The world is on track to reach 10 million coronavirus cases within the next week, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief executive said on Wednesday, a “sober reminder” that as research continues into therapeutics and vaccines, utmost efforts are needed now to suppress transmission and save lives.
Addressing journalists from Geneva during the agency’s regular press briefing, WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that more than 9.1 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported thus far, and more than 470,000 deaths. In the last month, almost 4 million have emerged.
By contrast, he said less than 10,000 cases were reported in the first month of the outbreak.
Oxygen saves lives
Providing oxygen to those who need it is one of the most effective ways to save lives, he said. This has been area of intense focus for WHO since the beginning of the outbreak, as patients in severe and critical condition cannot bring enough of it into their bloodstreams, by breathing normally. They need higher concentrations and support.
Left untreated, severe COVID-19 deprives cells and organs of oxygen, Tedros explained, leading to organ failure and death.
Medical oxygen is created by using concentrators which extract and purify oxygen from the air. At the current rate of one million new cases each week, the world needs 620,000 cubic metres of oxygen daily, he said – the equivalent of 88,000 large cylinders.
However, the WHO chief and former health minister of Ethiopia said many countries are finding it difficult to obtain concentrators, as 80 per cent of the market is owned by just a few companies. Demand is outstripping supply.
To ease shortages, WHO is buying them for countries that need them most, he said, and ongoing talks with suppliers have led to the purchase of 14,000 concentrators, which WHO will send to 120 countries in the coming weeks. WHO has identified a further 170,000 that can be available over the next six months, at a value of $100 million.
In addition to these efforts, WHO has purchased 9,800 oximeters, a simple device used to monitor oxygen in patients’ blood, which are being prepared for shipment.
Another challenge is that critically ill patients need a higher flow rate of oxygen than is produced by most commercially available concentrators.
Science, solidarity and solutions
To address this problem, WHO is helping countries buy equipment that will enable them to generate their own concentrated oxygen in larger amounts. “This is a sustainable solution for COVID-19 and beyond”, he said, but one that requires technical expertise for maintenance. WHO has published technical specifications for the design of this equipment and for oxygen sources and distribution, one of the ways the agency is supporting countries with science, solidarity and solutions, Tedros said.
Questions about how to hold large gatherings safely have become increasingly important as some countries begin to open their economies, he continued.
This is true about for the annual Hajj, which Saudi Arabia announced will proceed this year with a limited number of pilgrims who live within the country. The decision was made based on analyses of various scenarios, in accordance with WHO guidance, to minimize the risks of transmission. “WHO supports this decision”, he said, and understands it was a major disappointment for many.
“This is another example of the hard choices that all countries must make to put health first”, he observed.
Stamping out Ebola
Pointing to one success story, he said the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) plans to announce on 25 June the end of the Ebola outbreak in the country’s east after almost 2 years of struggle. In total, 3,500 people contracted the disease, 1,200 people survived and 2,300 lost their lives.
Success in stamping out the illness was only made possible thanks to service and sacrifice of thousands of Congolese, working alongside WHO colleagues and many other partners. “I salute them all,” he said.
‘No short cuts’
To be sure, many measures that were successful in stopping Ebola are the same as those essential to supressing COVID-19, Tedros said: finding every case, isolating, testing, caring for the sick and relentless contact tracing.
“These are the measures that must remain the backbone of the response in every country,” he assured. “There are no short cuts.” WHO will continue to work with the Democratic Republic of the Congo to strengthen its health system and support it on the road to universal health coverage.
World Adds Record New Renewable Energy Capacity in 2020
Global renewable energy capacity additions in 2020 beat earlier estimates and all previous records despite the economic slowdown that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to data released today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) the world added more than 260 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity last year, exceeding expansion in 2019 by close to 50 per cent.
IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2021 shows that renewable energy’s share of all new generating capacity rose considerably for the second year in a row. More than 80 per cent of all new electricity capacity added last year was renewable, with solar and wind accounting for 91 per cent of new renewables.
Renewables’ rising share of the total is partly attributable to net decommissioning of fossil fuel power generation in Europe, North America and for the first time across Eurasia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Russian Federation and Turkey). Total fossil fuel additions fell to 60 GW in 2020 from 64 GW the previous year highlighting a continued downward trend of fossil fuel expansion.
“These numbers tell a remarkable story of resilience and hope. Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of 2020, renewable energy emerged as a source of undeniable optimism for a better, more equitable, resilient, clean and just future,” said IRENA Director-General Francesco La Camera. “The great reset offered a moment of reflection and chance to align our trajectory with the path to inclusive prosperity, and there are signs we are grasping it.
“Despite the difficult period, as we predicted, 2020 marks the start of the decade of renewables,” continued Mr. La Camera. “Costs are falling, clean tech markets are growing and never before have the benefits of the energy transition been so clear. This trend is unstoppable, but as the review of our World Energy Transitions Outlook highlights, there is a huge amount to be done. Our 1.5 degree outlook shows significant planned energy investments must be redirected to support the transition if we are to achieve 2050 goals. In this critical decade of action, the international community must look to this trend as a source of inspiration to go further,” he concluded.
The 10.3 per cent rise in installed capacity represents expansion that beats long-term trends of more modest growth year on year. At the end of 2020, global renewable generation capacity amounted to 2 799 GW with hydropower still accounting for the largest share (1 211 GW) although solar and wind are catching up fast. The two variable sources of renewables dominated capacity expansion in 2020 with 127 GW and 111 GW of new installations for solar and wind respectively.
