The above-featured image is of a Swiss Air Force Super Puma helicopter drops water on a wildfire on the flank of a mountain in Bitsch near Brig, Switzerland, July 18, 2023. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
A man is seen with a towel tied around his head to escape hot weather as a heat wave hits Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, China, July 10, 2017. Picture taken July 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
Countries at odds over which should pay climate finance
EU wants China to contribute to climate funds
China among countries not currently obliged to pay
BRUSSELS/BEIJING, July 21 (Reuters) – Record-breaking heat in China. Wildfires forcing Swiss villages to evacuate. Drought ravaging Spanish crops. As the costs of climate change rack up, a debate is surging among governments: who should pay?
The question has been in the spotlight amid this week’s climate talks between the U.S. and China, where the world’s two biggest economies tried to find ways to work together on issues ranging from renewable energy deployment to climate finance ahead of this year’s U.N. climate summit, COP28, in Dubai.
Given China’s rapid economic growth and increasing emissions, pressure has grown on Beijing to join the group of countries providing this funding.
During the talks in Beijing, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry said the two sides would continue to discuss climate finance over the next four months, before the COP28 conference starting Nov. 30.
“It’s difficult to argue that countries like China, Brazil or Saudi Arabia should still be put at the same level as the least developed countries and small island developing states,” a diplomat from one European Union country told Reuters.
The EU, today the biggest contributor of climate finance, has lobbied to expand the pool of donor countries that provide it.
Climate finance refers to money that wealthy countries pay toward helping poorer nations reduce CO2 emissions and adapt to a hotter, harsher world.
So far, the few dozen wealthy countries obliged to make these payments have not delivered cash in the amounts promised. That list of financing nations was decided during U.N. climate talks in 1992, when China’s economy was still smaller than Italy’s.
Now, some countries are calling for China to contribute. U.S. officials including Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have noted that Chinese contributions would boost the efficacy of the U.N. climate fund.
Other countries under similar pressure include Qatar, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, three of the world’s richest nations in terms of GDP per capita.
So far, China has resisted calls that could group it alongside wealthy nations.
In a meeting with Kerry on Tuesday, Chinese Premier Li Qiang stressed that developed countries should deliver their unfulfilled climate finance commitments and take the lead in cutting emissions, according to Li’s office. He suggested developing countries could make contributions “within their capabilities.”
That resistance suggests the effort faces serious challenges. Changing the official U.N. donor list would require international consensus.
“There is much too much resistance among countries like China and Saudi Arabia to touch the official definition,” one EU official said on condition of anonymity.
Advocates for the change argue that an expansion needs to happen before a new – and, likely, far bigger – U.N. target for climate finance kicks in after 2025. Countries still need to negotiate the size of that target and who will contribute to it.
“All countries that are able, must contribute to global climate finance,” said Ambassador Pa’olelei Luteru, who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States.
The bigger issue, Luteru said, is which of the poor and most vulnerable countries will be in line to receive it.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
The U.N. climate financing arrangement is based on the principle that rich countries have a greater responsibility to tackle climate change, because they have contributed the bulk of the CO2 emissions heating the planet since the industrial revolution.
The United States’ historical CO2 emissions are bigger than those of any other country, but China today is the world’s biggest CO2 emitter in terms of pollution produced each year.
Countries will face the question of historical responsibility at COP28, as they aim to launch a new fund to compensate vulnerable states for costs already being incurred in climate-fuelled natural disasters.
The EU dropped its years-long resistance to that fund last year, but on the condition that a larger group of countries pay into it. Countries have not yet decided who will contribute.
The United States has been cagey about making payments that could be seen as reparations for climate change.
Some countries not obliged to contribute to UN climate funds have done so anyway, including South Korea and Qatar. Others have begun channelling aid through other channels.
China launched the South-South Climate Cooperation fund in 2015 to help least developed countries’ tackle climate issues, and so far has delivered about 10% of the $3.1 billion pledged, according to think tank E3G.
