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Recent news items and topics of general interest to Natural Resources and Development

Losing a single pollinator species reduces plant reproduction

Arabica Coffee Could Be Extinct in the Wild Within 70 Years
Serious Risks of Wildlife Extinction from Climate Change
Financial Risks from Unpriced Natural Capital
Increased Biodiversity Decreases the Spread of Disease
Payments for Ecosystem Services: lessons from around the World
European News
Arctic Sea Ice melting
Methane discovery stokes new global warming fears
2010: The Year of Natural Disasters
2010 is likely to rank in the top 3 warmest years since 1850
World Energy Outlook
Commitment to Development Index (CDI). Updated 2012

Losing a single pollinator species reduces plant reproduction

A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has shown that removing even a single bee species from an ecosystem has serious effects on plant reproduction. Wild bee populations are declining severely in many parts of the World. Until now, simulations have predicted that the insects' decreasing numbers will not have a major effect on plant reproduction until most pollinating species are gone.

However, in a field experiment, the authors of this paper found that removing the dominant pollinator species caused other bee species to become less fussy and to collect a broader variety of pollen. The fact that bees became less picky is of concern because plants can of course only be fertilised by pollen from their own species. The researchers found that after their bee removal operation, fewer flowers received their own type of pollen. As a result, each flower produced on average a third fewer seeds. Reductions in wild bee populations are therefore likely to have a serious impact on certain types of agricultural production.

The world's growing population means more bees are needed to pollinate the crops to feed more people. According to a UN report, of the 100 crop species that supply 90% of the world's food, bees pollinate more than 70%.

Howego, J. (2013). Losing a single pollinator species harms plants.

Brosi, B. J. & Briggs, H. M. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2013).

Humans must change behaviour to save bees, vital for food production – UN report.

Arabica Coffee Could Be Extinct in the Wild Within 70 Years

A study conducted by scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (UK), in collaboration with scientists in Ethiopia, reports that climate change alone could lead to the extinction of wild Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica) well before the end of this century. Wild Arabica is considered important for the sustainability of the coffee industry due to its considerable genetic diversity. The Arabicas grown in the world's coffee plantations are from very limited genetic stock and are unlikely to have the flexibility required to cope with climate change and other threats, such as pests and diseases. In Ethiopia, the largest producer of coffee in Africa, climate change will also have a negative influence on coffee production. The climate sensitivity of Arabica is confirmed, supporting the widely reported assumption that climate change will have a damaging impact on commercial coffee production rldwide. These are worrying prospects for the world's favourite beverage – the second most traded commodity after oil, and one crucial to the economies of several countries. The research is published in PLOS ONE on 7 November 2012.

The genetic diversity of wild Arabica populations far exceeds that of cultivated varieties used in crop production and accessions held in germplasm collections. The wild populations also have high functional diversity in terms of disease, and pest and drought tolerance. As part of a future-proofing resource, and especially for providing genetic potential for mitigating climate change, wild populations are perceived as a key resource for the medium to long-term sustainability of Arabica production.

According to the International Coffee Organization, coffee is the second most traded global commodity after oil, and the industry employs about 26 million people. If we loose wild Arabica, large segments of the coffee market would ultimately disappear as a result of the reduced genetic diversity of cultivated Arabica. Such a shift is almost certain to result in a serious economic impact.

Davis A.P., Gole T.W., Baena S., Moat J. (2012) The Impact of Climate Change on Indigenous Arabica Coffee (Coffea arabica): Predicting Future Trends and Identifying Priorities. PLoS ONE 7(11): e47981. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047981

Notes on wild coffea arabica from southwestern ethiopia, with some historical considerations

Serious Risks of Wildlife Extinction from Climate Change
The world already faces a biodiversity extinction crisis, and it is likely to be made worse by climate change. This FAO paper examines the likely ecosystem and landscape changes that will occur in forests, mountains, wetlands, coastal areas, savannahs, grasslands and steppes. Impacts include changes in physical conditions, weather patterns and ecosystem functioning. As a consequence, terrestrial, freshwater and marine wildlife will be severely affected unless we manage to cope with climate changes through decisive planning and action. The main focus is on tropical terrestrial wildlife and its habitats, but other fauna, ecosystems and geographical regions are covered as well. The impacts of climate change will include permanent changes in physical conditions, such as snow cover, permafrost and sea level along with increases in both the irregularity and severity of extreme weather events like droughts, floods and storms, which will lead to changes in ecosystems and ecosystem functioning. Degraded ecosystems are expected to be less resistant to climate change than intact ones. This paper explores several main consequences for wildlife.

