The Egyptian resort town of Sharm El Sheikh has been transformed into the epicentre of efforts to address the climate crisis as it hosts COP27.
But the coastline on which the UN climate conference is being held is more than just a backdrop for official negotiations.
The coral reefs that have long drawn tourists to the Red Sea peninsula are among the most biodiverse in the world. They are home to over a thousand different species of fish and around 350 coral species.
Mindful of their global importance, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has announced a major new fund to support the local ecosystem.
The US agency has contributed $15 million (€14.9) to the Global Fund for Coral Reefs (GFCR), it revealed at COP27 on Tuesday.
This initiative is the largest global blended finance vehicle – whereby development aid is used to mobilise additional private or public funds – dedicated to the UN Sustainable Development Goal on ‘Life Below Water’.
The fresh injection of funds takes the total amount of money mobilised by the GCR since it was launched at the 75th UN General Assembly in September 2020 to $187 million (€185.9 million).
Why are Egypt’s coral reefs so important, and how will the funding help?
As well as being astonishingly beautiful and rich habitats in their own right, the fate of coral reefs is one of several major ‘tipping points’ that could push us into climate catastrophe.
As ocean temperatures rise, some reefs are being bleached almost every year. It has caused the deathly pale appearance of swathes of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.
Given their unique potential to withstand increasing impacts of climate change, the Red Sea reefs might be the most resilient on Earth.
Protection of ‘coral refugia’ reefs – those in climate cool spots – is critical as they offer the global community the opportunity to safeguard ecosystems. They can also act as seed banks that could bring degraded reefs back to a vibrant and productive state, explains Nicole Trudeau of the UN Development Programme.
“The Red Sea is home to a rich underwater ecosystem that attracts millions of tourists who create millions of jobs for Egyptians and bring in billions in foreign currency each year,” says USAID Chief Climate Officer Gillian Caldwell.
The funding will ‘incubate and scale’ business models that address local drivers of coral reef degradation – including overtourism.
It also aims to increase the resilience of local communities – a key part of GFCR’s approach in the 12 countries where it works, from Mozambique and Indonesia to Sri Lanka and Micronesia.
Development of the Egyptian Red Sea programme is led by the United Nations Development Programme Egypt Country Office.
“In the face of an intensifying climate crisis, USAID’s investment in the Red Sea Initiative will help to drive a nature-positive economic transition while boosting the climate resilience of coastal communities in Egypt,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner adds.
“[It is] demonstrating that change is possible when leadership, political will, and investment comes together.”
Many more ‘blue finance’ announcements – concerning mangroves and seagrass as well as reefs – are expected in the coming days at COP27.
A High Quality Blue Carbon Principles and Guidelines report, for example, is set to launch on Saturday.
“Nature-based solutions are being discussed at COP, but we still need to amplify the central role of nature in our climate mitigation and adaptation strategies,” marine conservation expert Josheena Naggea tells Euronews Green.
On June 30th, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) published a report, titled ‘The New Gold Rush: Bioprospecting,” which elucidates the benefits of bioprospecting for sustainable economic development for underdeveloped countries. Bioprospecting is the exploration of biodiversity for animal and plant substances for medicinal, biochemical, or other commercial purposes. One cause of the socio-economic disparity between rich and poor countries stems from colonial practices of environmental exploitation; larger countries pilfered the resources of smaller countries or current or former colonies to support the metropole’s industrialization and growth.
