Today we’re sharing a Business Insider feature on how the Surui tribe is working with Google Earth to identify (and stop) deforestation in the Amazon. An excerpt:
“Over the last six years, Google Earth Outreach and Google Earth Engine — two initiatives founded and led by a computer scientist named Rebecca Moore — have helped the Surui create cultural maps and record instances of illegal logging on their land. Through Google Earth Engine, they built a real-time alerting system that will notify the tribe whenever suspicious images show up on Google Earth. They can then go investigate and take photos and videos to upload to Google Earth and use to provide as evidence to law enforcement.” Read the rest: http://www.businessinsider.com/rebecca-moore-google-earth-outreach-and-engine-2014-10#ixzz3IgTULwNS
Only Nine of 330 Insurers Get High Grades; The Hartford, Prudential, Munich Re and Allianz Are Among Top Scorers
Amid growing evidence that climate change is having wide-ranging global impacts that will worsen in the years ahead, a new report from Ceres ranks the nation’s 330 largest insurance companies on what they are saying and doing to respond to escalating climate risks. The report found strong leadership among fewer than a dozen companies but generally poor responses among the vast majority.
The report, Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations, ranks property & casualty, health and life & annuity insurers that represent about 87 percent of the total US insurance market. The companies were ranked on a half-dozen climate related indicators, including governance, risk management, investment strategies, greenhouse gas management and public engagement (such as their climate policy positions.) The report is based on company disclosures last year in response to a climate risk survey developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
“Despite being on the ‘front line’ of climate risks, most of the company responses show a profound lack of preparedness in addressing climate-related risks and opportunities,” said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy group. “A big positive in the report’s findings is the strong leadership among a small number of property & casualty insurers – a trend that needs to become far more mainstream if the industry is to accelerate global responses to this colossal threat.”
Brazil is laundering illegal timber on a ‘massive and growing scale,’ according to a new Greenpeace investigation published in The Guardian and other media. Skoll Awardee Imazon’s data was used as part of the evidence. An excerpt from The Guardian, which said that illegally logged timber is being sold on to buyers in the UK, US, Europe and China:
“Estimates of the scale of the problem are based on satellite date analysis by Imazon. Using publicly available images, the organisation traces the degree of degradation of key areas in the Amazon, estimates the amount of timber felled in unauthorised areas and then compares this with official figures for timber sales. According to Paulo Barreto of Imazon, the situation is rapidly getting worse. He says the area illegally logged increased by 151% in Pará and by 63% in Mato Grosso between 2011 and 2012. Greenpeace says this data and the findings of their investigation point to alarming gaps in the government’s control system.”
Earlier this month, Adalberto Verissimo of Imazon was quoted in the New York Times story, “Clashing Visions of Conservation Shake Brazil’s Presidential Vote”:
Adalberto Veríssimo, a researcher at Imazon, a Brazilian institute that uses satellite imagery to track deforestation, said he expected the deforestation rate to climb about 5 percent from 2013 to 2014.
“We’re witnessing an increase in speculative deforestation and forest destruction for the government’s own infrastructure projects,” Mr. Veríssimo said. “There’s been a rearrangement of priorities, with the Amazon targeted for massive investments. Naturally this opens the way for new deforestation.”
Exports from Illegal Conversion Worth US$61 Billion and Responsible for 25 Percent of Tropical Deforestation; Brazil’s and Indonesia’s Illegal Land Clearance Highest in the World
A comprehensive new analysis released earlier this month says that nearly half (49%) of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture. The study also finds that around half of this illegal destruction was driven by overseas demand for agricultural commodities including palm oil, beef, soy, and wood products. In addition to devastating impacts on forest-dependent people and biodiversity, the illegal conversion of tropical forests for commercial agriculture is estimated to produce 1.47 gigatonnes of carbon each year—equivalent to 25% of the EU’s annual fossil fuel-based emissions.
“We’ve known that the production of agricultural commodities is a principal driving force behind deforestation, but this is the first report to show the outsize role that illegal activities play in the production of hundreds of food and household products consumed worldwide,” said Michael Jenkins, President and CEO of Forest Trends, a Washington-based NGO that published the report. “Increased agricultural production will be necessary for food security and to meet the demand of the emerging global middle class. However, the world must also wake up to the scale of how much of this agricultural production is taking place on land that has been illegally cleared. Urgent action is needed to help countries where these agricultural products are being grown, both for governments to enforce their own laws and regulations, and for businesses aiming to produce commodities legally and sustainably.”
