Climate change affects all countries

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Climate change affects all countries, especially those with high agricultural production and equally those with lower production.  The ingenuity of the producers of the first countries could not oppose any remedy to this phenomenon.  Without wanting to be disillusioned because of this, everyone knows that only a global movement of all the world’s populations could turn this upside down or the other way around.

So, the question would be how to proceed to ensure that the people of the world act the same and at the same time, for a fairly long period.  For many specialists, this period would be forever.

The United Nations has already been working on this with its sustainable development agenda with a program based on 17 clearly defined goals.

These goals would be to transform our world from sustainable development through the action of all countries – poor, rich, and middle-income – to protect the planet while promoting prosperity.

They recognize that ending poverty must go hand in hand with strategies that develop economic growth and address a range of social needs, including education, health, social protection, and employment opportunities while addressing climate change and environmental protection.

The problem is that the planet does not expect its inhabitants to start from a common agreement to push in the same direction.

More virulent phenomena such as desertification, and scarcity of groundwater that mainly due to reductions in precipitation in all climatic areas of the globe.  Paradoxically, there is the fact that seawater levels tend to rise above their normal level as known in recent centuries.

Apart from what is said above, there is a much greater impact.  This is kept away from direct attention.

It is the one that affects those important agricultural producing countries that with this global warming would tend to lose their level of production at the expense of those other countries whose lands froze for centuries and who would see them suddenly turn into arable land.  Conversely, countries whose subsistence production enabled these to go through millennia might be likely to face up to survival of the fittest span of time.

Are we being on the verge of yet another phenomenon consequent from climate change?  It would be that of a new swing in the hierarchy of food producers of the world? The question that has not been asked so far still deserves attention.  That of each and every one.

On my radar: Marwa al-Sabouni’s cultural highlights

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On my radar: Marwa al-Sabouni’s cultural highlights

The above-featured image is that of Damascus by France 24.

The Syrian architect and writer on the idea of home in Branagh’s Belfast, smart Arab horses in Homs and the joy of lentils in Damascus

Marwa al-Sabouni

Marwa al-Sabouni is a Syrian architect and writer. Born in Homs in 1981, she was living in the city when the civil war broke out in 2011 and remained there with her young family throughout the worst bombardments. In her memoir The Battle for Home, published in 2016, al-Sabouni wrote about the vital role that architecture plays in the functioning of society and how Syria’s future could be shaped by its built environment. In 2021, she published a second book, Building for Hope: Towards an Architecture of Belonging. Al-Sabouni is guest co-director of this year’s Brighton festival, which runs until 29 May.

1. Film

Belfast (Dir Kenneth Branagh, 2021)

From left: Caitriona Balfe, Jude Hill, Lewis McAskie and Jamie Dornan in Belfast. Photograph: Rob Youngson/Focus Features

 

 

I watched this at home recently – there are no cinemas in Homs. It’s a film about war and love and friendship, about difficult decisions in a time of crisis. I liked the story and how real the actors made it, but also the way it handled the theme of home, which I very much related to – how the family was torn between staying and leaving. The whole dilemma of what to do, and how different people deal with similar questions and end up with different answers, was explored so well. It’s a great movie.

 

2. Novel

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

This is a story set in a fictional version of England many centuries ago. It’s about grudges, and Ishiguro writes about this without naming the feeling, creating a fictional creature – the buried giant – for it as a reference. It’s also about a family’s journey to discover this feeling, and to find a way towards forgiveness. What I loved about this story is the indirect and imaginative way it has of dealing with hidden feelings that we bury deep down in our psyche, and how to access them.

3. Sport

Homs Equestrian Club

Marwa al-Sabouni’s horse Salah al-Din, a Syrian Arab.

I don’t go out much to busy places, and because of the war we don’t have many places to go. But I do go and ride every day at the equestrian club in Homs. My horse is called Salah al-Din. He’s a very strong horse from a special breed – Syrian Arab horses are among the best in the world for strength, endurance and performance. They are really smart animals and very independent and spirited, which is a humbling experience on a daily basis. The social aspect of the club is disastrous; it’s all about the horses.

