Development on fighting the plastic waste

Development on fighting the plastic waste

No one could have failed to notice the alarming situation regarding, in particular, plastic litter in the oceans and that many initiatives are now being announced and legislation strengthened. This is paired with an increasing flow of alarming stories how wildlife connected to seas are suffering.

As stated by the European Commission (EC), across the world, plastics make up 85% of marine litter. And plastics are even reaching people’s lungs and dinner tables, with micro-plastics in the air, water and food having an unknown impact on their health.

All circumstances combined in 2018 the topic has gained momentum tremendously. The World Environment Day in June put the spotlight on the topic even further.

A World Ocean Summit took place in March and a Global Ocean Institute was launched at conference in Sweden in May, while governments in Southeast Asia are beginning to wake up to the fact that polluting the oceans on the scale they are doing is a very important threat to the well-being of both animals and people, and a big threat to business sectors such as tourism. Left un-addressed for decades the situation for the oceans is now alarming, if not yet at rock bottom. The countries seem to realise that action, not just words, are needed, while plastic consumption just keeps on increasing.

In this context it is striking to see that only now the EU has announced (28 May) new rules from the EC to reduce marine litter. On the other hand it is interesting to note that the EC also highlights that there is business incentive on doing this: “Tackling the plastics problem is a must and it can bring new opportunities for innovation, competitiveness and job creation”

The 10 single-use plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches and seas (constituting 70% of all marine litter items), as well as lost and abandoned fishing gear will be targeted.

“Where alternatives are readily available and affordable, single-use plastic products will be banned from the market. For products without straight-forward alternatives, the focus is on limiting their use through a national reduction in consumption; design and labelling requirements and waste management/clean-up obligations for producers. Together, the new rules will put Europe ahead of the curve on an issue with global implications,” states the EC.

“This Commission promised to be big on the big issues and leave the rest to Member States. Plastic waste is undeniably a big issue and Europeans need to act together to tackle this problem, because plastic waste ends up in our air, our soil, our oceans, and in our food. Today’s proposals will reduce single use plastics on our supermarket shelves through a range of measures. We will ban some of these items, and substitute them with cleaner alternatives so people can still use their favourite products,” stated First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, responsible for sustainable development.

Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness, added that single use plastics are not a smart economic or environmental choice. He described the new EU proposals as an opportunity that will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives. Europe can lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources.

Companies will be given a competitive edge: having one set of rules for the whole EU market will create a springboard for European companies to develop economies of scale and be more competitive in the booming global marketplace for sustainable products. By setting up re-use systems (such as deposit refund schemes), companies can ensure a stable supply of high quality material. In other cases, the incentive to look for more sustainable solutions can give companies the technological lead over global competitors.

Having already addressed the plastic bags issue the EU now turns the attention to other plastic products and fishing gear.

The ban will apply to plastic cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and sticks for balloons which will all have to be made exclusively from more sustainable materials instead. Single-use drinks containers made with plastic will only be allowed on the market if their caps and lids remain attached.

Consumption reduction targets: Member States will have to reduce the use of plastic food containers and drinks cups. They can do so by setting national reduction targets, making alternative products available at the point of sale, or ensuring that single-use plastic products cannot be provided free of charge;

Obligations for producers: Producers will help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, as well as awareness raising measures for food containers, packets and wrappers (such as for crisps and sweets), drinks containers and cups, tobacco products with filters (such as cigarette butts), wet wipes, balloons, and lightweight plastic bags. The industry will also be given incentives to develop less polluting alternatives for these products.

Member States will be obliged to raise consumers’ awareness about the negative impact of littering of single-use plastics and fishing gear as well as about the available re-use systems and waste management options for all these products.

The Commission’s proposals will now go to the European Parliament and Council for adoption. The Commission urges the other institutions to treat this as a priority file, and to deliver tangible results for Europeans before the elections in May 2019.

To mark the World Environment Day on 5 June, the EC also launched an EU-wide awareness-raising campaign to put the spotlight on consumer choice and highlight individual people’s role in combatting plastic pollution and marine litter.

