Thursday, April 15, 2021

Our Damaged World

 Just 3% of the world’s land remains ecologically intact with healthy populations of all its original animals and undisturbed habitat, a study suggests. Previous analyses have identified wilderness areas based largely on satellite images and estimated that 20-40% of the Earth’s surface is little affected by humans. However, the scientists behind the new study argue that forests, savannah and tundra can appear intact from above but that, on the ground, vital species are missing. 

These scattered fragments of wilderness undamaged by human activities are mainly in parts of the Amazon and Congo tropical forests, east Siberian and northern Canadian forests and tundra, and the Sahara.  Some scientists said the new analysis underestimates the intact areas, because the ranges of animals centuries ago are poorly known and the new maps do not take account of the impacts of the climate crisis, which is changing the ranges of species.

It is widely accepted that the world is in a biodiversity crisis, with many wildlife populations  plunging, mainly due to the destruction of habitat for farming and building.

Dr Andrew Plumptre, the lead author of the study, from the Key Biodiversity Areas Secretariat in Cambridge, said, “It’s fairly scary, because it shows how unique places like the Serengeti are, which actually have functioning and fully intact ecosystems." He continued, “It might be possible to increase the ecological intact area back to up to 20% through the targeted reintroductions of species that have been lost in areas where human impact is still low, provided the threats to their survival can be addressed.”  

America's Food Insecurity


An investigation  by the Guardian and the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at Northwestern University reveals the scale of America’s food insecurity crisis during Covid-19. Food insecurity has been at the highest level since annual records began in the mid-1990s. But, the pandemic did not create America’s hunger divide.

 The week before Christmas, about 81 million Americans experienced food insecurity, meaning that one in four people in the so-called richest country in the world did not have reliable access to sufficient nutritious food needed for a healthy active life.

It found  racial inequalities in access to adequate nutrition that threatens the long-term prospects of a generation of Black and brown children. Black families in the US have gone hungry at two to three times the rate of white families over the course of the pandemic. 

“Food insecurity and poverty are absolutely racialized, so it’s horrifying, but not surprising, that Black and brown people have suffered disproportionately,” said Paul Taylor, executive director of FoodShare, a  food justice organization.

Kyle Moore, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute’s program on race and ethnicity, explained, “In periods of general economic growth, racial disparities in a wide range of poverty indicators have remained constant, suggesting a lack of political will over decades to tackle the root causes. Black and brown households have been hardest hit in every economic crisis, and taken the longest to recover.”

The report found:

1. Hunger – defined as not having enough to eat sometimes or often during the previous week – has been reported between 19% and 29% of Black households with children over the course of the pandemic. This compares with 7% to 14% of white American families.

2. Latino families have experienced the second highest rates of hunger, ranging from 16% to 25% nationally.

3, Racial disparities varied across states: Black families in Texas reported hunger at four times the rate of white families in some weeks, as did Latinos in New York.

4. As many as 43% of Black households with children have been food insecure during the course of the pandemic – the highest rate nationally for any community since records began. Despite a substantial fall last month, about one in three Black and Latino families are still food insecure.

5. Between 17% and 26% of white American families experienced food insecurity over the past year – illustrating the extent to which hardship spread into previously economically resilient communities.

6, Since Christmas, food insecurity has fallen by 35% among white families, compared to 26% of Black families, 21% of Asian Americans and 15% for Latinos.

The rate of hunger for families with children has been on average 61% (41% to 83%) higher than for adult-only households. This is particularly troubling as inadequate nutrition can damage children’s emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing, and the consequences can last a lifetime. Children who live in food insecure households are likely to get sick more often, recover from illness more slowly, and end up in the emergency room more frequently. Insufficient nutritious food impedes learning, and is linked to higher levels of asthma and depression.

“Covid has amplified existing disparities in education, food insecurity, unstable housing and health outcomes for a whole generation of children,” said Dr Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University. “Children have borne the brunt of the lack of action to contain Covid-19 and the failure to prioritize schools.” 