Financial Risks from Unpriced Natural Capital
Trucost and the TEEB for Business Coalition have published a report on Natural Capital at Risk: the Top 100 Externalities of Business. The report provides an estimate in monetary terms of the financial risk from unpriced natural capital inputs to production across business sectors at a regional level. It demonstrates that some business activities do not generate sufficient profit to cover their natural resource use and pollution costs. The study monetises the value of unpriced natural capital consumed by primary production (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, mining, oil and gas exploration, and utilities) and some primary processing (cement, steel, pulp and paper, petrochemicals) in the global economy through standard operating practices, excluding catastrophic events. For each sector, in each region, teh report estimates the natural capital cost broken down by six environmental key performance indicators and a ranking of the top 100 costs is developed from this. The value of the Global 100 externalities is estimated at US$4.7 trillion – 65% of the total primary sector impacts identified. Greenhouse gas emissions from coal power generation in Eastern Asia contribute the largest environmental impact, followed by land use linked to cattle farming in South America. The most significant impacts making up the US$4.7 trillion are greenhouse gas emissions (36%), water use (26%) and land use (25%).

Increased Biodiversity Decreases the Spread of Disease
New research published in Nature suggests that decreasing levels of biodiversity in an ecosystem can increase the spread of disease. Researchers studying amphibian communities in wetland ecosystems, as well as controlled experiments, have shown that as diversity increased, infection rates dropped. The rate of extinction of species is increasing as ecosystems across the world come under pressure from habitat loss, pollution and climate change. Recently, changes in biodiversity have been linked to changes in disease risk for humans and wildlife. In the last 10 years, a number of studies have reported a correlation between the species diversity within a community and the ability of diseases to spread among that community. This is because some pathogens can infect many different species, which differ in their ability to pass on the disease. The authors of this study set out to test the underlying connection between biodiversity and disease prevalence. Over three years, they observed the spread of Ribeiroia ondatrae, a pathogen that causes severe deformities and death in amphibians, within 345 wetland ecosystems across a 758,100 ha region of California, USA. In wetlands with low species diversity, the proportion of amphibians carrying and passing on the pathogen was much higher than in those wetlands with a more diverse composition of species. The greater the diversity of species in the wetland ecosystems studied, the higher the number of species more resistant to the pathogen. Transmission of the pathogen was 78.4% lower in the in the most species-diverse wetland communities, compared with the least species-diverse. The study provides evidence of a link between biodiversity and the spread of disease. This is perhaps unsurprising, given that there is plenty of evidence to show that populations with little biodiversity, such as monocultures, facilitate the spread of disease. However, the authors also caution that many other environmental factors, including resource availability, climate and habitat variables will interact to affect the rate of spread of disease within a community. The authors conclude higher levels of biodiversity could help to increase the resilience of wildlife, domestic plants and animals and humans to disease. Conservation efforts should aim to protect and enhance genetic and species diversity as a novel and cost-effective tool in the management of the spread of disease.

