The above-featured image is about the ocean producing 50% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming, and is the main source of protein for a billion people around the world. Credit: IPS
What if a patient unplugged the Oxygen Tube that Keeps them Alive
By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Jun 7 2022 (IPS) – Imagine a patient connected to a vital oxygen device to keep him or her breathing, thus alive. Then, imagine what would happen if this patient unplugged it. This is exactly what humans have been doing with the source of at least 50% of the whole Planet’s oxygen: the oceans.
But oceans do not only provide half of all the oxygen needed. They also absorb about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming while alleviating its consequences on human health and that of all natural resources.
The carbon — and heat– sink
The world’s oceans capture 90% of the additional heat generated from those emissions.
In short, they are not just ‘the lungs of the planet’ but also its largest carbon sink.
The ocean is the main source of protein for more than a billion people around the world.
And over three billion people rely on the ocean for their livelihoods, the vast majority in developing countries.
Oceans also serve as the foundation for much of the world’s economy, supporting sectors from tourism to fisheries to international shipping.
Despite being the life source that supports humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on Earth, oceans are facing unprecedented real threats as a result of human activity.
While providing the above facts, this year’s World Oceans Day (8 June) warns about some of the major damages caused by human activities, which devastate this source of life and livelihood.
This report is also based on data from several specialised organisations, such as the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), among others, as well as a number of global conservation bodies, including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Too many causes. And a major one
Oceans as dumping sites: There are several major threats leading to suffocating the world’s lungs.
Such is the case –for example, of overfishing, illegal fishing and ghost fishing–, human activities have been transforming world’s oceans into a giant dumping site: untreated wastewater; poisonous chemicals; electronic waste; oil spills, petrol leaks, oil refineries near rivers and coastal areas, ballast waters, invasive species, and a very long etcetera.
Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS
Of all these, plastic appears as one of the major sources of harm to oceans. See the following data:
Unless the world changes the way how to produce, use and dispose of plastic, the amount of plastic waste entering aquatic ecosystems could nearly triple from 9-14 million tonnes per year in 2016 to a projected 23-37 million tonnes per year by 2040.
How does it get there? A lot of it comes from the world’s rivers, which serve as direct conduits of trash into lakes and the ocean.
In fact, around 1.000 rivers are accountable for nearly 80% of global annual riverine plastic emissions into the ocean, which range between 0.8 and 2.7 million tons per year, with small urban rivers amongst the most polluting.
Plastic everywhere: Wherever you look and whatever you see, buy and use, there is plastic: food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic bottle caps, plastic grocery bags, plastic straws, stirrers, cosmetics, lunch boxes, ballpoints, and thousands of other products.
Cigarette butts: Then you have the case of cigarette butts, whose filters contain tiny plastic fibres, being the most common type of plastic waste found in the environment.
Today, the world produces about 400 million tons of plastic waste … every year.
Plastic addiction: Such human dependence on plastic has been steadily increasing. Since the 1970s, the rate of plastic production has grown faster than that of any other material. If historic growth trends continue, global production of primary plastic is forecasted to reach 1.100 million tonnes by 2050.
“Our seas are choking with plastic waste, which can be found from the remotest atolls to the deepest ocean trenches,” reminds the United Nations chief António Guterres.
Fossil fuel: As importantly, some 98% of single-use plastic products are produced from fossil fuel, or “virgin” feedstock. The level of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, use and disposal of conventional fossil fuel-based plastics is forecast to grow to 19% of the global carbon budget by 2040.
In fact, the annual plastic leakage is estimated at 229.000 tons, 94% of which consist of macroplastics. Plastics constitute around 95% of waste in the open sea, both on the seabed and on beaches across the Mediterranean.
COVID-19: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) February 2022 publication: Global Plastics Outlook reports that the increase in the use of protective personal equipment and single-use plastics has exacerbated plastic littering on land and in marine environments, with negative environmental consequences.
Rivers: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reports that, flowing through America’s heartland, the Mississippi River drains 40% of the continental United States – creating a conduit for litter to reach the Gulf of Mexico, and ultimately, the ocean.
Electronic waste: should all this not be enough, please also know that the world produces 50 million tons of e-waste, a portion of it ends up in the ocean.
