Top Stories

December 17, 2020

Digital Ethics 

Google accused of colluding with Facebook in online ad market 

A group of 10 Republican-led US states has opened a new front in US antitrust actions against Google, charging the internet group with abusing its monopoly over parts of the online advertising market and colluding with Facebook to shut out rival ad exchanges. The allegation that Google worked with Facebook to carve up advertising profits adds a new twist to the multiplying lawsuits that claim the world’s biggest tech companies have acted together to buttress their power. Google called the lawsuit “meritless”, saying in a statement: “Digital ad prices have fallen over the last decade. Ad tech fees are falling too. Google’s ad tech fees are lower than the industry average. These are the hallmarks of a highly competitive industry.” (Financial Times)* 


Hong Kong sets new climate disclosure rules and aligns with global standard

Hong Kong financial institutions and listed companies will have to disclose the financial impact of climate change on their businesses, as outlined in a major global standard by 2025, the city’s main financial regulators said on Thursday. Investors in Hong Kong and around the world say uncertainty about the quality and comparability of companies’ climate-related disclosures limits their ability to make informed decisions. Under the proposals, by 2025 companies will have to share information in line with standards set by the Task Force on Climate-related Disclosures (TCFD), a body created by the Financial Stability Board to publish principles to inform investors of climate-related financial risk. Hong Kong will also support a separate effort by accounting standards body IFRS to develop a uniform set of sustainability standards, the plan said. (Reuters) 

Human Rights 

Water rights victory ‘enormous step’ for Australia’s indigenous 

Rights groups have hailed a decision by Australia’s Victoria state to give an Aboriginal community control over a river system as an “enormous first step” for indigenous people’s rights over nature. The government announced last month that it will grant a portion of the water from the Mitchell River to the Gunaikurnai community, giving them control over two gigalitres of water every year – a first for the southeastern state. Across Australia, indigenous communities own less than 1 per cent of the nation’s water rights, according to researchers from Griffith University in Queensland. The announcement comes 10 years after the Gunaikurnai secured native title over the majority of the Gippsland area, east of the state capital Melbourne, and entered into an agreement under the state’s Traditional Owner Settlement Act. (Eco Business) 


US hit by plastic debris lost from UK ship

Brightly coloured plastic debris from the UK has been washing up along the coast of Maine in the US after a shipment bound for incineration fell into the sea. The plastic debris, part of a 10,000-tonne consignment from Re-Gen Waste, a company based in Newry, Northern Ireland, has infuriated environmentalists and locals surprised to learn that the north-eastern state of Maine is importing plastic from almost 3,000 miles away. Politicians and environmentalists say the US, which is the world’s biggest producer of plastic waste, should not be importing more plastic. They are concerned about the potential effects on wildlife in Penobscot Bay, home to one of Maine’s first commercial lobster fisheries. (The Guardian) 

Climate Change 

Lloyd’s of London steps back from coal in first climate change policy 

Lloyd’s of London is scaling back its exposure to coal and oil sands, the commercial insurance market said in its first sustainability report on Wednesday, in a reversal of its traditional hands-off approach to climate change strategy. Lloyd’s acts as regulator for around 100 syndicate members, and leaves decisions on underwriting and investment strategy to them. But other regulatory bodies, such as the Bank of England, have stressed the risks of climate change for financial institutions. Lloyd’s has come under fire from activists because its members have insured controversial projects such as Adani Enterprises’ Carmichael thermal coal mine in Australia and the Canadian government’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline. European insurers like AXA and Zurich have already pulled back from underwriting fossil fuels such as coal and oil sands, though U.S. and Asian insurers have mainly retained their exposure. (Reuters) 


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