According to the study, Consumer Goods and Deforestation: An Analysis of the Extent and Nature of Illegality in Forest Conversion for Agriculture, 90% of the deforestation in Brazil from 2000 to 2012 was illegal, primarily due to the failure to conserve a percentage of natural forests in large-scale cattle and soy plantations, as required by Brazilian law. (Much of this occurred prior to 2004, when the Brazilian government took steps to successfully reduce deforestation.) And in the forests of Indonesia, 80% of deforestation was illegal—mostly for large-scale plantations producing palm oil and timber, 75% of which is exported.
While other countries also experience high levels of illegal deforestation, Brazil and Indonesia produce the highest level of agricultural commodities destined for global markets, many of which wind up in cosmetics or household goods (palm oil), animal feed (soy), and packaging (wood products). Read the rest: http://www.forest-trends.org/illegal-deforestation.php
Days before UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon convenes the Climate Summit at the United Nations to spur climate action and facilitate a global climate agreement in 2015, nearly 350 global institutional investors representing over $24 trillion in assets have called on government leaders to provide stable, reliable and economically meaningful carbon pricing that helps redirect investment commensurate with the scale of the climate change challenge, as well as develop plans to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.
“Gaps, weaknesses and delays in climate change and clean energy policies will increase the risks to our investments as a result of the physical impacts of climate change, and will increase the likelihood that more radical policy measures will be required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” said the statement – the largest of its kind by global investors on climate change. “Stronger political leadership and more ambitious policies are needed in order for us to scale up our investments.”
According to the International Energy Agency, the world must invest at least an additional $1 trillion per year – a Clean Trillion – into clean energy by 2050 if we have any hope of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change on our environment, health and the global economy. Yet global investment in clean energy was just $254 billion in 2013.
The statement recognizes the role investors play in financing clean energy, outlines the specific steps they are committing to take, and calls on policymakers to take action that supports, rather than limits, investments in clean energy and climate solutions. It was coordinated by the four investor groups on climate change – Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR) in the United States, the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), the Investors Group on Climate Change (IGCC) in Australia and New Zealand, and the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change (AIGCC) – with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). read more
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is hosting the Climate Summit to engage leaders and advance climate action and ambition on Sept. 23. Mindy Lubber of Ceres, who will attend, wrote three columns looking ahead. The Summit will serve as a public platform for high-level leaders.
In The Huffington Post, she said clean transportation is driving us toward a low-carbon future:
“Making cars and trucks dramatically more efficient and developing alternatives to petroleum is a sea change. It is an epic transformation along the lines of switching from the horse and buggy to the horseless carriage, or from landlines to smart phones. Entrepreneurs, investors, and corporations are sniffing out opportunities. Bets are being placed. Fortunes will be made. And we need to be doing even more.”
“Nationally, electric sector investments in energy efficiency have steadily risen over the past five years to $7.2 billion in 2013. They are generating returns of $3 to $4 for every dollar invested. A comparable expenditure for renewable energy investments is harder to find because the data isn’t reported, but recent research by Ceres shows that renewable energy sales averaged about 5 percent of total sales for the country’s 32 largest power providers.”
In The Guardian, she said “green bonds might sound dull but they’re a vital weapon against climate change:”
“It’s now clearer than ever that green bonds, which provide capital for clean energy projects with a promised return on investment, make good business sense. Investors are buying up green bonds at a blistering pace. More than $20bn in green bonds have been issued in 2014 and the Climate Bond Initiative, an investor-focused nonprofit group, expects the market will hit $40bn by year’s end. That’s a 20-fold jump from the $2bn of green bonds issued in 2012. It’s a green win all around.”
The Times-Picayune of New Orleans just profiled Mark Plotkin of Amazon Conservation Team. The piece talks about how “growing up, Plotkin never imagined he would one day become an ethnobotanist, studying the ways Indians used the plants that grew around them. ‘How could I?’ I never knew there was such a thing,’ he said.”
It talks about the defining moment that changed all that, and later led to the founding of the Amazon Conservation Team and all his success. It ends with Mark’s humor.
“In 1996, he and his wife, Liliana Madrigal, cofounded the nonprofit Amazon Conservation Team to protect biological and cultural diversity in the tropical rain forest, and started the program Shamans and Apprentices, which helps medicine men share their priceless knowledge with young members of their tribes. Nearly two decades later, the program is flourishing.