As underdeveloped countries aim to promote economic growth and political stability, the UNDP report encourages the sustainable extraction of plant and animal substances for pharmaceutical and biochemical purposes, specifically discussing bioprospecting’s potential in Cambodia due to its wealth of biodiversity. As the report articulates, as Cambodia transitions from a “subsistence agriculture-based economy to an agro-industrial economy, its biological resources are increasingly under threat.” Bioprospecting would thus harness traditional environmental knowledge alongside modern science and technology to promote sustainable development; in this way, the UNDP report attempts to revitalize the goals of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Policy and scientific recommendations on how to deal with the loss of biodiversity due to climate change gained traction with the IUCN’s (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) Commission on Environmental Law in the 1980s. Their efforts fed into the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) Ad Hoc Working Group of Experts on Biological Diversity in November 1988, which advocated for a multilateral institution to establish norms and protection over biodiversity– ultimately leading to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The CBD sought to reconcile the need to conserve biodiversity, but also recognize its utilization towards economic and societal development for underdeveloped nations. The CBD begot a Treaty that established three goals: the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from its resources. 196 parties have ratified the treaty, including China, the U.K, Canada, and the E.U, but not the U.S due to its failure to pass the Senate. Its failure derived from three fears of U.S policy makers: that U.S biotech corporations would be required to share their intellectual property in genetic research with other countries; that the U.S would become financially responsible for other country’s conservation; and that the CBD would impose more environmental regulations on the U.S. Even after the Biden Administrations’ efforts to reimpose environmental policy slashed by Trump, similar concerns are thwarting their efforts to ratify the CBD.
These guidelines thus recognize the right of a country to benefit from the extraction of its resources and attempted to prevent biopiracy – a centuries old practice through which indigenous environmental knowledge was exploited and turned to profit. While not a new practice, biopiracy surged throughout the 20th century as modern biotech fields crystallized, often developing by drawing on indigenous knowledge of plants and animals and then patenting them. Furthermore, the Treaty stipulates that potential bioprospectors would need permission from the country’s government,and would require them to state the country of origin of the resource in the patent. The country’s government may also impose access fees or royalty payments for bioprospectors and obtain the research results. Supplementary protocols sprouted from the initial CBD Treaty, including the 2010 Nagoya Protocol, which helped promote the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources, and the 2000 Cartagena Protocol, which ensures the safe handling of living modified organisms (LMOs) resulting from biotechnology. Such guidelines attempt to reaffirm small countries’ sovereignty over their land and resources, promote sustainable utilization of plant and animal substances, and avoid the recurrence of environmental exploitation that has, among other factors, impeded development in the past.
The inhabitants of the mountainous upland regions of Cambodia have a rich knowledge base of natural resources and conservation. Their cultural norms and worldviews, as well as their livelihoods depend upon a symbiotic relationship with their environment. Climate change currently threatens more than 300 medicinal plants that are native to Cambodia and face extinction. One such plant is Tepongru (Cinnamomum cambodianum), a species of cinnamon that grows in the Cambodian mountains. The healers and herbalists of Khmer traditional medicine– or Kru Khemer, harvest the bark of Tepongru to cure indigestion, tuberculosis, and the regulation of menstruation. The bark also has high concentrations of cinnamaldehyde and eugenol, which biotechnology companies synthesize to use in both perfumes and essential oils, but also as an anesthetic. Furthermore, Kru Khemer engage in a variety of traditional medical practices including bone setting, herbalism, and divination; in this way, Kru Khemer maintain a vital societal role given their deep knowledge not just in medicinal plants and animals, but also in their knowledge of spiritual rituals that mediate the supernatural and the plant.
The CBD Treaty has been interpreted as an important step in sustainable development, a goal for which the U.N established its own ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ protocol under its department of Economic and Social Affairs. Furthermore, the report describes how the UNDP has attempted to support the goals of the CBD in actionable policy: “since 2011 the UNDP, with funding from the Nagoya Protocol Implementation Fund (NPIF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has been supporting governments, local communities, and the private sector to develop national ABS frameworks, build capacities, and harness the potential of genetic resources”— and specifically, the UNDP is working with Cambodian officials to implement the new project “Developing a Comprehensive Framework for Practical Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in Cambodia”. And so, despite lacking crucial support from the United States, responsible bioprospecting, and the revitalization of the CBD, presents an opportunity in combating climate change while encouraging sustainable development and international economic equality; the most effective practices for successful environmental protection derive from supranational pursuits, but they still require national cooperation.