One in eight Americans has reduced food spending to pay for healthcare, with Black Americans twice as likely to be unable to afford quality healthcare compared to white Americans.

The US safety net for families with children  has always been less generous and less funded compared with other rich countries.

 “When the pandemic struck and so many jobs were lost, there were big holes in the safety net, especially for those who couldn’t access unemployment insurance because of their migration status or because they left work ‘voluntarily’ to care for children when schools closed,” said Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, IPR director.

“The prevalence of hunger in the US is a political choice,” said Molly Anderson, professor of food studies at Middlebury College in Vermont. “Inequalities are down to political decisions.” 

Aid was often delayed by bipartisanship or bureaucracy, it was mostly temporary, and far from universal, with some vulnerable communities such as undocumented migrants and cash-in-hand workers excluded almost entirely. Millions of struggling Americans lost federal unemployment benefits between August and January as lawmakers bickered over how much people deserved. Even if economic and food assistance reached struggling families none of the short term federal fixes came close to mitigating existing racial inequalities that had left Americans of color less able to weather unexpected economic storms.

In 2019, at the end of a period of historical economic expansion, unemployment for Black Americans was double that for white Americans, while the poverty rate for Black children was triple. Black and Latino workers are significantly more likely to earn the minimum wage or less than white workers. When the pandemic struck, the average Black family had $1,500 in emergency savings, whereas a typical white family had more than five times that amount. Only 10% of Latino families had enough savings to cover six months of expenses, compared with 36% of white families.

The past year has been particularly tough for children from low-income households, who are disproportionately Black, brown and Indigenous. Before the pandemic, more than 20 million children got free school lunches; just over half of those also received for free breakfast. “The biggest challenge has been getting food to hungry kids out of school,” said Regi Young, chief strategy officer at the Houston food bank.

 " The truth is, we’re never going to foodbank our way out of hunger,” said Stuart Haniff, CEO of the RGV Food Bank.

America’s year of hunger: how children and people of color suffered most | Food | The Guardian

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The autonomy of a woman's body


The UN Population Fund (UNFPA), has released a report highlighting the inability of women control their own bodies and be free from violence or coercion.

Nearly half of the world's women, in 57 countries, are denied the right to say yes or no to sex with their partner, use contraception or seek healthcare.

Twenty countries still allow rapists to marry their victims to avoid criminal prosecution.

Dr Natalia Kanem, executive director of UNFPA, said such laws were “deeply wrong” and were “a way of subjugating women. The denial of rights cannot be shielded in law. ‘Marry your rapist’ laws shift the burden of guilt on to the victim and try to sanitise a situation which is criminal.” She explains, “The fact that nearly half of women still cannot make their own decisions about whether or not to have sex, use contraception or seek healthcare should outrage us all,” said Kanem. “In essence, hundreds of millions of women and girls do not own their own bodies. Their lives are governed by others.”

43 countries have no legislation criminalising marital rape.

Dima Dabbous, director of Equality Now’s Middle East and Africa region, whose research is cited in the UNFPA report, said the laws reflected a culture “that does not think women should have bodily autonomy and that they are the property of the family. It’s a tribal and antiquated approach to sexuality and honour mixed together”.

More than 30 countries restrict women’s freedom outside the home.

“The denial of bodily autonomy is a violation of women and girls’ fundamental human rights that reinforces inequalities and perpetuates violence arising from gender discrimination,” said Kanem. “It is nothing less than an annihilation of the spirit, and it must stop.”

‘Marry your rapist’ laws in 20 countries still allow perpetrators to escape justice | Women's rights and gender equality | The Guardian

Another WHO Goal

 In 2019, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) killed more than 80,000 people and caused the loss of more than 18 million disability-adjusted life years (a measure of the burden of disease burden, expressed as the years lost to ill health, disability or early death.) 

Nonetheless, the resources allocated to help people suffering from NTDs remain scarce Despite their collective impact, do not attract as much attention as diseases such as HIV/Aids, malaria or tuberculosis.

