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North America Leads World in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

A new report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that unless countries reduce their fossil fuel emissions by 43% in the next decade, the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius will be out of reach. 

Scientists say that if Earth’s temperature rises by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), the effects of climate change will be catastrophic — including natural disasters, drought, famine and rising sea levels.

In 2010-2019, global greenhouse gas emissions were at their highest levels in human history, though the rate of growth has slowed. North America leads the rest of the world with the most greenhouse gas emissions, followed by Europe and Eastern Asia.

The IPCC says there is still time for governments and the energy sector to take action to limit global warming by 2030. The decreasing costs of batteries and solar and wind energy and the increasing laws governing energy efficiency are steps in the right direction. But preventing the worst effects of climate change will require major transitions in the energy sector from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources like hydrogen.

Renewable Energy Is Growing But Needs to Be More Accessible

Source: UN

The world is making progress in moving from fossil fuel use to climate-friendly, renewable energy, but still won’t meet the United Nations’ goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. Energy is the biggest contributor to climate change, responsible for 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. But millions of people still lack access to electricity, and the pandemic increased disparities in access.

As of 2019, 17.7% of the world’s energy consumption was renewable, according to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. Total renewable energy use increased by a quarter between 2010 and 2019. That is the fastest rate of growth since 2012, owing to the increased use of hydropower, wind and solar power.

But to reach the U.N.’s global climate goals, the annual improvement of energy intensity needs to speed up from the most recent rate of 1.9% to 3.2% by 2030. Increasing global access to electricity will also be a key part of moving away from fossil fuels. About 15% of the world, or 1.1 billion people, don’t have access to electricity, and an estimated 3 billion people burn coal, wood or animal waste for cooking and heating.

The UN Will Miss Its Goal of Gender Equality By 2030

Source: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2022 Goalkeeper’s Report

Women worldwide spend more than three times as many hours on unpaid household work and child care, leaving a gap between reality and the United Nations’ target for reaching gender equality by 2030, the Gates Foundation reports. In 2015, leaders from 195 countries pledged to achieve gender equality by 2030, but at the current pace of progress, most countries won’t reach gender equality until at least 2108.

One reason is that global shocks like COVID-19 significantly disproportionately affect women. In 2022, men have an estimated 72% labor force participation rate, compared to women’s 47%. Men have also recovered from unemployment during the pandemic at a rate that’s two times higher than women. The availability of child care is directly related to women’s participation in the workforce — in low- and middle-income countries, unpaid caregiving duties took up more than half of a woman’s working hours. 

But even before the pandemic, the World Bank reported that the difference between women and men’s earnings over a lifetime is $172.3 trillion. While no country has currently reached gender parity, Denmark ranks number one in the U.N.’s Gender Equality Index. The U.S. ranks 38th, well behind many countries in Europe, New Zealand, Canada, the U.K., Singapore, and Israel, despite having one of the highest national per capita incomes in the world.

Italy Elects First Far-Right Leader Since Mussolini

Source: Reuters

Italy elected its most right-wing government since World War II in Sunday’s election, according to the latest vote tallies. Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party won the majority (26%) of the vote, setting Meloni on course to be the country’s first female prime minister

A right-wing coalition between the Brothers of Italy, Matteo Salvini’s far-right Northern League, and Silvio Berlusconi’s center-right Forza Italia won the majority of the seats in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, with around 44% of the vote. Italy’s center-left alliance received 26% of the vote, though the center and center-left parties individually won more votes than the right. In the previous 2018 election, the Brothers of Italy, a party with neofascist origins, won only 4% of the vote.

The 2022 election was triggered by a vote of no confidence in outgoing prime minister Mario Draghi, who resigned in July despite winning the confidence vote. Italy’s national unity government lasted 18 months before falling apart under the pressure of parliamentary infighting, debt, a cost of living crisis, and the Ukraine conflict.

Meloni has pledged her support for Ukraine and NATO. But the Northern League and Forza Italia’s reportedly close ties to Russia, and admiration for Russian President Vladmir Putin, have caused concern among Western allies about a right-wing shift in Europe.

Business Freedom Recovers in Europe

Globally, political rights and civil liberties have been on the decline for sixteen consecutive years. Business and democracy have a strong positive relationship, but they do not always go hand in hand. For example, in the past five years, India has become less politically free, but more friendly to businesses.

Europe has historically enjoyed a high rate of political and civil freedoms, as well as a high ease of doing business. This changed during the pandemic, where Europe’s scores fell substantially in business freedom. Governments across the continent imposed restrictions on business and economic activity to curb the health consequences of COVID-19. This had a huge impact on businesses, amounting to a loss of about 15% in industrial production a month after the implementation of containment measures.

Recovery seems to be back on track, according to data from latest edition of the Index of Economic Freedom, where we observe a strong bounce back in business freedom scores across Europe. This recovery, however, will be tested by the challenges stemming from the Ukraine crisis.

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