Northern hemisphere swelters
40C IN UK
: The UK faced its hottest day on record on 19 July, when temperatures reached 40.3C
in Coningsby, a village in Lincolnshire, northern England. The new provisional temperature record came as extreme heat engulfed many parts of the UK from 18-19 July, with Scotland and Wales also registering new national heat records, as Carbon Brief
reported in an in-depth summary of the event. The heatwave fanned the flames of at least four major fires in London, the Metro
reported – causing London firefighters to have their busiest day since the second world war, according to the Guardian
. The hot conditions disrupted farmers harvesting crops such as wheat, barley and oilseed rape, BBC News
reported. And the heat also caused major problems for British wildlife – with reports of swifts falling out of the sky in London and fires across Norfolk’s Wild Ken Hill reserve, where turtle doves, grasshopper warblers and reed warblers nest, according to the Guardian
As the UK entered uncharted territory, parts of mainland Europe, such as Portugal, France and Spain, battled intense wildfires. The Observer
reported that, over the weekend of 16-17 July, more than 12,000 people were evacuated from the paths of fires in southern France, while firefighters in Spain were “battling a series of fires after days of unusually high temperatures which reached up to 45.7C”. Reuters
reported that the heat killed 659 people in Portugal and 360 people in Spain in the second week of July. By 25 July, the sweltering conditions reached Greece, fanning devastating wildfires in areas including a national park that is home to protected species, Reuters
said. In addition to battling extreme heat and wildfires, many parts of Europe are also continuing to suffer from drought. The Washington Post
reported on how the ongoing hot and dry conditions are decimating rice crops in Italy’s “risotto heartland”.
: Further east, the heat was also on in China. Severe heat warnings and forecasts of 40C were issued for almost 70 Chinese cities for 25 July, CNN
reported. Another 393 Chinese cities and counties were forecast to face 35C heat on the same day, the publication added. China has faced above-normal temperatures since June, Reuters
reported. “In agricultural regions, drought has been a concern,” Reuters reported, adding that cotton crops in the northwestern Xinjiang region were particularly at risk. A second Reuters
story reported that the heat had sparked accelerated glacier melt in Xinjiang, posing a risk to “risks to rivers and dams”.
: On the other side of the northern hemisphere, many parts of the US also faced extreme temperatures. The New York Times
reported that the north-eastern US was particularly affected, “with a record-breaking five straight days of triple-digit temperatures [above 37.8C] in Newark and blistering heat in Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; and Manchester, New Hampshire” in mid July. It came as BBC News
reported that a state of emergency had been declared in California as “the largest active wildfire in the US rapidly spread near Yosemite National Park”. From 22-24 July, the Oak Fire forced 6,000 people to evacuate, BBC News said. Newsweek
reported that US farmers were gearing up for a “crisis” as the heatwave “strained their crops and animals just in time for the global grain shortage”.
Russia-Ukraine grain exports deal
‘A BEACON OF HOPE’:
On 22 July, Ukraine and Russia signed “mirror” deals lasting for 120 days that will allow Kyiv to resume exports of grain through the Black Sea, currently trapped in Ukraine by the war, reported BBC News
. Ukrainian media outlet Ukrainska Pravda
clarified that the document – entitled, “Initiative on the safe transportation of grain and foodstuffs from Ukrainian sea ports” – was not signed directly with Russia, but through representatives of Turkey and the UN. Associated Press
noted that “the UN plan will enable Ukraine to export 22m tonnes of grain and other agricultural goods that have been stuck in Black Sea ports due to Russia’s invasion”. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres called
it “a beacon of hope” for millions of hungry people who have faced huge increases in the price of food amid an ongoing global crisis. As Ukrainian infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said
, three ports were to be unblocked simultaneously – Odesa, Chornomorsk and Pivdennyi, which in 2021 collectively handled 70%
of Ukraine’s trade turnover.
However, just 12 hours after Moscow signed a deal to allow monitored grain exports from Ukraine’s southern ports, Russia targeted Ukraine’s main port of Odesa – where grain shipments take place – in a missle strike, reported the Guardian
. The rockets did not hit the grain storage, said Babel
. An economic adviser to the Ukrainian president said that “Russia’s strike on the port of Odesa showed it [export] will definitely not be that easy”, according to Reuters
. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky described
the missile attack on Odesa as “cynical”, which “turned out to be an attack on the political positions of Russia itself”. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that the strike on the port of Odesa should not affect the start of grain shipment, reported Russian Interfax
FUTURE OF SHIPMENTS:
During a recent press briefing
, answering the claim that Russia has already violated the clause of the agreement on “non-attack on port facilities”, infrastructure minister Kubrakov said: “We planned to navigate the Black Sea, and we will continue to do so, because it is also important to us, as it is to the entire civilised world…If something happens in the Black Sea, then, of course, this program will be stopped.” Yurii Vasko, Ukraine’s deputy minister of infrastructure, added that, “during this week, we hope to make the first shipment” and “within two weeks, we will be technically ready to export from all three ports’ port terminals”.
Africa biodiversity at risk
Nearly 3,000 delegates from across Africa convened in Kigali, Rwanda, for the six-day Africa Protected Areas Congress
(APAC). APAC was hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature
(IUCN) and was the first-ever continent-wide summit focused on how protected areas can aid countries in “conserving nature, promoting sustainable development and safeguarding the continent’s wildlife”, the Guardian
wrote. It added that one of the issues to be discussed at APAC was “the practicality of expanding protected areas to 30% of the planet by 2030” – one of the key issues at stake during last month’s biodiversity negotiations in Nairobi
MIND THE (FINANCING) GAP:
The New Times
, a Rwandan daily, reported that the summit was attended by “former African heads of state, ministers from different countries, heads of institutions, civil society, among others”. The paper noted that although there are more than 1,200 national parks and 8,600 protected areas across the continent, “they are not well managed due to financing gaps”. A separate piece in the New Times
reported that IUCN president Rozan Al Mubarak
“reiterated that protected areas need to be effectively, equitably managed by and for indigenous communities”. Rwandan prime minister Edouard Ngirente
called for “strong public-private partnerships in sustainably protecting, restoring, and managing Africa’s rich biodiversity”, the New Times added.
During the APAC summit, world leaders also met at the Africa Nature Finance Forum, where experts “called for an urgent increase in financing to protect the world’s biodiversity”, Top Africa News
wrote. One discussion item at the forum was an African proposal “that all nations commit 1% of GDP to address the biodiversity finance gap and protect our planet’s future”, which would generate about $850bn for biodiversity, the site reported. The summit marked the launch of the Pan-African Conservation Trust
(A-Pact), “to address the financing gap in Africa through an independent financing mechanism”, Kenyan newspaper the Standard
wrote. The paper noted that “the vision set out in A-Pact requires at least $200bn to finance all of Africa’s protected and conserved areas”.
‘GIANT LEAP BACKWARD’:
Meanwhile, the Democratic Republic of the Congo – one of the most biodiversity-rich countries in the world and home to vast carbon stocks
– has pulled an “about-face in allowing new oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas”, the New York Times
wrote, calling it “a giant leap backward for the climate”. The paper reported that the country will auction off blocks for oil and gas drilling, with the intention of “help[ing] the struggling nation finance programs to reduce poverty and generate badly needed economic growth”. It quoted the country’s lead climate negotiator, Tosi Mpanu Mpanu
, who said: “Our priority is not to save the planet.” In a column in the New York Times
, Prof Simon Lewis
called on the international community to “work with Congo to make it lucrative to keep rainforests standing”.