Brussels has laid out the path to the EU becoming the world’s first economic bloc to hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 in an attempt to limit global warming.
The EU’s approach to the mammoth task of ending the economic reliance on fossil fuels involves three big policy levers: tougher regulation and emissions standards for industry; carbon pricing and taxes on polluters; and rules to promote investment in low-emissions technology.
Brussels hopes the blitz of measures will ensure the 27-country bloc can reduce average emissions by 55 per cent by 2030, falling to net zero by 2050.
The EU has so far cut emissions by 24 per cent from 1990 levels, but will now take aim at some of the bigger sources, including power plants, factories, cars, planes, shipping and heating systems.
Here’s a breakdown of the new policies.
The centrepiece of the EU’s bid to sharply reduce emissions across the economy is a revamp of the bloc’s carbon market, known as the Emissions Trading System.
Set up in 2005, the ETS requires large industrial polluters such as steelmakers and power generators to buy carbon credits to cover the cost of their emissions. These credits are traded on financial markets and have helped drive the cost of polluting to a recent high of more than €55 per tonne of carbon.
The European Commission now proposes to extend the scheme to cover the shipping industry for the first time.
At the same time it will phase out the free credits that many sectors have long benefited from, including airlines that must pay for emissions on flights inside the EU.
The phaseout ends in 2036, with the ETS designed to reduce emissions in the system by 61 per cent over the next decade.
Among the most contentious proposals is a plan to extend the system to transport and buildings — a reform that some EU governments argue will drive up the heating and petrol bills of consumers who cannot readily afford to switch to greener alternatives. Brussels aims to cushion the blow with a pot of €72bn to alleviate energy poverty.
The EU is planning on becoming the first big economic power to impose a levy on imports based on their carbon footprint.
The so-called carbon border adjustment mechanism is part of an attempt to prevent “carbon leakage”, where companies can move their operations to other jurisdictions to avoid being subject to green regulations.
European industry has demanded the CBAM as a way to ensure foreign competitors face the same costs. But attempts to impose border levies have been beset by legal difficulties, including abiding by World Trade Organization agreements.
The tool will be initially limited to products such as steel, cement, aluminium and fertilisers, with Russian and Turkish exporters expected to be hit hardest.
Under the system companies will have to buy carbon credits that mirror the prices paid by European industry. The commission has said it will only apply the levy on foreign businesses that do not abide by equivalent carbon pricing as their European rivals.
Rich vs poor
Business sectors not covered by the EU’s carbon market include agriculture, waste and some parts of industry, and account for almost 60 per cent of total domestic EU emissions. These will now be subject to binding emissions goals, set out in what it calls the Effort Sharing Regulation.
The legislation sets national targets for the 27 member states that translate emissions goals to their domestic economy in these sectors.
National targets have been revised after the EU agreed to accelerate carbon emission reduction from a target of 40 per cent to 55 per cent by 2030.
Brussels has also tweaked the criteria that determine member states’ targets, which are based on their relative wealth. Poorer countries have had to do proportionally less than richer ones in the past, but western economies have called for a more equal distribution among the bloc. Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia will be among the countries with the greatest challenge.
Brussels aims to increase carbon taxes on dirty fuel by updating a 15-year-old rule book, known as the Energy Taxation Directive.
The commission wants to tax kerosene jet fuel used by airlines and polluting fuels in the shipping industry for the first time and close loopholes that have allowed EU governments to exempt fossil fuels.
Updating the directive will be the toughest political task set by the commission as taxation policy requires unanimous backing from all EU countries. Smaller states such as Greece, Cyprus and Malta are likely to resist taxing shipping, arguing they have been hit already by the pandemic and have fewer green alternative fuels to switch to.
Brussels wants to include carmakers in the ETS and set tougher emissions standards for new vehicles that are driven out of showrooms across Europe in order to cut 90 per cent of emissions from transport.
It proposes more stringent carbon emission standards for new passenger vehicles, setting a de facto date to ban the sale of new diesel and petrol in Europe from 2035. Automakers that cannot meet the standards, set every five years, will face fines.
EU clean car standards were first introduced in 2018 and the quick take-up of electric vehicles has emboldened Brussels to push for wider change. The end date for the combustion engine will be contested in the European Parliament, where there is a push for a date closer to 2030 at the same time as governments such as France want to give carmakers until 2040.
Brussels wants to assist industry to decarbonise by creating rules to promote the development of green fuels and accelerate the rollout of critical electric charging points.
