Top Stories

November 21, 2018

Policy/ Employees

Germany lures Brexit bankers by easing labour laws

Angela Merkel’s government in Germany is following through on its pledge to make it easier for banks to fire highly paid senior staff, in a push to increase the country’s allure for London-based lenders relocating to the continent because of Brexit. A draft of the planned legal changes, devised by the finance ministry and seen by the Financial Times, suggests exempting a narrowly defined group of high-earning decision makers from the country’s strict employment protection laws. Germany’s tight employment protection laws have been seen as a core competitive disadvantage for Frankfurt, the country’s financial capital, which is competing with Paris, Dublin and other EU financial centres to attract banking business. Some banks are expected to move operations from London to keep them in the EU once the UK leaves the bloc in March. (Financial Times)*


UN environment chief resigns after frequent flying revelations

The UN’s environment chief, Erik Solheim, has resigned following severe criticism of his global travels and internal rule-breaking which led some nations to withhold their funding. The Guardian understands Solheim was asked to resign by the UN secretary general, António Guterres. Sources at the UN Environment Programme (Unep) said that countries unhappy with Solheim’s conduct were holding back tens of millions of dollars, threatening a financial crisis at the body. A draft internal UN audit leaked to the Guardian in September found Solheim had spent almost $500,000 (£390,000) on air travel and hotels in just 22 months, and was away 80 percent of the time. The audit said this was a “reputation risk” for an organisation dedicated to fighting climate change. A UN staff union leader called some of the revelations “mind-blowing” and a prominent climate scientist accused Solheim of “obscene CO2 hypocrisy.” (Guardian)

Deadly air pollution shortens lives by nearly 2 years

Air pollution, caused largely by burning fossil fuels, is cutting global life expectancy by an average of 1.8 years per person, making it the world’s top killer, according to research by The University of Chicago’s Air Quality Life Index (AQLI). The tiny particles ingested from polluted air shorten life more than first-hand cigarette smoke, which can reduce it by 1.6 years, and are more dangerous than other public health threats such as war and HIV/AIDS, they said. The index shows people in parts of India, the world’s second-largest country by population, could live 11 years less due to high levels of air pollution. Life expectancy averages slightly below 69 in the South Asian nation of 1.3 billion, according to the World Bank. The researchers launched a website that tells users how many years of life air pollution could cost them according to which region of a country they live in. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

Energy/ Policy

Japan threatens to cut solar power subsidies, angering investors

The Japanese government is threatening to cut existing solar power project subsidies angering the power producers and investors that say the cuts will undermine their profitability and violate earlier agreements. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) last month proposed that companies granted permits for solar projects between the fiscal years of 2012 to 2014 under so-called Feed-In-Tariffs (FIT) that guarantee minimum power prices submit applications by March 2019 to connect to the grid. Companies that miss the deadline will have their tariffs cut. Japan introduced the FIT to spur solar developments to fill the power gap after the country closed its nuclear power plants following the 2011 Fukushima disaster. METI has said the cuts are necessary to reduce the public burden of the FIT subsidies, which are added to consumers bills. Investors and operators in solar projects are angry with the proposals, threatening lawsuits against the government for breaching the earlier contracts. (Reuters)

Sustainable Fashion

Interest soars in sustainable fashion

Consumer interest in sustainable fashion is spiking, according to global fashion search platform Lyst. The fashion search engine tracked more than 100 million searches on their shopping site over the past 12 months to analyse the biggest trends and most buzzed about brands. According to Lyst’s Year in Fashion report, searches for sustainable fashion products such as “organic cotton” and “vegan leather” have jumped 47 per cent in the last 12 months. Wider consumer interest in brands with sustainable and ethical values is also on the up, it reports. For example, the top 10 brands on Instagram this year were dominated by sustainable fashion companies such as trainer brand Veja and clothing brand Reformation. Meanwhile, services that offer a chance to buy second-hand or vintage clothing are also generating increased consumer interest. Lyst reported a 329 per cent increase in traffic to luxury resale products over the last year. (Forbes; Business Green)

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Image source: red light, purple air by Bastian Greshake Tzovaras on FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0.