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How to avert a global climate catastrophe

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At a time where political momentum is growing everywhere in the world to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050, how to avert a global climate catastrophe by Omar Razzaz from Amman tells us the following.

How to avert a global climate catastrophe

• Current global efforts to raise awareness and nudge and shame policymakers are necessary but not sufficient to prevent an existential climate crisis. Addressing the problem more effectively requires international governance arrangements that amount to a new social contract on global public goods

Dead Sea shore, Jordan. (Pixabay)




The hottest day on record in Jordan since 1960 was a staggering 49.3C, (120.7F) in July 2018, one month after I became prime minister. Jordan is not unique: heatwaves have been causing record-high temperatures in countries from Canada to Australia in recent years. The effects of climate change (including increased frequency and severity of floods, hurricanes, and droughts), while felt locally, demand a global response, which should set binding targets that take into account countries’ contributions to the problem and to the solution.

Jordan has been actively pursuing policies and programmes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Over the past 15 years, Jordan’s annual emissions per capita fell from 3.5 tonnes to 2.5 tonnes. But Jordan, like the vast majority of countries, accounts for a negligible share of global CO2 emissions  – just 0.04% annually. So even if Jordan was to turn its whole economy green overnight, it would hardly make a dent. This does not absolve us of responsibility, but we cannot overlook the fact that emissions are concentrated: the top 20 emitters account for almost 80% of the annual total, with the United States and China alone accounting for 38%.
In many countries, the ramifications of climate change for water supply have been staggering. In the case of Jordan, it made an already tight constraint much more acute. Rainfall was previously the saviour for rural communities that engaged in seasonal rainfed agriculture and herding on semi-arid land. Over the last decade, however, a steady decline in average annual rainfall and an increase in the frequency and severity of droughts have undermined these modes of agriculture, deepening the socioeconomic divide between rural and urban areas.

Jordan is by no means unique: the World Health Organisation estimates that half of the world’s population will be living in water-stressed areas by 2025. In essence, what was previously a regional challenge has now become a serious global governance issue with environmental, political, and economic ramifications.
More broadly, other manifestations of climate change, and the lack of an internationally coordinated response to them – not to mention to additional threats such as the Covid-19 pandemic – suggest that something is seriously wrong at the global level. According to the recent sober assessment by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world will not meet the 2015 Paris climate agreement goal of limiting global warming to well below 2C unless it makes huge additional cuts in CO2 emissions.

Quite simply, the results of the world’s climate efforts are dangerously inadequate. According to the Climate Action Tracker, current policies put the world on course to be an alarming 2.7-3.1C warmer by 2100, relative to pre-industrial levels. Yes, many emerging green technologies are promising and should be supported. But in the absence of a global approach, these innovations risk merely redistributing the impact of climate change among countries and regions.
Raising awareness and nudging (and shaming) policymakers is necessary, but not sufficient to avert what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has referred to as a “climate catastrophe.” Climate-change mitigation must be pursued as a global public good. The problem is that such goods are plagued by collective-action problems because the costs tend to be spatially and temporally concentrated while the benefits are diffuse. These difficulties can be tackled only by global governance structures that reduce the cost of collective action, internalise externalities, and counter short-term biases in decision-making.
To address climate change more effectively, we need global governance arrangements that amount to a new global social contract. Existing international governance structures can serve as a foundation for these new institutions, but will need to be amended and supplemented to address specific problems related to public goods and collective action.
For starters, we need a governance structure whose jurisdiction is limited to global public goods that cannot be provided adequately at the national level. Nation-states would be free to opt-in and opt-out, with the benefits of opting in outweighing those of opting out. Decisions would be taken on a majoritarian basis, with no single country having veto power. There would also be appeals and adjudication process that allows decisions to be challenged.
Second, a custodial entity would keep track of global natural wealth accounts to address intergenerational equity issues. This entity should be able to place items on the global governance institution’s agenda and to appeal decisions.
Lastly, a regime of incentives and disincentives would aim to preserve nature and biodiversity and tax those who consume it, taking wealth and income disparities across countries into account.
Establishing global governance mechanisms that focus on the public goods and collective-action challenges of climate change will not be easy. Concerns and fears related to a “democratic deficit” and the need to protect national sovereignty are legitimate, and cannot simply be brushed aside.
Nevertheless, we are not starting from scratch. The World Trade Organisation provides an example of a strong and successful global governance structure with binding rules. It is thus both ironic and sad that the WTO has failed to incorporate trade-related environmental and human-rights issues into its regulations in order to ensure a level international playing field. After all, with its sanctioning authority, the WTO is best positioned to link issues such as greenhouse-gas emissions and labour rights to trade rules.

