Top Stories

April 20, 2015


Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg hits back in “poor internet for poor people” row

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has defended the aims of his initiative, which aims to provide affordable internet access to less developed countries, after a number of firms including travel portal and media giant Times Group decided to pull out of the project. At the heart of the row is’s policy of “zero-rating”, whereby telecoms providers agree to provide consumers with access to certain services (including Facebook) for free. In a blog post, Mr Zuckerberg argued that’s basic free services are not incompatible with net neutrality – the principle that all web services should be equally accessible: “if someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all”. But critics argue this has a distorting effect on competition, and creates a “poor internet for poor people”. Facebook disagrees, pointing out that joining is free for web publishers and app providers. (BBC News; BoingBoing)


Co-op Group: competition means we cannot fully commit to Fairtrade

British consumer cooperative, The Co-operative Group, has told its members that it cannot make an enhanced commitment to stock Fairtrade products because of tough competition among supermarkets and its shift towards convenience stores. The UK’s largest mutual made the remarks in response to a motion tabled ahead of its upcoming annual general meeting asking for the commitment to Fairtrade to be reiterated and also retain the long-term strategic objective that that if a “Co-operative product can be Fairtrade, it will be Fairtrade”. Saying it could not back all elements of the motion, the board blamed the current financial position of the group, the austere market climate and the strategic direction of the business into convenience shops. The motion is one of a number contained in ballot papers sent this weekend to the more than 2.5 million members eligible to vote at the AGM following governance reforms last year. (The Guardian)


Carbon reserves held by top fossil fuel companies soar

The top 200 publicly traded coal, oil and gas companies including Gazprom, ExxonMobil, BP and Anglo American now hold 555 gigatonnes of CO2 in their fuel reserves, boosted by their continuing efforts to find and develop new reserves. That figure alone is close to the total amount the world could ever emit while keeping global warming below the danger limit of 2C. The carbon locked up in coal, oil and gas reserves owned by the world’s biggest fossil fuel companies has increased by 10 percent in the last five years, despite warnings from the World Bank and others that most existing reserves cannot safely be burned. Far more fossil fuels – about 2,650 gigatonnes – are held by state-owned companies, meaning that in total there are four to five times more fossil fuels in existing reserves than can be safely burned. But the exploitation of expensive fossil fuels in the Arctic, tar sands and deep sea waters is dominated by the 200 commercial firms. (The Guardian)

Community Investment

Scotland’s carrier bag charge raises £1 million for good causes

The introduction of a shopping bag charge in Scotland has raised more than £1 million for good causes and reduced usage by more than 80 percent in the space of just six months. Last October, several nationwide retailers signed up to Zero Waste Scotland’s Carrier Bag Commitment, an agreement to disclose information on the charge to a publicly available portal. Presently, Asda is indicating a more than 90 percent reduction in single-use carrier bag use, while raising £350,000 for two social enterprise charities – Social Investment Scotland and Foundation Scotland. The Co-operative Food has used the 5p charge to raise £375,000 for community projects across Scotland, reporting a usage reduction of 80 percent. Marks & Spencer has raised £214,374 for good causes, with £88,446 going to the Marine Conservation Society, £88,446 going to WWF, including the Orkney sustainable Fishery Improvement Programme, and a further £37,482 going to a range of local Scottish charities. (Click Green)


Worldwide protests planned against new trade pacts

Activists are planning demonstrations around the world on Saturday against an emerging free trade pact. Called the Global Day of Action, the international protests — primarily in Europe and the USA — come ahead of the ninth round of talks for the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Proponents say the pact will be a major boon for participating nations, possibly boosting their economies by US $100 billion per year combined. If a deal is reached, it would cover a market with a combined population of over 800 million, accounting for approximately 46 percent of global GDP, making it the largest free trade agreement of its kind. But labour and environmental groups fear the pact will weaken labour, environmental and consumer protections. “For the last decades, secret trade and investment agreements have been pushed by corporations and governments, damaging our rights and the environment,”, a group co-hosting the worldwide protests, said in a statement. (Al Jazeera)

Image Source: Mark Zuckerberg – South by Southwest 2008 by  Brian Solis/ CC BY 2.0