4. TV

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey (Apple TV+)

Dominique Fishback and Samuel L Jackson in The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey. Photograph: TCD/DB/Alamy

Samuel L Jackson gives a phenomenal performance in this TV series. He plays an old man suffering from dementia who takes an experimental medicine that gains him a few days of lucidity. He uses those precious moments to access his memories and explain to himself the nightmares he had, which are related to racism. The show deals with different questions with great sensitivity, and in the end it’s about true friendship and genuine feelings. For me, it’s the story of the human mind and how precious this gift is.

5. Music

Georges Wassouf

Watch a video for Georges Wassouf’s Ya Al Zaman.

Georges Wassouf is from a rural area near Homs, but his career took off from Beirut. I just love his music – he has a poignant way of speaking about love and a fantastic way of bending the lyrics to express the music. It’s also lovely how his artistic character is so closely related to his real-life character. He’s a very accessible figure who lives among his people, and he didn’t change his lifestyle in a way that would separate him from his own small village. Ahla Ayam El Omr, which translates as Life’s Most Beautiful Days, is one of my favourite of his songs.

6. Restaurant

Naranj, Damascus

Naranj restaurant in Damascus. Photograph: Peter Horree/Alamy

Homs restaurants are rubbish, but there are plenty of good ones in Damascus. The one that I really like is Naranj, in the old part of the city where the Muslim and the Christian quarters merge. The food is great and the menu is very much based on what’s in season. The breads come right out of the oven, hot and delicious, and I would recommend the lentil dish harrak isbao, which means “the one that burns your fingers” because it’s so delicious that you will dive straight in.

The Guardian

 

How will MENA countries hit FDI targets? 

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Emerging market investments are shrinking. How will MENA countries hit FDI targets? 

By Amjad Ahmad in Atlantic Council

As the pandemic-fuelled liquidity begins to wane and the reality of inflation and higher interest rates sets in, many economies will face considerable challenges.  Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries are vying to attract global investors and increase Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  Yet, capital flows are reversing from emerging to developed markets—specifically in the United States, where interest rates are rising to levels not seen since 2018.  The year 2018 is illustrative: during that time, emerging markets experienced substantial capital outflows as international investors reduced their exposure and consolidated their risk into emerging economies with fewer perceived risks, given their proactive and progressive economic policies.

Attracting foreign investors into emerging market economies has always been difficult.  Nevertheless, thanks to the extended period of near-zero interest rates, emerging markets were blessed with investors hungry for higher returns. The plentiful supply of money coupled with historically low yields in rich countries led investors to explore higher yields in riskier markets across various assets, including public equities, public debt, private equity, and venture capital.  The lower cost of capital allowed investors to finance opportunities that otherwise would have been unfeasible.

Unfortunately, the party is over, and the pain is just beginning.  The US Federal Reserve has started an aggressive interest rate hiking campaign, which will likely be the sharpest rise in interest rates since former chair of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker’s war on inflation from 1979 to 1982.  Many economists believe this will likely lead to a recession in the world’s biggest economy.

A US economic slowdown or a recession couldn’t come at a worse time for emerging markets, particularly those in MENA, where most are fighting chronic unemployment, especially among youth and women, slowing growth, and higher debt levels.  Large oil-exporting countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) — such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — are better positioned given heightened commodity prices. However, their lack of interest rate autonomy given the dollar peg limits their ability to deviate their monetary policy from that of the United States.

Additionally, the global demand destruction cannot be ignored as the post-pandemic surge in demand levels off, with consumers beginning to feel the pinch from inflation and rising interest rates.  This may put a damper on global energy demand and tourism. Inflation also impacts global emerging markets, causing a perfect storm for the arrival of tough economic times.  Currency depreciation against the dollar is increasing the cost of imports and repaying foreign currency debts for banks, companies, and governments, many of which racked up significant debt during the pandemic.

