Top Stories

February 27, 2014

Climate Change

Transatlantic centre-right coalition aims to reclaim environmental agenda

Man-made climate change is among the greatest threats confronting the world, UK Prime Minister David Cameron declared yesterday. His comments follow the launch of a new report by the London-based Conservative Environment Network, which urges right-wing parties across the world to reclaim the environment as a conservative political issue. Supported by a coalition of politicians, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, as well as industry leaders such as Sir James Dyson and Unilever CEO Paul Polman, the think-tank argues that the environment has traditionally been the preserve of the conservative parties. The report states that far from being a drain on the economy, environmental policies would encourage more efficient production, create new industries and jobs and reduce the costs associated with a damaged environment. Sir Ian Cheshire, chief executive of Kingfisher Group said that, “the fact that companies alone can push through such ambitious and realistic plans [on green energy] is no excuse for the government to wash its hands of this agenda.” (Independent, FT*)


Australia marked down for reversal of climate change law

The Australian government has taken an unscientific approach to climate change that is “so unintellectual as to be unacceptable”, a prominent British Conservative peer has claimed. “Australia is very disappointing,” said Lord Deben, a former chairman of the UK Conservative party who heads Globe International, a legislator body that annually assesses laws to combat climate change around the world. The Australian government is singled out in the latest Globe report for being the only one of 66 countries studied that tried to repeal national climate legislation in the past year.  In the four years since Globe started charting worldwide legislation, only Canada, and now Australia, have reversed significant climate laws. The Globe report also highlights a number of positive measures taken around the world, from a climate change action plan in Kenya to a draft general law on climate change in Costa Rica and new emissions targets in Switzerland. The report argues that momentum for climate change legislation is currently shifting from wealthier, industrialised countries to emerging economies. (FT*)


New US nutrition labelling to make serving sizes reflect actual servings

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for the first time in two decades, will propose changes to nutrition labels on food packages, putting calorie counts in large type and adjusting portion sizes to reflect how much Americans actually eat. The US government introduced food labelling in the early 1990s but labels were based on eating habits and nutrition data from the 1970s and ’80s, before portion sizes expanded significantly. Health officials argue that the changes are needed to bring labels into step with the reality of the modern American diet.  The proposed changes will also include a separate line for sugars that are manufactured and added to food. Dr Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, said that the changes were meant to improve “people’s awareness of how much and what they are eating… things like the size of a muffin have changed so dramatically. It is important that the information on the nutrition fact labels reflect the realities in the world today.” (New York Times)

Supply Chain

Tesco criticised by farmers for buying less British beef

Tesco has come under fire from farmers after cutting the amount of British beef it bought last year, despite promising to source closer to home in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. The UK’s biggest supermarket bought nearly 8 percent less British beef in November 2013 than it did a year earlier despite advertisements stating, “We know that the more we work with British farmers the better.” The findings came from a National Farmers Union (NFU) report on the progress of the UK’s biggest grocers, who all said they wanted to buy more in Britain in order to keep a closer eye on their suppliers after horsemeat was last year found in products stocked in Tesco, Aldi and Asda. A spokesman from Tesco said that, “we are proud to be British agriculture’s biggest customer and are continually strengthening our relationships with our farmers and growers.” Phil Hudson, head of food and farming at the NFU, commented, “Tesco has made some progress but we want to see that progress accelerate in terms of the commitments made.” (Guardian)


Rigid workplace culture stopping women over 50 balancing work with family life

A report has found that women in the UK over 50 are being prevented from furthering their careers due to rigid workplace culture, leaving many unable to balance their jobs with their family. A report by the UK’s national Trade Union Centre (TUC) found that women over 50 suffered not only the biggest pay penalty but also that their caring responsibilities increased with age and that they felt more at risk from on-going public sector cuts. The gender pay gap for this age group working full-time is twice as high as it is for younger women. Nearly half of women over 50 are in part-time work, where the average annual wage is under £10,000 a year. TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said that, “women in their 50s are the first generation of women to have been protected by equal pay and sex discrimination laws throughout their careers,” but added that, “we need a radical rethink of our workplace culture, which is ill-equipped to cope with the complex work and caring roles that many older women face.” (Independent)



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