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Forests support jobs and encourage biodiversity, but face threats

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Forests are beautiful, home to a diverse range of wildlife, and play an important role when it comes to looking after the world we live in.

Much like their appearance, the benefits of forests are multi-layered.

According to a recent report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO), forests “supply water, provide livelihoods, mitigate climate change and are essential for sustainable food production.”

All is not well, however. The State of the World’s Forests 2020 report says that both forest degradation and deforestation “continue to take place at alarming rates.”

And while the FAO states that the rate of deforestation has actually fallen across the last three decades, it also notes that an estimated 420 million hectares “have been lost through conversion to other land uses” since 1990.

Against this backdrop, a range of organizations are attempting to promote the sustainable management of forests.

These include France-based Reforest’Action, a social enterprise focused on the preservation, restoration and creation of forests.

Stéphane Hallaire is the president and founder of Reforest’Action. At a site in Neauphlette, west of Paris, he explained to CNBC’s “Sustainable Energy” how his company had worked the surrounding landscape to create a varied environment.

“This forest used to be a poplar tree forest, a damaged one,” he said. “So what we did, four years ago, is we removed trees and we planted a diverse forest made of oak trees … but also chestnut trees … and wild cherry trees.”

“They make a diverse forest and the diseases, the storms, the wildfires, make slow progress in a diverse forest as opposed to a more ‘unique species’ one.”

Hallaire was then asked about the threats that forests are facing today. “There are different types of threats for forests depending (on) where you are,” he said.

“If you are in the tropical regions, deforestation is the biggest threat today,” he added. “But if you are in temperate forests, like in Europe or France, then there is no longer deforestation but forests are degraded because of climate change.” Examples he gave included more frequent and violent storms, diseases and insects. 

Urban planting

The conversation turned to the work of Afforestt, an Indian organization attempting to green cities with a technique that employs high-density planting.

A for-profit social enterprise set up in 2011 by former Toyota engineer Shubhendu Sharma, Afforestt employs the Miyawaki Technique, which is named after the Japanese botanist Akira Miyawaki.

In simple terms, it’s a methodology that emphasizes the importance of high-density planting and native species.

Afforestt combines the Miyawaki Technique with something called Heijunka, a system used by businesses to cut waste and boost efficiency.

Reforest’Action’s Hallaire described urban forestry as “very important” and went on state that his company had “done it a number of times in France and in Europe.”

He went on to cite the example of his organization planting an urban forest in the French capital of Paris.

“It was on an area (of) 700 square meters … and all the people living around the place came together, the families, the kids, and the parents to plant the trees.”

Given the benefits that forests bring, one could be tempted to encourage their growth in all parts of the world.

It’s not that simple, however. When asked where forests were required, Hallaire was keen to emphasize that they weren’t needed “in every part of the world because in some places forests don’t grow, they don’t exist.”

“But forests are needed in most places, and especially in the tropical regions,” he added.  


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Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine has some advantages over its peers

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AstraZeneca’s building in Luton, Britain.

Tim Ireland | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

LONDON — The coronavirus vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford was found to be “highly” protective, potentially paving the way for a vaccine that is more affordable and easier to distribute than some of its peers.

An interim analysis of clinical trials showed the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had an average efficacy of 70% in protecting against the virus.

Researchers said this figure could be as high as 90% by tweaking the dose, but the overall results show the vaccine’s efficacy is slightly lower than other leading candidates.

Both PfizerBioNTech and Moderna reported preliminary results last week showing that their respective Covid vaccines were around 95% effective.

However, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has previously said a vaccine that is 50% or 60% effective against the virus would be acceptable.

It is hoped a Covid vaccine could help to bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 1.3 million lives worldwide.

Huge challenges remain before a vaccine can be rolled out. The global battle to secure prospective supplies has raised concerns about equitable access, while questions remain over the logistics of mass production, distribution, and cost.

Logistics

Equity analysts at Jefferies said it was “challenging” to compare the efficacy of AstraZeneca’s vaccine with those of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, citing key differences in how the trials have been conducted.

The analysts highlighted weekly swabbing to detect Covid-19 among participants involved in AstraZeneca’s trials — not just confirmation of suspected cases by symptoms as in U.S. trials. They also stressed that a meningococcal vaccine was used for comparison, not placebo.

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was assessed over two dosing regimens. One showed an effectiveness of 90% when trial participants received a half dose, followed by a full dose at least one month later.

The other showed 62% efficacy when given as two full doses at least one month apart.

No hospitalizations or severe cases of the disease were reported in participants receiving the vaccine.

A motorcyclist wears a protective mask while sitting at the side of the road at the Sabarmati Riverfront in Ahmedabad, India, on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government will ensure that all 1.3 billion people nationwide will have access to a Covid-19 vaccine as soon it is ready.

Sumit Dayal | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Jefferies analysts said that when it comes to storage, affordability and distribution, AstraZeneca’s vaccine appears to have an advantage.

The British pharmaceutical giant has said its vaccine can be stored, transported and handled at normal refrigerated conditions (36-46 degrees Fahrenheit) for at least six months and administered within existing health-care settings. It has also pledged to distribute the vaccine at no profit “for the duration of the pandemic.”

The Financial Times has previously reported the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which requires two doses, is priced at approximately $3 to $4 — significantly lower than the prices reported for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

In comparison, Moderna has said its vaccine candidate remains stable at the temperature of a standard home refrigerator for up to 30 days. It can also be stored for up to six months at minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.

In August, the U.S. biotechnology firm said it was charging $32 to $37 per dose for its vaccine for some customers.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine requires a storage temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit and requires special storage equipment and transportation. This could make it difficult for some countries to distribute.

Pfizer is reportedly charging $20 per dose for its vaccine.

‘Big beneficiaries’

Strategists at Deutsche Bank described the news from AstraZeneca on Monday as a “big deal,” saying a string of encouraging vaccine developments in recent weeks constituted “an unprecedented victory for science.”

They suggested that emerging markets, most notably Brazil, Mexico, India and Indonesia, were likely to be the “big beneficiaries” of the AstaZeneca vaccine. That’s because “the cheaper cost of production and distribution of AstraZeneca is especially relevant for lower and middle-income countries,” they said.

AstraZeneca has said it is making “rapid progress” in terms of manufacturing, with a capacity to produce up to 3 billion doses of the vaccine next year.

The U.S. and India have agreed to procure 500 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, according to data compiled by researchers at Duke University’s Global Health Innovation Centre.

The EU has reached a deal to buy 400 million, and the COVAX facility, a global initiative aimed at ensuring equitable access to Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, has ordered 300 million.

The U.K., Japan, Indonesia, Brazil, and Latin America excluding Brazil have each confirmed orders of at least 100 million doses.


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So long, doorbusters! Retailers roll out weeks of deals

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5 things to know before the stock market opens November 23, 2020

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