Research suggests that the impact of US monetary tightening on emerging markets will vary depending on the factors for the change. Interest rate hikes driven by US economic expansion will likely lead to positive spillover effects that benefit more than hurt emerging markets and, therefore, are neutral on capital flows.  On the other hand, interest rate hikes to fend off inflation will likely lead to emerging markets disruption.  Here, there are two key points to mention.  First, there is a more significant effect on emerging markets from rising interest rates due to inflation than those due to growth.  Second, emerging economies with stable domestic conditions and policies tend to fare better and experience less volatility. In a global economic environment with slower growth, higher cost of capital, and a shrinking capital pool for riskier assets, discerning international investors will consolidate their investments in the highest-quality emerging markets.

The Goldilocks moment experienced in markets over the past couple of years is subsiding.  Geopolitical risk, inflation, and US interest rates are all rising. In addition, two crucial macroeconomic trends will impact the future capital flows to emerging markets.  First, globalization policies that have focused overwhelmingly on cost efficiency and rationalization will now focus on resiliency and values-based investments.  At an Atlantic Council event on April 13, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen articulated a blueprint for US trade policy, stating, “The US would now favor the friend-shoring of supply chains to a large number of trusted countries that share a set of norms and values about how to operate in the global economy.”

Second, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues are gaining more attention with countries and companies putting them on the agenda.  For an indication of what’s to come, consider Total, the French oil and gas giant, marking its shift to renewable energy and rebranding to TotalEnergies, as well as Engine No. 1, a US impact hedge fund, hijacking ExxonMobil’s board to drive a green strategy at the company.  As a result of the confluence of these complex issues on top of challenging macro-economic concerns, investor appetite for emerging market assets is weakening.  It will become more discerning in the coming years.

But all isn’t lost.  There will be divergent outcomes and risks depending on the domestic conditions of each emerging market.  Thoughtful investors will continue to seek opportunities in emerging markets, especially in private markets, where the predominant share of opportunities exists.  However, as financial conditions tighten, differentiation between emerging markets will increase. MENA countries can better position themselves amongst others competing for capital by:

  1. Attracting and empowering strong policymakers to make dynamic and bold decisions that complex changes in the global economy require. Deepening the bench of talented policymakers should be another priority.
  2. Driving policies supportive of private sector development and investment. Reducing government-owned enterprises and providing ample space for private companies to grow and prosper on an even playing field is critical to building a dynamic economy.
  3. Continuing to nurture the nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem. Entrepreneurial economies are consistently more resilient and lead to better outcomes over the long term.
  4. Enhancing regional and international economic integration through bilateral and multilateral agreements with more robust economies. Proactive engagement with multilateral financial institutions will also increase financial stability and resilience.
  5. Standardizing policies according to global norms for greater regional and international integration. Investor appetite is greatly improved in emerging markets that adopt regulations and standards from developed countries.
  6. Increasing transparency and reducing uncertainty around laws and regulations. Investors and companies need more clarity on the game’s rules in order to play it confidently and competently.

Several MENA countries continue to take bold steps to improve their global competitiveness. One such example is the privatization programs of government-owned enterprises in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to increase liquidity in local capital markets, improve transparency, and expand private sector participation.  Those countries that maintain their momentum will be clear winners in the coming years. History is rich with evidence that economic challenges are followed by periods of historic gains.

Amjad Ahmad is Director and Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s empower ME Initiative at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.  

Twitter: @AmjadAhmadVC.

 

Without Fossil Fuels There Is No Need For Electricity

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Without Fossil Fuels There Is No Need For Electricity – OpEd

By Ronald Stein

America is in a fast pursuit toward achieving President Biden’s stated goal that “we are going to get rid of fossil fuels  to achieve the Green New Deal’s (GND) pursuit of wind turbines and solar panels to provide electricity to run the world, but WAIT, everything in our materialistic lives and economies cannot exist without crude oil, coal, and natural gas.

Everything that needs electricity, from lights, vehicles, iPhones, defibrillators, computers, telecommunications, etc., are all made with the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil.

The need for electricity will decrease over time without crude oil.  With no new things to power, and the deterioration of current things made with oil derivatives over the next few decades and centuries, the existing items that need electricity will not have replacement parts and will ultimately become obsolete in the future and the need for electricity will diminish accordingly.

