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Social distancing saves people's lives and at the same time imposes large costs on society as a whole due to the decline in economic activities. The Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank that researches and publishes the smartest solutions to the world’s biggest problems, conducted a rapid cost-benefit analysis of moderate social distancing in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana. The report assessed the opportunity costs of different strategies to lessen the impact of the pandemic.
A paper published in PNAS showed that understanding nature’s contributions to people and monitoring their benefits are crucial in improving our ability to manage earth systems efficiently, equitably and sustainably. The paper reviewed the impact of the progress of environmental degradation over the last 50 years on human quality of life, and noted a declining trend in the potential for nature to contribute in the majority of material, nonmaterial and regulating contributions assessed.
The Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit 2021 (N4G) will be held in December 2021. This summit is an initiative to promote international efforts to resolve malnutrition in conjunction with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This time, Japan will be the host starting with the launch of "Nutrition for Growth Year of Action" in December 2020 with events throughout the year leading up to the summit.
The latest issue of ARDEC, the information magazine of the Overseas Agricultural and Development Center, Japanese Institute of Irrigation and Drainage (JIID), focused on the impact of climate change and the new coronavirus in agricultural resilience.
The World Resources Institute has published an interactive chart that shows a comparison of greenhouse gas emissions by country and economic sector. According to the data, the top 10 emitting countries, that include Japan, which ranks 6th, account for over two-thirds of global GHG emissions and play a key role to successfully fight climate change.
Exactly a year ago, the genome of SARS-CoV-2 was sequenced in China, wildfires peaked in Australia, and East Africa was exposed to the desert locust onslaught. As the world welcomes 2021, the coronavirus pandemic has not subsided at all, and the recovery of the world economy will depend on effectiveness of the vaccine. In contrast, there is no silver bullet like a vaccine for climate change, and every country is required to take concrete technical and institutional measures.
In 2020, there were many events that supported the need for timely collection and dissemination of information such as desert locust, new coronavirus infection (COVID-19) pandemic, frequent extreme weather due to climate change, and international trends regarding greenhouse gas emission reduction. In particular, COVID-19 is a strategic direction for technological development and intervention from the perspective of avoiding climate change and biodiversity loss and ensuring global food and nutrition security, as artificial economic activities are undermining the health of humankind and the planet.
The United Nations has set the International Year on important themes that need to be addressed on a global scale and calls for action on issues to be considered. The year 2021 is designated as the International Year of Peace and Trust, the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, the International Year of Eradication of Child Labor, and the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables.
In December 2020, CGIAR's Dr. Kundhavi Kadiresan published an article entitled "How Africa can lead the world in the COVID-19 recovery", and suggested that Africa can build greater resistance to global shocks, leapfrogging other regions by transforming the food system that the entire continent and the world has outgrown.
201. Reducing meat consumption as a measure against climate change requires a different approach in developing countries
Researchers at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) published a paper in the Environmental Research Letters and cautioned that recommendations for reducing consumption of animal foods, including meat, as a measure against climate change may not be the applicable in low- and middle-income countries. While meat consumption is still low in developing countries, there is plenty of room for livestock production to contribute to improving farmers' income and nutrition, as well as soil fertility.
In December 2020, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) published the Human Development Report, The Next Frontier – Human Development and the Anthropocene, to commemorate its 30th anniversary. The report proposed the Planetary pressures-adjusted Human Development Index (PHDI), to take into account carbon dioxide emissions and their material footprint in each country in the integrated index of health, education and living standards in each country.
A paper published in The Lancet Planetary Health in December 2020 discussed the trade-off between food system innovation and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Emerging trade-offs must be addressed, particularly those involving social aspects like inequality and social justice, in order to achieve true sustainability.
A paper published in Nature Sustainability in December 2020 (Bundling innovations to transform agri-food systems) stated that multiple innovations must be combined to address the transformation of agri-food systems.
Last month, the sale of cultured meat has been approved for the first time in the world. Cultured meat is meat artificially produced by tissue culture of cells and can therefore reduce the environmental load as compared to livestock. In addition, it can be produced under strict hygienic management and does not require the slaughter of animals. The approval by the Singapore Food Agency on the sale of chicken cultivated in a bioreactor by a US company Eat Just is a milestone for the food industry.
The loss of diversity creates opportunities for new pandemics. A paper published in Science of the Total Environment attributed the development of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 to the loss of human, biological and geochemical diversity, and emphasized the need for diversity conservation and interdisciplinary research efforts in order to address future global diseases.
Although the ocean occupies 71% of the Earth's surface, it has long been neglected in the global environmental policy processes. In response to this situation, the prime ministers of Norway and Palau convened the leaders of 14 countries, including Japan, to set up a high-level panel to protect the benefits that humankind has enjoyed from the marine environment.
In December 2020, a dramatic reduction in fossil fuel-derived carbon dioxide emissions was reported due to the global lockdown caused by COVID-19. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), COVID-19 has temporarily reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but a 7% reduction is only as effective as reducing global warming by about 0.01°C by 2050.
An editorial published in Nature Food in November 2020 emphasized the importance of systems thinking in tackling the multidimensional problems in the food system. Research methods and frameworks provide the perspectives when analyzing a problem, and the way they are constructed or applied determine the scope of the solutions that can be explored. Therefore, the risks of disengagement from systems thinking should not be underestimated.
In June 2020, Saharan dust spilled into the Caribbean, reaching a historic scale known as the ‘Godzilla’ dust storm. A subtropical high-pressure system in Northwest Africa ejected dust in the Sahara region for four days, with strong westward atmospheric winds blowing across the Atlantic into the Americas. Some researchers believe that the jet stream is caused by Arctic warming and declining sea ice.
In December 2020, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published "The Least Developed Countries Report 2020". According to the report, the GDP per capita of least developed countries (LDCs) is projected to contract by 2.6% in 2020 and to experience their worst economic performance in the last 30 years. It is also predicted that the poverty rate will rise from 32.5% to 35.7% due to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.