Top Stories

April 28, 2020

Data ethics/Health

Coronavirus: Australia will make it a crime to use coronavirus tracing data for non-health purposes

Australia will make it illegal for non-health officials to access data collected on smartphone software to trace the spread of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said, amid privacy concerns raised by the measure. Australia has so far avoided the high death toll of other countries, with only 78 deaths, largely as a result of tough restrictions on movement that have brought public life to a standstill. The federal government has said existing social distancing measures will remain until at least mid-May, and that its willingness to relax them will depend on whether people download the smartphone app to identify who a person with the illness has had contact with. The tracing app, which is yet to be released, has raised concerns from legal and privacy advocates who have said the location data collects may be used by unrelated bodies like law enforcement agencies. Morrison said the government would make any use by non-health officials illegal. (Thomas Reuters Foundation)


Biogas industry moves to tackle spike in food waste

Two of the UK’s leading green energy trade bodies, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA), are calling on companies operating in the anaerobic digestion (AD) and biogas sector to provide information on current capacity levels, in a bid to help tackle a spike in organic waste caused by the Covid-19 lockdown. The Environment Agency and devolved nations’ have expressed concern that one of the side effects of the lockdown has been an increase food waste caused by the closure of markets for food and drink producers, such as farms, fisheries and breweries, as well as changes to consumer shopping habits. In response, the REA and ADBA have launched a joint survey that aims to match organic waste producers with their nearest AD operators. The UK-wide survey also aims to assist Defra, regulatory bodies, and industries to treat feedstock so that as much organic waste can be processed as possible in a way that cuts methane emissions and generates renewable energy. (Business Green)


Coronavirus: Businesses provide NHS workers with renewably powered smartphone chargers

A new initiative has been set up to provide more than 850 pre-charged power banks using 100 percent renewable energy to help NHS workers charge smartphones and stay connected during shifts on the Covid-19 frontline. The Lifeline To The Frontline initiative has been set up by London-based B Corp Lifesaver with support from Nissan, Boodles, Octopus Energy for Business, Landbot, The Conduit & helpforce. Lifesaver delivers phone power as a service and has linked up 860 pre-charged power banks with renewable energy provided by Octopus Energy. The banks have been donated to the University Hospital Lewisham, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. Lifesaver’s chief executive Archie Wilkinson said: “People need power on the go. Frontline workers are under new pressures and need our support to stay powered & connected. We have launched Lifeline To The Frontline as a way to bring partners across the world to play a small part in helping these doctors and nurses stay connected with patients, family and loved ones.” (edie)

Consumers/ Climate Change

Coronavirus: Physical distancing will end era of cheap air travel, industry warns

The days of cheap air travel will be over if airlines are forced to introduce physical distancing measures on planes because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry has warned. Alexandre de Juniac, the director general of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), said that if governments ordered airlines to adopt physical distancing onboard aircraft, at least a third of seats would remain empty and airlines would have to raise their ticket prices by at least 50 percent or go bust. Iata said domestic air traffic had slumped 70 percent since early January because of the pandemic and warned that any global recovery was likely to be slow. While domestic routes will open sooner than long-haul, weak consumer confidence amid recession fears will undermine a quick recovery, said Brian Pearce, Iata’s chief economist. The aviation body expects 2020 global passenger revenues to more than halve from last year, a loss of $314bn (£255bn). (The Guardian)

Sustainable Investment/Climate Change

ShareAction slams European banks over sluggish action on climate crisis

A report published today by investor campaign group ShareAction has shown that not one of Europe’s largest banks has yet shown ‘best practice’ in managing climate-related risks and opportunities. The European banking sector performed poorly in the scorecard tracking efforts to tackle the climate crisis, with progress in delivering new green finance products undermined by many banks ongoing support for fossil fuel projects. Scores across the survey averaged out at just 40 percent. BNP Paribas topped the rankings with a score of 63.2 percent, and Lloyds was singled out as most improved, having shot up to second place after being deemed the worst offender in a prior edition of the survey published in 2017. However, Intesa Sanpaolo, Credit Suisse, Commerzbank, and UniCredit performed the worst, with ShareAction alleging that they demonstrated little evidence of reining in the harmful impacts of their investment activities on the climate. Overall, their approach was classified as ‘business as usual’ by the report. (Business Green)


Image Source: person holding white samsung android smartphone by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash.