Top Stories

January 20, 2021


UK Government votes to allow food imports with lower environmental standards

The UK Government has backtracked on its non-regression pledges around post-Brexit food standards, after MPs voted against amendments to the trade bill. Organisations, including the Aldersgate Group, the National Farmers Union, WWF, along with retail giant John Lewis Partnership and chemicals company BASF, are warning of potentially dire consequences for producers in the UK, who could lose business to cheap imports which undercut domestic standards. There are concerns about the environmental effects and the potential impacts on human health. Particular sticking-points include chicken treated with chlorine, hormone-fed beef, and livestock which have been over-exposed to antibiotics, thus developing resistance. The Government decision is unpopular with big businesses, such as Sainsbury’s, Co-op and Aldi UK who made public commitments to never stock chicken that does not meet domestic standards. (Edie)


EU set to adopt carbon border levy

The European Union’s proposed carbon border charge is essential to the survival of its own industries and the bloc will impose the levy on non-EU competitors unless they commit to lowering their emissions. If non-EU competitors do not adopt emissions commitments, the EU has said it will have to protect themselves against distortion of competition and against the risk of carbon leakage. Carbon leakage would occur if companies left Europe to avoid the cost of its emissions-cutting policies. Globally, industry is under pressure to ramp up climate action ahead of a United Nations summit in November, which serves as a deadline for nearly 200 countries to pledge deeper emissions cuts. If that meeting fails to deliver, the EU will press ahead with unilateral carbon border measures. (Reuters)


Fighting climate crisis made harder by Covid-19 inequality, says WEF

Tackling the existential risk posed by the climate crisis will be made harder by the growing gap between rich and poor triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Economic Forum has said. The WEF’s Global Risks Report found that environmental issues pose the biggest danger in the coming years. By likelihood of risk happening, extreme weather events came out top, followed by climate action failure, human environmental damage, infectious diseases and bio-diversity loss. In terms of impact, the top five issues are infectious diseases, climate action failure, weapons of mass destruction, biodiversity loss and natural resource crises. The pandemic has widened longstanding health, economic and digital disparities, making it harder to secure the international cooperation needed to combat challenges such as environmental degradation. (The Guardian)


Black and minority ethnic workers hit harder by Covid-19 job losses

Black and minority ethnic (BAME) workers in the UK have been hit harder by the pandemic than their white peers, according to analysis by the Trades Union Congress. The analysis, based on labour market data for the third quarter of 2020, shows that the unemployment rate for black and ethnic minority workers was at 7% before the pandemic hit, and has risen to 8.5%, whereas the unemployment rate for white workers stood at 4.5% in the third quarter up from 3.6% a year earlier. In hospitality, the number of BAME employees was 23% lower year on year in the third quarter of 2020, compared with a decline of 13% for white employees. In manufacturing, white employment was down 7%, while the number of BAME employees had fallen 15%. (The Independent, Financial Times*)


Online algorithms should face regulatory scrutiny, says UK watchdog

The UK’s competition watchdog has said the algorithms that underpin online content, including news, shopping, dating and travel, should be carefully monitored by regulators. The Competition and Markets Authority, which is stepping up its focus on the tech sector, said that algorithms can harm competition in many ways, for example by reducing the choice in search results or allowing companies to promote their own products above those of rivals. It added that complex algorithms can aid collusion between businesses without companies directly sharing information. The announcement comes ahead of the launch of the CMA’s Digital Markets Unit, which is due in April. The new unit will focus on holding Big Tech platforms to the same standards as smaller businesses. (Financial Times*)

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