Grain ship sails, pricier food stays
CROP SHIP SAILS:
Around 9 am on 1 August, the first ship to carry Ukrainian grain since the war began left the Black Sea port of Odesa, Al Jazeera
reported, after loading was supervised by Ukrainian, Turkish and UN authorities. The Sierra Leone-flagged ship Razoni, carrying 26,000 tonnes of corn destined for north Lebanon, was “proceeding very slowly”, as it was “escorted through sea mines safeguarding the port and Russian warships farther at sea”, the New York Times
reported. The grain deal struck last month allows the export of around 5m tonnes of grain a month, while also “whittling away at a backlog of about 20m tonnes in silos, freeing storage for this year’s harvest.” However, Bloomberg
reported on Monday that Razoni is now floating in the Mediterranean Sea, “searching for a new destination” after its final buyer rejected the cargo “due to a five-month delay in delivery”. It comes as Carbon Brief publishes an in-depth interactive explainer
on wheat, in which Ukrainian farmers and other experts spoke about the need to “export and do everything possible to keep the ports open”.
PRICEY FOOD TO STAY:
Wheat prices may have “tumbled from [their] peak” since Russia’s war on Ukraine began, partly thanks to the deal “which may not hold amid the fighting, but even if it does, won’t be enough to address other issues hanging over the global wheat market”, the New York Times
reported. According to experts quoted, prices are likely to rise again, with high energy and fertiliser prices and climate change playing a bigger role in the price of a bread loaf, even in countries that do not buy from Russia or Ukraine. In Bulgaria, for instance, bread cost “almost 50% more in June than it did a year earlier”, the Financial Times
reported, with analysts warning that “consumers may need to get used to permanently higher food prices” and that “the true impact of this combination of factors will only become apparent next year”.
DEBT AND TAXES:
Lebanon – Razoni’s intended destination – has seen its food price inflation rise by 332% in the year to June, while the rate has risen by 255% in Zimbabwe, 155% in Venezuela and 94% Turkey, according to the World Bank, the Guardian
reported. The World Bank predicts that food inflation would hit many countries with an “increase in food bills worth more than 1% of their annual national income (GDP), while others would fail to contain the impact and be plunged into a full-blown debt crisis”. Developing countries such as Sri Lanka, for instance, have already asked the World Bank for a bailout “after running out of cash to buy vital imports”, while Pakistan saw a $6bn IMF loan
revived, according to the Guardian. Neighbouring India – the world’s second-largest wheat producer – could scrap a 40% import duty on wheat “to dampen record high domestic prices”, government and trade officials told Reuters
. According to the Washington Post
, India “dramatically increased” its imports of Russian fertiliser in recent months, “demonstrating the difficulties” of isolating Moscow “at a time of high global prices”.
Ireland sets sectoral ceilings
The Irish coalition government announced a legally binding agreement on “sectoral emissions ceilings” – caps on greenhouse gas emissions for each sector of the economy through the end of the decade. The caps have been set on five key sectors: electricity, transport, buildings, industry and agriculture, and will set the country “on a pathway to turn the tide on climate change”, governmental news service Merrion Street
wrote. Together, the cuts are meant to achieve a 51% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 as compared to 2018 levels, with different sectors contributing at varying levels – electricity emissions are to be reduced by 75%, while the agriculture sector is expected to reduce its emissions by 25%.
MEAT-ING IN THE MIDDLE:
The Financial Times
called the deal “hard-fought”, noting that the target for the agriculture sector is “significantly higher” than the 22% reduction that farmers groups had been pushing for, but below the government’s initial proposals of 30%. Yale Environment 360
wrote that Ireland “has historically lagged behind other European nations” in its climate ambitions, with its climate change performance index
ranking 22nd among 27 countries last year. It added that the country’s Climate Action Plan
“calls for using grants, incentives, and taxes to mobilise €125bn of public and private investment” for adding renewable capacity and electric cars, and upgrading homes with heat pumps and improved insulation.
