More than three billion people live in agricultural areas with high levels of water shortages and scarcity, the UN agriculture agency said in a new report launched on Wednesday.
The State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) 2020, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) flagship report, noted that available freshwater resources have declined globally by more than 20 per cent per person over the past two decades, underscoring the importance of producing more with less, especially in the agriculture sector – the world’s largest user of water.
“With this report, FAO is sending a strong message: Water shortages and scarcity in agriculture must be addressed immediately and boldly if our pledge to achieve the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] is to be taken seriously”, emphasized FAO Director-General QU Dongyu in the foreword of the report.
Paths for action
From investing in water-harvesting and conservation in rainfed areas to rehabilitating and modernizing sustainable irrigation systems in irrigated areas, actions must be combined with best agronomic practices, the report stressed.
These could involve adopting drought-tolerant crop varieties and improving water management tools – including effective water pricing and allocation, such as water rights and quotas – to ensure equitable and sustainable access.
However, effective management strategy must start with water accounting and auditing.
Mapping the SDG target
Achieving the internationally agreed SDG pledges, including the zero hunger, “is still achievable”, maintains the SOFA report, but only by ensuring more productive and sustainable use of freshwater and rainwater in agriculture, which accounts for more than 70 per cent of global water withdrawals.
Against the backdrop that FAO oversees the SDG indicator that measures human activities on natural freshwater resources, the report offers the first spatially disaggregated representation of how things stand today. Meshed with historical drought frequency data, this provides a more holistic assessment of water constraints in food production.
SOFA reveals that some 11 per cent of the world’s rainfed cropland faces frequent drought, as does about 14 per cent of pastureland.
Meanwhile, more than 60 per cent of irrigated cropland is water-stressed and 11 countries, all in Northern Africa and Asia, need to urgently adopt sound water accounting, clear allocation, modern technologies and to shift to less thirsty crops.
Did you know?
Total water withdrawals per capita are highest in Central Asia.
In least developed countries, 74 per cent of rural people do not have access to safe drinking water.
While 91 countries have national rural drinking water plans, only nine have implementation funds.
Around 41 per cent of global irrigation impacts the environmental flow requirements that are essential for life-supporting ecosystems.
Biofuels require 70 to 400 times more water than do the fossil fuels they replace.
As important sources of water vapor for downwind areas, forests such as in the Amazon, Congo and Yangtze river basins are crucial to rainfed agriculture.
Although “the inherent characteristics of water make it difficult to manage”, the SOFA report upholds that it “be recognized as an economic good that has a value and a price”.
“At the same time, policy and governance support to ensure efficient, equitable and sustainable access for all is essential”.
Noting that the rural poor can benefit substantially from irrigation, the report recommends that water management plans be “problem-focused and dynamic”.
Despite that water markets selling water rights are relatively rare, SOFA says that when water accounting is well performed, rights well established and beneficiaries and managing institutions participating, regulated water markets can provide equitable allotments while promoting conservation.
Regreening the Desert would be the ultimate call for action from John D. Liu. Could it be addressed to the MENA region leaders, as part of seeming to be a universal appeal to try and redress the planet’s sad situation?
Can we in the meantime think of a “reforestation campaign” amid a coronavirus crisis? Yes, we can think of everything, since life carries on despite all that is going on. It would be the height of giving up life on the pretext that we are fighting death! Isn’t the tree life? Is there a relationship between reforestation and Covid-19? Certainly not, otherwise, it could be felt like a high contortion. But there is undoubtedly a relationship between the tree and life. It’s even excellent that one. There is oxygen, and there is wood, there is chlorophyll, there is shade, there is the fruit, there are colours and certainly other things that ordinary people cannot know. But do we have the heart to plant plane trees, carob trees and Aleppo pines when the “atmosphere” is to the maddening figures of contamination, the disturbing ambient nonchalance and the not very reassuring news that come to us from the hospitals? Yes, you can plant trees all the time, anywhere. Anyway here is John’s .
“Deserts are advancing and water is becoming scarce. It all seems hopeless… But one man has discovered how to make deserts green and our planet healthy again.”
“It is possible to rehabilitate large scale damaged ecosystems… Why don’t we do that?”
– John D. Liu
John D. Liu filmed Hope in a Changing Climate, following the Loess-plateau in China where local people redeveloped the land from a terribly damaged area into a functioning ecosystem. This documentary follows Liu explain what he’s learned and what he thinks we should do to revitalize ecosystems.
The process looks something like this:
Setting aside land for natural vegetation to return
Exclude grazing in the first 3 years.
Wait for native plants to return to the land.
Allow the microbial communities to grow within the habitat.
Encourage more organic matter, more biomass and more biodiversity.
“We need to redefine and revalue our belief systems. Money is a belief system. There’s nothing wrong with money, as it turns out. The problem is – what is money based on? If money is based on functional ecosystems, then the future will be beautiful. If money continues to be based on the production and consumption of goods and services we’ll turn everything into a desert.”
Reuters’ Factbox: Fossil fuel-based vehicle bans across the world is a snapshot of what will happen in the major economies of the world by the near future. Could the same be decided upon in the MENA region countries, hence the feature picture above, that is of typical daily road congestion in Cairo. It is for illustrative purposes.
