OAKVILLE, Ontario, May 07, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — We are advised by OpenAire that journalists and other readers should disregard the news release, "Deira Mall in Dubai Gets the Largest Retractable Roof in the World" issued May 06, 2019, over GlobeNewswire.

Loss of Biodiversity Puts Current and Future Generations at Risk

Roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja), coastal birds in Sonora, Mexico. Conservation efforts over the past decade have reduced the extinction risks for mammals and birds in 109 countries, however, there remains a mass loss of biodiversity around the world. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, May 7 2019 – An alarming report about the massive loss of biodiversity around the world warns that future generations will be at risk if urgent action isn’t taken to protect the more than one million species of plants and animals threatened with extinction.

Such extinction could happen “within decades” and could affect 40 percent of amphibian species, more than a third of marine mammals and nearly 33 percent of reef-forming corals, said the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

“Biodiversity is important for human well-being, and we humans are destroying it,” Sir Robert Watson, the outgoing chair of the IPBES, said as the report was launched Monday, May 7.

The body, formed in 2012 and comprising more than 130 government members, stated in its comprehensive review that nature is “declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history”.

The IPBES Global Assessment Report added that the rate of species extinction is also “accelerating”, and that this entails serious effects for the world’s human population as well, with an increasing impact on food, water and energy security, and on peace and stability.

“It’s a security issue in so far as the loss of natural resources, especially in poor, developing countries, can lead to conflict,” Watson said.

In a media briefing at the end of a six-day plenary—hosted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in Paris—scientists called for bold measures at all levels of society to save the planet’s biodiversity, putting the issue at the same level of urgency as climate change.

“Unless we act now, we will undermine human well-being for current and future generations,” Watson said. “It’s a moral issue: we should not destroy nature. And it’s an ethical issue because the loss of biodiversity hurts the poorest of people, further exacerbating an already inequitable world.”

While climate change up to now has not been a dominant factor in biodiversity loss, it is expected to equal or surpass the issues of overfishing, pollution of sea and land (with toxic waste, plastics and heavy metals), the spread of invasive species decimating native ones, and the destruction of natural forests, the IPBES said.

Scientists said the “picture is less clear” for insect species, but the available evidence points to about 10 percent being threatened.

IPBES experts further state that at least 680 “vertebrate species” (or species with backbone) have been driven to extinction since the 16th century, and more than nine percent of all domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture had become extinct by 2016, with at least 1,000 more breeds still threatened. This has happened at a faster rate than in previous eras.

The 455 experts involved in the report analysed upwards of 15,000 scientific papers among their fields of research, said IPBES Executive Secretary Anne Larigauderie. They ranked the five “direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts” on the world’s estimated eight million species.

These five drivers are: changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species, according to the report.

Ocean pollution, with toxic waste and tons of plastic devastating marine life, is now common knowledge, but perhaps people are less aware that the use of fertilisers has created some 400 coastal ecosystem “dead zones”, affecting 245,000 square kilometres.

Despite the disturbing statistics, Larigauderie said the IPBES still wished to send a message of hope.

“We don’t want that people feel discouraged, that there’s nothing that can be done, that we’ve lost the battle, because we’ve not,” she said.

A CEIBA Biological Centre (CEIBA) study investigated the impact of global warming on tropical ectotherms, namely, butterflies and lizards, whose body temperatures are determined by the environment. Amazonian ectotherms may be adjusting their behaviour to cope with the heat, but at the expense of the normal activities required for survival and breeding. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Conservation efforts over the past decade have reduced the extinction risks for mammals and birds in 109 countries, and more than a hundred highly threatened birds, mammals and reptiles are “estimated to have benefitted from the eradication of invasive mammals on islands”, according to IPBES experts.

They emphasised that there was still time to give nature a chance to recover if the world takes transformative action for global sustainability, including the use of renewables, ecological farming methods and reducing run-off pollution into oceans.

“What we offer is scientific evidence never put together before,” said Eduardo S. Brondizio, one of the three co-chairs of the report and professor of anthropology at Indiana University.

“This is evidence that can be taken seriously, and people can be awakened to take action,” Brondizio told IPS. “This report is important for change.”

During the briefing at UNESCO, Brondizio had clear words for society at large and for the financial sectors and policy makers.

“We need to change our narratives,” he said. “Both our individual narratives that associate wasteful consumption with quality of life and with status, and the narratives of the economic systems that still consider that environmental degradation and social inequality are inevitable outcomes of economic growth.”

“Economic growth is a means and not an end,” he added. “We need to look for the quality of life of the planet.”