Jordan cannot successfully tackle today’s global climate challenges on its own. Nor can the Middle East, owing to regional conflicts and rivalries. Now that the world has become a village, the task facing the region is instead to agree with other countries – our fellow villagers – on how to mitigate our own excesses and avert an existential threat. This can be achieved only by finding suitable ways to hold ourselves and each other accountable. The solution lies in establishing a global governance system that is based on the nation-state but has the capacity to sanction harmful behaviour.
Some might regard the idea of creating such a structure as far-fetched. But unless we do, there is scant hope of preventing the climate crisis – already apparent in Jordan and around the world – from continuing to destroy countless lives and livelihoods. – Project Syndicate

• Omar Razzaz is a former prime minister of Jordan.

To address inequalities we need a new vision for trade

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Usman Ahmed, Senior Director; Head, Global Public Policy and Research, PayPal with Aditi Sara Verghese, Policy Analyst, International Trade and Investment, World Economic Forum Geneva elaborate in This article as part of the Sustainable Development Impact Summit, on how in order To address inequalities we need a new vision for trade.

The above Image is of Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

To address inequalities we need a new vision for trade

21 Sep 2021

  • A new vision for the global trading system must encompass equitable access to the benefits of trade for all of society, and some nations have signalled support in this regard.
  • Reforms to trade policy could have a meaningful impact on domestic economic inequality if a range of concrete steps are taken.
  • The WTO, and trade policy and practice more generally, can be reframed to reflect the notion of economic justice, and the time to make this shift is now.

Divides and discrimination within countries along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender and Indigenous identity have resulted in longstanding social, economic and political challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has further laid bare the stark inequalities among societal groups.

Yet resistance and restorative action have spread too. Social movements for racial justice in the United States have inspired similar initiatives in other countries. The #MeToo movement spotlighted sexual abuse and harassment and catalysed broader conversations about women’s participation in economic, social and political life. Meanwhile, some governments are coming to terms with their historical and current treatment of Indigenous peoples.

In this context, a new vision for the global trading system must encompass equitable access to the benefits of trade for all sections of society. This is an important aspect of building support for trade, as emerging research indicates that minority groups are often either negatively affected by trade shocks or do not have equitable access to the opportunities it provides.

Some countries have signalled support in this regard. For the first time, the US’s trade agenda includes the goal of racial equity. Canada, Chile and New Zealand signed a Global Trade and Gender Arrangement in August 2020. The relationship between trade and the rights of Indigenous peoples has been increasingly recognized in international economic agreements, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

Image: Usman Ahmed and Aditi Sara Verghese (2021)

Understanding the problem

The effect of trade on inequalities between countries is well covered in economic literature. Differential trade impacts within countries among different income groups, between small and large firms, and on labour is well studied and discussed.

The effects of trade on different societal groups within countries – whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, Indigenous identity or gender – has received less attention. This may be because domestic policies are considered the most direct way to tackle these inequalities. However, trade constitutes 58% of global GDP and is an important aspect of economic empowerment. And, while domestic policies can help with inequities created by trade if properly designed, reforms to trade policy could also have a meaningful impact on domestic economic inequality if a range of concrete steps are taken.