That’s a fraction of the hundreds of billions that Beijing is spending on its Belt and Road Initiative, backing projects including oil pipelines and ports.
Such arrangements allow countries to contribute without obligation, although if done outside of U.N. funds they can face less stringent criteria for public reporting – making it harder to track where the money is going and how much is paid.
Byford Tsang, a senior policy advisor at E3G, said a Chinese offer of more climate finance would be a “win-win” for Beijing. “It would earn China diplomatic clout, and pressure Western donors to raise their stakes on climate finance,” he said.
Some vulnerable countries, frustrated with the flagging finance to date, are looking to new sources for cash. The Barbados-led Bridgetown Initiative is pushing for a revamp of multilateral development banks so they can offer more support for climate projects. Other nations have rallied behind a global CO2 levy on shipping to raise funds.
Reporting by Kate Abnett in Brussels and Valerie Volcovici in Beijing; Editing by Katy Daigle and Stephen Coates
Valerie Volcovici covers U.S. environment and energy policy from Washington, DC. She is focused on climate and environmental regulations at federal agencies and in Congress. She also covers the impact of these regulatory changes across the United States. Other areas of coverage include plastic pollution and international climate negotiations.
E-waste, electronic waste, e-scrap and end-of-life electronics are as per Geneva Environmental Network, terms often used to describe used electronics that are nearing the end of their useful life and are discarded, donated or given to a recycler. The UN defines e-waste as any discarded products with a battery or plug and features toxic and hazardous substances such as mercury, that can pose severe risk to human and environmental health. So why Global e-waste generation is to double by 2030, raising health alarms?
Global e-waste generation to double by 2030 raising health alarms
International organisations and climate advocates have been raising the red flag around e-waste issue forcing businesses and governments to set e-waste policies, standards and recommendations.
Electronic waste or e-waste is a global challenge threatening the health of people and the planet. International organisations and climate advocates have been raising the red flag around this issue forcing businesses and governments to set e-waste policies, standards and recommendations in an effort to improve the situation.
According to the UN, in 2021 each person on the planet will produce on average 7.6 kg of e-waste, meaning that a massive 57.4 million tons will be generated worldwide. As declared by ERI (Electronic Recyclers International), it is expected that worldwide e-waste generation will be at 67 million tons by 2030, which is almost double 2014’s waste.
In the Arab region, the Regional E-waste Monitor for the Arab States 2021 which is the first monitoring effort in the region in relation to e-waste statistics, legislation and e-waste management infrastructure, indicated that e-waste generation in the Arab region increased by 61 per cent from 1.8 Mt (4.9 kg/inh) in 2010 to 2.8 Mt (6.6 kg/inh) in 2019.
With the rise of global health issues and the aggravating challenges of climate change, and given the growth of e-waste generation, it has become urgent to find solutions to a growing problem that affects people’s health and their future on the planet. In fact, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has clearly affirmed that e-waste is one of the largest and most complex waste streams in the world. Today, it has become clear that addressing the environmental risks of e-waste is beyond pressing.
In particular, the Middle East and Africa region is facing deep challenges in e-waste management. In fact, the regional e-waste monitor for the Arab states 2021 has stated that “E-waste management in the Arab States region faces a myriad of challenges, prompted by a complete absence of e-waste-specific policies and legislation, which are key to the development of a proper system and an appropriate response.” Many solutions can improve the situation if tackled properly, such as preventing e-waste generation, adopting adequate legislations, raising awareness, improving collection and treatment of e-waste, among others.
As many businesses are already addressing the challenge part of their commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Resource Group, a regional group of companies with diversified businesses covering the Middle East and Africa, is taking serious steps to tackle the e-waste problem starting by raising awareness among its teams to collect and recycle its e-waste.
The Group has recently signed an agreement with Verdetech, for the collection of all solid and e-waste generated by the Group. This initiative falls under Resource Group’s CSR initiatives in line with its objective to support the SDGs.