The Financial Times
noted that “dairy cattle numbers have increased for 11 consecutive years” in Ireland, ever since milk quotas in the EU ended in 2015. Measures aimed at reducing agricultural emissions will include “renewable energy initiatives and the development of biomethane”, the FT wrote. The outlet added that “farmers complained they were being offered no funding to make the technological and other changes needed to reduce emissions”. The Farming Independent
, an agriculture-focused supplement of the Irish Independent
, reported that farmers groups are warning of massive losses to local economies. It added that farmers are facing a “dual threat” from both the required emissions reductions and “onerous new nitrates regulations”.
However, climate groups have criticised the targets for not being ambitious enough, Reuters
reported. Marie Donnelly, the chair of Ireland’s independent Climate Change Advisory Council
, said the targets are “problematic for a number of reasons”, including a lack of clarity on “how the carbon budgets will be delivered”. She also noted that the current sectoral ceilings only add up to a 43% reduction in emissions, rather than the 51% they are meant to achieve, according to the government’s own estimates. Irish broadcaster RTE
noted that this discrepancy is because some reductions are “still unallocated pending further studies related to land use and other considerations”. RTE added that “very little” has been achieved in Ireland regarding previous emissions reductions targets to date, but that the new “commitment to act on climate policy is totally serious”.
A New York Times
investigation revealed that there are hundreds of airstrips in the remote reaches of the Amazon rainforest that have been illegally seized or constructed in service of the (also illegal) mining industries there. More than 60 illegal airstrips were identified within the territory of the Indigenous Yanomami people, it said. Some of the airstrips, the New York Times reported, are government-owned and are “the only way for health care officials to reach the Indigenous people in the nearby village”. Now these airstrips “are part of vast criminal networks that operate largely unchecked because of the neglect or ineffectiveness of enforcement and regulatory agencies in Brazil”, the paper added.
DESTRUCTION DYNAMICS: An estimated 30,000 miners are working illegally within Yanomami territory, “causing deadly clashes, the displacement of Indigenous communities, swift deforestation and destruction to the land and rivers”, the New York Times wrote. Similar dynamics are playing out across the Amazon rainforest, it added. The paper noted that many of the miners are from “impoverished communities”, while the bosses are from “fragmented, yet politically powerful criminal enterprises”. These efforts have been bolstered by the regime of Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, which “critics say has prioritised unregulated economic development over environmental and Indigenous issues”, according to the New York Times.
Meanwhile, a new permit “will allow a major highway to be paved through the centre of the Amazon rainforest”, Reuters
reported, “in a move that threatens to increase deforestation”. The road will connect Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city, to the rest of Brazil year-round (it is currently “an impassable stretch of mud” throughout the rainy season, Reuters wrote). Environmental experts told the outlet that paving the road “would allow illegal loggers and land grabbers to more easily access remote and relatively untouched areas of the forest” and estimated a fivefold increase in deforestation by 2030 as a result. Another licence would be needed before construction can begin, but the granting of the initial permit “means there is a good chance the road could move forward”, an analyst told Reuters. July 2022 was the “fifth worst month” for deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon since measurements started in 2015, “despite a slight decline”, MercoPress
PANTANAL IN PERIL:
Brazil is also home to the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, where state lawmakers have just approved a bill to allow “extensive ranching and tourism in protected areas”, Mongabay
reported. The outlet noted the bill still has to be signed by Mato Grasso state governor Mauro Mendes before it can become law; Mendes has until the end of the month to do so. Ranching advocates “hope the amendments can restore cattle productivity…boost tourism and lead to an improvement in Mato Grosso’s declining socioeconomic parameters”, Mongabay wrote. It said critics called the bill “an insult”, adding that it will “harm water quality, animal and plant species, ecological balance and traditional and Indigenous peoples of the Pantanal”. Experts say the bill violates the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention because Indigenous communities were not consulted, according to Mongabay.