Elsewhere, the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute (Global Ocean Institute) was officially inaugurated on 8 May 2018, during WMU Global Ocean Conference held in Sweden. The new Institute will act as an independent focal point for ocean related dialogue and capacity-building. The outcomes of the conference inform the priorities for the new institute, as well as strategies to ensure active engagement by stakeholders with the new Institute.

Established in partnership with The Nippon Foundation and with generous support from the Governments of Canada, Norway, Sweden and the City of Malmö, the Institute will complement the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) current and future engagement in the broader sphere of ocean governance.

It is founded on the vision to bring to life a convergence platform where policy makers, the scientific community, regulators, industry actors, academics, and representatives of civil society can meet to discuss how best to manage and use ocean spaces and their resources for the sustainable development of present and future generations.

Its impact-oriented research will work across the sectoral divides in ocean affairs, engage in forward-looking dialogue among representatives of governments, ocean industries, research communities, civil society and other academic institutions, and produce policy and regulatory advice on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and beyond.

In 2018, the World Maritime University (WMU) will celebrate 35 years of excellence in education, research and capacity building.

Sweden has also recently appointed an Ambassador for the Ocean, Helen Ågren. “I have been working on different aspects of sustainable development since I attended the Rio Conference as a youth representative in 1992. I really look forward to working together with ocean champions around the world. I will draw on my experience from research, sustainable production and consumption, greening the economy and climate change mitigation and adaptation, as these are important pieces of the puzzle with regard to saving the ocean,” she said upon her appointed.

“It is clear that we humans have severely mismanaged one of our global commons – the ocean. We have failed our children and future generations. However, guilt is not the best driving force for change. Fascination and marvel at the beauty and rich diversity of life in the ocean, as shown to us in the BBC television series Blue Planet II, is a far more powerful driving force. To reverse the current negative trends in ocean health, I believe that we must celebrate progress and highlight good examples, innovations and the devoted people making it possible.”

On 7–9 March 2018, Ambassador Ågren attended the World Ocean Summit in Cancún, Mexico, to share experiences on national ocean policies. “Policy coordination, exemplified by the Swedish maritime strategy for people, jobs and the environment, is key to sustainable development,” she said.

Some encouraging news and initiatives from around the world highlighted in Cancún included the development of a new type of insurance to protect coral reefs, new large marine protected areas established by countries including Mexico, Chile and the Seychelles, and innovations by energetic young entrepreneurs to reduce by-catch and single use plastics.

Together with Fiji, Sweden co-chaired the first ever global conference on the ocean at United Nations Headquarters in New York in June 2017. Called the Ocean Conference, it was a global manifestation placing the ocean at the centre of the sustainable development agenda and resulted in a Call for Action and more than 1 400 voluntary commitments. These commitments are concrete actions to increase knowledge and reduce the pressure on the ocean.

Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate, Isabella Lövin, and UN Special Envoy for the Ocean, Peter Thomson, subsequently launched ‘Friends of Ocean Action’. This multistakeholder partnership will help mobilise the energy, innovation and resources from science, technology, business, non-governmental groups and international organisations from all regions of the world to bring about change for the ocean. Cooperation with Fiji is continuing in the Ocean Pathway partnership, which highlights the key link between the ocean and climate change.

In May the Swedish Chamber of Commerce Hong Kong launched the position paper: ‘Plastic waste – a call for action’, raising plastic waste as an issue that needs urgent action in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Government was called upon to refine its policies in this area, and to intensify its work with concerned stakeholders and society as a whole.

Elsewhere, Indonesia and the World Bank have, with Danish support, published a new report with important recommendations on how to combat the issue of marine plastic debris in the country. Government cooperation between Indonesia and Denmark will focus on national policies and regulations for reduction and treatment of solid waste.

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Embassies Yangon temporarily relocate

Embassies Yangon temporarily relocate

For the next 1,5 months some the Scandinavian embassies and embassy branches will not be found in the Nordic House along the Inya Lake in Yangon.

