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A peek at the media coverage of SDGs: What is it telling us?

Mauricio Ríos's picture

Pope Arrives in General Assembly Hall for His AddressThe United Nations General Assembly recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in New York in the midst of great expectation and hype. The 17 SDGs, with 169 specific targets, are now becoming the road map for governments and the international development community for the next 15 years.

Now that all the publicity and excitement are starting to settle down, it seems opportune to look at the media coverage of the SDGs and developing countries to get a sense of how that coverage has played out over the past few weeks, and what some of the insights are that we can learn from for the way forward. This coverage mainly includes articles from various publications, websites, and blog posts in the English language. It does not include social media statistics from Tweeter or Facebook.  

An analysis of this media coverage featuring the key words “SDGs” and “developing countries” show that, over the past three months, more than 2,400 articles mentioned these two key words somewhere in the text of the articles. The analysis, using the Newsplus database, covers the period July 8-October 8. It shows that almost a quarter of that coverage (more than 600 entries) took place during the last week of September when the UN meetings were held. However, the second week of July, right before the summer break, was also active in terms of SDG-related coverage, signaling an important communications effort in the lead up to the UN September meetings.

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The things we do: How our competitive natures may help reduce our carbon footprints

Roxanne Bauer's picture

adjusting a home thermostat to save energyIn order to tackle the adverse effects of climate change in our lifetimes, the global community will need all hands on deck. One software company has found a way of reducing energy consumption by tapping into social psychology.

One way of thinking about how to approach climate change is to divide the issue into ‘wedges’.  One wedge would be to increase renewable energy production, another would be to increase energy efficiency in the electric grid, and a third, to make buildings more energy efficient. Along with these other improvements, changing human behavior is another, very important wedge. 

Two families that are demographically similar, living side by side, in similar apartments, can use dramatically different amounts of energy— the difference of which can be attributed to behavioral differences.

Keeping up with the Neighbors

These behavioral differences were demonstrated in a famous psychology experiment that focused on home energy use. The research team, led by two psychologists, Robert Cialdini of Arizona State University and Wesley Schultz of California State University, San Marcos, hung a series of five door hangers with energy-saving messages on several hundred homes in a San Diego suburb in 2004.   One hanger encouraged people to "join their neighbors" in conserving energy, one appealed to their self-interest to save money, another called on them to save energy to protect the environment, and a fourth asked them to conserve energy for future generations and the benefit of society. A fifth and final message simply stated that summer is here and it’s a time to save energy with no underlying reason.

The researchers measured the effectiveness of the messages by obtaining meter readings before and after the door hangers were distributed. They found that the last four had minimal effect. But the first, which mentioned the neighbors, produced a significant 10% reduction in home energy usage.

Campaign Art: Ending energy poverty is #aRaceWeMustWin

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Access to affordable and reliable energy is critical to the human health and to economic development. On an individual level, without electricity, food cannot be refrigerated, students must study by candlelight, access to clean water is hindered, and firewood must be collected to cook and heat the home. At the societal level, a lack of reliable electricity means that medical supplies— including vaccines— cannot be refrigerated, the internet cannot be supported, and businesses and industries have to buy their own generators to remain operational.   

Yet, despite its importance, more than 1.3 billion people still do not have access to electricity, and 2.6 billion people do not have access to clean cooking facilities. According to the International Energy Agency, more than 95% of these people live in sub-Saharan Africa or developing Asia, and 84% live in rural areas. These communities are often the poorest and most isolated from the electricity grid.   

Interestingly, more than 50 million of these unconnected people also live in areas with abundant wind resources. Using data on areas with high wind resources and where electricity access remains elusive, a new initiative known as Wind for Prosperity hopes to bring wind-powered electricity access to many more.

The following video, narrated by Scarlett Johansson, addresses energy poverty and is part of a larger campaign: #aRaceWeMustWin. The campaign declares that “Getting 1.3 billion people out of energy poverty is a race that we MUST win.”
VIDEO: Ending energy poverty is A Race We Must Win

Reflections from Hells Gate National Park

Jan Mattsson's picture

​​​​​​Jan Mattsson visits Hells Gate National Park, KenyaJan Mattsson, a member of the Inspection Panel, describes his fact finding mission to Kenya and the truism that every case is unique and every case is complex.

I was recently appointed a Panel Member of the World Bank’s Inspection Panel, and I am blogging from the Rift Valley, Kenya where I am participating in my first fact finding mission related to a complaint filed by Maasai communities. The project in question is the Kenya: Electricity Expansion Project, which was funded by both the World Bank and the European Investment Bank (EIB) and has financed the construction of a geothermal plant within the Hell’s Gate National Park.

The project is geared to addressing Kenya’s growing demand for electricity, as only one out of four Kenyans have access to the national grid.  As with all countries, the growth of the economy and social development efforts relies on a reliable supply of electricity. The use of geothermal energy has the advantage of reducing the dependency on fossil fuels and being climate friendly, as well as lessening dependency on hydro-power resources in Kenya.

The things we do: Nudging people to give

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Man delivers gas cylinders in IndiaIn an appeal to civic duty, the Government of India is asking citizens to forgo a gas subsidy they receive so that gas cylinders can be transferred to the less fortunate. To encourage Indians to "Give It Up," the government called on business leaders to set an example and made the procedure extremely easy.