Developing and implementing inclusive policy

Better policymaking begins with better data. Governments should understand the industries that underserved populations are most likely to own and work in or rely on for inputs and final products. For instance, in 2016, minority-owned businesses represented 19% of US firms, but only 12.8% of US manufacturing firms. Governments should examine tariff lines to determine if they are discriminatory against those sectors that have a disproportionate representation of minority businesses and workers.

Underrepresented groups must be actively invited to participate in developing trade policy and negotiating positions. The advantages of such engagement were apparent in the provisions for Indigenous peoples in Canada’s trade agreements, for instance. New Zealand has carved out exceptions in their agreements to respect commitments made to Māori.

Trade agreements can also improve labour standards and remove discrimination against minority, migrant and female workers through labour chapters. These should include commitments by advanced economies to support and build capacity for the implementation of the necessary domestic reforms by trading partners.

Technical assistance and capacity building efforts that often accompany trade agreements must take into account equity considerations. Organizations should actively measure impacts of their initiatives on women and minority groups.

Inclusive trade in practice

Businesses also have an important role to play in enabling inclusive trade. Many have stepped up to publicly support movements for minority rights and inclusion. Investments in minority businesses can help raise the overall wellbeing of underserved communities. Supplier diversity programmes can support women-owned, minority-owned and Indigenous businesses to meet procurement standards, access financing and comply with export and import requirements.

Access to trade finance for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) could result in major gains for those underrepresented groups and for the broader economy. The IFC estimates that 70% of women-owned formal MSMEs in developing countries are unserved (or underserved) by financial institutions, with an estimated funding gap of $285 billion.

New technologies and digitalization can also make trade more inclusive – whether by enabling MSMEs to connect and transact with international buyers, providing natural language processing for translation, or automating trade processes that might otherwise lend themselves to discriminatory practices.

Public-private partnership for economic inclusion

Active engagement by all stakeholders at all stages of the process – from research, consultation and policy development to implementation and capacity-building – will be essential in realising a truly inclusive approach to trade.

Businesses and civil society organizations have an opportunity to voice support for government action through the World Trade Organization on these issues in the runup to the 12th Ministerial Conference. Moreover, governments can work with the private sector and civil society organizations to create programs like trade finance guarantees targeting underserved populations.

What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?

It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.

It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.

The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.

The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.

International trade has done yeoman’s work in lifting millions out of poverty, driving economic growth and encouraging economic integration that reduced incentives for armed conflict between nations. There are green shoots that make the current moment an ideal time for trade to address domestic socio-economic divides.

We believe that the World Trade Organization, and trade policy and practice more generally, can be reframed to reflect the notion of economic justice and that the time to make this shift is now.

Read the Global Future Council on Trade and Investment paper on “International Trade and Economic Justice” here.

Have you read?

The anxiety list for MENA entrepreneurs is long, as is the one curing it

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Hadi Khatib on AMEInfo of 18 September 2021 came up with this deep statement on the anxiety list for MENA entrepreneurs that is long, as is the one curing it

The anxiety list for MENA entrepreneurs is long, as is the one curing it

A research report on the mental health challenges and wellbeing of entrepreneurs due to COVID-19 in the MENA region revealed anxiety has several facets in the minds of these leaders. But all of these insecurities have cures.

  • 55% of startup founders said that raising investment has caused the most stress.
  • More than 95% of entrepreneurs view co-founders as family members and/or friends.
  • Research finds that entrepreneurs are happier than people in jobs.

EMPWR, a UAE-based digital media agency dedicated to mental health and an exclusive mental health partner for WAMDA and Microsoft for startups, published a research report on the mental health challenges and wellbeing of entrepreneurs due to COVID-19 in the MENA region.

The research indicated that startup founders undergo higher levels of stress than the rest of the region, with twice the likelihood of developing depression issues.

55% of startup founders said that raising investment has caused the most stress; the pandemic was the second most-cited reason cited by 33.7% of respondents.   44.2% spend at least 2 hours a week trying to de-stress. 

