Fighting desertification and land degradation for future generations

Fighting desertification and land degradation for future generations

Fighting desertification and land degradation for future generations
Saudi Arabia has conducted extensive studies to better understand the processes of desertification and land degradation. (SPA)
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Floods, heat waves, wildfires and the recent global coral bleaching event are all stark reminders that climate change is not a distant threat but rather an immediate crisis that is reshaping our world. One symptom of this crisis is desertification.

Desertification, a term that may be unfamiliar to many, is a growing problem. In simple terms, it is the process by which once-fertile land turns into desert as the quality of the soil degrades over time.

Every second, the equivalent of four football fields of healthy land is degraded, totaling 100 million hectares a year, according to the UN. This is already having a catastrophic effect on communities, ecosystems, food security and water resources, especially in the world’s poorest countries.

And, as desertification spreads into new geographies, the effects are set to worsen. According to the UN, 3.2 billion people are already impacted by desertification and 50 million could be displaced in the next 10 years, making it one of the most serious environmental problems facing humanity.

The UN has also said that more than 24 billion tons of fertile soil disappear every year. Two-thirds of our planet is currently undergoing desertification. If no action is taken, 1.5 million sq. km of farmland, equivalent to the entire arable land of India, will be lost by 2050.

As the UN Environment Programme has stated, ours is the first generation to fully comprehend the enormity of the threat posed to our land and we may well be the last to have the opportunity to reverse the course of its destruction.

Therefore, it is vital that businesses, governments, communities and nongovernmental organizations urgently work together to prioritize the restoration of land ecosystems by replanting forests, rewetting marshes and reviving soils.

That means coming together to push and promote coordinated land-use planning, including the management of water resources, livestock and agricultural activities, and preserving vegetation cover, which plays a key role in protecting the soil from wind and water erosion.

Reforestation is also vital to regenerate vegetation cover, reactivate moisture circulation and generate biodiversity. So is rotational grazing, which limits pressure to a particular area while others regenerate through the coexistence of crops that allow for more efficient nutrient cycling.

If no action is taken, 1.5 million square kilometers of farmland, equivalent to the entire arable land of India, will be lost by 2050.

Raed Albasseet

 It is also important to remember that, while tackling desertification, drought and land degradation will undoubtedly require the use of novel, innovative and cutting-edge methodologies, nature often already provides the best solution.

At Red Sea Global, we have established a mangrove nursery to aid us in our goal to plant as many as 50 million mangrove trees by 2030.

We have already planted 1 million and will plant a further 2 million before the year is out. These mangroves will provide shelter for a diversity of wildlife and will sequester carbon, with the capacity to absorb up to five to 10 times more than other plants.

The power of mangrove forests to store carbon, manage flooding, stabilize coastlines and provide shelter for fish and other organisms makes them one of nature’s super ecosystems.

At more than 1 million sq. meters, our landscape nursery is the largest in the region. It will contain more than 30 million plants, reducing our reliance on imported foreign species and allowing native ones to thrive.

Looking specifically at this year’s World Environment Day, which fell on June 5, it is encouraging to see plans to accelerate the commitments made in the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration resolution.

Restoration efforts, like those in Kenya, offer a glimmer of hope. The Kenyan government has pledged to rehabilitate 5.1 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. This will improve the lives of Kenyans who rely on land resources for their livelihoods, while also curbing the country’s carbon dioxide emissions by 3.7 percent and safeguarding its biodiversity.

As the host of this year’s World Environment Day, Saudi Arabia launched a campaign to combat desertification and build drought resilience. The Kingdom is already restoring huge swathes of arid and semi-arid land to its original green and wild state and leading the G20 Global Land Initiative.

Nature is our greatest asset. But nature needs nurture. Now is the time to come together to push the planet onto a path of sustainability and resilience, and to ensure we protect it for future generations.

Raed Albasseet is the group chief environment and sustainability officer at Red Sea Global.
 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA
Updated 26 min 8 sec ago
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Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

Modernizing energy systems requires workers with strong digital skills: IEA

RIYADH: The pace of deploying digital technologies in the energy sector will depend heavily on the ability to build a workforce with the right skills, according to an analysis. 

