Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Financing for Development (FfD) or How are we going to pay for the the SDGs

As many of you know I've been pushing the Sustainable Development Finance conversation in the FfD process. With the two co-facilitators working hard to get input into the process these additional informal conversations on aspects of the FfD agenda which is described as:

The six chapters of the Monterrey Consensus focus on mobilizing financing for development
from all available sources, with chapters on domestic (public and private) financial
resources, international private flows and international financial and technical cooperation
(international public flows), as well as on the importance of the enabling domestic and
international environment for development, including in chapters on trade, external debt
and systemic issues.

A holistic financing framework for sustainable development will need to build on these
chapters and address additional challenges. Specifically, it will need to:

  • be mindful of changes and continuities in the financing landscape 
  • extend the focus to encompass a universal agenda, incorporating global sustainable development considerations into the agenda - including climate finance and combatting climate change 
  • take into account the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development in an integrated manner, mindful of the proposal for sustainable development goals 
  • consider financing and other means of implementation in a holistic way 
  • address the importance of intermediary institutions and financial instruments to address the question of how to design policies to incentivize the flow of financing from all sources towards global goals
  • consider the follow-up process

The Proposed road map before the 1st prepcom


Mobilisation and effective use of resources (3,5 days)

The global context (0.5 days) -10 November 2014,3-6 pm

The global context, financing needs and major trends in financing across the threedimensions of sustainable development

Domestic public finance (1 day) -11 November 2014
  • Raising domestic public resources:
  • policy reforms
  • taxation and capacity development for effective collection
  • sustainable debt financing and international cooperation for debt resolution
  • Domestic public finance: mainstreaming sustainable development criteria
  • Fighting illicit flows
International public finance (1 day) -12 November 2014
  • Increasing international public finance: aid commitments
  • International public finance, including environmental financing/climate finance
  • South-South and triangular cooperation
  • Innovative mechanisms of financing
Private finance (domestic and international) and blended finance (1 day) -13 November 2014
  • Inclusive finance, including SME financing
  • Long-term investment
  • International capital flows
  • Sustainable finance (EESG considerations)
  • Local capital market development
  • Public-private partnership (PPPs)
  • Remittances and private development assistance
Enabling environment and systemic issues (3 days)

Enabling and conducive policy environment (1 day) - 9 December 2014
  • International monetary and financial system and financial market stability
  • Balancing access to credit with stability in regulatory regimes
  • International tax cooperation
  • Debt crisis prevention and resolution
  • Key policy reforms to implement individual SDGs
Trade, technology and capacity building (1 day) -10 December 2014

  • Trade reforms and facilitation
  • Trade and investment regimes for sustainable development
  • Fostering science, technology and innovation for sustainable development
  • Capacity building

Governance (1 day) -11 December 2014

  • Enabling and conducive national governance, including capacity development, transparent
  • and accountable institutions
  • Enabling and conducive international governance, including global economic governance,
  • transparent and accountable institutions
  • Use of data

Learning from partnerships and follow-up process (1 day) - 12 December 2014 or 14 January
2015

  • Learning from sector partnerships and funds (e.g. global funds, partnerships)
  • Interplay of financing sources at the national level and national sustainable development
  • financing strategies
  • Strengthening the FfD follow-up process

Afterward
So many of us have focused on the SDGs that we have not prepared proper input to the FfD ;rocess. It must not become just a Monterrey + just like the SDGs didnt become a MDG+ process this requires new thinking, new ideas and it needs them tomorrow if not yesterday. I am sure the development NGOs will contribute to the traditional development finance very well but they are not on top of or advocating for sustainable development finance in most cases. This needs new players and it needs them as Ive said yesterday.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Professor Anthony Kelly Our VC

I just opened Surrey Forever my Universities Alumni newsletter to see the sad news that Professor Anthony Kelly 'our Vice Chancellor' of Surrey University had died.



As an undergraduate at Surrey University I had the pleasure of seeing and experiencing our VC, as he liked to be called, during a difficult time when the government was  increasing tuition fees for overseas students and self financing students.