Payments for Ecosystem Services: lessons from around the World

Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) is increasingly considered, yet the concept is not well defined. A new study reviewing PES theory, concepts and practice from around the world provides a valuable overview. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment warned that degradation of ecosystem services is proceeding at an alarming rate. PES instruments are held by some to be a significant step towards recognising the economic benefits of ecosystem services in order to ensure their preservation. Published papers that addressed PES were reviewed. Researchers summarised the main approaches with discussion of differences between developed and developing nations. The majority of case studies (85%) concerned projects in developing countries, particularly in Latin America. However, the authors highlight that PES projects have a longer history in developed countries, dating back to agri-environment schemes with origins in the late 1960s and 1970s in the US, and early 1980s in the EU. A lack of research on transferable lessons between countries and continents was observed, particularly between developed and developing countries – probably due to historical, cultural, political and institutional differences. Factors identified as important for success in protecting ecosystem services, include the clear definition of property rights for providers, low transaction costs, the need to ensure schemes genuinely preserve ecosystem services which would not otherwise have been preserved and 'spatial targeting' to ensure priority locations are addressed, such as where services are most at risk or most likely to improve. All these improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of PES schemes. Procedural developments to address these factors were reviewed, such as improving efficiency through payment by results and bidding auctions amongst potential service providers. In the pursuit of maximum efficiency, however, difficult questions arise: the study observed that most PES schemes focus on the rural poor as service providers even when, on purely economic terms, they may not always be the most cost-efficient providers. However, it is the rural poor that depend on and utilise the ecosystem services, which has turned PES into a political and social instrument, rather than a purely economic one. In support of the conceptual discussion, the paper also outlines a number of PES projects, providing a useful source of case studies. These range from a water company in France that pays dairy farmers for land management sympathetic to the production of spring water, to a Costa Rican scheme in which national forest protection is paid for by carbon taxes.

In addition, other PES news includes:
The Stockholm Environment Institute has published the report Dialogue on Ecosystem Services, Payments and Outcome Based Approaches. The report covers the Baltic Sea region and aims to develop a methodology for an outcome-based approach for assessing ecosystem service provision. This would be as a pre-requisite for the introduction of schemes providing payments for ecosystem services. The report concludes that establishing outcome-based payments for ecosystem services needs to be accompanied by a shift in the policy focus from top-down driven contractual agreements with individuals to integrating local governance into the design and delivery of schemes, as well as supporting self governance of groups of land managers.

European News

European Commission adopts Green Infrastructure Strategy
The European Commission has adopted a green infrastructure strategy designed to:
• promote green infrastructure in the main policy areas;
• improve research and data;
• strengthen the knowledge base and promote innovative technologies;
• improve access to finance for green infrastructure projects; and
• support EU-level green infrastructure projects.
The strategy will encourage use of green infrastructure to provide solutions. It covers the following policy areas: agriculture; forestry; nature; water; marine and fisheries; regional and cohesion policy; climate change mitigation and adaptation; transport; energy; disaster prevention; and land use policies. Among elements of the strategy, the Commission will institute guidance later in 2013 on how to integrate the use of green infrastructure into the main policy areas and set up a financing facility under the European Investment Bank (EIB) by 2014 to support green infrastructure. The Commission will also study and assess the possible development of an EU-wide network of green infrastructure. In 2017, the European Commission will publish a report on lessons learned and recommendations for further action.

Mapping Ecosystems and Services
The European Commission has published a discussion paper on Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services. Action 5 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy states that "Member States, with the assistance of the Commission, will map and assess the state of ecosystems and their services in their national territory by 2014, assess the economic value of such services, and promote the integration of these values into accounting and reporting systems at EU and national level by 2020."
The objective of the discussion paper is to support the development of a coherent analytical framework to be applied by the EU and its Member States in achieving Action 5 of the Biodiversity Strategy.

Guidance on integrating climate change and biodiversity
The European Commission has published two guidance documents on integrating climate change and biodiversity. The first provides advice on integrating climate change and biodiversity into Environmental Impact Assessments and the second into Strategic Environmental Assessments. In terms of incorporating climate change and biodiversity into Environmental Impact Assessments, the guidance recommends that it is built into the assessment process at an early stage. It also says that how biodiversity and climate change is incorporated should be tailored to the specific context of the project. The guidance also says that assessments should consider the impact that predicted changes in climate and biodiversity will have on the proposed project, potentially over a long timescale, and the project's resilience and capacity to cope. Long-term trends should be considered and 'snapshot' analyses avoided. The guidance also says that avoiding biodiversity and climate change impacts should be achieved from the start, before considering mitigation or compensation. For biodiversity, Environmental Impact Assessments should focus on ensuring 'no-net-loss'.

