environment

By Tomasz Telma, IFC

If you want to see how quickly the developing world is urbanising—and the problems that this creates—look no further than Istanbul.

In 1990, Turkey’s commercial capital was home to about 6.5m people. By 2014, that number had more than doubled to 16m, creating an urban crush that has sparked everything from blackouts to 2 am traffic jams.

But Istanbul is far from alone. Its struggles echo those of many cities in the developing world, where a massive urban migration has stretched local infrastructure to a breaking point, entrenching poverty and driving up greenhouse gas emissions. Read more

Smart investors are recognising that China intends to lead the US and other countries in the race to develop green technologies as part of its ambitious new strategy for economic growth.

China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, for the period from 2016 to 2020, is guided by five principles: innovation, coordination, greening, opening up and sharing. When Zhang Gaoli, vice-premier, described these principles this year to a group of overseas business and academic leaders at the China Development Forum, he spent longest on ‘greening’, providing a clear indication of the importance being placed on green development for China’s future growth. Read more

What once seemed impossible happened in Paris last December, when 195 nations agreed on a framework for maintaining the level of global warming at or below 2° Celsius. In Paris, CEOs from industries as far ranging as cement, transportation, energy and consumer goods manufacturing announced their own climate commitments to decrease their carbon footprints, adopt renewable energy and improve natural resource management.

Keeping the world on a low-carbon path, however, will not come cheap and is counted in the trillions of dollars. Just for having in place low-carbon, climate resilient infrastructure, an estimated $93tn in cumulative investments is needed globally from 2015 to 2030. Read more

By Dimitris Tsitsiragos, International Finance Corporation

Climate change is not just an environmental challenge— it is a fundamental threat to development in our lifetime. Without immediate action targeted at emissions reductions by the international community, climate change could result in an additional 100m people living in extreme poverty by 2030 and reverse many of the development gains of the last decade. A 2007 United Nations study projected adaptation finance needs for developing countries would start at $28bn annually by 2030.

The costs for this cannot be borne by the public sector alone. There is a key role for the private sector, including the financial industry, to play in the struggle for a greener future. In fact, the private sector is the largest source of climate finance, devoting $243bn in 2014 to climate-related investments, according to the Climate Policy Initiative’s Global Landscape of Climate Finance 2015. Read more

By Chandran Nair, Global Institute for Tomorrow

In April this year, Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, burned over 105 tonnes of elephant ivory to protest the continued poaching of elephants. The Associated Press quoted President Kenyatta as saying that “…for us ivory is worthless unless it is on our elephants.”

At the same time, he hosted the “Giants Club” Summit, a meeting of African leaders to bolster the protection of elephants. The ivory burn — the largest in history — is a reminder that conservation is not just the purview of activists in the West, but also something that is dear to the hearts of many governments and people in the developing world. It should also be noted that some African commentators have been critical of this action arguing that in the final analysis it still panders to Western arguments about how to put an end to poaching. Read more

There is no bigger or costlier mismatch between science and economics than on climate change. Scientists have for years seen environmental degradation and the resulting global warming as the biggest known threat to economic well-being. Yet economists have not integrated climate change and the environment in growth accounting that underpins welfare economics, nor recognized that the carbon intensity of economic activities is a roadblock to sustaining economic growth.

This neglect has grave consequences for sustaining prosperity, the agreements at the Paris climate summit notwithstanding. Indeed, progress will be severely compromised unless economists build in low-carbon measures in the policies and investments they routinely promote around the world. Even if belatedly, the economics profession must act. Read more

The devastating floods in India’s southern state of Chennai, and now yet another deadly typhoon (Melor) bringing massive flooding in central Philippines, point to a rising frequency of climate-related disasters. For an effective response to these increasingly costly events, we can no longer regard them as one-off acts of nature. They are part of an emerging pattern shaped by human activity, in two ways. Globally, climate change is making countries far more hazard-prone; locally, environmental destruction is adding to the fall out.

Rising population densities mean that more people are locating in flood-prone areas. Unregulated urbanisation and inadequate drainage and flood protection are exacerbating people’s vulnerability. Read more

When life is already a struggle, a sudden shock can have a devastating impact. Families and communities can find themselves pulled in a downward spiral from which it may be impossible to escape.

Storms, droughts and floods are often not the reason why millions in Africa and many other regions are in poverty. But it can be the final blow which kills off their opportunity to make a better life for their families. Read more

How times change. President Xi Jinping has just become the first Chinese president to attend a climate change conference. His presence in Paris could hardly have been more symbolic of the dramatic shift underway in China, under its New Normal economic policy. After all, it was only six years ago, at the Copenhagen Climate conference, that China’s then premier Wen Jiabao single-handedly wrecked any chance of agreement.

What has caused this dramatic policy turnaround in the world’s second largest economy? One factor is clearly Xi’s oft-stated belief that today’s levels of pollution – and of corruption – represent an existential threat to continued Communist Party rule. Read more

By Chandran Nair, Global Institute for Tomorrow

Last week, Jack Ma called for a new “e-WTO” with the aim of helping small businesses get on the Internet, as the best hope in the fight against poverty. This appeal came after Alibaba’s largest ever “Singles Day” a week earlier, with almost US$14.3bn of merchandise sold in 24 hours. Alibaba’s social media accounts even reported that Premier Li Keqiang called CEO Jack Ma to wish him a successful day. “Singles Day” is now the world’s largest shopping day, dwarfing even the United States’ “Black Friday.

