Silver’s window of opportunity is closing, with prices poised for an ‘explosive move’ in 2024

Silver prices could be headed for an “explosive” rise in 2024 if global supplies continue to fall short of demand, and the Federal Reserve makes good on its plans to pivot to interest rate cuts in the coming months, according to metal-markets analysts.

While silver this year has underperformed gold, which saw prices touch record highs this year, the opportunity to snap up silver at bargain prices may be brief.

“The window for buying silver in the low- to mid-$20s is ending,” said Peter Spina, president of silver news and information provider

It is likely that silver prices next year will be pushing up toward the major $30-an-ounce technical resistance, he told MarketWatch, adding that he “fully” believes that the price barrier will fall. 

On Thursday, the most-active March contract for silver futures


settled at $24.39 an ounce on Comex, with prices up 6.4% for the session to erase what had been a loss for the year. It traded 1.4% higher year to date, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Gold futures

on the other hand, settled at $2.044.90 Thursday, up 2.4% for the session, up 12% for the year so far, and trading close to its record finish of $2,089.70 from Dec. 1.

Silver’s underperformance

Generally, silver moves with gold much more than with other commodities such as copper or oil, and silver’s moves tend to be bigger than gold’s as a percentage, said Keith Weiner, chief executive officer of Monetary Metals.

That’s what happened with silver’s recent move lower, he said. Silver, on Wednesday, tallied an eighth consecutive session loss, marking the longest streak of losses in just over a year and a half.

Both gold and silver had experienced similar trends in terms of “lack of investment demand” due to rising interest rates, said Chris Mancini, research analyst at Gabelli Funds. This has primarily manifested in outflows from both gold- and silver-backed exchange-traded funds, he said.

The iShares Silver Trust
which holds 441.47 million ounces of silver, has seen a year-to-date net asset value return of negative 0.3% as of Thursday.

Gold, however, has benefited from a surge in demand this year from central banks, which are buying gold to “diversify out of the U.S. dollar,” said Mancini.

Read: Global central-bank gold purchases reach a record high for the first 9 months of the year

Also see: Gold just hit a record high. Is it too late for investors to add it to portfolios?

Solid economic performance this year around the world, and specifically in the U.S., led to higher short-term rates from the Fed and other central banks, and the “subsequent decline in investor demand for gold and silver,” Mancini said.

Global physical investment demand for silver is forecast at 263 million ounces this year, down 21% from 333 million ounces in 2022, the Silver Institute reported in mid-November, citing data from Metals Focus.

Change of course

Silver prices rallied by late Wednesday afternoon, after the Federal Reserve penciled in three interest-rate cuts in 2024, instead of the two that were projected in September. 

That marked quite a change, as prices for silver had been trading lower for the year before that rally.

Prospects for an end to the Fed’s rate-hiking cycle weakened the U.S. dollar and Treasury yields, providing support for dollar-denominated gold prices — and silver along with them.

Read: Gold futures leap closer to record highs in one fell swoop

The Fed decision “put a reversal on industrial demand fears,” so the temporary pressure brought on by those fears has been removed, said Spina.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday had said officials from the central bank were starting to discuss when to cut interest rates.

New York Federal Reserve President John Williams appeared to walk back on those comments, telling CNBC Friday that Fed officials weren’t really talking about cutting rates right now.

At some point, the Fed is going to have to reverse course on interest rates, said Monetary Metals’ Weiner.

“When they do, it will be a catalyst for higher gold and silver prices, “perhaps much higher,” he said. “We are in a secular bull market now — this is not the bear market of 2012-2018.”

Bullish fundamentals

Global supply of silver, meanwhile, is expected to fall short of demand this year, for a third year in a row.

The “fundamentals for the silver market are extremely bullish,” Spina said, particularly with a structural deficit continuing for silver.

The report from the Silver Institute showed that global industrial demand for silver is expected to grow by 8% to a record 632 million ounces this year, buoyed by investment in photovoltaics — used in solar technology — power grid and 5G networks, growth in consumer electronics, and rising vehicle output.

The report showed 2023 global silver supply estimated at about 1 billion ounces, while total demand is seen at a larger 1.143 billion ounces. Metals Focus said it believes the deficit will “persist in the silver market for the foreseeable future.”

“The only last big driver missing for silver prices to explode is investor interest,” said Spina.

Keep in mind that silver is a “precious green metal,” he said. It benefits from strong growth in mandated green energy demand, which will continue to “push industrial demand to fresh records.”

Meanwhile, silver inventory stocks are being “drained,” as a structural deficit for physical silver competes for remaining inventories, said Spina.

“If the gold price is moving to record price highs in the coming weeks, silver is in the perfect set-up to test $30, with a likely breakout to $50…coming in 2024.”

— Peter Spina,

He expects silver prices to “re-challenge” $30 an ounce within the coming months, “if not sooner.”

Watch gold prices for the initial direction, he said. “If the gold price is moving to record price highs in the coming weeks, silver is in the perfect set-up to test $30, with a likely breakout to $50 [and ounce] coming in 2024.”

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The right to breathe: how policymakers can tackle severe asthma

Asthma impacts over 330 million people worldwide. While severe asthma makes up only 5-10 percent of cases, it is accountable for over half of asthma-related costs globally.[1] It profoundly affects patients’ lives, undermining their physical, mental and economic well-being, and increasing the risk of preventable deaths. Despite its significance, severe asthma is often overshadowed by other health priorities, leading to inadequate resource allocation and substandard care, further straining already pressured health systems.

Severe asthma outcomes, like many other chronic diseases, are deeply entangled with a wide range of environmental and socio-economic factors. Therefore, addressing it is not merely about medical intervention, but about creating and implementing comprehensive, holistic strategies.

The challenges presented by severe asthma are not beyond our capabilities. Around the globe, there is a wide range of best practices, treatments, and approaches to asthma management. Yet, the path to transformation demands a unified commitment from a broad set of stakeholders, from policymakers to medical professionals, industry, patients and beyond. While the blueprint for a future unburdened by severe asthma exists, it is up to decision-makers to realize it together.

While the blueprint for a future unburdened by severe asthma exists, it is up to decision-makers to realize it together.

And the good news is that progress is already underway. Since autumn 2022, we have collaborated as an international expert group to support the development of the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies’ (CIFS) Severe Asthma Index. This tool assesses how 29 OECD countries manage severe asthma across various indicators, such as national strategies, treatment access, hospitalizations, societal costs and air quality, among others.

While the Severe Asthma Index is an important stride in tackling severe asthma, the true test lies in how its insights are applied in practice. Among the many actions needed to be taken to improve severe asthma care, the most pressing concern is policy change.

We have identified three actions, derived from the work we have conducted to date, for policymakers to kickstart strengthening health systems’ approaches to and management of severe asthma:

  1. Development and implementation of national asthma plans and strategies

The Severe Asthma Index has found that less than half of the countries analyzed have a national strategy for asthma, prevention, and management. There is, therefore, a need to formulate and actively implement dedicated national asthma programs, tailored to the unique challenges of individual health systems. These programs should not only emphasize prevention, early detection and diagnosis but also adapt best practices to specific national and local contexts.

Importantly, plans should be situated in the context of long-term strategies for improving population health outcomes.

“In England, work around respiratory illness is gaining traction,” notes Sir David Behan, chair of Health Education England, NHS, and expert group member. “Part of the initiative being developed [is] to ease pressure on the emergency care pathways and hospitals.”  

All approaches should promote awareness on respiratory diseases, support personalized care plans, empower patients and improve training and opportunities for training health care professionals working in respiratory care.

