Category: Business

Major Food Companies Nestle and PepsiCo Continue to Heavily Contribute to Plastic Pollution

by Nakul, Sudhit

Recently, many reports have come out describing the ways in which global food and drink companies like PepsiCo, Nestle and Coca-Cola have contributed to climate change. They were found dumping and burning half a million tonnes of plastic in countries like China, India, Mexico, and Nigeria every year. This occurs at a very high rate as these countries lack adequate frameworks to handle such amounts of waste. 

According to The Burning Question report, the waste relates to about 3.6 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, which is the same as about 2 million cars in the UK. Furthermore, another report done by TearFund, concluded that between half and one million people die every year in developing countries due to waste related diseases.

Naturally, these major companies that heavily contributed to plastic pollution faced heavy backlash from the general public. Expert Richard Gower of Tearfund (which published The Burning Question report) stated that governments around the world ought to “press companies to pull hard on all levers to stop plastic pollution — reducing their plastic footprint and investing in schemes to collect and recycle their plastic.” Gower also urged the public to apply “similar pressure” on violating companies by demanding immediate change. Several other non-profit organizations also protested the unjust actions of companies such as Nestle and PepsiCo through unique, effective methods – for example, Canadian non-profit organization Youth Climate Strike Canada held an online strike this past Saturday, where it raised awareness of this pollution issue mainly through social media platforms and likewise successfully encouraged others to raise awareness.

Overall, the flippant, environmentally dismissive actions performed by these several big-name companies is definitely alarming. The fact that these organizations have continually polluted the Earth without restriction is definitely a major issue that heavily contributes to the current climate crisis. By conducting investigative research such as Tearfund to inform the public of the hazards posed by such massive pollution along with raising awareness of the many issues regarding climate change, we, as citizens, can take important steps towards gradually mitigating the current climate crisis.

Amazon Renames NHL Stadium “Climate Pledge Arena” to Remind that Urgent Climate Action is Necessary

by Nakul

The National Hockey League (NHL) is set to welcome a new expansion team for the 2021-2022 season, based in Seattle, Washington. While the team is yet to be named, its stadium’s name has recently been decided; previously, the stadium was known as the ‘KeyArena’, but this changed when technology and e-commerce giant Amazon ⁠— whose headquarters lie in Seattle ⁠— acquired the naming rights for the stadium. The company, in accordance with its green initiative announced last year, has decided to name the stadium the ‘Climate Pledge Arena’.

Why did Amazon name a billion-dollar arena after climate change?

Upon first glance, one would have naturally expected Amazon to name the stadium after itself, a conventional, intelligible promotional action. However, many were surprised to hear the news of what the corporation actually named the stadium. Following continued criticism and demand by employees for Amazon to adopt a more eco-friendly means of production, Jeff Bezos and co. announced, in September of 2019, their decision to invest $2 billion in a plan involving the use of advanced technologies in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the company has the ambitious goal of becoming completely carbon neutral by 2040. Bezos himself announced in February his own fund to combat climate change, the ‘Bezos Earth Fund’, which he put $10 billion of his personal wealth into. As for the stadium itself, it is undergoing renovation evaluated at around $900 million to better fit its eco-friendly name. Bezos announced on Instagram this past Thursday that the stadium will be “the first net-zero carbon certified arena in the world, [will] generate zero waste from operations and events, and [will] use reclaimed rainwater in the ice system to create the greenest ice in the NHL”. These unprecedented operations undoubtedly sound gratifying. Hopefully, Amazon’s steps to alter its energy use and promote the issue of climate change will inspire others to take similar actions.

Aside from hockey, the stadium, with a seating capacity of 18,000, will also serve as the home court of WNBA team Seattle Storm.

The fact that one of the world’s largest companies is acknowledging climate change as a harrowing issue and is taking steps to actually combat the phenomenon is great news for activists, but more importantly, the environment. Although Amazon has been involved in controversy regarding its excessive use of non-renewable resources, ultimately, it is important to acknowledge the changes the company is making.