 Currently, the WHO identifies 20 NTDs, different conditions that are caused by parasites, bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxins, with complex transmission cycles involving multiple vectors – mosquitoes, sandflies or dogs via routes such as  oral, through the skin or congenital.

 Though medically diverse, NTDs can slowly kill, blind, disfigure and debilitate their victims. They cause untold suffering to victims and caregivers in the poorest communities and contribute to perpetuating a cycle of disease, stigma and poverty.

The WHO roadmap for NTDs sets a goal to “control and eliminate the NTDs by 2030”.

Neglected tropical diseases are the landmines of global health | Global health | The Guardian

Government promise to tenants broken

 700,000 renters are estimated to have been served with “no-fault” eviction notices since the start of the pandemic, despite a government promise to scrap the practice with the announcement that “private landlords will no longer be able to evict tenants from their homes at short notice and without good reason”. The renters’ reform bill, which promised to abolish no-fault evictions, was announced in the last Queen’s speech in December 2019 but has not yet been delivered.

Section 21 eviction notices are still in use and ministers are now facing a new push to deliver on their promise from a new coalition for reform of renters’ rights, which includes the charities Generation Rent, Crisis and Shelter, as well as Citizens Advice and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Polly Neate, the chief executive of Shelter, said private renters have “had a bad deal for too long – living at the mercy of a broken and unfair system”.

Sue James, the chair of the Renters’ Reform Coalition, said: “Private renters face high rents, poor living conditions and perpetual instability. This causes needless disruption to people’s lives: their finances, work, health and their children’s education. Renters need certainty to enable them to put down roots in communities and create real homes in rented properties.”

About 700,000 renters served with ‘no-fault’ eviction notices since start of pandemic | Renting property | The Guardian

Sheikh owns more of the UK than the queen

 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai. and his close family,  has acquired a land and property empire in Britain that appears to exceed 40,000 hectares (100,000 acres), making him one of the country’s largest landowners.

The property portfolio ranges from mansions, stables and training gallops across Newmarket, to white stucco houses in some of London’s most exclusive addresses and extensive moorland including the 25,000-hectare Inverinate estate in the Scottish Highlands. It surpasses the size of the Queen’s personal estates, according to Guy Shrubsole, a leading expert in land ownership.

The exact scale of his British landholding is not known because most of the properties connected to him are owned via offshore companies in the tax havens of Guernsey and Jersey. That raises familiar questions about the secretive nature of large amounts of property ownership in Britain, and whether it is structured in ways to avoid paying UK taxes when the properties are sold.

Revealed: the huge British property empire of Sheikh Mohammed | Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum | The Guardian

Please, more trees

 Woodland now covers 13% of UK land.

About half is made up of native tree species, such as oak, beech and ash, including centuries-old ancient woodlands. The remaining half comprises non-native trees such as conifers grown commercially for timber.

"Wildlife is going down - woodland birds, woodland butterflies, woodland plants are all going in the wrong direction for woodlands as a whole," Chris Reid, lead author of the report by the Woodland Trust, told BBC News. "This is down to factors such as pollution, invasive species, deer browsing and fragmentation - woods chopped up into small parcels. All of these need to be tackled."

Ancient woodlands continue to be lost and damaged by house building, new road and railways, the report says.

The Committee on Climate Change, the government's independent adviser on tackling climate change, has called for the planting of more trees and woodlands if the UK is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It recommends increasing UK woodland cover from its current level of 13% of total land cover to at least 17%, and possibly to 19% by 2050.

UK woodlands 'at crisis point' amid wildlife decline - BBC News

Peas, Please

 Legumes, the likes of peas, lentils, beans, and chickpeas, are one of the most nutrient-rich crops on the market – they are abundant in protein, fibre, iron and potassium – and they are a healthier alternative to cereals and meat. 

The appetite for them is starting to grow: more than 40% of Brits are looking to reduce the amount of meat in their diet and 14% of the population consider themselves “flexitarians” (following a flexible vegetarian diet.)

While traditional European crops such as oats, barley, wheat and rapeseed require synthetic fertilisers to obtain nitrogen – a critical nutrient for growth – leguminous plants produce their own nitrogen from the air. They also leave nitrogen behind in the soil, ready to be used by future crops.

