UK government condemned over renewables delay
Plans to invest billions of pounds in new wind farms and biomass plants were left in limbo yesterday after the UK Government missed its latest deadline to set consumer-funded subsidies. Green energy supporters reacted furiously to the latest delay, which centres on a long-running stand-off between the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Treasury over the scale of cuts to subsidies for onshore wind farms. ScottishPower warned that investors’ confidence would be badly damaged, while WWF-UK’s Jenny Banks accused the Treasury of “actively seeking to undermine the renewables industry”, adding that the £20 million-a-year cost of supporting onshore wind was “dwarfed” by the billions required by planned nuclear investments. (The Times* p37; BusinessGreen)
HSBC chief resigns over 'polluted culture of profit'
A senior HSBC executive resigned in front of a US Congressional committee last night, moments after senators accused the bank of laundering money for "drug kingpins" and rogue states such as Iran and Syria. A damning new report by the Senate Homeland Security Committee says that HSBC had a "pervasively polluted" culture of putting profit ahead of the law. The 340-page report reveals that billions of dollars of cash was transported between HSBC banks in the US and Mexico, and that the bank raised no red flags when international businessmen cashed in millions of dollars in travellers cheques. David Bagley, HSBC’s head of group compliance since 2002, said that the bank had “fallen short of our own expectations and the expectations of our regulators” before announcing his resignation from the role. Carl Levin, whose sub-committee penned the report, responded by saying: "That's good news." (The Independent, p1)
Mobile phones bring rural Africans into the modern economy
A new report from Sub-Saharan Africa, funded by the Gates Foundation, shows that the mobile phone is the most popular way to transfer money in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, especially among rural populations. Only 1% of those surveyed in Uganda had transferred money by bank, while 43% had used a phone. The report also finds that six out of ten adults in Sub-Saharan Africa who make informal cash payments have access to a mobile phone, suggesting serious potential for expansion in the market. One of the highest-profile mobile payments services on the continent is Kenya’s M-Pesa, which has extended banking services to 40% of the country’s adults. By some estimates, a third of Kenyan GDP now flows through the service, which is operated by Vodafone’s Kenyan subsidiary Safaricom. In a sign of things to come, Visa last year acquired the South African software company Fundamo, which provides the technology used by approximately a third of all mobile money systems. Visa is aiming to generate half of its revenue from outside the US by 2015, and sees emerging markets as critical to these plans. (Global Envision; The Atlantic)
Sportswear industry looks to dump leather
Puma’s executive chairman Jochen Zeitz said recently that the sportswear company will have to find alternatives to leather for its athletic shoes, because of the ecological damage the material does to the planet. "We have to find alternative ways of producing our raw materials without asking nature to do it for us," the Financial Times quoted Zeitz as saying. The announcement is just the latest sign that the sports footwear industry is searching for ways to cut its leather dependency. In the race to make the best sustainable athletic shoe, Nike recently launched a shoe made entirely of yarn, while Puma rolled out a sneaker made from recycled materials including rice husks. (Greenbiz)