Amazon Rainforest on Green Trajectory after Receiving Unlikely Support from Factory Investors

by Ritvik Dutta

The Amazon Rainforest is home to about 10 million different species and comprises 2.124 million square miles of dense rainforest. Making up approximately 30% of South America’s landmass, the Amazon is a diverse ecosystem that produces roughly 20% of the world’s oxygen and has earned the esteemed nickname, “The Lungs of the Earth.” Unfortunately, however, all of the aforementioned statistics are slated to decrease due to the ever-increasing commercial damage to the essential rainforest. Due to the lack of effort made by the Brazilian government to regulate the deforestation that was taking place, the rainforest has started to receive activism from unlikely sources.

Recently, many Brazilian companies have been met with major backlash from their investors who claim that the companies are not taking any further action to reduce the ongoing devastating destruction of the Amazon Rainforest. This ravaging eradication of the world’s largest rainforest has been recently brought to mass attention due to the large surge of wildfires that started in January of 2019 and are still currently ongoing. In a study conducted by the National Institute of Space Research (INPE) in 2019, it was determined that between July 2018 and July 2019, 3800 square miles of rainforest were removed, the highest amount of rainforest destroyed in a span of 12 months since 2008. This statistic is directly influenced by the incumbency of Brazilian President Jair Boslonaro, who was elected into office in October 2018. During his regime, he has continually rejected foreign aid meant to reduce the rate of deforestation. Even today, he continues to avoid the diplomatic pressure exerted by foreign powers, which stem from late 2019.

Back in September 2019, a board of 230 investors came together to urge the Brazilian government and companies to take action on the forest fires. Of those 230, Storebrand, AP7, KLP, DNB Asset Management, Robeco, Nordea Asset Management, and LGIM were recently interviewed by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. In these interviews, the heads of the companies came to an agreement that they would push divestment of Brazilian companies if they do not start to make progress. More specifically, LGIM is pushing Brazilian meatpacking companies like JBS for “robust climate targets and land-use policies, with inaction potentially leading to voting sanctions and targeted divestments,” said Yasmine Svan, senior sustainability analyst at LGIM, in an email to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 

In the end, the investors’ efforts seem to be working. Some Brazillian companies like JBS have already released statements in which they promise to eliminate any current processes that threaten the further deforestation of the Amazon from their supply chain. However, the efforts of these investors are heavily constrained under the might of the Brazilian government, which looks to hold on to the Amazon Rainforest as a reservoir for natural resources.

Fossil Fuel Use Bounces Back Rapidly Following Ease of Lockdown Restrictions in Several Nations

by Nakul

As several countries gradually continue to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, they have eased numerous lockdown restrictions, both on civilians and companies. In order to compensate for the massive economic losses suffered during the lockdown period, many sectors are being pushed to combat these losses currently. One such sector is the energy industry: with fossil fuels taking a big hit, many companies have been permitted to sidestep guidelines in order to abate losses. However, the rate at which fossil fuels are being burned is surprising many scientists. 

As SBS News explains, “in April, fossil fuel combustion was roughly 17 percent lower than they were in 2019, as governments ordered people to stay home, employees stopped driving to work, factories idled, and airlines grounded their flights… by mid-June, as countries eased their lockdowns, emissions had ticked up to just 5 percent below the 2019 average.” In many countries, current carbon emissions have already matched the amount before the beginning of the pandemic.

However, there is some good news for climate change activists: experts estimate that 2020 emission levels will be 4-7 percent lower than that of 2019. This would be a historic period — as scientists Rob Jackson puts it — “A 5 percent change in global emissions is enormous, we haven’t seen a drop like that since at least World War II.” 

While the effects of the pandemic on energy use may have provided us with an opportunity to improve our methods of energy consumption overall, ultimately, this seems unlikely on a global stage. Worldwide, economies have been hit hard, and a rapid financial revival is imperative for almost all nations — the easiest way to achieve this would be through permitting non-renewable, less green techniques that would undoubtedly provide immediate economic benefits, but would also negatively impact the climate in the long run. While many cities have taken steps to implement eco-friendly modes of energy use and transportation — like Paris and Milan, who have introduced more bike lanes — these are just small steps that may be outweighed by the bigger picture. As Professor David Victor states, “Many governments are scrambling to recover economically and not paying as much attention to the environment.”

Thus, the seemingly reduced threat of the virus in many nations has led to an ease of numerous restrictions, allowing for the swift return of many non-renewable sources of energy. While this may pose a benefit upon first glance, the dire economic states of many nations will need to be addressed, therefore permitting increased fossil fuel use.

