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COVID-19 leads to massive labour income losses worldwide

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The devastating losses in working hours caused by the COVID-19 pandemic  have brought a “massive” drop in labour income for workers around the world, says the International Labour Organization (ILO) in its latest assessment of the effects of the pandemic on the world of work.

Global labour income is estimated to have declined by 10.7 per cent, or US$ 3.5 trillion, in the first three quarters of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019. This figure excludes income support provided through government measures.

The biggest drop was in lower-middle income countries, where the labour income losses reached 15.1 per cent, with the Americas the hardest hit region at 12.1 per cent.

The ILO Monitor: COVID-19 and the world of work. Sixth edition , says that the global working hour losses in the first nine months of 2020 have been “considerably larger” than estimated in the previous edition of the Monitor (issued on 30 June).

For example, the revised estimate of global working time lost in the second quarter (Q2) of this year (when compared to Q4 2019) is for 17.3 per cent, equivalent to 495 million full time equivalent (FTE) jobs (based on a 48-hour working week), whereas the earlier estimate was for 14 per cent, or 400 million FTE jobs. In Q3 of 2020, global working hour losses of 12.1 per cent (345 million FTE jobs) are expected.

The outlook for Q4 has worsened significantly since the last ILO Monitor  was issued. Under the ILO’s baseline scenario, global working-hour losses are now projected to amount to 8.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020 (compared to Q4 2019), which corresponds to 245 million FTE jobs. This is an increase from the ILO’s previous estimate of 4.9 per cent or 140 million FTE jobs.

One reason for the estimated increases in working-hour losses is that workers in developing and emerging economies, especially those in informal employment, have been much more affected than by past crises, the Monitor says.

It also notes that the drop in employment is more attributable to inactivity than to unemployment, with important policy implications.

While many stringent workplace closures have been relaxed, there are significant variations between regions. 94 per cent of workers are still in countries with some sort of workplace restrictions, and 32 per cent are in countries with closures for all but essential workplaces.

The “fiscal stimulus gap”

The 6th edition of the Monitor also looks at the effectiveness of fiscal stimulus in alleviating labour market impacts.

In countries where sufficient data is available for Q2 2020, a clear correlation exists, showing that the larger the fiscal stimulus (as a percentage of GDP), the lower the working-hour losses. In that period, globally an additional fiscal stimulus of 1 per cent of annual GDP would have reduced working hour losses by a further 0.8 per cent.

However, while fiscal stimulus packages have played a significant role in supporting economic activity and reducing the fall in working hours, they have been concentrated in high-income countries, as emerging and developing economies have limited capacity to finance such measures.

In order for developing countries to reach the same ratio of stimulus to working hours lost as in high-income countries, they would need to inject a further US$982 billion (US$45 billion in low-income countries and US$937 billion in lower-middle income countries). The stimulus gap for low income countries amounts to less than 1 per cent of the total value of the fiscal stimulus packages announced by high-income countries.

This huge “fiscal stimulus gap” is even more worrying in the light of the social protection deficits in many developing countries. Moreover, some of these countries have also had to redirect public spending from other objectives in order to mitigate the labour market impact of the crisis.

“Just as we need to redouble our efforts to beat the virus, so we need to act urgently and at scale to overcome its economic, social and employment impacts. That includes sustaining support for jobs, businesses and incomes,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

“As the United Nations General Assembly gathers in New York, there is pressing need for the international community to set out a global strategy for recovery through dialogue, cooperation and solidarity. No group, country or region can beat this crisis alone,” he concluded.

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Environment

Act Urgently to Preserve Biodiversity for Sustainable Future — ADB President

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The world must act urgently to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity for the sake of a sustainable future and prosperity, Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa said at the opening of a global event on biodiversity here today.

“The world is at a critical turning point. If we are to reverse the alarming decline in nature, we must respond with urgency and coordinated action,” Mr. Asakawa said. “These efforts are needed to ensure the survival of our ecosystems, and for the sake of our shared future and prosperity.”  