It is aiming to ensure greater public access to charging points for cars by ensuring they are available within every 60km, and will require more hydrogen refuelling stations for vans and trucks.
Brussels also wants to encourage the development of sustainable fuels for planes and ships. The commission has proposed a blending target of 5 per cent for sustainable aviation fuels by 2030 — a relatively modest goal that reflects the difficulty in using green fuels to power long-haul flights.
Shippers will also have to begin reporting to the commission what type of vessels and fuels they use.
The commission wants to raise the bloc’s renewable energy target to 40 per cent of the total energy mix by 2030, compared with a current target of 30 per cent.
Nearly two-thirds of the EU’s current renewable energy derives from biomass, which includes pellets made from organic waste being burnt for energy. The commission has been under pressure from environmental groups to remove woody biomass from its renewable energy definitions, arguing that use of trees for power is detrimental to the planet.
The commission will introduce stricter sustainability rules for biomass, curb the circumstances in which subsidies can be given to the industry, and exclude biomass from primary forests from counting towards green targets.
Brussels is targeting natural carbon sinks, where soil and forests can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, to help meet its 2030 goals.
It proposes to expand the EU’s sequestration of carbon to 310m tonnes from a current target of 265m tonnes under its land use and forestry regulation.
But “offsetting” emissions by using the carbon sink is contested by scientists who argue it is difficult to accurately measure carbon removals and that the size of the EU’s sink is inherently unstable.
Creating a transparent digital economy and rebuilding trust | World Economic Forum – World Economic Forum
- The digital economy in the US is expanding four times faster than the overall economy.
- Yet consumers remain concerned about the way data is collected and how it’s used to influence behaviour.
- Companies and regulators must strengthen data privacy and enhance transparency to build trust and protect the benefits of digital innovation.
The benefits of digitization are growing. Even before COVID-19 struck, digital goods and services were expanding four times faster than the overall economy in the US. Then video conferencing, online shopping, telemedicine and the like, enabled tens of millions of people around the world to adapt after the pandemic erupted last year. Today the five largest US technology stocks account for nearly a quarter of the value of the S&P 500 Index while China’s big three account for nearly a third of the value of the MSCI China Index.
Yet consumers worry about the way companies capture their data and influence everything from their news and music feeds to the advertisements suggesting what they should buy and where. The majority of consumers say they prefer to maintain their privacy and avoid sharing information with companies, according to Oliver Wyman Forum’s Global Consumer Sentiment Survey.
Without deep reform of the way companies treat data and governments regulate it, this mistrust threatens to become for the digital economy what carbon dioxide is for the physical world: an unseen pollution that threatens the sustainability of data ecosystems. And like carbon, those apprehensions have externalities that can cause societal harm. Willingness to share health information to contain the coronavirus declined as the pandemic worsened last year.
A tipping point in data mistrust?
According to a survey of US consumer attitudes toward 400 brands by Lippincott, the brand consultancy arm of Oliver Wyman, people rate major global social media brands lower than others in healthcare, finance, media, retail, and consumer products, on questions including whether the brand understands my needs, shares my values, always has my interests at heart, and does more good than bad for society. Consumers also express less willingness to share data with those companies than with firms in the other industries.
That finding may seem paradoxical given that people in practice share large amounts of data, some very personal, with social media companies. Yet each new breach or misinformation campaign erodes public trust and risks a tipping point in consumer willingness to share.
Political pressure is growing for tighter regulation. The European Commission has drafted legislation that would enhance consumer rights and protections and crack down on potential monopolistic behaviour by tech platforms. The CEOs of several big social media firms told a recent congressional hearing that they were open to reforms of the liability shield they enjoy under US law.
The pace and volume of data collection and sharing has accelerated, demonstrating the need for better mechanisms to protect citizens’ rights and inspire trust.
To that end, a new whitepaper explores a potential approach to tackling this issue and forging trust. The whitepaper, Data-driven economies: Foundations for a common future, identifies key enablers that can build multistakeholder data sharing frameworks.
It recommends creating new data governance models that combine data from various origins, including personal, commercial and/or government sources. It highlights use cases from industries and jurisdictions around the world to illustrate the possibilities data sharing unlocks for multiple stakeholders and the public good.
The paper was created in connection with the Data for Common Purpose Initiative, a first-of-its-kind global initiative formed to design a governance framework to responsibly enhance the societal benefit from data. The initiative aims to find ways to exchange data assets for the common good, while protecting individual parties’ rights and the equitable allocation of risks and rewards.