European Union Contradicts Original Climate Plan, Significantly Weakens Restrictions on Aviation

by Nakul

The COVID-19 pandemic has single-handedly enervated countless global industries, with overall consumption levels drastically decreasing. One specific sector negatively impacted by the outbreak of the virus is the aircraft industry, with a total projected loss of over $310 billion dollars. To address these economic losses, the  International Air Transport Association (IATA) has urged the EU to ease its limits on carbon emissions, specifically regarding the 2016-adopted approach known as Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (Corsia). Removing baselines and completely adjusting the already weak Corsia in order to permit increased gas emissions to benefit aircraft companies will undoubtedly allow for greater pollution. In fact, a study done by German institute Öko-Institut revealed that airlines could remain free to pollute without restriction for the next three to six years, and that the EU’s decision  could significantly reduce airline obligations, by about 25-75% – just by 2035. Additionally, these lenient emission guidelines could save airlines as much as $15 billion on important climate protection costs, such as carbon credits. The primary justification provided by IATA for the reduction of restrictions is predictable: the COVID-19 pandemic. In early April, the organization stated that the limitations of Corsia were “an inappropriate economic burden on the [aviation] sector” due to the losses suffered by the industry following significant decreases in global traveling. Aviation expert Jo Dardenne agreed “that the aviation sector is clearly using the COVID-19 crisis” to its advantage. 

Public response to the EU’s decision was largely negative. Gilles Dufrasne of Carbon Watch explained, “This could be the final blow for Corsia. It was always a ridiculously weak system, but now it is becoming essentially meaningless. Airlines are just let off the hook one more time.” French MEP Pascal Canfin agreed, exclaiming that “the EU should be leading on emission regulation, not watering down the ambition.” In a letter to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), numerous non-profit organizations such as WWF and the Climate Neutral Group supported the preservation of Corsia’s guidelines, explaining, “It is important to ensure that the COVID-19 crisis is not a catalyst for ad hoc changes that would hinder a sustainable global recovery. CORSIA is an important mechanism for carbon markets around the world.”

Outside Europe, the United States and the Latin American Civil Aviation Commission have supported the EU’s decision.

Without a doubt, the pandemic has negatively impacted most major industries, with the aircraft sector potentially being hit the hardest. However, is reducing climate protection restrictions the answer?

Trump Administration Waives Brain Damage-Causing Clean Water Regulation Against Court Orders

by Arun Balaji and Kunaal Venugopal

On Thursday morning, the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a decision to waive a regulation for a contaminant in clean water that harms babies’ brains and can reduce their IQ severely at a young age. The chemical, perchlorate, had been recognized as harmful for years and had been ordered by the court to introduce a new regulation by this month. However, the EPA did not introduce a new regulation, instead waiving the current existing regulation out of reason that perchlorate was not present enough in water to the point where regulations would need to be implemented.

In rolling back the regulation, the Trump Administration hopes to remove a burden to business in the United States. However, this regulation sets federal limits for perchlorate, a chemical compound that has detrimental effects on humans. According to the EPA, “Perchlorate is commonly used in solid rocket propellants, munitions, fireworks, airbag initiators for vehicles, matches, and signal flares. Perchlorate may occur naturally, particularly in arid regions such as the southwestern United States and is found as an impurity in hypochlorite solutions used for drinking water treatment and nitrate salts used to produce nitrate fertilizers, explosives, and other products.” Rolling back the regulation allows for greater perchlorate levels in drinking water, increasing the risk of developing illnesses like hypothyroidism.

In 2018, the court demanded the EPA introduce a regulation that would prevent the outstanding quantities of perchlorate in the water. However, the EPA has now gone against this rule and instead has waived the regulation, causing many to be in shock.

The public is reasonably infuriated by the EPA’s lack of action to regulate a chemical as toxic as perchlorate. On top of its contamination, the chemical causes brain damage in babies and is especially damaging to the health of animals as well. Since the chemical is present in something the world needs, drinking water, the public is angry at the lack of effort to protect the health of the country’s citizens.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the EPA has revoked, altered, or waived several Obama-era regulations, citing the health of the economy or necessity out of reason. The Trump Administration has revoked two other clean water regulations on top of revoking mercury and fuel emission regulations.