Asia and the Pacific is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world—home to 17 of the 36 global biodiversity hotspots, 7 of the 17 megadiverse countries, and the greatest marine diversity. “If restored and well-managed, these natural capital assets can help to mitigate global climate change and biodiversity loss in a cost-effective and impactful manner,” Mr. Asakawa said in his opening remarks at the Ecological Civilization Forum at the 15th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Kunming, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  

The event is cohosted by the PRC’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Yunnan provincial government, and the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Participants include high-level representatives from governments, the private sector, development agencies including ADB, and civil society. 

ADB is committed to helping accelerate and increase nature-positive investments in Asia and the Pacific. “Through our ADB Nature-Positive Investment Roadmap, we are working with partners to scale up finance, develop knowledge of natural capital, and generate financially sustainable projects that deliver on biodiversity and healthy ecosystems,” Mr. Asakawa said.

At COP15, ADB is launching a new publication, Greening Development in the People’s Republic of China, which outlines how ADB and the PRC have successfully partnered to promote green development and ecological restoration in a way that complements economic and social priorities. 

In partnership with the Chinese Academy of Science and Stanford University, ADB is sharing progress on its new Natural Capital Lab due for launch in 2022. This will be a digital platform for sharing methods for valuing biodiversity and ecosystems, and for building knowledge, capacities, and alliances across the region.  

In addition, ADB with partners will be launching the Regional Flyway Initiative that will conserve ecosystem services that support people and critical habitats for more than 50 million migratory waterbirds.

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Health & Wellness

Stockholm+50: Accelerate action towards a healthy and prosperous planet for all

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The United Nations General Assembly agreed on the way forward for plans to host an international meeting at the highest possible level in Stockholm next June, during the week of World Environment Day. The event will commemorate the 50 years since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and serve as a contribution to accelerate action towards a more sustainable society.

The Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was made in 1972 in Stockholm, Sweden, resulting in what is often seen as the the first step toward the development of international environmental law, recognizing the importance of a healthy environment for people, and creating the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Five decades after the 1972 Stockholm Conference, the Government of Sweden, with support from the Government of Kenya, will host Stockholm+50, an international meeting in 2022 to commemorate the 50 years since the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment and its outcome documents, as a contribution to the environmental dimension of sustainable development to accelerate the implementation of commitments in the context of the decade of action and delivery for sustainable development, including a sustainable recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The international meeting, “Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity”, will take place in Stockholm on 2 and 3 June 2022, following a UN General Assembly resolution. In three leadership dialogues, the meeting will reflect on the urgent need for actions towards a healthy planet and prosperity of all, achieving a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, and accelerating the implementation of the environmental dimension of Sustainable Development in the context of the Decade of Action. The meeting will also reinforce the messages and the outcomes of the event to commemorate UNEP’s 50th anniversary (UNEP@50), which will have taken place in March 2022, in Nairobi.

Per Bolund, Sweden’s Minister for the Environment and Climate, and Deputy Prime Minister, said “Our aim is clear, we want Stockholm+50 to make a concrete contribution to accelerating the transformation to a sustainable future. We call this meeting to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1972 conference. We are running out of time and urgent action is needed. These challenges are global, and we must meet them with a global response that drives action on the ground.”

Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP, who was on 11 October appointed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres as the Secretary-General of the Stockholm+50 international meeting, said: “We need to urgently work to transform our economies and societies, but our branches will spread only as far as our roots are deep. By remembering Stockholm at 50, we also remember how the world came together to heal the ozone layer in 2013, phase out leaded fuel this year and stop endangered species from going extinct. By convening in Stockholm, we also recommit to human and planetary health, responsibility, prosperity, equality and peace – as we have seen only too clearly in COVID-19.”

