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Billions Committed for Environment at Clinton Global Initiative

NEW YORK, New York, September 26, 2007 (ENS) - Today in New York, the opening day of the third annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, CGI, brought together some 1,000 leaders of business, government and nongovernmental organizations from over 70 countries, including 52 current and former heads of state, who made commitments focusing on the Initiative's four focus areas: education, energy and climate change, global health and poverty alleviation.

Former President Bill Clinton established the CGI on the premise that the world is faced with complex problems that government either is not solving or that government alone cannot solve. People attend the meetings, learn more about a given issue, and then decide to take action.

Former President Bill Clinton opens the third annual Clinton Global Initiative (Photo courtesy CGI)
Clinton welcomed his guests by telling them that since the first CGI meeting, "More than 600 commitments have been made by hundreds and hundreds of participants in these CGI sessions, impacting tens of millions of lives and more than 100 countries. Among the things which have come out of the commitments made and kept: 20 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions have been avoided, more than 850,000 children under the age of five have received life saving health services, three million more micro-entrepreneurs have accessed the capital."

To start the ball rolling, Clinton announced a commitment worth two million dollars by a group of financial services corporations to provide essential humanitarian aid by air lift to Chad and Darfur to directly reach those affected by the ongoing conflict. The first four flights will be completed by the end of 2007, the second four by April.

Clinton also highlighted the commitment of Florida Power and Light to build new solar electricity plants in Florida, to provide customers with information on reducing their carbon imprint, and to giv them a way to do it. The commitment is worth $2.4 billion for 2012. The company will build 500 megawatts of new solar energy generating capacity, with an expected reduction in CO2 emissions of more than two million tons over five years.

Clinton invited Al Gore, his former vice president, to speak about climate change, and Gore said the world is already at a crisis point.

"There should be no mistake that this crisis, the climate crisis, is not going to be solved only by personal action and business action. We need changes in laws, we need changes in policies, we need leadership, and we need a new treaty, we need a mandate at Bali, during the first 14 days of December this year, to complete a treaty, not by 2012, but by 2009, and put it completely into force by 2010. We can do it and we must do it," Gore said.

From left: Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan; Bishop emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa; former Vice President Al Gore (Photo courtesy CGI)
"Now two things happened last week that were particularly important," said Gore. "Number one, five days ago, at the time of the equinox when the warm half of the year in the northern hemisphere ended, there was the official measurement of the maximum extent to which the ice of the north polar ice cap had melted. It not only set an all time record low, it was 22 percent below the previous record, an extra one million square miles melted, there are only 1.6 million square miles left."

"What it means is that the entire north polar ice cap could be completely gone in less than 23 years. And if it goes, it won't come back in millions of years," Gore warned.

"What this means, ladies and gentlemen, and particularly, all these heads of state and business leaders here, we face a genuine planetary emergency, we cannot just talk about it, we have to act on it, and we have to solve it urgently."

The other important event last week was that the world celebrated the 20th anniversary of a success story - the Montreal Protocol, ratified when Ronald Reagan was president, which has been effective in reducing the emission of ozone-destroying chemicals.

Gore said, "I would like to call on President [George W.] Bush to follow President Reagan's example, and listen to those among his advisors who know that we have to have binding reductions in CO2, we have to put a price on carbon, and the United States of America has to lead the world to solve the climate crisis.

Gore said the effort to solve the climate crisis is actually the key to giving humanity the ability to successfully address these other crises, whether its religious strife, or the effort against global poverty, or HIV AIDS, or any of the others.

"When people from different points of view with different experiences have a shared goal that is urgent, that's connected to their survival, they find the ability to put their differences aside and work together. We've seen it time and time again, sometimes in war, sometimes in peace. This is an emergency."

By the end of the first day, over 40 commitments in education, global health, energy and climate change and poverty alleviation had been announced.

Actor Brad Pitt is expanding his commitment to New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward with his Make it Right project to create a community of 150 affordable and sustainable homes in one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Pitt and his partner Steve Bing are challenging members of the Clinton Global Initiative to join them in rebuilding the Lower Ninth Ward by each pledging to match $5 million in contributions to the Make it Right project, for a total of $10 million.

"The heart and soul of New Orleans, specifically the people of the Lower 9th Ward, are paramount to this project," said Pitt. "The words of one elderly man who is determined to return to New Orleans led to the name of our organization: he asked us, directly simply and profoundly, to help make it right. So that's what we're doing. We're going to help to make it right with 150 sustainable, affordable houses - houses that stand out for their design both aesthetically and structurally, so that these people can live in beautiful safe structures that respect their spirit and provide a good quality of life."

Many other donors targeted environmental problems with their contributions.

  • 1Sky
    Working with partners 1Sky will raise $50 million to advocate for a simple set of goals and policy proposals to improve the federal government's policies on climate change. All partners working in this coalition are committed to making the U.S. government develop climate change targets that match those of the European Union. The EU is committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent compared to 1990 levels.

  • Proctor & Gamble: Children's Safe Drinking Water
    Proctor & Gamble, working with partner organizations in the Children's Safe Drinking Water program, will provide sachets to purify an estimated two billion liters of water. By using the easily accessible system, the program will help prevent 80 million days of diarrhea illness and save 10,000 lives by 2012. The $20 million project follows a 2006 commitment by P&G to work with partners to provide safe drinking water and hygiene education to one million children in Africa by 2009.