India recently launched an ambitious cash transfer program to help small businesses and households buy fuel.  Under the plan, consumers of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), commonly referred to as propane or butane, receive a cash subsidy in their bank accounts to buy gas cylinders at market price.

Once joining the scheme, the subsidy, which is equal to the difference between the current subsidized rate and the market price, is transferred to the consumer’s bank account when he/she orders a cylinder.  Another transfer is then provided at the time of delivery of the cylinder. 

Last November, the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme for LPG was rolled out across 54 districts, with the rest of the country participating by January 1 of this year. 

The scheme was launched by India’s previous UPA government in June 2013, but it was abruptly stopped earlier this year following court orders.  It has since been modified to exclude the requirement of providing a unique identification number (Aadhaar) to avail the cash subsidy.

The idea behind the direct benefit transfer is that it can ensure that the subsidy meant for the genuine domestic customer reaches them directly and is not diverted. The Government of India hoped to save millions each year by curbing diversions and leakages in the system but also to ensure efficient delivery of subsidies to the target beneficiaries— the consumers.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet
It was in Indonesia three years ago that Helani Galpaya first noticed the anomaly. Indonesians surveyed by Galpaya told her that they didn’t use the internet. But in focus groups, they would talk enthusiastically about how much time they spent on Facebook. Galpaya, a researcher (and now CEO) with LIRNEasia, a think tank, called Rohan Samarajiva, her boss at the time, to tell him what she had discovered. “It seemed that in their minds, the Internet did not exist; only Facebook,” he concluded. In Africa, Christoph Stork stumbled upon something similar. Looking at results from a survey on communications use for Research ICT Africa, Stork found what looked like an error. The number of people who had responded saying they used Facebook was much higher than those who said they used the internet. The discrepancy accounted for some 3% to 4% of mobile phone users, he says.

Time to Act on the G-20 Agenda: The Global Economy Will Thank You
iMF direct- blog post by Christine Lagarde
Implementation, investment, and inclusiveness: these three policy goals will dominate the G-20 agenda this year, including the first meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Istanbul next week. As Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu recently put it: “Now is the time to act” – şimdi uygulama zamanı. There is a lot at stake. Without action, we could see the global economic supertanker continuing to be stuck in the shallow waters of sub-par growth and meager job creation. This is why we need to focus on these three “I’s”:

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

How mobile phones can save, not waste, energy
World Economic Forum
The mobile industry is experiencing explosive growth worldwide, fuelled by almost 7 billion subscribers and an ever-growing demand for data traffic. However, the energy efficiency of mobile networks remains extremely low. Both base stations and smartphones regularly waste 70% of the energy consumed as heat. The underlying power architecture used in mobile communications still relies on outdated technology developed during the 1930s. The impact of relying on such outdated technology is huge.

U.N. Predicts New Global Population Boom
MIT Technology Review
A new analysis suggests that the world’s population will keep rising through 2100, and not flatten around 2050 as has been widely assumed. Such an increase would have huge implications, but the prediction’s reliability is debatable, given that it does not take into account future hardships a large population would likely face.  According to the new analysis by researchers at the United Nations and several academic institutions, there is an 80 percent chance that the world’s population, now 7.2 billion, won’t stop at nine billion in 2050, but will instead be between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion by 2100.

Please Steal these Killer Facts: A Crib Sheet for Advocacy on Aid, Development, Inequality, etc.

Duncan Green's picture

Regular FP2P readers will be (heartily sick of) used to me banging on about the importance of ‘killer facts‘ in NGO advocacy and general communications. Recently, I was asked to work with some of our finest policy wonks to put together some crib sheets for Oxfam’s big cheeses, who are more than happy for me to spread the love to you lot. So here are some highlights from 8 pages of KFs, with sources (full document here: Killer fact collection, June 2014).

Climate Drum Roll...We Need Your Votes Now!

Milica Begovic's picture

Our idea (UNDP Montenegro) - helping families legalize their homes using savings from energy efficiency measures - was voted as one of the finalists in the MIT ClimateCoLab crowdsourcing competition for the world’s most innovative solutions to climate change problems.  Ours was one of 374 proposals in 18 categories.
What happens now? From August 1st to August 31st, the crowd will vote for the best among the best- the ideas they think should receive support for implementation
So vote for us here and help us become the People’s Choice Award.  In addition to potentially winning a $10,000 Grand Prize, we will have a chance to pitch it to a variety of potential partners at the MIT Crowds and Climate Conference in November. 
To make sure that you know you’d be giving a vote to more than just a promising idea, we’ll give you a sneak peak at some of the feedback we got from a very eminent set of experts and authorities in climate-related fields:

Innovation Means Never Looking to Your Own Field for New Ideas

Milica Begovic's picture

Several months ago a colleague of mine wrote about our idea to legalize thousands of informal homes in Montenegro using energy efficiency measures (or see the infographic for a visual show off the idea).  We have been working on urban planning issues in Montenegro for almost a decade, but it was only when we had colleagues of different background looking at the problem- energy, economy, urban planning, communication, community engagement- that the solution came out.  In short:

  • Problem: over 100,000 illegal homes in Montenegro (if normally distributed would imply that every other household lives in an illegal home) that household don’t have an incentive or funds to legalize. 
  • UNDP idea: savings on energy bills would be re-invested into legalization and energy efficiency measures that created savings in the first place.  Directly, we tackle informal settlements and high energy intensity in Montenegro (8.5 times higher than in the EU).