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A Corporate Giant’s Role in Reducing Climate Change and Promoting Development: A Conversation with Unilever’s Paul Polman

Unilever is the world’s single largest end-user of palm oil, purchasing nearly 3 percent of global palm oil production. Whilst we can not do everything alone , with this scale comes responsibility—to make sure that our supply chains are not driving tropical deforestation, and to tackle endemic social issues such as forced labour and the protection of indigenous people.

Corporate Commitments: Necessary but Not Sufficient to End Tropical Deforestation

Over the last few years, an increasing number of companies that produce, trade, or buy “forest risk” commodities have pledged to get deforestation out of their supply chains. But voluntary efforts by progressive companies will not on their own be sufficient to end tropical deforestation. A “jurisdictional approach” that marries public and private efforts at the scale of political units offers a promising way forward.

Postcard from Davos

The world’s elite—plus a few ringers like me—gathered last week in the small Swiss village of Davos to discuss the state of the world at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Although not formally on the agenda, the issue of tropical forests infiltrated a number of discussions. But first, a quick recap of the meeting’s big themes that provided the broader context.

The Competition is Heating up for Climate Leaders

A Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress may spell hard times for progressive climate action at a national and international level. But emerging economies are increasingly realizing their own stake in protecting their populations from climate change while also capitalizing on clean energy technology and manufacturing.

Will Trump be the Grinch that Steals US-Cuba Environmental Cooperation?

Last week, I had the privilege of sitting in on a conference on United States-Cuba relations in Havana that brought together experts on the politics of both countries. The conference was dominated by uncertainty over the future of bilateral ties under a Trump Administration. One of the many prospective casualties of a reversal in US policy toward Cuba would be cooperation on the environment.

Development in 2016 – CGD Podcast

In 2016 on the CGD Podcast, we have discussed some of development's biggest questions: How do we pay for development? How do we measure the sustainable development goals (SDGs)? What should we do about refugees and migrants? And is there life yet in the notion of globalism? The links to all the full podcasts featured and the work they reference are below, but in this edition, we bring you highlights of some of those conversations.

If the Trump Administration Abandons Climate, Will China Take Global Leadership?

President Elect Donald Trump committed his first major personnel act on climate Wednesday, picking Scott Pruitt—Oklahoma Attorney General, climate change denier, and oil industry ally—to head the Environmental Protection Agency. If Pruitt is confirmed to the position, he will be responsible for looking out for not just for narrow oil interests, but all Americans. Maybe he’ll be persuaded to take a more forward-looking stance on climate by the Americans already suffering from sea level rise in AlaskaFlorida, and Louisiana. But if that doesn’t concern him, perhaps the United States losing international goodwill and influence to an ascendant China will.

Why Forests? Why Now? – Podcast with Frances Seymour

Preventing dangerous climate change is critical for promoting global development. And saving tropical forests is essential to doing both. CGD senior fellow Frances Seymour, coauthor of a new CGD book, joins me on this week’s podcast to explain why forests are key not only to meeting the objectives of the Paris climate agreement, but also to making progress on the sustainable development goals. 

Implementing the Paris Agreement is Not Just about NDCs: Focus on Adaptation Too

The city of Marrakech is all dressed up for the negotiations and festivities of the 22nd Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC. From horse-drawn carriages spinning the COP22 logo around their wheels, to banners waving "Act” in five languages posted across streetlamps and Moroccan flags lining the storefronts of the medina, the anticipation is both visible and palpable, even with the backdrop of recent political protests across the country. As a model for clean energy transition and an example of the need to adopt drastic adaptation measures, Morocco is an appropriate setting for this year's two-week decision-making marathon.

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