Trash and Burn: Big Brands’ New Plastic Waste Plan

The global consumer goods industry’s plans for dealing with the vast plastic waste it generates can be seen here in a landfill on the outskirts of Indonesia’s capital, where a swarm of excavators tears into stinking mountains of garbage. These machines are unearthing rubbish to provide fuel to power a nearby cement plant. Discarded bubble wrap, take-out containers and single-use shopping bags have become one of the fastest-growing sources of energy for the world’s cement industry. The Indonesian project, funded in part by Unilever PLC , maker of Dove soap and Hellmann’s mayonnaise, is part of a worldwide effort by big multinationals to burn more plastic waste in cement kilns, Reuters has detailed for the first time. This “fuel” is not only cheap and abundant. It’s the centerpiece of a partnership between consumer products giants and cement companies aimed at burnishing their environmental credentials. They’re promoting this approach as a win-win for a planet choking on plastic waste. Converting plastic to energy, these companies contend, keeps it out of landfills and oceans while allowing cement plants to move away from burning coal, a major contributor to global warming. Reuters has identified nine collaborations launched over the last two years between various combinations of consumer goods giants and major cement makers. Four leading sources of plastic packaging are involved: The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Nestle S.A. and Colgate-Palmolive Company. On the cement side of the deals are four top producers: Switzerland’s Holcim Group, Mexico’s Cemex SAB de CV , PT Solusi Bangun …

UN Aims to Cut Millions of Road Traffic Deaths, Injuries by Half

The World Health Organization has kicked off a campaign to cut millions of road traffic deaths and injuries by at least half by 2030.This follows the August 2020 adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of a Decade of Action for Road Safety. More than 50 million people have died in road crashes since the automobile was invented by German entrepreneur Karl Benz in 1886. Now, the World Health Organization reports road accidents kill more than 3,500 people every day, adding up to nearly 1.3 million deaths and some 50 million injuries every year. The WHO cites road traffic injuries as the leading cause of death globally for children and young people aged 5 to 29 years. The director of the WHO’s Department for Social Determinants, Etienne Krug, said most of these deaths and injuries are preventable. He said a centerpiece of the U.N.’s Global Plan for reducing traffic accidents and saving lives is to get people out of their cars and have them shift to safer, healthier modes of transportation. “Move away from a car-based transportation system to more walking, cycling and public transport. And to do that, we have to make it safe. The plan also advocates for involving more young people. As I said, it is the leading cause of death for young people and giving them a bigger role in shaping the new wave of transportation. And a greater role for private sector,” he said. Krug said the private sector is important because of its responsibility …

G-20 Leaders Pledge to End Financing for Overseas Coal Plants 

G-20 leaders meeting in Rome have agreed to work to reach carbon neutrality “by around mid-century” and pledged to end financing for coal plants abroad by the end of this year. The final communique was issued Sunday at the end of a two-day summit, ahead of talks at ahead of a broader U.N. climate change summit, COP26, this week in Glasgow, Scotland. Leaders in Rome addressed efforts to reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with a global commitment made in 2015 at the Paris Climate Accord to keep global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and preferably to 1.5 degrees. “We recognize that the impacts of climate change at 1.5°C are much lower than at 2°C. Keeping 1.5°C within reach will require meaningful and effective actions and commitment by all countries,” the communique said, according to Reuters. The group of 19 countries and the European Union account for more than three-quarters of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Two dozen countries this month have joined a U.S.- and EU-led effort to slash methane emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. Coal, though, is a bigger point of contention. G-20 members China and India have resisted attempts to produce a declaration on phasing out domestic coal consumption. Briefing reporters ahead of the summit, a U.S. senior administration official said U.S. President Joe Biden and other leaders are hoping to get a commitment to end overseas financing of coal-fired power generation.  …

Johns Hopkins: World COVID-19 Tally Nears 5 Million

Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Sunday that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is less than 4,000 short of the 5 million mark. The 4 million tally was reached a little more than four months ago. India’s prime minister told world leaders at the G-20 summit in Rome that India will produce 5 million COVID-19 vaccines by the end of next year for use in his country and around the world. Narendra Modi said Saturday, however, that the 5 million doses would be easier to produce if the World Health Organization were to approve India’s Covaxin vaccine and place it on the WHO’s emergency use list. Covaxin is produced by India’s Bharat Biotech. Meanwhile, Xi Jinping, China’s leader, told the summit Saturday, via a video platform, that China has already produced more than 1.6 billion COVID-19 vaccines that have been distributed around the world. New York City municipal workers rushed last week to receive COVID-19 vaccines to fulfill the requirements of a mandate that they show proof of being inoculated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Friday. One in six, or more than 26,000 workers, however, remain unvaccinated. The unvaccinated workers will be placed on unpaid leave.     …

UN Climate Change Conference: What’s on the Table? 

