From the field: Plastic pollution choking world’s oceans
The world must unite to “beat plastic pollution” United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message for World Environment Day on Tuesday, noting that microplastic particles in the ocean, “now outnumber stars in our galaxy”.
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Hunger surges amid deadly conflicts, poor weather conditions in many countries – UN agriculture agency
The Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) new Crop Prospects and Food Situation reveals that since its last report in March, the number of countries requiring external food assistance has jumped by two, namely Cabo Verde and Senegal, to 39.
According to the report, civil war and insecurity in Africa and the Middle East have displaced millions – resulting in high hunger rates.
“Poor rains have hit cereal production prospects in South America and Southern Africa,” FAO explained. “Unfavourable weather conditions are also placing a heavy burden on pastoralists in West Africa.”
The food insecure countries on FAO’s list are: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Iraq, Kenya, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
Conflict and erratic rainfall
Turning to cereal production, FAO foresees a 1.5 per cent annual drop from last year’s record high, with a larger decline in some areas, such as South and North America and Southern Africa.
“Conflicts have choked agricultural activity in swathes of Central Africa, notably in the Central African Republic and parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where access to food is further hindered by surging inflation,” FAO elaborated.
On a brighter note, after consecutive seasons of drought-reduced harvests, fresh rains point to cereal production gains in East Africa.
Meanwhile, abundant rains recently triggered flooding in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, displacing some 800,000 people. In contrast to the trend in the subregion, high staple food prices are rising in Sudan and South Sudan, intensifying food insecurity risks.
In the absence of humanitarian assistance, the number of severely food insecure people in South Sudan is expected to rise to 7.1 million people during the June-July lean season.
Turning to Asia, the cereal harvest is projected to remain similar to last year’s, with recoveries in countries affected by unfavourable weather conditions, including Bangladesh, Viet Nam, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and, to a lesser extent, Sri Lanka.
While favourable crop conditions in India and Pakistan mean wheat outputs are expected to rise further, fair weather will not be enough to boost crop production in war-afflicted areas, as chronic conflicts impedes access to fields such as in Iraq and Syria, where this year’s harvests are expected to decline further.
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The world is being ‘swamped’ by harmful plastic waste says UN chief, marking Environment Day
In his message marking the day on 5 June, he said a healthy planet was essential for a prosperous and peaceful future, spelling out that: “We all have a role to play in protecting our only home.”
“Our world is swamped by harmful plastic waste,” he stated. “Every year, more than eight million tonnes end up in the oceans.”
Pointing out the astonishing comparison between stars in the cosmos and ocean plastics, Mr. Guterres underscored that “from remote islands, to the Artic, nowhere is untouched.”
If present trends continue, by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish, he said.
On World Environment Day, Mr. Guterres is encouraging everyone to also stop using plastic products which are designed just to be thrown away, such as plastic bottles.
“Refuse what you can’t re-use,” he asserted.
“Together, we can chart a path to a cleaner, greener world,” concluded the Secretary-General.
Since it was first celebrated in 1974, the Day has helped raise awareness and generate political momentum around global environmental concerns such as ozone depletion, desertification and global warming.
The state of renewable energy
In conjunction with the Day, UN Environment (UNEP), on Monday, launched REN21, or the Renewables 2018 Global Status Report, which paints a positive picture of a renewable power sector characterized by falling costs, increased investment, record-setting installation and innovative business models that are driving rapid change.
The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century, or REN21 – supported by UNEP – is a global renewable energy policy network that aims to facilitate knowledge exchange, policy development and joint action towards a rapid global transition to renewable energy.
After years of active policy support – driven by technology advances, rapid growth and dramatic cost reductions in solar and wind – renewable electricity is now less expensive than newly installed fossil and nuclear energy generation in many parts of the world.
But not all of the news is good. There is uneven progress between sectors and across different geographical regions, and a “fundamental disconnect” between commitments and real action on the ground.
The power sector on its own will not deliver the emissions reductions demanded by the Paris Climate Agreement or the aspirations of Sustainable Development Goal 7 to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, says the report.
The heating, cooling and transport sectors, which together account for about 80 per cent of global total final energy demand, are also lagging.
Simply put, the global renewable energy transition is progressing far too slowly.
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