Other insights, uncovered by the report, include:

  • A good relationship between co-founders can help startups navigate the pandemic-hit market. More than 95% of entrepreneurs view co-founders as family members and/or friends
  • Many entrepreneurs live well below their means to fund their ventures, leading to stress that is detrimental to their health

With only 2% of healthcare budgets in the MENA region currently spent on addressing mental health, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on young entrepreneurs and achievers could lead to an economic burden of $1 trillion, by 2030, according to the report.

EMPWR’s MENA partners shared special offers on their mental health services for the region’s entrepreneur community.

From Saudi Arabia:

Labayh is offering the technology ecosystem a 20% discount on their online mental health services for 2 months. Promo code: empwr, with the offer valid until October 29.

From Egypt:

O7 Therapy are offering 50% off their online mental health services, for 50 Entrepreneurs in the MENA region. Promo code: Entrepreneur50, valid until December 1, 2021.

From the UAE:

My Wellbeing Lab is offering 20 one-on-one coaching sessions to entrepreneurs that wish to be coached and helped; alongside unlimited access for any entrepreneur to their “Discovery Lab”, a platform that gives entrepreneurs and leaders insights into their mental wellbeing as well as their teams. Promo code: MWL21.

Takalam is offering 10% off for 3 months. Promo code: Impact.

Mindtales is offering the MENA ecosystem 50% off their services for one month. Their App can be downloaded here.

H.A.D Consultants is offering 20 one on one coaching sessions to entrepreneurs. Promo code: HAD_SME01.

From Oman:

Nafas, a meditation app focused on reducing stress, anxiety, and help with insomnia, is offering access to its platform. Register as a user via this link to redeem benefits. 

Entrepreneurs’ mixed emotions

Entrepreneurs must grapple with uncertainty and being personally responsible for any decision they make. They likely have the longest working hours of any occupational group and need to rapidly develop expertise across all areas of management while managing day-to-day business.

Yet despite all this, research finds that entrepreneurs are happier than people in jobs.

To understand this, a comprehensive and systematic review of 144 empirical studies of this topic, covering 50 years revealed:

1. It’s not all about pay

Work on the economics of entrepreneurship traditionally assumed that entrepreneurs bear all the stresses and uncertainties in the hope that over the long term they can expect high financial rewards for their effort. It’s false.

2. Highly stressful, but…

High workload and work intensity, as well as financial problems facing their business, are at the top of the entrepreneurs’ stress list.

But some stressors have an upside. While they require more effort in the here and now, they may lead to positive consequences such as business growth in the long term. Some entrepreneurs appear to interpret their long working hours as a challenge and therefore turn them into a positive signal.

3. Autonomy is both good and bad

The autonomy that comes with being an entrepreneur can be a double-edged sword. Entrepreneurs can make decisions about when and what they work on – and with whom they work. But recent research into how entrepreneurs experience their autonomy suggests that, at times, they struggle profoundly with it. The sheer number of decisions to make and the uncertainty about what is the best way forward can be overwhelming.

4. An addictive mix

The evidence review confirms that, by any stretch of imagination, entrepreneurs’ work is highly demanding and challenging. This, along with the positive aspects of being their own boss coupled with an often competitive personality, can lead entrepreneurs to be so engaged with their work that it can become obsessive.

So the most critical skill of entrepreneurs is perhaps how they are able to manage themselves and allow time for recovery.  

Stress management tips for entrepreneurs

Identify what the actual source of your stress is. Is it tight deadlines, procurement issues, raising capital, managing investors’ expectations, building a talented team, or delay in landing the first sale for your new startup business?

Even if numbering more than a few, break them down because unmanageable tasks look simpler when broken down into smaller segments. Then, list down how you plan to successfully tackle each issue. Meanwhile, exercising multiple times a week has been rated as one of the best tactics for managing stress.  