He said that “positive incentives” were required to “move away from harmful subsidies” that were contributing to unsustainable business models.

The report says there has been a 15 percent increase in global per capita consumption of materials since 1980 and a 300 percent increase in food crop production since 1970, reducing the habitat of some species and causing pollution through fertilisers.

Elephants from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services states more than one million species of plants and animals threatened with extinction. Credit: Malini Shankar/IPS

Meanwhile, 85 percent of wetlands present in 1700 had been lost by 2000, and 3.5 percent of domesticated breed of birds were extinct by 2016.

Among the “cross-sectoral solutions” that the report proposes, Brondizio highlighted complementary and inter-dependent approaches to food production and conservation, sustainable fisheries, land-based climate-change mitigation and “nature-based” initiatives in cities – which is crucial for overall sustainability.

He pointed out that over the past decade, the “largest portion of urban growth has been in the urban South”, with the largest portion being among the poor who live in cities with stressed environmental issues.

If adequate action isn’t taken to halt the loss of biodiversity in cities, to deal with climate change and to improve quality of life for urban residents, the negative impact will be globally felt, he said.

Brondizio equally called for the need to recognise the knowledge, innovations and practices, institutions and values of indigenous peoples and local communities.

“They are equal partners in this journey, and we need their inclusion and participation in environmental governance,” he said.

Also addressing the report, UNESCO’s Director-General Audrey Azoulay stressed the importance of education in ensuring sustainability and of sharing knowledge to heighten awareness. 

“Following the adoption of this historic report, no one will be able to claim that they did not know. We can no longer continue to destroy the diversity of life. This is our responsibility towards future generations,” she said.

Neoliberal Reforms Strengthening Monopoly Power and Abuses

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR and SYDNEY, May 7 2019 – Over the last four decades, growing concentration of market power in the hands of oligopolies, if not monopolies, has been greatly enabled by ostensibly neo-liberal reforms, worsening wealth concentration and gross inequalities in the world.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

The ‘counter-revolution’ against Keynesian and development economics four decades ago, which inspired the Washington Consensus, claimed to promote economic liberalization, including market competition, but strengthening property rights entitlements, especially for intellectual property, has been far more important.

Such oligopolistic and monopolistic trends have recently accelerated in much of the world, while already feeble anti-trust efforts have lagged far behind. Over a century after US President Teddy Roosevelt’s anti-trust initiatives, with the neoliberal rhetoric of recent decades, many all over the world still have great expectations of similar US reform initiatives.

Privacy legislation for?
Responding to the ‘big data’ controversy, Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent Time magazine opinion called for US privacy legislation informed by four principles for user rights: first, corporations should collect as little user data as possible; second, users should know what data has been collected and why; third, users should be able “to access, correct and delete [their] personal data”; and fourth, data should be secure, “without which trust is impossible”.

Cook has also proposed a US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ‘data-broker clearinghouse’, with all entities handling data required to register so that the public can track how their data has been sold, and delete their own, if they so choose.

While national privacy legislation should include these principles, the proposals do not recognize that transparency and post hoc control do not address some of the worst dangers posed by online platform monopolies such as Google and Amazon.

Anis Chowdhury

Their monopolistic market power implies that users are often not really able to exercise their notional rights to privacy. For example, without a realistic alternative to Google’s search function, people have little option but to provide personal information about themselves, especially when their work or participating in society requires them to use Google.

Effective privacy legislation thus requires regulating such corporations so that they no longer have any incentive to exploit user data. As Cambridge Analytica whistle-blower Christopher Wylie has suggested, “We should take a step back from this narrative of consent and start to look at the fact that people don’t have a choice.”

Digital public policy?
Facebook and Google are able to collect considerable personal data, enabling them to secure monopoly profits by renting their platforms and data to third parties.

These third parties can then use the Facebook and Google platforms and their vast personal data troves to manipulate what individual users see, read, think and buy. Google thus earned some US$95 billion, while Facebook earned about US$40 billion in 2017 alone.

Appropriate public policy can make this business model far less lucrative. The US has previously used various ‘common carriage’ rules to limit or prevent railways, telecommunication companies and other monopolistic owners of essential infrastructure from discriminating among different users.

For example, AT&T was not allowed to set different rates or terms of service for different people based on what it could learn about their personal lives. Applying similar rules to Google, Facebook and Amazon now would reduce much of their incentive to collect, use, sell or rent personal data by limiting their means to profit from thus using such information.

To be sure, Apple also benefits from the Google and Facebook business models. In 2018, Google paid Apple US$9 billion to become the default search engine on Apple products, while Goldman Sachs expects such payments to increase to US$12 billion in 2019.