In its latest report, the International Energy Agency said that technologies are set to play a key role in the transition to more secure and sustainable energy systems. 

IEA noted that the deployment of advanced technologies could help ensure energy efficiency, reliability, and greater connectivity, along with reducing emissions. 

“New digital tools – such as those that can help match power supply with demand; predict and detect faults in networks; or give greater control to consumers – will enable the faster integration of renewables, improve grid stability and unlock greater energy savings,” said the energy agency. 

It added: “However, the pace of digitalization will depend heavily on the energy sector’s ability to build a workforce with the right skills.” 

Energy sector should concentrate more on digital roles

IEA said the number of digital roles across the energy sector has increased globally. However, there is growing evidence that it remains broadly insufficient, inhibiting greater investment in digitalization. 

The report cited an EY survey and noted that 89 percent of the participants from the energy sector identified skills gaps as the main challenge to accelerating the adoption of digital technologies. 

“With most jobs set to require digital skills in the coming years, energy utilities will increasingly be competing for a limited pool of qualified workers to bridge the sector’s skills gap. This will require stronger and more cohesive digital hiring strategies and training efforts,” said IEA. 

According to the report, countries can be divided into four groups based on interest in hiring workers with digital profiles. 

The first group includes nations such as Singapore, Portugal and the Slovak Republic, where employers are actively hiring workers with digital talents across all sectors, including for roles at power utilities. 

The second group features countries like Australia and New Zealand, where hiring for tech roles by power utilities is even stronger – outpacing digital hiring across all sectors. 

Nations like the US, the UK, and Canada fall into the third group. In these countries, the share of job vacancies that require digital skills posted by power utilities is higher than for the economy as a whole, but overall, digital recruitment remains low. 

In contrast, the fourth group sees low demand for digital roles overall and in the power sector. It includes the majority of EU member states, along with certain Latin American and North African nations. 

“Europe has consistently had a low share of digital jobs, especially between 2022 and 2023, indicating that countries in the region may not be fully leveraging their investments in digital equipment,” said IEA. 

According to the report, power utilities have been slower to create significant numbers of digital jobs than other sectors, such as finance, insurance, and public administration. 

“In recent years, digital job postings approached 16 percent of total listings by finance and insurance companies, whereas the share for power utilities stagnated around 11 percent, with a decline below 9 percent between 2017 and 2021,” the energy think tank noted.  

A shift in demand for skills

According to IEA, expertise in structured query language of SQL  – a programming language used for managing and manipulating data – was among the most sought-after digital skills in the energy sector in 2012.

At that time, the demand for a workforce with expertise in scripting languages or knowledge of cloud solutions was rarely required. 

However, since mid-2021, demand has grown rapidly for workers with skills in data analysis, scripting languages and cloud solutions, in addition to SQL database talents and cybersecurity expertise. 

The report added that demand for employees proficient in machine learning, artificial intelligence, or the Internet of Things is still at very low levels, even though these are extremely powerful tools for power system management. 

The vitality of bridging the skills gap

In its report, the energy agency cautioned that failing to bridge the current skills gaps could create bottlenecks in efforts to build more secure and sustainable energy systems. 

Underscoring the necessity of adopting a skills-focused digital strategy in the energy sector, IEA suggested some steps to improve and expand current initiatives. 

According to the think tank, energy utilities can develop mechanisms to track skills and systematize measurements of digital literacy to ensure they have the talent to manage changing power systems. 

“In parallel, having a clear understanding of the skills needed can improve the effectiveness of the policy actions for supporting the shift toward a more sustainable economy,” said IEA. 

The report also highlighted that the energy sector should increase the attractiveness of digital roles by creating an environment of innovation and growth, offering appealing career paths and opportunities for professionals seeking dynamic positions.

The energy agency further pointed out that workforces in the digital sector should be empowered through internal training programs. 

“Utilities can implement training and upskilling programs to equip current employees with essential digital skills, fostering a culture of continuous learning, a sense of ownership and allowing for adaptation to technological advancements,” said IEA. 

It added: “By designing training programs to be more inclusive – for example, making them targeted to increase gender parity – governments and industry can respond to labor demand while capitalizing on opportunities to build a more diverse workforce of the future.” 