2. Coordination and harmonization of policies and care guidelines

There is a patchwork of country approaches to severe asthma, illustrated by the observation that more than two-thirds of the country guidelines assessed in the Severe Asthma Index do not fully align with the Global Initiative for Asthma’s (GINA) guide for Difficult-to-treat and Severe Asthma in Adolescence And Adult Patients. Policymakers must strive to coordinate their approaches to severe asthma by harmonizing policies and guidelines for asthma care to the greatest possible extent, with the aim of reducing outcome disparities, bolstering equity and promoting health system sustainability.

In doing so, there should be an emphasis on identifying and scaling best practices, promoting cross-border collaboration, and championing holistic solutions informed by the widely-acclaimed Health in All Policies approach.

The Australian National Asthma Council’s Australian Asthma Handbook is a strong example of a best practice in this area that policymakers could draw inspiration from in acting on this point.

3. Supporting improved data collection and the development of a more robust evidence base for severe asthma

Policymakers should incentivize and ultimately mandate improved production, recording and utilization of asthma- and severe asthma-specific data, as well as identifier data such as prescription data, adherence to treatment regimes, lung function analysis and demographic and socioeconomic indicators, following a set of common standards.

Currently, despite the existence of clinical codes for severe asthma, the condition remains significantly underreported in clinical settings due in large part to inconsistent coding practices, leading to an increased probability of patients receiving inadequate care and suboptimal allocation of health system resources. The dearth of severe asthma data and barriers to accessing the few datasets that do exist render it difficult to develop a comprehensive and consistent understanding of the full impact of severe asthma.

National policymakers need to prioritize financial and logistical support for country-level asthma research. Research activities should aim to produce a solid evidence base that will offer a nuanced understanding of each country’s needs, challenges and opportunities regarding asthma care. Support for research activities granted over the long term will enable longitudinal studies so that national trends and progress can be accurately tracked.

Only 3 percent of the European Union’s budget for health [is] spent on lung health, although 13 percent of Europeans have lung disease.

“Only 3 percent of the European Union’s budget for health [is] spent on lung health, although 13 percent of Europeans have lung disease,” says Susanna Palkonen, director of the European Federation of Allergy & Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) and expert group member.

The International Severe Asthma Registry (ISAR) initiative provides a strong basis for continued work in this area.

The path ahead requires that these actions evolve in tandem with the latest advancements in respiratory care and approaches to the management and prevention of noncommunicable diseases. This is not simply about updating and developing new policies — it’s about crafting robust and well-rounded solutions that proactively address a health challenge that is both global and local and supporting a much-needed vision for improved respiratory health outcomes.

As we look forward, we cannot just treat asthma. We must transform our approach to ensure that every patient’s right to breathe becomes a global reality.

Patrick Henry Gallen, senior advisor and futurist at Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies

Bogi Eliasen, director of health at Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies

Professor Dr. Vibeke Backer, MD, DMSci, chief respiratory physician at Department of ENT and Centre for Physical Activity Research (CFAS), Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, Denmark

Sir David Behan, chair Health Education England, National Health System (NHS), U.K.​

Dr. Mark Levy, board member, Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA), U.K.​

Mikaela Odemyr, chair European Lung Foundation (ELF) Patient Advisory Committee; chair Swedish Asthma and Allergy Association, Sweden

Susanna Palkonen, director, European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA)  

Professor Dr. Arzu Yorgancıoğlu, chair European Respiratory Society (ERS) Advocacy Council; member of Global Initiative on Asthma (GINA) Board; chair of GINA Dissemination and Implementation Committee; chair of the WHO GARD Executive Committee Turkey 

[1] Al Efraij K, FitzGerald JM. Current and emerging treatments for severe asthma. J Thorac Dis 2015;7(11):E522-E525

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IBBC’s Two-Day Conference Success: ‘Building a Sustainable Future for Iraq’ | Iraq Business News

From the Iraq Britain Business Council (IBBC):

IBBC’s two-day conference success ‘Building a sustainable future for Iraq’.

IBBC held an expanded two- day conference in Dubai to coincide with Cop 28 to focus on ‘a sustainable future for Iraq’, with one day dedicated to Education and Training and one for Business, Investment, and Energy.

IBBC welcomed its largest delegations to date, reflecting both the scope of the discussions and the interest in Iraq.

Of particular note was interest in the Education and Skills day, which not only enjoyed the largest turnout from business members and top UK Education speakers for Iraq anywhere, but also leading figures; UK’s Lord Boateng who made a keynote speech; Wayne David MP, Shadow Minster for Middle East and Dr. Jamal Abdulzahra Mezaal Khoailed, Advisor to the Iraqi President; Professor Hamid Khalaf Ahmed, Iraqi PM Advisor & Executive Director at the Higher Committee for Education Development in Iraq, and the UK’s largest recent contingent of universities operating and engaging with Iraq. The British Ambassador to Iraq, Mr Stephen Hitchen and Professor Alaa Alzwghaibi, of the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education also spoke.

Key topics focused on vocational training, skills, and education relevant for the modernisation and development of Iraq, the new Iraqi Government scholarship fund and academic and business collaboration, a new initiative and advisory board between business and Govt set up to focus university courses to the relevant needs of Iraq’s economy. Leading IBBC businesses also contributed, including Sardar Group, SAP, Hydro-C and a special presentation to Basra Gas Company who are recruiting and developing Iraqi graduates (40% of whom are women) for employment.

The Education day was opened by its main sponsor Dr Amir Sadaati of GEMS. It was chaired throughout in exspert manner by IBBC’s Health and education Advisor, Professor Mohammed Al Uzri.

Full list of speakers also include:

Professor Mary Stiasny, University of London; Dr Mohammed Shukri, Kurdistan Regional Government; H.E. Mr Alan Hama Saeed Salih, Ministry of Education Vocational Training, IRCS Centre for Vocational Training; Dr Yaseen Ahmed Abbas, President of Iraqi Red Crescent Society; Dr Tony Degazon, City and Guilds; H.E Dr Naji Al Mahdi, Chief Qualification and Awards KHDA, Dubai; Dr Ahmed Kanan Al-Jaafari, Supervision and Scientific Research Apparatus; Mr Gavin Busuttil-Reynaud, AQA- Alphaplus; Dr Hazim Al-Zubaidi, MOHESR, Iraq; Mr Peter O`Hara, University of London; Dr Kenan Barut, Cambridge University Press & Assessment; Mr Mahul Shah, Occupational English Test (OET); Mr Muhammad Zohaib, Chief Executive LRN; Dr Stephen Land PhD, University of Dundee; Professor Paul Coulthard, Queen Mary University of London; Professor Paul A. Townsend, University of Surrey; Professor Angela Simpson University of Chester.

Day two saw a deeper focus on business and the conference theme ‘Building a sustainable future for Iraq’. As in previous years the Business Day was chaired by IBBC’s GCC representative and Board Member Mr Vikas Handa.

Sustainability is directly linked to the environmental challenge on going at Cop 28 and affecting Iraq directly. As Dr Fareed Yaseen, Iraq’s Climate Envoy  said –

‘Iraq is in the front line of climate change, and its affecting all areas of the country from desertification of agriculture, to migration and water shortage and the possibility areas of the country may become uninhabitable from heat. Iraq is catching up in its compliance with Cop, having started late in 2009. Key is to adapt and develop a sustainable economy, a resilient private business sector, investment, work force training and agriculture.’