In March 1977 like other universities across the country we prepared to go into occupation over the tuition fees increase which would come in in September. I was elected to be Press Officer for the occupation which had been endorsed nearly unanimously at a meeting of over 1500 students. We then marched on the University Senate building where the University Senate was actually meeting about the same issue under its very able Vice Chancellor Tony Kelly.

A small group of us went into the Senate meeting room and informed those present very politely that we were now occupying the building and would not be leaving until the university refused to increase the fees for our fellow students. Some of the Senators were clearly unhappy one called us fascist but was calmed down by Professor Otto Pick.

Prof Pick was one of the stars of the university and a former adviser to Teddy Kennedy. He had been one of over of nearly 700 Jewish children in Prague who the escaped the Nazis helped by a British diplomat Nicholas Winton. Winton organized a total of eight locomotives to transport the children from certain death in Prague to London.

Prof Pick was someone you would miss your own lectures to listen to. He would talk about global politics as he had met and was friends with many of key players. Listening to him it seemed for those moments that you were transported to be an observer of global decisions. During the occupation he also led the support for the students among the Senators appointed by our VC and we would meet with him regularly through the two weeks of the occupation.

The building was then evacuated and the students took control. We updated National Union of Students (NUS) of the state of the occupation and NUS national officer David Aaronovitch was assigned to work with us on what needed to be done during the occupation. One of our concerns was to ensure that there were no reprisals to the leaders of the occupation by the University. He came down to the University twice during the occupation to show NUS support and gave us excellent advice which was very much appreciated.

We had a rota for students to sleep on the Senate floor which we had also turned into an evening folk club venue. The most fun was that we also had turned the Vice Chancellors suite into the union coffee bar. He thought this was very funny and came in occasionally to get a coffee.We were SUPER careful about how we treated his office.

Although we had gone in with near full support there were clearly some against the occupation. We decided to put the Greek students in charge of security both to ensure our safety but also to ensure no one took anything that didn’t belong to them. I was very happy that we had done this as at the end of the first week the Rugby Club having had some drinks thought they would go over and stop the occupation. They never stood a chance! Oh I may have forgotten to say the reason why we choose the Greek students. This is because they had come to the university after completing their national service. There were a few bloody noises but none of them were students in the occupation. The Rugby Club never returned.

After two weeks in occupation the University made an offer of 50,000 UK pounds for a hardship fund to help any student in the coming year already studying to be able to continue their studies. Another General Meeting was called this time nearly 2000 turned up and we came out of occupation again nearly unanimously. Only one other University offered anything and that was Bradford who then changed their minds when the students had gone for the Easter break. Behind the scene it was our VC who was arguing with the government in support of not increasing fees for overseas and self financing students. It was our VC who somehow found in a difficult financial time money to support those who could not afford the increases. It was OUR VC who worked with the students and supported the cause because he cared about about us. Tony Kelly you wll be remembered by many of us. 

Thank you for being OUR VC.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Will we be asked to pay the cost of stranded oil assets in the climate change process?

It has been an interesting six weeks on the issue of climate finance.

The most recent prophetic announcement was around the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit. It is becoming clearer daily that climate change WILL pose a risk to the value of present investments. There were 350global institutional investors representing around $24 trillion in assets calling for government leaders across the globe to put a price on carbon, to help redirect investment on the scale required to combat climate change.

Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) disinvestment from fossil fuels

For those who did not read the finance pages, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a charitable foundation set up in 1940, has been working from 2010 to align its endowment investments to be consistent with the foundations Sustainable Development program goals. 

RBF announced in September:
“Given the RBF’s deep commitment to combating climate change, the Fund is now committing to a two-step process to address its desire to divest from investments in fossil fuels. Our immediate focus will be on coal and tar sands, two of the most intensive sources of carbon emissions. We are working to eliminate the Fund’s exposure to these energy sources as quickly as possible. Given the structure of some commingled investment funds and investments in highly diversified energy companies, we recognize there may continue to be minimal investments in our portfolio in those energy sectors, but we are committed to reducing our exposure to coal and tar sands to less than one percent of the total portfolio by the end of 2014. As we take the steps to divest from coal and tar sands investments, we are also undertaking a comprehensive analysis of our exposure to any remaining fossil fuel investments and will work with the RBF Investment Committee and board of trustees to determine an appropriate strategy for further divestment over the next few years.”

