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New Thinking Required to Salvage the SDG’s

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Poverty in India
Progress on the universal Sustainable Development Goals was scrutinized during the UN’s annual opening session of the General Assembly in September, and the news was not good. Some ambitions, like safe sanitation, are not making headway. In India, above, for example, about half of its population still openly defecates. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

For the first time since a new development agenda was adopted in 2015 to make the world a better place for everyone, government leaders assembled at the United Nations in late September to take stock of progress. The verdict of this summit was not good.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, the centerpiece of Agenda 2030, were on life support in the eyes of many experts in and around the high-level UN sessions. Some goals were in danger of reversing earlier gains. A new strategy, however, devised by a team of international development experts, was presented for governments to consider to turn around the bad news about the faltering goals.


“Our goal to end extreme poverty by 2030 is being jeopardized as we struggle to respond to entrenched deprivation, violent conflicts and vulnerabilities to natural disasters,” Secretary-General António Guterres wrote when the latest data on the SDGs were released in July 2019. The numbers provided background to the meeting of world leaders in New York during the opening of the 74th General Assembly.

“Global hunger is on the rise, and at least half of the world’s population lacks essential health services,” Guterres wrote.

“More than half of the world’s children do not meet standards in reading and mathematics; only 28 per cent of persons with severe disabilities received cash benefits; and women in all parts of the world continue to face structural disadvantages and discrimination.

“It is abundantly clear that a much deeper, faster and more ambitious response is needed to unleash the social and economic transformation needed to achieve our 2030 goals.”

Guterres reiterated his message of urgency when he opened the high-level review of the SDGs on Sept. 24. Speaking the next day, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed was more optimistic about what she saw as “the boundless potential of humanity to create a better future for all.” Mohammed, however, who had shepherded the goals into their final form in 2015, acknowledged that progress was off track.

The data report in July revealed that despite some gains, many millions of people among the world’s 7.7 billion people were living in shocking conditions. That included the 785 million people without basic drinking water services and three billion people still lacking clean cooking fuels, contributing to poor health. Fewer than half of the people in the world had access to safe sanitation, and 673 million were forced to defecate in the open, according to the latest statistics from 2017.

“Achieving universal access to even basic sanitation services by 2030 will require a doubling of the current annual rate of progress,” the secretary-general has noted.

Separately, a UN special rapporteur on human rights, Urmila Bhoola, reported that more than 40 million people are enslaved worldwide, a quarter of them children, and that the numbers are expected to rise. More than 60 percent of those in forced labor work in the private sector, with women and girls disproportionately affected. Almost all of them — 98 percent — have experienced sexual violence, said Bhoola, who reports on contemporary forms of slavery.

Against this dismal panorama, a new report emerged with talking points for the gathering of government officials on the SDGs during the UN General Assembly session this month. The report challenged current assumptions and thinking on the planning and implementing of development projects. Titled “The Future Is Now: Science for Achieving Sustainable Development,” the report does not attempt to rewrite the 17 development goals or their mind-numbing 169 targets.

Instead, the authors, a team of 15 experts in social and natural sciences assembled in 2016 from developing and industrial countries, concluded that goals could be interconnected or clustered to promote synergistic exchanges for greater effectiveness and should not be isolated in 17 silos.

Leading the group as co-chairs were Peter Messerli, director of the Center for Development and Environment at the University of Bern in Switzerland, and Endah Murniningtyas, a former deputy planning minister of Indonesia. The UN’s Department of Social and Economic Affairs published their report. (For a global projection of how far off the targets are, see https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/gsdr2019 Table 1-1.)

The scientists recommended six areas that could be collaboratively transformative: issues of human well-being and abilities; sustainable and just economies; sustainable food systems and healthy nutrition; energy decarbonization; urban and peri-urban development; and the global environmental commons. They named four “levers” that could be used to spur action: governance, economy and finance, individual and collective action and science and technology.

The underlying importance of science, including the professional collection of credible data, is a theme that runs throughout the report. Governance is also given prominence in both identifying and implementing the goals.

