanghai. Photo by The Climate Group/Flickr Lagging Responses on Environmental PoliciesBut progress on climate action is not yet matched by comparable leadership on domestic environmental policies; deep problems of air, soil and water pollution with excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers are causing chronic health impacts in both China and India. Public pressure is building, and both governments are looking to the experience of the United States and other countries in successfully addressing such problems.Over the past five decades, the United States has excelled in tackling environmental problems through sustained bipartisan policy responses. But this is now under threat. The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement marks the culmination of a series of domestic policy reversals under the Trump administration on climate and environment. These include overturning the Clean Power Plan (designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electrical power production), protection of air and water, and massive budget and staffing reductions for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is therefore ironic that U.S. global leadership on environmental protection is now looked at for inspiration to inform domestic environmental policy in China.Lessons from the United StatesOne important lesson from the U.S. experience is the power of public pressure and the media to galvanize government action. Publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” in 1962 drew public attention to dangers of the health and environmental risks of unregulated pesticide use. This spurred massive media coverage, which in turn spurred the creation of the EPA under President Nixon in 1970.A similar tipping point is possible in China. Documentary filmmaker Chai Jing released “Under the Dome” in 2015, which was openly critical of failures to tackle air and water pollution. It received several hundred million views before it was taken down four days later. Public discontent is growing, and the Chinese government recognizes the urgent need to respond.Transparency and Openness to the ForeThere are important lessons for China from the U.S. experience, with air and water pollution rising to top of domestic policy agenda, fueled by public protest and negative media coverage. Government is recalcitrant on the release of public information on air, water and soil pollution. Prompted by monitoring by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China now permits the public release of air pollution data in a growing number of cities and outside thousands of factories.China and India are both signed up to Principle 10 of the UNEP Bali Guidelines, adopted in 1992 as a part of the Rio Declaration, which states that: “Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.”World Resource Institute’s 2015 Environmental Democracy Index shows that China performs reasonably well on the right to information and public participation in decision making but not as strongly on the rights to redress and remedy, as compared to India, which has the legal infrastructure in place for this purpose. China now acknowledges the need to empower citizens to demand information and hold officials accountable for lack of action, through the law courts and other measures. Since the introduction of the new Environmental Protection Law in 2015, China’s courts have accepted 189 public interest environmental cases, mostly brought by environmental non-governmental organizations. The Ministry of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for implementation of the new law, has intensified local inspections of heavily-polluting industries and is now actively collecting public complaints on environmental issues.As noted by the Economist, “Openness would enable the Chinese to understand the risks they face, and to hold officials to account for failing to stop polluters from poisoning them.” Global leadership on climate action and environmental governance means living up to the spirit and practice of citizen engagement and regulatory enforcement and not just capitalizing on the potential economic returns.