  • The Dow Chemical Company & WaterHealth International
    The Dow Chemical Company will provide $30 million dollars of loan guarantees to support the financing of up to 2,000 community water systems, serving 11 million people in India through WaterHealth International, WHI. For the past two years, WHI has provided sustainable, low cost community based water systems to rural villages in India. WHI has installed 100 systems and partners with local NGOs to provide water and sanitation education. Dow's commitment will help to extend WHI's reach beyond the current projections of 3,000 systems over the next five years.

  • Center for International Forestry Research
    The World Bank estimates that 90 percent of the 1.2 billion people who are living in extreme poverty depend on forest resources for some part of their livelihood. With this three-year commitment, CIFOR will spend $6 million to launch Climate Change and Forests Initiative to produce independent and timely analysis of the options for including deforestation into global and national climate policies. A key feature of its research will be a focus on ensuring that the risks of avoided deforestation - known as "reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation" or REDD - are not borne by those least able to afford them.

  • The Coca-Cola Company
    Targeting the State of Sao Paulo and working in conjunction with regional NGOs and local farmers, the Coca-Cola Company commits $13.5 million to a reforestation project along Brazilian waterways. The project aims to restore 3,000 hectares of tropical rainforest while providing local citizens with employment opportunities in environmental services. The project also aims to eliminate 30 million tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide over 30 years' time.

  • The Wallace Global Fund
    The Wallace Global Fund, together with Acción Ecológica, Amazon Watch, Earth Economics, the University of Maryland, the CS Mott Foundation, the Pachamama Alliance and the World Resources Institute are committed to supporting the visionary project of the President of Ecuador Rafael Correa to forego development of the Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini oil field, located below Yasuni National Park, the Amazon basin's most biodiverse area of rainforest.

    By motivating the international community to match Ecuador's commitment to leave nearly one billion barrels of oil in the ground, this commitment helps preserve one of the world's natural treasures and prevent 436 million tons of carbon emissions.

  • Rainforest Alliance and Gibson Musical Instruments
    The Rainforest Alliance will run a $480 million project over five years to support best practice in forestry management in 60 countries. Working with partners they will drive up the use of certified wood products in the paper supply chain and for use in musical instruments.

  • Pratt Industries
    In a $1 billion commitment Pratt Industries will build at least three new paper mills, four waste-to-energy plants and 30 materials recovery facilities over the next decade. Working with municipalities and sanitation departments it aims to avoid millions of tons of CO2 emissions.

  • Equator Environmental, LLC
    Equator Environmental commits $100 million to establish a private equity fund investing in projects that are environmentally friendly, sustainable and directly preserve ecological assets. By monetizing these "eco-products" the fund will enhance the viability of the natural environment and showcase the importance of ecosystem preservation.

  • Green for All
    Through the ground-breaking "Green for All" initiative, The Ella Barker Center for Human Rights is committing to help lead 250,000 Americans out of poverty and into "green-collar" jobs. With the continued growth in the building, solar, urban forestry, and bio-fuels sectors, a highly-trained "green-collar" workforce is needed to meet rising demand. Green for All will advocate for a national commitment to greater job training, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities - especially for people from disadvantaged communities. This transition could boost the U.S. economy, generating new opportunities for wealth and work.

  • American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)
    With funding from Rockefeller Brothers Fund, ACORE is committing to advance a more robust policy and economic case for renewable energy solutions and amplifying influential voices to strengthen public understanding of climate change. The commitment will create RECAP-the Renewable Energy Communications and Policy program-a three-year campaign that will put forward critical policy and economic analysis on energy supply, environment and climate, economic development and jobs, and national security. This unique work builds on ACORE's 2006 commitment to host a world meeting on renewable energy, which has now been successfully funded, and is scheduled to be held as the Washington International Renewable Energy Conference (WIREC 2008) on March 4-6, 2008 in Washington, DC.
In addition to announcing major commitments that have the potential to impact millions of lives globally, Clinton announced that CGI has established MyCommitment.org, an interactive website that allows members of the public to make individual commitments.

MTV and the Clinton Global Initiative will host a roundtable discussion on the state of affairs of youth activism later this month in New York City, bringing together a panel of that will include President Clinton, Bono, Chris Rock, Alicia Keys, Shakira, and Christina Norman, president of MTV. As part of the special event, "CGI and MTV present: Giving – Live at the Apollo," each individual will discuss their efforts to influence change on pressing social issues and invite young people to partner with them on a new initiative – designed to improve communities nationwide and make a difference in the lives of people living in the poorest places on the planet.

The conversation will take place on September 29th at Harlem's historic Apollo Theatre and be moderated by MTV News correspondent Sway Calloway. "Giving – Live at the Apollo" will also showcase live performances from Alicia Keys and Shakira. The discussion and concert will be webcast live on Think.MTV.com, ONE.org and keepachildalive.org, with a special on the day’s events to be later broadcast on MTV, mtvU and MTV Tr3s.

The Clinton Global Initiative is a project of the William J. Clinton Foundation that brings together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.

CGI has approximately 1,000 members, diverse and influential leaders from all over the world, who make tangible commitments to create or support projects within CGI's areas of focus.

During the three day annual conferences, attendees are required to make specific commitments to address one of the Initiative's four main topics and report back to President Clinton on the progress made throughout the year. Attendees who do not make or keep their commitments are not invited to attend future meetings.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.



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