 Dr David Styles, a lecturer in environmental engineering at the University of Limerick, explains,  “Synthetic fertiliser nitrogen dominates the carbon footprint for the cultivation of crops. If we can reduce that by increasing legume production, we’re automatically going to massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But these crops aren’t so prevalent in Europe,” he added. “They only cover about 1% of European outer land at the moment. Whereas in other countries, like Canada, it’s more than 20%.” Europe obtains most of its protein-rich crops by importing soya beans from South America – a system that drives deforestation.

 Introducing legumes to traditional crop rotations in Scotland would reduce the use of synthetic fertilisers by up to 50%.

Legumes research gets flexitarian pulses racing with farming guidance | Farming | The Guardian

Water World

 The climate emergency and the greenhouse gas emissions have unleashed heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, and other extreme weather.

Another problem is that the overheated atmosphere has in turn overheated the oceans, assuring a future sea level rise. As oceans heat up the water rises in part because warm water expands but also because the warmer waters have initiated major melt of polar ice sheets. There are various projections, mostly bleak. 

Sea level rise is accelerating at a dangerous pace. In 1900, global sea levels were rising 0.6 millimeters a year. After 1930, as ocean warming and water expansion kicked in, the rate of sea level rise doubled and doubled again, reaching 3.1mm a year by 1990. Since then, as ever-warmer oceans have driven polar ice melt, the rate of sea level rise has quickened further. Today, oceans are rising 6 mm a year (over two inches a decade), and this pace will continue to dramatically accelerate. Two inches a decade may seem a trifle but remember: we are just at the beginning of this acceleration. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected in 2017 that global mean sea level could rise five to 8.2ft by 2100. Four years later, it’s clear that 8ft is in fact a moderate projection. And regional influences – subsidence, changing ocean currents, and redistribution of Earth’s mass as ice melts – will cause some local sea level rise to be 20-70% higher than global.

A global mean sea level rise  could be two feet of sea level rise by 2040, three feet by 2050 under worse case scenarios. Sea level rise of that extent will transform human societies the world over. South Florida, residents will lose access to fresh water. Sewage treatment plants will fail, large areas will persistently flood, and Miami Beach and other barrier islands will be largely abandoned. In China, India, Egypt and other countries with major river deltas, two to three feet of sea level rise will force the evacuation of tens of millions of people and the loss of vast agricultural lands. It would flood much of New York and Washington DC, Shanghai and Bangkok, Lagos, Alexandria and countless other coastal cities underwater. Sea walls and levees protections will be in deep trouble.

Sea levels are going to rise by at least 20ft. We can do something about it | Climate change | The Guardian


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Its a hungry world

 The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says more than 3 billion people worldwide cannot afford a healthy diet. 

“Reduced access to nutritious food has resulted in negative impacts for many. Families will find it difficult to put food on the table. The fortunate ones will skip meals while those without will have to go to bed with an empty stomach,” Erdelmann said, adding that “for the most vulnerable people, hunger will have a lasting effect on their lives.”

A new Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition Foundation (BCFN) report,  “A one health approach to food – The Double Pyramid connecting food culture, health and climate”, raises concerns that in some African countries, the consumption of cheap sources of high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals – such as eggs – remains low. 

690 million people globally lack sufficient food. COVID-19 has worsened these conditions, and it’s projected that between 83 and 132 million more people will join the ranks of the undernourished because of interrupted livelihoods caused by the pandemic. 

Its Global Nutrition Report showed that 88% of countries face a serious burden of either two or three forms of malnutrition, namely undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency or overweight or obesity. Recent findings include that child and adult obesity have increased in almost all countries, burdening already struggling global health care systems. 

The Barilla report notes that healthy diets’ affordability is “compromised especially in low- and middle-income countries."

New Report Calls for Improved Eating Habits in a World of Extremes | Inter Press Service (

America's Law Breakers

 The head of the IRS calculated that tax evasion in the U.S.A. may total $1 trillion a year.

