News In Brief 2 May 2017


The UK’s overseas aid budget should target more of its funding towards education projects, according to the international development committee, a cross-party committee of MPs. It says the proportion spent on education should be lifted from 8% to 10%. There are 250 million children around the world without access to school – and efforts to tackle this have been “shamefully underfunded”, say the MPs. The select committee says that the Department for International Development’s spending on education is £526m per year – less than on supporting health, civil society and intervention in disasters. The committee argues that in terms of long-term impact, investing in education will reap dividends in preventing conflict, improving life chances and improving economic development.


Transport for London (TfL) is spending £18 million on upgrading the capital’s power grids to charge the first generation of battery-powered black cabs. From 1 January 2018, all new black cabs will have to be battery-powered electric models by law as part of TfL’s effort to reduce toxic pollution from diesel engines. The cash will pay for network reinforcements to enable energy companies to install 300 rapid electric-car charging stations by 2020. An initial 75 fast chargers are due to be operational by the end of the year. While some of the sites will be exclusively for black cabs, the network will also be open to the increasing number of owners of Teslas, Nissan Leafs and electric BMWs in London. Pricing has not been announced but the main existing network in the capital, Source London, would cost a Leaf driver £10.80 to fully top up with a rapid charger, plus a £4 monthly fee. TfL said the cost to drivers would be capped for the first two years.


Obtala, a member of the Social Stock Exchange, has signed a letter of intent expressing its commitment to build sustainable and inclusive business in Tanzania. It has conditionally committed to investing $10 million over the coming five years in new modular pack-house facility, housing of staff and training centres, scaling plantation-based activities and the development of an outgrower programme, subject to sourcing of matched funding, grants, preferential loans and equity from donors, development finance institutions (DFIs) and impact investors.


Bloomberg reported that the Asset Owners Disclosure Project says that funds worth $27 trillion, comprising 60% of the world’s biggest investors, are now considering climate change when making investment decisions. Top-scoring pension funds in the Asset Owners Disclosure Project’s index include Australia’s Local Government Super, the Environment Agency Pension Fund in the UK and the New York State Common Retirement Fund. North American investors lagged the furthest behind the report showed. Sovereign wealth funds in China and the Middle East made up the largest asset owners with low scores. The China Investment Corporation, the Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency’s foreign holdings, and the Kuwait Investment Authority, all with over $590 billion under management, have been slow to adapt, according to the report.


According to the latest edition of the Global Hunger Index 90% of Africa’s poorest depend on agriculture for a living. Even though hunger in Africa has eased in recent years, dropping from an index position of 47.9 (out of 100 and rated as ‘alarming’) in 1992 to 30.1 (and rated serious) in 2016, eradicating hunger by 2030, which is the second of the Sustainable Development Goals, requires an acceleration of efforts. Reaching the goal will require more productive, sustainable agriculture says Global Hunger Index. That depends on something else: ending conflict and fostering political stability.


The amount of carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere has now officially breached the 410 parts per million (ppm) milestone for the first time in human history. The milestone was recorded at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii by the Keeling Curve, a program of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego. At the same time, the Energy Transitions Commission (a group of big business, NGOs and academics) said that if the world is to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Accord then coal use must be cut by 70% within 25 years, oil use must fall 30% and gas can increase by only 2% out to 2040. The growing global population will instead get its energy from a huge expansion of renewables, combined with more efficient energy use and other low-carbon technologies.


Researchers at Cambridge University have discovered that the waxworm, the caterpillar of the moth Galleria mellonella enjoys digesting plastic bags. The caterpillar eats wax in bee hives, but can also break down the chemical bonds of plastic in a similar way to digesting beeswax. Each year, about 80 million tonnes of the plastic polyethylene are produced around the world. The plastic is used to make shopping bags and food packaging, among other things, but it can take hundreds of years to decompose completely. The caterpillar, however, can make holes in a plastic bag in under an hour. Further research is being done to find out how the process works.



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