World Leaders Fortify Commitments to Environment

DAVOS, Switzerland, January 25, 2008 (ENS) – Economic, scientific, and political leaders and entertainers pledged hundreds of millions of dollars and moral support to environmental causes ranging from clean water and climate change to a modern green farming revolution as the World Economic Forum wound up its annual meeting in Davos today.

More than 2,500 participants from 88 countries attended this year’s annual forum, including 27 heads of state or government. Around 60 percent of the participants are business leaders drawn from the Forum’s members – 1,000 large companies from around the world and across all economic sectors.

Today, leaders vowed to make 2008 a turning point in the fight against poverty by redoubling support for the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals, MDGs. Aimed at reducing poverty by 2015, one of the goals is to ensure that 70 million more people are afforded improved access to clean water.

From right: Bono, Bill Gates,
Queen Rania of Jordan, British
Prime Minister Gordon Brown,
Nigerian President Yar’ Adua,
UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon at the World Economic
Forum 2008. (Photo by Andy
Mettler courtesy World Economic

“We are here to say one thing loud and clear: Not on our watch!,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. “I speak to those who are most vulnerable to climate change and those who suffer the most grinding poverty. Let 2008 be the year of the bottom billion.”

“For us in Africa, the achievement of the MDGs is our sacred duty,” said Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. “I welcome this initiative from the global community.”

“It is right that here in Davos we tell the truth that there is a development emergency and that we must summon everyone in a call to action to take measures to meet the MDGs by 2015,” said British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

“I want to challenge the business community to join the renewed efforts of governments and NGOs,” said Cisco Systems chief executive John Chambers. “It’s the power of collaborative innovation that makes a difference,” he said emphasizing the theme of the 2008 World Economic Forum.

Anti-poverty campaigner and musician Bono of the UK, who heads the organization DATA (DEBT, AIDS, TRADE, AFRICA) and global warming campaigner Al Gore highlighted a merging of efforts to find joint solutions to both problems.

They shared a session on “A Unified Earth Theory: Combining Solutions to Extreme Poverty and the Climate Crisis.”

From left: Bono, Al Gore (Photo
by Remy Steinegger courtesy
World Economic Forum

“The Millennium Development Goals can only be met if the climate crisis is taken into the fold of that effort. If the world warms up by two degrees all of the good work done in development will be undone,” said Gore, former U.S. vice president and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

“This is a moral compact, not a legal contract. To take a concrete step forward, we must take this from a moral compact to legally binding contracts,” Bono told a packed press conference. “Thanks to African leadership and debt cancellation, 29 million children are now in school,” he said.

Bono, Bill Gates and Michael Dell announced Thursday plans for Microsoft and Dell to join Bono’s RED campaign to eliminate AIDS in Africa. The two computer companies will collaborate to create red PCs with Windows Vista operating system installed. An estimated $50 to $80 from every RED Dell PC sold will be donated to the Global Fund, the organization behind the campaign.

“This fits in with the idea of creative capitalism,” said Gates of the renewed support for the Millenium Development Goals. “We can make more progress and it is important to be part of this endeavor,” he said.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates at
the World Economic Forum
2008 (Photo by Photo by Remy
Steinegger courtesy World
Economic Forum

Gates today announced a $306 million package of agricultural development grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation designed to boost the yields and incomes of millions of small farmers in Africa and other parts of the developing world so they can lift themselves and their families out of hunger and poverty.

“If we are serious about ending extreme hunger and poverty around the world, we must be serious about transforming agriculture for small farmers, most of whom are women,” said Gates. “These investments – from improving the quality of seeds, to developing healthier soil, to creating new markets – will pay off not only in children fed and lives saved. They can have a dramatic impact on poverty reduction as families generate additional income and improve their lives.”

The largest portion of the grant funding, $164.5 million, goes to Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, AGRA, an organization chaired by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Rockefeller Foundation will contribute an additional $15 million.

An Africa-based and African-led partnership, AGRA was established in 2006 with an initial $150 million investment from the Gates and Rockefeller foundations.

“Africa’s soils are among the poorest in the world, and poor soils produce poor crops,” said Annan. “This program aims to revitalize Africa’s severely depleted soils in order to increase the fertility and sustainability of small-scale farms while safeguarding the environment.”

Kofi Annan and plant breeder
Jane Ininda examine hybrid
maize varieties in Kenya. (Photo
courtesy AGRA)

The other five grants – to CARE, Heifer International, International Development Enterprises, International Rice Research Institute, and TechnoServe – total $141.5 million. The grants will support work in country, including the development of local science, technology, farmer extension services, and market systems.

“We need a 21st Century Green Revolution designed for the special and diverse needs of Africa,” said World Bank President Robert Zoellick, who joined Gates in Davos for the announcement. “It must be driven by greater investments in technological research and dissemination, sustainable land management, agricultural supply chains, irrigation, rural microcredit, and policies that strengthen market opportunities while assisting with rural vulnerabilities and insecurities.”