Algeria suffers from devastating wildfires but faces big challenges in addressing them by António Bento-Gonçalves, University of Minho shed the light on the central area of North Africa whereas, wildfires sweep every summer, the Atlas of its millennium forestry ground cover. Life despite that carries on regardless.
In effect, there are many localities in rural areas, that were waiting for their share of development projects, which have been promised in the wake of the policy of aid and support for grey areas. “We are a grey area, and yet we are forgotten!”, exclaims a local resident.
All this was prior to the sudden fires wreaking havoc. “It is a great disaster, people have suffered great damage to their property, some have lost everything,” continues our interlocutor, who insists on the fact that despite the exodus that had experienced the rural areas, the inhabitants have remained faithful to their tradition in this land. “Some have certainly left, but others, and there are many, have returned,” said the native of this locality, an official of the local authority.
Read more on a BBC‘s Viewpoint: Algerian blame games expose deep political crisis.
Anyway, let us read the ‘Conversation’.
Algeria suffers from devastating wildfires, but faces big challenges in addressing them
Dozens of forest fires have raged through forest areas across northern Algeria. So far at least 90 people have reportedly died as a consequence. Natural hazard expert, António Bento-Gonçalves, provides insights into wildfires in Algeria and what must be done to manage them better.
How often do wildfire incidents take place in Algeria and which areas are most affected?
In recent years major fires, with devastating consequences, have occurred in various parts of the world. This year the Mediterranean region was affected by heatwaves between July and August which caused major fire incidents in several countries including Greece, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.
In Algeria, forests and scrubland occupy a total area of around 4 million hectares. This makes a huge part of the country susceptible to fire. For instance, between 1876 and 2005 (the longest complete data series) it’s estimated that almost 40,000 hectares burned each year, representing approximately 1% of all existing woodlands of the country.
Over a period of 25 years, from 1985 to 2010, Algeria recorded 42,555 fires that burned a total area of 910,640 hectares.
The municipalities (known as “wilayas”) most affected are in the North – the most forested parts of the country – and in the West. These areas are more populated, hilly (with steep slopes) and a pronounced Mediterranean climate – a very dry and hot season in summer, but sufficiently wet in winter to allow for rapid vegetation growth.
What causes them?
Wild fires spread the fastest in places that are hard to reach and in the right conditions. Large parts of Algeria tick these boxes. With very limited access and steep slopes, detection and effective first intervention by firefighters is very difficult. In addition there’s usually very dry undergrowth and forests are composed of flammable species.
Added to this, Algeria’s forested areas are subject to multiple human pressures which create conditions that are favourable to the spread of fires. These include the the use of fast-growing but more flammable forest species or the frequent use of fire for pasture regeneration. In addition, having long periods of hot and dry weather increase fire risk.
Forest fires in Algeria were historically caused by people. However, recent official information on the causes of fires is characterised by high rate of fires of “unknown origin”, representing between 40% to 70% of all fires. Essentially, we know they’ll be caused by people, but there’s no specific data on what activity that caused them or motivations behind them.
Why do we not know? This is related to difficulties in monitoring by the General Directorate of Forests. Between 1980 and 2000, when the causes of fires of unknown origin were higher, this was due to instability. Algeria had a civil war that lasted from 1991 to 2002 and prevented government agencies, including the Directorate of Forests, from working properly. This made it difficult to have a good understanding of what caused the fires.
How are they managed and are there prevention measures in place?
Generally, policies put in place to combat forest fires are organised around several points: information and education of the population, development and maintenance of rural and forest areas, surveillance of wooded areas, and improvement of the means of fire fighting.
However, not knowing exactly what type of human activity causes the fires limits what can be done to prevent them. Instead, policies tend to be more reactionary – they focus on dealing with fires when they break out.
In recent years, public authorities strengthened the resources of the General Directorate of Forests for the prevention and fight against forest fires. In particular, by acquiring first intervention equipment, such as forest fire trucks, preparing more aircraft for firefighting, and a radio network for rapid communication in the event of fire outbreak.
In addition, more collaborative work is being done in the region to improve intervention and surveillance.