US reforms today
The US-based Open Markets Institute (OMI) has proposed new laws to overrule pro-monopoly judicial precedents and to empower employees, consumers and small businesses against abuses by large monopolies.

Accordingly, the OMI has proposed four measures to the US Congress’ Judiciary Committee: first, investigate growing concentration in and control of specific industries; second, conduct hearings on the relationship of such concentration to political corruption; third, educate the public about what it describes as the national ‘monopoly crisis’; and fourth, advocate anti-monopoly policies and principles with other Congressional committees and federal agencies.

The OMI recommends starting with pharmaceuticals, hospital fees, dominant platforms, advertising, labour, inequality, agriculture, other FTC priorities, the US Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, trade and national security.

Developing countries?
However, it is doubtful that the rest of the world, especially developing countries, can count on US policy reforms to protect, let alone advance their best interests, whether in terms of development or even, appropriate competition policy.

Given the limited size of most developing economies, a single minded obsession with competition may well undermine the likelihood of achieving economies of scale and international competitiveness, both important for accelerating economic development.

Size matters, and what may be appropriate for large economies may not be appropriate for smaller national economies. Furthermore, the limited jurisdiction of US legislation is likely to encourage corporations to engage in regulatory arbitrage abroad to their own advantage.

In any case, even if US lawmakers and regulators are able to protect and advance the US public interest through appropriate and effective regulatory policy, there is little reason to assume that the best interests of others will be best served by the effective exercise of US regulation

Building a More Energy-Efficient Neighbourhood in Dubai

Retractable Ground Floor in Dubai HealthCare City. Credit: Google Street View

By Karishma Asarpota
DUBAI, May 7 2019 – Dubai is an Emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with a population of about 3 million. The discovery of oil in the 1960’s transformed Dubai from a sleepy port town to a global metropolis. The recent shift to address environmental sustainability in Dubai draws attention to energy issues in the city.

As per Dubai’s Integrated Energy Strategy, the Emirate aims to increase renewable energy production to 44% by 2050. This will help to reduce the dependence on natural gas for electricity production and reduce fossil fuel-based greenhouse gas emissions. Further, this will be supported with a goal to reduce energy demand by 30% in the next 20 years.

The urban area of Dubai has grown by almost 24 times in the last 44 years. This makes the pattern of urban development central to discussing energy efficiency in Dubai.

The way our neighbourhoods are designed can have an impact on energy efficiency. As residents, we can contribute to this goal is by reducing the amount of energy and water we consume in our homes. But a bigger responsibility is in the hands of urban designers, planners and architects.

Often, we turn to technological solutions to address the energy question such as installing more solar panels, implementing district energy systems or upgrading to a smart gird. These solutions overshadow urban design solutions that can help reduce our energy needs to begin with.

To be more successful at achieving an energy-efficient neighbourhood, technological solutions should complement urban design solutions. Here are some of the ways in which we should rethink architectural or urban design solutions.

1 – Improve pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure
More neighbourhoods in Dubai need to have continuous pavements and cycling lanes to support pedestrians and cyclists. This will help encourage residents to change their travel choices and reduce the number of trips made through mechanical means of transport resulting in energy savings and its related carbon emissions.

But we should be mindful of the extreme desert climate in the city. Dubai experiences a tropical desert climate with temperatures reaching an average of 45℃ for many days. It is unrealistic to expect people to cycle and walk in the extreme heat without implementing design solutions to provide relief from the heat such as shading and street orientation.

We need to turn to more climate appropriate urban design solutions like retractable ground floor (image 1) or narrow and shaded pedestrian areas.

Dubai Metro connectivity across the city. Credit: Karishma Asarpota – (Author)

2 – Provide access to public transit

Residential neighbourhoods should be within walking distance of a public transit stop to encourage the use of public transport and reduce car-based travel. Ridership of Dubai Metro has increased from 6% in 2006 to 15% in 2015, which is remarkable.

The Dubai Metro has about 329,365 daily commuters which is just about 10% of the city’s population. This is low as compared to other cities like Hong Kong or Vancouver where about 90% and 20% of the population are daily commuters on public transport.

Though Dubai is taking steps in the right direction many areas still remain disconnected from access to convenient public transport. The map shows the connectivity of Dubai Metro.

3 – Design climate responsive buildings

The way buildings are designed can have a significant impact on indoor and outdoor thermal comfort. This has a direct impact on the amount of energy that is needed to maintain a comfortable indoor climate. Buildings should be designed to respond to the micro-climate of a place to avoid heat gain.