This is amazing considering that Rockefeller's made their fortune from oil (Standard Oil), their heirs are now at the forefront of the disinvestment movement in fossil fuels. As Stephan Heintz, president of RBF, said:
“John D Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum. We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.

Universities

Glasgow has become the first university in Europe to announce they are going to dis-invest their $24 million from fossil fuels. Stanford has started the process of cutting their ties with fossil fuel investments announcing they would be dropping their coal holdings which are around $18 billion. Yale [LINK] has said they will look at if renewable energy investment might offer a better long term return.

Lord Robert May, former chief scientific adviser to the government has joined 67 academics asking Oxford University  to join the disinvestment campaign

Churches

The World Council of Churches , which represents some 590 million people in 150 countries has also announced that it is pulling its investments from fossil fuels. The Church of Sweden  has already removed its investment from fossil fuels the last being its investment in natural gas companies which happened in September.

Local Government

There are over 30 cities have also chosen to divest from fossil fuels these include Santa Monica, San Francisco and Seattle. "Divestment is just one of the steps we can take to address the climate crisis," the Seattle mayor, Mike McGinn,

In the UK the first city council to join the fossil fuel disinvestment was Oxford.

The Avengers

Motherboard’s Brian Merchant, interviewed Mark Ruffalo (Hulk) where he outlined his plans to personally divest from fossil fuels. “I’m in the process of divesting. I took the pledge,” he said, “between 3-5 years, to completely divest in any fossil fuels or anything climate change-related and put it into renewable or clean tech.”

He went on to say he was going to ask THE AVENGERS to join the disinvestment campaign:
“And that’s a pledge that I’m making here today to you. I’m asking all of my friends to do it. I’m going to ask Leo [DiCaprio], I’m going to ask all the Avengers, I’m going to ask Robert, I’m going to do the ‘put your money where your mouth is’ challenge. And it’s going to be: divest and invest.”
How much

The Carbon Tracker Initiative’s (CTI) latest study estimated that the world’s biggest 20 oil projects are putting $91 billion of investors’ money at risk.Andrew Grant, CTI analyst, commented: 
"This analysis demonstrates the worsening cost environment in the oil industry, and the extent to which producers are chasing volume at the expense of returns.
Investors will ask whether it is prudent for oil companies to bet on ever higher oil prices when they could be returning cash to shareholders.”
Bank of England

This then brings me to the recent announcement by Mark Carney the Governor of the Bank of England (the equivalent to Janet_Yellen the Chair of the Governors of the Federal Reserve System). At a World Bank seminar recently he is reported as saying Carney told a World Bank seminar that the “vast majority of reserves are unburnable” that is if the world wants the global temperature rises are to be limited to below 2C.

The seminar was one on the idea that companies should be reporting not only statutory financial information but also have integrated reporting on their environment social and governance. He went on to say:

With the right information [for example, on how a company’s business interacts with environmental needs], all groups can express their view, and influence the allocation of capital and credit today,”
The issue of integrated reporting was one raise by AVIVA and supported by a coalition of NGOS including Stakeholder Forum for Rio+20 and now for the SDG Summit. The value of integrated reporting, Carney argued, was to help investors think about “not just things that can be managed in the short term” but also “costs companies are likely to be exposed to as policy responds to challenges” like climate change.

Credit Rating Agencies, Sovereign Wealth Funds and Stranded Assets

One of the top Credit Rating Agencies Standard & Poor’s has now started publishing reports which assess the investment relevance of climate change for government and corporate bonds (S&P 2014).