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Chuck Rettig told a Senate panel Tuesday that previous tallies of the tax gap — which came to a cumulative amount of about $441 billion for the three years through 2013 — didn’t include some tax evasion-techniques that weren’t on their radar at the time. New estimates include the use of cryptocurrency, he said. Offshore tax evasion, illegal income that goes undetected by the IRS and underreporting from pass-through businesses also contribute to a larger than previously known tax gap, Rettig said.

“I think it would not be outlandish to believe that the actual tax gap could approach and possibly exceed $1 trillion per year,” Rettig told the Senate Finance Committee.

Most individuals earn their income through wages, where taxes are automatically deducted from each paycheck. However, income from pass-through entities, such as partnerships and limited liability corporations isn’t subject to automatic withholding, giving the owners more opportunity to skirt tax obligations.

A study released last month, which included two IRS officials as authors, found that the richest 1% of Americans don’t report about 20% of their income to the government. Those individuals are able to use pass-through businesses and offshore structures to shield their income from the IRS’s view, the study said. Collecting that money would boost tax collections by $175 billion a year, the study found.

Pay up: US tax dodgers are costing US $1 trillion, IRS says | Tax News | Al Jazeera

Babcock Business

Laying off 1,000 jobs 

Writing off £1.7bn

Selling off several business 

Underlying profit £30m lower a year "for future periods".

Yet share prices soar sky-high

Capitalism is a strange beast

Defence giant Babcock International to cut 1,000 jobs - BBC News

Goa's beauty is going

 Projects  in Goa and Karnataka approved by the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is accused of approving the projects in April last year in “unseemly haste”, allegedly without consulting the village locals or observing due process will cut through Mollem National Park,  a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, and the adjoining Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, include the expansion of a national highway from the capital Panjim to Belgaum in neighbouring Karnataka, the doubling of a railway track that will run through Goa’s Mollem forest and Karnataka’s Kali tiger reserve, and building a power transmission line through the forest.

Environmentalists have repeatedly warned of an unfolding catastrophe facing the fragile forest and its unique biodiversity if the projects are implemented. The projects also threaten to destroy livelihoods and heritage homes – some of which were built nearly 200 years ago and are a testimony to the culture and colonial history of Goa.

The “Magical Mollem”, also called Goa’s green heart, encompasses 240sq km (149sq miles) of India’s Western Ghats. It is a 150 million-year-old reserve with thousands of wildlife species. From pangolins and wild frogs to 120 species of butterflies and mammals, some ecologists say its biodiversity is as important as Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

The residents of Goa say the BJP is abetting the use of fossil fuels by pandering to the corporations – actions that go against the UN’s climate report which emphasises that production of coal, oil and gas must fall by 6 percent a year until 2030 to avoid  a “severe climate disruption”.

Most anger is directed towards the Adani Group – the largest coal producer in the region – whose chairman and founder, Gautam Adani, is close to the governing BJP.

“The governments (federal and state) is widely seen as being owned by the Adani corporate empire,” says Claude Alvares, director of Goa Foundation, one of the state’s oldest environmental action groups.

Residents say the Adani Group will transport coal from Australia to the steel plants in Karnataka and Maharashtra states through Goa’s Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), built in the 19th century.

Other corporations set to benefit are Jindal and Vedanta. In 2018, the MPT granted Adani and Jindal 50-percent waivers on the port charges. The Vedanta Group’s Sesa Sterlite is involved in the power transmission line project.

Max D’souza, member of Villagers Action Committee Against Double Tracking (VACAD), said the corporations will use their designated coal berths at MPT to enhance coal transport. “Goans will see no benefit from these projects, except destruction,” he said. 

“They [the corporations] do not influence government decisions, they make the decisions and the government implements them,” said Alvares.

 The central government last month granted permits for the clearing of 140 hectares (345 acres) of forest land for the South Western Railway (SWR) project.

