Top Stories

November 11, 2021


China and US pledge co-operation over climate crisis at COP26 summit

China and the US have agreed to boost climate co-operation over the next decade, in a surprise announcement at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow. In a joint declaration, the US and China said they would continue to discuss concrete and pragmatic actions in the 2020s to reduce emissions to limit global warming to 1.5oC. The statement contains few new emissions commitments, although steps were agreed on issues including methane emissions, the transition to clean energy, and decarbonisation. The agreement is also a recognition by both sides that there is a huge gap between the efforts of countries to limit emissions to date and what science says is necessary for a safer world. The US and Chinese presidents are expected to hold a virtual meeting as early as next week. (BBC News, Financial Times*)


UK's Environment Bill passes into law after two years since announced

More than two years after it was first introduced, the UK Government's Environment Bill has received Royal Assent. Key provisions in the Bill include the creation of the new post-Brexit watchdog  – the Office for Environmental Protection, a new “comply or explain” mandate on deforestation for UK businesses importing forest-risk commodities, and forthcoming bans on selected single-use plastic items including cutlery and polystyrene cups. Green groups called the moment a "milestone" but urged the Government to see the Bill as a starting point rather than an end destination, calling for stronger provisions for ancient woodland protection in planning frameworks, restrictions on ministerial powers to weaken habitat-related regulations, a legal duty on water companies to reduce raw sewage discharges into rivers, and moves to strengthen the independence of the new watchdog. (edie)


Australia lobbied UNESCO to remove 1.5oC limit to protect heritage sites

Australia is trying to block a UN recommendation that countries should try to keep global heating to 1.5oC to protect world heritage sites from the impacts of the climate crisis. The Australian government has also told UNESCO major decisions about world heritage-listed places being damaged by climate change – including the Great Barrier Reef– should be put on hold. The government’s lobbying efforts are revealed in amendments sent to UNESCO on a new climate change policy for world heritage sites scheduled for discussion in two weeks’ time. UNESCO is to recommend countries pursue pathways limiting global heating to 1.5oC, with no or limited overshoot”. Australia says that reference to 1.5oC should be struck out and replaced with a more generic statement about the importance of the Paris climate agreement. (The Guardian)


Portugal bans employers from contacting staff outside of office hours

Portugal’s government has introduced a new law making it illegal for companies with 10 or more workers to contact staff outside their contracted working hours, in one of a range of new measures to regulate home-working and recalibrate the work-life balance of citizens in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses will face fines for emailing staff outside their agreed shift times and be forced to pay household expenses incurred while their employees work from home, including internet and electricity bills. Employers will be blocked from monitoring their workers’ productivity outside the office in the interests of safeguarding personal privacy, and staff with children will also be given the legal right to work from home until their sons or daughters turn eight, without having to secure approval from management. (The Independent)


Algorithmic tracking is “damaging mental health” of UK workers

Monitoring of workers and setting performance targets through algorithms is “damaging employees’ mental health” and needs to be controlled by legislation, according to a report by a group of UK MPs and peers. Research found that pervasive monitoring and target-setting technologies, whose use has significantly increased during the pandemic, are associated with pronounced negative impacts on mental and physical wellbeing as workers experience pressure of constant, real-time micro-management and automated assessment. The report recommends establishing a new algorithms act, under which workers would be involved in the design and use of algorithm-driven systems. It also recommends that corporations and public sector employers fill out algorithmic impact assessments, aimed at ironing out problems caused by the systems, and to introduce certification and guidance for use of AI and algorithms at work. (The Guardian)



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