The decision to revoke yet another clean water regulation is one that has many people confused and furious. Although the EPA cites reasons for removing these regulations, only time will tell what effect it will have on the environment and the health of citizens.

Russian Oil Spill in Arctic Circle Could Take Years To Clean Up

by Daanyal Raja

On May 29th, more than 21,000 tonnes of fuel was released due to a fuel reservoir collapse in Russia’s Arctic region, becoming the largest oil spill to have ever hit the Arctic. The power plant with the collapsed reservoir, a subsidiary of metal giant Norilsk Nickel, had their director of the power station as well as two engineers detained on suspicion of violating strict environmental protection rules. If convicted, the three employees could face up to five years in prison. Worse yet, many Siberian officials have stated that the clean up process will take years.

In a statement, Norilsk Nickel stated that the allegations against their employees are “unjustifiably harsh” and stated that all three of the detained men are “cooperating with law enforcement authorities [but] that they would be more useful at the scene of the clean-up operation”. Investigators said that the power plant’s fuel storage required major repairs since 2018, but the suspects involved “continued to use it in breach of safety rules”. Transneft Siberia, an oil and gas transportation company that is involved in the spill clean-up, claimed that the situation was slowly stabilising, but many members on the clean-up team had witnessed birds and other animals being killed by the spilled oil. Viktor Bronnikov, the general director of Transneft Siberia, told the Guardian,“If a bird lands on the diesel fuel or a muskrat swims through it, it is condemned to death”. Bronnikov then told the Guardian, “We will be removing diesel fuel from the Ambarnaya River for at least eight to 10 days,” Bronnikov said. “We will need years to completely clean up.”

Vladimir Potanin, the man who heads Norilsk Nickel, said that the company will pay approximately $146 million after Russian president Vladimir Putin backed a state of emergency due to the oil spill. The company stated that the fuel reservoir was built in 1985 and was repaired in 2017 and 2018 before going through a safety audit. Many local officials have stated that despite efforts to stop the fuel leak from spreading within the river, it has reached a freshwater lake which is a major water source for the region. The pollution could flow into the Kara Sea in the Arctic Ocean near Siberia, which worries Greenpeace Russia expert Vladimir Chuprov, as he told AFP that would be “a disaster.”

After Over 130 Years, King Coal Topped By Renewable Energy Resources In The US

by Nakul

Since the various Industrial Revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries, coal and other fossil fuels have dominated the global market due to their cheap prices, efficient production processes, and reliability. However, the gradual yet growing movement towards renewable energy sources has made a notable breakthrough this past year in the United States. 

Renewable energy sources, mainly solar energy, wind energy, and hydropower, have been growing in popularity and use over the past few decades. However, these sources have largely been out shadowed by the more established but harmful, non-renewable energy sources, namely coal. Nevertheless, in recent times, these renewable energy sources have made significant progress in the energy market – according to findings in the Monthly Energy Review published by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) this past Thursday, in 2019, consumption of renewable energy resources surpassed coal consumption for the first time since 1885. Additionally, note that the various renewable energy resources we know today were not popularized until relatively recently; as the EIA explained, “Historically, wood was the main source of U.S. energy until the mid-1800s and was the only commercial-scale renewable source of energy in the United States”. Therefore, the more modern, popularized renewable energy resources of today display exciting projections for the future, due to their variability and more efficient manners of production in comparison to wood.

One drawback of this remarkable achievement is due to the broad scale of renewable energy, creating a possibly unfair head-to-head comparison between coal and renewable energy – as financial expert Maxx Chatsko stated, “Energy consumption from renewable energy topped coal last year, but only when all energy sources are counted. In other words, the math only works when electricity production, transportation, and consumption from industrial, residential, and commercial markets are combined.” 
Ultimately, despite the potential fallacies in comparison of the two energy industries, a glance at trends in coal consumption and renewable energy consumption reveal clear conclusions: according to the report by the EIA and analysis by hydrogeologist Scott K. Johnson, coal consumption dropped 15% from 2018 to 2019, while renewable energy consumption, namely in wind and solar energy, ticked up 1% within the same timeframe, a seemingly small yet nevertheless important sign of growth. To sum it up, as president of the Environmental Working Group, Ken Cook, pointed out, “It’s basic economics. Renewable energy is cheaper, cleaner, and abundant. There is simply no way for coal to compete.”

