Top Stories

March 28, 2019


Global ‘collapse’ in number of new coal-fired power plants

The number of coal-fired power plants being developed around the world has collapsed in the last three years, according to a report. The number of plants on which construction has begun each year has fallen by 84 percent since 2015, and 39 percent in 2018 alone, while the number of completed plants has dropped by more than half since 2015. The report, from the NGO-backed Global Energy Monitor, says the falling costs of renewable energy are pricing coal out of the electricity market, more than 100 financial institutions have blacklisted coal producers, and political action to cut carbon emissions is growing. However, Christine Shearer, of Global Energy Monitor, said even emissions from the existing coal plants were incompatible with keeping global warming below 2C. “We need to radically phase down coal plant use over the next decade to keep on track for Paris climate goals,” she said. The report warns of a possible coal plant resurgence in China, where satellite photos show developers have restarted work on dozens of suspended projects. (Guardian)

Exxon to report plastic pellet spills, shareholder says

Exxon Mobil Corp agreed to start reporting spills of plastic pellets from its chemical plants this year, according to an activist shareholder group that pressed the company on the issue. Activist group As You Sow said on Wednesday that it would withdraw a resolution it had asked Exxon to present to investors at the company’s annual shareholder meeting this spring. Plastic pellets, which are building blocks for most plastics products, are a major source of ocean pollution, environmentalist say. Exxon “will provide details about where, how, and when it monitors for pellet spills, describe pellet management systems it has in place, and report on spills that occurred,” the group said in a statement. The information on plastic pellet spills will be included in a sustainability report later this year, As You Sow said. Exxon has sought to block a separate investor proposal that calls on the world’s largest publicly-traded oil company to set targets for lowering its greenhouse gas emissions. (Reuters)


EasyJet’s gender pay gap widens even with more female pilots

EasyJet Plc hired more female pilots last year, taking the proportion in its cockpits to 5 percent, but that didn’t stop the gender pay gap widening as women were also added in lower-earning flight attendant jobs. Male employees at Britain’s biggest discount carrier earned an average of 54.1 percent more than their female colleagues in 2018, a greater disparity than the previous year’s 51.7 percent. Airlines tend to have a wide wage gap because high-paying pilot jobs are dominated by men, whereas women make up a bigger proportion of cabin crew — 71 percent at EasyJet — who receive much less. The industry says part of the problem is a lack of would-be female aviators. The U.K. company has been vocal about its efforts to alter the balance, and said in a report that 18 percent of new-entrant pilots this year will be women as it seeks to lift the overall proportion to one-fifth by 2020. It now has 222 female captains and first officers, 1.7 times the number employed in 2015. (Bloomberg)


McDonald’s to step back lobbying against raising the minimum wage

The US’s largest burger chain has backed away from a lobbying campaign to fend off minimum-wage increases, a decision being hailed as a significant victory by workers and labour advocates. McDonald’s said it will no longer use its vast resources to oppose raising the hourly pay floor at the federal, state or local level, according to a letter sent Tuesday to the National Restaurant Association, the largest food service trade association in the country. “The conversation about wages is an important one; it’s one we wish to advance, not impede,” Genna Gent, McDonald’s vice president of government relations, wrote in the letter. McDonald’s believes that minimum-wage increases should be phased in, Gent said, and that all industries should be treated equally. The move marks a dramatic shift for the chain; it comes after 19 states raised their pay minimums at the start of the year and amid intensifying grass-roots efforts to advance working-class policies. (Washington Post)

Digital Ethics

Facebook bans white nationalism and separatism from its platforms

Facebook has said it will ban “praise, support and representation” of white nationalism and separatism on the platform and its sister app Instagram from next week, a move that comes days after a gun attack on two mosques in New Zealand killed 50 people. The social media company said in a blog post on Wednesday that it had made the decision after three months of conversations with academics and civil groups, adding that it would also redirect people who search for terms associated with white supremacy to resources “focused on helping people leave behind hate groups”. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were sharply criticised earlier this month, after a gunman with white nationalist views livestreamed graphic footage of the Christchurch mosque shootings. This video was copied and uploaded across multiple social media platforms even when the original had been taken down from Facebook. (Financial Times)*


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Image Source: Schiller Station by PSNH on Flickr. CC BY-ND 2.0.