IEA concluded by saying that energy utilities can engage with governments and other stakeholders to develop training initiatives and curricula tailored to address current and future market demand for digital skills, creating a solid pipeline of well-trained talent.


US envoy to Yemen demands Houthis free detained international staff

US envoy to Yemen demands Houthis free detained international staff
Updated 27 min 8 sec ago
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US envoy to Yemen demands Houthis free detained international staff

US envoy to Yemen demands Houthis free detained international staff
  • The Houthis have held around 20 Yemeni employees of the US embassy in Sanaa for the past three years.

DUBAI: The United States’ ambassador to Yemen on Thursday called on Yemen’s Houthi group to immediately release the detained staff of international organizations including employees of the US embassy in Sanaa.
The Iran-aligned Houthis detained 11 United Nations personnel in Yemen last week, according to UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
On Thursday, the US ambassador condemned the detentions and called them “shocking.”
“The Houthis owe all of these Yemenis thanks, not false accusations and imprisonment. The people of Yemen deserve better than fanciful Houthi lies meant to bolster their abusive and autocratic rule,” ambassador Steven Fagin said in a statement.
The staff members — all Yemenis — were swept up by armed Houthi intelligence officials in a series of raids that also resulted in the detention of three employees of the US-funded pro-democracy group National Democratic Institute (NDI) and three employees of a local human rights group.
The Houthis have held around 20 Yemeni employees of the US embassy in Sanaa for the past three years. The embassy suspended operations after Yemen’s civil war erupted in 2014 and Houthis seized control of the capital.
The US mission to Yemen is currently located in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh.
Yemen’s Houthis said on Monday they had targeted an alleged “American-Israeli spy cell” that included former staff of the US embassy in Yemen, according to a television statement from Abdel Hakim Al Khaiwani, the Houthis’ intelligence chief.
“The American-Israeli spy cell carried out espionage and sabotage activities in official and unofficial institutions for decades in favor of the enemy,” he said.
The Houthis, who are aligned with Iran, have attacked shipping in the Red Sea in what they say are acts of solidarity with Palestinians amid the Gaza war, drawing airstrikes from the United States and Britain.


Coldplay concert halted after Israeli man falls during failed stage invasion

Coldplay concert halted after Israeli man falls during failed stage invasion
Updated 25 min 12 sec ago
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Coldplay concert halted after Israeli man falls during failed stage invasion

Coldplay concert halted after Israeli man falls during failed stage invasion
  • Controversial media personality Guy Hochman tried to rush stage in Athens wearing Israeli flag
  • Frontman Chris Martin: ‘We don’t believe in oppression, or occupation, terrorism or genocide’

LONDON: A Coldplay concert in Athens had to be paused after a man with an Israeli flag injured himself trying to reach the stage, The Independent reported on Thursday.

Footage of the man, later identified as Israeli media personality Guy Hochman, was posted to social media showing him trying to climb over a lighting rig before falling, knocking over several pieces of equipment.

Lead singer Chris Martin was seen asking the rest of the band several times to “stop” after witnessing the event directly in front of him, gesturing at crew around him to assist. He and bandmate Johnny Buckland then tried to help Hochman from the edge of the stage.

 

 

Hochman identified himself on social media, posting an image of himself at the concert wearing a black baseball cap and draped in the Israeli flag.

He also posted footage of himself on TikTok, saying he had led chants of “bring them home” in the audience in relation to Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.

Hochman then posted footage of his efforts to climb onto the stage, narrating as he got closer that he was “smelling Chris Martin’s sweat.”

After the fall, Hochman wrote on social media that he had damaged his ribs. “I have fallen. Right rib gone,” he said.

Hochman, who has courted controversy in the past for making jokes about the killings of Palestinians in Gaza, received mixed responses from fellow Israelis on social media despite his claims that he had “made history” with the failed stunt.

One person wrote on his TikTok: “I’m glad it didn’t work out. It saved us a great embarrassment and maybe even increased antagonism from Chris.”

Another said: “Really unnecessary and would have made us (a joke) if you came to him with an Israeli flag. Be healthy and glad you didn’t succeed.”