African heads of state recently endorsed a plan, the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program, which aims to increase government budget allocations for agriculture to 10 percent of national spending.

Cecilia Kapinga, a small farmer who lives in Mbinga, Tanzania with her husband and six children, is growing her coffee business with help from TechnoServe, one of the partners in today’s announcement.

The extra income has helped pay for food and running water and supported new business opportunities for Kapinga and her family. “The biggest difference is the confidence we have in our future and in our children’s future,” she said. “We know the road we’re on and where it leads.”

Water is an even more complex challenge than climate change, panelists at the forum said on Wednesday. “The challenge of securing safe and plentiful water for all,” said Secretary-General Ban, “is one of the most daunting challenges faced by the world today.”

“The solution to water is more complex than the solution to climate change,” said Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, chief executive of Nestlé, Switzerland.

But the panelists agreed the challenge could be solved, using collaborative approaches, political will, market mechanisms and innovative technology like those which arose in response to global warming.

Market forces could work well under a cap-and-trade approach similar to those applied to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, suggested Fred Krupp, President of the nonprofit Environmental Defense based in the United States. “We saw a tragic ripping apart of the fabric of life when we took too much water out of rivers. Unless we put caps on the global warming pollution we’re throwing up into atmosphere, we’re walking into a hell for water shortages.”

UN Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon warns that the world
is running out of water. (Photo
courtesy World Economic Forum)

Ban pointed out that the fighting in Darfur, Sudan, resulted from water shortage. “Fighting broke out between farmers and herders after the rains failed and water became scarce.” Some 200,000 people have died. Several million fled their homes. “But almost forgotten is the event that touched it off – drought, a shortage of life’s vital resource.”

The panelists agreed that a certain amount of clean water for drinking should be seen as a human right. But, they said, water for farmers, industry, swimming pools or gardens needs to be priced to prevent waste and inefficiency.

The resource is wasted, because it has no economic value, despite being the most precious and scarce resource of all, said Brabeck-Letmathe. “If we allow market forces to play a role in how to define the value of water, we could take a big step forward.”

On dealing with global warming, business leaders at Davos said they need clarity from a future climate change framework agreement that includes internationally agreed emission targets.

They called upon governments to engage with companies in the process leading to the UN’s 2009 climate change conference Copenhagen, where a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol may be agreed.

Klaus Schwab, founder,
executive chairman, World
Economic Forum (Photo by
Remy Steinegger courtesy
World Economic Forum)

“We have the future in our own hands. A global agreement to combat climate change must be reached,” said Lars Josefsson, who heads Swedish energy company Vattenfall AB.

“A rational handling of the climate change challenge must be made politically possible in every major economy of the world,” he said. “I firmly believe that global business has a key role to play since political reservations often are based on a fear that local business will be disadvantaged through a global agreement.”

Björn Stigson, president the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, said, “Our members are in a unique position to make an important contribution that will help govern emissions after 2012, not least because it makes good business sense. They need clarity about policy frameworks; particularly they need governments to be clear about emissions pathways. Business is willing to partner with governments and other stakeholders to create these frameworks.”

“Any solution to address climate change must make good business sense and offer business enough clarity to make the right investment decisions in the upcoming years. This is crucial to successfully fight climate change,” said Yvo de Boer, who heads the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

“A clear outcome from negotiations in Copenhagen is essential for the continuity of the rapidly growing carbon market,” said Andrei Marcu, president and chief executive of the International Emissions Trading Association. “Uncertainty about the future of the market after 2012,” when the Kyoto Protocol expires, “could easily undo the momentum and hinder future expansion.”

Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan is a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum. “In the Arab world, corporate social responsibility is not just a concept but it is not yet the culture,” she said Thursday in a panel on corporate global citizenship. “We have learned that governments cannot do it alone. We need companies not just for their resources but for their resourcefulness.”

From left: President Hamid
Karzi of Afghanistan, President
Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan,
Fakhruddin Ahmed, Chief
Adviser to the Prime Minister of
Bangladesh. (Photo courtesy
World Economic Forum)

On Wednesday, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan said he will try to ensure parliamentary elections on February 18 will be safe as well as fair. But he also said international audiences should not judge Pakistan’s political system by inapplicable standards.

“Please look at Pakistan from Pakistan’s eyes and not from anybody else’s eyes, Musharraf said.

Musharraf shared a panel at the World Economic Forum with Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq Barham Salih and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

The session Wednesday began with an expression of partnership and cooperation in resolving instability as Presidents Musharraf and Karzai shook hands on stage.

Regarding security in Iraq, Barham Salih noted positive developments in Anbar province. “I can say for maybe the first time, Iraq is on the road to winning,” he told participants.

On Thursday Musharraf shared a session on “The Quest for Peace and Stability” with Karzai and Fakhruddin Ahmed, chief adviser to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

Musharraf and the other leaders stressed the importance of economic development in reducing extremism and fostering democracy.

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