President of IBBC Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, welcomed delegates and ministers:

H.E. Dr Thani Bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, UAE, who stated trade with Iraq has increased 12.5% this year and we will collaborate on climate change; Dr. Abdulkareem Al Faisal, Chairman of the Prime Ministers Advisory Commission, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Sudani; Dr Mohammed Shukri, Chairman, Kurdistan Board of Investment, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Barzani;  Ambassador Stephen Hitchen, HM Ambassador to Iraq; Mr Wayne David MP, UK Shadow Minster for the MENA, articulated how Labour would focus their foreign policy if elected in ’24,

Panels included a Finance and Investment panel led by member Mr Raed Hanna of Mutual Finance; Mr Bilal Al-Sugheyer, IFC; Mr Mohammed Al-Delaimy, TBI; Dr Boutros Klink, SCB; Dr Sameer Al-Waely, Central Bank of Iraq, Mr Hani Idris, UAE Barnach Director of the International Development Bank,  at which the formation of a new foreign exchange bank was announced by the CBI.

A vibrant Energy session outlining the dramatic progress the oil and gas companies are undertaking to invest in capturing gas (for conversion into electivity) reduction in Co2 through process engineering, and cleaner air, gas and oil production, speakers included Chairman: Mr Vikas Handa; Mr Laith Al Shaher, IBBC Advisory Council; Ms Dunia Chalabi, TotalEnergies; Mr Zaid Elyaseri, BP; Mr Hassan Heshmat, Hydro – C; Mr Andrew Wiper, Basrah Gas  Company; Mr Muhanad Al-Saffar, Siemens Energy Iraq; Mr Rasheed Janabi, GE Vernova.

The Tech forum focused on how tech and data can help Iraq adapt to climate change and carbon transition, including insightful presentations from SAP, EY, Neom, UK’s Climate business advisor  (new report available here) and UAE’s Hyperloop engineer, to show us the way forward in building and infrastructure tech. (recording video here) Batoul Husseini, SAP MENA; Ahmed Gailani, UK GOV CCC committee; Owais Afridi, Director, Consulting of EY sustainability practice in MENA; Prof. Dr Sabih G. Khisaf, ICE; Mr Hussam Chakouf, NEOM.

IBBC’s MD Mr Christophe Michels hosted a roundtable discussion for 3 KRG Ministers, Dr Mohammed Shukri, Chairman, Kurdistan Board of Investment, Ms Begard Talabani, Minister for Water Resources & Agriculture, and Mr Kamal Muslim, Minister of Trade and Industry. A final panel asked, ‘What constitutes Business Successes?’

We heard passionate family insights about innovation, persistence, hard work, and adaptation from Mr Amar Shubar, Management Partners; Mr Andrew Martin, Al Busttan; Mr Richard Cotton, AAA Holding Group Ltd; Mrs Samar Al Mafraji, Sardar Group; Mr Aziz Khudairi, Khudairi Group.

The conference ended with Mr Christophe Michels thanking everyone involved and looking forward to the Spring Conference at The Mansion House in London on June 27th 2024.

IBBC is grateful to all of its Members for their support and contribution. Special thanks go to conference sponsors: AAA HoldingAl BusttanGEMS, TBISardar Group, Hydro-C and Basrah Gateway Terminal.

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It’s time to hang up on the old telecoms rulebook

Joakim Reiter | via Vodafone

Around 120 years ago, Guglielmo Marconi planted the seeds of a communications revolution, sending the first message via a wireless link over open water. “Are you ready? Can you hear me?”, he said. Now, the telecommunications industry in Europe needs policymakers to heed that call, to realize the vision set by its 19th-century pioneers.

Next-generation telecommunications are catalyzing a transformation on par with the industrial revolution. Mobile networks are becoming programmable platforms — supercomputers that will fundamentally underpin European industrial productivity, growth and competitiveness. Combined with cloud, AI and the internet of things, the era of industrial internet will transform our economy and way of life, bringing smarter cities, energy grids and health care, as well as autonomous transport systems, factories and more to the real world.

5G is already connecting smarter, autonomous factory technologies | via Vodafone

Europe should be at the center of this revolution, just as it was in the early days of modern communications.

Next-generation telecommunications are catalyzing a transformation on par with the industrial revolution.

Even without looking at future applications, the benefits of a healthy telecoms industry for society are clear to see. Mobile technologies and services generated 5 percent of global GDP, equivalent to €4.3 trillion, in 2021. More than five billion people around the world are connected to mobile services — more people today have access to mobile communications than they do to safely-managed sanitation services. And with the combination of satellite solutions, the prospect of ensuring every person on the planet is connected may soon be within reach.

Satellite solutions, combined with mobile communications, could eliminate coverage gaps | via Vodafone

In our recent past, when COVID-19 spread across the world and societies went into lockdown, connectivity became critical for people to work from home, and for enabling schools and hospitals to offer services online.  And with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when millions were forced to flee the safety of their homes, European network operators provided heavily discounted roaming and calling to ensure refugees stayed connected with loved ones.

A perfect storm of rising investment costs, inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes and intensifying competition from adjacent industries is bearing down on telecoms businesses across Europe.

These are all outcomes and opportunities, depending on the continuous investment of telecoms’ private companies.

And yet, a perfect storm of rising investment costs, inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes and intensifying competition from adjacent industries is bearing down on telecoms businesses across Europe. The war on our continent triggered a 15-fold increase in wholesale energy prices and rapid inflation. EU telecoms operators have been under pressure ever since to keep consumer prices low during a cost-of-living crisis, while confronting rapidly growing operational costs as a result. At the same time, operators also face the threat of billions of euros of extra, unforeseen costs as governments change their operating requirements in light of growing geopolitical concerns.

Telecoms operators may be resilient. But they are not invincible.

The odds are dangerously stacked against the long-term sustainability of our industry and, as a result, Europe’s own digital ambitions. Telecoms operators may be resilient. But they are not invincible.

The signs of Europe’s decline are obvious for those willing to take a closer look. European countries are lagging behind in 5G mobile connectivity, while other parts of the world — including Thailand, India and the Philippines — race ahead. Independent research by OpenSignal shows that mobile users in South Korea have an active 5G connection three times more often than those in Germany, and more than 10 times their counterparts in Belgium.

Europe needs a joined-up regulatory, policy and investment approach that restores the failing investment climate and puts the telecoms sector back to stable footing.

Average 5G connectivity in Brazil is more than three times faster than in Czechia or Poland. A recent report from the European Commission — State of the Digital Decade ( shows just how far Europe needs to go to reach the EU’s connectivity targets for 2030.

To arrest this decline, and successfully meet EU’s digital ambitions, something has got to give. Europe needs a joined-up regulatory, policy and investment approach that restores the failing investment climate and puts the telecoms sector back to stable footing.

Competition, innovation and efficient investment are the driving forces for the telecoms sector today. It’s time to unleash these powers — not blindly perpetuate old rules. We agree with Commissioner Breton’s recent assessment: Europe needs to redefine the DNA of its telecoms regulation. It needs a new rulebook that encourages innovation and investment, and embraces the logic of a true single market. It must reduce barriers to growth and scale in the sector and ensure spectrum — the lifeblood of our industry — is managed more efficiently. And it must find faster, futureproofed ways to level the playing field for all business operating in the wider digital sector.  

But Europe is already behind, and we are running out of time. It is critical that the EU finds a balance between urgent, short-term measures and longer-term reforms. It cannot wait until 2025 to implement change.

Europeans deserve better communications technology | via Vodafone

When Marconi sent that message back in 1897, the answer to his question was, “loud and clear”. As Europe’s telecoms ministers convene this month in León, Spain, their message must be loud and clear too. European citizens and businesses deserve better communications. They deserve a telecoms rulebook that ensures networks can deliver the next revolution in digital connectivity and services.