According to an October 2020 report released by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and authored by Alexander Nicolas, more than 12 million tons of plastic end up in the world’s seas every year.
Fishing gear accounts for roughly 10% of that debris: between 500.000 to 1 million tons of fishing gear are discarded or lost in the ocean every year. Discarded nets, lines, and ropes now make up about 46% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Alexander Nicolas explains.
This marine plastic has a name: ghost fishing gear.
“Ghost fishing gear includes any abandoned, lost, or otherwise discarded fishing gear, much of which often goes unseen.
“Ghost fishing gear is the deadliest form of marine plastic as it un-selectively catches wildlife, entangling marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, and sharks, subjecting them to a slow and painful death through exhaustion and suffocation. Ghost fishing gear also damages critical marine habitats such as coral reefs.”
Overfishing is yet another major damage caused to the world’s oceans threatening the stability of fish stocks; nutrient pollution is contributing to the creation of “dead zones.”
Currently, 90% of big fish populations have been depleted, as humans are taking more from the ocean than can be replenished.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing: A fugitive activity that further adds to the abusive overfishing, causing the depletion of 11–26 million tons of fish… each year.
IPS article The Big Theft of the Fish provides extensive information about these two major activities that deplete the oceans vital natural resources.
Untreated wastewater is another example of the damage made by humans to the oceans.
It has been reported that around 80% of the world’s wastewater is discharged without treatment, a big portion of it ends up in the oceans.
The oceans in a conference
All the above facts –and many more– are on the agenda of the United Nations Ocean Conference 2022 (27 June- 1 July), organised in Lisbon and co-hosted by the Governments of Kenya and Portugal.
According to its organisers, the Conference seeks to propel much needed science-based innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action. Cross your fingers!
The Business Times in its section Global Enterprise tells us how opportunities arising from Middle East’s Asian pivot are moving up the ladder of development in both regions. Or could it be mainly about Leveraging Asean’s strengths Let us see what by Mindy Tan.
The Middle East has always been considered an energy exporter to Asean, but this relationship has become more nuanced in recent years, especially as the former has shifted its focus to boosting non-oil exports.
Notably, countries such as Indonesia and Singapore have benefited.
Late last year, the Indonesian government announced they had secured US$32.7 billion worth of investment commitments from United Arab Emirates (UAE) businesses in various sectors, such as vaccine manufacturing and distribution.
“Indonesia is a very typical case of how I think Asean is becoming a magnet for foreign direct investment (FDI) from the Gulf countries,” said Gyorgy Busztin, a visiting research professor at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore.
Dr Busztin cited Asean’s political stability (outside of Myanmar) as well as a general lack of labour unrest as key factors that draw these Gulf countries to the region, even as he qualified that these countries have to be looked on a case-by-case basis.
“Compatibility, stability, and predictability, which are, of course, combined with the presence of a large, young, and highly trained workforce – it all comes together very nicely.”
Singapore too has benefited from the relationship.
A spokesperson from the Singapore Business Council, Qatar, noted that with Qatar is diversifying its economy away from oil and gas as part of its National Vision 2030, some of the key sectors they are looking at include sustainability and technology.
These are sectors in which Singapore has strong capabilities, he said.
“This makes businesses that wish to expand outside of the Middle East region look to Singapore as one of the key destinations to explore opportunities and use it as a base to springboard into the wider region due to its strategic location and easy access from the Middle East,” he said.
Alessandro Arduino, principal research fellow at the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, added: “Expertise from Singapore will be beneficial to development in the Gulf and at the same time, can increase profitable cooperation between the Gulf and South-east Asia in areas ranging from artificial intelligence to Internet of Things, and smart cities.”
Leveraging Asean’s strengths
Economic ties between the Middle East and Asean have strengthened significantly since the first Asean-GCC Joint Vision was adopted in 2009.
In 2019, the two blocs further agreed to finalise the Asean-GCC Framework of Cooperation for 2020-2024 to advance collaboration in multiple sectors including smart cities, energy, connectivity, agriculture and halal products. Bilateral partnerships between individual countries have also risen.
