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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on February 20th, 2008
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

      From:          sniffenj at un.org
Subject:       Breaking Down the Barriers to a Green Economy — UNEP Launches Year Book 2008
Date:       February 20, 2008 9:07:52 AM EST

UNEP PRESS RELEASE


Breaking Down the Barriers to a Green Economy – UNEP Launches Year Book 2008.

10th Special Session of UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum, Monaco, 20-22 February, 2008.

MONACO, 20 February 2008–An emerging “Green Economy” is glimpsed in the
latest Year Book from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as
growing numbers of companies embrace environmental policies and investors
pump hundreds of billions of dollars into cleaner and renewable energies.

Climate change, as documented in the Year Book, is increasingly changing
the global environment from the melting of permafrost and glaciers to
extreme weather events.

But it is also beginning to change the mind-sets, policies and actions of
corporate heads, financiers and entrepreneurs as well as leaders of
organized labour, Governments and the United Nations itself.

Increasingly, combating climate change is being perceived as an opportunity
rather than a burden and a path to a new kind of prosperity as opposed to a
brake on profits and employment, the new report shows.

The UNEP Year Book 2008 says the emerging “Green Economy” is also driving
invention, innovation and the imagination of engineers on a scale perhaps
not witnessed since the industrial revolution of more than two centuries
ago.

—————–

It includes the growing interest in novel “geo-engineering” projects such
as giant carbon dioxide (CO2) collectors that absorb greenhouse gases from
the air rather like trees do during photosynthesis.

“Based on technology used in fish tank filters and developed by scientists
from Columbia University’s Earth Institute, this method called ‘air
capture’…can collect the CO2 at the location of the ideal geological
deposits for storage”, says the report.

Meanwhile, scientists in Iceland and elsewhere are looking at injecting CO2
into that country’s abundant basalt rocks where it is claimed the pollutant
reacts to form inert limestone.

Similar “sequestration rocks” exist in geological formations across much of
the world and may provide a safe and long-term disposal option for the main
greenhouse gas emissions.

————–

Elsewhere, scientists are helping to unravel both the uncertainties and the
opportunities posed by the enormous quantities of methane trapped in the
sea bed and in Arctic permafrost.

As a greenhouse gas methane is 25 times more potent than CO2 so the
possibility of dramatic increases in methane emissions from these deposits
is a global warming “wildcard” – a growing source of concern.

At the same time methane hydrates are potentially large stockpiles of
clean-burning fuel, if ways can be found of mining them safely and
economically.

————

Despite a great deal of activity and action, formidable challenges remain
if all these fledgling transformations are to be sustained and embedded in
the global economy over the coming years and decades.

Barriers include subsidies that favour fossil fuels over cleaner energies;
tariff and trade regimes that make cleaner technologies more expensive; and
the risk-averse lending patterns of banks and other financial institutions
when it comes to solar and wind power loans for poorer communities, the new
report says.

The Year Book’s findings were presented today at the opening of the largest
gathering of Environment Ministers since the UN’s Climate Convention
meeting in Indonesia late last year which gave birth to the Bali Road Map.

The Road Map is the climate negotiation agreement scheduled to be completed
by the Climate Convention’s meeting in Copenhagen in 2009 in order to
deliver a post-2012 climate regime.

The Ministers, joined by senior figures from the worlds of business,
organized labour, science and civil society, are attending UNEP’s Governing
Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum under the theme “Mobilizing
Finance for the Climate Challenge”.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director,
said: “Hundreds of billions of dollars are now flowing into renewable and
clean energy technologies and trillions more dollars are waiting in the
wings looking to Governments for a new and decisive climate regime
post-2012 alongside the creative market mechanisms necessary to achieve
this.”

“Formidable hurdles remain as to whether these funds will ultimately seek
out new, climate-friendly investments for the future or whether they will
seek the lowest common denominator by flowing into the polluting
technologies of the past”, he said.

“Designing an attractive, creative and equitable investment landscape which
rewards those willing to invest in tomorrow’s economy today is the
challenge before Ministers here in Monaco and the challenge for the
international community over the next two years in the run up to
Copenhagen”, said Mr. Steiner.

“However, I am optimistic that we can shift gears to a ‘Green Economy’. If
humans can go to the Moon; submarines sent under the Arctic; liver and
heart transplants perfected; the mysteries of the human genome deciphered
and tiny nano-machines designed then managing a transition to a low-carbon
society must be within humanity’s grasp and intellect”, he added.

Some Key Findings:
The findings here are based on the UNEP Year Book 2008 with some additional
supporting facts and figures from documents prepared by UNEP for the
GC/GMEF.

