Will 2020 World Economic Forum Deliver on Combating Climate Change?

The WEF’s annual Global Risks Report raises the alarm on increased extreme weather events, manmade environmental damage – including oil spills and contamination, major biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and failure of governments and businesses to mitigate and adapt to climate change. All resulting in loss of human and animal life, and major damage to infrastructure, with irreversible consequences for the environment.

Credit: Joe Brusky.

By Eco Matser
AMSTERDAM, Jan 22 2020 – For the first time, the world’s elites meeting this year at Davos have listed environmental issues as their top concerns about the next decade.

The WEF’s annual Global Risks Report raises the alarm on increased extreme weather events, manmade environmental damage – including oil spills and contamination, major biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse and failure of governments and businesses to mitigate and adapt to climate change. All resulting in loss of human and animal life, and major damage to infrastructure, with irreversible consequences for the environment.

“The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks,” said Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.

“The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks,”

Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum

Does this mean that after Davos 2020 businesses and governments are actually going tackle these realities seriously and with the necessary financial investments? Seeing is believing.

 

Fundamental change of systems needed

If businesses and governments are serious about combating climate change, they must increase investments in climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as in the larger development agenda (Agenda 2030). However, this alone will not be enough.

If businesses do not start fundamentally changing current financial systems, we risk gaining only short-term benefits instead of addressing the real root causes.

The current world economy still relies on fossil fuels and energy-intensive production systems. And the fossil fuel industry continues to receive large subsidies from governments and investment banks. Although investment in renewable energy is on the rise, as long as fossil fuels are subsidized we will not make a shift towards zero-carbon economies.

Many argue that not investing in fossil fuels hinders the development of low-income countries by denying them access to the same economic opportunities as high-income countries.

However, this just masks a lack of will on the part of the world’s business elites who have the power and finances to pioneer a true transition. They are ignoring the fact that the economics of renewable energy have changed and there are many ways for low-income countries to leapfrog fossil fuels.

To succeed, the governments and companies at Davos should do two things:

  1. Apply an integrated approach to mitigation, adaptation and development.
  2. Ensure an inclusive process and equal access to benefits of climate change measures.

 

An integrated approach

Mitigation, adaptation and development should not be three separate work streams. As shown in this article, effective climate action requires coherence between measures. Take investing in renewable energy. It directly reduces the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

But when used to provide energy access to the most vulnerable, it also brings communities social and economic benefits that increase their resilience to climate change.

For example, access to energy provides services for small-scale farmers or community enterprises, like solar powered agricultural irrigation systems, or food processing and storage. This in turn increases their general economic and climate resilience.

Another example is access to clean cooking solutions instead of burning wood. This not only reduces air pollution and deforestation, but also improves women and children’s health and frees up time for studying or income-producing activities. This in turn strengthens their position in society.

 

Inclusive process and equal access

On the one hand, we must invest vast resources to mitigate and adapt to global climate change; on the other, we need to tackle the deep injustices that lie at the heart of the climate crisis. The challenge is therefore to ensure a just transition in which all communities have equal access to the benefits of measures taken to tackle climate change.

Ironically, developing countries bear the brunt of the effects of climate change created by 150 years of unfettered industrial and agricultural development in the West. So we, in the West, have a moral obligation to help finance an inclusive climate transition and achieve the SDG development agenda.

 

A truly just transition

A truly just transition means including those who are generally left out of the decision-making processes: women, youth, and local or rural (indigenous) communities. So give back power to local communities and offer opportunities for collaborative decision-making.

Access to information, public participation and direct involvement of local communities are key to foster transformative societal change. But failure to act on the climate crisis in an inclusive, participatory manner will certainly fuel even greater distrust of political elites and representative democracy.

So, as governments and businesses gather in Davos, we urge them to listen to the words of Borge Brende when he says world leaders must reinvigorate the system of cooperation and focus on long-term benefits.

Only when they start investing substantially in tackling root causes and transforming systems in an integrated and inclusive way, will putting climate change at the top of the WEF’s agenda really mean something. Hivos will follow the conversations with interest and believe when we see.

 

This opinion piece was originally published here

UN Chief & Staff Union Predict Another Cash Crisis in 2020—if Member States Don’t Pay Up

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 22 2020 – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declared last week that the United Nations just “managed to survive its deepest financial crisis in a decade.”

But if countries continue to default on their assessed contributions to the world body – as 47 countries did in 2019 — the UN may be heading for another liquidity crisis in 2020, he warned.