These are the latest manifestations of a worrying obsession with e-commerce and the Internet in Asia’s largest economies. In March, Beijing announced its new “Internet Plus” plan to expand Internet connectivity. Premier Li, when describing it, brought up the “mobile Internet”, “cloud computing”, “big data”, “intelligent manufacturing” and the “Internet of Things,” in a manner similar to business leaders in America. Nor is this digital obsession restricted to China. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook’s headquarters received as much, if not more, media attention as his address on sustainable development to the United Nations days earlierRead more

When Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi (pictured) won the Nobel Peace Prize last month it was a moment of great pride for civil society in India, not least because of a recent face-off between the new government and NGOs, especially the environmental group Greenpeace.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power this year on a pledge to cut red tape and speed up decision making, winning favour with industrialists across the country. But many campaigners are more sceptical of the new pro-business administration. Read more

Remember that story back in June, when the Indian government blocked a couple of foreign sources of funding for Greenpeace India?

It looks like the courts may not let New Delhi withhold the international transfers. On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court ordered that the blocked funds should be shifted from accounts with the central bank to Greenpeace’s accounts and placed in a fixed deposit until October 10, when a final verdict will be announced. Read more

By Rajeev Mantri, Navam Capital

Energy and clean technology investing has proven to be disastrous for venture capitalists. Capital allocated to clean tech fell to less than half in 2013 from the $3.7 billion invested in 2012, and new clean tech-focused funds were able to raise less than $1 billion last year, compared to $4.5 billion raised in 2012.

High-profile flameouts like Solyndra, A123 Systems, Konarka, Miasole, Better Place and Fisker Automotive have, appropriately enough, made investors very wary. Billions of dollars of equity has evaporated. Successes, such as Tesla Motors and Nest Labs, have been extremely rare. Read more

By Guy Norton of bne in Zagreb

If there’s a subject guaranteed to provoke impassioned debate in Croatia, it’s golf. Millions of people around the world may regard the game as Scotland’s greatest gift to humanity after single-malt whisky, but in Croatia it’s more often seen as one of the darkest evils of global capitalism. Opponents of about 90 proposed golf course developments in the country are keen to characterise golf as the sport of choice for global property speculators willing to wreak long-term environmental damage on Croatia in pursuit of short-term profit. Read more

South Korea’s pride got a boost last year when it was chosen to host the UN’s Green Climate Fund, aimed at channeling billions of dollars to help developing countries mitigate the effects of climate change. But the challenges facing the fund loomed large on Wednesday at its star-studded launch in the new business zone of Songdo, near Seoul.

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By Brian Marrs and Agata Hinc

Can the European Union regain the global lead on climate policy? Yes, but not without natural gas. The EU’s credibility as an international leader on climate change hinges on successfully realising its grand visions of a renewables-centric society beyond coal. This vision is simply Euro-dreaming without natural gas, a critical fuel for challenging coal today and supporting renewables tomorrow. Those who are sceptical should just look across the Atlantic, where a natural gas boom has boosted the US economy, bypassed coal-fired generation, and allowed states like California to more cost-effectively assimilate renewables. Read more

Cut the coal, please

Krakow was known for its choking smog in Communist times, when Poland’s medieval capital was bathed in the corrosive stench being pumped out by the nearby Lenin Steelworks.

Fast forward a quarter of a century, and Krakow’s air is still polluted – although the culprit is no longer the steel mill (now owned by Arcelor Mittal) but instead the thousands of people who still heat their homes with coal. The result has been some of the worst air in a still-smoggy country where coal generates about 90 per cent of Poland’s electricity. However, the local government in Krakow is now moving to ban home heating with coal over the next five years. Read more

By Artur Gradziuk of the Polish Institute of International Affairs

Poland has a real image problem when it comes to climate change. Being on the defensive over more ambitious EU climate targets makes it hard for Warsaw to shift attention to aspects of its climate policy that it can be proud of.

One of these is decoupling. While Poland’s economic output doubled over the last 25 years, its greenhouse gas emissions did not increase. In fact,they shrank by more than 30 per cent. In theory, this kind of achievement should serve as an inspiration to other fast-developing countries. Read more

Britain: quite safe, actually

Monday’s storm in southern England may cost insurers around $500m, and the economic impact will be greater still. But for all the media’s headlines about killer storms and more chaos to come, London will be relatively untouched by the flux in weather for the near future.

In fact, London and Paris are the only cities facing a “low risk” from the impacts of climate change, according to a new report from Maplecroft, a risk consultancy. For cities at greater risk, look elsewhere. Read more

Dmitry Medvedev confirmed plans this week to shut down a Soviet-era paper mill on the shores of Lake Baikal that environmentalists say is polluting the world’s biggest reservoir of fresh water. But Russian Greens, who have been campaigning against the Baikalsk plant for more than two decades, are not ready to celebrate yet. They are not even sure that Russia’s prime minister means what he says. Read more