Top Stories

February 23, 2016

Technology and Innovation

Report: Better technology and reduced meat consumption required to meet climate targets

Unless greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from food consumption are reduced substantially, EU climate targets will not be met, according to a new study from Chalmers University of Technology and SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden. Emissions from food and agriculture, currently accounting for about 25 percent of GHG emissions, need to be cut by about three-quarters by 2050 to meet the targets. The study finds that besides reductions in beef and dairy consumption, technology improvements will be crucial. According to David Bryngelsson, lead author of the study, emissions from manure storage and fertilizer production can largely eliminated by using the latest technology. However, the technological prospects for cattle are less promising. This is a critical finding, since cattle account for a very large share of the emissions. (Chalmers University of Technology)


General Motors re-brands engineering arm to reflect era of electronic vehicles

General Motors (GM) is dedicating more than 4,000 employees to the development of new fuel cell and battery technologies as part of a manufacturing shift towards hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs). The company is re-branding its Powertrain division of designers, developers and engineers as GM Global Propulsion Systems – to reflect industry trends towards alternative fuel vehicles. “The new name is another step on our journey to redefine transportation and mobility,” said GM’s executive vice president of global product development, Mark Reuss. “Today’s customer is demanding unprecedented technology integration that requires unprecedented engineering and supplier partnerships” added GM Global Propulsion Systems’ vice president Dan Nicholson. (edie)

International Development

OECD redefines foreign aid to include some military spending

The definition of foreign aid has been changed to include some military spending, in a move that charities fear will lead to less cash being spent on directly alleviating poverty. The change in wording was agreed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) after the UK and other countries lobbied to be allowed to use overseas aid budgets to support the military and security forces in fragile countries, as long as this still promotes development goals. Charities and NGOs were dismayed by the news, after a coalition including Oxfam and ONE warned last week that it could lead to governments disguising some defence spending as foreign aid. Under the new rules, official aid can be used to support the military in fragile countries on issues that promote development, such as human rights and the prevention of sexual violence. (Guardian)

Responsible Investment

University of Chicago professors urge fossil fuel divestment over climate change fears

More than 250 professors at the University of Chicago have called on the school to fight climate change by ridding itself of fossil fuel holdings – a gesture that would have exceptional resonance from the former home of Barack Obama and alma mater of current presidential contender Bernie Sanders. In a symbolic show of solidarity with student activists, professors urged the elite private university to purge its $7.6 billion endowment of coal, oil and gas companies, citing the “universal and existential” threat posed by climate change. Student leaders of the Stop Funding Climate Change campaign have been pressing the university to dump its fossil fuel holdings as part of the rapidly growing divestment movement. Robert Zimmer, the university’s president, has said divestment is “unlikely”, citing the university’s tradition of political neutrality. (Guardian)


Report: Air pollution claiming at least 40,000 UK lives a year

Air pollution both inside and outside the home causes at least 40,000 deaths a year in the UK, according to new report, which estimates the cost of the damage at £20 billion. The study from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health also highlights the less understood impact of indoor pollution, as well as the growing evidence of harm to children’s health and intelligence. The researchers argue that there is no level of exposure that can be seen to be safe. The report calls for a wide-ranging set of measures to tackle the problem, including tougher regulations to limit air pollution such as reliable testing of emissions from vehicles. Recently, the European Parliament failed to veto loopholes in air pollution limits on new diesel cars. (edie)


Image source: Holstein dairy cows by Scott Bauer / Public Domain