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Eye on Earth Special Initiatives demonstrate critical role of data for Sustainable Development



At the second Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi today, experts highlighted the achievements of the movement’s Special Initiatives in providing data, tools and frameworks to help inform decision-making for sustainable development. The Special Initiatives are the engine and driving force behind Eye on Earth and a key component of the success of the global movement in closing the data gap to support informed decision-making.

The Special Initiatives were created, following the inaugural Eye on Earth Summit in 2011, to conceive and facilitate numerous data-related projects all over the world. They cover eight subject areas: equal access, linked networks, environmental education, water security, biodiversity, oceans and blue carbon, community sustainability and resiliency, and disaster management.

Since their launch, the Special Initiatives have brought together more than 500 scientists, government officials, academics, non-government organisations and citizens to focus on data creation, discovery, access, and analytics, as well as decision support systems and procedures needed to improve decision-making for sustainable development.

A core part of their work has been to help nations, civil society and other stakeholders understand the importance of data and information for achieving the outcomes of several emerging global frameworks, and to enable their engagement in the creation, discovery and use of data. These include the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), as well as the recently adopted UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“Through the Special Initiatives  a number of pilot projects have been undertaken across many disciplines and in many parts of the globe. The result of these has been an improved capacity for decision-making, and a growing uniformity of approach when it comes to interoperable data and policy support,” stated Costis Toregas, Associate Director, GW Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute and a Facilitator of three Special Initiatives.

Among the 2011 pilot projects are 11 that were selected by Eye on Earth to receive seed-funding. Since their implementation in 2013, they have significantly improved the development of environmental and social information, and human and technical capacity critical to achieving the post-2015 global sustainable development agenda.

Project successes have included:

– The commitment by governmental and civil society stakeholders in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to create a regional instrument on Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration, considered the gold standard for the promotion of environmental democracy

– Collaboration between local and national governments in the Arab region to create a Spatial Data Infrastructure that can help local communities best prevent, prepare for and recover from disaster situations

– Technical capacity building in the fields of environmental indicators, data infrastructures and web map services in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a view to their replication in the Arab region and beyond

– Development of a new information architecture that enables the automated sharing, discovery and integration of existing data networks – even when they (as they usually do) use inconsistent terms and concepts

– Developing a global educational network to mainstream environment and sustainability practices and curricula into universities around the world, including the successful facilitation of a MOOC

– Capacity building among decision makers in Europe and the Arab region to understand emerging technologies and their potential to support sustainable development, with a particular focus on water security

– The introduction of best-in-class data collation methodologies and tools

– The harnessing of citizen science and crowd sourcing of data to support sustainable urban planning and management, and to provide governments with a more refined understanding of neighborhood-level data and needs.

“Eye on Earth’s Special Initiatives are helping to lay essential groundwork, not only through their groundbreaking projects, but also through the multiple opportunities for networking and cross sectoral engagement they afford. The cross-regional and interdisciplinary cooperation being fostered wouldn’t really happen otherwise at this scale,” said Derek Gliddon, National Partnership and Development Manager, Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative (AGEDI, and Facilitator of Global Network of Networks Special Initiative.

“The Special Initiatives have worked hard to develop a true community of practice which cuts across organisation, budget and mission. They bring together governments, industry, NGOs and academia united by the same objective: to find creative ways to improve the use of data and analytics in sustainable development questions, and to strengthen the decisions of policy makers,” said Viktor Lagutov, Head of the Environmental Systems Laboratory, Central European University, Budapest and Facilitator for the Water Security Special Initiaitve.

In providing a platform for dialogue and collaboration, the Special Initiatives continue to facilitate new partnerships and project development opportunities, particularly public-private cooperation between technology companies and NGOs. Esri is now working closely with the Ecocitizen World Map project that is managed within the Community Sustainbability and Resiliency Special Initiative and Google has partnered with the Environmental Education Special Initiatives to provide state of the art software to students interested in sustainable development, both a result of the Eye on Earth process.

“Sustainable development cannot be achieved through political agreements, financial incentives and technological solutions alone – it will also require a change in the way citizens and societies think and act. The diverse elements of the post-2015 development agenda are linked by the need for environmental education at all levels, and Eye on Earth is helping all nations to build this capacity,” said Brian Waswala, Environmental Education and Training Specialist at the United Nations Environment Programme, and Facilitator of the Environmental Education Special Initiative.

Members of the Special Initiatives have identified another 120 data-realted issues that will improve the efficiency and efficacy by which environmental sustainability is acheived. These project proposals, which require funding, are being presented during Eye on Earth Summit 2015, and have also been made available to nations, funding organisations and interested philanthropists.

Commenting on the role that the Eye on Earth Special Initiatives can play in aligning programmes of work, Jane Glavan, Climate Change & Blue Carbon Partnership Project Manager at AGEDI and Facilitator of the Biodiversity and Oceans and Blue Carbon Special Initiatives said: “Transformational change on broad, large-scale and global issue like sustainable development comes from increased cross-sector coordination rather than isolated interventions from individual organisations. The more data we can collect and put in the hands of people who have the power and political will to effect real world change, the better our planet stands to be. We want to encourage more people to align their work with the Eye on Earth Special Initiatives and to use our growing global network of connections to advance their projects.”

The Eye on Earth Special Initiatives have produced a booklet of case studies outlining specific project outcomes over the last four years. It is available here.


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
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New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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