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Decade of the Battery: Sustainable Batteries Represent the Best Prospect for Meeting Paris Climate Goals

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Advances in the production, use and reuse of batteries mean that the technology could become the most significant intervention to keep global warming within the limits set by the Paris Agreement on climate change between now and 2030, according to a report published today.

The report, which was commissioned by the Global Battery Alliance, a public-private partnership led by the World Economic Forum, says that, with a concerted push to put the right conditions in place, batteries could enable a 30% reduction in carbon emissions in both the transport and power sectors. These two sectors alone collectively account for 40% of all greenhouse gas emissions today.

Such a reduction in emissions would help keep the world within its 2°C Paris Agreement goal, the report finds. It requires immediate action along the battery value chain alongside investments in other technologies such as hydrogen and in other industries. This would also contribute to achieving the more ambitious 1.5° goal of the Paris Agreement’s, the report concludes.

In addition to examining the role batteries could play in helping to tackle climate change, the report finds that wider economic and societal benefits could also be accrued from systemically investing in the entire battery value chain from mining to reuse or recycling. In terms of employment, 10 million high-quality jobs would be created. More than half of these would be in emerging economies. Additionally, 600 million people would be provided with electricity for the first time. This would close the world’s existing energy access gap by 70%.

“Reducing the world’s carbon footprint is the defining challenge of the 21st century. For the next 10 years, modern batteries that are powering the 4th industrial revolution represent the greatest prospect for reducing atmospheric pollution from many of our most energy intensive economic activities,” said Dominic Waughray, Head of the Platform for Global Public Goods and Managing Director at the World Economic Forum.

Scaling up responsibly

Achieving the scale to make these goals achievable requires considerable change, the report finds. Firstly, today’s global battery value chain would have to expand 19 times the size it is today. This would require $550 billion of cumulative investments along the entirety of the value chain over the next 10 years, along with a set of targeted interventions. These could for example increase the productivity with which batteries are used, lower effective battery costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions along the battery value chain by close to 50% putting it on track to achieving net-zero emissions in 2050.

“We need to develop a sustainable, circular and low carbon value chain for batteries to contribute to the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals. But this task can only be achieved by effective cooperation between businesses, international organizations, governments and civil society,” said Martin Brudermüller, Chairman of the Board of Executive Directors of BASF and Co-Chair of the Global Battery Alliance.

Secondly, it would necessitate a huge expansion in mining: annual extraction of minerals by 2030 would weigh more than 300 Great Pyramids of Giza. Some 120 additional battery state-of-the-art factories would also need to be operational to meet required demand.

Most importantly, a structural shift would be required to make batteries sustainable from an environmental and human perspective. This includes making sure the entire value chain is “circular”, whereby batteries are reused, repurposed or recycled at the end of their life cycle or simply used more efficiently. For example, integrating battery-powered vehicles into the electricity grid at scale could cover 65% of demand for stationary battery storage and enable a higher renewable energy share in power grids globally, the report finds. Moreover, in 2030 recycling could provide 13% of global demand for cobalt, 5% of nickel and 9% of lithium. These shares are expected to grow as the volume of batteries reaching their end of life surge after 2030.

Furthermore, sustainable business operations must be enabled by boosting the share of renewable energy in the value chain. Finally, a more responsible value chain can be created through better business performance on established sustainability norms backed by traceability systems and effective local interventions to protect human rights, reduce and eliminate child or forced labour and boost local economic value creation. To this end, the Global Battery Alliance will publish and begin implementing in 2019 a roadmap of actions to reduce and eradicate child labour over the coming decade.

Course correction required

The potential for batteries to significantly reduce the world’s carbon footprint, create jobs, improve energy access and working conditions for those working in the industry will not be realized if the value chain develops along its current trajectory, the report finds.

While the battery value chain is expected to grow annually by 25% over the next decade, this level of growth will not be sufficient to help meet the Paris Agreement goals. Without focusing on waste and workers, such uncoordinated growth could even place more environmental and societal strain on our world.

To avoid such an outcome, the Global Battery Alliance today calls on all stakeholders to adhere to 10 recommendations aimed at building a circular, sustainable and responsible value chain. The GBA plans to engage all stakeholders to develop an implementation strategy to realize this opportunity.

Analytical support for this report was provided by McKinsey & Company, with additional work carried out on circular economy dimensions by SYSTEMIQ.

What the leaders say

“The vast potential of the global battery sector transcends boundaries across economies, industries and geographies. Harnessed appropriately, it may help meet the 2°C goal of Paris Agreement and create millions of safe jobs but also alleviate poverty and tackle ethical issues in the most vulnerable communities. This opportunity should be seized upon but, as this landmark report highlights, it is only through coordinated, collaborative action that we can achieve our collective global sustainability ambitions,” said Benedikt Sobotka, CEO of Eurasian Resources Group and co-chair of the Global Battery Alliance.

