Sponsors urged to waive Olympic tax breaks worth tens of millions
Corporate sponsors of the London Olympics are coming under increasing pressure to turn down generous tax exemptions granted by the UK government. Coca-Cola, which has a monopoly on soft drink sales at the Olympic Park in east London, followed fellow sponsor McDonald's yesterday by saying it would decline the tax break, after an online petition by campaign groups 38 Degrees and Ethical Consumer reached nearly 170,000 signatures. Campaigners claim the exemptions are worth tens of millions of pounds to the Games’ corporate sponsors, who also include Visa, Samsung, Panasonic and Dow Chemical. UK authorities said that taxpayers were not losing out because London would not have won its Olympic bid without the tax breaks, which were demanded by the International Olympic Committee. (The Independent, p4)
US food aid programme criticised as 'corporate welfare'
Two-thirds of food for the billion-dollar US food aid programme last year was bought from just three US-based multinationals – ADM, Cargill and Bunge – according to an exposé by the Guardian. Critics of the US system of food aid have complained for years that the programme is as much about corporate welfare for American companies as helping the hungry overseas. Legislation dictates that the vast majority of US food aid must be purchased, processed and shipped by American companies, and it is estimated that only 40 cents of every taxpayer dollar is spent on food. Eric Munoz, agriculture policy analyst for Oxfam America, said: "This new information makes it abundantly clear that it is massive multinational firms – not rural America and not farmers – that are the direct beneficiaries of the rigged rules governing the US food aid programme.” The European Union changed its food-aid policy in 1996, shifting to cash donations, while Canada fully "untied" its food aid budget in 2010 – a move that has been commended internationally, including by the OECD. (The Guardian)
Average Chinese person's carbon footprint now equals European's
The average Chinese person's carbon footprint is now almost on a par with the average European's, new figures reveal. China became the largest national emitter of CO2 in 2006, though its emissions per person have always been lower than those in developed countries. The new report, by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the European commission's Joint Research Centre, finds that Chinese per capita emissions from energy rose to 7.2 tonnes per person in 2011 – just shy of the EU average of 7.5. Rising coal use in China, despite high-profile investments in renewables and smart cities, has closed the gap with the EU. However, one important factor in China’s emissions is the production of goods for export, account for almost a fifth of the total. A recent UK select committee report argued that it was important to account for the import and export of goods when considering national responsibility for climate change. (The Guardian)
Australia looks to cleantech innovation to curb emissions
The Australian government has announced the launch of a Clean Technology Innovation Programme worth an estimated AU$200m (£131m). Although the country is some way off the likes of China, the US, India and Russia in terms of total carbon emissions, its emissions per capita is one of the highest on the planet, behind only Saudi Arabia and the US. The project will support the development of cleantech businesses, as well as those that table low emission and energy efficiency technologies, by providing co-investment grants, matching the commitments of each successful firm. Solar, wind, wave, tidal hydro and geothermal technologies have all been marked as possible project types that could be eligible for the grant. The Australian government has struggled to convince the public of the benefits of climate change legislation, with bitter political wrangling marking the introduction of its carbon tax earlier this month. (Blue & Green Tomorrow)