The Singapore-UAE Comprehensive Partnership (2019) and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority’s (MIDA) MoU with the Investment Promotion Agency of Qatar (2019) are notable examples.
Heidi Toribio, Regional Co-head, Client Coverage, Asia, Corporate, Commercial and Institutional Banking at Standard Chartered
Heidi Toribio, regional co-head, client coverage, Asia, corporate, commercial and institutional banking at Standard Chartered, said: “As countries across the Middle East diversify into new non-oil sectors, Asean is emerging as an important trade and investment destination.”
In 2020, investments from the Middle East into Asean reached US$700 million, a three-fold growth from 2017. In the first three quarters in 2021 alone, merchandise imports to Asean from the Middle East grew more than 30 percent year-on-year, reaching US$52 billion in value, she noted.
According to a survey of Middle Eastern companies commissioned by Standard Chartered and prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 82 per cent of Middle East respondents expect more than 10 per cent growth in their Asean business revenues this year.
They identified access to the large and growing Asean consumer market (60 per cent); access to a global market (from Asean) enabled by a network of Free Trade Agreements (58 per cent); and diversification of production footprint (51 per cent) as key reasons why they are interested in the region.
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is also expected to attract more investments; all of the respondents agreed that the ratification of the agreement will lead to more investments from their company. Close to 70 per cent said they expect their company to increase investments by more than 50 per cent over the next 3-5 years.
In terms of geographical preference, respondents chose Malaysia (78 per cent), followed by Singapore (69 per cent) and Indonesia (67 per cent).
Of those who picked Singapore, 94 per cent of the senior executives from the 45 companies based in the Middle East said they consider the city-state a major regional R&D/innovation centre.
A further 87 per cent said Singapore is a desirable hub for regional procurement and that Singapore is an ideal place to set up their regional sales and marketing headquarters.
Finding new growth opportunities
The report identified 5 growth sectors which it expects to drive the future of the Middle East-Asean corridor. They are namely refining and petrochemicals; infrastructure and real estate; renewable energy; retail and consumer goods; and digital infrastructure and services.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, consumption of fuels and petrochemicals continues to grow strongly in Asean, driven by rising consumer and industrial demand. To address energy security concerns, the region is also now focusing on boosting local production capacity by building integrated refining and petrochemical facilities.
Similarly, rapid economic and social progress have accentuated Asean’s infrastructure needs.
“The infrastructure segment will continue to dominate the construction industry, maintaining a 46 per cent share in sector GVA (gross value added) by 2025, followed by commercial real estate (32 per cent) and residential real estate (22 per cent),” said the report.
“In particular, demand for healthcare and transport infrastructure as well as logistics and industrial real estate are expected to drive growth, which is creating new investment and business opportunities for Middle East companies.”
Separately, demand for digital solutions and enabling digital infrastructure is expected to see significant growth. Indeed, the region’s flourishing digital start-ups are increasingly attracting capital from leading investment firms globally, including many from the Middle East.
In terms of more nascent sectors, Asean nations are increasingly prioritising solar and wind solutions to meet their future energy requirements. Retail and consumer goods sector in Asean is also expected to regain momentum in the years ahead, led by an expected surge in consumer spending.
Experts have been pointing out for years that the North African region is a “hotspot”, and that the risks associated with temperatures already above the global average, would be higher (1.5 degrees by 2035, with the possibility, without a radical policy change, of reaching 2.2 degrees in 2050).
Rainfall is expected to decrease and temperature to rise, which will have a direct impact on water resource capacities. Climate models show that these trends will strengthen over the future years.
As the agricultural sector is the main consumer of this resource, agricultural production – and therefore the supply to consumers – will be directly affected.
Agricultural lands are largely located in the arid and semi-arid area, representing 85% of the total land area (excluding the Sahara), and will now be increasingly subject to frequent droughts and climatic accidents.
This diagnosis, widely shared by the National Climate Plan (PNC) adopted by the authorities in 2018, has not been followed up, and the climate change adaptation measures adopted by the PNC are far from being implemented.
A major challenge, therefore, arises in a country where the orientation given to policies is aimed at a further intensification of the modes of exploitation of natural resources: how in these conditions to increase agricultural production while preserving natural resources strongly threatened in the future by ongoing climate change?