“Cost-efficient and sustainable batteries are one major driver to decarbonize road transportation as automakers will launch more than 300 battery electric vehicle models in the next five years. Around 70 bn USD additional value can be created by designing batteries for the full lifecycle and building businesses around vehicle-to-grid, second use, and recycling. The mobility transition requires new industry coalitions including the regulators – and it needs them now,” said Bernd Heid, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company, Inc.

“Next to ensuring that the production of batteries protects local population and environments, jointly developing a circular battery value chain is key to maximize their potential for keeping humanity within planetary boundaries. By designing batteries to be used in multiple applications – for example integrating vehicle batteries in energy grids –, reused for further productivity at end of their first life, and efficiently recycled, we can make the most out of them,” said Martin Stuchtey, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, SYSTEMIQ.

“Battery technologies not only contribute to reaching the Paris Agreement,but they are central to achieving a circular economy,” said Guy Éthier, Senior Vice-President, Supply Chain Sustainability, Umicore and Co-Chair of the Global Battery Alliance Executive Board.

“The demand for raw materials to fuel the battery revolution often poses risks such as child and forced labour, unsafe working conditions and pollution. It is critical that all stakeholders come together to take collective action. Increased investments to improve living conditions, tackle the root causes of child labour and to strengthen systems in the communities can ensure that global efforts to reduce the world’s carbon footprint do not create unintended consequences for the world’s most vulnerable populations,” said Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Deputy Executive Director at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).”

“The widespread implementation of battery storage represents a crucial opportunity to successfully meet the commitments under the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Battery storage can help to accelerate the penetration of renewable energy in the energy mix, optimize power systems and energy demand, improve the energy access rate and help decarbonize the transport sector, said Riccardo Puliti, Global Director for Energy and Extractives and Regional Director for Infrastructures in Africa at the World Bank Group; and Co-Chair of the Global Battery Alliance Executive Board.

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Cash flow the biggest problem facing business during COVID-19 crisis

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A new report  on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic  on businesses shows that their greatest challenges have been insufficient cash flow to maintain staff and operations, supplier disruptions and access to raw materials.

With businesses already undergoing significant competitive pressure prior to the crisis, government restrictions, health challenges and the economic fall-out brought by COVID-19 further set back many enterprises.

Interrupted cash flow was the greatest problem, the survey found. More than 85 per cent reported the pandemic had a high or medium financial impact on their operations. Only a third said they had sufficient funding for recovery. Micro and small enterprises (those with 99 employees or fewer) were worst affected.

The survey, carried out by Employers and Business Membership Organizations (EBMOs), involved more than 4,500 enterprises in 45 countries worldwide. EBMOs gathered data from their enterprise members between March and June 2020. The businesses were asked about operational continuity, financial health, and their workforce.

At that time, 78 per cent of those surveyed reported that they had changed their operations to protect them from COVID-19, but three-quarters were able to continue operating in some form despite measures arising from government restrictions. Eighty-five per cent had already implemented measures to protect staff from the virus.

Nearly 80 per cent said they planned to retain their staff – larger companies were more likely to say this. However, around a quarter reported that they anticipated losing more than 40 per cent of their staff.

Looking into the future, preparing for unforeseen circumstances and mitigating risks associated with a disruption of business operations is needed. Fewer than half the enterprises surveyed had a business continuity plan (BCP) when the pandemic hit, with micro and small businesses the least likely to have made such preparations. Additionally, only 26 per cent of the enterprises who responded said they were fully insured and 54 per cent had no coverage at all. Medium-sized enterprises, (those with 100 to 250 employees), were most likely to have full or partial coverage.

Strengthening government support measures for enterprises are also vital for their recovery. Four out of ten enterprises said they had no funding to support business recovery while two-thirds said funding was insufficient. Of the sectors analysed, the tourism and hospitality sector, followed by retail and sales, were most likely to report funding issues.

The report production was facilitated by EBMOs who collected and shared the survey data with the Bureau for Employers’ Activities  (ACT/EMP) at the International Labour Organization. ACT/EMP is a specialized unit within the ILO Secretariat that maintains close and direct relations with employers’ constituents.

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Lithuania: COVID-19 crisis reinforces the need for reforms to drive growth and reduce inequality

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Effective containment measures, a well-functioning health system and swift public support to firms and households have helped Lithuania to weather the COVID-19 crisis to date. That said, the pandemic still carries significant economic risks, and the recent upsurge in infections is very concerning. Once a recovery is under way, Lithuania should aim to reform public companies, strengthen public finances, and ensure that growth benefits all people and regions, according to a new OECD report. 