The Nordic House in Yangon

Due to renovation the Danish embassy and the Swedish embassy branch will be moving to the Myanmar Centre Business Suites on the 10th floor of the Myanmar Centre Tower II.

The Embassy of Denmark in Myanmar writes the following:

The Embassy of Denmark will temporarily move to the following location at Myanmar Plaza in Yangon from 15 June – 31 July 2018.

Myanmar Centre Business Suites
Myanmar Centre Tower ll,
10th floor
192, Kabar Aye Pagoda Road,
Bahan Township, Yangon

Phone: +95 1 934 5065, +95 1 934 5066 

Consular opening hours are Monday-Thursday from 10:00-14:00 (by appointment only).

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Denmark’s Constitutional Day celebrated in Manila

Denmark’s Constitutional Day celebrated in Manila

On 5 June 2018 Denmark’s celebration of its Constitutional Day in Manila began with the hanging of an enormous flag outside the atrium building of Enderun colleges. Guests were welcomed with generous servings of cheese canapes from Arla and Dansk hotdogs from Leo Sorensen. “It was truly a festive evening celebrated with friends, dignataries and heads of missions!” reported the Danish embassy.

In his speech Ambassador Jan Top Christensen began by welcoming all Friends of Denmark, Dignitaries, Heads of Missions – all as “VIPs to the Danish Embassy”, as the Danish flag, Dannebrog, was hanging outside from the roof of the building, Enderun College, McKinley West in Manila

“This flag is the symbol of the long history of the Danish nation. The Danish flag is the oldest national flag in the world. According to the legend, it fell down from heaven during a battle in 1219, in what is today Estonia,” reflected the Ambassador.

“Almost four years ago, we re-opened our embassy. Time has clearly shown that it was the right decision to return to the Philippines. Today, we are very busy helping Danish companies engaging with both the private and public sectors in the Philippines. We also issue more and more visas to Filipinos who would like to travel to Denmark. Many Filipinos working for Danish companies visit Denmark for shorter or longer stays to get acquainted with Denmark. We also see an increasing number of Filipinos visiting Denmark as tourists.

“Soon the Philippines will open an embassy in Copenhagen. Certainly, there are many signs of deepening and broadening relations between our two countries,” he continued.

Denmark’s Ambassador to the Philippines together with DFA Office of European Affairs Executive Director Elizabeth Te, Vice Dean of the Diplomatic Corps and Cambodian Ambassador Tuot Panha

The Danish Ambassador then elaborated on two recent important delegations from Denmark visiting the Philippines. First out had been Denmark’s Foreign Policy Committee.

“The committee got a more nuanced picture on a number of complicated issues, including the potential for conflict in the South China Sea, if the law of the seas is not respected by all. The much talked about campaign against illegal drugs was analysed form many angles. They also learned about the progress in the peace processes regarding both Communists and the Muslims. Indeed, President Duterte has invested a lot of political capital in these processes. It would be great for people and the economic development in the conflict-ridden regions, if peace can soon replace conflict. A golden opportunity is now with the Congress to settle with a sustainable solution for western Mindanao. The saying goes: no development without security, and no security without development. The Muslims deserve autonomy to develop their cultural identity.”

More recently Denmark’s Minister for Business Affairs had headed an important business delegation. “Many fruitful contacts were made with local partners,” the ambassador summarized that visit who then also visited Denmark, promoting the Philippines as ‘The Bright Shining Star of Asia’ because of the country’s sustained high economic growth.

“The Philippines continues to attract attention from Danish companies. They are certainly interested in doing business in the Philippines. Rich potential for much more economic engagement between the two countries exists. From 2013 to 2017, the Danish export of goods to the Philippines rose 82 percent. With the preferential trade status, the so-called GSP+, granted from the EU, the Philippine manufacturers have a preferential opportunity to sell more products tariff-free to the European market, including to Denmark. In 2017, more than 25 per cent of Philippine goods went to the EU market. European companies are playing an important role in the Philippine economy. With the recent Ease of Doing Business Act, the Philippine market will become even more interesting for foreign companies.”