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PTFE ban: The hidden consumer costs and employment losses

As part of the EU’s landmark Green Deal package, the 2020 Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability called for an ambitious concept: achieving a toxic-free environment by 2030. A central pillar of this ambition is the proposal for a universal PFAS — per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — restriction, addressing contamination and emissions from the controversial family of substances sometimes known as ‘forever chemicals’.

Action to tackle this family of chemicals is overdue, and European industry is ready to do its part. As the president of the Federation of the European Cookware, Cutlery and Houseware Industries (FEC), I welcome the initiative. FEC members pride themselves on providing safe and durable products to consumers, and were early to phase out these problematic substances. Despite this, the current restriction proposal still needs substantial changes to achieve its goals of protecting human health and the environment while balancing socioeconomic effects, impacts on carbon emissions and circularity.

While many elements of the proposed restriction are well justified, some risk damaging the EU industry’s competitiveness and hindering progress on the green and digital transitions, all while banning substances which are known to be safe. The European authorities need to understand the impacts of the proposal more thoroughly before making decisions which will harm consumers and the European workforce, and perhaps even result in worse environmental outcomes.

The current restriction proposal still needs substantial changes to achieve its goals of protecting human health and the environment while balancing socioeconomic effects.

As the most complex and wide-ranging chemical restriction in EU history, it is essential that the institutions take no shortcuts, and take the time to clearly understand the unintended environmental and socioeconomic impacts on every sector.

The PFAS restriction proposal is broad, covering over 10,000 substances, many of which were not considered part of the PFAS family in the past. In an effort to catch all possible problematic chemicals that could be used in the future, the member countries which proposed the restriction have cast a net so wide that it also includes substances which pose no risk. Even the OECD, the source of the broad scope used by the authorities, concedes that its definition is not meant to be used to define the list of chemicals to be regulated.

In addition to the legacy PFAS substances, which have serious concerns for human health and the environment, the proposal also includes fluoropolymers in its scope, which are not mobile in the environment, not toxic and not bioaccumulative — a stark contrast to the controversial PFAS substances at the center of contamination scandals across Europe and around the globe.

As the most complex and wide-ranging chemical restriction in EU history, it is essential that the institutions take no shortcuts.

Fluoropolymers are well studied, with ample scientific evidence demonstrating their safety, and unlike legacy PFAS, technologies exist to control and eliminate any emissions of substances of concern from manufacturing to disposal.

Fluoropolymers are not only safe, their safety is a primary reason for their widespread use. They provide critical functionality in sensitive applications like medical devices, semiconductors and renewable energy technology. They are also used in products we all use in our day-to-day lives, from non-stick cookware to electrical appliances to cars. While in some cases there are alternatives to fluoropolymers, these replacements are often inferior, more expensive, or have even more environmental impact in the long run. Where alternatives aren’t yet identified, companies will need to spend large sums to identify replacements.

In the cookware industry, for example, fluoropolymers provide durable, safe and high-performing non-stick coatings for pots, pans and cooking appliances used by billions of people across Europe and around the globe. Decades of research and development show that not only are these products safe, but their coatings provide the most high-performing, durable and cost-effective solution. Continued research and development of these products is one of the reasons that the European cookware industry is considered a world leader.

Fluoropolymers are well studied, with ample scientific evidence demonstrating their safety and … technologies exist to control and eliminate any emissions of substances of concern from manufacturing to disposal.

Given the critical role that fluoropolymers play in so many products and technologies, forcing a search for inferior or even nonexistent alternatives will harm the EU’s competitiveness and strategic autonomy. In the cookware industry alone, the restriction could cost up to 14,800 jobs in Europe, reduce the economic contribution of the sector to the GDP by up to €500 million, and result in a major shift of production from Europe to Asia, where the products would be made under much less stringent environmental rules. Consumers will also suffer, with new alternatives costing more and being less durable, requiring more frequent replacement and therefore resulting in a larger environmental impact.

Beyond this, companies that enable the green transition, deliver life-saving medical treatments, and ensure our technology is efficient and powerful will all be required to engage in expensive and possibly fruitless efforts to replace fluoropolymers with new substances. What would be the benefit of these costs and unintended consequences, when fluoropolymers are already known to be safe across their whole lifecycle?

Given the critical role that fluoropolymers play in so many products and technologies, forcing a search for inferior or even nonexistent alternatives will harm the EU’s competitiveness and strategic autonomy.

The scale of the PFAS restriction is unprecedented, but so are the possible unintended consequences. Industry has contributed comprehensive evidence to help fill in the blanks left by the initial proposal, it is now up to the institutions to take this evidence into account. With such a far-reaching initiative, it is essential that the EU institutions and the member countries thoroughly consider the impacts and ensure the final restriction is proportional, preserves European competitiveness and does not undermine the broader strategic objectives set for the coming years.

Founded in 1952, FEC, the Federation of the European Cookware, Cutlery and Housewares Industries, represents a strong network of 40 international companies, major national associations and key suppliers spread over Europe, including in Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Our mission is to promote cooperation between members, and to provide expertise and support on economic and technical topics.

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Large Herbivores Can Help Prevent Massive Wildfires

In 2019 and 2020, a megafire scorched eastern Australia, destroying some 24 million hectares of land, and adding to the hole in the ozone layer. Another massive fire ate away parts of Northern California in 2018, and slowly animals are starting to return. Over the years fires have scorched parts of Africa, including a 15,000-hectare disaster in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While the frequency, intensity and severity of large-scale wildfires might be a consequence of climate change, there is another cause receiving little attention: the decline of large herbivore populations. Large herbivores regulate nature’s fire systems by eating plant matter that fuels wildfires and turning over soil and vegetation litter as a result of their rummaging behavior. But, large herbivores are in trouble. About 60 percent of species of the world’s largest terrestrial herbivores are at risk of vanishing, for two key reasons: one, because of extensive overhunting, to feed rising populations across the developing world, and two, as part of encroachment by livestock, deforestation and expanding cultivation in the developed world.

Ecosystem engineering to reintroduce large herbivores into fire-prone regions in Australia has shown some promise, yet conservationists and media outlets often portray these animals as helpless victims. As a relatively inexpensive part of any fire prevention strategy, we must prioritize the reintroduction of either wild or domestic large herbivores into fire-prone areas to help prevent these disasters.

Wildfire is not always the enemy. Low-intensity fire destroys invasive species, for example, that have not adapted. But the consequences of megafires, continuous fires that cover more than 10,000 hectares, or the equivalent of approximately 14,000 soccer fields, are uniquely devastating. Large fires, and the smoke they create, have caused the deaths of more than 30,000 people annually in 43 countries. In 2022, wildfires in the U.S. caused an estimated $18.09 billion in property damage. In addition, the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center says federal fire suppression costs have skyrocketed from $240 million in 1985 to about $3.5 billion in 2022.

Megafires are part of the blowback from the loss of biodiversity. Large herbivores like the American bison and the white rhinoceros traditionally clipped grass and ate shrubs, reducing available wildfire fuel. Their feeding habits changed the composition of vegetation over vast areas, creating diverse habitats. These habitats differed in their vulnerability to wildfires, producing a vast mosaic of natural firebreaks, which experts say affected the regularity, speed and strength of wildfires. In addition, reduced leaf matter leads to decreased flame height and rate of fire spread.

Wild herbivores also help reduce the spread of wildfires in other ways. For instance, animal trails have been proven to limit the spread of low-intensity wildfires by creating firebreaks. Large herbivores such as Cape buffalo and red deer make temporary pools by creating wallows, which also interrupt wildfires. On the southern Russian steppes, livestock populations that have declined since the fall of the Soviet Union led to an increase in fuel for wildfires; there was a rapid increase in the area burned by wildfire.