Responsible Investing Takes Off:
The UNEP Year Book, an annual report requested by Ministers, underlines
some of the elements of a “Green Economy” which are already falling into
place.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting including environmental
concerns is now found among corporations in over 90 countries with the
number of such statements mushrooming from virtually zero in the early
1990s to well over 2,000 now.

* The Investor Network on Climate Change, launched in November 2003, now
has some 50 institutional investors with assets of over $3 trillion.

* The Principles for Responsible Investment, jointly facilitated by UNEP’s
Finance Initiative and the UN Global Compact in 2006, now has 275
institutions with $13 trillion of assets.

Many companies now perceive that “going green” also improves their bottom
line. The Year Book 2008 underlines a study by the investment bank Goldman
Sachs.

A survey of companies in six sectors—ranging from mining and energy to food
and media—indicates that those with pioneering environmental, social and
governance strategies are out-performing the general stock market by 25 per
cent.

Over 70 per cent out perform their peers in similar sectors, the Year Book
2008 notes.

Meanwhile, a survey of some 150 companies with CSR strategies in the United
States as well as France, Germany and the United Kingdom, underlines
corporations’ growing environmental priorities.

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions and boosting energy efficiency ranked
number one among 54 per cent of those questioned, followed by recycling, 52
per cent and waste reduction, 27 per cent.

Bottom of the list are “making shipping and transport more efficient and
eco-friendly”, 8 per cent; environmental education and research, 7 per
cent; and supporting employees’ use of alternative transportation, 6 per
cent.

Industrial Emission Reductions Remain Mixed:
Meanwhile, some of the globe’s most carbon-intensive industries are leading
the way in publicly disclosing their carbon footprint under an eight
year-old initiative called the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Disclosure is seen as one powerful route towards companies taking
responsibility and acting to reduce their emissions.

The Project, aimed also at empowering shareholders to better understand the
current and future economic risks facing the companies they support,
estimates that:

* Close to 80 per cent of the Financial Times 500 corporations are
disclosing their carbon performance.

* Over three quarters of those who are disclosing such information are now
also implementing greenhouse gas reductions via direct emissions reductions
or via the emerging carbon markets. This is up from nearly half the year
before.

Interestingly, the highest rate of achievement in terms of carbon
disclosure is among the carbon-intensive industries such as metals, mining
and steel sectors alongside oil and gas and the power sector.

However, the Year Book 2008 indicates that despite these promising steps,
more needs to be achieved.

A survey by Innovest, a research company whose findings are in the report,
shows that some sectors are making in-roads into greenhouse gas emissions.

These include electric power companies in North America; international
automobile manufacturers and metals and mining companies.

But other sectors appear to be either treading water or seeing emissions
continue to rise including oil and gas and chemicals.

Carbon Markets:
The best known carbon markets are those established under the Kyoto
Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

These include International Emissions Trading; Joint Implementation and the
Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).

The CDM allows industrialized countries to offset some of their domestic
emissions via cleaner and renewable energy schemes alongside afforestation
and reforestation projects in developing countries.

As of November 2007, over 850 projects had been registered in close to 50
countries worth just over $1 billion in what are known as certified
emission reductions.

A further $1.4 billion are in the pipeline and the CDM could, if fully
exploited, eventually trigger investment flows for some $100 billion from
North to South.

A recent survey of the CDM, published in the Year Book, indicates that
close to 30 per cent of such projects are currently aimed at tackling the
refrigerant by-product HFC-23 followed by:

* Reductions in the nitrous oxide gas adipic acid, 10 per cent
* Waste methane from landfills into electricity, 11 per cent
* Biomass fuels, 7 per cent
* Wind power, installation of combined gas turbines and hydro-power, 6 per
cent each
* Emissions reductions from oil-fields and coal mining, 4 per cent each.

The Year Book also chronicles the rise of voluntary emission reduction
markets such as the Chicago Climate Exchange and the Over the Counter
offsets.

The Chicago Exchange now has over 330 companies, cities, states and other
participants despite the decision of the United States not to ratify the
Kyoto Protocol. And while it is deemed a voluntary exchange, those involved
are required to sign legally-binding contracts.

Since 2003, the volume of carbon traded has risen from zero to around 20
million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2006. The Exchange is also
involved in a wider suite of offsets when compared with the formal
Kyoto-inspired markets.

For example, participants in the Chicago Exchange can invest in reducing
emissions from livestock and animal wastes including biogas; agricultural
soil carbon sequestration and grass planting; urban tree planting and
forest conservation projects.