“Unless all member states pay their assessed contributions on time and in full”, Guterres declared, “we risk receiving insufficient funds to implement the entire programme of work and the full budget approved for 2020.”

That budget, voted by the 193-member General Assembly last month, was $3.1 billion for 2020: an increase of approximately $8 million on what was initially requested by Guterres.

And it also marks the first time since 1973 that the UN is adopting an annual budget instead of a two-year one.

UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on January 10 the United Nations closed out 2019 with 146 out of 193 member states having paid their dues in full for the last year’s budget.

Asked how another cash crunch was expected to impact on UN staffers in 2020, Patricia Nemeth, President of the United Nations Staff Union (UNSC) told IPS the General Assembly approving the budget– and individual countries paying their dues on time– are two different issues.

If member states don’t pay their contributions on time, then there could indeed be another cash crisis with repercussions for UN staff — both at UN headquarters and in overseas postings, she said.

“It’s not just about salaries; even the prospect of a repeat of last year’s liquidity crisis is disruptive to our daily work as UN staff, as we are unable to plan in advance so as to deliver our mandate in the most efficient and cost-effective manner”, said Nemeth, who is also Vice President for Conditions of Service at the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA).

Currently, the total membership of the UN staff union in New York is approximately 6,400 but overall it is close to 20,000 (representing UNHQs NY staff, locally recruited staff in overseas peacekeeping missions and some of the departments that are governed by the Secretariat but their offices based outside of New York ie.United Nations Information Centres (UNIC)

Credit: United Nations

Addressing the Group of 77 developing countries last week, Guterres said: “I will continue to manage our cash situation carefully, and I count on your continued support to help us avoid a deeper crisis. To this end, I hope that we could find more sustainable solutions to our cash problems.”

Over the years, he pointed out, “we have spent our budgets on the assumption that we should receive sufficient cash at the start of each year to execute the entire budget smoothly during the year.”

“In reality, we receive nearly half in the first three months but almost a quarter comes only at the very end of the year, leaving a very poor liquidity situation especially from July to October.”

“We could manage in the cash-strapped months if we had sufficient liquidity reserves and more flexibility in managing our resources as a pool. But our regular budget liquidity reserves are insufficient and structural impediments prevent us from minimizing the impact across programmes,” Guterres said.

He also said the UN’s programme implementation is now increasingly being driven by the availability of cash, “which is entirely against the way we should be working.”

Asked if the UN is in the process of eliminating short term and consultancy contracts –and whether teleconferencing has replaced overseas assignments– Nemeth said the UN does not eliminate temporary contracts, which are a regular component of the hiring structure.

“While the Staff Union will always advocate for job security, we do understand that the UN sometimes needs to make short-term hires to cover specific needs.”

However, she said, all staff working for the UN should be full-fledged employees, with a contract that guarantees the backing, resources and independence required to perform their tasks exclusively in the interest of the Organization and its mandates.

As for consultancy contracts, she said, “we welcome the General Assembly’s instruction ‘that the Organization should use its in-house capacity to perform core activities or to fulfill functions that are recurrent over the long term’”.

On teleconferencing, she said: “We cannot say that teleconferencing has replaced overseas travel, as UN staff are often posted in a country different from their own to perform specialized assignments”.

However, aside from their permanent assignments, colleagues make every effort to limit travel for meetings and discuss issues whenever possible via virtual technology.

“We are fully aware of the economic and environmental cost of our travel,” said Nemeth.

Asked if regular staffers are assured of permanent stay in New York or was it mandatory for them to serve in overseas posts, Nemeth said regular staff are not assured a permanent position in New York.

All international staff, she said, are encouraged to move geographically during their career.

“A new mobility policy is under development (under the umbrella of the staff-management committee working group) and we will have to see whether or not the proposal contains a mandatory requirement to move”.

She said the Staff Union in New York does not advocate for mandatory mobility, based on the results of a survey that was conducted in 2019 among New York staff.

Staff are very interested in a mobility scheme that is voluntarily in nature and that focuses on intra-departmental moves and/ or inter-agency mobility within the UN system, Nemeth declared.

On the UN’s proposed new locations, including Budapest, Nairobi, Montreal and Shenzen, Nemeth said: “There is no decision by the Member States, as of today, concerning the Global Service Delivery Model or any potential new offices”.

This will be discussed at the first resumed session of the General Assembly in the spring.

“We are following the matter closely, as it could affect the jobs of colleagues who are locally hired in the existing headquarter locations.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org