This is not just a modern phenomenon. Archeological evidence indicates that the extinction of species like mammoths, giant kangaroos and other megafauna as a result of human expansion more than 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, led to an increase in wildfires.

In the present, places like California and southern Australia have felt the brunt of these infernos almost every summer. These are areas where mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers prevail, and, unsurprisingly, these areas have had major declines in large herbivores. Among the 29 Australian terrestrial mammals that have become extinct over the past two centuries were several ecosystem engineers whose burrowing activities increased the speed of leafy debris’ decomposition.

In 2022, California’s black-tail deer and mule deer populations was estimated to be around 475,000 according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, a sharp reduction from about two million back in 1960. This decline has contributed significantly to an accumulation of flammable vegetation since one deer can consume about seven pounds of vegetation per day, about 2,555 pounds annually.

Rewilding large wild and domestic herbivores for wildfire prevention has worked before. Researchers in Australia reintroduced “ecosystem engineers” including species of rat and wallaby, to areas from which they had disappeared. Leaf litter was significantly lower, and fire behavior modeling illustrated these animals had substantial impacts on flame height and speed. Livestock grazing has also reduced fire frequency in Southern Arizona. Another example is the reintroduction of giant tortoises to Española Island in the Galápagos, which has regulated shrubbery and created mosaics of vegetation, mitigating the spread of wildfires.

Every ecosystem will need a specific plan. For example, to address the fire risk on abandoned farmland, a specific kind of livestock would have to perform extensive or targeted intensive grazing, which is the use of domesticated large herbivores for a predetermined duration and intensity.

According to experts, the most effective strategy generally is to combine both grazing and browsing herbivores in sufficient numbers with browsers feeding primarily on leaves, soft shoots or fruits of woody plants like shrubs, while grazers eat grass and other herbaceous plants. Additionally, herbivore food preferences need to match the local vegetation. For example, certain types of goats have been found to have more of an impact in reducing fuel biomass than cows because the former feeds on more diverse vegetation types than the latter.

Cows would be more useful in predominantly grassy environments as their diet is fairly restricted to grasses, while some larger breeds of goats have a wider variety of vegetation in their diets including branches, young trees or tree bark that other herbivore species find inedible. Herbivore reintroduction may also need to be combined with other strategies like mechanical clearing to reduce wildfire damage.

Ignoring the benefits of reintroducing large herbivores into fire-prone regions will risk the lives of people who live in these areas, could ruin national economies, and will threaten biodiversity and vital habitats. Megafires also release large amounts of stored carbon, worsening climate change. This summer has witnessed megafires in Hawaii, Canada, Algeria and Greece. But equally worrying is that large wildfires are occurring where they previously did not.

Successful land-management strategies must be all-inclusive and involve a variety of groups and individuals who have a vested interest in reducing fire risk. This includes ranchers, NGOs, fisher-folk, hunters, Indigenous peoples, landowners and recreationists. Funding for rewilding projects can help turn the tide against the global decline and disappearance of these large and environmentally influential plant consumers. Such efforts can also boost economic activities like biodiversity conservation and ecotourism.

This is an opinion and analysis article, and the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Six Ways to Stay Safe Outdoors in Extreme Heat

The summer sun has been anything but fun for many this year. Brutal temperatures torched records across the U.S. as they peaked globally in July. Relentless heat waves baked the Southwest and rolled into the Midwest and South, occasionally enveloping other regions that are completely unaccustomed to such extremes. Exposure to this kind of heat isn’t just uncomfortable; it can kill. As summer heat becomes more intense and indoor air-conditioning becomes a life-support system, the season may cease being a time to enjoy the outdoors—if we don’t find new ways to stay safe outside.

“We’re seeing a compounding crisis of health risks and climate-related impacts,” says Cecilia Sorensen, a Columbia University physician-scientist who studies health problems that emerge from climate change. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that hospitals in the region that includes Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma recorded a major spike in heat-related illness and emergency department visits this summer. In the last week of July alone, more than 170 million Americans were placed under heat alerts, raising concerns that 2023 will set a record-high annual death toll from heat-related illnesses.

“Extreme heat is one of the terrifying aspects of climate change, and it’s important that people understand how to protect themselves and others,” Sorensen says. With such weather patterns getting longer, more frequent and more intense as the planet warms, Sorensen and other experts told Scientific American what people can do to adapt and prepare for hotter, dangerous summers.

Plan Your Outdoor Activities Deliberately

Simply stepping outside to collect the mail or walk the dog for a few minutes can be a problem in extreme heat, so it’s best to steer clear of more strenuous outdoor activities. But if you do go out, schedule anything physically demanding for the cooler hours whenever possible. In Maricopa County, Arizona—the state’s most populous county and home to the city of Phoenix—outdoor deaths have driven an increase in heat-associated fatalities in recent years. In 2012 outdoor heat-associated deaths accounted for 58 percent of the total. In 2022 the figure was 80 percent.

Credit: June Kim; Source: 2022 Heat Deaths Report. Division of Epidemiology and Informatics, Department of Public Health, Maricopa County, June 2023

Hiking and camping are prime summer vacation staples. But this year places such as national parks have become hotspots for heat exhaustion and heat-related deaths. Since the beginning of June at least seven people have died in national and state parks from heat-related causes, including a 14-year-old boy who collapsed in Big Bend National Park in Texas and an experienced 71-year-old hiker who died in Death Valley National Park, which encompasses regions of California and Nevada. Even if you’re a seasoned hiker or accustomed to coping with hot climates, experts and park officers say you shouldn’t underestimate the risks of the scalding heat we’re dealing with now. “If someone is planning a long trek, preparation is critical to prevent the heat turning from just uncomfortable to actually deadly,” says Grant Lipman, an emergency medicine physician and chief medical officer of GOES (which stands for Global Outdoor Emergency Support). The company’s mobile app, GOES Health, provides information on managing injuries and other unexpected situations in nature, including serious heat exposure.

Lipman says hikers should pack more water than they anticipate needing and plan for the return journey to take longer than the one to the initial destination. He also endorses the buddy system. “Your friend might notice you’re showing symptoms of heat exhaustion before you do,” he says.

If the heat begins to feel intolerable or you find yourself running out of water faster than anticipated, turn around and head back to the trailhead. Leave behind your ego, Lipman says—the summit will still be there another day.

Lipman uses an iteration of mountaineer Ed Viesturs’s motto: “Going out is optional, but coming back is mandatory,” he says. “That’s important to remember, especially as extreme heat continues to affect how we approach outdoor activities.”

Replenish Fluids and Electrolytes

When temperatures begin to skyrocket, it can be challenging to gauge just how much fluid your body is losing. Consistent fluid intake is essential. It’s always better to prevent dehydration rather than have to react to it, so make sure you’re hydrated before going outside. You should continue to drink fluids while outdoors and follow the golden rule of hydration: drink when you’re thirsty.

Lipman strongly recommends pairing fluids with a salty snack or drink. “When you exercise or sweat, you don’t just lose water but also electrolytes like sodium that your body needs to function,” he says.

Be Aware of Heat’s Indirect Health Effects

Extreme heat on its own may not be the most common cause of heat-related deaths, but it can combine with other factors that amplify risks. For example, high temperatures act as a chemical catalyst and convert existing elements in the air into ozone and other polluting by-products, lowering air quality in the process. “So it might be time to bring out that HEPA [high-efficiency particulate air] filter again,” Sorensen says.

Unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can also lead to skin or eye damage, immune system suppression and skin cancer. Experts say a double layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen, along with other protection, such as sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat, will shield you from the most harmful effects.