Recommendations for implementing the 2020 European Biodiversity Strategy
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) staff have joined more than 200 scientists from 66 European research institutes and more than 25 countries to work with European policy-makers to develop scientifically sound, evidence-based recommendations on how to implement and realise the 2020 European Biodiversity Strategy. The six final recommendations were deemed to be the most urgent and important requirements to enable Europe to meet its biodiversity targets for 2020 and beyond. European Commission representatives agreed to use the conference's recommendations within the European policy development arena.
The six recommendations are:
1. Ecosystem health is the key to Natura 2000 (the EU's network of protected areas), together with genetic health of its species; both are extremely important for human health
2. Mapping ecosystems and valuing their services is seen as beneficial in most cases, but there remains great concern about economic valuation and merchandising of biodiversity
3. Knowing which problems need standard approaches and which need targeted approaches is vital to be able to apply effective regulation and innovative, diversified solutions
4. Science is the engine to generate adaptive management tools to optimise sustainable and ecosystem-based fisheries rather than management based on a single species approach
5. Policy should aim at the broad impact of Invasive Alien Species and their interaction with native biodiversity, health and food production, rather than on details: the first challenge is to develop legal and economic instruments
6. The price of food, fibre and water should encompass both the production and maintenance cost of the ecosystem.

Arctic Sea Ice melting

Arctic summer sea ice cover melted reached record lows, according to new satellite data. In a few years the Arctic ocean could be free of ice in summer, triggering major impacts on climate as well as a rush to exploit arctic resources. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the rate of decline for September Arctic ice extent over the satellite record is now 13.0% per decade, relative to the 1979 to 2000 average. The monthly July ice extent for 1979 to 2012 showed a decline of 7.1% per decade.

Continued loss of Arctic sea ice is likely to result in significant changes to global weather and precipitation patterns in the decades to come. Also of concern regarding Arctic sea ice loss is the warmer average temperatures it will bring to the Arctic in coming years. This will accelerate the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which holds enough water to raise sea levels by over 6 metres.

Satellites also see unprecedented surface melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8 2012, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12 2012. However, researchers have not yet determined whether this extensive melt event will affect the overall volume of ice loss this summer and contribute to sea level rise.

Update, September 16, 2012: Sea-ice coverage across the Arctic Ocean has dwindled to its second-lowest level since satellite records started in 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Changing winds could still push ice floes together, reducing ice extent further. The measurements for mid-September have yet to be collated but, according to scientists, the long-term trend now indicates an ice-free North Pole during summer within a decade. The implications for climate change could be significant, with the increased area of open water absorbing a greater amount of heat from the sun.

Update, October 12, 2012: Arctic sea ice extent for September 2012 was 3.61 million square kilometers, 3.43 million square kilometers below the 1979 to 2000 average extent. September 2012 ice extent was 690,000 square kilometers less than the previous record low for the month (in 2007). The six lowest September ice extents over the satellite record have all occurred in the last six years.

Ice around the South Pole has expanded to cover an increased area. The September 2012 monthly average was a record high, at 19.39 million square kilometers slightly higher than the previous record experienced in 2006. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, different processes are at work. An expansion of winter Antarctic ice could be due to cooling, winds, or snowfall, whereas Arctic summer sea ice decline is more closely linked to decadal climate warming.

Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt. Information on NASA web site.
Also on Scientific American: Greenland Sets New Summer Melt Record.
Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis. National Snow and Ice Data Center
Arctic sea ice "to melt by 2015".
Arctic Sea Ice Blog: interesting news and data.
Rate of arctic summer sea ice loss is 50% higher than predicted.
Sea Ice Outlook Report. This report, updated monthly during the summer melt season, synthesizes scientific projections concerning Arctic sea ice extent. From the Study of Environmental Arctic Change.
National Snow and Ice Data Center: Arctic Sea Ice News and Analysis

Methane discovery stokes new global warming fears

Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane - a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide - have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region. The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tons of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.