In “The Future Is Now” report, the scientists appeared to conclude that new thinking was needed.

“Every country and region should design and rapidly implement integrated pathways to sustainable development that correspond to their specific needs and priorities, and contribute also to the necessary global transformation,” the authors said.

Using one issue, childhood nutrition, the authors described how their report’s “entry points” can be linked: “For instance, changes in food habits towards more healthy diets may result from individual and collective action,which is informed by scientific knowledge that can directly influence choices made by families, while supporting governance initiatives such as mandatory food labelling and schools limiting students access to sugary drinks.”

The emphasis on collaboration and interaction within and among countries suggests that the current lack of such links reflects not only failures of governance but also the impetus and structure of the SDGs.

David Malone is the rector of the United Nations University in Tokyo and a former president of Canada’s International Development Research Center. He was asked by PassBlue why the SDGs have faltered while the Millennium Development Goals that preceded them were more successful.

“The Millennium Development Goals arose from a desire of the developing continents to refocus the UN on development issues after the decade of the 1990s had focused the UN very much on peace and security,” according to Malone, who has been Canada’s ambassador to India, Nepal and Bhutan as well as deputy chief of Canada’s UN mission.

“They offered the considerable benefit of being simple and clear, few in number (8) with few accompanying targets and indicators,” he said in an email response. “They were not developed by member states, but rather in the office of Secretary-General Kofi Annan several months after the Millennium Summit. That they were mostly attained owes a great deal to the manageable nature of the package, so to speak. But it probably owes more to a very significant growth spurt in both Asia and Africa and to a strong focus on social development in Latin America between the years 2000 and 2015.”

“The members states of the UN very much wished to develop the successor platform, the SDGs, themselves,” he added. “The result was a fairly political approach including compromises that were essentially additive — each country’s or region’s pet priority being somehow accommodated — with little attention to the ability of many governments to implement complex schemes developed internationally. The SDGs involve 17 goals, 169 targets and over 200 indicators by which those targets can be measured.

“After their adoption, it became clear within two years that many governments, particularly those with limited administrative capacity, while celebrating the goals, were not actually using them in planning or budgeting national priorities. The UN Secretariat has signaled several times now that on current global economic growth trends, many of the SDGs are unlikely to be attained. Politics nationally, regionally and globally are hardly cooperating either. And SDG success is very much hostage to both sets of factors.”

A significant difference between the SDGs and the MDGs is that the former should apply to every nation, not only developing countries, and that all governments are expected to declare their aspirations, plan their appropriate policies and track their national progress.

That has not happened in numerous places. One of the most glaring examples is the United States. A State Department website on the topic qualifies it by an advisory that it “is a work in progress” and mostly devoid of US-specific information or commitment.

Among other advanced economies, the Europeans have done much better, with a number of related websites, beginning with an overview of regional policies.

On Sept 24 at the UN, a panel of European Union and developing-country partners in the 79-member African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States announced a new commitment to the 2030 Agenda, backed by about $32 million, from the Europeans.

Canada, with numerous websites introduced by a comprehensive policy statement, is also active, as is Japan. It has multiple online sites, including one following the work of its national task forces carrying out the sustainable goals.

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The Green Jobs Advantage: How Climate-friendly Investments Are Better Job Creators

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This paper compares job creation per dollar from various types of green investments vs. unsustainable investments. It also explores how to promote good jobs that have fair wages, job security, opportunities for career growth, safe working conditions, and are accessible for all.

Source: World Resource Institute

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused millions of jobs to be lost globally and has exacerbated inequality. At the same time, addressing climate change is an urgent challenge. Too many governments have funneled money to unsustainable sectors as part of their COVID-19 recovery efforts even though this is not the best job creator and will exacerbate climate change.

This analysis of studies from around the world finds that green investments generally create more jobs per US$1 million than unsustainable investments. It compares near-term job creation effects from clean energy vs. fossil fuels, public transportation vs. roads, electric vehicles vs. internal combustion engine vehicles, and nature-based solutions vs. oil and gas production.