Why Central Banks in Asia Must Take Climate Change Seriously

By Anshul Dash

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has claimed that due to the exponentially growing population and the high amount of natural disasters, climate change will have a disastrous impact in Asia. Many rivers in Asia, such as Yangtze, Mekong, and Brahmaputra, can change in behavior due to the melting of glaciers from global warming. The World Bank has predicted that due to rising global temperatures, living conditions in South Asia will worsen, directly impacting agriculture there. Despite these accurate predictions, Asia has not responded and its energy consumption habits remain the same.

The industry in Asia is rapidly evolving. The demand for energy has increased by 80 percent since 2000. These demands require double the amount of fossil fuels, which is causing financial troubles for power plants in Southeast Asia. Despite increasing demands for biofuel, oil still dominates the region. Coal production is also expected to increase in order to fuel new coal-powered power plants. However, there are many obstacles in the way of achieving this goal, such as complications to safeguard competitiveness in financing new coal plants.

People in Asia who hold stocks in these industrial companies are facing trouble in making sure that there is a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy. Central banks can learn to become more climate-friendly through multiple methods. For single organizations, they can evaluate the risks that come with the changing climate. Central banks in developed countries have already started using this tactic. Organizations can also apply policy tools in order to promote low-carbon actions/efforts and minimize climate risks. Addressing climate change as a risk regularly will encourage these banks and industries to take action and contribute to its mitigation.

While there are many areas under the stress of climate change, testing in these areas will need the support of banks and industries in the area to address these risks. As a result, the development will be more proficient and new methods on how to do low-carbon productions will be developed more quickly. Officials are now focusing on how these approaches should be launched in each central bank as each one operates differently and have different ways of mitigating climate change. To prevent any financial problems, officials have also recommended that an effective framework and economic policy be created to prevent these problems. Climate change can end more quickly with the contribution of these central banks and industries in Asia.

French Oil Company Pressured to Further Address The Issue of Climate Change

By Ritvik Dutta

On Wednesday, eleven investors owning about 1.35% of Total SA’s capital increased pressure on the French Oil Company, stating that the current efforts to comply under the Paris Agreement were inadequate. The investors pushed for the company to alter their business plans to focus more on the reduction of carbon emissions. Although efforts were made in the past to attenuate greenhouse gas output of their own energy generation, their marketable products remained untouched. 

The Paris Agreement was signed into action on November 4, 2016 in order to ensure lower environmental carbon levels in the future. Ratified by the 55 countries that make up the majority of global emissions, the agreement brings most of the polluting countries together to “strengthen the global response.” According to the UNFCC, the main goal of the UN committee that signed the agreement is to minimize as much greenhouse gas damage to the environment as possible and keep the temperature change in this century under “2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.”

Total SA’s investor group led by Meeschaert Asset Management consists of Actiam, Ecofi Investments, Sycomore Asset Management, La Banque Postale Asset Management, and Credit Mutuel Management. Together, they are working on creating a plan that they will present later at the next Total SA shareholder meeting currently scheduled for May 29th. In an interview done by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, an oil campaigner noted that if the plan is indeed implemented by Total SA, there would be a massive change in the oil giant’s business strategy. This huge change would prove to be instrumental during this time period due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. Demand for fuel is at an all-time low and the industry as a whole is forced to take drastic measures and institute cost cuts. 

The Houston Chronicle reports that a separate organization by the name of Follow This is “delighted that institutional investors have now filed a resolution with the exact same request as ours.” Follow This adds that “Similar resolutions have been proven effective with Shell in 2017 and with BP and Equinor in 2019.” This forced reduction of emissions appeals to work with Total SA as it has in the past with other supergiant oil companies.

Competitors such as BP Plc, Repsol SA. Royal Dutch Shell, and Equinor ASA have all pledged to implement some form of carbon emission reduction, with BP plc and Repsol SA assuring carbon-free emissions by 2050.  Total SA reports that since 2010, they have already reduced carbon emissions by 25%, pledging to reduce 40 million tons of carbon emissions by 2025. However, what the future actually entails for Total SA is yet to be seen.