The voluntary Over the Counter offsets market is also evolving after
suffering a measure of criticism and concern that some projects were
flawed, counter-productive or even environmentally and socially-damaging.

“Schemes are emerging to guarantee to purchasers that carbon offsets
represent genuine emission reductions, without harmful environmental side
effects”, says the Year Book.

The Voluntary Carbon Standard was introduced in November 2007 and is
endorsed by the International Organization for Standards under its ISO
14064 and ISO 14065 series.

The latest figures indicates that the total voluntary carbon market was, in
2006, worth around $90 million with most projects in North America and
dominated by forestry schemes, followed by Asia where the lion’s share of
projects are for renewable energies.

This compares with close to $30 billion from the formal Kyoto markets and
mechanisms in the same year.

Payments for Ecosystem Services:
The formal and voluntary carbon markets are triggering new market
mechanisms for including the carbon-removing value of forests alongside
other benefits such as water management, biodiversity conservation and the
preservation of traditional livelihoods.

Some countries and communities are already pursuing these multiple goals
under the voluntary markets by finding buyers interested in more than just
carbon.

The Year Book cites the case of the Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda and the
organization Bosque Sustentable of Mexico. In 2006, they completed a sale
of land to the United Nations Foundation which was keen to reduce its
carbon footprint via a project that will also alleviate poverty.

A similar sale is the final stages to the World Land Trust, a UK-based
organization who will be selling the Sierra Gorda Carbon and Environmental
Offsets to a range of European buyers.

These developments are also underlined by a project funded by the
Government of the Netherlands in Tanzania called Kyoto: Think Global, Act
Local.

The project has involved training people on hand-held Geographic
Information Systems in order to assist local forest communities estimate
the amount of carbon being sequestered by their trees.

Each village forest was found to be sequestering 1,300 tonnes of carbon per
year—equivalent to an income of $6,500 per village per year at the then
prevailing market price for carbon.

By bundling in the added value of water and biodiversity conservation, the
actual incomes could be even higher.

The chance to realize such incomes is becoming a growing possibility. Late
last year, the World Bank announced the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility
to conserve standing forests and to begin avoiding the estimated 20 per
cent of global greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation.

A further development emerged at the Bali Climate Convention meeting in
December 2007 when Norway announced $2.7 billion of funding for Reduced
Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).

Adapting Insurance to Vulnerability:
Creative market mechanisms are also emerging to try and deal with
adaptation to climate change.

Extreme weather events are on the rise and are likely to become more
prevalent in a climate constrained world. Yet many of those at risk have
little access to formal insurance markets.

The Year Book cites a new study by Munich Re, one of the world’s leading
re-insurance companies. This estimates that cover for catastrophic events
such as hurricanes and storm surges, is virtually non-existent for billions
of people in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean.

“Of the 2.5 billion people world-wide who have less than $2 a day at their
disposal, it has been estimated that only 10 million are able to purchase
insurance”, says the report.

Some developments are underway however, including micro-insurance. In
Africa, pilot projects that pay out to farmers when rainfall drops below a
key threshold, are being tested.

* For example, the UN’s World Food Programme has partnered with the
re-insurer AXA to develop weather derivatives that pay out to Ethiopian
farmers in the event of severe drought.

* Swiss Re, a member of the UNEP Finance Initiative, has launched a Climate
Adaptation Development Programme to provide financial protection to up to
400,000 people in 10 countries in Africa from drought.



The UNEP Year Book 2008 concludes that “for new developments to reach the
scale and scope that is needed, Governments must play a stronger
stimulation and facilitation role”.

Some of the measures that Governments might wish to consider include:

Subsidies:
* Removing fossil fuel subsidies could reduce C02 emissions by 5-6 per cent
annually. Currently, fossil fuel subsidies amount up to $200 billion a year
versus support for low-carbon technologies of an estimated $33 billion
annually.

Research and Development (R+D):
* Boosting research and development. The International Energy Agency
estimates that R+D for low-emission innovations such as renewables and
energy savings declined by 50 per cent between 1980 and 2004.

* In order to achieve a C02 stabilization target of 550 parts per million,
support for innovation needs to rise from just over $30 billion to $90
billion by 2015 and to $160 billion by 2025, according to some experts.

Energy Savings:
* Increase global targets for energy efficiency improvements to 2.5 per
cent annually.

* These should be supported by policies including stronger energy savings
building codes for new and existing structures; penalties or disincentives
for builders to choose the cheapest, least energy efficient designs,
materials and gadgets; policies that promote mass transit especially rail
and international minimum performance standards for industrial and
household appliances.