Protests as India’s Goa plans infra projects in protected forest | Climate Change News | Al Jazeera

Pakistan's Power and Privilege

  A new United Nations report by the has UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) National Human Development Report (NHDR) for Pakistan has found. Released last week, the report  for Pakistan focuses on issues of inequality in the South Asian country of 220 million people.

The report, “Power, People and Policy”, examines the stark income and economic opportunity disparities in the developing country.

The wide-ranging NHDR provides detailed data on deep-rooted inequality in Pakistan’s economy.

While the richest 1 percent held 9 percent of the country’s income of $314.4bn in 2018-19, the report found that the poorest 1 percent held just 0.15 percent.

Overall, the richest 20 percent of Pakistanis hold 49.6 percent of the national income, compared with the poorest 20 percent, who hold just 7 percent.

UNDP’s data showing middle-income earners fell from 42 percent of the population in 2009 to 36 percent in 2019.

The NHDR 2020 reveals that Pakistan’s people do not benefit equally from public expenditure,” reads the report. The overall share is 14.2 percent for the poorest, compared with 37.2 percent for the richest.

“The poorest and richest Pakistanis effectively live in completely different countries, with literacy levels, health outcomes, and living standards that are poles apart,” writes Aliona Niculita, deputy resident representative of the UNDP in Pakistan.

“Powerful groups use their privilege to capture more than their fair share, people perpetuate structural discrimination through prejudice against others based on social characteristics, and policies are often unsuccessful at addressing the resulting inequity, or may even contribute to it,” says the report.

Economic privileges accorded to Pakistan’s elite groups, including the corporate sector, feudal landlords, the political class and the country’s powerful military, add up to an estimated $17.4bn, or roughly 6 percent of the country’s economy.

The biggest beneficiary of the privileges – which may take the form of tax breaks, cheap input prices, higher output prices or preferential access to capital, land and services – was found to be the country’s corporate sector, which accrued an estimated $4.7bn in privileges, the report says.

The second and third-highest recipients of privileges were found to be the country’s richest 1 percent, who collectively own 9 percent of the country’s overall income, and the feudal land-owning class, which constitutes 1.1 percent of the population but owns 22 percent of all arable farmland.

Both classes have strong representation in the Pakistani Parliament, with most major political parties’ candidates’ drawn from either the feudal landowning class or the country’s business-owning elite. Those responsible for doling out the privileges were also those who were receiving them.

The country’s powerful military, which has directly ruled Pakistan for roughly half of its 74-year history, was found to receive $1.7bn in privileges, mainly in the form of preferential access to land, capital and infrastructure, as well as tax exemptions. Pakistan’s military is also “the largest conglomerate of business entities in Pakistan, besides being the country’s biggest urban real estate developer and manager, with wide-ranging involvement in the construction of public projects”.

In a country like Pakistan, where the military continues to hold power over many aspects of governance,  Kanni Wignaraja, assistant secretary-general and regional chief of the UNDP, warned that it would take “almost a social movement” to displace structures of power that were so entrenched.

Pakistan ranks second-to-last in South Asia based on Human Development Index , outperforming Afghanistan but lagging behind all six of its other regional neighbours.

Pakistan ranks 153 out of 156 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index, with 32 percent of primary-school-aged girls out of school.

“If I had just that one extra rupee, and you asked me where would I put it, I would put in girls education,” said Wignaraja. “The evidence across the world on one of the biggest returns on investment comes from educating all of our children and getting them and keeping them in school. But a huge return is that all of those missing girls from school and missing women from the workplace, it’s investing in that.”

Elite privilege consumes $17.4bn of Pakistan’s economy: UNDP | Business and Economy News | Al Jazeera

America's Real Wealthy


Eight Americans possess $1.023 trillion dollars.

Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison hold a personal fortune worth $100 billion or more.  Larry Page and Sergey Brin, both of Google have a wealth of $98.6 billion and $95.6 billion respectively.

One trillion dollars equals the collective wealth of a million millionaires. 

There are US states where the entire population holds significantly less than $1 trillion in wealth.

Seven years ago 51 billionaires held personal fortunes worth a combined $1 trillion. Wealth concentration in America has indeed grown.

