Top Stories

January 24, 2017

Foreign Policy

Trump TPP withdrawal leaves Asia seeking new trade deals

Australia has called for the Trans-Pacific Partnership to go ahead without the US, after president Donald Trump’s withdrawal.  Malcolm Turnbull, prime minister of Australia, vowed to keep TPP alive and said he was open to China joining the pact instead — a sign of how withdrawal could damage US interests. But trade negotiators from several countries said it would be hard to sustain TPP in its current form. With this withdrawal, Mr. Trump is vowing to negotiate bilateral deals instead.  Japan is in no mood to abandon the pact.  A tug of war is heating up between Japan and Australia on one side, who want a “high-quality” Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, similar to TPP, covering areas such as intellectual property; and China on the other, which wants a simpler deal focused mainly on tariffs and market access. “The economic benefits will be significantly reduced without the US participating,” said Rajiv Biswas at IHS Global Insight in Singapore. (Financial Times)

Air Quality

Speed limit for M1 under consideration to combat air pollution

A proposal to impose Britain’s first pollution-linked speed limits in order to help ease smog over Sheffield is being considered by Highways England. The suggested initiative follows a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) study published in December, which found that “driving smoothly” could ease air pollution. Accelerating or decelerating too rapidly leads to greater fuel consumption and means harmful emissions are being released into the environment unnecessarily, the study found. Highways England stressed that the speed limit is just one of “a range of other mitigation options” being trialled. Other options include painting barriers with “catalytic paints” designed to remove pollutants from the air and putting piles of “mineral polymer” – made from a secret compound that absorbs nitrogen dioxide – alongside the road. Sheffield currently misses EU air quality targets and was highlighted by the World Health Organisation for having dangerously high levels of air pollution. (The Guardian)


Greenpeace wants ASEAN to address plastics pollution in the high seas

Greenpeace is urging states of the Association of South East Asian Nations to take concrete measures and stop the environmental degradation and dwindling of marine life in the region, including support for global efforts for more marine protected areas. Plastic production rates have seen a steady growth in recent years, especially in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. This plastic waste often ends up in gyres, circular motion of currents, forming conglomerations of swirling plastic trash called garbage patches, or accumulates in closed bays, gulfs and seas. It also kills and injures a wide range of marine life. Consequently, this has implications for people’s health when they eat fish that have ingested toxin-saturated plastics. Considering there is little coordination across the bodies that regulate industries such as fishing, mining, and shipping, a new treaty could help to close gaps where no one country or body has full authority to act, and create opportunities to establish marine protected areas (MPAs), including fully protected reserves, in waters beyond national control. (Eco-business)

Clean Energy

China and the auto industry stride forward with clean energy transition

As the Obama administration’s climate change pages disappear from the White House website, scientists scramble to backup precious climate data and resources, and a new world order starts taking shape in the United States, China and the auto industry continue to push forward with clean energy initiatives. First, China’s National Energy Administration has announced that it has cancelled plans to build more 100 coal-fired power plants across 13 provinces. Meanwhile, thirteen leading energy, transport and industry companies have launched a global initiative to voice a united vision and long-term ambition for hydrogen to foster the energy transition, in what is known by The Hydrogen Council:, Anglo American, BMW Group, ENGIE, Honda, Hyundai Motor, Kawasaki, Royal Dutch Shell, and Toyota. Meeting at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, the Hydrogen Council is made up of CEOs and Chairpersons from companies committed to help achieve the goal of reaching the 2 degrees target laid out in the Paris Agreement. (Sustainable Brands)

Social Enterprise

Soros teaming up with MasterCard to help refugees

Billionaire investor George Soros and global payments company MasterCard are planning to create a social enterprise to help refugees and migrants, as well as others struggling within their communities all over the world. The partnership, called Humanity Ventures, seeks to apply commercial strategies to deliver a positive impact on society. The move follows Soros’ pledge to assign up to $500 million to address the challenges facing migrants and refugees. Despite billions of dollars spent on humanitarian aid and development projects, millions of people remain marginalized, said MasterCard and Soros in a joint statement, stressing that the private sector could help rectify the situation. “Our potential investment in this social enterprise, coupled with MasterCard’s ability to create products that serve vulnerable communities, can show how private capital can play a constructive role in solving social problems,” said Soros. The new enterprise intends first to target healthcare and education, supporting local economic development and entrepreneurship. (RT)

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