Last week world leaders gathered to review their progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), eight internationally-agreed goals aimed at reducing poverty and improving education, health, gender equality and environmental sustainability by 2015. While progress toward achieving the goals has been uneven, the U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) announced an MDG Acceleration Framework to speed progress. Ten pilot countries from different regions have selected off-track targets as their focus areas and identified the constraints to faster progress, practical solutions to address them, and partners to implement these solutions. A report describing the results of these pilots is available online here: UnlockingProgress_MAF Lessons from Pilot_Countries_September 2010-2.pdf. The Summit on the Millennium Development Goals concluded with the adoption of a global action plan to achieve the eight anti-poverty goals and new commitments for women and children’s health, as described online at: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/ The new global commitments were met with considerable skepticism in many quarters.
Last week the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves was announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, joined by representatives of the UN Foundation, several nations and many NGOs. The initiative seeks to replace 100 million traditional stoves that are widely used for cooking and heating in households across the developing world with affordable, efficient, environmentally-friendly models by 2020. The World Health organization estimates that pollution and safety hazards from existing cookstoves contribute to 2 million premature deaths annually in the developing world. The stoves also are a significant source of black carbon contributing to global warming and climate change. The Global Alliance will seek to establish manufacturing facilities in developing countries to make the stoves readily available at low cost while spurring job growth in development countries. The initiative represents another example of the development of global environmental policy outside traditional government regulatory structures. Products like cookstoves that are used by individuals have not been extensively regulated around the world, yet they can represent highly significant sources of environmental problems. By not giving away the stoves for free, the Alliance has indicated that it has learned from past mistakes where free distribution of stoves led consumers not to value them very highly.
Last week the Wall Street Journal published data showing how extensive the use of genetically modified crops has become throughout the world. In the U.S. more than 80% of soybean, cotton and corn crops are genetically modified now with nearly 160 million acres of GMO crops planted. Brazil is second in GMO acreage with 52.9 million acres, followed by Argentina with 52.6 million acres, India with 20.8 million acres (cotton), Canada with 20.3 million acres, China with 9.1 million acres, Paraguay with 5.4 million acres (soybeans).
Last week the Carbon Disclosure Project identified a “global 500” of companies that have begun to report their emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The project disclosed that fewer than one-fifth of these companies had made significant progress in reducing their emissions of GHGs.