Contents

  1. UNCTAD Report: India an overperformer in Technology
  2. UNEP’s Food Waste Index Report 2021
  3. OPEC+ move could hit consumption led-recovery

UNCTAD REPORT: INDIA AN OVERPERFORMER IN TECHNOLOGY

Context:

According to a recent country-readiness index released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) India was the biggest ‘overperformer’ in frontier technologies than the country’s per capita gross domestic products (GDP) would suggest.

Relevance:

GS-III: Science and Technology (Developments in Science and Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. What is Frontier technology?
  2. About the UNCTAD’s Technology and Innovation Report 2021
  3. Highlights of the Technology and Innovation Report 2021
  4. Problems faced by Developing Countries
  5. Way Forwards suggested by the UNCTAD Report
  6. About United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

What is Frontier technology?

  • Frontier technology is defined as potentially disruptive technology that can address large-scale challenges or opportunities.
  • Frontier technologies include artificial intelligence, the internet of things, big data, blockchain, fifth-generation mobile telephony, three-dimensional printing, robotics, drones (remotely controlled flights), gene-editing, nanotechnology and solar power — the ones that take advantage of digitalization and connectivity.
  • Only a few countries currently create frontier technologies, but all countries need to prepare for them. Low-and middle-income developing countries and the least developing countries cannot afford to miss the new wave of rapid technological change.

About the UNCTAD’s Technology and Innovation Report 2021

  • The Technology and Innovation Report 2021 analyzed progress of countries in using frontier technologies, considering their national capacities related to physical investment, human capital and technological effort.
  • The report critically examines the possibility of frontier technologies such as AI, robotics and gene-editing widening existing inequalities and creating new ones.
  • The report also addresses the national and international policies, instruments and institutional reforms that are needed to create a more equal world of opportunity for all as well.

Highlights of the Technology and Innovation Report 2021

General Findings:

  • The report shows that frontier technologies already represent a USD 350 billion market, which could grow to USD 3.2 trillion by 2025.
  • Along with human development, even inequalities have been spurred by changes in technology, and the staggering inequalities of the present day began to appear with the industrial revolution.
  • The pace of technological change is accelerating due to digitalization and frontier technologies. New technologies can have severe downsides if they outpace a society’s ability to adapt.
  • Between 1820 and 2002, the contribution of between-country inequality to global inequality rose from 28% to 85%.
  • The outcomes for one generation have affected the opportunities for the next – resulting in intergenerational transmission of inequalities.
  • Countries such as the United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom were “best prepared” for frontier technologies, however, most of the 158 countries assessed were lagging behind.

Findings specific to India:

  • India was the biggest ‘overperformer’ in frontier technologies, delivering more than what can be projected using the country’s per capita GDP.
  • India’s actual index ranking is 43, while the estimated one based on per capita income is 108 – which means India overperformed other countries by 65 ranking positions.
  • Along with India, several developing countries showed stronger capabilities to use and adapt frontier technologies above their GDPs – such as Philippines which overperformed by 57 ranking positions.
  • India performed well in research and development which is reflected in its abundant supplies of qualified and highly skilled human resources available at a comparatively low cost.

Problems faced by Developing Countries

  • Low-income- and lower-middle-income countries have expanding and younger populations which will increase the supply of labour and depress wages, reducing the incentives for automation.
  • They also have fewer skilled people and depend to a large extent on agriculture which tends to be slower to take advantage of new technologies.
  • Developing countries typically innovate by emulating industrialized countries, diversifying their economies, and absorbing and adapting new technologies for local use, but this process is slowest in the poorest countries.
  • Stringent intellectual property protection will restrict the use of frontier technologies that could be valuable in SDGs related areas such as agriculture, health and energy.

Way Forwards suggested by the UNCTAD Report

  • The Report argues that frontier technologies are essential for sustainable development, but they also could accentuate initial inequalities.
  • It is up to policies to reduce this risk and make frontier technologies contribute to increasing equality.
  • A balanced approach building a robust industrial base and promoting frontier technologies is a must for success in the twenty-first century.

About United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)

  • The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was established in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body.
  • UNCTAD is the part of the United Nations Secretariat dealing with trade, investment, and development issues.
  • The organization’s goals are to: “maximize the trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts to integrate into the world economy on an equitable basis”.
  • The primary objective of UNCTAD is to formulate policies relating to all aspects of development including trade, aid, transport, finance and technology.
  • UNCTAD is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland and as of 2018, 195 states are UNCTAD members.

Important reports published by the UNCTAD are:

  1. Trade and Development Report
  2. World Investment Report
  3. The Least Developed Countries Report
  4. Information and Economy Report
  5. Technology and Innovation Report
  6. Commodities and Development Report

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine


UNEP’S FOOD WASTE INDEX REPORT 2021

Context:

The Food Waste Index Report 2021 was released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) revealed that 17 per cent of all food available at consumer levels was wasted in 2019.