Last month, Hochman claimed that he was removed from the Eurovision village in the Swedish city of Malmo for waving the Israeli flag.

The event was dogged by controversy over the participation of an Israeli entrant in the annual song contest, with local protesters and other performers critical of the decision.

At a Coldplay concert in Tokyo in November, Martin appeared to speak out against Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

He told the audience that there were “so many terrible things happening,” and that he believed “most people on Earth are full of love and full of kindness, compassion.”

He added: “We don’t believe in oppression, or occupation, terrorism or genocide, nothing like that.”


Fire at Iraqi oil refinery injures 10: civil defense

Fire at Iraqi oil refinery injures 10: civil defense
Updated 37 min 35 sec ago
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Fire at Iraqi oil refinery injures 10: civil defense

Fire at Iraqi oil refinery injures 10: civil defense
  • Firefighters worked through the night battling to extinguish the flames
  • The fire broke out in an asphalt tank on Wednesday night before spreading to a second refinery on a road southwest of Irbil

Irbil: A massive fire at an oil refinery in Iraqi Kurdistan injured at least 10 people including firefighters battling to control the blaze, which was ongoing Thursday, the civil defense agency reported.
The fire broke out in an asphalt tank on Wednesday night before spreading to a second refinery on a road southwest of Irbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdistan region.
Firefighters worked through the night battling to extinguish the flames, which sent thick plumes of black smoke and balls of orange flame into the sky, an AFP photographer reported.
“More than 10 people were injured, mainly men from the Irbil civil defense,” the agency said in a statement, noting three fire trucks were burned.
The cause of the blaze was still unknown, it said.
“The fire started in one refinery before spreading to another,” the statement said. Four fuel tanks had been affected.
With Iraq experiencing scorching summers, the country has seen multiple fires in recent weeks, affecting shopping centers, warehouses and hospitals.
Iraq is one of the world’s biggest oil producers, and crude oil sales make up 90 percent of Iraqi budget revenues.
But exports from the Kurdistan region have been halted for more than a year in a dispute over legal and technical issues.


Pakistan lawyer files treason petition against national cricket team following T20 World Cup setbacks

Pakistan lawyer files treason petition against national cricket team following T20 World Cup setbacks
Updated 47 min 31 sec ago
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Pakistan lawyer files treason petition against national cricket team following T20 World Cup setbacks

Pakistan lawyer files treason petition against national cricket team following T20 World Cup setbacks
  • The petition says millions have been spent on cricket players who have undermined the integrity of the country
  • It calls for a ban on the team until an inquiry is carried out by a high-level official who compiles a detailed report

ISLAMABAD: A lawyer in Pakistan’s Gujranwala city has filed a petition against the national cricket team, as reported by local media outlets on Wednesday, seeking treason charges against the players for their lackluster performance in the ongoing Twenty20 World Cup.
Cricket in Pakistan is not just a sport but is deeply embedded in the nation’s identity and constitutes a significant source of pride. The performance of Pakistan’s team not only influences the collective mood but also acts as a barometer of national esteem, with victories celebrated as monumental achievements and defeats often taken to heart by the populace.
The national team’s performance has come under scrutiny since faltering at last year’s Asia Cup. The players also left a deep sense of disappointment among fans following a defeat by Afghanistan in the ODI World Cup in India.
The team’s inconsistency, particularly in crucial matches, has since led to public and media criticism regarding strategies, selections and individual performances. The court case against the players was registered after two consecutive losses to the USA and India in the T20 World Cup.
“The petitioner expressed deep concern over the disappointing performance of the national cricket team, calling it a waste of money and a betrayal of the nation’s trust,” Samaa TV said. “The petition accuses the team of putting at stake millions of rupees and the integrity of the nation, alleging that the players and team management prioritized financial gain over the country’s honor.”
“Furthermore, the petition highlights the severe hurt caused to the sentiments of the people during matches against America and India, citing these performances as particularly egregious,” it added. “It calls for a ban on the team until a thorough inquiry is conducted by the interior secretary and a comprehensive report is completed.”
According to The Express Tribune, the lawyer has called for treason charges against skipper Babar Azam and other members of the team.
The court has asked for a report from the police on the registration of the case and directed to file it by June 21.