Sorensen adds that heat can trigger flare-ups in a surprisingly large range of chronic health conditions, including asthma, hypertension, migraines, rosacea, chronic kidney disease, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. “We call heat a silent killer because only a small percentage of deaths during heat waves are because of heat stroke,” Sorensen says. People with underlying conditions may want to consult a doctor about how extreme heat can specifically affect them. Staying informed and attuned to symptoms is crucial.

A line graph shows an age-adjusted rate of hospitalizations for heat-related illnesses, by state, from 2000 to 2022.

Credit: June Kim; Source: National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Learn the Signs of Heat-Related Illness

The human body is built to adapt to rising temperatures—but only up to a point. Your body will sweat to prevent overheating. Sweating too much under extreme heat and humidity, however, may cause you to lose the salts and electrolytes that muscles need to function. This leads to cramps, typically located in the legs or stomach, which are often the first sign of heat exhaustion. Then brain function becomes impaired, causing symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting. In severe cases, the deadliest stage is heat stroke, which is when people show signs of agitation and delirium and may lose consciousness.

“If you don’t get to a hospital or cool down within 30 minutes [of showing symptoms of heat stroke], you’re looking at permanent damage,” Sorensen says. Organs begin to shut down, and the heart works overtime to circulate blood through the body, which can cause cardiac arrest. Sorensen notes that heat stroke is particularly dangerous because of its unpredictability. Symptoms can develop slowly over several hours or days, but they can also surface after just 10 minutes of extreme heat exposure—without being preceded by heat exhaustion.

Heat tolerance also varies a great deal between individuals, says Matthew Levy, an associate professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University. “People react differently to the same heat stress based on age, medical conditions and familiarity with high temperature environments, among other factors,” he adds. But Levy says there is one important rule that applies to everyone: the longer one’s exposure to extreme heat, the greater the risk of developing a related illness.

If you notice signs of heat exhaustion or stroke in yourself or someone nearby, know how to act. Immediately find a shaded or air-conditioned area to rest and cool the body’s internal temperature. Other cooling methods include wetting the skin, soaking clothing with cool water and taking a cold shower or bath if possible. “Cold-water immersion is the most effective way of lowering your core body temperature,” Levy says.

Keep Your Indoor Spaces Cool

Air-conditioning can create an indoor haven against heat waves. But surges in utility bills and power outages during the summer can make the outdoor heat feel inescapable even when you’re inside. Raise the thermostat a few degrees above your desired temperature or spend the day’s hottest hours in cooling centers or other air-conditioned public spaces, such as libraries, coffee shops, movie theaters or malls, to help save on electricity costs.

During power outages, close the curtains during the day to keep your home from heating like a greenhouse. Position battery-operated fans where they draw the coolest air, such as on a windowsill, if it’s even slightly cooler outside. But fans can backfire and turn a room into a convection oven when indoor temperatures exceed about 95 degrees Fahrenheit. At such levels, blowing hot air on the body makes it gain heat instead of lose it.

Check In on Others

While extreme heat can affect anyone, certain people are more vulnerable. That includes the elderly, young children, people with chronic medical conditions and essential outdoor workers. Temperature extremes can also inflict a psychological toll on people who don’t have preexisting mental health conditions.

Knowing which people in your life are more susceptible to heat stress helps you better support them when rising temperatures threaten their health. Conducting wellness checks is especially important for those living alone. Even a phone call asking basic questions such as “What did you have for breakfast?” can indicate if someone is disoriented.

“There are four S’s when it comes to heat exposure,” Levy says. The first three are checking oneself, shelter and supplies when preparing for extreme heat. And, he explains, “the fourth S is society.”

“Heat waves are only going to become more common,” Levy says. “We need to think about the steps we can take to build resilience and take care of one another.”

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How can the EU unlock the potential of sustainable healthcare?

Healthcare might not be the first industry that springs to mind when you consider the causes of the climate crisis. But with material extraction, supply, and the manufacture of equipment accounting for 40 to 50 per cent of global CO2 emissions, waste within the medical industry is playing a significant role in driving greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

If the world is to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, the healtcare sector needs to transition to a circular economy. This means finding new and sustainable ways to use resources to bring about the decarbonisation of the industry.

Many solutions already exist to close the loop and make healthcare a more circular economy, with multinationals like Philips working hard to offer innovative solutions such as equipment recycling.

The European Union is leading the way too, with several initiatives following on the backs of the European Green Deal and the Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP).

But with healthcare funding in Europe already stretched, can the EU transition to a circular economy without compromising on quality and patient safety?

And as we move towards a more digital future, could money and resources be saved by making healthcare more digital?

To discuss all these issues and more, join the Euronews Debate team live on June 29th at 11 am (CEST) as we discuss these questions with our expert panel.

Meet our panel

Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea, Director in charge of the Circular Economy in the European Commission’s DG ENV

Aurel Ciobanu-Dordea is the Director in charge of the Circular Economy in the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Environment.

Between 2014 and 2022 he worked as the Director in charge of Enforcement, Cohesion and the European Semester in the same DG. Prior to that, he was the Director for Equality in the Directorate-General for Justice, in charge of equality and the fight against discrimination. He joined the European Commission in 2009.

Robert Metzke, SVP and Global Head of Sustainability at Philips

Robert Metzke leads Philips’ activities in sustainability and drives the company’s strategy towards innovation. He implements sustainable business models and embeds sustainable and circular ways of working across Philips.

Robert and his team lead all activities with regard to Philips’ environmental responsibility, with a focus on climate action, circular economy and expanding access to healthcare in underserved communities, as part of Philips’ overall purpose to improve people’s health and well-being.

MEP Sara Cerdas

Sara Cerdas is a Portuguese medical doctor and a Member of the European Parliament. She is a member of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), the Committee on Transport and Tourism (TRAN) and S&D coordinator of the Special Committee on COVID-19 (COVI) and the Sub-Committee on Public Health (SANT).

Cerdas was also vice-president of the Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA). Currently, MEP Cerdas is shadow rapporteur of the proposal for Regulation for the European Health Data Space.

Frédéric Rimattei, Deputy Director General at Rennes University Hospital Center

After holding various management positions in major university hospitals in France (Montpellier, Toulouse), Frédéric Rimattei was appointed Deputy Director General of the Rennes University Hospital in 2015. In this capacity, he supervises the implementation of the CHU’s research and innovation policy as well as sustainability, in close collaboration with all of the establishment’s scientific, academic and industrial partners.

A major focus of the CHU’s research and innovation strategy, health technologies and sustainability are at the heart of the considerable investments made by the CHU, in particular within the framework of the #NouveauCHUdeRennes project.

Jeremy Wilks, Euronews Reporter and debate moderator

Euronews science reporter Jeremy Wilks covers everything from climate change to healthcare innovation. He has reported on science research, innovation and digital technology across Europe for over a decade. He regularly hosts live debates both on Euronews digital platforms and at large conference events. Jeremy is the presenter of the monthly Climate Now series on Euronews.

If you would like to submit a question for our panel please use the form below:

How much waste is generated by the healthcare sector in the EU?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 85 per cent of all waste generated by healthcare activities globally is non-hazardous. This leaves 15 per of waste which is considered hazardous to human health, because it is either infectious, toxic or radioactive.

While many healthcare products, such as needles, bandages and other types of clinical waste cannot be reused, many items of electronic equipment can, and thanks to advances in technology, the lifecycles of equipment and installed systems can be extended too. Refurbishment is often the most sustainable way to upgrade and extend the lifecycle of products, but as technology advances, new products are sometimes needed.

