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Reflections on Rio: was it really that bad?

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Mike Scott writes about how the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, perhaps wasn’t all as bad people have made out.

We recognise that the planet Earth and its ecosystems are our home and that Mother Earth is a common expression in a number of countries and regions and we note that some countries recognise the rights of nature in the context of the promotion of sustainable development. We are convinced that in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environment needs of present and future generations, it is necessary to promote harmony with nature.” Article 39, The Future We Want, Rio+20 Outcome Document.

The above extract from the text of the summit held to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first Earth Summit in 1992, an event involving thousands of delegates and more than 100 world leaders, provides stark evidence of just how broken the global multilateral institutions are.

Brazil was so fearful of a repeat of the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 – when negotiations dragged on through the night and yet still failed to produce a conclusive agreement – that it simply deleted anything in the text that was remotely contentious, leaving a document that was full of meaningless waffle like the paragraph above, and agreed before most world leaders had even arrived in Rio.

It has been widely noted that while the word “encourage” appears in the document 50 times, but the phrase “we will” only five times; “support” is used 99 times, “must” just three.

The Future We Want would appear to be barely worth the paper it’s written on and reaction has been scathing – the UN Group of Major NGOs, for example, said: “You cannot have a document called The Future We Want without any mention of planetary boundaries, tipping points or planetary carrying capacity. The text as it stands is completely out of touch with reality. Just to be clear, NGOs at Rio do not endorse this document.”

And yet maybe this isn’t, despite appearances, the worst outcome to a major summit in recent times. Perhaps the negotiators have unconsciously produced a document that subconsciously subscribes to Google’s “Do no harm” mantra.

Given the severe disagreements that re-emerged between developed and developing countries over what the green economy is and who should pay for it, policymakers appear to have left the field clear for other players to take up the baton, but at least they haven’t destroyed the field.

And there were some really encouraging signs that the business and investment communities are stepping up to the challenge.

Among the initiatives that emerged on the sidelines of the summit was an announcement that the world’s biggest development banks will put a staggering $175 billion towards sustainable transport in developing countries.

There was also an agreement by more than 30 governments and institutions to harness the purchasing power of national and local governments, which makes up between 15% and 25% of GDP, in the cause of sustainable procurement. The signatories ranged from emerging giants Brazil and China to bastions of the industrialised world such as Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

This was just one example of how governments that could not agree in the main event were happy to sign up to specific initiatives outside of the Rio+20 framework, suggesting that governments are growing weary of the multilateral process, too.

Even the US government, which is trapped into inaction by its domestic politics, has agreed to host a dialogue with the Consumer Goods Forum, whose 400 members have pledged to achieve “zero net deforestation” in their supply chains by 2020.

The corporate world signed up to a range of other radical changes too – 16 companies in the food and agriculture sector committed to develop principles on sustainable agriculture; 45 corporate giants including Coca-Cola, Dow Chemical, Royal Dutch Shell and Tata Steel highlighted the importance of global water sustainability; and more than 70 businesses, governments and international organisations signed up to the Green Industry Platform, an initiative to mainstream environmental and social considerations into corporate operations through efficient use of energy and raw materials, innovative practices and applications of new green technologies.

The investment community got in on the act, too, with five stock exchanges including Nasdaq, Brazil’s Bovespa and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange agreeing to incorporate sustainability criteria into their listings requirements.

The insurance industry also unveiled a new set of Principles for Sustainable Insurance, a companion to the Principles for Responsible Investment.

Meanwhile, the UK announced all companies listed on the London Stock Exchange would have to report their carbon emissions, while – in a good example of how the outcome document can be seen as a useful springboard rather than a limit on ambitions – a group of governments (Brazil, Denmark, France and South Africa) joined investors and companies to commit to corporate sustainability reporting, expanding on Article 47 in the outcome document.

There were individual business pledges too, perhaps the most notable being Bank of America’s announcement of $50 billion of investment in energy efficiency, energy access and renewable energy over the next 10 years and Unilever’s plan to cut greenhouse gases associated with its products in half by 2020. In total, more than $500 billion was pledged in fields including energy, transport, green economy, disaster reduction, desertification, water, forests and agriculture.

It is easy to be cynical about pledges made at summits – but unlike politicians, business knows that it cannot afford not to follow through on its commitments. Another factor to remember is that companies are not adopting sustainability issues because it is the right thing to do but because an increasing number of them are convinced that it is the best way to manage risks and discover opportunities for their businesses.

Business still wants governments to provide clarity, a long-term perspective and a clear sense of direction, but it is no longer prepared to wait for this – instead, it is grasping the bull by the horns and pressing ahead with sustainability reforms.

At the 2007 climate conference in Bali, the delegate from Papua New Guinea famously told the US delegation, which was blocking every substantial measure: “We seek your leadership. But if for some reason you are not willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way.”

Now it seems the business community has issued this message to all governments – the results will be interesting to see.

Mike Scott is a freelance writer specialising in environment and business issues for the press and corporate clients. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Times, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph as well as in business publications ranging from Bloomberg New Energy Finance to Flight International.

Further reading:

Rio+50: the long view

In search of the ecological truth

Mike Scott is a freelance writer specialising in environment and business issues for the press and corporate clients. His work has been published in the Financial Times, the Times, the Guardian and the Daily Telegraph as well as in business publications ranging from Bloomberg New Energy Finance to Forbes.

Features

What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?

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shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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