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Conflicts, drought drive hunger despite strong global food supply

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Despite strong global food supply, localized drought, flooding and protracted conflicts have intensified and perpetuated food insecurity.

The new edition of the UN Food and Agriculture Agency’s (FAO) Crop Prospects and Food Situation report revealed that some 37 countries – 29 of which are in Africa – require external food assistance.

“Ongoing conflicts continue to be a key driver of severe food insecurity, having triggered near-famine conditions in northern Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen, as well as widespread hunger in Afghanistan, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo – and Syria,” FAO stated.

The report also said that conflict impedes productive activities, hinders access to food and significantly intensifies the numbers of internally displaced people.

In Africa, the report details that urgently in need food of assistance are about 1.1 million people in the Central Africa Republic; some 7.7 million in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which hosts more than 200,000 refugees and four million internally displaced persons; over three million in northern Nigeria; some 4.8 million in South Sudan; and 3.1 million in Somalia – a number that has tripled over the past year.

Elsewhere, it points out that chronic hunger or food insecurity is confronted by 7.6 million in Afghanistan; 3.2 million in Iraq; and 6.5 million in Syria.

Moreover, in Yemen 17 million, or 60 per cent of the population, are believed to require urgent humanitarian assistance. The report notes that should November’s maritime port closures be repeated the country would risk famine.

In some regions, adverse weather conditions are taking their toll on farm food outputs – notably due to drought in East Africa and floods in parts of Asia.

Some 8.5 million people are estimated to be food insecure in Ethiopia, especially in the Somali region. Consecutive unfavourable rainy seasons have curtailed crop and livestock production in Kenya, leaving about 2.6 million people severely food insecure.

The report also flags concerns in Bangladesh, where three episodes of flash floods this year caused substantial damage to the rice crop.

A severe summer drought has also cut Mongolia’s wheat harvest by almost half.

Despite local negative trends, the report points out that, overall, global food production is booming. In addition, production gains are being recorded in many low-income food-deficit countries, where the aggregate cereal output is forecast to grow by two per cent this year.

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Xi Jinping Calls for Greater Global Cooperation to Tackle Common Challenges

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President Xi Jinping of China called for stronger international cooperation in overcoming shared global challenges including defeating COVID-19, revitalizing the economy and addressing climate change, in the opening session of the World Economic Forum’s virtual event, the Davos Agenda 2022.

Xi outlined that the international community is still locked in a tenacious battle against what he called “a once-in-a-century pandemic”. Calling for greater global cooperation, he said: “The fight against the pandemic is proving to be a protracted one. COVID-19 is resurging with different variants and spreading faster than before. He added that shifting blame will only cause delays in response.”

Speaking in a special address to business, government and civil society leaders taking part in the week-long virtual event, he laid out a three-pronged approach to safeguard people’s health. First, countries need to strengthen active cooperation on research and development of medicines. Second, leaders need to build multiple lines of defence against the coronavirus. Third, countries need to fully leverage vaccines by ensuring equitable distribution, boosting vaccination rates and closing the global immunization gap.

Xi said that China is doing its part, having already sent more than 2 billion doses of vaccines to more than 120 countries and international organizations, to be closely followed by at least another 1 billion doses.

As the world emerges from the depths of pandemic gloom, Xi cautioned that several risks threaten to derail economic recovery, including disruptions in global supply chains, tight energy supply and rising commodity prices. He said: “If major economies take a U-turn in their monetary policies, there would be serious negative spillovers which will challenge global economic and financial stability.”

To fully unleash the vitality of the world economy, he also called for less protectionism, especially on trade. Economic globalization is an unstoppable trend which will not veer off course, he said, despite counter-currents along the way: “We should remove barriers, not erect walls. We should open up, not close off. We should seek integration, not de-couple.”

Xi highlighted China’s reform path. He pointed out that China’s domestic growth in 2021 hovered around a healthy 8% annually, with the country achieving its dual target of high growth with low inflation. Nevertheless, he also said Chinese leaders are aware of the further work necessary to achieve prosperity that benefits all people. “We remain committed to reform and opening up,” he said. “A rising tide indeed lifts all boats.”

On climate change, the Chinese president said that China stands ready to help the international community realize the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development and to achieve carbon neutrality in the long term. He outlined that China would honour its word to achieve carbon peaking by 2030 followed by specific industry plans towards carbon neutrality. Xi pointed out that China has the world’s biggest carbon market and clean energy capability.

Xi also cautioned that “weaponizing economic, scientific and technological issues will gravely undercut international efforts to tackle common challenges”. He said: “Developed countries should take the lead in honouring their emission reductions, deliver on their commitment to financial and technological support and create conditions for developing countries to address climate change,” he added.

Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum’s Founder and Executive Chairman, thanked China for taking an active part in collaborative global efforts to combat shared challenges. “The year 2022 will provide a unique opportunity for global leaders to work jointly towards a more inclusive, more sustainable and more prosperous world,” Schwab said. “We must unite despite the different views we hold; ultimately we belong to a single global humanity whose fate is increasingly interconnected.”

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Surging electricity demand is putting power systems under strain around the world

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Global electricity demand surged in 2021, creating strains in major markets, pushing prices to unprecedented levels and driving the power sector’s emissions to a record high. Electricity is central to modern life and clean electricity is pivotal to energy transitions, but in the absence of faster structural change in the sector, rising demand over the next three years could result in additional market volatility and continued high emissions, according an IEA report released today.