Dubai Sustainable City. Credit: Luca Locatelli, Institute for National Geographic

Dubai Sustainable City is an example of a project that considered energy demand in the architectural and urban design. Decisions such as orientation and density helped reduce energy demand with little financial investment.

Villas in Dubai Sustainable City use 42% less electricity as compared to traditional villas in Dubai.

4 – Build a more compact development

Promoting compact and denser development can reduce transport demand and its associated energy use and emissions and will increase land use efficiency in urban areas. Moreover, less resources are needed to meet infrastructural need such as transport or utility networks.

As Dubai has grown, the city has spread along the coast increasing the distance between neighbourhoods and making the city dependent on car transport.

5 – Increase renewable energy supply

Increasing energy supply in neighbourhoods using renewable sources of energy like solar or geothermal can help diversify fuel sources and move away from carbon based fuels which have a high carbon emission rate.

Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai. Credit: Zuhair Lokhandwala

The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park currently has an installed capacity of 200 MW and is planned to expand to 5,000 MW by 2030. Al Shams is the new initiative by DEWA aimed at promoting decentralized solar power production within individual buildings. Though Al Shams is a step in the right direction, incentives to make solar power more widespread are lacking.

6 – Implement district cooling systems

In Dubai, district cooling systems increase the efficiency of cooling networks as chilled water is produced at a central point and then distributed to individual buildings to be utilized in individual AC (air-conditioning) systems.

AC systems generate warmer water which is sent back to the district cooling plant for chilling. District cooling plants can increase their efficiency by installing a thermal storage unit. A thermal storage unit helps to manage demand better as it is capable to store chilled and warm water.

Solar panels on a residence. Credit: Beacon Energy Solutions, Dubai

This helps to reduce the size of the cooling plant as added storage means that the plant can produce chilled water at night when ambient temperature is low and chiller efficiency is high.

This way the plant needs to be designed as per average demand and not peak demand. New neighbourhoods should be built using a district energy system as it can increase energy efficiency by about 40%.

7- Conserve water

Water is a precious resource which should not be misused especially in the Gulf region as it is water stressed. Moreover, water in Dubai is produced through desalination which is an energy intensive process.

District cooling system schematic. Credit: Karishma Asarpota – (Author)

Conserve indoor and outdoor water use and avoid wasting water. Indoor water fixtures should be upgraded to more efficient fixtures where feasible. Outdoor landscaping should employ only native species and use treated sewage effluent for maintenance.

Using native species for outdoor landscaping. Credit: Silvia Razgova, The National, Abu Dhabi

Global Sustainability Network (GSN) Honoured At The David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards in New York


NEW YORK, May 7 2019 (IPS-Partners)

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ), a platform that connects over 1000 change-makers in the areas of faith, government, business, media, NGOs, academia and sport with the common aim of delivering the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals ( UN SDG ) Goal 8 has been honoured today at the 2019 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards.

The GSN was created by it’s founders with the aim of accomplishing inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all with a particular focus on Goal 8.7 which is dedicated to combating modern-day slavery in all its forms, including human trafficking, forced labor, prostitution, and organ trafficking.

The David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award is an internationally recognised annual event that brings together representatives of renowned international organisations to share ideas and solutions around social entrepreneurship, climate change, philanthropy, and ending human trafficking and modern-day slavery. Past honourees have included the likes of President Bill Clinton, Sir Richard Branson, Bill and Melinda Gates, and Nelson Mandela.

Mr. Jafar, a leading entrepreneur, philanthropist and business leader, together with fellow co-founders Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez, Chancellor of the Pontifical Academies of Sciences and Social Sciences in the Vatican, and the Rt Reverend Dr. Alastair Redfern, former Bishop of the Church of England will receive the award on behalf of the GSN.

There are a lot of moving parts in accomplishing the GSN mission and we are truly humbled to be nominated. This award is an acknowledgment of not just the individual work of the GSN Co-Founders but also of the efforts of it’s Founding Members and hundreds of like-minded partners whom are dedicated and committed to our cause” said Raza Jafar.

About David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards

The David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Awards takes place annually in Manhattan, New York and is presented by Synergos, a global organisation that is working toward deepening trust and collaboration to solve the complex problems around poverty.

About the Global Sustainability Network ( GSN )

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is a worldwide and rapidly growing network of more than 1000 leaders and change-makers across multiple sectors including faith, government, business, media, NGOs, academia and sport committed to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8, on sustainable economic growth and decent work for all, The GSN maintains a special focus on Goal 8.7 aimed at ending modern-day slavery, human trafficking and human organ trafficking.