Secondly, there is the economic shock caused by the rise in world prices for basic agricultural products, which are very heavily consumed by the population (cereals, milk, edible oils, and sugar).
The market crisis and the rises in commodity prices in the spring of 2020 were accentuated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict that began on 24 February 2022.
Soft wheat prices, which hovered around $200 per tonne in the years 2011-2012, reached amounts that are around $290 per tonne in the last quarter of 2021.
The health crisis was a trigger for this market crisis and this with, on the one hand, the consequence and the weight exerted by imports from China – which became the world’s leading importer of agricultural and agri-food products during 2020/2021 season – and on the other hand, the rise in transport prices combined with temporary export restrictions implemented in several exporting countries (Russia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Argentina, India…).
Since the beginning of the war, soft wheat has increased by 50% to $450 per tonne. World prices for vegetable oils increased by 23%, sugar by 7%, and meat by 5%.
Algeria will thus buy at the end of February 2022, 600,000 tons of milling wheat, of French origin at $ 485 per ton (cost and fees) to load March-April 2022.
Egypt, the world’s largest importer of soft wheat, will acquire 240,000 tons of French soft wheat for loading at the end of May, at $492.25 per tonne.
The featured image is of Workers harvesting wheat in a field on the outskirts of Berouaguia, southwest of Algiers. (Reuters)
A New Zealand Stuff article elaborates on how from Dubai to Southland this striking NZ architectural mesh on Invercargill CBD rebuild is getting the attention it deserves. But what is all the fuss about?
The above image is for illustration and is of Stuff.co.nz.
Dubai to Southland: Striking NZ architectural mesh on Invercargill CBD rebuild
Tens of millions of people will walk underneath a striking Kiwi-made canopy at Expo 2020 Dubai, and the same product will adorn the Invercargill city centre redevelopment.
Petone company Kaynemaile make a polycarbonate architectural mesh, which has been used in a 12,000-square metre canopy at the Middle Eastern expo, which is a six-month world fair, involving 192 countries.
The same mesh product will cut a similarly striking figure when it is wrapped around the car park of the redeveloped Invercargill CBD.
About a tenth of the size of its Dubai cousin, the Invercargill facade will feature 1200sqm of the polycarbonate mesh, which will be lit with programmable lighting.
Invercargill Central project director Geoff Cotton said it would wave in the wind, as a moving piece of art.
The mesh would screen the development car park, face Tay St, and Cotton said it would go up towards the end of winter 2022.
Kaynemaile’s chief executive officer Kayne Horsham designed chainmail costumes to be used in Lord of the Rings, which inspired the architectural mesh.
All their products are made in Wellington. The mesh in Dubai forms a canopy to the entrance of the expo, which is expected to host 25 million visitors over its six-month duration.
The expo was delayed a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic but kept the 2020 moniker, and began on October 1.
A new vision for the global trading system must encompass equitable access to the benefits of trade for all of society, and some nations have signalled support in this regard.
Reforms to trade policy could have a meaningful impact on domestic economic inequality if a range of concrete steps are taken.
The WTO, and trade policy and practice more generally, can be reframed to reflect the notion of economic justice, and the time to make this shift is now.
Divides and discrimination within countries along the lines of race, ethnicity, gender and Indigenous identity have resulted in longstanding social, economic and political challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has further laid bare the stark inequalities among societal groups.
Yet resistance and restorative action have spread too. Social movements for racial justice in the United States have inspired similar initiatives in other countries. The #MeToo movement spotlighted sexual abuse and harassment and catalysed broader conversations about women’s participation in economic, social and political life. Meanwhile, some governments are coming to terms with their historical and current treatment of Indigenous peoples.
In this context, a new vision for the global trading system must encompass equitable access to the benefits of trade for all sections of society. This is an important aspect of building support for trade, as emerging research indicates that minority groups are often either negatively affected by trade shocks or do not have equitable access to the opportunities it provides.
Some countries have signalled support in this regard. For the first time, the US’s trade agenda includes the goal of racial equity. Canada, Chile and New Zealand signed a Global Trade and Gender Arrangement in August 2020. The relationship between trade and the rights of Indigenous peoples has been increasingly recognized in international economic agreements, including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).