Another technique for handling stress is to take a break. Rest as much as you can before going back to continue with the tasks.  It’s also a good idea to reach out to friends, family, and social networks because they are likely to understand what you’re going through and offer words of wisdom and courage.

Stay away from energy-sapping junk food. Eating healthy keeps you fueled for the next challenge. Finally, get enough sleep, and power naps. Sleep helps your body and mind recover.   

Hadi Khatib is a business editor with more than 15 years of experience delivering news and copy of relevance to a wide range of audiences. If newsworthy and actionable, you will find this editor interested in hearing about your sector developments and writing about them. He can be reached at:  hadi.khatib@thewickfirm.com

To give architecture political clout we must engage with ordinary people

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The Architects Journal with Leanne Tritton, author, elaborated this article on how to give architecture political clout, we must engage with ordinary people.

To give architecture political clout we must engage with ordinary people

The architecture and built environment sector has a poor track record in communicating with the general public, something those in power are all too aware of, writes new chair of The London Society Leanne Tritton

My business is communication. I love working alongside built environment professionals, and in my day job I am fortunate to see at first hand how architects and developers are working hard to positively design and build better places.

But, sadly, few members of the general public see our sector in the same light. It is not surprising, given that the media generally focuses on the negative and the sensational. That’s just a fact of life. But we haven’t gone out of our way to help ourselves and present the other side of the story or co-ordinate campaigns that inform opinion.

For obvious reasons, central and local government is preoccupied by the feelings of the nation. It seems the built environment’s only meaningful connection with the population of this country is via a series of consultations that accompany proposed development. As these make their way through the planning process, such efforts often descend into almost hand-to-hand combat.

Put simply, we’ve not had strong enough links with either the general public or government to promote effectively what we do.

It also does our industry no credit that we have such a poor track record when it comes to engaging with the country’s political leadership and working to influence policies that will not only benefit our sector, but the greater good.

Politicians know that we have limited ‘clout’ and so have been able to dictate the pace and degree of change that takes place, and do so on their terms.

This needs to be put right, although it’s not to say there aren’t those who seek to engage with ordinary people about the buildings all around them. I have long admired the work undertaken by Open City, which, as well as running a series of events highlighting the architectural wonders of the capital, also organises the annual Open House festival. This event, which lasts for just a few days every year, gives people unparalleled access to some of London’s finest buildings.

It is also hugely encouraging to see Simon Allford, co-founding partner of AHMM, elected as president of the RIBA. Allford will not only be able to offer the institute effective leadership, he is the type of person who can walk into a room full of government ministers and have an immediate and positive impact.

Then there is The London Society (TLS). Established in 1912 by a group of Londoners concerned about the lack of planning in the capital, its theme 110 years on will focus on the connections among communities and those organisations that sit beyond those of built environment professionals and which have the potential to make the city stronger.

Having recently joined TLS as chair, I believe the organisation has a unique opportunity to present the built environment’s case outside the industry bubble.

Members of TLS come from all walks of life, not just the professions. All share a passion for the city and want to engage with the debates about its future, while also recognising – and indeed cherishing – its past. It is an organisation for all those who love London, forging links with underrepresented communities across the capital and, usefully, having the ear of MPs, sponsoring as it does the All-Party Parliamentary Group on London Planning and Built Environment.

The time for engagement is upon us and we need to fund those organisations that give us critical mass and help the public understand that we are on their side.

Leanne Tritton is managing director of ING Media and chair of The London Society. As part of the AJ100 Festival, she will be speaking at the panel debate COP26 – How can we get better at influencing government? at 9.35am on Monday 20 September.

Democracy vital for prosperity and sustainable development

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In so far as the MENA region countries are concerned, Democracy being vital for prosperity and sustainable development or the lack of it, has been demonstrated over and over the millennia. Let us see what it means in today’s world for the rest of the world with Androulla Kaminara.

The above image is for illustration and is of the FDSD.

Democracy vital for prosperity and sustainable development

Transparency and reliability of how elections are carried out are key to ensuring that the winners enjoy legitimacy.

