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Rural Communities in India Are Suffering the Most From Lockdown

Source: Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Currency: Indian Rupee

Eighty-eight percent of rural households in India report a drop in income due to COVID-19-related lockdown measures. A study from the Chicago Booth School of Business found the same to be true for 75% of urban households, suggesting a relatively more precarious financial position for those working in rural areas. 

The study, conducted between April 18 and April 30, 2020, covered nearly 6,000 households across 27 states in India and measured per capita monthly income, divided into five earning segments. The highest-income quintile is the least likely to report financial losses on average, including in specifically rural areas, but the percentage of households experiencing financial losses is still significantly higher in rural areas. Eighty-one percent of rural households in the fifth quintile have experienced financial losses — versus 55% of urban households.

The Indian government stimulus package has included “cash transfers and food rations for poor families and women,” according to the Atlantic Council. But the response has been criticized as a “lost opportunity” and ultimately insufficient to revive its economy.  

How Brazil’s Election Affects the Amazon Rainforest

The gap from 2011 to 2019 in the above graph represents former Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Michel Temer's terms.

Source: Vox

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s victory over incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential runoff election may have a huge impact on saving the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon, the largest rainforest on Earth and an important carbon sink, has lost 17% of its area to deforestation since the 1970s. More than half of the Amazon (60%) is in Brazil, causing some environmental advocates to say Brazil’s election marks a turning point for the rainforest.

Under Jair Bolsonaro’s presidential term, environmental protections were weakened while activities like illegal mining and man-made fires increased. Between 2019 and 2021, the Amazon lost more than 34,000 square km (8.4 million acres) — an area larger than Belgium. The loss was a 52% increase over the amount of deforestation three years prior.

Conversely, Lula pledged during his campaign to fight for zero deforestation. If he keeps his campaign promise, some analysts predict he could curb rainforest loss by 89% by 2030. During his previous terms, deforestation fell by about 70%. But whether Lula can reduce rainforest loss to zero also depends on Congress, which is now dominated by Bolsonaro’s party.

How the Pound Is Holding Up to the Dollar

Source: CNBC

The British pound sank further against the U.S. dollar last week after the Bank of England said it expects the U.K. to fall into a two-year recession — in what would be the longest recession ever recorded. The BoE raised interest rates to 3% from 2.25%, its largest hike in over three decades, in an effort to fight inflation.

The pound has fallen steeply against the dollar over the past few months as financial markets reacted to the turmoil in British politics, including former Prime Minister Liz Truss’ proposed economic policies. It reached a record low against the dollar in September, at $1.03. Inflation rose above 10% the same month, contributing to a growing cost-of-living crisis. The weakened pound is compounding the burden on British households by increasing the already high price of imported goods like food and gas. 

In addition to the pound, most major currencies have lost their value against the dollar this year — a result of the Federal Reserve’s aggressive interest rate hikes. As the dollar’s value rose nearly 20% in 2022, the Chinese yuan, euro, and Japanese yen all reached new lows. The pound and the euro rose this week against the dollar as the euro zone grew in the the third quarter and investors anticipated China easing its COVID-19 restrictions.

Electric Cars Gain Popularity As Fuel Costs Rise

Higher gas prices are incentivizing people around the world to buy an electric vehicle, a new survey from Oliver Wyman shows. More than half (58%) of consumers said that high gas prices would motivate them to buy an EV, with “very high” gas prices pushing that number to 73%.

Chinese car buyers were most likely to say they would buy an electric vehicle, with 90% saying that gas prices over 10 yuan per liter ($6 per gallon) would make them consider an EV. Government benefits in China also help support higher consumer interest, including subsidizing the purchases of EV buyers with longer driving ranges and allowing electric cars on restricted roads during rush hour. 

Brazilians were second-most likely to consider buying an EV, with 88% saying that gas prices over 8 real per liter ($1.56 per gallon) would incentivize them to switch. U.K. consumers were the least likely to buy an electric car; a potential result of the government ending its subsidies for new EV sales and expanding the U.K.’s charging station network instead.  

Apart from gas prices, free vehicle charging was the top incentive for buying an EV, with 59% of consumers saying it would motivate them to make a purchase. Discounts for EV purchases (43%) and free parking stations (31%) were also motivators.

The World Is Bullish on Solar—Can Supply Chains Keep Up?

The world is rapidly adopting solar power — solar energy generation increased 22% between 2020 and 2021. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects that number to jump again this year, as countries that relied on Russian fossil fuels invest more in renewable energy. Government initiatives have also helped grow solar energy, with incentives in Brazil, subsidies in China, and new tax credits in the U.S. promoting growth.

In the U.S., residential solar power installations rose 34% from 2020 to 2021 — though solar power generated only 3% of electricity last year. In Europe, projects in Spain, France, Poland, and Germany accelerated solar adoption. Australia has the highest residential adoption rate of solar power, with 31% of homes using solar energy. China is the largest contributor of solar capacity, with 31% of the world’s capacity, most of it due to large solar farms. 

Solar power costs rose last year as COVID-19 supply chain disruptions have raised the cost of solar panel production and installation. In 2021, prices rose as much as 18% in some areas of the solar industry. Despite rising costs, the IEA predicts that solar power will retain or increase its cost advantage compared to other renewable energy sources, like onshore wind farms, over the next two years.

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