The latest round of climate talks are getting under way Sunday in Glasgow, Scotland. They are billed as the most important since the Paris conference six years ago. Here are some of the main goals of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26. Keep 1.5 alive  Negotiators pledged in Paris that they would aim to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Scientists have warned that the goal is slipping out of reach without drastic cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other planet-warming greenhouse gases. The planet is already more than 1 degree warmer than it was in the late 1800s, producing more intense heat waves, stronger storms, deeper droughts, bigger wildfires, rising sea levels and more. The higher global temperatures go, the worse things will get, scientists say. The plans that countries have submitted will not keep the world below the 1.5-degree goal. According to the latest United Nations Emissions Gap Report,  current pledges put the world on a path to a disastrous 2.7-degree temperature increase. Some experts are cautiously optimistic, however. While 2.7 degrees of warming is dangerous, the world was headed for 3.7 degrees or more before the Paris conference, they note.  Plus, dozens of countries have pledged that by 2050 they will produce “net-zero” emissions. That means slashing carbon-generating sources and balancing the remaining emissions with carbon-absorbing measures such as planting trees. Following through on these pledges would limit warming to about 2.2 degrees, according to …

G-20 Leaders to Discuss Climate Change

The G-20 heads of state from the world’s major economies will discuss climate change Sunday on day two of their meeting in Rome. Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed the heads of state, including U.S. President Joe Biden, to the Italian capital, where they discussed issues of mutual concern, including the pandemic recovery. The G-20 leaders supported a sweeping global tax deal agreed to by 136 finance ministers earlier this month, including a minimum 15% global corporate tax rate for companies with annual revenues of more than $870 million. It still needs to be implemented within each member country’s legal framework. On COVID-19, G-20 health and finance ministers announced the formation of a new panel to improve future pandemic preparedness, proposed by the United States and Indonesia, but did not specify funding for it. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson met on the sidelines with Biden and said they support Biden’s pledge to return the United States to full compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, so long as Tehran does the same. Talks are scheduled for November. This year’s meeting is the the first face-to-face G-20 meeting in two years. Notably absent were Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who joined virtually, citing pandemic concerns at home. “Despite the G-20 decisions, not all countries that need them can have access to vaccines,” Putin said. “This happens partly because of dishonest competition, protectionism and because some states, especially those …

To Stargazers: Fireworks Show Called Northern Lights Coming

A fireworks show that has nothing to do with the Fourth of July and everything to do with the cosmos is poised to be visible across the northern United States and Europe just in time for Halloween. On Thursday, the sun launched what is called an “X-class solar flare” that was strong enough to spark a high-frequency radio blackout across parts of South America. The energy from that flare is trailed by a cluster of solar plasma and other material called a coronal mass ejection, or CME for short. That’s heading toward Earth, prompting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to issue a warning about a potentially strong geomagnetic storm. It might sound like something from a science fiction movie. But really, it just means that a good chunk of the northern part of the country may get treated to a light show this weekend called the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. Geomagnetic storms as big as what might be coming can produce displays of the lights that can be seen at latitudes as low as Pennsylvania, Oregon and Iowa. It could also cause voltage irregularities on high-latitude power grids as the loss of radio contact on the sunlit side of the planet.    …

WHO: Vaccine Inequity ‘Demonstrates Disregard for the World’s Poorest’

The World Health Organization has written an open letter to the heads of state gathered in Rome for the G-20 meeting, urging them to increase vaccine supplies for the world’s poorest, ensure access to vaccines for all people on the move and support low- and middle-income countries in combating COVID-19 with all available means. “The current vaccine equity gap between wealthier and low resource countries demonstrates a disregard for the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable,” the open letter said. “For every 100 people in high-income countries, 133 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, while in low-income countries, only 4 doses per 100 people have been administered.” The WHO letter also warned, “Vaccine inequity is costing lives every day, and continues to place everyone at risk. History and science make it clear: coordinated action with equitable access to public health resources is the only way to face down a global public health scourge like COVID-19. We need a strong, collective push to save lives, reduce suffering and ensure a sustainable global recovery.” Britain’s Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, joined WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in signing another open letter to the G-20 leaders, urging them to make good on their promised vaccine donations to poor countries. “When the leaders of the world’s wealthiest nations met at the G-7 Summit in June, they collectively announced that 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines would be sent to low- and low-and-middle-income countries to help vaccinate the world. Pharmaceutical companies …

G-20 Summit Begins in Rome With Focus on Climate Change, COVID Pandemic

The G-20 Summit hosted by Italy kicked off Saturday in Rome, where leaders from the world’s major economies discussed issues of mutual concern, including pandemic recovery and climate change. The red carpet was rolled out at La Nuvola, Rome’s Convention Center, as Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden and other leaders amid strict COVID-19 protocols. This summit is the leaders’ first face-to-face meeting in two years, following last year’s virtual summit hosted by Saudi Arabia. Notably absent are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. They will join virtually, citing pandemic concerns at home. Pandemic response and prevention On Friday, G-20 health and finance ministers released a communique committing to bringing the pandemic under control everywhere as soon as possible. They said the G-20 will take all necessary steps needed to advance on the global goals of vaccinating at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 and 70% by mid-2022, as recommended by the World Health Organization. However, the ministers could not reach agreement on a separate financing and coordination mechanism to prepare for future pandemics proposed by the U.S. and Indonesia. “We’re looking for not the ultimate final product of a financing mechanism or the ultimate final product of a task force or a board that would operate as kind of a global coordinating body going forward,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told VOA aboard Air Force One en route to …