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Students demand action on the climate crisis

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COP26 is the world’s best – and perhaps last – chance to get runaway climate change under control, and to reach net zero HE needs to act swiftly, says Manveer Gill.
Students demand action on the climate crisis now – not later is reported by Times Higher Education. Would however the rest of society follow by perhaps making it a “civic virtue” or merely by being a “good” citizen, through the vital and full participation of each and every one?

Students demand action on the climate crisis now – not later

Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education

Manveer Gill

There is now no doubt at all that today’s younger generation (and future generations) will face an array of impacts stemming from an increasingly destabilised climate, from heat waves and flooding becoming more frequent and more severe, to supply chain disruptions and food insecurity. 

Universities must prepare themselves for these changes and develop action plans to bring their own greenhouse gas emissions to net zero, thus contributing to the mitigation of a higher global temperature and the associated, more severe impacts. How they prepare themselves and what they focus on is key. There is both a significant opportunity and a moral duty for universities to support their students in the face of impending climate-induced adversity.

As highlighted by Students Organising for Sustainability UK’s research in 2021, most students do not currently have access to the educational opportunities that will provide them with the knowledge and skills needed to tackle the climate emergency and adapt to a changing world, both socially and economically.

This omission within personal and professional development will lead to difficulties for graduates in gaining sustainable careers − both within the sustainable development field itself and working for wider businesses as they are mandated to shift in line with a low-carbon reality.

Additionally, without proactively supporting students to develop the knowledge, skills and values needed to respond to the climate emergency on a personal level, the health and well-being of students is expected to suffer further as the impacts of climate change increase.

It is imperative, therefore, that universities provide climate education to all and embed “education for sustainable development” within curricula. Doing so will also reduce the chances that students and graduates will require retraining to be able to contribute further to net-zero futures.

Rather than a one-way line of communication and action, there is an opportunity for students to be engaged and consulted in the creation and delivery of such reforms, and indeed this should be the case for broader institutional sustainability plans. Being open and transparent will pave the way for stronger relations between students, staff and their institutions. It is precisely because climate change will have such alarming impacts that universities will need to empower their students during this transition.

For universities to mitigate their own climate impacts, they will need to rethink how they organise themselves. Whether their efforts are sufficient to reach net zero can only be determined if universities provide transparent and comparable statistics as part of regular emissions reporting.

At present within the UK, only Scottish universities are mandated to report institutional emissions, with an expectation for targets for net zero to be included in 2022 submissions. This lack of a regulatory reporting framework for the sector, specifically on climate action and disclosure of emissions and targets, has restricted progress by HE in this regard.

It puts HE institutions at risk of greenwashing audiences without taking the necessary steps to address the climate emergency or being held to account in doing so. We have already seen the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority mandate climate disclosure for premium listed UK companies in line with recommendations from the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. For HE to keep up and become leaders in the global transition to net zero, we need to see the creation and implementation of a mandatory reporting framework, which includes Scope 3 emissions – indirect emissions resulting from institutions’ activities, such as business travel and employee commuting – as well as target- and strategy-setting requirements.

The Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education is working to support a sector-wide approach to the climate emergency, with four senior-level institutional commissioners joined by four student commissioners in directing and leading this work.

As part of this, the student commissioners have published a student statement using input and feedback from student focus groups. The student statement includes nine demands for addressing identified gaps or issues within the UK’s HE sector in tackling the climate emergency. This statement will be sent, along with signatures from supporting students across the UK, to COY16 delegates who will present these views at COP26 in Glasgow next month.

COP26, the UN’s annual global climate summit, is the world’s best – and perhaps last – chance to get runaway climate change under control. To reach net zero and help protect the world’s communities, HE needs to act swiftly − and the UK government must support and mandate this action while also financing the transition.

HE plays a pivotal role in creating countries’ future leaders and others involved across our economies, while also acting as social and economic hubs for local communities. The action that the sector takes will have implications for society collectively. We owe it to the students of now and the future to lead by example.

Manveer Gill is one of four student climate commissioners at the Climate Commission for UK Higher and Further Education. He is also a maths graduate from the University of Warwick and an honorary fellow of the Alliance for Sustainability Leadership in Education (EAUC).

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Iraq: An Urgent Call for Education Reforms

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Modern Diplomacy advises that in Iraq: an Urgent Call for Education Reforms to Ensure Learning for All Children is nowadays a requirement that is not only to prepare people for life, with all knowledge and skills to contribute to a thriving society. It is to be noted that Iraq historically witnessed writing in its earliest form as a means of communication and education, etc.