‘It’s not just working, it’s thriving,’ he said. ‘I’m immensely proud of that.’ Plotkin has led a remarkable life. He has degrees from Harvard and Yale, and a doctorate in biological conservation from Tufts University. In 1998, he starred in the IMAX film ‘Amazon.’ He has won numerous awards, and in 2005, for Smithsonian magazine’s 35th anniversary issue, he was picked as one of ’35 Who Made a Difference,’ along with such luminaries as Bill Gates and Wynton Marsalis…
In recent years, the Amazon Conservation Team has put together a partnership between Google Earth and 33 tribes, mapping their land — 70 million acres of tropical rain forest — in an effort to establish their ownership rights and protect the land from loggers.”
We recently shared that conservation of the Brazilian Amazon is threatened by the poor social conditions of its people. That’s the summary of the Social Progress Index for the Brazilian Amazon, published by the Brazilian nonprofit Imazon in partnership with the global nonprofit Social Progress Imperative.
The report measured the social progress of the people living within 772 municipalities and nine states of the Brazilian Amazon. It found that people living there face huge challenges in almost every measure of social progress.
The Social Progress Index built for the Brazilian Amazon combined globally relevant indicators, such as maternal mortality rates, access to piped water, and secondary school enrolment, with customized indicators adapted to the local context, such as deforestation rates, malaria incidence, child and teenage pregnancies, and violence against indigenous people.
Now, the new IPS Amazonia data web site is online, complete with interactive maps and scorecards for each of 772 municipalities across 43 indicators. It shows very clearly that economic development and social progress are not the same.
November’s massive typhoon in the Philippines left behind much destruction. Gawad Kalinga was there immediately. Now, chairman and founder Tony Meloto shares their success in an interview with Rappler.com: Gawad Kalinga mobilized 1.6 volunteers who helped build 1,200 homes, repaired 339 roofs, and gave 613 boats to fishermen by July 2014. By December, GK’s goal is to rebuild 6,000 homes, repair 1,500 roofs and donate 1,500 boats.
“It’s the greatness of the human spirit that we need to unleash,” Tony said in the interview. “And there’s so much of that. So when we see this great devastation, we also see great opportunities for us to be transcendent above our own needs and just rise together.”
Mint, a business paper from the Hindustan Times in association with The Wall Street Journal, just published a long profile of Jockin Arputham. The piece covered everything from Jockin’s early life to his unique ways of getting local governments to listen. And of course, it mentioned his Nobel Peace Prize nomination. An excerpt:
“Most of the time, Arputham, or “Jockin sir”, as the slum dwellers of Mumbai call him, is every bit a Dharavi man—astute, resourceful and intrepid. Since the 1970s, he has been the voice of Mumbai’s urban poor that successive governments have not been able to ignore. He has made the slum dweller’s life visible in this overpowering, forgetful city. He has guerrilla tactics for “no eviction without alternative” drives—holding on to a stay order till eviction is about to start, causing the police inconvenience; sending unwashed women in a large group to police stations so the officers on duty listen to them quickly and let them go; camouflaging his small frame behind dupattas and saris of women to avoid police arrest; and gathering thousands together to paralyse streets. On paper, Arputham has been arrested more than 50 times…But that alone ought not to have got Arputham the Padma Shri and Ramon Magsaysay awards—both gleaming on a shelf at his Dharavi office—and the Nobel Peace Prize nomination. It has been reported that the Swedish minister for public administration and housing presented his nomination and, so far, he has the support of ministers from Norway, South Africa and Brazil.”
Six illiterate women recently became solar engineers through Barefoot College—and now, three villages in Tanzania are solar electrified. Their story is in the Inter Press Service. An excerpt:
“Just over a year ago, homes in the village of Chekeleni were dark after sunset. Today they are filled with light from solar lamps as women bustle around cooking and children do their homework near the glowing lamps. At least 200 households now have their own solar installations for lighting and other electrical needs.
Six women have brought this light to three remote southern Tanzanian villages in the Mtwara and Lindi districts. They are among the 25 illiterate, rural mothers, many of them also grandmothers, from four African countries who were trained at the Barefoot College in Tilonia in the northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan, to install and maintain solar energy panels.
The programme was part of the 2011 ‘Rural Women Light up Africa’ initiative, a partnership between UN Women and the Barefoot College.”
Stanford University just announced it will not make direct investments in coal mining companies (it now has an $18.7 billion endowment of stock in these companies), and The Skoll Foundation applauds this decision. The New York Times noted that this makes Stanford the first major university to support the nationwide campaign to “purge endowments and pension funds of fossil fuel investments.”