Britain last year became the first G7 country to set in law a net-zero emission target by 2050, which will require wholesale changes in the way Britons travel, use energy and eat.
Other countries or regions that have pitched the idea of banning fossil-fuel based vehicles include:
California will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks starting in 2035, Governor Gavin Newsom said in September.
The Canadian province of Quebec said this week it would ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars from 2035.
EU environment ministers struck a deal on Oct 23 to make the bloc’s 2050 net zero emissions target legally binding, but left a decision on a 2030 emissions-cutting target for leaders to discuss in December.
German cities started to introduce bans on older diesel vehicles that emit higher amounts of pollutants than from late 2018. (reut.rs/38UFw6L)
Norway, which relies heavily on oil and gas revenues, aims to become the world’s first country to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars, setting a 2025 deadline. Fully electric vehicles now make up about 60% of monthly sales in Norway.
In 2017 China begun studying when to ban the production and sale of cars using traditional fuels but did not specify when it might be introduced.
Sales of new energy vehicles (NEV) will make up 50% of overall new car sales in China, the world’s biggest auto market, by 2035, an industry official said last month.
Last year, India’s central think-tank asked scooter and motorbike manufacturers to draw up a plan to switch to electric vehicles. The think-tank also recommended that only electric models of scooters and motorbikes with engine capacity of more than 150cc must be sold from 2025, sources told Reuters.
Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu and Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones
Nearly 230,000 tonnes of plastic is dumped into the Mediterranean Sea every year, a figure which could more than double by 2040 unless “ambitious” steps are taken, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said Tuesday.
Egypt, Italy and Turkey are the countries that release the most plastic into the sea, mainly due to large coastal populations and huge amounts of “mismanaged waste,” an IUCN report found.
But on a per capita basis Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia have the highest levels of plastic waste leakage into the Mediterranean.
The report, called “Mare Plasticum: The Mediterranean”, estimates that over one million tonnes of plastic have already accumulated in the Mediterranean Sea.
“An estimated 229,000 tonnes of plastic –- equivalent to over 500 shipping containers –- are leaking into the Mediterranean Sea every year,” said the report, blaming “mismanaged waste” for 94 percent of the total plastic leakage.
Under a “business as usual” scenario, this figure will reach 500,000 tonnes per year by 2040, which is why “ambitious interventions beyond current commitments will be required to reduce the flow of plastic into the sea”.
Minna Epps, the director of the IUCN’s marine programme, warned that “plastic pollution can cause long-term damage to terrestrial and marine ecosystems and biodiversity.”
“Marine animals can get entangled or swallow plastic waste, and ultimately end up dying from exhaustion and starvation,” he added.
Over 50,000 tonnes of plastic leakage into the Mediterranean could be avoided each year if waste management was improved in the top 100 contributing cities alone, the report said.
A ban on plastic bags in the Mediterranean Sea basin region would further reduce plastic leakage into the sea by another 50,000 tonnes per year.
“Governments, private sector, research institutions and other industries and consumers need to work collaboratively to redesign processes and supply chains, invest in innovation and adopt sustainable consumption patterns and improved waste management practices to close the plastic tap,” said Antonio Troya, head of the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation which is based in Malaga, southern Spain.
The first large-scale study of the risks that countries face from dependence on water, energy and land resources has found that globalisation may be decreasing, rather than increasing, the security of global supply chains. Here is the latest on the effects of the pandemic, in perhaps its most important aspect:
Globalized economy making water, energy and land insecurity worse: study
Countries meet their needs for goods and services through domestic production and international trade. As a result, countries place pressures on natural resources both within and beyond their borders.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge used macroeconomic data to quantify these pressures. They found that the vast majority of countries and industrial sectors are highly exposed both directly, via domestic production, and indirectly, via imports, to over-exploited and insecure water, energy and land resources. However, the researchers found that the greatest resource risk is due to international trade, mainly from remote countries.
The researchers are calling for an urgent enquiry into the scale and source of consumed goods and services, both in individual countries and globally, as economies seek to rebuild in the wake of COVID-19. Their study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, also invites critical reflection on whether globalisation is compatible with achieving sustainable and resilient supply chains.
Over the past several decades, the worldwide economy has become highly interconnected through globalisation: it is now not uncommon for each component of a particular product to originate from a different country. Globalisation allows companies to make their products almost anywhere in the world in order to keep costs down.
Many mainstream economists argue this offers countries a source of competitive advantage and growth potential. However, many nations impose demands on already stressed resources in other countries in order to satisfy their own high levels of consumption.
This interconnectedness also increases the amount of risk at each step of a global supply chain. For example, the UK imports 50% of its food. A drought, flood or any severe weather event in another country puts these food imports at risk.
Now, the researchers have quantified the global water, land and energy use of189 countries and shown that countries which are highly dependent on trade are potentially more at risk from resource insecurity, especially as climate change continues to accelerate and severe weather events such as droughts and floods become more common.