The Norwegian Parliament in April it was agreed that Norway would have a review of whether it should divest the funds from its Sovereign Wealth Fund out of fossil fuel. Its SWF is enormous $840 billion and it owns 1% of all publicly listed companies investing in over 8000 companies worldwide.  Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg said:
 "This government takes environmental problems very seriously but we need to have a good look at how to address through positive investments in renewable energy in sustainable companies overseas through the fund.’
The question then is if the movement to dis-invest from fossil fuel companies continues will share price drop for companies that have stranded assets on their balance sheets? If they don’t start to shift into other areas and show leadership could they fold? If so who picks up the cost? Is it us like we did with the Banks? These are key questions we need urgent new discussion on as we transition away from fossil fuels.

A final thought

For Republicans from HENRY M. PAULSON Jr.( Secretary of the Treasury under President Bush)
"The nature of a crisis is its unpredictability. And as we all witnessed during the financial crisis, a  chain reaction of cascading failures ensued from one intertwined part of the system to the next.  It’s easy to see a single part in motion. It’s not so easy to calculate the resulting domino effect.  That sort of contagion nearly took down the global financial system.
We need to act now, even though there is much disagreement, including from members of my own Republican Party, on how to address this issue (climate change) while remaining economically competitive. They’re right to consider the economic implications. But we must not lose sight of the profound economic risks of doing nothing. Republicans must not shrink from this issue. Risk   management is a conservative principle, as is preserving our natural environment for future generations. We are, after all, the party of Teddy Roosevelt.”




Monday, October 13, 2014

SDGs the Way Forward

2015 will be here very soon

We have come a long way from the meeting in Solo in July, 2011 when Paula Caballero Gomez from Colombia floated the idea of Sustainable Development Goals as the replacement for the MDGs in 2015 with the support of the governments of Guatemala and Peru.

For those who have been part of the discussion, the last 3 and half years shows how difficult it can be to develop policy at the intergovernmental level. It also has been one of the most open and transparent processes that I have seen while working at this level for 25 years.

The first few months saw the UN DPI NGO Conference in September 2011 put forward the first suggestions of goals and targets. This was followed by the government retreat in Colombia in November 2011. This was the first time the governments discussed the idea and it was interesting to see the initial opposition from a number of the development Ministries’ donor countries to the idea of anything other than an MDG+ agenda. One felt you could add a couple of SD Targets here and there and it would be fine. This was a position often echoed by a number of northern development NGOs in the beginning.

The Sustainable Development Goals Open Working Group (SDG OWG) process was exhausting but also fascinating. At the end, there were 17 goals and 169 targets. Following the report, the UN GA resolution on the 10th of September made the OWG report on SDGs “the main basis for integrating Sustainable Development Goals into the post-2015 development agenda.” The vast majority of governments were happy with this position. This includes key European countries such as Germany and France but a few countries the UK, US, Canada and possibly a couple of other northern countries wanted a smaller number. The UK had already been lobbying against the EU position informally in the run up and at Rio+20 it had lost a lot of respect with governments, particularly within the EU.

Why 17 and not 10-12?

The main argument put forward is that the number is too many to explain to the general public. I’ve expressed this before and I’ll do it again here. The MDGs dealt with ONLY developing countries, and only development issues. The SDGs deal with ALL countries and sustainable development. I would also add to this that what we are looking for is a transformational agenda NOT an MDG+ development agenda. This is OUR chance to realize the hope of the first Rio conference in 1992 and build a more robust sustainable development blueprint for the 21st century for EVERYBODY. Finally, the reality is that some goals and targets will be more relevant to certain countries than others and this enables a constructive national dialogue and then an ownership of what needs to be done by national stakeholders.

The Synthesis Report and what changes can be made on the SDG side?

I do believe that the opportunity given to governments and all of us to reflect on the outcome document from the SDG OWG before the negotiations start was a great decision. If I was writing the SG’s report the section on the SDGs, I would respect the work undertaken by the governments in the SDG OWG (70 countries) and the UNGA resolution leaves what the countries had agreed along except in the following four areas:

1.       If there is a missing target that should be included but was missed – an example of this would be antibiotic resistance, which came to the SDG OWG late and the report of WHO came out a week after the SDG OWG last meeting. Here WHO is estimating deaths at around 25 million, similar to HIV/AIDs. It also will have a huge impact on food security as often animals kept in close proximity to each other are pumped full of antibiotics and they will become anti-biotic resistant and so farming practices will have to change drastically in the coming 15 years. Sweden raised this issue but only a few countries took it up.