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Logistics giant commits to Gothenburg Green City Zone

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DB Schenker is collaborating with Business Region Göteborg to scale up electric freight transport as part of the Gothenburg Green City Zone initiative – the first logistics company to do so.

Business Region Göteborg is one of the initiators of the Gothenburg Green City Zone, which brings together businesses, societal stakeholders and researchers to develop, test and scale up new vehicle and infrastructure technologies. The goal of the initiative is to achieve zero-emission transport within parts of Gothenburg by 2030, and to do so using green electricity.

DB Schenker is one of Europe’s largest logistics and supply chain companies. The company currently has three electric vehicles operating in central Gothenburg: two parcel delivery vans and one distribution truck operated by the hauliers TGM and Bäckebol åkeri. These three vehicles handle packet distribution in the Event District and Lindholmen, both of which are within the Gothenburg Green City Zone. The electric vehicles also cover some nearby areas.

Keen to go electric as quickly as possible
“We want to scale up the transition to electric power as quickly as possible. To do so, we will need to charge our vehicles at night in order to operate them without interruption during the day. While charging a handful of vehicles presents no problem, charging our entire vehicle fleet will demand entirely different conditions than we have today. This requires charging infrastructure that doesn’t yet exist,” explains Hanna Melander, quality and environmental manager at DB Schenker.

To lay the foundations for rapid electrification throughout the transport sector, Business Region Göteborg and DB Schenker have therefore started a collaborative project to analyse and learn from real-world traffic, to understand flows and needs and how and where charging stations should be located in order to be able to scale up the vehicle fleet and take the next step.

Together, within the Gothenburg Green City Zone, the partners will develop general analytical methods for electrification that can benefit other hauliers. The intention is to facilitate rapid upscaling throughout the sector, thus contributing to the goal of the initiative: to create a zero-emission transport system by 2030.

A method that all freight stakeholders can utilise
“We are determined to make freight traffic in central Gothenburg emission-free as quickly as possible and we welcome DB Schenker’s commitment. Together, we will develop a method for large-scale electrification that can benefit all stakeholders in the freight sector, that is generalisable. All stakeholders face similar challenges,” says Maria Strömberg, director of cluster and innovation at Business Region Göteborg.

Property owners, market stakeholders and the city’s administrations and municipally owned companies will gain a clear picture of the infrastructure that needs to be established and the specifications the various installations must fulfil.

“To this end, we also need to understand what the potential actually is and what is required to achieve it, not only at a local level but also regionally,” says Matilda Landén of Business Region Göteborg, process manager for the Gothenburg Green City Zone.

While the partners fully expect that further significant stakeholders will commit to the collaboration on the journey ahead, it is important to capture data from traffic that is already operating so as not to lose valuable time.

About Gothenburg Green City Zone
In the Gothenburg Green City Zone, we test new technologies and collaborate to develop and scale up system solutions aimed at ensuring that all transport in parts of Gothenburg will be 100% emission-free by 2030. Gothenburg Green City Zone is an initiative by the City of Gothenburg, implemented through Business Region Göteborg, Volvo Cars and RISE Research Institutes of Sweden. Learn more about the initiative and other founder members here.

Initially consisting of Lindholmen, the Event District in central Gothenburg and Forsåker in Mölndal, the Gothenburg Green City Zone will create opportunities for businesses, societal stakeholders and researchers to test, develop and scale up their ideas. This will be a zone for testing rather than prohibition, where we will welcome and stimulate interest in new solutions, create innovation and learn together. We shall show consideration for one another, for the business community, the local environment and the climate.

With the Gothenburg Green City Zone, Gothenburg is the first region in the world to develop zero-emission, scalable transport solutions at system level.

Business Region Göteborg is also tasked with coordinating the city’s combined efforts to transition to a fossil-free transport system by 2030, with electrification as the guiding light. This work is being performed in close cooperation with all relevant stakeholders within the City of Gothenburg, the business community and the Gothenburg region.

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