“There has been plenty of research comparing countries in terms of their water, energy and land footprints, but what hasn’t been studied is the scale and source of their risks,” said Dr. Oliver Taherzadeh from Cambridge’s Department of Geography. “We found that the role of trade has been massively underplayed as a source of resource insecurity—it’s actually a bigger source of risk than domestic production.”
To date, resource use studies have been limited to certain regions or sectors, which prevents a systematic overview of resource pressures and their source. This study offers a flexible approach to examining pressures across the system at various geographical and sectoral scales.
“This type of analysis hasn’t been carried out for a large number of countries before,” said Taherzadeh. “By quantifying the pressures that our consumption places on water, energy and land resources in far-off corners of the world, we can also determine how much risk is built into our interconnected world.”
The authors of the study linked indices designed to capture insecure water, energy, and land resource use, to a global trade model in order to examine the scale and sources of national resource insecurity from domestic production and imports.
Countries with large economies, such as the US, China and Japan, are highly exposed to water shortages outside their borders due to their volume of international trade. However, many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Kenya, actually face far less risk as they are not as heavily networked in the global economy and are relatively self-sufficient in food production.
In addition to country-level data, the researchers also examined the risks associated with specific sectors. Surprisingly, one of the sectors identified in Taherzadeh’s wider research that had the most high-risk water and land use—among the top 1% of nearly 15,000 sectors analysed—was dog and cat food manufacturing in the U.S., due to its high demand for animal products.
“COVID-19 has shown just how poorly-prepared governments and businesses are for a global crisis,” said Taherzadeh. “But however bad the direct and indirect consequences of COVID-19 have been, climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and resource insecurity are far less predictable problems to manage—and the potential consequences are far more severe. If the ‘green economic recovery’ is to respond to these challenges, we need radically rethink the scale and source of consumption.”
Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) of Qatar organizes International Hydrogen Energy workshop as reported by Gulf Times of Qatar as an attempt to not only inform on the country’s hydrogen energy opportunities but also to promote discussions regarding the nation’s strategy of its energy transition.
The picture above is of the Qatar Foundation Headquarters in Doha.
October 10, 2020
Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute (QEERI) at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) organized an international workshop entitled The Hydrogen Energy Opportunity for Qatar.
The two-day event sought to inform stakeholders on the countrys hydrogen energy opportunities, promote discussions regarding a national strategy, and facilitate international collaboration in the areas of policy, business and research, and saw the participation of over 50 delegates from eight countries including Qatar, Japan, Australia, the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Switzerland.
Organized in line with QEERIs mandate to support Qatar in tackling its grand challenges related to energy, water and the environment, the workshop brought together leading international experts and national stakeholders from the public, private, academic and industry sectors. The Hydrogen Energy Opportunity for Qatar also reflected the unprecedented attention currently being paid to hydrogen energy as well as global efforts to harness its full potential.
The Principal Economist at QEERI and chair of the workshop Dr. Marcello Contestabile, explained: “There is a growing international consensus that hydrogen has a key role to play in a deeply decarbonized energy system. Conversely, there is also a need for large investments and international cooperation to ensure that hydrogen technology is scaled up and rolled out, and for markets to be created for the end product.
“Qatar is already playing a global role in the energy transition as a major supplier of the cleanest fossil fuel and is taking assertive steps to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of the LNG it delivers through methane management and CCS. Hydrogen will allow the country to take this further and continue to profit from its endowment of natural gas in a low carbon world. To make the most of it, however, a joint approach at the national and international level is required.” he said.
He added: “The timeliness of the event is demonstrated by the very strong and enthusiastic response we received from international experts and national stakeholders alike. We provided a forum for the necessary conversations to begin and look forward to continuing to play our part supporting the development of a hydrogen ecosystem in Qatar.”
The Energy Technology Analyst in Hydrogen and Alternative Fuels at the International Energy Agency (IEA) Dr. Jose M Bermudez, said: “Hydrogen could play a key role in the energy transition, especially in hard to abate sectors where direct electrification will be challenging and sustainable biomass availability will not be able to meet energy demands. However, this will require to significantly expand hydrogen use and, at the same time, switch hydrogen production to low-carbon routes. This is not an easy endeavour and will require a lot of collaboration and coordination at all levels and, especially, at international level.”
He added: “The first step that countries should take is to develop their national hydrogen strategies that take into due consideration the evolution of the international landscape. Platforms like this workshop, bringing together local and international stakeholders, are ideal to stimulate the conversations and knowledge sharing that is required to develop strategies that will shape the role of hydrogen in a future clean energy system”
Highlighting the importance of such conversations among stakeholders, Dr. Marc Vermeersch said: “It is absolutely imperative that we combine forces and work collectively to achieve the targets set forth by the Qatar National Vision 2030. The Hydrogen Energy Opportunity for Qatar workshop provided a platform not just for knowledge sharing and learning global best practices, but also to discuss how each of us can contribute towards building a robust and efficient strategy for Qatar.”
QEERI is committed to assisting Qatar to diversify its energy mix, and focuses on sustainability research, development and innovation across its various centers including the Energy Center, Water Center, Environment and Sustainability Center, Corrosion Center and its Earth Sciences Program.
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