Focus on transparency, consumer choice and competition
Companies should take the lead in rebuilding trust, and that starts with transparency. A seven-country survey by the Oliver Wyman Forum found that providing transparency about how data is shared was one of the two top priorities of consumers, with 51% saying it would make them feel comfortable giving mobility companies access to their data.
Firms should be open about the types of information they collect, the steps they take to keep it secure, how the data will be used, what benefits consumers can expect, and whether data will be shared and for what purposes. Equally, firms should specify wherever possible what data they will not collect. These disclosures should be in everyday language, not dense legalese. And companies should consider working with nonprofits or civil society organizations to reinforce transparency by auditing data practices.
Data-sharing also should be reasonable. One way to ensure that would be to share only anonymous data. Fifty-one percent of respondents to the Oliver Wyman Forum mobility survey said this assurance would make them more comfortable sharing data. And given the ubiquity of information sources available, anonymized data is sufficient for many tasks, such as serving relevant ads to consumers.
Transparency needs to extend beyond data itself to the algorithms companies use to tailor news feeds, sell advertising, and make decisions on things like hiring and lending. Pressure is growing for new rules to enforce accountability and prevent algorithmic bias, but industry doesn’t have to wait for regulators or legislators to act. Reassuring consumers that the choices and information they receive are sound and fair should promote responsible data-sharing and build trust.
Finally, companies should reinforce transparency with empowerment. That means giving consumers the ability to access their data, to decide whether it can be shared with third parties, and to request that data be deleted or made portable so a customer can take it to another service provider. Companies also might work with other organizations to foster the creation of data trusts or cooperatives, which would store data and give consumers greater control over how it is used.
Pressure is growing for new rules to enforce accountability and prevent algorithmic bias, but industry doesn’t have to wait for regulators or legislators to act.
—Lorenzo Miláns del Bosch.
For policymakers, building trust and ensuring a level playing field should be the guiding principles of any new regulatory initiatives. Existing measures like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and the California Privacy Rights Act have strengthened privacy protections but don’t address issues like misinformation or algorithmic accountability.
Filling that gap won’t be easy considering today’s political polarization and the sensitivity and lack of global standards on issues like free speech. But a few key principles should guide policymakers.
Start by measuring the effectiveness of existing regulations in building trust. Then ensure that new regulations are designed to promote greater choice. Measures that empower consumers or require algorithmic accountability should have enforcement mechanisms proportional to the size of the firm. Imposing the same burdens on start-ups as on tech giants can stymie innovation and competition.
Rebuilding trust won’t be easy, but the risks of inaction are far greater. It’s time for technology companies and policymakers to get to work.
License and Republishing
Biden approval ratings on Covid and economy fall in new CNBC All-America survey – CNBC
President Joe Biden held on to his overall approval rating in the latest CNBC All-America Economic Survey but showed weakness in two key areas as the public’s views on the economy and the outlook for the virus soured.
In the poll of 802 American adults nationwide, 48% approved of the job Biden is doing as president, up a point from the first quarter. But his disapproval numbers grew to 45% from 41%.
The biggest change came in views on his handling of the coronavirus, where approval dropped 9 points to 53%; Biden’s economic approval fell to 42%, a decline of 4 points, or just beyond the poll’s 3.5-point margin of error.
“I think it all comes down to COVID,” said Jay Campbell, a partner at Hart Research Associates and Democratic pollster for the survey. “If the COVID situation had continued to improve the way it was improving in the first quarter, all of these numbers would look very different. And ultimately, someone has to be responsible for that. And right now it’s Joe Biden.”
The president’s ratings declined along with worsening views on the economy and the virus. The poll, conducted at the end of July, shows 51% of the public pessimistic about the economy and the outlook, the highest level since 2015. Just 22% give the economy positive marks and are optimistic.
“Surging Covid and rising inflation are creating a bleaker outlook throughout the next 12 months than we’ve measured since the 2008 recession,” said Micah Roberts, partner with Public Opinion Strategies and the Republican pollster for the survey. “Forty-three percent say the economy will get worse in the next year, tied for the highest we have measured since June 2008.”
Inflation also a concern
A bright spot: 59% said they believe they can find another job in the area where they live at similar or better pay. The confidence was evident across racial, income and age groups but was especially strong among 18-to-34-year-olds, a sign of a tight job market.