“Acting on a recommendation of Stanford’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, the Board of Trustees announced that Stanford will not make direct investments in coal mining companies. The move reflects the availability of alternate energy sources with lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal. The Stanford University Board of Trustees has decided to not make direct investments of endowment funds in coal-mining companies. Stanford University will not make direct investments of endowment funds in publicly traded companies whose principal business is the mining of coal for use in energy generation, the Stanford Board of Trustees decided today.”
Today, a new report showed that “the effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States, with water growing scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains increasing in wet regions, heat waves becoming more common and more severe, wildfires growing worse, and forests dying under assault from heat-loving insects,” according to the New York Times.
“Today’s report is a stark reminder of the urgency for expanding our efforts to curb the carbon pollution that is impacting every stretch of the United States, from extreme precipitation and flooding in the northeast, to drought, water scarcity and wildfires in the southwest. We simply can no longer afford to risk our children’s futures on the false hope that the vast majority of scientists are wrong. read more
The Elders have published a blog by Jimmy Carter and Mary Robinson, Climate change: who will lead?, urging youth to mobilize ahead of the Paris climate conference in December 2015. An excerpt:
“With the latest warnings delivered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the past few weeks, no world leader will ever be able to claim that they were caught off-guard by climate change.
As former heads of state ourselves, we’ve experienced global crises from within the corridors of power. Some may take the world by surprise, but sometimes the warning signals are such that there is no excuse not to act. The IPCC report is such a signal.
The report of Working Group II of the IPCC is the most sobering assessment, to date, of the risks posed to humanity by climate change, describing a range of threats in a clear yet measured tone. Around the world, people’s crops and homes are in danger already. This will only get worse if nothing is done. Economic shocks and worsening poverty, exacerbated by a warming planet, will also increase the risk of armed conflict. It is the world’s poorest who are the most vulnerable. The report does not dictate exact scenarios but tells us, with unprecedented authority, what we must be ready for.
For this reason, it is a compelling call to action for governments. We hope it can trigger decisive action – notably on greenhouse gas emission reduction and financing for climate adaptation – on the road to December 2015, when world leaders will meet at a major conference in Paris to agree a new climate deal.
This week we are coming to Paris, as Elders, to help build momentum towards this deadline. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this process. Climate change ignores national borders. Multilateral negotiations remain the best approach for the world to reach a comprehensive solution. We are calling for a robust, fair, universal, and legally-binding agreement in Paris in 2015.”
“We all face a world of increasing demand for scarce resources. This could mean more conflict, more corruption, and the destruction of people’s livelihoods. But there is a choice before us, and together we can change such a grim future. We hope to work to shine a more powerful light on the shadow system to put an end to the kind of business practices that often make resources a curse instead of a blessing.”
Sub-Issues: Arresting Deforestation; Human Rights; Responsible Supply ChainsPowerful and corrupt exploiters of natural resources often funnel the proceeds into war, conflict, and human rights abuses, in the absence of transparency and regulation in international trade systems.
The Skoll Awardees: Patrick Alley, Charmian Gooch, and Simon Taylor, co-founders and directors of Global Witness, met while working for an environmental organization, and discovered a shared horror in what was happening in the forests of Cambodia, where Khmer Rouge rebels were financing murderous campaigns by clearing forests and selling timber to Thai companies. They posed as buyers to document and expose the traffic, and succeeded in shutting it down. They founded Global Witness to act as a credible investigator, uncovering problems that exist at the intersection of conflict, corruption, and natural resource exploitation. Their investigations follow the money – where it comes from, where it goes – to spotlight the drivers of environmental destruction and uncover paths to combat corruption in the extractive sector and international financial systems. They seek to unmask anonymous companies set up to hide the identities of perpetrators and profit seekers. GW campaigns engage media, governments, civil society, and international bodies to end the vicious cycles of illegal trade, corruption, and violence. Its Publish What You Pay Campaign is a global movement for transparency. At the time of the Award, GW had made major contributions to exposing illicit trade in conflict diamonds, minerals, oil and gas, and land use; bringing down the Charles Taylor government in Liberia, and to the global movements driving change in global governance systems. Two-thirds of the world’s oil, gas, and mining companies (measured by value) were covered by laws that require transparency about the payments they make.
Impact since joining the portfolio in 2014:
In March 2014, Global Witness announced a TED “wish” to end anonymous companies. Queen Elizabeth shortly thereafter announced her government’s intention to introduce legislation establishing a public register of company ownership. It was enacted and finalized in March 2015. The EU Parliament has also voted in favor of public registries.
“We noticed an increasing number of social and environmental entrepreneurs who were trying to use business to solve social and environmental problems. Now, they are part of a community that shares one unifying goal, which is to redefine success in business. If they can do that, one day all companies will compete not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world.”