The ambassador also reminded all Friends of Denmark that the Constitutional Day is a celebration of Denmark’s first democratic Constitution.

“It was signed 169 years ago, in 1849. Modern democracy means adhering to universally accepted principles such as good governance, rule of law, transparency, due process of law, freedom of expression, full respect for human rights, and gender equality. Rule of law protects the weak citizen at the national level, and protects the weak state at the international level. – Denmark appears again and again at the top of the list in international comparisons. We are the least corrupt country. We are one of the best countries when it comes to ease of doing business. Denmark is also rated as the country with the best balance between work and family life.”

He also highlighted that both Denmark and the Philippines are seeking membership of the Human Rights Council in Geneva for the years 2019-2021. “Denmark stands ready to cooperate with the Philippines in the Council on strengthening these important dimensions.”

Jan Top Christensen also highlighted a number of actions taken by the Duterte government viewed favourably by Denmark. Among these are executive orders on freedom of information as well as reproductive health, on which the ambassador commented: “Transparency is key for fighting corruption. I understand that the Congress is seriously working on putting this initiative into law. It is, indeed, very much needed to fight the still too high level of corruption. Less corruption will lead to more foreign investment and more jobs for Filipinos. More jobs lead to less poverty.”

“Modern, un-biased, evidence-based information is very much needed to help the young generation. The Philippines has one of the highest rates of teen-age pregnancy. Too many young girls end up in a hopeless situation and get caught in the vicious circle of poverty,” he also said.

“The Government has also set as an ambitious target to substantially decrease poverty. People living in poverty don’t have the strength to actively be part of a vibrant democracy. All persons should have access to health and educational services irrespective of income. Poverty is unethical, poverty kills, and poverty prevents unfolding human resources. The Government’s initiative to make state universities tuition free is another progressive reform.”

Implementation of the Government’s huge infrastructure program, “Build, Build, Build”, will help getting rid of many bottle-necks for economic development and then open up for creating more jobs. Danish companies are already involved in interesting infrastructure projects.”

“The Danish Embassy is engaging with the Philippines at all levels. Denmark is through financial contribution to UN-agencies and the EU assisting in many areas. And Danish NGOSs are engaging with civil society in the Philippines within a number of sectors, fighting use of torture, climate change, modernizing the labour market, encouraging investigative and professional journalism, and improving fishing methods.”

(In addition to embassy reporting the above are extracts from the speech.)

Source: Embassy of Denmark in the Philippines

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Danish Folk High Schools event Singapore

Danish Folk High Schools event Singapore

On 10 June Denmark arranged a unique event in Singapore, including community singing and a debate how creativity and artistry can drive successful educational outcome and foster innovation with top politicians, artists and educators. This was showcased by Danish Folk High Schools and the global talent movement UNLEASH.

In 2017, The Danish Folk High School invited 1,000 young talents form 129 countries under the first ever Unleash Innovation Lab to stay at their school. While developing solutions to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the talents were introduced to the Danish Folk High School spirit that combines artistry, education, community singing and lifelong learning. This year, Singapore carried forward the baton by hosting the heald Unleach Innovation Lab from May 30 – June 6.

Source: Embassy of Denmark, Singapore

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More EU aid for Rohingya

More EU aid for Rohingya

As the refugee crisis in Bangladesh and Myanmar continues the European Commission has released €40 million in humanitarian aid to provide life-saving support to vulnerable Rohingya civilians and host communities in Bangladesh and across Myanmar’s Rakhine State. This comes on top of the €51 million the Commission mobilised in 2017.

“The Rohingya crisis has reached unprecedented proportions in recent months with hundreds of thousands of people in need of humanitarian assistance. The EU is committed to help those most in need, both in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Our emergency aid will deliver essential supplies such as food, clean water and healthcare as well as support for the monsoon season,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides, who visited EU aid projects in Bangladesh and Myanmar in 2017.