“The urgency to limit solid waste and particularly e-waste has been on the rise in the world. Therefore, it is important for us to adopt eco-friendly practices at our premises to limit our environmental footprint and specifically contribute to limiting the e-waste in Lebanon and the region”, said Hisham Itani, Chairman and CEO at Resource Group.
He added, “Corporate sustainability is one of our main priorities as we aim to tackle environmental challenges and promote environmental responsibility among our teams and the communities. By partnering with Verdetech, we trust that all our electrical and electronic equipment will be recycled through innovative waste management techniques.”
Stressing on the importance of creating awareness about waste management, Ramzi el Haddad, General Manager said, “Our aim is to support businesses in their efforts towards sustainability and more specifically waste management. In fact, solid and e-waste management is a serious issue that directly affects the environment and our ecosystem. Therefore, as companies play an important role in setting new standards and behaviours, we are putting all our efforts into partnering with businesses to encourage waste prevention and recycling behaviour.”
The top featured image of Reuters is not only for illustration but meant to draw some attention to one of the most important cause of this traumatic situation of Egypt as well as that of many countries in the MENA region. Russia-Ukraine crisis poses a serious threat to Egypt, that with an over-population still on the rise, has a limited but diminishing arable lands area. Building on farmland coupled a certain lack of control of all real estate developments bear on the lower social classes; those supposed to be at the forefront of food production.
Russia-Ukraine crisis poses a serious threat to Egypt – the world’s largest wheat importer
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could create a global food security crisis. It is disrupting agricultural production and trade from one of the world’s major exporting regions. This threatens to drive rising food prices still higher and create scarcity, especially for regions most dependent on exports from Russia and Ukraine.
Particularly affected is the Middle East and North Africa – or MENA – region. These Arab countries consume the highest wheat per capita, about 128 kg of wheat per capita, which is twice the world average. More than half of this comes from Russia and Ukraine.
As agricultural and food security experts, we have explored the impacts of the war on the wheat market, focusing on Egypt.
Wheat is a key food item for Egypt, representing between 35% and 39% of caloric intake per person in the last few years. And wheat imports usually account for about 62% of total wheat use in the country.
Despite the government’s efforts following the global food crisis in 2007 to 2008 to diversify sources of cereal imports, the vast majority of cereal imports, between 57% and 60%, come from Russia and Ukraine.
A number of key policy actions are needed that will reduce dependence on Russia and Ukraine in the short term. This will help Egypt’s agriculture and food system to become fairer and more resilient – an absolute necessity in the context of looming threats from climate change, water scarcity and conflict.
Black Sea import disruptions
Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat. It imports a total of 12 to 13 million tons every year. With a population of 105 million, growing at a rate of 1.9% a year, Egypt has become increasingly dependent on imports to meet food needs.
Imports of cereal crops have been steadily increasing over the last three decades at a rate higher than that of domestic production.
Egypt’s wheat market and trade regime is largely controlled by government agencies. The General Authority for Supply Commodities, operating under the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade, usually handles about half of the total wheat imported, while private trading companies handle the other half.
Government agencies are already feeling the impact of the war, which has led to recent cancellation of tenders due to lack of offers, in particular from Ukraine and Russia.
Still, there is no fear of shortage in the coming weeks. In early February, Egyptian MoSit Minister Aly Moselhy said that the country held sufficient inventory to cover five months of consumption. But the outlook beyond that is less clear.
With the abrupt closure of Ukraine ports and current maritime trade in the Black Sea – wheat is transported across the Black Sea – Egypt will have to find new suppliers if Ukraine is unable to export wheat this year and if sanctions against Russia impede food trade indirectly.
Such opportunities are, unfortunately for Egypt, limited.
Currently, wheat producers in South America – Argentina in particular – have larger than usual surpluses from the last harvest available to export. Overall, however, it will be difficult to expand the global wheat supply in the short run. About 95% of the wheat produced in the European Union and about 85% of that in the United States is planted in the fall, leaving those regions little room for expanding production in the near term.