On 15 September, we are marking International Day of Democracy. Since the pillars of democracy around the world are threatened as new challenges emerge, this day is perhaps more pertinent than ever. Democracy is a dynamic concept that has evolved over time, as have the challenges facing it. To those challenges, new challenges have been added of late, including by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic deepening existing inequalities, spreading disinformation and distrust, and undermining women’s rights. In addition, the fast evolution of new technologies and their impact on all walks of life has also had a profound impact on democratic processes around the world.

As the world took emergency measures to address the Covid-19 crisis, concerns began to emerge that these actions could infringe on civil and human rights of citizens. Covid-19 also highlighted and aggravated inequalities within societies, including in social protection, increased discrimination and violence against women as well as disinformation. The pandemic was accompanied by a global infodemic that poses a direct threat to one of the pillars of democracy: the right to access to information.

The answer is — ‘to build back better’ — to build a society that works for all and that represents the will of the people is the objective. Democracy is built on inclusion, equal treatment and participation — is a fundamental building block of a progressive, stable and peaceful society that enables sustainable development, human rights and economic justice for all.

Democracy is one of the core values of the European Union, together with human rights and the rule of law. The EU is taking steps to safeguard and strengthen democracy inside our Union since no democratic system is perfect and continuous efforts are need for improvement. In the EU, we practise our rights, also through regular elections both at individual Member State level — local, regional and national elections — as well as at the European Union level. The elections to the European Parliament are one of the largest democratic exercises in the world, with over 400 million citizens being represented.

The European Union also takes a leading role in promoting democracy around the world through the implementation of relevant projects and through Electoral Observation Missions (EOM).

In 2019, cooperation projects in support of democracy amounted to €147 million in 37 countries. Over the last 7 years, the EU has implemented projects of €618 million in Pakistan and currently, the EU supports the National Assembly, Senate and four provincial assemblies by strengthening their functioning in terms of capacity, transparency and accessibility as well as accountability towards Pakistani citizens with a project of €9 million.

Since 2019, the EU deployed over 20 observation missions globally as part of its commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law across the world and these offer a comprehensive and impartial assessment of electoral processes. In addition, EOMs publish recommendations aiming to improve future elections and strengthen democratic institutions.

In Pakistan, the EU so far has deployed four observation missions since 2002 upon the invitation of the respective governments. The EOM of 2018 put forward a set of thirty recommendations for electoral processes and framework reforms. It is encouraging to note that several of these recommendations are reflected in the 3rd Strategic Plan of the Election Commission of Pakistan.

However, other recommendations are still pending. Among those is the need to ensure a full level playing field for women: registration of women voters and women representatives in parliaments as well as in the media. In Pakistan, there are 63 million registered male voters and 50 million female voters, clearly indicating that about 13 million women voters are missing. The report argues that stronger involvement of women in political decision-making leads to more accountability, better use of public resources, as well as stability and peace. The fact that a large number of women are not eligible to vote leads to alienation of a significant part of the population. Ensuring their inclusion in the electoral process as well as adequate representation for marginalised groups is key to a more inclusive and fair democratic system.

We recognise the difficulties in implementation of some of the EOM’s 2018 recommendations which are public. Nonetheless, as Pakistan is approaching its next general elections, it is paramount to keep the reform momentum and maintain efforts to further strengthen the electoral system and practice. In this context, the role of a fully functioning Election Commission of Pakistan supported by all is crucial.

The experience within the European Union and elsewhere shows that for democracy to work, trust in the democratic process, including the electoral mechanism, is vital. Transparency and reliability of how elections are carried out are key to ensuring that the winners enjoy legitimacy and support from the electorate. Without democracy, peace and stability, sustainable development and prosperity cannot exist.

The EU continues to be committed to safeguarding and strengthening democracy within its borders and across the world, and we work with all our partner countries including Pakistan in this endeavour.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 15th, 2021.