Purchasing eco-designed products is also a great way for healthcare companies to cut their carbon footprint, as they are generally more energy and resource efficient and have been designed so that they can be repaired instead of replaced.

Are healthcare products recyclable?

When products have reached the end of their life, responsible recycling is the best way to reduce their impact.

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) introduced by the EU in 2003, states that the original producer has responsibility for recycling. The Individual Producer Responsibility (IPR) places end-of-life responsibility on producers, importers and brand owners, to ensure that product waste is recovered and reused.

While many brands are on board with a circular economy, more innovation is needed to prevent waste across the lifecycle of electronic products. The StEP Initiative (Solving the E-waste Problem) founded in 2003, with members including Philips and Microsoft, aims to standardise the recycling process, so that valuable components can be easily removed from waste products.

Many healthcare products also come with recycling passports, so that they can be disassembled and recycled safely and appropriately. This is particularly important with products that may contain hazardous materials or valuable components that can be reused.

Is digitisation the future of healthcare?

While expensive medical equipment will always have its place in the healthcare sector, increasing digitisation may also reduce the carbon footprint of medicine and make it more sustainable.

Virtual resources, digital tools and software may also enable healthcare settings to ‘dematerialize’ too. Innovations such as telehealth, where patients have virtual meetings with doctors will cut down on CO2 emissions from travel, while cloud-based services and efficiency-enhancing software could reduce CO2 emissions from computing and data storage.

While technology and recycling methods are improving, with so many problems to solve, from funding crises to an ageing population, can healthcare become more sustainable without reducing quality and safety? Join us on June 29th at 11 am (CEST) to find out what are our experts think.

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View Q&A: Sustainable fishing could be of immense benefit to humanity

To mark World Oceans Day and EU Green Week, Euronews View spoke to Marine Stewardship Council’s Dr Rohan Currey about how overfishing affects our lives and what could and should be done to make fisheries across the globe more sustainable

When it comes to the food we get from our oceans, the stark reality is that more than one-third of the world’s fish stocks are currently being depleted beyond their sustainable limits. 

We have long treated the ocean as a pit of limitless resources, but overfishing has become one of the main drivers of the decline of ocean wildlife, which represents 80% of the planet’s biodiversity, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO).

At the same time, humans worldwide now consume around 144 million tonnes of fish per year — more than double the amount we ate five centuries ago — and demand is only expected to increase as the world’s population grows.

To mark World Oceans Day and the EU Green Week, Euronews View spoke to Dr Rohan Currey, Chief Science and Standards Officer at the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and a member of its Global Executive Committee, about the causes of overfishing, its consequences, and what can be done to better utilise the world’s oceans as a source of food for us and the generations to come.

Euronews View: This Thursday, which also marks World Oceans Day, your organisation released new figures in a comprehensive report, calling on global governments to address the overfishing crisis. Why do you believe this is the key moment to decide on how to manage fishing in a more sustainable way?

Dr Rohan Currey: The global crisis of overfishing in the oceans is driven by a number of factors, but one of the factors that we’re particularly concerned about is overfishing and the associated effect of overfishing on marine biodiversity. 

This is something that’s been well documented. The UN FAO conducts a report. They write what’s called the SOFIA (The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture) report, which has described that a third of global fish stocks are still overfished and that train is going in the wrong direction, still. 

And this is despite the fact that for 25 years now, ever since the UN FAO produced a code of conduct for responsible fisheries, we’ve had a very good idea of what good fishing practices look like. 

And indeed, in many parts of the world, we’re able to see that applied, and many of those fisheries have been certified by the MSE because of those practices being successful in delivering good outcomes for the oceans. 

So the reason why we’re focused for our campaign on what’s going on with overfishing and how that relates to the oceans is, one underappreciated fact that would be very beneficial to come from managing oceans better is that we would gain a significantly increased amount of seafood from the oceans if we managed them better and that could be of immense benefit to humanity.

Euronews View: When you say managing things better, what does that mean in practice? Could you describe what’s the difference between the practice now versus the practices that you are proposing?

Dr Rohan Currey: So a well-managed fishery has a number of features, and those features are that they harvest in a way that maintains a stock that is healthy and continues to produce a large volume of fish into the future, so the fisheries can operate in perpetuity. 

They minimise their impact on the environment, and they have systems in place to ensure that that’s not a one-off event that this continues. 

Our fisheries standard has codified this in a very detailed way, and it’s now applied very broadly in fisheries around the world to describe precisely what “good” looks like. We see fisheries that have made journeys to improve to become sustainable. 

And also, fisheries that were already sustainable, when they become certified, they get that recognition, and that can lead to a benefit for them in the marketplace because consumers can then be confident that the fisheries they’re buying from are actually managed sustainably.

The reason why this is so critical is that when you manage that way, not only do you have a benefit for our oceans, which of course, on World Oceans Day, we should be celebrating.

But in addition to that, there is a significant benefit for the community from the fact that you actually get a “sustainability dividend”, a bonus that comes from managing well. 

And in this case, managing well might mean setting a catch limit. It might mean using a different gear type. It might mean operating in different areas of the ocean. 

But if you use a science-based approach to manage the way that you fish, this sustainability dividend could be considerable, and our estimate for that is that could be as high as 16 million tonnes of seafood. 

So that 16 million tonnes is being foregone at present and if it was available, it could be of immense benefit to humanity.

Euronews View: How did this issue of overfishing come to be? How long is this been going on? What was the root issue caused it?

Dr Rohan Currey: It’s a very good question. The cause of overfishing is the fact that for a long time, people really didn’t understand that the ocean had limits. They perceived the ocean as so vast. 

And when humanity’s technology was only sort of relatively at an early stage of development, that was in some respects the case because we’re limited by our own capacity to go out and fish. 

So in the early days, it was thought to be boundless and limitless. What we’ve now come to realise with advancing technology with a better understanding of the oceans is that actually, humanity is capable of having a significant impact on this, and it’s exacerbated by the fact that the oceans themselves, in many places, they’re global commons.

And that means there is an active incentive for individuals to go out there and to fish, and it may have a detrimental impact on others but the benefit accrues to them and to the detriment of someone else. 

So the global commons phenomenon is particularly important when it comes to exacerbating this problem, but we’ve seen specific examples play out. Industrial wailing was one of the first great fishery collapses where people didn’t have a good handle on how many whales they could take and take sustainably. 

And as a result, we saw whale populations plummet in some cases to below 1% of what was originally there. 

Then we saw the collapse of the cod stocks of New England. And in fact, that was one of the reasons why the MSC as an organisation was established because civil society and the markets became incredibly concerned about the impact of overfishing, where you could drive a stock to collapse. 

And so we wanted to find a way to recognize people doing the right thing to complement what governments are doing in regulating it.

So that was the genesis of this. It’s a long-standing problem. It’s a problem that’s become more difficult over time, and I would say it’s a problem that’s only going to get worse with climate change as fish stocks shift and they move into different areas, and the productivity of the ocean changes as well. 

So it’s critically important that we manage and address the overfishing crisis. Otherwise, we won’t be able to continue to eat seafood into the future, and our oceans will be poorer for it as well.

Euronews View: How do the market demand, trends, or a particular type of fish growing in popularity when it comes to human consumption affect the current situation in the oceans?

Dr Rohan Currey: I would say that different market drivers operate in different parts of the world, and what you often see is that people have an affinity for particular fish species or fish stocks that they’ve often grown up with, and they’re very familiar with and as a result of that the market tends to be concentrated on certain kinds of species.

What then happens is the market will look to source that fish, and in some cases, if stocks have become depleted, they may not source it from the adjacent fisheries, which might have been historically how it came to have that cultural connection.