What else can be done to better prepare and manage wildfires in Algeria?
Policies to prevent and protect against forest fires have been implemented gradually since the 1980s, but the country faces many challenges in effectively rolling them out.
Algeria is a huge country – with a size exceeding 2.38 million km2, it’s the biggest country in Africa. With a massive territory to manage, all actions – to prevent, to detect and to fire fight – aren’t enough. Operations are also very complex due to the very uneven, hard to access, terrain.
There’s also a high population density around and inside the forest massifs. This means its hard to control the actions that people take which are a fire hazard.
Added to this, forestry officials lack authority and resources to perform their duties.
To effectively combat fires, there must be political, social and economic stability in the country. And the causes of the fires must be clearly known. Without this, it’s impossible to win the battle against forest fires.
There is, however, hope. New technologies, such as Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Systems, could improve data acquisition and thus the prevention of fires.
Other actions that must be taken include; the strengthening of education and awareness-raising and improvements in the equipment used to monitor, detect and fight forest fires.
Finally, policymakers must focus on strengthening cooperation and mutual assistance between all the Mediterranean countries. Fire knows no borders and no single country is capable of having all the necessary resources.
This article republished from The Conversation is about Sudan’s ‘forgotten’ pyramids that risk being buried by shifting sand dunes and take with them all related history.
Rampant desertification expansion towards the north does not meet any counter-movement. But, conversely, in the south, one ambitious African-led reforestation project is leading the way. To combat sand movement and desertification by increasing the vegetation cover along the southern edge of the Saharan desert, a Green Wall is proposed. It is being implemented throughout the continent from ocean to ocean. In the southern edge of the MENA region, we sadly do not share the same concern and do not consecrate to date more than little attention paid to it. Is it the force of habit or what else?
Sudan’s ‘forgotten’ pyramids risk being buried by shifting sand dunes
The word “pyramid” is synonymous with Egypt, but it is actually neighbouring Sudan that is home to the world’s largest collection of these spectacular ancient structures.
Beginning around 2500BC, Sudan’s ancient Nubian civilisation left behind more than 200 pyramids that rise out of the desert across three archaeological sites: El Kurru, Jebel Barkal and Meroe, in addition to temples, tombs and royal burial chambers.
Despite being smaller than the famous Egyptian pyramids of Giza, Nubian pyramids are just as magnificent and culturally valuable. They even offer a crowd-free experience for intrepid tourists.
Built of sandstone and granite, the steeply-sloping pyramids contain chapels and burial chambers decorated with illustrations and inscriptions carved in hieroglyphs and Meroitic script celebrating the rulers’ lives in Meroe – a wealthy Nile city and the seat of power of Kush, an ancient kingdom and rival to Egypt.
Located about 220km north of the capital Khartoum, the cultural gem of Meroe is now one of Sudan’s most significant Unesco world heritage sites. However a lack of preservation, severe weather conditions and negligent visitors have all taken their toll on its monuments. Back in the 1880s, for instance, the Italian explorer Giuseppe Ferlini blew up several pyramids in his search for Kushite treasure, leaving many of the tombs missing their pointy tops. Many more of Sudan’s other pyramids were subsequently plundered and destroyed by looters.
These days sandstorms and shifting sand dunes pose the biggest threat to Sudan’s ancient heritage sites. This phenomenon is nothing new, and was even chronicled thousands of years ago. An inscription found in a temple from the 5th century BC describes a Kushite king giving an order to clear out sand from the pathway:
His Majesty brought a multitude of hands, to wit, men and women as well as royal children and chiefs to carry away the sand; and his Majesty was carrying away sand with his hand(s) himself, at the forefront of the multitude for many days.
But today the threat has been exacerbated by climate change, which has made the land more arid and sandstorms more frequent. Moving sands can engulf entire houses in rural Sudan, and cover fields, irrigation canals and riverbanks.
The best way to combat sand movement and desertification is to increase the vegetation cover, and one ambitious African-led reforestation project is leading the way.