The above image is for illustration and is of Middle East Monitor.

A girl student in Basra, Iraq, who benefits from a UNICEF/WFP education stipend programme. UNICEF

Iraq: An Urgent Call for Education Reforms to Ensure Learning for All Children

By Newsroom

Learning levels in Iraq are among the lowest in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region and are likely to decline even further because of the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on education service delivery, including prolonged school closures.

These low learning levels are putting the future of Iraqi children and the country at risk. A new World Bank report says that while, now more than ever, investments are needed in education to recover lost learning and turn crisis into opportunity, these investments must be accompanied by a comprehensive reform agenda that focuses the system on learning outcomes and builds a more resilient education system for all children. 

The World Bank Group’s new report, Building Forward Better to Ensure Learning for All Children in Iraq: An Education Reform Path, builds on key priorities in education recently identified in the Government of Iraq’s White Paper and the World Bank Group’s Addressing the Human Capital Crisis: A Public Expenditure Review for Human Development Sectors in Iraq report, and provides actionable reform recommendations to boost learning and skills.

Human capital is essential to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth. However, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Human Capital Index (HCI), a child born in Iraq today will reach, on average, only 41% of their potential productivity when they grow up. 

At the heart of Iraq’s human capital crisis is a learning crisis, with far-reaching implications. Iraq’s poor performance on the HCI is largely attributed to its low learning levels. COVID-19 has led to intermittent school closures across Iraq, impacting more than 11 million Iraqi students since February 2020. This report highlights that, with schools closed over 75% of the time and opportunities for remote learning limited and unequal, Iraqi children are facing another reduction of learning‑adjusted years of schooling. Effectively, students in Iraq are facing more than a “lost year” of learning. 

Iraq can use lessons learned from the current health crisis, turn recovery into opportunity, and “build forward better,” to ensure it provides learning opportunities for all Iraqi children especially its poorest and most vulnerable children” said Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Mashreq Regional Director. “The World Bank is ready to support Iraq in building a more equitable and resilient post-COVID-19 education system that ensures learning for all children and generates the dividends for faster and more inclusive growth”.  

The report Building Forward Better to Ensure Learning for All Children in Iraq: An Education Reform Path puts forward for discussion sector-wide reform recommendations, focusing on immediate crisis response as well as medium and long-term needs across six key strategic areas:  

1. Engaging in an Emergency Crisis response through the mitigation of immediate learning loss and prevention of further dropouts.

2. Improving foundational skills to set a trajectory for learning through improved learning & teaching materials and strengthened teacher practices with a focus on learning for all children.

3. Focusing on the most urgently needed investments, while ensuring better utilization of resources.

4. Improving the governance of the education sector and promoting evidence‑based decision‑making.

5. Developing and implementing an education sector strategy that focuses on learning and “building forward better”.

6. Aligning skills with labor market needs through targeted programs and reforms.

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Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass

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The World Bank at a time when according to the IMF, the MENA region is on track for a recovery, despite some rising social unrest threatening the ‘fragile’ progress of low-income economies, produced the following enthusiastic remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass address to the Arab Governors of the World Bank Group.

Remarks by World Bank Group President David Malpass to the Arab Governors of the World Bank Group

Let me begin by congratulating Minister Khalil.  Your appointment as Minister of Finance comes at a crucial moment in Lebanon’s history. The World Bank Group will work with you to support the critical reforms needed to address Lebanon’s challenges.   Thank you for mentioning Hela in your opening.  She’s the new IFC Vice President for the region, and I want you all to know the high priority we place on private sector advancement in the region.  All parts of the World Bank Group are making that a high priority.

Dear Governors and distinguished guests, it is a pleasure to be with you again to discuss the challenges and opportunities in your region.  Thank you for your recent annual letter outlining the key and urgent development challenges of the region. Let me also thank our Dean Dr Merza Hassan for helping to convene this meeting and for his unwavering support to the MENA region.

We meet today against a backdrop of uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to reversals in development gains in many regions, threatening jobs, social stability – and lives.

MENA was hit particularly hard by Covid 19. Even before the pandemic, growth had stalled, poverty was on the rise, and the social contract between citizens and the state was strained. Climate change adds a further burden to the development challenge.

During my recent visits to the region, to Sudan, Jordan and the Palestinian territories, I saw firsthand the impact of this multi-pronged crisis. I was concerned by low investment levels, high unemployment rates, and low female labor participation rates.

I also saw potential via regional integration, pro-growth investment, and improvements in the enabling environment for business. The recovery in global growth provides opportunities to make positive changes, and I was encouraged by my discussions with officials and businesses.