They’ll look to other markets to find that, and to some degree, that substitution is part of why I think the global fish trade is such a complex thing. 

Fish is one of the most widely traded commodities on the planet with some of the most complex supply chains, and a lot of that’s got to do with where fish are processed. 

But it’s also got to do with the fact that, as there have been places where it hasn’t been particularly well-managed, people have had to source from elsewhere to get the fish that they’ve originally become used to having. 

And again, this is one of the drivers for thinking about sustainable management long term. These fish stocks, they’re not just important in terms of the nutrient benefits, which is obviously something critical. 

But I would also say there is a cultural component to this where people are associated with particular kinds of seafood, and people being able to continue to source from that and to eat that seafood into the future is incredibly important.

Euronews View: How does this affect people living in landlocked countries of Europe and other continents, or those who don’t necessarily have direct access to the sea, or those not used to a seafood-based diet?

Dr Rohan Currey: Well, our oceans are incredibly important for us in many different ways. Obviously, they are a source of food, and whether we live by the coast or not, people will still rely on seafood as one of their sources of protein and nutrients in different parts of the world. 

But in addition to that, about half of the oxygen that we breathe comes from the oceans and so managing the oceans well is so important for us. 

They provide a sort of lifeblood for us, they maintain the functioning of our climate, and that critical role is directly related to how healthy they are, and that includes the life within them. 

So maintaining oceans in a healthy state is something that we all should care about and that we all benefit from, and ultimately that’s why it’s so important to make the most of things like World Oceans Day to raise awareness of what’s necessary for our oceans to continue to thrive into the future.

**Euronews View: And lastly, what could and should be done? What would be your call to action?

Dr Rohan Currey: I would ask that the policymakers recognise the benefits of sustainable fisheries and put in place measures to support that. 

What we’re finding at the moment around the world is that the enabling environment for sustainable fisheries management is not necessarily going in the right direction.

This is partly a function of the polarisation we see in the world around us and the geopolitical tensions that seem to be ramping up.

But for those who are making decisions about fisheries, it’s critically important to recognise the responsibility that comes with that to look after our oceans and the benefits that come to humanity from doing it. 

I’d also highlight that we’ve seen some pretty amazing actions taken by governments in recent times where there have been remarkable success stories. 

For example, the world’s largest tuna fisheries operate in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, and recently just in December last year, they agreed to a landmark harvest strategy, which is going to regulate the way that they conduct the fishery for skipjack tuna.

That multi-million-tonne fishery which is the world’s largest for tuna, is now regulated in part to address this pressing need to make sure that the oceans remain sustainably managed in perpetuity. 

And given that things like climate change will affect fish stock distribution, that was very much at the forefront of people’s minds. 

So if possible, my call to action would be for people to recognise this as important and to take action and to know that it’s possible because some people are already doing it.

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We Must Stop Treating Grasslands as Wastelands

As a research scholar at the Indian Institute for Science Education and Research, I once monitored birds that inhabited tall wet grasslands in Daying Ering Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary, a protected area in Northeast India. This habitat forms a part of one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. Yet despite their ecological importance and uniqueness, most grasslands are classified by the Indian government as “wastelands.” I wondered why this was, as I stood on the deck of a governmental outpost, watching a critically endangered Bengal florican—a bird native to South Asian grasslands—perform its mating display of short jumps with its thick neck pouch extended.

Ecosystems throughout the world are reeling from the effects of unchecked habitat loss and climate change. While all types of ecosystems—forests, grasslands, oceans, wetlands and deserts—feel these effects, there is evidence of bias towards the research and conservation of forest biodiversity. These landscapes have been prized for their economic value since the colonial era. However, this bias hurts the preservation of other ecosystems, including the grasslands that make up 24 percent of the Indian landmass. These grasslands harbor immense biodiversity and support the livelihoods of millions of people, yet are defined in India by their value in being converted into forests for climate mitigation. It is time for India, and other countries with grasslands, to hold the ecological and social value of these ecosystems above their economic value. Trees can only do so much to save us and our climate, and the biodiversity within the tall grasses and wide plains of this planet deserve our attention and protection. 

To understand how grasslands became “wastelands,” we need to understand how British colonists valued the high-quality timber of India’s forests. They harvested trees for construction, laying railway lines in India, and shipbuilding, all of which supported Britain’s economic expansion and war efforts. The British also undertook plantation operations to maintain the supply of timber. This led to the formation of the Imperial Forest Service, whose main mandate was to aid in British silviculture. At the same time, the British government created the baze zamin daftar (wasteland department) to map and control areas, like grasslands, that they deemed economically useless.

The forest service also called grasslands “degraded forest,” because they believed these more open swaths of land could have held forests but for what they called the “destructive” practices of the Indigenous and pastoral communities living there. Both these designations ultimately motivated the conversion (or “restoration”) of grassland habitats into forested landscapes, as we show in a recently published paper that critically analyzes grassland conservation policies in India. This also ushered in the displacement of Indigenous and pastoral communities that depended on grasslands for livelihood. Colonial authorities criminalized (through regressive acts like the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871) communities and unjustly denied them any control over these “wastelands.” The colonial government was particularly wary of pastoral or “wandering” communities and invoked the Criminal Tribes Act to penalize them for activities that included grazing of livestock—an important mechanism to maintain grassland habitats. As Atul Joshi and colleagues report in their paper on the colonial impact of forestry on the high-altitude shola grasslands, colonial officers also began converting such grasslands into fuelwood plantations of Acacia and Eucalyptus to supply to settlers, while prohibiting Indigenous communities from using them for firewood.

As forests are ecologically complex, so are grasslands. They range from the dry and semiarid grasslands of Central and Western India, to wet grasslands on riverbanks of the Himalayas, to high-altitude grasslands in the Western Ghats and cold desert grasslands in North India. These lands also have deep cultural significance based on their role in pastoralism or fire practices. Yet, the historical framing of grasslands—and indeed other non-forested ecosystems—as “wastelands” continues to hamper preservation efforts.

Whereas colonial officers had economic motivations for converting grasslands, today governments worldwide are banking on forests and foresting to mitigate climate change. To this end, there are global efforts to map potential areas for afforestation initiatives, but these efforts often identify grassland ecosystems as good candidates for afforestation, threatening more than one million square kilometers of grasslands in Africa, for example. In India, we find something similar: large areas of grasslands earmarked for large-scale afforestation activities.

Yet, grasslands could be equally good—if not better—at storing carbon. Apart from being costly and flawed, a carbon sequestration-based strategy also neglects the ecological and social value of grasslands by converting them to monoculture forests, which do not provide the same ecological benefits.

India and other countries with substantial grasslands need to recognize, support and prioritize evidence-based scientific endeavors that focus on grasslands by establishing long-term monitoring plots and grassland-specific restoration efforts, as well as by mapping their extent and the ecosystem services they provide to humans. In an era where environmental justice is at the forefront of conservation discourse, the time is ripe for  abandoning colonial labelings like “wasteland” that have led to violence against people of marginalized caste and class. 

Already, communities like the Todas, the Phasepardhis, and the Idu Mishmi people are protecting grasslands in India through collective action and local stewardship. These roles are also helping them reclaim their dignity and connection with the land. In the spirit of righting wrongs, and with the aim of preserving the richness of nature, governments must restore greater agency and rights to Indigenous, pastoral and marginalized communities to manage grasslands and include their knowledge in grassland restoration. Grasslands are an important feature of an ecologically sound India, one that must be preserved for that value above all others.        

This is an opinion and analysis article, and the views expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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