Bringing together more than 20 nations, the Great Green Wall is a multi-billion dollar movement to stop the spread of the Sahara Desert by restoring 100 million hectares of land across the continent from Senegal in west Africa to Djibouti in the east. The intention is to cultivate the largest living barrier of trees and plants on the planet, with Sudan having the longest stretch of the “wall”.
Only 4% of the target area has been covered so far, with big variations from country to country. When it is more complete, this experimental project will hopefully limit the frequency of dust storms and slow the movement of sand onto fertile lands and Unesco sites in northern Sudan. It will also contribute to tackling the extreme heatwaves in semi-arid areas such as the capital Khartoum, where the temperature goes well above 40°C during summer.
However, monitoring the impact of the project, which spans 5,000 miles across Africa, requires “big picture” data. This comes from the latest satellites and remote sensing technologies.
Satellite imagery can provide valuable information about sand movement. For instance satellites are used to monitor the dust storms that transport sand from the Sahara across the Atlantic Ocean to supply the Amazon rainforest with essential fertilising nutrients.
But what about on a smaller scale? How do you predict if and when sand will submerge a field, a watering hole – or a pyramid?
In my own research I have previously used multiple overlapping images taken from aeroplanes to generate digital elevation models for sand dunes in northern Sudan. That led to my current PhD research which focuses on monitoring the movement of sand dunes using satellite optical and radar images, airborne laser imagery and other techniques. My research also investigates the influence of factors such as wind speed and direction, presence of vegetation and topography.
Colleagues and I ultimately want to develop our understanding of how sand dunes grow in size and how they migrate across the desert. This will enable us to monitor the effectiveness of interventions such as vegetation barriers, helping to combat desertification and climate change and to ensure people in Sudan are able to grow enough food. And we may even be able to predict when and where those pyramids will be buried – and what we can do to prevent it.
If emissions continue unchecked, summers in the Northern Hemisphere could last nearly six months by 2100, according to a new study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. Scientists say the shift in seasons will likely have significant impacts on agriculture, the environment, human health, and the timing of species’ activities such as breeding, feeding, and migration.
The research, led by scientists at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography in China, analyzed six decades of historical daily climate records, and used climate models to project future trends. It defined summer as the “onset of temperatures in the hottest 25 percent during that time period, while winter began with temperatures in the coldest 25 percent.”
On average, the study found, the number of summer days in the Northern Hemisphere jumped from 78 to 95 between 1952 and 2011. Winter, meanwhile, shrank from 76 to 73 days over the same period. Spring contracted from 124 to 115 days, and autumn from 87 to 82 days.
The scientists projected that if these trends continue, summer will last almost six months out of the year, winter will shrink by two months, and spring and autumn will shrink as well. With the extension of summer comes more intense heat waves and extreme weather events like droughts and wildfires.
“Summers are getting longer and hotter while winters shorter and warmer due to global warming,” Yuping Guan, a physical oceanographer at the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography and lead author of the new study, said in a statement. “Numerous studies have already shown that the changing seasons cause significant environmental and health risks.”
Originally posted on Algerian Freedom Alliance: by Scander Safsaf. 10/04/2018. Algerian Freedom Alliance. A Bicephalous Truth By deterrence I meant benefiting from a nuclear one, and applying a form of state coercion also seen as a deterrence. The very “raison d’être” of such security apparatus, beyond the subject of submission, as I will detail later,…
Deep in the Algerian desert, a Sahrawi-run event puts Western Sahara’s struggle for liberation on the big screen. 25 November 2022 The image above is of GOV.UK By Ariel Sophia Bardi, a freelance writer and photographer based in Rome. AUSERD REFUGEE CAMP, Algeria—At about 10 p.m., in the middle of the Sahara desert, just two lights […]
Originally posted on The Further Adventures of Shannon and Brodie: Once again with the wanderlust. This time for Africa. Waka waka into Casablanca jetlagged and a day late. Don’t fly TAP Air. The fields were dirt brown as we descended toward the airport, but hey it’s winter here too. 33 degrees north latitude puts us…
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