For example, on average:

  • Investing in solar PV creates 1.5 times as many jobs as fossil fuels per $1 million.
  • Building efficiency creates 2.8 times as many jobs as fossil fuels per $1 million.
  • Mass transit creates 1.4 times as many jobs as road construction per $1 million.
  • Ecosystem restoration creates 3.7 times as many jobs as oil & gas production per $1 million.

The paper also explores job quality in green sectors. In developing countries, green jobs can offer good wages when they are formal, but too many are informal and temporary, limiting access to work security, safety and social protections. In developed countries, new green jobs can provide avenues to the middle class, but may have wages and benefits that aren’t as high as those in traditional sectors where, in many cases, workers have been able to fight for job quality through decades of collective action.

Government investment should come with conditions that ensure fair wages and benefits, work security, safe working conditions, opportunities for training and advancement, the right to organize, and accessibility to all.

This paper is jointly published by WRI, the International Trade Union Confederation, and New Climate Economy.

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“If there is gas collusion in Chile, then distribution should be done by a public company”: Sector workers

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Chile. “If there is gas collusion, then distribution should be done by a public company”: Sector workers

This post is also available in: Spanish

Patricio Tapia and Solange Bustos (Image by Andrés Figueroa Cornejo)

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), as well as Natural Gas (NG) is imported to Chile mainly from Argentina and the United States through the sea. It arrives in the country at two regasification plants: the one in Quintero and the one in Mejillones, where it is processed and introduced into cylinders for domestic consumption. However, only three companies monopolise gas distribution, of which Metrogas, owned by Gasco S.A., has more than half of the market.

By Andrés Figueroa Cornejo

After recently issuing a study of high social impact, the Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE) detected serious irregularities in the gas distribution industry, among whose assertions is that the retail price of each cylinder of liquefied gas should be 15% lower than the current one, and the price of natural gas paid by Metrogas users should be 20% cheaper.

The National Economic Prosecutor, Ricardo Riesco, said, “This study confirms that the gas market is not sufficiently competitive and our recommendations seek to change this situation as soon as possible for the benefit of consumers, because we are convinced that prices can be significantly lower in the future if regulation is adjusted”.

The Preliminary Report of its sixth Market Study, where the FNE addressed the gas market in Chile in the period between 2010 and 2020, focused on the social groups that use liquefied petroleum gas and natural gas.

To develop the study, the FNE collected unpublished data on the gas market in the country and was advised by academics Juan Pablo Montero, from the Catholic University of Chile, and Eduardo Saavedra, from the Alberto Hurtado University, as well as Oxford University economist Christopher Decker.

The FNE calculated that, due to the concentration of the LPG market, private wholesale distributors of this energy increased their annual profits by up to 55% more than those obtained in 2014, which is equivalent to US$ 261 million “extra” annual profits.

On the other hand, the Prosecutor’s Office detected that an exception contained in the last reform to the Gas Services Law, in June 2017, allowed Metrogas, through Agesa, a company not subject to regulation, to increase the price of its NG distribution service to consumers.

This resulted, since February 2017, in an increase of up to 20% in the price of residential natural gas paid by Metrogas customers, equivalent to US$ 87 million per year.

The case of Gasco S.A.

The Gasco corporation, harshly treated by the National Economic Prosecutor’s Office along with Lipigas and Abastible, and company that takes the majority share of the business, said that the proposal of the entity, “could end up seriously damaging the quality of service and also the price of gas in the country”, without offering any explanation of how and why it shot up prices.

On the other hand, Patricio Tapia Gómez and Solange Bustos, leaders of the Sindicato Nacional Interempresa de Trabajadores del Gas, were the ones who led the 21-day strike of the Gasco LPG Workers’ Union, from 19 December 2017 to 8 January 2018. It was a historic strike because it was the first and only one so far in the more than 160 years of existence of the company.

