Global Briefs Sep-Oct 2009

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Green Space and Community Health

City dwellers residing near parks and greenery enjoy better health and fewer bouts of depression than those living in enclaves of concrete and asphalt, according to a study released on Thursday.

A dense concentration of trees, shrubs, and flowers close to home had the greatest impact, according to the study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the official journal of Britain’s Society for Social Medicine.

In urban zones where 90 percent of the area was devoted to green space, incidence of anxiety disorders or depression was 18 people per 1000, the study found. In contrast, in zones where there was only 10 percent of greenery, incidence was 26 per 1000, a difference of 44 percent. In addition, the annual rates of more than a dozen disease clusters – including cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, digestive, and mental disorders – were also lower.

The findings are based on health records in the Netherlands for nearly 350,000 people registered with 195 family doctors in 95 practices across the country.

“This study shows that the role of green space in the living environment should not be underestimated,” the study concludes. Possible explanations include improved air quality, opportunities for relaxation and socializing, and an incitement to exercise.
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Report: Girls in the Global Economy

Sending more girls to school may help poor countries get out of the economic slump faster, Plan International says in a new report, Girls in the Global Economy: Adding it all up.

Just a one percent rise in the number of girls attending secondary school boosts a country’s annual per capita income growth by 0.3 percent. Girls are a formidable future workforce if they get adequate training.

There are over 500 million adolescent girls and young women in developing countries, Plan estimates in its report. But many girls do not have the opportunities for good education, and the financial crisis is worsening their situation. In times of economic hardship, girls in the poorest countries are the first to be pulled out of school, the report says. Some parents consider the edu-cation of boys to be more important, and girls often have to start working, or looking after children as their mothers try to improve household income.
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Anti-corruption pledge – Singapore

Earlier this week a number of businesses in Singapore signed the ‘Anti-corruption and Compliance Declaration’. The voluntary declaration sets out to encourage and ensure clean business as set out in the World Economic Forum Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) principles and all signa-tories agree to install processes within their businesses to comply. (As mentioned in the event that accompanied the signing cere-mony – the companies have to be confident that they’ve looked at these issues or their in-house lawyers would not have let them sign the declaration). According to SIIA the Declaration will stay open for further signatories to join and hopefully there will be further reports about implementation and success.

Child Labour in Cambodia

The impact of the global economic crisis in Cambodia threatens to push more children out of school and into the workforce as the recession tightens its grip on the local economy. The global economic downturn has put more children at risk of dropping out from school or being sent to work. The trend threatens to push 200,000 people back into poverty and erect new financial obstacles in front of children trying to access education. Garment industry analysts suggest that more than 70,000 workers have been laid off since the crisis began and as family incomes continue to dwindle, more parents will resort to sending their children to work in order to earn enough money for food and other basic neces-sities to the detriment of the children’s health, nutrition and intellectual development, he warned. Parents unable to feed their children will likely view expenses on transportation, books and uniforms as a burden, hence pulling their children out of school.
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Carbon Disclosure in Asia

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Report for Asia (ex Japan) waslaunched yesterday. ASrIA, report authors summarises that: “The number of reporting companies has more than doubled to a total of 127, up from 61 last year and the quality and materiality of responses has continued to improve. Of particular note, a significantly wider range of operation data and metrics were provided this year and the responses provide a wide range of valuable information and insights for investors”.

The report finds that an increasing number of companies have set benchmarks and targets, are working with their operational data and exploring strategic initiatives. For a summary of who’s doing well around the region the 50 percent response rate by an enlarged Korean sample is a major story this year, and reflects ongoing coordinated initiatives by several major industry sectors. India is also emerging as a very strong reporter in the region. Taiwan continues to make valuable progress. The IT sector dominates. The trend is towards companies having a greater understanding of the impact of climate change on their bottom line and creating strategies to manage risks, have you?
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Climate Change: Time to Get Down to Business

Big business is maneuvering to increase its influence on international climate change negotiations which could make the difference between an ambitious UN deal in December and a fatally flawed one, says international development agency Oxfam.

Oxfam has published a paper ‘Now or Never. Climate change: time to get down to business’ showing how companies must help to tackle climate change. Oxfam believes that climate change is today’s biggest threat facing poor people and human development.

It is in the interests of business interests to lead the fight against climate change, to protect their supply chains, drive new technologies and stimulate jobs. Business can help to unblock these talks by calling with one voice for ambitious emission cuts and sufficient investment in adaptation and clean technology, Oxfam says.
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Bye-bye Arctic Ice Cap

The Arctic ice cap will vanish completely in summer months within 20-30 years, according to polar researchers.