In addition, wheat competes with crops such as maize, soybeans, rapeseed, and cotton, all of which are also seeing record high prices. In combination with record-high fertiliser prices (also exacerbated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict), farmers in some regions may favour less fertiliser-intensive crops, such as soybeans.
About 20% of world wheat exports come from the Southern Hemisphere (primarily Argentina and Australia) which typically ship from December through March.
In addition, Canada and Kazakhstan are large producers that harvest in the fall. Over the coming year and beyond, their exports may be able to make up much of the deficit created by the loss from Ukraine production, but at a higher cost due to longer shipping routes and increased transportation costs triggered by higher oil prices.
Rising global wheat prices hit a 10-year high at US$523 per ton on March 7. This is a serious problem for the Egyptian government’s budget and a potential threat to consumer purchasing power.
Even just before the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, prices of commodities in Egypt were increasing. The war has started adding further pressure and consumers are feeling these impacts.
Some countries have already imposed export restrictions in response to rising prices. These trends, coupled with disruptions in Russia’s and Ukraine’s exports, will likely add further upward pressures on prices going forward. Even under the most optimistic assumptions, global wheat prices will remain high throughout 2022 and the trend is likely to persist through 2023, given limits on expanding production.
The Egyptian government has been spending about US$3 billion annually for wheat imports. The recent price increase could nearly double that to US$5.7 billion. This, in turn, threatens Egypt’s Baladi bread subsidy program. This program provides millions of people with 150 loaves of subsidised bread per month. About 90% of the production cost is borne by the government at an annual cost of US$3.24 billion. The program requires about 9 million tons of wheat annually about half of the total wheat consumption in Egypt and three-quarters of Egypt’s wheat imports.
In the short term, Egypt needs to diversify its food import sources.
The government is actively exploring this option, while also increasing planned procurement from domestic sources by 38% over last year’s figure. The government has just announced a new and relatively higher buying price for domestic wheat from farmers.
In addition, the government has decided to ban exports of staple foods, including wheat, for three months to limit pressure on existing reserves.
In the long term, Egypt needs to explore options for reducing the gap between domestic supply and demand. Here are some of its options.
Boosting domestic wheat production will be challenging, as Egyptian farmers are already achieving high yields, relying on high input and water use. While there are some opportunities to expand arable land, modernise farming systems and improve water management practices, the country’s principal focus should be to adapt the farming system to address imminent water shortages and climate change threats and increase resilience, rather than unsustainably expanding production.
Reducing the high consumption and waste of bread has significant potential. Egyptians on average consume about 145 kg of wheat per capita annually – double the global average.
Improve the efficiency and targeting of the Tamween food subsidy program. This provides beneficiaries with ration cards for various foods. The program absorbs a large share of imported wheat and vegetable oils. Reforming it could reduce inefficiencies in the wheat sector and the cost of running the program.
In conclusion, the Russia-Ukraine war poses a big challenge to global food security and particularly difficult obstacles for Egypt. The short-term and long-term impacts will of course depend on how the war unfolds and affects exports from Russia and Ukraine over the coming months and years. Impacts on Egypt will also depend on other countries’ responses to global price hikes and cereal shortages.
Egypt can mitigate some of these impacts with short-term actions as outlined above, but major global shocks like the Russia-Ukraine war are also reminders of the need of longer-term reforms and solutions.
Arab News published article by JARMO T. KOTILAINE is an eye-opener on the currently trendy of the ongoing rush towards another type of gold. Digital this time and not good old solid bars. Does Fintech offer transformative change for financial services? Would the MENA Region be the next Fintech hub? Would it be sustainable? Let us find out.
Transformative change for financial services through Fintech
Fintech has become one of the catchwords of our time, shorthand for creative innovation and potentially transformative change in the way financial services are provided. It has spawned a multitude of start-ups and pushed many incumbent financial institutions to review their operating models.
The restrictions on economic activity during COVID-19 further validated and popularized many of these new ideas, as more and more people resorted to home delivery, touchless payments, and other solutions that reduced physical contact.