* Other measures include the promotion of utility pricing that favours
energy efficiency; promotes combined heat and power and improves energy
savings in existing power plants and electricity transmission
infrastructure.

Renewables:
* Policies that increase the uptake of renewables may include “feed-in
laws” that guarantee a fixed price for each unit of renewable electricity
generated; regulations that boost access to the grid; incentives for second
generation biofuels and ones that address other barriers including resource
mapping—UNEP/GEF’s Solar and Wind Energy Resource Assessment is a good
example of the latter.

* Government agencies and donors need to develop and deploy new forms of
“end-user” credit schemes to assist consumers to purchase climate
mitigation technologies and systems.

* New approaches are needed to assist small- to medium-sized enterprises
innovate including enterprise development services and seed capital.

* Attention needs to be paid to new financial and regulatory solutions that
address the lack of local currency financing in least developed
economies—this is effectively shutting out such economies from
low-C02-emitting infrastructure developments.

* Harnessing the “green procurement” potential of local authorities through
financial incentives that stimulate voluntary low-carbon investments.

Adaptation:
* Public investments are needed to mobilize finance for adaptation given
that market mechanisms are in their infancy.

* Other actions for adaptation include regulations to limit the
vulnerability of new investments and infrastructure such as bans on
building in flood-prone areas and new, labour-intensive programmes to
“climate proof” rural areas that improve resilience of local populations,
address poverty, boost incomes and increase the skills base.

——————-

Notes to Editors:
The 10th Special Session of UNEP’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial
Environment Forum will take place between 20 and 22 February in Monaco. See
 www.unep.org/gc/gcss-x/

The theme is Globalization and the Environment–Mobilizing Finance to Meet
the Climate Challenge.

The UNEP Year Book 2008 can be found at www.unep.org; it can be purchased
at Earthprint www.earthprint.com and is available in all six official UN
languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish)

This press release is also based on a UNEP report to ministers that can be
found under Official Documents; see
 www.unep.org/gc/gcss-x/info_docs….

The meeting was preceded on 19 February by the 9th Global Civil Society
Forum; see www.unep.org/civil_society/GCSF/i…

The Host Country Monaco’s web site is available at
 www.unep2008.gouv.mc/pnue/wwwnew….

—————-
Three press conferences are currently scheduled:

{But from www.SustainabiliTank.info experience, as UNEP is part of the UN they may not allow to the press conferences those that are not accredited journalists with the UN – you see – this is how the UN Department of Communications and Public Information (the UN DPI) works at counter-purpose to the top brass of the UN – something we were not able to shake off – and this being something that will have to be corrected if the UN wants to be a central stage on the global warming/climate change issue and obviously this comment applies also on other issues as well.}

20 February-Findings from the UNEP Year Book 2008 and findings from “Green
Jobs Initiative”.

21 February—Launch of a new Climate Neutrality Initiative involving
countries, corporations and cities

22 February—Launch of a new report on the “Threats Climate Change Pose to
the World’s Fisheries and Oceans”

Side events—Nine news-worthy and informative side-events are scheduled
Wednesday, 20 February
1- High-level Roundtable on Climate Change and Trade (World Trade
Organization and UNEP)
2- UNEP Scientific Initiatives: Atmospheric Brown Cloud and Agricultural
Assessment.
3- UNEP experience in designing financial mechanisms for climate change
mitigation.

Thursday, 21 February
1- Launch of the Global Strategy for Follow up to the Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment
2- Harnessing GEF catalytic financing for advancing global environmental
issues.
3- Supporting local authorities – combining the event “Financing for the
sustainable building sector” with “The UN, regions and local authorities: a
new alliance in response to climate change”

Friday 22 February
1- Green Jobs
2- Oceans, Coasts and Climate Change (with the UN Foundation)
3- Private–Public Bank Dialogue “UNEP Finance Initiative”.

——————–

For more information, please contact:   Nick Nuttall, UNEP Spokesperson and
Head of Media, on Mobile when traveling: +41-79-596-5737, Nairobi Phone:
+254-20-762-3084, Mobile in Kenya: +254-733-632755, Email:
 nick.nuttall at unep.org; and Robert Bisset, UNEP Spokesperson for Europe, on
tel: +33-6-2272-5842 or Email  robert.bisset at unep.fr

Mr. François Chantrait, Directeur. Centre de Presse, 10 Quai Antoine 1er,
98000 – Monaco, Phone: +377-98-98-22-08, Email:  pnue2008.press at gouv.mc

***********************************
Jim Sniffen
Information Officer
UN Environment Programme
New York
tel: +1-212-963-8094/8210
 info at nyo.unep.org
 www.nyo.unep.org
*********************************

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