Asked about the most pressing two issues, respondents chose the coronavirus as their top concern, followed by a tie between immigration and inflation and then a tie between climate change and crime. Infrastructure, where the president has focused considerable efforts, is the least most important issue, chosen by just 4%.
The top priorities of the public overall mask substantial differences by party. While the virus and climate change are the main issues for Democrats, neither ranks in the top five for Republicans. Instead, Republicans says immigration, crime and inflation are their top issues. Independents said the virus was their top area of concern, followed by immigration, crime and inflation.
When it comes to the virus, Americans say that because of the delta variant they are concerned the nation could implement new restrictions: 73% said they are concerned there could be new lockdowns, 68% worried about a new surge in deaths and hospitalizations, 55% worried about mask mandates and 50% said it could delay the return of workers to their offices.
Inflation looks to be taking a bite out of spending. Eighty-six percent of respondents said they have taken at least one step to combat the rise in prices. The most frequent means has been to reduce spending on discretionary items, like eating out, but respondents also said they were driving less, traveling less and saving less money.
Economic Growth Looks Good For Now, But Families Need More – Forbes
The economy is in a good spot right now, but Congress needs to act quickly to strengthen the recovery further. Millions of people are still looking for a job and face financial hardship such as evictions without continued strong economic growth. At the same time, the pandemic has changed face again with the Delta variant ripping through the country, creating a lot uncertainty over the future path of the economy. Amid these challenges, Congress can enact additional measures to ensure a continued strong recovery that benefits all households.
The economy grew at a strong pace in the first half of 2021. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth amounted to an annual rate of 6.5% between March and June 2021. This was slightly faster than the already fast annual growth rate of 6.3% in the first three months of 2021. GDP in the second quarter of 2021 had finally caught up to and exceeded, by about one percent, the inflation-adjusted GDP level recorded for the last three months of 2019 before the pandemic started. The accelerated recovery in the first half of 2021 helped to regain the losses of economic activity associated with the pandemic faster than would have otherwise been the case.
Faster economic growth in the first half of 2021 came about in large part because of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan enacted in March 2021. Gross domestic product has exceeded what analysts forecast for 2021 prior to passage of the American Rescue Plan, for instance. In particular, Harvard University’s Jason Furman, former chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, and Wilson Powell III report that the U.S. economy grew as much in the first half of the year as analysts had predicted for the entire year 2021. The massive relief bill enacted in March did exactly what it was supposed to do by putting the economy on a path to a quicker recovery, while helping struggling families deal with the ongoing fallout from the pandemic.
The economy still has room to grow in the short term. Supply chain bottlenecks in particular held back economic activity in the spring of 2021. Businesses, for example, depleted inventories as they often found it difficult procure intermediate and final products to sell. The depletion of inventories reduced economic growth by 1.1 percentage points. GDP growth would have been 7.6% instead of the reported 6.5% between March and June 2021 if businesses had not reduced their inventories. Similarly, new housing activities fell amid lumber and other material shortages, reducing GDP growth by another 0.5 percentage points. As supply bottlenecks gradually ease, the economy will likely overcome some of these headwinds and boost growth.
This short-term momentum will not be enough to address the looming challenges. Congress still needs to invest more in a prolonged strong economic recovery that benefits all American families, even in the context of these recent good news. First, millions of Americans are still out of work. Second, the economy would have likely grown after 2019 absent the pandemic and thus need to go some ways to catch up to where it would have been. The Congressional Budget Office predicted in January 2020 that the economy would be 1.8% larger in the second quarter of 2021 than it actually was. Third, modest productivity growth and massive inequality marked the economic performance prior to the pandemic. Households struggled with paying their bills, even amid low unemployment before the pandemic hit. Building on the current strong performance to ensure a continued robust recovery also means correcting these imbalances that persisted after the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009. Congress’s work in building a strong, inclusive recovery is not yet done.
Passing the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF) currently making its way through Congress and the $3.5 trillion budget resolution are key to achieving robust, equitable growth. Those measures will provide public investments in a wide range of infrastructure that has been neglected for too long and that the private sector will not fully finance. Roads, bridges, and access to affordable internet are just some of the investments that will translate into faster innovation, lower costs and higher productivity and economic growth. Congress will also tackle climate change and thus reduce costs of extreme weather events for people and businesses. Lower costs will again translate into faster economic growth over time. It is good to know that the administration and many members of Congress understand that their work is not done with two quarters of remarkably strong growth. American families have waited too long for a return to strong, inclusive long-term economic growth.
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