Technological change proved effective in driving the growth of disruptive innovators, protecting — or even increasing — the margins of banks, and allowing many companies to generate profits at a time when their survival was threatened.
To what extent, though, have we truly unleashed the transformative potential of fintech? Better payment systems and digitalized transactions are important, but ultimately represent the application of digital technology to something that was happening already.
A very different situation occurred in some developing countries where the rise of fintech has become a potent tool for financial inclusion as new providers have levered widely available mobile telecommunications technology to compensate for the shortcomings of formal financial intermediation in a widely accessible, low-cost manner.
Of course, some of this has been seen in the Gulf, in the form, for instance, of new mechanisms for the remittance payments of unbanked laborers.
How could fintech deliver even more? The true promise of technology stems from its ability to lower costs and boost transparency. Meaningful progress in these areas can deliver substantial benefits in terms of increasing access to finance and of doing so more cheaply.
Many countries have now capitalized on open banking to foster more competition among lenders. Technology can be used to allow customers to compare services and products between banks. This is pushing service providers to compete on price and quality.
Technology can also make it easier to structure complex transactions and products which can not only reduce their prices but also helps broaden the range of available solutions.
Digitalization is reducing the cost and time of on-boarding new bank customers. By decentralizing financial service provision, technology is enabling more business ventures and projects to raise capital through novel mechanisms such as crowdfunding.
Transparency is an issue of particular importance and potential. Perhaps the most profound change delivered by digital technology stems from the ease with which data can be collected and analyzed. This matters because informational asymmetries have been among the main factors restricting access to capital.
Central banks have used sometimes cumbersome regulatory and reporting requirements as a way of addressing the problem. Risk managers at banks are often forced to cite limited or unverifiable information as an argument for restricting access to credit or for pushing up their cost.
In principle, technology could be used to obviate some of the tasks currently pursued through regulation and supervision by making it easier to gain access to all the relevant data more accurately and swiftly. It should also make it easier and faster for customers to build reliable credit profiles which could be used to assess their eligibility for different products.
Again, open banking is being used by more and more lenders to access customer data and evaluate their financial history through hard data rather than assumption or generalization on the basis of potentially inaccurate or misleading applications.
Easy access analytics can help customers make more informed and efficient decisions. For instance, more investment platforms now provide access to a wide-range of investment options on a global scale, along with analytics on their performance and risks. They have reduced the costs of trading and dramatically boosted the speed of execution. Such platforms can also be used to build financial literacy, for instance through tools for financial projections or scenarios.
Of course, technology cannot overcome human myopia and wishful thinking. The way forward must be to build ways that properly account for data privacy and security. Today, though, the technological toolkit is more versatile than ever.
Progress is already helping us reimagine financial service provision, but much more is both needed and possible. Virtually every independent assessment of the financial services sector in the Gulf comments on constraints on access to capital, which in turn limit financial inclusion, economic diversification, and business growth.
Making the most of the opportunities presented by technology is thus not only a business opportunity but a chance to drive the economic paradigm shift, whose success, in large part, hinges on financial services. With governments repositioning themselves, the core task of financial institutions, the pooling and efficient allocation of capital, will matter more than ever. Doing it faster, more accurately, and for more customers will be an important driver of success.
• Jarmo Kotilaine is an economist and strategist focusing on the Gulf region. He writes on issues ranging from economic development to changes within the corporate sector.
This article republished from The Conversation is by Shelley Inglis, University of Dayton, Ohio, USA. It looks at the forthcoming international gathering of Glasgow on Climate Change and on the potential confrontations from a practical point of view and elaborates in its own way on What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work.
The image above is about U.N. climate summits that bring together representatives of almost every country. UNFCCC
What is COP26? Here’s how global climate negotiations work and what’s expected from the Glasgow summit
Over two weeks in November, world leaders and national negotiators will meet in Scotland to discuss what to do about climate change. It’s a complex process that can be hard to make sense of from the outside, but it’s how international law and institutions help solve problems that no single country can fix on its own.