As you know, MENA is the least economically integrated region in the world. We have expressed our support for any initiative aimed at developing economic ties between countries in the region, and we are thus looking at ways to support the gas and electricity potential connection between Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.

While we are not in a position to engage in Syria, we nevertheless are concerned about the Syrian people’s economic woes due to the degradation of the situation in the country. Our position has always been to look after the people, and we are doing so for Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan.

In the year leading up to the next annual meetings in Marrakesh, my message will remain focused on the importance of improving access to vaccines; recovering from Covid; overcoming conflict; mitigating and adapting to climate change; containing debt; and creating strong sustainable jobs for the youth of this region.

Morocco has made progress on all of these, and I want to thank you for graciously hosting us in 2022.

As a region, MENA will need to generate 300 million new jobs by 2050. These will be created largely by the private – not public – sector.  Reaching this critical goal of sustainable job creation needs governance and transparency, rule of law, and an attractive business environment.

IBRD, IFC and MIGA are fully engaged. I’m interested in hearing from you where the World Bank Group can position itself better.

As we move toward Marrakesh in 2022 and Cop27 in Egypt, how can the Bank Group assist in making these events a launching pad for more sustained and comprehensive development in MENA?

Thank you again for inviting me and let’s now open our discussion.

Dispute grips Green Climate Fund over net zero

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Published on 8 October 2021 by Climate Home News is the story of how a Dispute grips Green Climate Fund over net zero condition for accessing finance by certain countries. Here is this story.

The above image is for illustration and is of Climate Home News.

Dispute grips Green Climate Fund over net zero condition for accessing finance

By Chloé Farand

Board members from developing countries insisted that making a 2050 net zero goal a condition for accreditation to the fund breaches equity principles

The UN’s flagship climate fund has been gripped by fierce debate over what decarbonisation conditions should be imposed to developing nation organisations seeking to access funding.

In the Fulani village of Hore Mondji, located in southern Mauritania on the banks of the Senegal River, a women’s cooperative uses solar energy to operate the borehole that supplies water to the market garden. A project piloted by UNICEF in partnership with local authorities. In a country heavily impacted by drought and welding periods, solar energy represents an inexhaustible source of energy for the production of fruits, vegetables and aromatic plants (such as okra, carrots, mint, peppers, eggplants or tomatoes) for local consumption as well as for sale in the markets of neighboring towns. The women of the cooperative thus have a regular income as well as a rich variety of fruits and vegetables that promote dietary diversification and the well-being of their children.

It was close to 4am on Friday in the Green Climate Fund’s South Korean headquarters when board members brought the four-day virtual meeting to a close.

Besides the usual delays and procedural wrangling, discussions became heated when board members were asked to consider whether to renew the GCF’s partnership with the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).

At the heart of the issue was a disagreement between members from large emerging economies and richer nations over whether decarbonisation conditions should be imposed on organisations from developing nations seeking to access funding.

The GCF was created to help poor countries curb their emissions and cope with climate impacts. It depends on agencies like DBSA to deliver projects in poor nations.

Some board members from rich countries added as a condition for DBSA to be re-accredited that the bank adopts a 2050 net zero emission target across its portfolio, and an intermediate 2030 target, within one year of the accreditation being approved.

The bank, which currently has no fossil fuel exclusion policy, would have to demonstrate how it is shifting its loans and investments away from carbon-intensive activities.

But the move was strongly resisted by developing country members who accused developed nations of imposing a carbon-cutting pathway on poorer ones.

Wael Aboul-Magd, of Egypt, told the board the 2050 net zero goal was “a global aspiration, not a prescription to every country, and particularly not for developing countries”.

Turkey ratifies the Paris Agreement after approving a 2053 net zero goal

Board member Ayman Shasly, of Saudi Arabia, described the condition as “blackmail,” adding that the GCF was being “manipulated by [developed countries] pushing their own agenda onto the fund”.

Yan Ren, of China, agreed with Shasly that the condition did not respect the Paris Agreement’s equity principle of common but differentiated responsibilities that nations that became rich from burning fossil fuels should cut their emissions faster to allow poorer ones to develop.

“We should not impose conditions on developing countries to force them to achieve certain targets. There is no one size fits all on fossil fuels,” she said.

DBSA is a development finance institution wholly owned by the South African government with 60% of its financing directed to the rest of the African continent.

Oil Change International data shared with Climate Home News shows that between 2018 and 2020, DBSA supported gas projects with $270m in financing, compared with nearly $320m for wind and solar.