Opinion | Feast Your Eyes on the Trillion-Dollar SUV (

Blame the rich

 The  Cambridge Sustainability Commission on Scaling Behaviour Change is a panel of 31 individuals who study people’s behaviour relating to the environment.

It says the world's wealthiest 1% produce double the combined carbon emissions of the poorest 50%, according to the UN. The wealthiest 5% alone – the so-called “polluter elite” - contributed 37% of emissions growth between 1990 and 2015.

Lead author of the report, Prof Peter Newell, from Sussex University, told BBC News:

“We have got to cut over-consumption and the best place to start is over-consumption among the polluting elites who contribute by far more than their share of carbon emissions. These are people who fly most, drive the biggest cars most and live in the biggest homes which they can easily afford to heat, so they tend not to worry if they’re well insulated or not." 

He continued: “Rich people who fly a lot may think they can offset their emissions by tree-planting schemes or projects to capture carbon from the air. But these schemes are highly contentious and they’re not proven over time.

The wealthy, he said, “simply must fly less and drive less. Even if they own an electric SUV that’s still a drain on the energy system and all the emissions created making the vehicle in the first place”.

Prof Newell said existing political structures allowed wealthy firms and individuals to lobby against necessary changes in society that might erode the lifestyles of the rich.

World's wealthiest 'at heart of climate problem' - BBC News

Aid Cuts Will Cost Lives

 Dr Alvaro Bermejo, director general of International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), has accused the government of “abandoning” women and girls it promised to help, and that the UK foreign aid cuts will derail the programme to reduce maternal deaths and prevent unsafe abortions in poor countries.

“What is unbelievable is a flagship programme designed by a Conservative government for sexual and reproductive health is going to be destroyed,” said Bermejo.

The threat will be to the women’s integrated sexual health (Wish) programme and could mean 7.5m additional unintended pregnancies, 2.7m unsafe abortions and 22,000 maternal deaths over the next year

“The impact will be brutal,” Bermejo said. “We’re already having to close in half the countries where we are operating and keep the remaining ones operating at 30% of what they were. We will have to close our Mozambique project with three months’ notice and our Zambia project. We’re losing staff now.” 

IPPF’s Mozambique Wish programme reached half a million women in the last three months, a quarter of them under 25, and increased the take-up of long-term contraceptives, as well as ensuring rural health facilities were stocked with drugs.

Bermejo and Simon Cooke, chief executive officer of MSI Reproductive Choices, who implement the  Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) reproductive health programme, said they had been told by government officials to “stretch” existing funding beyond June 2021, which meant closing programmes now.

Cooke said: “The reality is a lot of what we are doing has to be shut down,” he said. “In some cases, we will have to stop immediately. In many cases, there are no alternatives, nowhere else for women to go.”

Worst affected would be African countries in the Sahel, he said, with adolescent girls affected most. He described the drop in aid as “an act of self-harm”.

“Women going to get their IUD [intrauterine contraceptive device] or implant inserted will find the clinic is not there,” said Bermejo. “You don’t rebuild that trust, ever.” He added, “The expected cuts could be the same order of magnitude as when President Trump introduced the ‘global gag rule’,” he said. “We lost $100m. This time we stand to lose £72m.”

Arune Estavela, the Mozambique's project’s director, said the Wish programme’s closure will mean the quality of the service is reduced. Estavela said women will die as a result.

“We will have more HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies,” said Estavela. “Many teenagers will seek unsafe abortions, and we can expect more complications and maternal deaths. The health facilities are a focal point for cases of gender-based violence, with HIV and pregnancy prophylaxis and that will no longer happen.”

Bermejo said, he will have to close Wish projects in eight countries, including Afghanistan and Bangladesh. IPPF is trying to keep projects open in Ethiopia and Pakistan, while the remaining programmes in six countries, will operate at 30% of the previous capacity.

Elsewhere, in Lebanon, the cuts will lead to the closure of two centres which offer specialised services for disabled Syrian refugees. Humanity and Inclusion (HI) is a charity that provides support to disabled people and their families in Lebanon, in a project primarily funded by UK aid. FCDO will no longer continue its funding.