I worked for the United Nations for several years as a law and policy adviser and have been involved in international negotiations. Here’s what’s happening behind closed doors and why people are concerned that COP26 might not meet its goals.
COP26 stands for the 26th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC. The “parties” are the 196 countries that ratified the treaty plus the European Union. The United Kingdom, partnering with Italy, is hosting COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 through Nov. 12, 2021, after a one-year postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why are world leaders so focused on climate change?
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, released in August 2021, warns in its strongest terms yet that human activities have unequivocally warmed the planet, and that climate change is now widespread, rapid and intensifying.
Enough greenhouse gas emissions are already in the atmosphere, and they stay there long enough, that even under the most ambitious scenario of countries quickly reducing their emissions, the world will experience rising temperatures through at least mid-century.
However, there remains a narrow window of opportunity. If countries can cut global emissions to “net zero” by 2050, that could bring warming back to under 1.5 C in the second half of the 21st century. How to get closer to that course is what leaders and negotiators are discussing.
What happens at COP26?
During the first days of the conference, around 120 heads of state, like U.S. President Joe Biden, and their representatives will gather to demonstrate their political commitment to slowing climate change.
Once the heads of state depart, country delegations, often led by ministers of environment, engage in days of negotiations, events and exchanges to adopt their positions, make new pledges and join new initiatives. These interactions are based on months of prior discussions, policy papers and proposals prepared by groups of states, U.N. staff and other experts.
Nongovernmental organizations and business leaders also attend the conference, and COP26 has a public side with sessions focused on topics such as the impact of climate change on small island states, forests or agriculture, as well as exhibitions and other events.
Countries are required under the Paris Agreement to update their national climate action plans every five years, including at COP26. This year, they’re expected to have ambitious targets through 2030. These are known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.
The Paris Agreement requires countries to report their NDCs, but it allows them leeway in determining how they reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The initial set of emission reduction targets in 2015 was far too weak to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Another aim of COP26 is to increase climate finance to help poorer countries transition to clean energy and adapt to climate change. This is an important issue of justice for many developing countries whose people bear the largest burden from climate change but have contributed least to it. Wealthy countries promised in 2009 to contribute $100 billion a year by 2020 to help developing nations, a goal that has not been reached. The U.S., U.K. and EU, among the largest historic greenhouse emitters, are increasing their financial commitments, and banks, businesses, insurers and private investors are being asked to do more.
Other objectives include phasing out coal use and generating solutions that preserve, restore or regenerate natural carbon sinks, such as forests.
Are countries on track to meet the international climate goals?
The U.N. warned in September 2021 that countries’ revised targets were too weak and would leave the world on pace to warm 2.7 C (4.9 F) by the end of the century. However, governments are also facing another challenge this fall that could affect how they respond: Energy supply shortages have left Europe and China with price spikes for natural gas, coal and oil.
China – the world’s largest emitter – has not yet submitted its NDC. Major fossil fuel producers such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia seem unwilling to strengthen their commitments. India – a critical player as the second-largest consumer, producer and importer of coal globally – has also not yet committed.
Other developing nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa and Mexico are important. So is Brazil, which, under Javier Bolsonaro’s watch, has increased deforestation of the Amazon – the world’s largest rainforest and crucial for biodiversity and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
What happens if COP26 doesn’t meet its goals?
Many insiders believe that COP26 won’t reach its goal of having strong enough commitments from countries to cut global greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030. That means the world won’t be on a smooth course for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and the goal of keeping warming under 1.5 C.
But organizers maintain that keeping warming under 1.5 C is still possible. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been leading the U.S. negotiations, remains hopeful that enough countries will create momentum for others to strengthen their reduction targets by 2025.
That translates into many premature deaths, more mass migration, major economic losses, large swaths of unlivable land and violent conflict over resources and food – what the U.N. secretary-general has called “a hellish future.”
Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
Traditional construction methods were no match for the earthquake that rocked Morocco on Friday night, an engineering expert says, and the area will continue to see such devastation unless updated building techniques are adopted.
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