The president of the company, then and now, is Matías Pérez Cruz, a staunch pinochetista, anti-unionist, fan of the neo-fascist presidential candidate José Antonio Kast, and who became infamous on 6 February 2019 when a video went viral showing him expelling three women in an arrogant and violent manner from what he called “his garden”, on the shores of Lake Ranco.

Now, the leaders pointed out that, “Unlike the state’s public health system, when a person stops paying the gas bill, the company immediately shuts off the supply. What happens then? When private gas corporations cut off the gas for non-payment, they simply cease to be “strategic companies”. In other words, they lose their status as an “essential company” that provides a “basic service of public utility”. Where the market rules, there are no more “strategic basic services”, because in the case of gas, it is a product that only those who have the means to buy it can buy. Its supply is not guaranteed as a social right. Moreover, if someone cannot buy gas from a private company “A”, they can buy it from company “B”, because in Chile there is supposed to be free competition”.

Patricio Tapia and Solange Bustos, who come from Gasco, explained that, “Gasco is divided into two companies: Gasco S.A., which corresponds to the administrative body, and Gasco GLP, which is the operational or production part. Chile lacks its own gas to supply the domestic market. The productive part is the workers who mix the raw materials coming from abroad via ships arriving at the Quintero plant, fill the cylinders with this mixture, and distribute the cylinders to customers in trucks and vehicles. The cost of the gas that arrives at the port in frozen form, Gasco S.A. buys at a price infinitely lower than the gas it then sells to other firms and to consumers in general”.

The union representatives, given the situation of the collusion of gas prices, which operates as a true monopoly, indicated that they are preparing a proposal at the national level, “where they seriously study and according to the criteria of basic services as social rights, the establishment of a public company in the area that transfers specialised workers who today work for private companies in terrible conditions, to this eventual public industry; and that representatives of users’ committees, who can be elected and revocable, supervise any possible irregularities that may arise, always under the principle of the common good”.

Likewise, the leaders expressed that the Gasco company is a scandalous part of the gas collusion, as made visible by the investigation carried out by the FNE, exposing the illegal and fraudulent ways it uses to obtain its multi-million profits at the expense of the social majorities and consumers, in the midst of an unprecedented economic, social and health crisis. Likewise, the company headed by Pérez Cruz has made a large part of its profits by exploiting workers and systematically destroying trade union organisation, they said.

Tapia and Bustos said that after their historic strike, and as an exemplary punishment, the company took away the most important benefits they had won, such as “the Gas Workers’ Welfare Corporation (Cobegas), which had two funds: a pension fund that granted former employees a pension complementary to the legal pension, and a Medical Service Fund that functioned as Medical Insurance, which was not conditioned by pre-existing conditions, was not deductible and to which retirees could belong until their death and their widows could continue with the insurance”. They added that, “today, members who are Gasco workers are obliged to join the company’s complementary insurance, which does have deductibles and age limits, and some of its coverage is lower, and retirees cannot belong to it. The president of Cobegas, Lorena Matamala, who is a leader of Gasco’s Union 3, personally called on workers to switch to the company’s health insurance in order to exterminate Cobegas’ insurance. Both insurances were financed by a contribution from the company and a contribution from the worker-member. For example, the company contributed 1.4% of the taxable remuneration to the health insurance. All of this ended.

“Gasco’s anti-union practices add up to a whole chapter of infamy against the interests of the workers”, the leaders declared.

Source: Pressenza

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Greens leader slams Green infighting

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The former leader of the Green party in British Columbia has endorsed the federal Liberals’ plan for combatting climate change.

Andrew Weaver says the Liberal plan is “both bold and thoughtful” and is the only credible plan put forward by any federal party.

The endorsement is another blow for federal Green Leader Annamie Paul, who has struggled with internecine feuding and a lack of financial resources to run a national campaign.

Paul admitted earlier this week that the party will not field a full slate of 338 candidates across the country.

She’s not commenting directly on Weaver’s endorsement but insists the Liberal climate plan is “smoke and mirrors.”