Some of the DBSA-backed projects included a gas power plant in Ghana and LNG production in Mozambique.

However, campaigners warned that poor transparency in reporting at DBSA meant the true figures could be higher.

Campaigners have directly called on the South African government to commit to stop funding fossil fuels through DBSA by ensuring the bank adopts a fossil fuel finance exclusion policy and increases financing for accelerating the clean energy transition.

UAE sets net zero by 2050 target, promises renewable investments

Members from rich nations pushed back against calls to re-accredit DBSA without any conditions and the issue was postponed to a future meeting.

Stéphane Cieniewski, of France, said the conditions were “not unreasonable or excessive” and aligned with the Paris accord.

Lars Roth, of Sweden, one of the board members who requested the net zero condition be applied to DBSA, told the meeting the bank was “already working on and intended to approve” a 2050 net zero goal across its portfolio and would be making a formal announcement in a couple of months.

Meanwhile, the fund agreed to re-accredit the UN Development Programme for another five years, amid ongoing corruption investigations into two of its projects in Albania and Samoa.

Overall, the board approved $1.2 billion for 13 new carbon-cutting and adaptation projects – a record amount for a single board meeting.

This included $125m for the GCF to become an anchor investor in the creation of a global fund to support and de-risk private investment designed to protect and restore coral reefs around the world.

The Global Fund for Coral Reef will support companies investing in sustainable fisheries and aquaculture practices, coral farming, plastic waste management and water treatment.

But it will also promote ecotourism and the development of “sustainably-managed hotel resorts” and tourists activities such as “surf, diving, snorkelling and cruises”.

UAE sets net zero by 2050 target, promises renewable investments

The proposal was submitted by Pegasus Capital Advisors, a Delaware-incorporated private equity firm. The fund is due to be rolled out in 17 countries and aims to protect 29,000 hectare of reef globally and create nearly 13,000 jobs.

Board members overwhelmingly backed the design of the project despite strong opposition from civil society members acting as observers at the fund.

“We are very concerned that instead of helping communities in reef ecosystems adapt from climate change impacts, this adaptation project will profit out of harming the reefs,” Erika Lennon, of the Center for Environmental Law, told the board.

Lennon described the absence of connection between funding surf, diving or snorkelling enterprises with safeguarding reef ecosystems as “woefully inadequate” and urged for investments in hotel resorts, cruises and shrimp farming to be explicitly excluded from the scope of the project.

She warned that reef-damaging practices promoted by the project risked damaging the GCF’s reputation.

Some Favorite destinations in the Arab world for Digital Nomads

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Hadi Khatib of IMFInfo.com asks what are some Favorite destinations in the Arab world for Digital Nomads and provides answers that would not be a surprise for anyone who knows the MENA region.
But before we get into Hadi’s thoughts, here are some of Kamel Daoud‘s in his latest article in Liberte. It summarises well our situation at this conjecture, specifically that of the MENA region.

Strange paradox: the journey dies in the very century that has overcome gravity, distance, arduousness. As if after inventing so many Herculean engines, it is the vengeful immobility that becomes our lot.

Flying today? It is a long, expensive act, which requires availability, compelling reasons, health tests, a rare visa and other passage documents.

Go to sea? It goes through death, or shipwreck, or uprooting. It is no longer a journey, but a swim against the current.

Here is Hadi Khatib’s

What are some favorite destinations in the Arab world for digital nomads?

The evaporation of the traditional office workplace last year shifted the spotlight to the role digital nomads play choosing to work from anywhere thanks to special visas issued by a number of countries around the globe

  • Entrepreneurs and young CEOs may be categorized as digital nomads when constantly exploring opportunities
  • Working online and remotely depends on inflation’s stability and low costs of living
  • The Arab world has quite a few places where remote work is possible

The evaporation of the traditional office workplace last year shifted the spotlight to the role digital nomads play choosing to work from anywhere thanks to special visas issued by a number of countries around the globe. 

The UAE recognized this role and issue a special visa to attract those workers. Dubai’s Remote Work Visa provides digital nomads with the chance of mixing business with pleasure. Valid for one year, requirements extend to providing proof of employment with a minimum income of $5,000 per month, or proof of ownership of a company. The fee is $611 and must be accompanied by valid health insurance with UAE coverage.

But, as COVID-19 winds down, is a return to the office imminent?
Airbnb’s introduction of long-term rentals is one indication that this model for work-life balance may have some staying power. Just like desert nomads, digital nomads are not always on the move, and often settle for periods of time before moving on again.