Out of the funding announced today, €29 million will go to the Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh to deliver food, nutritional support, clean water and sanitation facilities, access to health care services, as well as increased protection for the most vulnerable groups among refugees and host communities. Another €7 million will be used to scale up preparedness measures for the rainy season, which could trigger floods and landslides in what is currently the most densely populated refugee camp in the world. €4 million will go for Rohingya and host communities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State and provide protection, shelter, health, water, sanitation, food and psychosocial support.

The European Union has been funding humanitarian programmes in Cox’s Bazar since 1994 through international NGOs and the UN. Today’s emergency aid brings the total funding for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to more than €86 million since 2007.

Additionally, since 2010, the European Union has provided close to €81 million in humanitarian assistance to vulnerable people in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, including in the more isolated northern areas. The EU Civil Protection Mechanism was also activated in October 2017 to provide assistance in Cox’s Bazar.

Following major outbreaks of violence in Myanmar in August 2017, over 400,000 Rohingya and host communities are currently in need of humanitarian assistance in Rakhine State, while about 700,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed the border into neighbouring Bangladesh. It is estimated that nearly one million Rohingya are now living in camps and settlements across Cox’s Bazar, bringing the total number of people in need of assistance to 1.3 million between the refugees and host communities living in the district. In addition, the refugee camps are extremely vulnerable to the flash flooding and mud landslides triggered by the on-going monsoon season, which typically lasts until October and could put 200,000 lives at risk.

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Exclusive Danish China event with Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen

Exclusive Danish China event with Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen

The Danish Chamber of Commerce in China invites exclusive its members to meet with Denmark’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Anders Samuelsen at a breakfast meeting on 21 June.

This DCCC meeting will provide an opportunity to engage with the minister directly to share views on the relationship between Denmark and China as well as challenges and opportunities of Danish companies in China.

The event is for DCCC members only. Seating is limited and will be at first become first serve basis. Venue: InterContinental Beijing Sanlitun

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Unleash Innovation Lab programme held in Singapore

Unleash Innovation Lab programme held in Singapore

During 30 May – 6 June the Danish initiative UNLEASH Innovation Lab took place in Singapore, as the next country to take on the challenge, focusing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This programme is global, bringing together 1,000 carefully selected young talents from more than 100 countries, to collaborate on ideas and solutions for the UN goals.

After the inaugural Unleash in Denmark in 2017 Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen in November 2017 handed over to Singapore to be the next host country in 2018.

“We each have a valuable contribution to make to sustainable development. I am happy that Singapore’s private sector will be hosting UNLEASH 2018 and doing their part for the Sustainable Development Agenda. This gathering of young, creative and innovative minds will harness the power of human ingenuity, to create imaginative solutions that achieve the SDGs,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong then said.

The participants coming to Singapore for the 8-day programme worked on themes and challenges related to the SDGs, including Food, Health, Education & ICT, Water & Sanitation, Energy, Sustainable Cities & Communities, Responsible Supply Chain & Consumption, and Climate Action.

Scheduled speakers included the founder of the World Toilet Organization Jack Sim; and the founder of the Mara Group Ashish Thakkar.

The talents went through a four-day Innovation Lab held at University Town, NUS and The Hive, NTU. The talents formed teams that worked on solutions within their area of expertise. The lab was facilitated by Deloitte, who has continued their involvement in Unleash from the previous edition.

On June 5, talents pitched their solutions to experts, mentors and peers. Talents then went on to showcase their solutions at the market place, which was held alongside Temasek’s Ecosperity conference at Suntec City. This event was open to the public, and people could stop by for inspiration and speak to the talents.

On the final day five winning teams were picked to receive special awards at the Unleash Awards Show at Suntec City. Here, local and international stakeholders convened to celebrate the work of the talents and to be inspired by international speakers, including President of Singapore Mdm Halimah Yacob; Nobel Peace Prize laureate José Ramos-Horta; Oscar-winning actor and UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation Forest Whitaker; CEO of DBS Bank Piyush Gupta; and UNDP Innovation Champion Sophia the Robot.

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