Veteran polar explorer Hadow and two other Britons went out on the Arctic ice cap for 73 days during the northern spring, taking more than 6,000 measurements and observations of the sea ice. The raw data they collected from March to May has been analyzed, producing some stark predictions about the state of the ice cap.

Starting off from northern Canada, Hadow, Martin Hartley, and Ann Daniels skied over the ice cap to measure the thickness of the remaining ice, assessing its density and the depth of overlying snow, as well as taking weather and sea temperature readings.

Across their 450 kilometer (290 mile) route, the average thickness of the ice floes was 1.8 metres (6 feet), while it was 4.8 metres (16 feet) when incorporating the compressed ridges of ice. “An average thickness of 1.8 metres is typical of first year ice, which is more vulnerable in the summer. And the multi-year ice is shrinking back more rapidly,” said Wadhams.

“The summer ice cover will completely vanish in 20 to 30 years but in less than that it will have considerably retreated,” said Professor Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Britain’s Cambridge University. “In about 10 years, the Arctic ice will be considered as open sea.”

Dr. Martin Sommerkorn, senior climate change adviser for the World Wide Fund for Nature’s international Arctic programme, said that the loss of sea ice cover will “set in motion powerful climate feedbacks which will have an impact far beyond the Arctic itself. This could lead to flooding affecting one quarter of the world’s population, substantial increases in greenhouse gas emission from massive carbon pools, and extreme global weather changes.”

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Climate Risks for Financial Markets Study

A recent report by Ceres and Risk Metrics analyses the activities of financial institutions (FIs) in emerging markets in the context of the risks and opportunities provided by climate change. 154 emerging market financial institutions were surveyed on subjects including initiatives to integrate climate change into their corporate governance and risk management systems, and take advantage of the opportunities offered by climate change.

The surveyed organisations represent a range of institutions including commercial banks, development banks, and fund, leasing and credit institutions.

  • The majority of respondents – 67 percent – have established an environmental or sustainability policy to guide business practice. Almost one third of these FIs have policies that address climate change issues specifically, and two respondents have a stand-alone
    climate change policy.
  • The majority of FIs report that the implementation of their climate change and/or sustainability initiatives has been assigned to senior staff (68 percent).
  • Almost half of the respondents report that the board of directors is involved in reviewing the sustainability policy, and 28 percent say the board is directly involved with climate change initiatives.
  • 8 percent of respondents are already measuring some aspect of their GHG emissions footprint.
  • 53 percent of respondents have established a risk management system that incorporates sustainability elements.
  • 22 institutions, led by respondents in Eurasia and Latin America, report incorporating climate change consideratioAns into their lending and investment decisions. 24 percent consider climate change impacts as part of their project environmental assessments.
  • Nearly two-thirds of participants in this survey acknowledge that climate change will impact on their business: 55 percent forecast both positive and negative impacts, 40 percent foresee only negative impacts and 2 percent predict only positive impacts on their business.
  • Involvement with Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation projects under the Kyoto Protocol is low, with only three respondents indicating direct involvement.

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Global Green Deal

The United Nations issued a Global Green New Deal Policy Brief by economists in the run of the G20 meeting of world leaders in London in April. Among the findings of the brief is the assertion that investing one per cent of global GDP, or around $750 billion, into five key sectors could be the key to a Global Green New Deal.

The report points out the multiple economic, environmental and social benefits of investing a significant amount of the $3 trillion-worth of stimulus packages in five areas. They are as follows:

  • Raising the energy efficiency of old and new buildings
  • Renewable energies including wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.
  • Sustainable transport inclu-ding hybrid vehicles; high speed rail and bus rapid transit systems.
  • The planet’s ecological infrastructure including fresh-waters, forests, soils and coral reefs.
  • Sustainable agriculture including organic production.

The five sectors could in conjunction with other measures play an important role in reviving the global economy and boosting employment while accelerating the fight against climate change, environmental degradation and poverty.

The Global Green New Deal Policy Brief also supports UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s message that in rescuing the global economy the world must not lose sight of the development agenda and the need to protect vulnerable groups.
Shared by The Green Economy Post, an online blog on sustainability

    Author Information

    Rutaba Ahmed is Managing Editor of tbl. She holds a Bachelors in Business Management from University of Georgia, USA and a Masters in Communications Studies from University of Leeds, UK.

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