The Green New Deal proposal calls on the federal government to wean the United States from fossil fuels and focus on electricity from wind and solar, but why? What will there be to power in the future without fossil fuels?

Rather than list the more than 6,000 products made from the oil derivatives manufactured from crude oil, I will let the readers list what is NOT dependent on oil derivatives that will need electricity. They can begin listing them here ______   ________    _______.

And by the way, crude oil came before electricity. The electricity that came AFTER the discovery of oil, is comprised of components made with those same oil derivatives from crude oil. Thus, getting rid of crude oil, also eliminates our ability to make wind turbines, solar panels, as well as those vehicles intended to be powered by an EV battery.

Today, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) divesting in fossil fuels are all the rage with big banks, Wall Street firms, and financial institutions, to divest in all 3 fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil.  Both President Biden and the United Nations support allowing banks and investment giants to collude to reshape economies and our energy infrastructure toward JUST electricity from wind and solar.

A reduction in the usage of coal, natural gas, and crude oil would lead us to life as it was without the crude oil infrastructure and those products manufactured from oil that did not exist before 1900, i.e., the decarbonized world that existed in the 1800’s and before when life was hard, and life expectancy was short.

Ridding the world of crude oil would result in less manufactured oil derivatives and lead to a reduction in each of the following:

  • The 50,000 heavy-weight and long-range merchant ships that are moving products throughout the world.
  • The 50,000 heavy-weight and long-range jets used by commercial airlines, private usage, and the military.
  • The number of wind turbines and solar panels as they are made with oil derivatives from crude oil.
  • The pesticides to control locusts and other pests.
  • The tires for the billions of vehicles.
  • The asphalt for the millions of miles of roadways.
  • The medications and medical equipment.
  • The vaccines.
  • The water filtration systems.
  • The sanitation systems.
  • The communications systems, including cell phones, computers, iPhones, and iPads.
  • The number of cruise ships that now move twenty-five million passengers around the world.
  • The space program.

Before we rid the world of all three fossil fuels of coal, natural gas, and crude oil, the greenies need to identify the replacement or clone for crude oil, to keep the world’s population of 8 billion fed and healthy, and economies running with the more than 6,000 products now made with manufactured derivatives from crude oil, along with the fuels manufactured from crude oil to move the heavy-weight and long-range needs of more than 50,000 jets and more than 50,000 merchant ships, and the military and space programs.

Open government policies should be focused on reducing our usage, via both conservation and improved efficiencies, to REDUCE not ELIMINATE crude oil, and reduce its footprint as much as practical and possible, is truly the only plan that will work.

Wind and solar may be able to generate electricity from breezes and sunshine, but they cannot manufacture anything.  Again, what is the need for the Green New Deal’s electricity from breezes and sunshine when you have nothing new to power in the future?

Ronald Stein, Founder and Ambassador for Energy & Infrastructure of PTS Advance, headquartered in Irvine, California.

 

We won’t get anywhere without placing the SDGs in local contexts

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We won’t get anywhere without placing the SDGs in local contexts

By Su Li Chong, Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP) in Times Higher Education (THE) says :
Applying the SDGs looks vastly different in a Western city and a rural Asian village. Su Li Chong explains how universities can help us get past a one-size-fits-all approach

Never in human history has the world been more focused on a singular aim: to rescue and resuscitate planet earth. Systematically broken down the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), this is the only masterplan to which all world leaders have signed up, and this aim sees all nations, big and small, rich and poor, tasked with achieving the SDGs and ensuring control of consumption that will lead to a net zero carbon future.

The recent Climate Change Conference (COP26) was abuzz with deep debates over what counts as consumption, sustainability and responsibility. Meanwhile, there is vast discordance on how concepts such as “consumption” and “emissions” are defined by developing and developed nations.

So, how can we really understand and apply the SDGs if definitions are, at best, not easily agreed upon? If we are to take up the clarion call to observe and comply with internationally agreed measures, it stands to reason that this must be done with respect to local cultures.

Japan can give us a lesson in this regard. The reintroduction of the “circular economy” into the 21st century’s popular imagination may mislead some into thinking this is a modern idea, but it is not new by any stretch of the imagination. Although known by a different name, this cyclical practice of using, designing and reappropriating materiality was already commonplace in Japan’s Edo community more than 300 years ago.