2.       Where an agreement in other UN forum (particularly legally binding ones) exceeds the target in the SDG OWG. As the process was negotiated, there may be a few areas at the end where the advice from other UN bodies wasn’t integrated into the final document. It would be important to suggest changes here because those more progressive targets would have been negotiated in an area where experts from that area negotiated them.

3.       The integration targets – As the move to reduce the number of targets happened, we lost a number of ‘Nexus’ type targets. These will be critical to ensure that the implementation is done cross-sectorially.

4.       Clustering the Goals was an issue raised in the SDG OWG and I think that might still be a good idea – it might also allow for a meta-goal in social, environmental, economic and governance.

Means of Implementation

Another question which needs some work within G77 is whether ‘Means of Implementation’ are best suited in a goal and target approach.

In a previous blog I suggested that it might be worth going back to the 2002 South Africa non-paper. This approached the delivery of goals and targets with policy recommendations under each goal area. I tend to think that this would allow clearer actions and not then becoming a limiting issue. This was the suggested SA approach in 2002:
a.       proposed targets and timeframes
b.      proposed actions (including capacity building, education and technology facilitation)
c.       resources
d.      institutional mechanisms
e.      co-ordination
f.        monitoring
g.       stakeholder involvement
h.      implementation plan sustainability

To read the SA non paper go here.

This would also reduce the number of targets by around 40 as these would become part of policy guidance. The approach to MOI might be best if the MOI is relevant to a particular goal. There are more general MOI funding issues around the delivery of the goals and targets as a whole but perhaps they are best dealt with in the ‘Financing for Development’ Conference.

Declaration

One of the major outcomes from the 2015 process will be a Declaration by Heads of State – this clearly will need to reflect what is in the SDGs, but what else should it do? This is the 70th anniversary year of the UN and so the Declaration should also embrace a recognition of where we have come from but also what needs to be done in the future. It should inspire this generation to give its commitment to delivering the goals but also perhaps this is where the issues of peace and security should be found. After all, the Rio Declaration states that:
“Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect
international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary.” (Principle 24)

Perhaps the starting point for such a Declaration should be the Preamble to Agenda 21 which stated:

“1.1. Humanity stands at a defining moment in history. We are confronted with a perpetuation of disparities between and within nations, a worsening of poverty, hunger, ill health and illiteracy, and the continuing deterioration of the ecosystems on which we depend for our well-being. However, integration of environment and development concerns and greater attention to them will lead to the fulfilment of basic needs, improved living standards for all, better protected and managed ecosystems and a safer, more prosperous future. No nation can achieve this on its own; but together we can - in a global partnership for sustainable development.”

The words are as true today as they were in 1992, unfortunately the lack of delivery of Agenda 21 has made those challenges in many areas even starker.




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Commonwealth Heads of Government on the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda -

Statement of Commonwealth Heads of Government on the United Nations Post-2015 Development Agenda

  1. We, Leaders of the Commonwealth, representing over 2 billion people and over one quarter of the United Nations membership in our 53 member states, with extensive diversity in our growth and development, present the following shared views on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

  2. Our perspectives on the Post-2015 Development Agenda are based on our shared values and principles as expressed in the Commonwealth Charter as well as our individual experiences. We welcome the inclusive inter-governmental process in the United Nations to achieve a concise, compelling, ambitious and balanced development agenda beyond 2015, building on and reinforcing existing agreements, and recognising the many outcomes that may feed in to the intergovernmental process.

  3. We welcome the contributions made by the UN Secretary-General’s High Level Panel of Eminent Persons, the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, the Intergovernmental Committee of Experts on Sustainable Development Financing and the UN Conference on Sustainable Development.