Understanding the problem
The effect of trade on inequalities between countries is well covered in economic literature. Differential trade impacts within countries among different income groups, between small and large firms, and on labour is well studied and discussed.
The effects of trade on different societal groups within countries – whether based on race, ethnicity, nationality, Indigenous identity or gender – has received less attention. This may be because domestic policies are considered the most direct way to tackle these inequalities. However, trade constitutes 58% of global GDP and is an important aspect of economic empowerment. And, while domestic policies can help with inequities created by trade if properly designed, reforms to trade policy could also have a meaningful impact on domestic economic inequality if a range of concrete steps are taken.
Developing and implementing inclusive policy
Better policymaking begins with better data. Governments should understand the industries that underserved populations are most likely to own and work in or rely on for inputs and final products. For instance, in 2016, minority-owned businesses represented 19% of US firms, but only 12.8% of US manufacturing firms. Governments should examine tariff lines to determine if they are discriminatory against those sectors that have a disproportionate representation of minority businesses and workers.
Underrepresented groups must be actively invited to participate in developing trade policy and negotiating positions. The advantages of such engagement were apparent in the provisions for Indigenous peoples in Canada’s trade agreements, for instance. New Zealand has carved out exceptions in their agreements to respect commitments made to Māori.
Trade agreements can also improve labour standards and remove discrimination against minority, migrant and female workers through labour chapters. These should include commitments by advanced economies to support and build capacity for the implementation of the necessary domestic reforms by trading partners.
Technical assistance and capacity building efforts that often accompany trade agreements must take into account equity considerations. Organizations should actively measure impacts of their initiatives on women and minority groups.
Inclusive trade in practice
Businesses also have an important role to play in enabling inclusive trade. Many have stepped up to publicly support movements for minority rights and inclusion. Investments in minority businesses can help raise the overall wellbeing of underserved communities. Supplier diversity programmes can support women-owned, minority-owned and Indigenous businesses to meet procurement standards, access financing and comply with export and import requirements.
Access to trade finance for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) could result in major gains for those underrepresented groups and for the broader economy. The IFC estimates that 70% of women-owned formal MSMEs in developing countries are unserved (or underserved) by financial institutions, with an estimated funding gap of $285 billion.
New technologies and digitalization can also make trade more inclusive – whether by enabling MSMEs to connect and transact with international buyers, providing natural language processing for translation, or automating trade processes that might otherwise lend themselves to discriminatory practices.
Public-private partnership for economic inclusion
Active engagement by all stakeholders at all stages of the process – from research, consultation and policy development to implementation and capacity-building – will be essential in realising a truly inclusive approach to trade.
Businesses and civil society organizations have an opportunity to voice support for government action through the World Trade Organization on these issues in the runup to the 12th Ministerial Conference. Moreover, governments can work with the private sector and civil society organizations to create programs like trade finance guarantees targeting underserved populations.
What is the World Economic Forum’s Sustainable Development Impact summit?
It’s an annual meeting featuring top examples of public-private cooperation and Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies being used to develop the sustainable development agenda.
It runs alongside the United Nations General Assembly, which this year features a one-day climate summit. This is timely given rising public fears – and citizen action – over weather conditions, pollution, ocean health and dwindling wildlife. It also reflects the understanding of the growing business case for action.
The UN’s Strategic Development Goals and the Paris Agreement provide the architecture for resolving many of these challenges. But to achieve this, we need to change the patterns of production, operation and consumption.
The World Economic Forum’s work is key, with the summit offering the opportunity to debate, discuss and engage on these issues at a global policy level.
International trade has done yeoman’s work in lifting millions out of poverty, driving economic growth and encouraging economic integration that reduced incentives for armed conflict between nations. There are green shoots that make the current moment an ideal time for trade to address domestic socio-economic divides.
We believe that the World Trade Organization, and trade policy and practice more generally, can be reframed to reflect the notion of economic justice and that the time to make this shift is now.
Read the Global Future Council on Trade and Investment paper on “International Trade and Economic Justice” here.
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