Weaver posted his video endorsement of the Liberal climate plan on social media Thursday; it was eagerly circulated by Liberals, including Leader Justin Trudeau, who made much of the fact that Weaver is a climate scientist.

In the video, Weaver lauds the Liberal plan for including, among other measures, “a world-leading price on carbon pollution” and rapid zero-emissions vehicle deployment “which is even strong policy that one we developed here in B.C.”

“This is a plan that reflects the urgency and scale of the crisis,” he says.

“I’m extremely impressed at how ambitious the Liberal Party of Canada’s plan is and I’m confident that this is the right path for Canada.”

Trudeau retweeted Weaver’s video, saying it “means a lot” given all he’s accomplished as a climate scientist and former Green leader in B.C.

Before joining the B.C. legislature in 2013, Weaver was the Canada Research Chair in climate modelling and analysis at the University of Victoria and a lead author on several United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific assessments. He didn’t run for re-election last year.

At a news conference Thursday in the Toronto Centre riding where she’s trying for the third time to win a seat for herself in the House of Commons, Paul said she hadn’t seen Weaver’s video and couldn’t comment on it.

But she argued that even if the Liberals were to implement every measure in their climate plan, Canada would not meet the Liberals’ original target to reduce carbon emissions by 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030, much less their new, more ambitious target of 40 to 45 per cent.

“The fact of the matter is that you cannot continue to build new pipelines like TMX, support other pipeline projects like Coastal GasLink, greenlight project after project for new oil and gas exploration, continue to support fracking of gas in this country and continue to support the fossil fuel industry to the tune of billions of dollars and hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

Paul muddled her message, however, misspeaking as she declared: “If you want a real plan the only option in this election for you is the Liberals.”

Weaver stressed in an interview that he’s not endorsing the Liberal party per se, he’s endorsing the Liberal climate plan which he called “first rate” and “absolutely exceptional.”

“I’ve always been focused on policy, not partisanship,” he said.

Weaver said he hopes Paul wins a seat and believes she’s “the best thing to happen” to the federal Green party. But he said he doesn’t believe her party grasps the seriousness of the climate crisis.

“The federal Greens do not have a climate plan, to be perfectly blunt,” Weaver said.

“If the federal Greens truly believe that climate change was the defining issue of our time then they wouldn’t be imploding over infighting over views of a Mideast crisis for which nobody really cares what the views of one or two MPs in a Canadian Parliament are,” he added.

In June, Fredericton Green MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals after criticizing Paul’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That triggered weeks of infighting and attempts by the party’s executive to put Paul’s leadership to a confidence vote by grassroots members.

Source: The Globe and Mail, Canada

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Mobilized TV

Mobilized TV on Free Speech TV  takes a deep look at our world, the consequences of human activity on our planet, and how we can reverse and prevent existing and future crises from occurring. Mobilized reveals life on our planet as a system of systems which all work together for the optimal health of the whole. The show delves into deep conversations with change-makers so people can clearly take concerted actions.

Produced by Steven Jay and hosted by Jeff Van Treese.

Mobilized’s TV series Mobilized TV  premieres on Free Speech TV on Friday, October 15, 2021. All episodes appear:

Fridays 9:30 PM Eastern (USA/Canada)

Saturdays; 6:30 PM (Eastern USA/Canada)

Sundays: 8:30 AM Eastern (USA/Canada)

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Howard Bloom has worn many hats. As an Author, he’s known for “The Global Brain” and “The Lucifer Principle” and many others.  As the head of the Howard Bloom Organization, for many years, he empowered a team of publicists to connect his stable of artists with media, creating successful campaigns for Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Amnesty International, The Jacksons Victory Tour, Billy Joel and John Mellencamp. But his real passion is science and discovery, and empowering human soul into the creation of optimal systems that serve all.  Howard claims that “We need a vision for the future that we could reach towards by looking up, the same way JFK encourage us to look into the sky and go to the Moon.”  It is this type of vision that great societies try to attain.”

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