  4. We draw attention to, and endorse, the specific work of specialised Commonwealth institutions and of our ministerial groupings on Post-2015, including: Ministers of Education, Women’s Affairs, Health, Youth Affairs, Environment, Finance, Law, and Small States.

  5. We recognise poverty eradication as the overarching focus of the Post 2015 Development Agenda and reaffirm our commitment to sustainable development. The new agenda must tackle the causes of poverty, exclusion and inequality. We acknowledge the importance of sustainable development for all individuals, and have committed ourselves to eliminate disparities and make growth more inclusive for all, including women and girls, youth, vulnerable groups and people with disabilities.

  6. The Post-2015 Development Agenda should address the importance of peaceful and stable societies, and effective and accountable institutions at all levels, for poverty eradication and sustainable development.

  7. We call for a strong and inclusive global partnership to support the means of implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which optimises the mobilisation of all forms of development finance and ensures their effective use for sustainable development. We draw particular attention to the importance of the Post-2015 Development Agenda being supported by international structures and collaboration that promote, inter alia: a rules-based, transparent, free and fair multilateral trading system that enhances our trade liberalisation and developmental objectives, while taking into account the vulnerabilities and special requirements of Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and fragile states; a stable and effective global financial system that encourages long-term investment; and access to science, technology, innovation, and development data.

  8. We recognise the importance of the private sector in creating jobs and making the investments necessary for balanced, sustainable, inclusive and equitable growth with full and productive employment.

  9. We will continue to work towards the successful conclusion of the UN process in 2015, and offer our full support for implementation of decisions made. As Leaders of the Commonwealth, we encourage others to approach the forthcoming inter-governmental negotiations in an ambitious and collaborative spirit to achieve a concise, compelling and balanced Post-2015 Development Agenda.

- See more here

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Nexus Conference 2015 -Water-Energy-Food-Climate open for Abstracts


Following the success of the 2014 Nexus Conference a 2015 one will be held from the 15th to the 17th of March in Chapel Hill North Carolina.

The 2015 Nexus web site is up at  and the areas for the 2015 conference abstracts have been agreed and they are: 
  • Sustainable and Resilient Development at a Local Level
  • Transboundary, National and Local Nexus Governance
  • Corporate Stewardship of the Nexus
  • Financing in a Nexus World
  • Sustainable Agriculture
  • Water Stress, Vulnerability, and Health
  • Managing Resources: Optimizing Co-Demands
You have until the 31st of October to submit 

The Nexus 2015 conference will again have an opportunity to input to the Sustainable Development Goals process and will bring together in March governments, intergovernmental organizations, academics, local government, the private sector, NGOs and other stakeholders.

The output from the 2014 conference were:

  • The development of teaching materials on the Nexus
Joining the advisory board for the 2015 conference are:

Ashok Khosla (Development Alternatives) former President of IUCN


Jimena Leiva Roesch  (Guatemala Mission to the United Nations)

Mohamed Khalil (Counsellor Egypt Permanent Mission to the United Nations) 


Alexander Müller (IASS Potsdam) former UN Assistant Director General FAO

Farrukh Khan (Head of Climate Finance Executive Office of the UN Secretary General) former Counsellor Pakistan Permanent Mission to United Nations


