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Nations ranked on climate performance
Denmark is the world’s top performer on climate change mitigation, followed closely by Sweden and the UK, according to the Climate Change Performance Index. Produced by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe, none of the world’s 10 largest greenhouse gas emitters make the index’s list of top 20 performing countries. The best of the biggest emitters is Germany, in 22nd place. The index covers the world’s 58 biggest emitters, and the US and China rank 44th and 45th respectively.
The lowest scoring industrialised economy is Australia, which is one place above the very worst performer, Saudi Arabia (not judged as industrialised). Depressingly, even if all the world’s countries performed as well as those at the top of the list, global temperatures would still probably rise more than 2C above pre-industrial levels. The index’s constituents are responsible for about 90% of all energy-related emissions. The US and China account for 14.7% and 23.4% of total global emissions, respectively.
Australia’s laggard status is confirmed by a separate report by the Global Reporting Initiative that finds only a handful of Australian firms are integrating sustainability issues into their corporate strategies. The report, produced in conjunction with KPMG and CPA Australia, finds that 80% of the country’s largest 50 listed firms identify the impact of “megaforces”, such as deforestation and climate change, on their businesses. Yet only 40% are able to identify how these individual megatrends could drive value for their companies.
Lifestock: climate culprit
Greenhouse gas emissions from livestock are serving to accelerate climate change, causing an influential UK think-tank to call for a curb on meat eating worldwide. Livestock-related emissions now account for 15% of global GHG emissions. Chief culprits are beef and dairy herds, which make up 65% of these emissions. Eructation – belching – and manure from cows and sheep are particularly high in methane. Pound-for-pound, methane’s impact on climate change is 20 times higher than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. Meat consumption is rocketing as incomes – and carnivorous appetites – grow in populous countries such as China and India. According to the Chatham House report, global meat demand is set to rise by 76% by 2050 (against a 2005-7 baseline). The international dairy market is following close behind, with an estimated 65% increase in demand over the same period.
Human rights risks
Forty-seven of the 197 countries ranked in Maplecroft’s annual Human Rights Risk Atlas are judged “low risk”, an increase from 42 countries last year. The list’s new entrants are Taiwan, Latvia, Lithuania, Uruguay and the Czech Republic. At the same time, the number of countries judged “high risk” has increased to 35, up from 20 when the atlas was first launched in 2008. Maplecoft, a UK-based risk consultancy, singles out the Ukraine, Thailand and Turkey as showing the steepest declines in respect of human rights. The atlas is designed to inform investors about human-rights-related risks. It contains indices for 31 human rights categories.
Another report, released by Brussels-based campaign group Bank Track, reveals that global banks are making slow progress in implementing human rights standards. Of the 32 banks analysed, just over half (17) fail to provide any reporting on human rights development or impacts. None of the banks assessed has grievance mechanisms in place. The best performer in the report is Dutch co-operative bank Rabobank, which scored eight out of a possible 12 points in the report. Banks scoring less two points or less include HSBC, Deutsche Bank and Bank of America, alongside Chinese banks. The average score across all the banks studied is just three out of 12.
Unsubsidised solar in sight for UK
The UK’s solar industry is set to become financially self-sustaining by 2020, a report by German think-tank Thema1 calculates. The assessment is based on the trajectory of Germany’s solar industry, which has seven times the fixed capacity of the UK’s and has achieved efficiencies of scale.
The report predicts that the domestic rooftop and large-scale solar markets will be the fastest to mature, achieving subsidy-free viability within the next decade. Wholesale power prices may fall as grid penetration of renewable energy rise, the report warns. Government support for renewable energy production in the UK is collectively capped under the Levy Control Framework at £4.3bn in 2014-15. To date, the UK’s Green Investment Bank has excluded solar power from loans of £1.6bn for renewables.
Child convention 25 years on
The poorest 20% of the world’s children are twice as likely as the richest 20% to die before their fifth birthday, according to a study by children’s charity Unicef. The report, designed to mark the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention of the Child, says one in four children in the world’s least developed countries are still engaged in child labour. The number of children under five who die each year has fallen by half since 1990 – from 12.7 million to 6.3 million in 2013. Even so, that means an estimated 17,000 children in this age category are still dying every day. A disproportionate number of these live in poor countries. The percentage of under-fives who live in countries classified as “low income” has increased from 13% in 1990 to 19% today.
Inequality affects GDP
Economic inequality hinders countries’ growth. According to a new study by the OECD, rising inequality is estimated to have knocked more than 10 percentage points off growth in Mexico and New Zealand in the two decades running up to the 2010/11 global recession. Cumulative growth rates would have been 9% higher in the UK, Finland and Norway, the OECD estimates, and 6-7% higher in the US, Italy and Sweden.
The OECD measures inequality using the Gini coefficient, which ranges from zero, where everybody has equal incomes, to 1, where all income goes to only one person. Inequality in the 21 OECD countries for which long-term data is available rose on average from 0.29 to 0.32 between the mid-1980s and 2010/11. Inequality increased by more than 0.05 in Finland, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden and the US. Only Greece and Turkey saw a slight decrease. Today, the richest 10% of the population in the OECD area earn 9.5 times more than the poorest 10%. In the 1980s, the ratio stood at 7:1.
A mere 0.1% of all edible “surplus” food from UK supermarket shelves finds its way to food banks and similar charitable projects, a report from the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger finds. The report, which provides an analysis of the UK’s 1,500 or so emergency food providers, reveals that more than 4m tonnes of food fit for human consumption ends up in landfill or being used for power generation. London has the most food banks in the UK (with 89), followed by Liverpool (77), Birmingham (19) and Bristol (18). The report cites research that suggests more than 500,000 people in the UK are now reliant on emergency food
Cisco and suppliers
Cisco’s latest corporate responsibility report reveals the growth of the ICT age: 14bn devices are connected to the internet, with the figure set to more than triple to 50bn by 2020. The US technology giant is working with its more than 600 manufacturing partners, component suppliers and logistics providers to reduce the environmental impact of the 800,000 individual parts that they currently produce for Cisco. Nearly six in 10 of the firm’s key suppliers have now set goals to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.
Last year, the proportion was less than half (45%). Cisco’s direct and indirect energy-related GHG emissions (Scope 1 and Scope 2) amount to 305,656 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year, representing a 30% reduction on 2007 baseline levels. Scope 2 emissions comprise 93% of the total emissions figure.
M&S’s Plan A: update
Nearly two-thirds of Marks & Spencer’s products now have at least one attribute that conforms to the UK retailer’s ambitious “Plan A” sustainability plan. Each attribute specifies an ecological or ethical quality above the market norm. The results are the first since M&S updated its Plan A strategy in June to include 100 revised sustainability commitments. The retailer achieved 93 of the 100 commitments in its first iteration of Plan A (from 2007 to 2013). Among the recent highlights of M&S’s sustainability efforts is the addition of 14 liquid nitrogen-powered trailers to its fleet of food delivery vehicles. If successful, the eco-efficient fuel technology could replace the retailer’s current fleet of 670 diesel-fuelled trailers. M&S also announced that it intends to roll out LED lighting to all its Food Halls over the next two years.
Aecom’s safety record
US-based engineering design firm AECOM Technology achieved a 61% reduction in its work-related injuries in 2014, compared with the previous year. The company, which employs nearly 100,000 people in 150 countries, also notched up a 69% improvement in its lost-time injury rate. Its enhanced safety record has reduced compensation paid to injured workers by more than 65%, resulting in savings of more than $600,000.climate change CR Cheat Sheet CSR Cheat Sheet Denmark greenhouse gas emissions Human rights reporting