To a degree, this explains Japan’s enviable and extraordinary recycling culture today. So, how have they been successful? Among other factors, Japan’s education system – which prizes values and cultural awareness – has been credited for its success. Particularly, Japan’s ongoing efforts in Education for Sustainable Development that involve institutions, educators, youth and local communities ensure that generations of Japanese citizens are educated to understand their individual roles in creating a shared, sustainable future.

After all, counting carbon emissions is really about human behaviour. And human behaviour is teachable. This suggests that, to sustain planet earth, the most fundamental change must take place within the engine of education. But how does education relate to the SDGs, especially if it is itself one of the goals?

The key is to become interconnected. Interconnectedness is understood to be about cultural awareness, biodiversity and sustainability. Thus, initiatives pertaining to sustainability must be located within a country’s historical, cultural and ecological landscape.

So, with interconnectedness at its foundation and education at its heart, this is how we should understand and really apply the SDGs:

  1. Interpret a particular SDG through the local lens

How is the goal worded when translated into local languages? Does the goal have an equivalent or even different meaning? For example, SDG 4, quality education, is among the oldest of the 17 SDGs, and central to this aim is the eradication of illiteracy. In the Western world, the idea of reading has been broadened to cover more than word-based recognition. However, in the Malay language for example, illiteracy is translated as “letter blindness” (buta huruf). This indicates that for a Malay-speaking community, the understanding of quality education and literacy is still narrowly defined as being about letter recognition when, in fact, it should be about the ability to make meaning from multiple sign systems.

For example, a child who spends a lot of time outdoors will eventually be literate in nature’s sign systems, such as weather changes or plant ecology. Using this broad perspective, innovative pedagogies can be introduced into literacy lessons that could apply multiliteracies in environmental themes. This should encourage creative ideas that will champion local versions of good practice that can sustain a balanced biodiversity.

How universities can help: provide a pool of authentic experts who have relevant and long-running experience with the practical problems of local communities so that these experts can become the bridge to connect high-level innovations with day-to-day living.

  1. Appropriate a particular SDG to the strengths of the community

For example, SDG 13 on climate action sets a complex requirement to combat climate change, with one of its aims being to reduce carbon emissions. Carbon emissions will have no immediate relevance to a child in rural Asia, but the child’s carbon-free walk or bicycle ride to school can be lauded as being an important contribution to saving the planet. Further to this, SDG 13 can be appropriated around rewarding those who continue to walk or cycle to school. The goal needs to be applied to the local context so that not just an environmental awareness but a cultural one can be raised, because the culture of net zero is fundamentally about our everyday behaviour.

How universities can help: be the voice that champions and celebrates the strengths of local communities by partnering with local schools and providing mentorship to school students. This will allow young people to know that their actions, even if apparently small, are highly valued and respected.

  1. Be prepared to tackle big, complex questions and issues

The application of any of the SDGs requires individual nations to be courageous in confronting difficult questions, especially relating to core issues such as education and livelihoods. SDG 1, end poverty in all its forms, is another goal that underpins all the others. And indeed, developing nations may have to consider poverty eradication above the other goals. Overconsumption is not relevant in a context where basic needs such as food, equitable education and safe shelter are not met. An understanding of a community’s historical trajectory as far as poverty patterns and injustice towards minority groups are concerned, while difficult to address, is key to mobilising the rest of the goals.

How universities can help: encourage honest research that is inclusive of both the humanities and the sciences so that problems connecting society and its innovations can be scrutinised and critiqued. Provide safe spaces for “hard talk” to be had, so the university community sees critical questioning as a necessary part of genuine scholarship, which is not to be avoided.

In sum, our journey may be one, but our paths are many. There is danger in reducing an internationally set structure into a singular narrative, but there is hope in being inclusive and respectful of local perspectives for the greater good of the global community.

Su Li Chong is senior lecturer in the Institute of Self-Sustainable Building, Department of Management and Humanities, at Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Malaysia. She is also head of university social responsibility (education pillar).

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