One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire Arctic region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.

Each methane molecule is about 70 times more potent in terms of trapping heat than a molecule of carbon dioxide. However, because methane it broken down more rapidly in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, scientist calculate that methane is about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a hundred-year cycle.

It is also considered that this release, coupled with other global warming influences, could lead to a runaway methane global warming effect due to the release of methane currently trapped in unstable methane hydrate deposits in the arctic that could be destabilised by accelerated global warming effects.

Article by the Independent, based on an interview with Igor Semiletov of the International Arctic Research Centre at the University of Alaska Fairbanks
Runaway Methane Global Warming. Article in Hydrogen Now Journal.

2010: The Year of Natural Disasters

A total of 950 natural catastrophes were recorded in 2010, 90% of which were weather-related events such as storms and floods, according to Munich RE in January 2011. The reinsurance business says that this total makes 2010 the year with the second-highest number of natural catastrophes since 1980. This greatly exceedes the average for the last ten years which was 785 events per year. The global distribution of natural catastrophes in 2010 was however comparable to that of previous years.

Munich RE estimates that losses from the natural catastrophes in 2010 totalled US$130 billion, of which approximately $37bn was insured.

The high number of weather-related natural catastrophes and record temperatures both globally and in different regions of the world provide further indications of advancing climate change.

For example, the warming water temperatures helped to fuel the intensity of hurricanes. In terms of the number and intensity of the storms, 2010 was one of the severest hurricane seasons of the past 100 years, although damage was limited because favourable conditions meant thay were largely confied to sea areas.

October 2012: A new study by Munich Re shows that North America has been most affected by weather-related extreme events in recent decades. The publication "Severe weather in North America" analyzes all kinds of weather perils and their trends. It reports and shows that the continent has experienced the largest increases in weather-related loss events.

Increase in climate related natural disasters
Source: "EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database

2010 is likely to rank in the top 3 warmest years since 1850

The year 2010 is almost certain to rank in the top 3 warmest years since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850, according to data sources compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global combined sea surface and land surface air temperature for January–October 2010 was estimated at 0.55°C (± 0.11°C) above the 1961–1990 annual average of 14.00°C. At present, 2010's nominal value is the highest on record, just ahead of 1998 (January-October anomaly +0.53°C) and 2005 (0.52°C). However, the final ranking of 2010 will not become clear until November and December data are analysed in early 2011. According to WMO, preliminary operational data from 1-25 November indicate that global temperatures from November 2010 are similar to those observed in November 2005, indicating that global temperatures for 2010 are continuing to track near record levels.

Concentrations of the main greenhouse gases have reached their highest levels recorded since pre-industrial times, according to the World Meteorological Organization’s 2009 Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

The World Meteorological Organization’s Statement on the Status of the Global Climate says that 2012 joined the ten previous years as one of the warmest — at ninth place — on record despite the cooling influence of a La Niña episode early in the year.

... more at: WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin

Average Global Temperature 1880-2009 with 10-year moving average

Global Annual Mean Surface Air Temperature Change

NASA GISS Surface Temperature Analysis

World Energy Outlook
The International Energy Agency, IEA, forecasts significantly increased energy consumption levels by 2035. The World Energy Outlook (WEO) reported forecasts that oil demand is set to grow strongly over the next 25 years, making it "all but impossible to achieve the 2°C goal …" set in 2009 at Copenhagen. These trends "are in line with greenhouse gas concentrations of over 650 CO2-eq., resulting in a likely temperature rise of more than 3.5°C in the long term". It is also considered that the increased demand for oil will result in an almost doubling of oil prices by 2035, with significant consequences for global economies.
WEO 2013
A new global energy landscape is emerging, resetting long-held expectations for our energy future. Incorporating these recent developments and world-class analysis, World Energy Outlook 2013 presents a full update of energy projections through to 2035 and insights into what they mean for energy security, climate change, economic development and universal access to modern energy services. Oil, coal, natural gas, renewables and nuclear power are all covered, with more country-level detail than ever before.