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

An interview with Felix Dodds by Maria Bolvevich for Green Earth Citizen


An interview with Felix Dodds
by Maria Bolevich for Green Earth Citizen

Our last post was about Felix Dodds, now we have the honor to present you our interview.  Felix Dodds is a fellow at the Global Research Institute at University of North Carolina and an Associate fellow at the Tellus Institute he was until recently the Executive Director of Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future (1992-2012). He played a significant role in the Rio+20 Conference and has been active at the UN since 1990 attending  key meetings on sustainable development.
 Since 1985 to 1987, you were the chair of the UK LIBERAL YOUTH WING PARTIES. How much political experience has helped you and are today politicians sufficiently interested for the environmental protection?
What being active in a political party did was help me understand the way politicians act and the way policy is developed and the role the civil servants have in it. Most NGOs do not and that puts them at a huge disadvantage when dealing with the political process. As far as politicians interest in the environment is concerned it depends some come to the issue through an understanding of the impacts policies are having on their community, their country the world others come from a religious values perspective that we are custodians of the planet for God and then others through an interest in the issues themselves. Mrs. Thatcher is a classic example of that she was a scientist and so when Joe Farmer of the British Antarctic Survey found the hole in the ozone layer in 1982 she understood enough of the science to realize that urgent action was needed and pushed other government leaders to ratify the Montreal protocol and to set an early date for the banning of ozone depleting chemicals completely. I myself got involved in environmental issues because I lost a vote so we have our own strange paths.
You have been active in the UN since 1990; you attended the World Summit of Rio Earth Summit, Habitat II, Rio+5, Beijing+5, Copenhagen +5, World Summit of Sustainable Development, and Rio+ 20. What can we learn from the differences between countries and their representatives on the summits and their relation to sustainable development? Which the conference was the biggest challenge for you and why?
Really two of them WSSD was a huge challenge because after enormous preparations the impact of 9/11 was huge on reducing what the summit could achieve and working in that environment was very tough. The other was Rio+20 because as far as globally environment and sustainable development was dead by 2006 when the SA president Mbeki called it out and said the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation was dead and it was president Lula of Brazil who called for a new summit in 2012. I and Stakeholder Forum worked tirelessly to persuade the Europeans and US to support a new Summit and that included going round capitals meeting civil servants, Ministers and stakeholders to get them online.
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Since 1972 till now what was the best thing we done for our planet Earth? What if the World Conference has never held, whether the environment would have been now in the worse condition and why despite all the laws, goals, projects the future does not look so great with all these predictions?
Without the setting up of UNEP by the Stockholm Conference much of the international law on environment probably wouldn’t exist. One of the byproducts of Stockholm was the monitories on whaling which would not have happened without Stockholm and the leadership of Maurice Strong. Without Rio 1992 we wouldn’t have had the setting up of ICLEI or WBCSD which have played a critical role in advocating and producing toolkits for local government and industry. Without the Millennium Summit we wouldn’t have had the MDGs and a doubling of aid to help deliver them, Without Johannesburg Kyoto probably would not have come into effect it focus the media on persuading the remaining countries to ratify. Without RiO+20 we wouldn’t have had the SDGs. Colombia and Guatemala put them on the table in 2011 and the development ministries and many of the big development NGOs fought against them as they just wanted a new version of the MDGs not these ‘sustainable development goals’ which would apply to ALL countries.
What do you think about New World Order?
If you mean the idea that there are people conspiring to get their way of course that’s true. I myself work with friends to get what I think would be good policies to make the planet sustainable. The changes we would like to see will have an impact on the profits of certain companies some of which over time will have to adapt or go under. That causes them to work against the changes that I would want. I’m putting this in the context of me but its true for any one working for change or to stop change you are always looking for allies to support your causes. Of course the powers that we are up against are financially strong and that makes it more difficult. We have on our side science and in the end the combination of good science and good people will I believe win the day.
Is it the CDM (Clean Development Mechanismeffective?
It clearly has had its problems but this has been because of the low price of carbon and the failure of governments to guarantee its existence into the future. Until that is resolved I don’t believe it will deliver what it should do.
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Are the anticipatory measures prevailed over the preventive and precautionary?