China and the United States of America were the two outstanding growth markets from 2020. China, already the world’s largest market for renewables added 136 GW last year with the bulk coming from 72 GW of wind and 49 GW of solar. The United States of America installed 29 GW of renewables last year, nearly 80 per cent more than in 2019, including 15 GW of solar and around 14 GW of wind. Africa continued to expand steadily with an increase of 2.6 GW, slightly more than in 2019, while Oceania remained the fastest growing region (+18.4%), although its share of global capacity is small and almost all expansion occurred in Australia.
Highlights by technology:
Hydropower: Growth in hydro recovered in 2020, with the commissioning of several large projects delayed in 2019. China added 12 GW of capacity, followed by Turkey with 2.5 GW.
Wind energy: Wind expansion almost doubled in 2020 compared to 2019 (111 GW compared to 58 GW last year). China added 72 GW of new capacity, followed by the United States of America (14 GW). Ten other countries increased wind capacity by more than 1 GW in 2020. Offshore wind increased to reach around 5% of total wind capacity in 2020.
Solar energy: Total solar capacity has now reached about the same level as wind capacity thanks largely to expansion in Asia (78 GW) in 2020. Major capacity increases in China (49 GW) and Viet Nam (11 GW). Japan also added over 5 GW and India and Republic of Korea both expanded solar capacity by more than 4 GW. The United States of America added 15 GW.
Bioenergy: Net capacity expansion fell by half in 2020 (2.5 GW compared to 6.4 GW in 2019). Bioenergy capacity in China expanded by over 2 GW. Europe the only other region with significant expansion in 2020, adding 1.2 GW of bioenergy capacity, a similar to 2019.
Geothermal energy: Very little capacity added in 2020. Turkey increased capacity by 99 MW and small expansions occurred in New Zealand, the United States of America and Italy.
Off-grid electricity: Off-grid capacity grew by 365 MW in 2020 (2%) to reach 10.6 GW. Solar expanded by 250 MW to reach 4.3 GW and hydro remained almost unchanged at about 1.8 GW.
New project to help 30 developing countries tackle marine litter scourge
A UN-backed initiative aims to turn the tide on marine litter, in line with the global development goal on conserving and sustainably using the oceans, seas and marine resources.
The GloLitter Partnerships Project will support 30 developing countries in preventing and reducing marine litter from the maritime transport and fisheries sectors, which includes plastic litter such as lost or discarded fishing gear.
Protecting oceans and livelihoods
“Plastic litter has a devastating impact on marine life and human health”, said Manuel Barange, FAO’s Director of Fisheries and Aquaculture. “This initiative is an important step in tackling the issue and will help protect the ocean ecosystem as well as the livelihoods of those who depend on it.”
Protecting the marine environment is the objective of Sustainable Development Goal 14, part of the 2030 Agenda to create a more just and equitable future for all people and the planet.
The GloLitter project will help countries apply best practices for the prevention and reduction of marine plastic litter, in an effort to safeguard the world’s coastal and marine resources.
Actions will include encouraging fishing gear to be marked so that it can be traced if lost or discarded at sea. Another focus will be on the availability and adequacy of port reception facilities and their connection to national waste management systems.
“Marine litter is a scourge on the oceans and on the planet”, said Jose Matheickal, Head of the IMO’s Department for Partnerships and Projects. “I am delighted that we have more than 30 countries committed to this initiative and working with IMO and FAO to address this issue.”
Five regions represented
The nations taking part in the GloLitter project are in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific.
They will also receive technical assistance and training, as well as guidance documents and other tools to help enforce existing regulations.
The project will promote compliance with relevant international instruments, including the Voluntary Guidelines for the Marking of Fishing Gear, and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), which contains regulations against discharging plastics into the sea.
Climate Finance: Climate Actions at Center of Development and Recovery
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) called access to climate finance a key priority for Asia and the Pacific as governments design and implement a green and resilient recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Speaking at the United Kingdom Climate and Development Ministerial—one of the premier events leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) in November—ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said expanding access to finance is critical if developing economies in Asia and the Pacific are to meet their Paris Agreement goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.
“We can no longer take a business-as-usual approach to climate change. We need to put ambitious climate actions at the center of development,” Mr. Asakawa said. “ADB is committed to supporting its developing member countries through finance, knowledge, and collaboration with other development partners, as they scale up climate actions and push for an ambitious outcome at COP 26 and beyond.”
ADB is using a three-pronged strategy to expand access to finance for its developing members as they step up their response to the impacts of climate change.
First, ADB has an ambitious corporate target to ensure 75% of the total number of its committed operations support climate change mitigation and adaptation by the end of the decade, with climate finance from ADB’s own resources to reach $80 billion cumulatively between 2019 and 2030. ADB has also adopted explicit climate targets under its Asian Development Fund (ADF), which provides grant financing to its poorest members. ADF 13, which covers the period of 2021–2024, will support climate mitigation and adaption in 35% of its operations by volume and 65% of its total number of projects by 2024.
Second, ADB is enhancing support for adaptation and resilience that goes beyond climate proofing physical infrastructure to promote strong integration of ecological, social, institutional, and financial aspects of resilience into ADB’s investments.
Third, ADB is increasing its focus on supporting the poorest and most vulnerable communities in its developing member countries by working with the United Kingdom, the Nordic Development Fund, and the Green Climate Fund on a community resilience program to scale up the quantity and quality of climate adaptation finance in support of local climate adaptation actions.
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