“There are a lot of refugees with disabilities – and there are now no services available for them.”

“This is about the loss of an entire support structure built over years of engagement, which has offered disabled people services that didn’t previously exist in Lebanon. There was no plan around stopping this funding. It will take years to rebuild what is being lost."

‘Out of Trump playbook’: UK accused of ‘abandoning’ women with cuts to aid | Global development | The Guardian

‘My son could die’: the disabled Syrian refugees on the sharp end of UK aid cuts – photo essay | Global development | The Guardian

Britain's Green Credentials?

 Major figures in the global climate talks, including veteran diplomats, scientists and respected campaigners, have expressed concern that the UK  is in danger of undermining the success of the talks.

Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who led the 2015 Paris climate agreement, warned: 

“There have been recent decisions in the UK that are not aligning with the ambition of the net zero target. It is worrisome. There are raised eyebrows among world leaders watching the UK.”

Mary Robinson, chair of the Elders group of independent global leaders, and a former UN climate envoy, said poor countries were questioning the UK’s actions, particularly in cutting overseas aid:

 “People are shocked,” she said. “The poorest countries are the moral authority at the Cop, they drive the urgency, they drive the credibility. You need them fully behind the UK presidency to get the good ambition needed.”

Emmanuel Guérin, an executive director at the European Climate Foundation, who was one of the top French officials at the Paris talks, added:

“There is a lack of consistency between the UK’s domestic announcements and its international objective of success at the Cop.”

 The UK government's green rhetoric has been accompanied by a series of actions that have left many observers aghast, and that appear contrary to leading an international push to net zero. These include:

  • The green light for a Cumbrian coalmine, which provoked a months-long row that ended with the promise of a public inquiry

  • New licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, while other countries have been asked to forego fossil fuel reserves to stay within global carbon budgets

  • Cutting overseas aid from 0.7% to 0.5% of GDP

  • The UK’s support for climate sceptic Mathias Cormann to become head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

  • Scrapping the UK’s only “green recovery” measure, the green homes grant

  • Support for airport expansion

  • Slashing incentives for electric vehicles

  • Covid-19 stimulus money given to high-emitting companies without green strings attached

  • Missing tree planting targets

Jennifer Morgan, the chief of Greenpeace International, said the measures showed the government had little regard for how the UK’s actions would be seen at a crucial point in climate negotiations:
 “These decisions are going in the wrong direction, and it is disturbing,” she said. “They are not prioritising the climate – domestically or internationally. Most developing countries are now very nervous. The clock is ticking. The prime minister needs to make it clear this is the top priority. If not, then the Cop will be a failure.”

Jeffrey Sachs, professor at Columbia University and a leading expert on sustainable development said:
 “The world is looking to the UK this year for leadership at Cop26. Everything that they do in the right direction helps Cop26; everything that they do in the wrong direction hurts Cop26.”

Rachel Kyte, formerly a top World Bank official at the Paris climate talks who is now the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Massachusetts, said: 
“What the UK is doing is like dad dancing – it is not that they’re evil, just that they are very uncoordinated. They have not yet perfected a whole government approach to getting to net zero.”

developing countries at thse Cop26 talks and senior officials are concerned at the signals the foreign aid cut sends about rich-country obligations and solidarity with the developing world.

Achim Steiner, administrator of the UN Development Programme, put it in diplomatic terms: 

“It sends a very mixed signal, and makes developing countries very concerned. It certainly does not enhance the confidence with which developing countries come to the table.”

Kyte was more forthright:

 “This decision is the single worst self-inflicted injury in this kind of diplomacy that most of us have seen for a very long time.”

Some fear other rich countries could use the UK’s stance as an excuse to cut their own aid budgets. “You can’t say this doesn’t have an impact – it does,” said Guérin. “People are looking at this.”

Boris Johnson told to get grip of UK climate strategy before Cop26 | Environment | The Guardian

SOYMB asks, should we be at all surprised?