We seem to have difficulty in building effective precautionary systems and so until a system shows itself in need of reform we tend to leave it alone. This can have huge impacts for the future. I think the work of Johan Rockstrom   and the other 70 scientists in defining nine planetary boundaries will and should help ensure we can be more preventive and precautionary. Its clear much more is being said and done to build resilience in coastal communities to sea level rise as example. The science again will play a significant role in enabling politicians to take more difficult decisions.
Is it sustainable development possible with, for instance with genetically modified food and why the people must sign the petitions for food labeling, is it human right to know what they are eating?
I am a huge supporter of food labeling – I do think it’s our right to know what we are eating. I have also been a supporter of a monitorium on GMOs .What is needed in my view is an Intergovernmental panel on GMOs and the equivalent. Perhaps under the leadership of the UN Secretary Generals chief Scientist. It should work on the basis of the precautionary principle that it is up to the companies to show it does not do damage. We should not be their guinea pigs.
“States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary” is this possible in reality? How people in times of armed conflict can think about the environment?
I think it’s very very difficult if not impossible but if countries do intently do something that has environmental harm they should be held accountable if it causes death then the International Criminal Court should be used.
Are women sufficiently represented in science?
As a former science and mathematics teacher I would say not there needs to be much more done in the schools to engage women in science. I know I tried very hard to do that when I taught.
How much money is spent annually on the realization activities from Agenda 21?
There is no record. In Rio Maurice Strong estimated that there would need to be $625 billion spent and of that $125 billion would be from developed to developing countries. In 1992 that was only $60 billion to developing countries. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development monitored this in its first ten years. It was expected that the peace dividend from the break up of the former Soviet block would enable this to happen but two things stopped it. The first was a recession caused by the 1st Iraqi war and the second was much of the money went to stabilize many of the new democracies of the eastern block. This saw funding for development aid drop to $56 billion by 1997 and then only come back to $60 billion by 2002. In the last ten years aid has doubled but it has focused on the MDGs and on the aftermath of war as a result of 9/11
Will the MDGs be achieved by the certain deadline and how much it is difficult in this socio-economic situation to reach the goals?
The UN has a report out which indicates many will be realized but some ill not – one that will not will be the one on sanitation which was added by WSSD. These will then be part of the new targets agreed next year.
Acidification, overfishing, waste, endangered species …why the oceans are not sufficiently protected, and sometimes there is an impression that we deal it more with things which strikes us on the surface than for instance coral reefs?
Oceans are not protected enough because they are not under can mechanism that enables them to be protected. Beyond national jurisdictions is one of the major issues for the next ten years. As far as mining is concerned its like a wild west out there and so governments are under pressure by their companies not to set up a system to limit this. One of the positive aspects of drones and satellites is that we will be able very shortly to have a much clearer idea who is doing what. We need more marine parks agreed where fishing is illegal and we need proper action against fleets that take no notice. On acidification it’s an issue for the climate negotiations if we move away from fossil fuels that will have a huge impact in enabling the oceans to recover
You follow film festivals, what do you think about the movies relating to climate change, the end of the world…?
I think that documentaries on environmental issues are mostly a waste of time the same people watch them. What we need are movie blockbusters, TV shows that take environmental themes and weave them into the narrative. It’s difficult the challenge is to indicate the problem and be positive about the way out of it. In documentaries I never watch depressing end of the world ones. It’s counterproductive to inspiring change.
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Is Miguel Arias Cañete as the new energy and climate commissioner the right choice?
Well he is from Andalusia as someone who used to live in San Sebastian (Donestia) in The Basque Country we would always worry about those from Andalusia. But seriously some of the best environmental ministers have come from the right not the left. I am sure he will do his best to be successful in the brief which if you read the letter inviting him to be the Commissioner is very clear what is expected of him.
Year 2020, how do you see our world and how much your role will be helpful?
By 2020 we should be five years on to delivering the SDGs I would like to see annual debates in parliaments holding the executives accountable to what they agreed in 2015. I would hope by 2020 we have a climate agreement it’s clear that will not happen in Paris in 2015 and so we will have to wait for the 2016 elections in the US to hopefully return a US president and 60 members of the Senate who are prepared to ratify an agreement. The last environmental treaty the US ratified was the UNFCCC in 1993.
I am not sure what my role will be possibly that directing the Nexus conferences – Water-Food-Energy- Climate I will have helped ensure a more integrated approach to these issues which are so interlinked.

About Maria Bolevich

Maria Bolevich ( 25 years old) is a specialist of environmental protection and a journalist. She likes books, languages, journalism, green lifestyle. She lives in Croatia. Her favorite quote is " Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm"