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How Has COVID-19 Impacted Voter Turnout in Elections This Year?

Source: Council on Foreign Affairs

Around the world, countries are taking precautionary measures to make sure the COVID-19 pandemic does not affect voter turnout in elections. Earlier this year, the Dominican Republic and North Macedonia — each suffering from a high number of COVID-19 cases — both saw large drops in turnout from its previous election. In Burundi and South Korea, however, voter turnout increased, despite coronavirus-related concerns. 

To combat the spread of COVID-19, many countries required mask usage in polling stations, checked voters’ temperatures, enforced social distancing and eliminated sharing materials. Other measures included staggering voter hours, providing alternative options to in-person voting and implementing special procedures for COVID-19 patients. However, most of these precautionary measures are expensive to implement, and countries have concerns about how to communicate such changes to voters.

Currently, more than 40 million ballots have already been cast in the upcoming United States presidential election. While the Pew Research Center found that the majority of registered voters are “very or somewhat confident that in-person voting places will be run safely, without spreading the coronavirus,” most states are currently seeing a sharp increase in cases.

Business Leaders Are Out of Touch With Burnt Out Workforce

Source: Microsoft Work Trends

Over 40% of the global workforce is considering quitting their jobs. More than half of 18- to 25-year-olds in the workforce are also considering submitting their notice, according to a report by Microsoft. A U.K. and Ireland survey found that 38% of employees intend to leave their jobs by the end of 2021.

Many employees felt burnout during the pandemic — those who just joined the workforce reported feeling this the most. To overcome employee exhaustion, the report says that employers need to embrace flexible hybrid options immediately. Forty-two percent of employees, for example, are planning to quit if there are no long-term remote working options offered. 

The report also found that many business leaders are out of touch with workplace burnout. Over 60% of leaders say that they were “thriving” last year — a 23 percentage point difference to those without decision-making authority. Microsoft states that business leaders need to be flexible when readjusting their operating model in order to retain their employees and succeed in a post-COVID workforce.

Declining Battery Prices Could Reduce Global Emissions

Source: Our World in Data

The price of lithium-ion battery cells fell by 97% over nearly three decades — since they were first commercially introduced in 1991. The cost halved in just four years, according to Our World in Data, and it’s still declining. Thirty years ago, a battery with a one kilowatt-hour capacity cost $7,500; that same battery cost $181 in 2018.

Improvements in production and technology — batteries are getting smaller and lighter — are contributing to the declining cost of lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, each time installed capacity doubles, prices fall 19% on average. 

Battery technology is becoming crucial in storing energy, accelerating the electrification of transportation and expanding the use of stationary batteries. The cost of renewables, previously a barrier in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, now matches the cost or is cheaper than new fossil fuels.

How Does US Infrastructure Spending Compare Internationally?

Source: Council on Foreign Relations

The United States lags behind in infrastructure spending compared to its international competitors. The U.S.’s projected investment by 2040 is 1.5%, compared to 5.1% in China and 4.1% in Indonesia, which are the global leaders in infrastructure investment. 

The U.S.’s lower ranking in infrastructure investment is related to how the country’s infrastructure projects are funded, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. On average, European countries spend 5% of GDP on infrastructure, while China spends roughly 8% — the U.S., meanwhile, spends only 2.4% of its GDP on infrastructure. European countries also rely on infrastructure needs at a national level, while infrastructure in the U.S. is funded at state and local levels. Only 25% of U.S. public infrastructure funding comes from the federal government — down from a peak of 38% nearly 45 years ago.

The U.S. population has more than doubled since the 1960s, when most of the country’s infrastructure systems were created. Experts believe that making further investments in infrastructure could boost long-term U.S. competitiveness, better equip the economy to handle climate-related shocks and create jobs.

Net-Zero Ambitions Rise Among Large Corporations

Revenues Aligned to Net-Zero Target Across Sectors

As COP26 approaches, momentum to set net-zero emissions targets among large corporations is growing, thanks to initiatives such as the UN Race to Zero Campaign, The Climate Pledge, Business Ambition for 1.5°C, and the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero. Over 350 of the 2,000 largest listed companies in the world have now announced net-zero targets, covering around a third of total revenues.

However, net-zero ambition varies significantly across sectors. Among the largest listed companies, the Consumer Goods sector has the largest share of revenues – 44% – covered by net-zero targets, which is twice the proportion of Industrial and Materials companies. However, it is in high-emitting, hard to decarbonize sectors such as Industrials & Materials that more ambition is most needed. For example, analysis of European corporates by Oliver Wyman and CDP revealed that the Industrials & Materials sector was responsible for 35% of Scope 1 and 2 emissions, but only 5% of low-carbon investments in 2019.

 

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