Sub-Issues: Clean Energy, Responsible Supply Chains, Standards, Water ManagementAlmost half of the world’s wealth is controlled by one percent of the population. The private business sector, for the most part, is an engine that creates wealth for a very few, while externalizing costs to many.
The Skoll Awardees: Believing that the private sector can and must be a force for good, a force for solving the problems of the world and not for creating them or making them worse, B Lab creates a blueprint for business in the 21st century. Jay Coen Gilbert, Bart Houlihan and Andrew Kassoy, who founded B Lab in 2006, were longtime friends who had lived together at Stanford. They had worked in businesses committed to serving a double or triple bottom line, valuing social and environmental benefits along with profits, and experienced the frustration of working within a legal system that made this well-nigh impossible by recognizing the rights of shareholders, including their right to insist on maximizing profits, as paramount. B Lab exists to enable double and triple bottom line businesses to take advantage of a new legal form, the benefit corporation, that makes it possible to balance shareholder value with social benefit. It supports those businesses and promotes their success through corporate certification and enhancing their access to capital. At the time of the Award, there were about 1,000 certified B corporations around the world.
Impact since joining the portfolio in 2014:
As of early 2015, there are more than 1,200 B Corporations.
“Leading Slum Dwellers around the World to Improve Their Cities”
In 2008—for the first time in history—more people were living in urban than in rural areas. Today, more than one billion people live in slums. Founded by a collective of slum dwellers and concerned professionals headed by Jockin Arputham, a community organizer in India, Slum Dwellers International works to have slums recognized as vibrant, resourceful, and dignified communities. SDI organizes slum dwellers to take control of their futures; improve their living conditions; and gain recognition as equal partners with governments and international organizations in the creation of inclusive cities. With programs in nearly 500 cities, including more than 15,000 slum dweller-managed savings groups reaching one million people; 20 agreements with national governments; and nearly 130,000 families who have secured land rights, SDI has been a driving force for change for slum dwellers around the world.
Jockin Arputham is the president of the National Slum Dwellers Federation of India, which he founded in the 1970s. Often referred to as the “grandfather” of the global slum dwellers movement, Jockin was educated by the slums, living on the streets for much of his childhood with no formal education. For more than 30 years, Jockin has worked in slums and shanty towns throughout India and around the world. After working as a carpenter in Mumbai, he became involved in organizing the community where he lived and worked. He helped found Slum Dwellers International to help federations of slum and shack dwellers in more than 20 countries support and learn from each other. Federations share information on how to organize; how to engage in participatory planning; how to ensure women’s involvement in community participation, savings and credit; and how to access water and sanitation.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) and a group of more than 40 partners, including Imazon, have launched Global Forest Watch (GFW), an online forest monitoring and alert system that helps people everywhere to better manage forests. Global Forest Watch combines satellite technology, open data, and crowdsourcing to provide access to timely information about forests.
“Global Forest Watch will have far-reaching implications across industries. Financial institutions can better evaluate if the companies they invest in adequately assess forest-related risks. Buyers of major commodities such as palm oil, soy, timber, and beef can better monitor compliance with laws, sustainability commitments, and standards. And suppliers can credibly demonstrate that their products are ‘deforestation free’ and legally produced.”
A project—partially supported by the Skoll Foundation—that seeks to increase sustainable business in the Amazon region is seeing early evidence of success. In a new blog post, the Conservation Strategy Fund shares more about this milestone and the innovative project model. From the post:
“Conservation Strategy Fund has been working with traditional communities in Brazil to support low-impact activities in the Amazon region. These activities have subsequently grown into sustainable businesses, from both an environmental and economic perspective. The guidance CSF has given these locally-owned businesses has helped them to grow substantially and aims to eventually contribute to decreased deforestation in Brazil.”
A new article in the Manila Standard talks to Gawad Kalinga and other organizations helping in the Philippines relief efforts. An excerpt:
“’Yolanda caught us off-guard,’ says Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto. ‘But the scale of the problem is nothing compared to the overflow of generosity and heroism, as friends and partners from around the world rally together in bayanihan to help the Filipinos rise again.’
While relief efforts address the immediate need for food and clothes, non-profit organizations like Gawad Kalinga in partnership with TIP have drawn plans to tackle the longer-term need for shelter.
The rebuilding and relief operations are part of Operation Walang Iwanan, GK’s aid effort for Yolanda survivors. Through the program, GK and its partners aim to build an initial 5,000 houses, as well as repair around 1,000 damaged houses.'”