Who are digital nomads?

Digital nomads are mostly freelancers – the likes of bloggers, writers, editors, content creators, web programmers, translators, consultants, and photographers. Additionally, entrepreneurs and young CEOs may also be categorized as digital nomads when constantly exploring opportunities.

Digital nomads are typically drawn to destinations that meet certain requirements and that are anchored by accessible visas that allow them to legally stay in a foreign destination for a good amount of time.

There are some important factors that every digital nomad should take into consideration when choosing a new neighborhood, city, or country:

Quality of Internet connection

While remote and exotic locations certainly are attractive, these places could quickly lose their appeal if they lack strong and reliable internet connections.

Costs of living

Working online and remotely depends on inflation’s stability and low costs of living. When paying the bills, like rent, electricity, groceries, and internet becomes a concern, it’s time to return to nomad life again.

Crime rates and safety ratings

Nomads like the presence of other nomads to hang out and share war stories with. Without them, they could feel isolated and dependent on the friendliness of locals. One thing that must be taken into consideration when choosing a destination is whether locals like foreigners and whether or not crimes rates are high.

Digital nomads in Arab countries

The Arab world has quite a few places where remote work is possible.

Rabat, Morocco

Morocco has multiple cities that are fun to explore, such as Rabat, Marrakech, Fes, and many more. If you’re more of a beach person, Morocco has that too. English, Arabic and French languages are spoken.  It’s pretty safe as a country and visas are relatively easy if you have a passport from a Western country.

You can stay in Morocco for up to 90 days with a tourist visa, which is easily extendible. In the cities, Morocco has pretty good internet access whether it is through cafes and hotels. There are also options to buy data plans for relatively cheap. Outside the cities, though, it might be tougher to find places with strong internet, but they do exist.

Morocco has multiple residence options depending on your budget. There are hostels (the cheapest option) and Riads (hotels typically created from houses in the medinas, and are the most expensive option), and many choices in between. As for the cost of living, Morocco is cheaper than the US.

Tunis, Tunisia

Tunis, the capital, is right on the coast and is a great place for remote work. There are many places to travel to within Tunisia to see beautiful landscapes and historic ruins. People do speak English, especially in cities, but not everyone. Tunisia is also pretty safe. The tourist visa for Tunisia allows for stays up to 90 days and is free for people with US passports. Longer than that, though, and you will need to fill out another application and pay for another type of visa. The visa application is now available online.

Internet speed in some places in Tunisia is slower than in other countries, which does make it harder for remote work, but there are places with faster internet.

Hotels there could be expensive, but there are renting options from locals in Facebook groups and hostels. For transportation, Tunis has a large public transportation system consisting of buses and light rail/metro. The average cost of living in Tunis for a digital nomad is $1000-$1200 a month.

Amman, Jordan

With amazing places to visit like Petra or Aqab, Jordan makes an amazing country for digital nomads to work from. Jordan has a lot of places to visit, food to try, and sites to explore. Many Jordanians in Amman speak English and overall, Jordan is safe.

In Jordan, the visa process is simple. You can get a visa at the border for single entry, two entries, or multiple entries. The single-entry visa is $56.50 and is valid for 30 days.

The prices of the visas increase from there. If you want to stay longer than 60 days, you have to register at a police station.  

For internet access, there are many cafes in Amman that have internet. In addition, data plans are available to buy and are somewhat cheap.  

Airbnb, hostels, and renting from locals is available. To get around in Amman, taxis are probably the best option.  

The cost of living in Jordan is more expensive than in Morocco or Tunisia, although the food is cheaper than in the US. On average, the cost of living is about $1330/month.  

Dahab, Egypt

Egypt has many places to visit including Alexandria, Luxor, Dahab, and more. Not every place in Egypt has Ancient Egyptian sites, but there are places that have beaches and are fun to explore. Not everyone speaks English but you’ll find help with the language very quickly. Egypt is relatively safe.

The visa process for Egypt is different than the other countries. A tourist visa for someone from the US costs $25 and is good for 30 days only. Beyond that, you will probably have to get a visa before traveling, which is available either online or at an embassy.  

Internet in Egypt is typically pretty slow. It would be hard for digital nomads to use the internet, but in some places, like in Dahab, Egypt, there are good spots for the internet. Beyond that, though, it might be better to get a modem or find a “coworking space” to work in.

Hostels are good options for long-term stays.  

As for the cost of living, Egypt is much cheaper than the U.S. The average cost of living for a single person in Egypt is $750/month, with some variance in cities.