WEO 2012
The 2012 edition of the World Energy Outlook presents authoritative projections of energy trends through to 2035 and insights into what they mean for energy security, environmental sustainability and economic development. Oil, coal, natural gas, renewables and nuclear power are covered, together with an update on climate change issues. Global energy demand, production, trade, investment and carbon dioxide emissions are broken down by region or country, by fuel and by sector.

WEO-2012 presents in-depth analysis of several topical issues, including: the benefits that could be achieved if known best technologies and practices to improve energy efficiency were systematically adopted; the dependence of energy on water, including the particular vulnerabilities faced by the energy sector in a more water-constrained future; how the surge in unconventional oil and gas production in the United States is set to have implications well beyond North America; and a detailed country focus on Iraq, examining both its importance in satisfying the country's own needs and its crucial role in meeting global oil and gas demand. Furthermore, it analyses the implications of energy trends on climate change, quantifies the cost of subsidies to fossil fuels and renewables, which are both coming under closer scrutiny in this age of austerity, and presents measures of progress towards providing universal access to modern energy services.

Taking all new developments and policies into account, the world is still failing to put the global energy system onto a more sustainable path. Global energy demand grows by more than one-third over the period to 2035 in the New Policies Scenario (our central scenario),
with China, India and the Middle East accounting for 60% of the increase. Energy demand barely rises in OECD countries, although there is a pronounced shift away from oil, coal (and, in some countries, nuclear) towards natural gas and renewables. Despite the growth in lowcarbon sources of energy, fossil fuels remain dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies that amounted to $523 billion in 2011, up almost 30% on 2010 and six times more than subsidies to renewables.

The cost of fossil-fuel subsidies has been driven up by higher oil prices; they remain most prevalent in the Middle East and North Africa, where momentum towards their reform appears to have been lost. Emissions in the New Policies Scenario correspond to a long-term average global temperature increase of 3.6 °C.

It is not just climate change targets that look like being missed. The IEA also warns of the financial consequences of Copenhagen's failure to set a path towards a sustainable energy system. It estimates that globally $1,000 billion in extra investments will be needed by 2030 to avoid irreparable damage to the climate. The significant costs of delay echoes the warnings from the Stern Review that it makes economic sense to act sooner rather than later.

The related International Energy Outlook report predicts an increase of almost 90% in World energy consumption from 2000 to 2035. The total energy consumption in non-OECD countries increases by 181%, compared with an increase of 21% in OECD countries. 

(No International Energy Outlook (IEO) was released in 2012. The next edition of the report is scheduled for release in July 2013)

  OECD Non-OECD Total
1990 198.6 155.1 353.7
2000 234.5 171.5 406.0
2008 244.3 260.5 504.7
2015 250.4 323.1 573.5
2020 260.6 358.9 619.5
2025 269.8 401.7 671.5
2030 278.7 442.8 721.5
2035 288.2 481.6 769.8
And in related news items:
Managing Carbon: a global task that won't go away. ... more
World energy consumption: forecasts 2007-2035. (Quarrillion Btu)
Source: International Energy Outlook

Introducing Aliens: Can we cope with invasive species?
An excellent article by George Monbiot, 4th October 2010, "The Aliens Are Coming", looks briefly at some of the issues related to introduced species. Agricultural development needs to careful to ensure that best parctices are followed with regard to the problems of invasive species. Invasipedia houses information on invasive plants, animals, and pathogens, and especially how to best manage them.

