Top Stories

April 27, 2020

Environment/ Health

Halt destruction of nature or suffer even worse pandemics, say world’s top scientists

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be followed by even more deadly and destructive disease outbreaks unless their root cause – the rampant destruction of the natural world – is rapidly halted, the world’s leading biodiversity experts have warned. In a guest article for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the experts warned that “rampant deforestation, uncontrolled expansion of agriculture, intensive farming, mining and infrastructure development, as well as the exploitation of wild species have created a ‘perfect storm’ for the spill over of diseases.” These activities cause pandemics by bringing more people into contact and conflict with animals, from which 70 percent of emerging human diseases originate, they said. Combined with urbanisation and the explosive growth of global air travel, this enabled a harmless virus in Asian bats to bring “untold human suffering and halt economies and societies around the world. This is the human hand in pandemic emergence. Yet [Covid-19] may be only the beginning.” (The Guardian)


European retailers failing to disclose major chunk of CO2 from food waste

Europe’s largest food retailers are failing to fully disclose the carbon footprint of their food loss and waste, both undermining their ability to tackle the problem and exposing their investors to financial risks, a new report from think tank Planet Tracker has warned. Between a quarter and a third of all food produced for human consumption ends up going to waste every year, costing the food sector billions of dollars and generating a major chunk of the global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. The report reveals almost half – 44 percent – of all food loss and waste emissions in Europe come from indirect emissions generated across supply chains, but that these emissions are largely absent from retailers’ corporate carbon accounting books. Of Europe’s 12 publicly-listed food retailers, it found only one – Finnish brand Kesko Corporation – discloses the indirect emissions generated by wasted, lost, or uneaten food in its supply chains. (Business Green)


FTSE 100 firms using furlough scheme paid CEOs average of £3.6m

FTSE 100 companies claiming millions of pounds of government support for furloughed workers paid their chief executives an average of £3.6 million a year before the coronavirus crisis, according to new analysis that highlights the disparity in pay between workers and their bosses. The 18 big companies who have so far publicly revealed that they will use the scheme have spent a combined £321 million on pay for their chief executives over the last five years, according to thinktank the High Pay Centre. Blue-chip companies that planned to use the scheme included Associated British Foods, easyJet, and British Airways owner IAG, as well as retailers Next and JD Sports. All of the companies that have revealed they have furloughed workers have also announced executive pay cuts. Luke Hildyard, the High Pay Centre’s director, said the recipients of taxpayer-funded support would face pressure to cut high executive salaries, given that the unprecedented government support also directly benefits businesses and their shareholders. (The Guardian)

Climate Change/Consumers

Two-thirds of consumers support carbon footprints on product labelling

A global survey of 10,000 consumers has shown universal support for details on a product’s carbon footprint to be included on labelling, according to new research from the Carbon Trust. The 2020 YouGov survey, commissioned by the Carbon Trust, surveyed consumers across France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the US. It found that more than two-thirds (67 percent) of consumers would support the introduction of carbon labelling on products. For the UK, 63 percent agreed with the notion of adding a carbon label, while 51 percent admitted that they didn’t think about the carbon footprint of products when shopping. The Carbon Trust’s 2019 survey of 9,000 consumers across seven countries revealed similar support for carbon footprint labelling to be added to products, either on a voluntary or mandatory basis. Quorn Foods is the first company to introduce labels detailing the carbon footprint of its products to some of its most popular lines, as consumer interest in the climate impact of groceries rises. (edie)


Orbiting satellites detect floating plastic litter ‘islands’

Researchers have proven that satellites can be used to detect plastic floating on the surface of the sea, in a discovery that represents a major boost to efforts to clean up the giant patches of plastic that are found throughout the world’s ocean. Scientists at Plymouth Marine Laboratory have developed a technique where machine-learning algorithms can parse satellite imagery and pick out patches of plastic, distinguishing the litter from natural debris such as driftwood, seafoam, and seaweed. The hope is that the findings, published this week in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, will hasten the development of an operational method of detecting and recovering floating plastic patches across the world. At four different study sites in Canada, Scotland, Ghana, and Vietnam, the researchers successfully detected plastics with an average accuracy of 86 percent. Moving forward, the team intends to refine the technique to improve its accuracy in turbid and river waters. (Business Green)


Image Source: wheat field near pine trees beside mountains under blue and white sky by Keghan Crossland on Unplash.