The OECD’s latest Economic Survey of Lithuania says that prior to COVID-19, good economic management and an investment-friendly business climate were helping to lift average Lithuanian incomes closer to advanced country levels. While the recession provoked by the virus has been milder than elsewhere – with GDP projected to drop by 2% in 2020 before rebounding by 2.7% in 2021 – Lithuania’s small and open economy will be vulnerable to any prolonged disruption to world trade. Increasing public investment and improving governance at state-owned enterprises could help lift growth and productivity. Other reforms should focus on improving the effectiveness of spending and taxation. Over the longer term, Lithuania should establish a clear debt reduction path and a long-term debt target.

“Lithuania’s sound economic management of recent years, and its swift response to both the health and economic aspects of the pandemic, are helping the country to weather the COVID-19 crisis,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “It is now key to build on these achievements and restart the reform engine to ensure robust, sustainable and inclusive growth for the future.”

The pandemic has exposed high levels of income inequality in Lithuania, where relative poverty is high among the unemployed, the less educated, single parents and older people due to a tax-benefit system that is insufficiently redistributive. The Survey recommends Lithuania to continue providing temporary support to people and businesses hit by COVID-19, as well as to increase regular social support while retaining incentives to work.

In terms of support to the economy, the Survey notes that while Lithuania’s government spending has increased considerably over the past two years, it remains below the OECD average. Public investment also remains low. Given the importance of modernising infrastructure and stimulating crisis-hit demand, the Survey recommends maintaining or increasing current levels of investment and improving investment quality by carrying out rigorous cost-benefit analysis for individual projects. Increasing investment in rural areas, and giving local government more say in tax policy and spending, could help reduce regional disparities and promote inclusive growth.

The Survey also recommends phasing out environmentally damaging fossil fuel subsidies and increasing environmental taxation, which would benefit public finances while helping the shift to a lower-carbon economy.

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United States confirms its leading role in the fight against transnational corruption

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The United States continues to demonstrate an increasing level of anti-bribery enforcement, having convicted or sanctioned 174 companies and 115 individuals for foreign bribery and related offences under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) between September 2010 and July 2019. The United States is thus commended for a significant upward trend in enforcement and confirming the prominent role it plays globally in combating foreign bribery.

The 44-country OECD Working Group on Bribery has just completed its Phase 4 evaluation of the United States’ implementation of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions and related instruments.

Given developments since the United States’ last evaluation in 2010, the Working Group made a range of recommendations to the United States, including to:

  • Consider ways to enhance protections for whistleblowers who report potential FCPA anti-bribery violations by non-issuers and provide further guidance on available whistleblower protections;
  • Continue to further evaluate and refine policies and guidance concerning the FCPA;
  • Make publicly available the extension and completion of NPAs and DPAs with legal persons in foreign bribery matters as well as the grounds for extending DPAs in FCPA matters;
  • Continue to evaluate the effectiveness of the Corporate Enforcement Policy in particular in terms of encouraging self-disclosure and of its deterrent effect on foreign bribery; and
  • Continue to address recidivism through appropriate sanctions and raise awareness of its impact on the choice of resolution in FCPA matters.

The report praises the United States for its sustained commitment to enforcing its foreign bribery offence as well as its key role in promoting the implementation of the Convention. This achievement results from a combination of enhanced expertise and resources to investigate and prosecute foreign bribery, the enforcement of a broad range of offences in foreign bribery cases, the effective use of non-trial resolution mechanisms, and the development of published policies to incentivise companies’ co-operation with law enforcement agencies.

The report also notes a large number of positive developments and good practices, such as the DOJ’s reliance on several theories of liability to hold both companies and individuals responsible for foreign bribery, and the United States’ successful co-ordination that has allowed multi-agency resolutions against alleged offenders in FCPA matters. In parallel, the United States has increasingly sought to co-ordinate and co-operate in investigating and resolving multijurisdictional foreign bribery matters with other jurisdictions. Finally, the United States has helped foreign partners build their capacity to fight foreign bribery through joint conferences and peer-to-peer training thus enabling the law enforcement authorities of these countries to better investigate and sanction prominent foreign bribery cases.

The United States’ Phase 4 report was adopted by the OECD Working Group on Bribery on 16 October 2020. The report lists the recommendations the Working Group made to the United States on pages 111-113, and includes an overview of recent enforcement activity and specific legal, policy, and institutional features of the United States’ framework for fighting foreign bribery. In accordance with the standard procedure, the United States will submit a written report to the Working Group within two years (October 2022) on its implementation of all recommendations and its enforcement efforts. This report will also be made publicly available.

The report is part of the OECD Working Group on Bribery’s fourth phase of monitoring, launched in 2016. Phase 4 looks at the evaluated country’s particular challenges and positive achievements. It also explores issues such as detection, enforcement, corporate liability, and international co-operation, as well as covering unresolved issues from prior reports.

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