Relevance:

GS-II: Social Justice (Issues related to Poverty and Hunger)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Food Waste Index Report 2021
  2. Highlights of the Food Waste Index Report 2021
  3. Way forwards suggested by the UNEP report

About the Food Waste Index Report 2021

  • The Food Waste Index Report 2021 presents the most comprehensive food waste data collection, analysis and modelling to date, generating a new estimate of global food waste.
  • It also publishes a methodology for countries to measure food waste, at household, food service and retail level, to track national progress towards 2030.
  • In contrast to the Food Loss Index, the Food Waste Index measures total food waste (rather than loss or waste associated with specific commodities).
  • This Food Waste Index Report aims to advance progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 12.3), i.e., “By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”.

Benefits of targeting Food Waste Reduction

  • Reducing food waste can slow the destruction of nature through land conversion and pollution, enhance the availability of food and thus reduce hunger and save money at a time of global recession.
  • About 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed. Thus, tackling food wastage issues can further achieve Paris Agreement targets.

Highlights of the Food Waste Index Report 2021

  • The Food Waste Index Report 2021 estimates that more than 900 million tonnes of food waste was generated in 2019 and more than 60% of the food wastes came from households.
  • Food waste generation is found to be equally relevant across all income countries such as high, upper‑middle and lower‑middle income countries.
  • Developed Countries like Austria produce very low amounts of waste at 39 kg/capita/year. On the other hand, countries like Nigeria are producing waste at 189 kg/capita/year. For India, the waste in kg/capita/year was 50.
  • This diverges from earlier narratives concentrating consumer food waste in developed countries, and food production, storage and transportation losses in developing countries.
  • Global food waste data availability is currently low, and measurement approaches have been highly variable.

Way forwards suggested by the UNEP report

  • Enhancing NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) for Food Systems can be done to raise ambition in national climate strategies by integrating food loss and waste, and strengthen food security.
  • Countries can co-create and adopt game-changing solutions to food waste through the UN Food Systems Summit.
  • UNEP will convene Regional Food Waste Working Groups, which will provide capacity building and training to participating Member States in measuring food waste, developing a national baseline and designing national strategies for food waste prevention.

-Source: Down to Earth Magazine, The Hindu


OPEC+ MOVE COULD HIT CONSUMPTION LED-RECOVERY

Context:

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, agreed not to increase supply in April 2021 as they await a more substantial recovery in demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

India said that this decision by major producers to continue with output cuts as prices move higher could threaten the consumption led-recovery in some countries.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (International Policies and Agreements affecting India’s interests), GS-III: Indian Economy (Economic Development and International Trading)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)
  2. More about the OPEC decision and its impact on India
  3. India and Oil Imports

About Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)

  • The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is an intergovernmental organization of 14 nations, founded in 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela), and headquartered since 1965 in Vienna, Austria.
  • As of 2018, the 14 member countries accounted for an estimated 44 percent of global oil production and almost 82% of the world’s “proven” oil reserves, giving OPEC a major influence on global oil prices that were previously determined by the so-called “Seven Sisters” grouping of multinational oil companies.
  • The stated mission of the organization is to “coordinate and unify the petroleum policies of its member countries and ensure the stabilization of oil markets, in order to secure an efficient, economic and regular supply of petroleum to consumers, a steady income to producers, and a fair return on capital for those investing in the petroleum industry.”

More about the OPEC decision and its impact on India

  • Crude prices rose after the announcement by the OPEC+ that they would not increase supply, and crude oil prices are up 33% this year.
  • As one of the largest crude-consuming countries, India is concerned that such actions by producing countries have the potential to undermine consumption-led recovery and more so hurt consumers, especially in our price-sensitive market.
  • India, hit hard by the soaring oil prices, urged producers to ease output cuts and help the global economic recovery from the pandemic.
  • Rising oil prices are posing fiscal challenges for India, where heavily-taxed retail fuel prices have touched record highs, threatening the demand-driven recovery.

India and Oil Imports

  • India is heavily dependent on crude oil and LNG imports with over 82% import dependence for crude oil and more than 45% for natural gas/LNG.
  • India generated more than 35 million tons of petroleum products from indigenous crude oil production whereas the consumption of petroleum products is more than 200 million tons. Similarly, India generated 30 bcm natural gas locally against the consumption of almost 60 bcm (double).
  • LNG price is linked to the prevailing crude oil price in global markets.
  • India is the third biggest oil importer after US and China in 2018 and expected to occupy second place surpassing the US in 2019.

Diversifying India’s Oil Imports

  • India’s imports of Middle Eastern oil plunged to a four-year low in 2019.
  • India imports about almost 85% of its oil needs and traditionally relies on the Middle East for the majority of its supplies, however, the region’s share of India’s crude shrank to 60% in 2019.
  • The reason being: a record output from the United States and countries like Russia offered opportunities for importers to tap other sources.

-Source: Hindustan Times, The Hindu

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