Commitment to Development Index (CDI) 2012

Rich and poor countries are linked in many ways by foreign aid, commerce, migration, the environment, and military affairs. The Commitment to Development Index (CDI) rates a number of rich countries on how much they help they provide to poor countries to build prosperity, good government, and security. Each rich country gets scores in seven policy areas, which are averaged for an overall score:

  • Aid
  • Trade
  • Investment
  • Migration
  • Environment
  • Security
  • Technology
1. Sweden 1. Sweden 1. Denmark
2. Denmark 2. Denmark 2. Norway
2. Norway 2. Norway 3. Sweden
4. Netherlands 4. Austria 4. Luxembourg
5. Austria 5. Netherlands 5. Austria
6. New Zealand 6. Finland 6. Netherlands
7.  Ireland 7. New Zealand 7. Finland
8. Finland 8. United Kingdom 8. New Zealand
9. Portugal 9. Canada 9. United Kingdom
9. Spain 10. Ireland 10. Portugal
9. Canada 10. Portugal 11. Canada
12. United Kingdom 10. Belgium 11. Germany
13. Belgium 13. Germany 13. Belgium
13. Australia 14. Spain 13. France
14. Germany 15. Australia 15. Spain
16. France 15. France 15. Australia
17. Greece 17. Switzerland 17. Ireland
18. Italy 18. United States 18. Switzerland
19. United States 19. Greece 19. United States
20. Switzerland 20. Italy 20. Italy
21. Japan 21. Japan 21. Greece
22. South Korea 22. South Korea 22. Hungary
    23. Slovakia
    24. Czech Republic
    25. Poland
    26. Japan
    27. South Korea

For more information on the Commitment to Development Index (CDI), and for comparisons with other years, go to the Center for Global Development website.
Africa's Smallholder Farmers: Approaches that work for Viable Livelihoods
Report Launched 7 July 2010

This report has been produced by the African Smallholder Farmers Group, a network of International NGOs committed to creating an enabling environment for marginalised farmers across Africa.

The main thrust of the report is that donors and governments have been neglecting smallholder farmers in their development plans, yet the majority of the rural poor in Africa are smallholders and their main chance to lift themselves out of poverty must come from improved access to decision-making, knowledge, technology, assets, markets and equal opportunities, applied to their farming activities. 

The report showcases examples of successful new initiatives that are facilitating a transformation in rural livelihoods, and makes specific recommendations to the UK government to mainstream these approaches in their programmes, in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

The full report is available at:

Restoring Soils for Future Food Supply
- An Open Letter to the New British Government, July 2010

British policy on agriculture, at home and abroad, was made at a time when world food supplies were considered secure. We now know that food supply cannot be taken for granted because of ongoing decline in soil fertility, competition from bio-fuels and vulnerability to climate change.

In the next two years, DEFRA will renegotiate the Common Agricultural Policy, DFID must decide how to respond to world food crises and DECC will negotiate international deals on CO2 reduction.

There is growing international experience with a new farming technology – zero tillage – that improves soil health and allows high levels of food production to be sustained with lower inputs, less pollution and greater biodiversity.

A concerned group of UK agricultural scientists, including members of the Tropical Agricultural Association (TAA), the UK No-Till Alliance, and theNRgroup met together at Elterwater in the Lake District to formulate an Open Letter to the new UK Government. The letter was sent to the ministers for DEFRA, DFID and DECC on 8th July, 2010.

Download the full text of the letter here (pdf 882 KB)
or view the letter here

Switching to zero tillage could save the world
about £14,700 billion a year

Source of savings


On-farm margins


Reduced irrigation costs


Reduced flood damage


Slower silting of reservoirs and ports


Increased aquifer recharge


Net carbon gains


Total savings from zero tillage


For more information see the full text of the letter

For more information on Conservation Agriculture, see also:

Conservation Farming Unit, Zambia


Earlier News Items:

Climate change "will cause civilisation to collapse". Scenario indicated by 2009 State of the Future report.
Catastrophic climate change could happen in 50 years. UK Met Office summary.
Ecological credit crunch.
See WWF’s Living Planet Report.
Can African agriculture adapt to Climate Change? IFPRI Research Briefs.
Dont kill the planet in the name of saving the economy. The collision of the credit crunch and the climate crunch ...
The Impact of Peak Oil on International Development, by APPGOPO. A shift from industrialised agriculture to systems based on ecologically sound principles free from petro-chemical inputs is essential.



Page last updated October 2, 2013