Top Stories

January 02, 2019

Waste / Policy

UK appoints food waste chief to target ‘scandal’ of 250 million binned meals

Britain has appointed its first Food Surplus and Waste Champion to help drive a campaign to reduce the millions of tonnes of food binned every year by restaurants, supermarkets and manufacturers. Ben Elliot, a philanthropist and co-founder of the lifestyle group Quintessentially, was appointed to the one-year voluntary role by Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Elliot’s first task will be to oversee the Food Waste Fund, a £15 million pilot scheme which will redistribute surplus food, Gove said. Working with businesses and other stakeholders from across retail, manufacturing, hospitality and food services, he will also support government consultations on the introduction of mandatory food waste reduction targets and redistribution obligations. “As a nation, we need to stop this excessive waste and ensure that surplus food finds its way to people in our society who need it most, and not let it get thrown away and go to landfill,” Elliot said. (Thomas Reuters Foundation; Guardian)

Climate Change

Report: Huge costs of warming impacts in 2018

Extreme weather events linked to climate change cost thousands of lives and caused huge damage throughout the world in 2018, say Christian Aid. The charity’s report identified ten events that cost more than $1 billion each, with four costing more than $7 billion each. Scientists have shown that the chances of heat waves in Europe were influenced directly by human-related warming. Other events, say the authors, are due to shifts in weather patterns, said to be a consequence of climate change. According to the report the most financially costly disasters linked to rising temperatures were Hurricanes Florence and Michael, with costs said to be around $17 billion for the former, and $15 billion for the latter. “This report shows that for many people, climate change is having devastating impacts on their lives and livelihoods right now,” said Dr Kat Kramer from Christian Aid. (BBC)


Shell says it wants to double green energy investment

Shell has declared an ambition to double the amount it spends on green energy to $4 billion (£3.2 billion) a year, in a sign of how the Anglo-Dutch company is looking to speed up its move to a future beyond oil and gas. Maarten Wetselaar, the head of the gas and new energy unit which generates a third of the company’s revenues, said he wanted to raise Shell’s investment in low carbon energy. The company has already committed to spend $1 billion-$2 billion annually in the next two years, with the rest of its total $25 billion budget invested in hydrocarbons. Wetselaar said if his initial investments generated a good enough return, he would be able to successfully argue for an increase from 2020 onwards. “I would like my current business to be financially credible enough for not only the company, but shareholders, to want to double it and look at more,” he said. (Guardian)

Tech / Ethics

Facebook’s leaked moderation rules show biases in policing hate speech

Internal documents from Facebook, containing rules for the company’s global army of more than 7,500 content moderators, show Facebook to be “a far more powerful arbiter of global speech” than it has admitted, according to the New York Times. The Times was provided with more than 1,400 pages from the rulebooks by an employee who said he feared that the company was exercising too much power, with too little oversight — and making too many mistakes. Examination of the files revealed that Facebook employees have allowed extremist language to flourish in some countries while censoring mainstream speech in others. Facebook executives say they are working diligently to rid the platform of dangerous posts. “It’s not our place to correct people’s speech, but we do want to enforce our community standards on our platform,” said Sara Su, a senior engineer on the News Feed. (New York Times; Technology Review)

Outrage after Netflix pulls comedy show criticising Saudi Arabia

Netflix has taken down an episode of a satirical comedy show critical of Saudi Arabia in the country after officials from the kingdom complained, sparking criticism from Human Rights Watch, which said the act undermined the streaming service’s “claim to support artistic freedom.” It comes three months after the killing of the Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, which US senators have blamed on the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. The American comedian Hasan Minhaj was critical of the Saudi heir in an episode of the standup show Patriot Act, delivering a wide-ranging monologue mocking the Saudis’ evolving account of what happened inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul in October, when the journalist was killed. Netflix defended its decision, stressing that it was in response to a “valid legal request” from the kingdom’s communications and information technology commission, to which it acceded in order to “comply with local law.” (Guardian; BBC)


Image source: NASA Watching Issac’s Approach to U.S. Gulf Coast by NASA Goddard Space F on FlickrCC BY 2.0.