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Dangerous Air Quality: 5 Asian Countries That Surpass the WHO’s Limit

Source: World Bank

Five Central Asian countries far exceed the WHO’s recommended exposure to air pollution — 10 micograms per cubic meter on average each year. Bishkek, in the Kyrgyz Republic, recorded the highest level of pollution in the world last year. 

At an international level, the cost associated with the damage to health, driven by poor air quality, is estimated to be $5.7 trillion — around 4.8% of global GDP. Asia accounts for 53% of global emissions, ranking as the largest contributor to global emissions. With immediate action, Central Asia could contribute to GHG emissions reductions goals by 2030 while simultaneously improving people’s health and achieving billions in economic gains.

The World Bank identifies five actions that Central Asia could take for more sustainable air quality, including improving the precision of air quality monitoring, as well as investing in cleaner fuels and technologies. The World Bank also recommends overhauling industry permits and offering incentives to encourage behavior change. All actions would “require a formal commitment from governments, financial investments, capacity building, and the deployment of new technology.”

European Energy Systems Are Scrambling to Adapt

Reductions and temporary halts in Russian natural gas exports have exposed the vulnerability of European energy systems, pushing gas prices to record highs and amplifying recession and high inflation concerns.

The situation is worsened by drought conditions that have caused reductions in hydroelectric and nuclear power generation across Europe and led Norway to announce possible cuts to its hydroelectricity exports. The consequences on European energy systems are already evident: Germany will limit heating in public buildings to 19 degrees Celsius and has announced rationing plans unless usage is reduced by 20%

European gas storage facilities are on track to meet their refill targets, but this may not be enough to prepare for winter. The EU is planning to reform its energy markets and has agreed to cut gas use by 15% through March 2023 while increasing imports from the United States. With its REPowerEU plan, the European Commission will also reduce Russian gas imports by two-thirds by the end of 2022. Meanwhile, Germany and other EU countries are scrambling to find additional suppliers while investing in energy efficiency and renewables. The U.K. has announced similar plans to phase out Russian imports and to expand its wind and nuclear capacity.

Recession Fears Drive Volatility in German Bonds

The eurozone bond market is experiencing volatility at levels last seen during the 2011 eurozone debt crisis and 2008 financial crisis, as uncertainty about rising interest rates and recession fears continue to grow.

Germany — the benchmark for the euro — has seen swings in its 10-year bund (German federal bond) of at least a 0.1 percentage point range on 79 days in 2022, reports the Financial Times. The spread between German and Italian 10-year-yields was at its highest level this month, near 2.3 percentage points.

Liquidity in bond markets has been impacted by a looming recession and the European Central Bank’s continued interest rate hikes. The ECB has signaled that it will raise interest rates another half percentage point at its meeting on September 8 in an attempt to curb inflation. Inflation in Germany is forecast to rise above 10% for the first time in 70 years, and eurozone inflation reached a record high of 8.9% in July. 

Adding to investors’ worries is the ECB’s slowdown on its bond-buying programs, including the end of its 1.7 trillion euro ($1.7) Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme and the expected third-quarter end of its €3.3 trillion ($1.3) Asset Purchase Programme

US Joins Other Countries in Adopting EVs

The U.S. has reached a critical tipping point for the sale of fully electric vehicles, with 5% of new car sales being fully electric, reports Bloomberg. Nineteen countries have passed the 5% tipping point, including the three largest car markets: Europe, China and the U.S. If the U.S. follows the trends of other large-scale EV adopters, a quarter of car sales will be electric by the end of 2025.

Electric cars and hybrids are becoming more popular worldwide — there are more than 20 million electric vehicles on the road this year, and that number will double by the end of 2023. Government incentives and environmental regulation are the reasons for growing global demand for EVs. Continued growth relies on increased production by automakers, including reconfigured factories and supply chains.

The next largest car markets approaching the 5% tipping point this year include Canada, Australia and Spain. But countries that account for one-third of car sales worldwide still haven’t reached the 5% tipping point. Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia haven’t yet adopted EVs on a wide scale.

What Cyber Risks Are Keeping the C-Suite Up At Night?

Source: Mercer Global Talent Trends 2022

Executives around the world are concerned about cybersecurity and data security as employees continue to work remotely, reports Mercer in its Global Talent Trends 2022 study. Forty-one percent of HR leaders say that employees’ relaxed attitude toward data security at home and hackers breaching company systems (40%) are top-of-mind risks. 

Other leaders are concerned about ethical data practices. Thirty-five percent say that the lack of policies addressing ethical data collection and handling is a risk, while around 32% say that misuse of employee monitoring data and over-reliance on AI are concerns.

While cyber risk and data security remain the top concern in North America, executives also expect to grapple with inflation, the economy, and new work models. Latin American leaders see new work models as their primary challenge. Business resilience is the top concern for business leaders in Asia, while digital acceleration is the top concern in Europe.

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