This paper serves as an overview of the 10 minutes presentation Angelique Pouponneau ACP YPN SDG14 expert delivered at the World Conference of Youth in Belize in November 2017 where Ms. Pouponneau spoke in the session on eradicating poverty in a changing world.
We are indeed living in a changing world, and more accurately in a time of adaptation where we are faced with some of the most pressing challenges of our time which include both climate change and the health of the ocean. In brief, with warming temperatures, there has been evident impacts in changes in climate and weather patterns. In this region alone, we have seen an increase in the frequency and strength of tropical cyclones and hurricanes. The warming temperatures have also meant melting of the Arctic ice caps that had led to rise in sea levels posing an existential threat to island nations such as Maldives and Tuvalu. But we have Paris which signalled hope for an agreement that would seek to save the planet through the contributions of each member State to reduce and cut its carbon emissions. Similarly, the health of the ocean, SDG 14 life below water, is continuously threatened by illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, marine pollution and climate change itself. The latest UN report that shocked the international community was that by 2050 there will be plastic than fish in the sea. Nevertheless, there is a re-energised focus on oceans and the development of the Blue Economy which could lead to healthier oceans.
Most people who are passionate about the environment engage in climate activism through advocacy, educational workshops and cost-effective climate action such as tree-planting. But what about using enterprise to address the challenges of climate change and threats to the ocean. This paper offers three options:
Option one: ‘Greening’ Traditional Business
There are many businesses that currently exist that have a big carbon footprint (and here, I do not refer to the coal, oil or natural gas industries). Let’s take the number of office spaces or hotels as countries move away from primary industry to secondary and tertiary industries, how can their carbon footprints be reduced? There are a few ideas such as ensuring that there are water dispensers in the workplace to stop the use of plastic bottles (which take decades to degrade and some do not at all), the use of recycled paper, placing solar panels or creating gardens on the roofs of these buildings or simply turning lights off after working hours.
For hotels, there could be many ways to ‘green’ their business by not using straws, encouraging guests to be environmentally conscious when it comes to the use of lights or the washing of their towels. Additionally, encouraging their guests not to use products that have microbeads or the sunscreen which is detrimental to the marine creatures. Or, perhaps, providing a space where their guests can plant trees to offset their carbon footprint.
Option 2: New Business Ideas
The US Labour Department recently released a report with the following statistic: 65% of students today will be doing jobs that do not yet exist. Today we have an opportunity to begin new businesses that did not previously exist to address climate change and the ocean. I’d like to point to a few business ideas that emerged and are helping to address climate change and oceans.
- Repurpose School Bags – This is a school bag that is made out of recycled plastic materials that has a solar panel integrated into the school bag. The bags are left outside during the day and provides light for the children to complete their homework at night. This is particularly useful to address plastic waste, encourage the use of renewable energy and ensure that children and young people who live in countries where electrification remains a challenge have access to an education. (hyperlink: http://www.rethakafoundation.org/)
- Tree Adoption Uganda – This is a social enterprise that engages with businesses about their carbon footprint and offers to plant trees to offset their carbon footprint. The business pays this enterprise to undertake this task which has created employment for a number of young people in Uganda.
- Recently, plastic bags and cutlery and Styrofoam boxes have been banned in a number of countries including Seychelles and Kenya which offers a new industry to create new types of bags and boxes that are biodegradable. Entrepreneurs can also start importing such products into their countries whilst encouraging the development of a local industry.
- EcoFuture in Nigeria is a social enterprise that uses today’s technology such as geomap and SMS based platforms to collect recyclable waste and transport them to our recovery facility where they are recycled. From there they can be manufactured into a new item and sold in Nigeria or exported. This has dealt with the waste problem and provided employment to low income and middle/class communities. Waste is a huge concern as if materials are not recycled they end up in the landfill that emits methane which is more harmful than carbon dioxide and if it is not collected and disposed of it ends up in drains and rivers and soon reaches the ocean.
Option 3: The cheeky way
Then, there is the cheeky way! If you are more of an advocate and campaigner then that is your starting point to make your business happen. Start a campaign to ban plastic bags, get the ban then start a business that reintroduces local alternatives such as offering classes to make your own reusable bags, importing reusable bags to supply shops and hotels.
Despite all these great ideas, there is always a need for the right enabling environment to exist, so here are a few examples of schemes in place that would encourage such enterprises.
- Low interest rates loans for enterprises that address climate change and oceans.
- General ease of doing business framework within a country, for example, the creation of a one-stop shop where you can get all the information you need to start your business.
- Setting up of Incubation programmes that would provide seed funding and mentorship to grow a business.
So as we seek to eradicate poverty in a world where youth unemployment is high and entrepreneurship seemingly the solution to the problem, do not engage in business for profit sake but engage in a business that is solvent and solves a world problem.
By Angelique Pouponneau, ACP YPN SDG14 Expert
Angelique Pouponneau, 27-year-old environmental lawyer from the Seychelles. She holds the position of vice-chairperson for inclusion and engagement of the Commonwealth Youth Council. Angelique is passionate about sustainability. In 2014, she co-founded a youth-led non-governmental organisation, SYAH-Seychelles, which provides a platform for young people to advance and promote sustainability through youth-led projects. To date the biggest achievements has been the successful campaign for the ban of plastic bags in the Seychelles and the implementation of the Blue Economy Internship Programme. For her work, she was recognised as a Queen’s Young Leader in 2016.
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