Driven by the rapid economic rebound, and more extreme weather conditions than in 2020, including a colder than average winter, last year’s 6% rise in global electricity demand was the largest in percentage terms since 2010 when the world was recovering from the global financial crisis. In absolute terms, last year’s increase of over 1 500 terawatt-hours was the largest ever, according to the January 2022 edition of the IEA’s semi-annual Electricity Market Report.

The steep increase in demand outstripped the ability of sources of electricity supply to keep pace in some major markets, with shortages of natural gas and coal leading to volatile prices, demand destruction and negative effects on power generators, retailers and end users, notably in China, Europe and India. Around half of last year’s global growth in electricity demand took place in China, where demand grew by an estimated 10%. China and India suffered from power cuts at certain points in the second half of the year because of coal shortages.

“Sharp spikes in electricity prices in recent times have been causing hardship for many households and businesses around the world and risk becoming a driver of social and political tensions,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “Policy makers should be taking action now to soften the impacts on the most vulnerable and to address the underlying causes. Higher investment in low-carbon energy technologies including renewables, energy efficiency and nuclear power – alongside an expansion of robust and smart electricity grids – can help us get out of today’s difficulties.”

The IEA’s price index for major wholesale electricity markets almost doubled compared with 2020 and was up 64% from the 2016-2020 average. In Europe, average wholesale electricity prices in the fourth quarter of 2021 were more than four times their 2015-2020 average.  Besides Europe, there were also sharp price increases in Japan and India, while they were more moderate in the United States where gas supplies were less perturbed.

Electricity produced from renewable sources grew by 6% in 2021, but it was not enough to keep up with galloping demand. Coal-fired generation grew by 9%, serving more than half of the increase in demand and reaching a new all-time peak as high natural gas prices led to gas-to-coal switching. Gas-fired generation grew by 2%, while nuclear increased by 3.5%, almost reaching its 2019 levels. In total, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power generation rose by 7%, also reaching a record high, after having declined the two previous years.

“Emissions from electricity need to decline by 55% by 2030 to meet our Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, but in the absence of major policy action from governments, those emissions are set to remain around the same level for the next three years,” said Dr Birol. “Not only does this highlight how far off track we currently are from a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050, but it also underscores the massive changes needed for the electricity sector to fulfil its critical role in decarbonising the broader energy system.”

For 2022-2024, the report anticipates electricity demand growing 2.7% a year on average, although the Covid-19 pandemic and high energy prices bring some uncertainty to this outlook. Renewables are set to grow by 8% per year on average, serving more than 90% of net demand growth during this period. We expect nuclear-based generation to grow by 1% annually during the same period.

As a consequence of slowing electricity demand growth and significant renewables additions, fossil fuel-based generation is expected to stagnate in the coming years, with coal-fired generation falling slightly as phase-outs and declining competitiveness in the United States and Europe are balanced by growth in markets like China and India. Gas-fired generation is seen growing by around 1% a year.

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Development

Competition to Find Solutions to Reduce Overfishing in Coastal Fisheries

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The World Bank Coastal Fisheries Initiative – Challenge Fund (CFI-CF) is launching a competition to seek collaborative solutions to reduce overfishing by supporting coordination among fishers and collaboration across seafood value chains. The competition seeks innovative solutions that promote the productive and sustainable use and management of coastal fish stocks in Cabo Verde, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Peru. Both new and established coalitions of fishing and coastal communities, businesses, and/or nonprofit organizations are invited to apply.  

Overfishing is among the biggest challenges threatening the health of the world’s oceans, the livelihoods of millions living in coastal communities, and the business opportunities of seafood and related industries. Each year, global fisheries lose out on US$83 billion in economic benefits due to overfishing (World Bank “The Sunken Billions Revisited”), a sum that could instead be productively reinvested in people, communities, and economies. Limited coordination among fishers and seafood stakeholders has blocked the development of viable solutions to overfishing, resulting in the continued loss of natural resources and economic benefits.   

“The Coastal Fisheries Initiative – Challenge Fund is committed to improving coastal fisheries, which are important sources of food and livelihoods for local communities. This competition is a call to action to bring together all of the actors in the seafood industry to tackle this perennial problem of overfishing,” said Mimi Kobayashi, Senior Environmental Economist at the World Bank and team leader of the CFI-CF. “Although this issue remains challenging, we are confident that we will receive some innovative and game-changing solutions.” 

This competition aims to mobilize the collective power of fisheries and seafood stakeholders to design and implement solutions that systematically reduce overfishing in a self-sustained way by effectively engaging stakeholders. Solutions should address the restoration of already degraded fish stocks, while protecting people who are impacted when fishing is reduced.  

Eligible applicants will receive mentoring and coaching support to improve their approaches and then can re-apply to increase their chances of winning.  

One winner and one runner up will be selected in Cabo Verde, Ecuador, Indonesia, and Peru and announced at a virtual Knowledge Sharing Event in Spring 2022. Winners and runners up will participate in a week-long series of virtual events designed to share knowledge and experience in advancing productive and sustainable coastal fisheries. They will also receive dissemination support from the World Bank and acceleration services to improve and implement their solutions from competition partners.  

The CFI-CF project is part of the Coastal Fisheries Initiative (CFI), a collaborative, global effort funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and led by FAO

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