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A picture shows an iceberg on the Kongsfjorden fjord, west coast of the Spitsbergen island, Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, northern Norway.

Photo: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

Scientists Find Substantial Microplastics Pollution in Arctic Snow

Microplastics (MP) were found in substantial amounts in Arctic snow samples, according to an August study in Science Advances. Although the concentration of microplastics found in Arctic snow was significantly lower than in snow sampled from both remote and populated regions in Europe, the researchers found it was “substantial for a secluded location such as the Arctic.” 

While the exact source of the microplastics is not clear, the scientists say they appear to be airborne, conceivably “emitted or dispersed locally by ships and by wind.” 

“The high MP concentrations detected in snow samples from Continental Europe to the Arctic indicate significant air pollution and stress the urgent need for research on human and animal health effects focusing on airborne MPs,” they conclude.

Which Cities Are Equipped to Lead in the New Normal?

Source: Oliver Wyman Forum

Singapore once again tops Oliver Wyman’s 2020 Urban Mobility Readiness Index. This sovereign island city-state in Southeast Asia invested in one of the world’s first automated rail systems as a leader in forward-looking traffic management. 

European cities also dominate the index’s top 10, as most have easily accessible, highly sanitized and safe transportation. These qualities make these cities more resilient to handle future disruptions, like the pandemic. Oliver Wyman based its city ranking this year on infrastructure, innovation and focus on preparedness. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to consider relocating as many jobs turned into permanently remote roles. Oliver Wyman found that for cities to flourish in the post-COVID world, they will need a holistic and forward-looking mobility plan. “Many cities around the world were at a tipping point, even before COVID and while we won’t know the true impact on cities yet, the cities that ranked high are in a better position to meet future challenges,” said Guillaume Thibault, one of the creators of the index.

What Is Contributing to Western Europe’s New Spike in COVID-19 Cases?

Source: Oliver Wyman

Note: Graphs show actual cases from January 22-Oct 6 and projections through October 27

Western Europe is experiencing a second spike in COVID-19 cases, especially in Spain and France. Testing improvements have allowed most Western European countries to catch a greater proportion of COVID-19 cases in mid-September compared to mid-April — however, this is not the case for all countries.

Travel and tourism contributed to some of these late-summer outbreaks. For instance, in Germany, nearly 40% of new infections were brought back by returning vacationers. Additionally, some groups of younger people have neglected to follow social distancing measures: 15- to 24-year-olds now represent 15% of new cases in the EU, a rate three times higher than recorded in April. Quarantine fatigue is also taking a toll, as increasing disillusionment with regulations is resulting in subsequent declines in social distancing.

To avoid broad lockdowns and business restrictions, governments are focusing on alternative prevention measures, such as mask mandates, targeted business closures and travel screenings for those returning from high-risk areas.

Health Care Companies Respond Most Effectively During COVID-19

Health care companies have responded most effectively to stakeholder needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to 68% of stakeholders surveyed. Fifty-one percent of respondents say technology and communications companies responded best, followed by food and consumer goods companies, according to a recent study called A Test of Corporate Purpose

Eight in 10 stakeholders in the study also believe that companies with a strong corporate purpose are better equipped to respond effectively and authentically to the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter events. “You don’t turn into a resilient company, a strong server of stakeholders overnight. That’s something you become over time with quite a lot of deliberate effort,” said Sara Murphy, head of research for TCP, to BRINK.

The Euro Dominates Global Sustainable Finance

Source: European Central Bank

The euro accounts for nearly half of sustainable capital market finances across the world, according to the World Economic Forum. The United States dollar accounts for 25% of sustainable finances, while a collection of other currencies make up the remaining 29%.

The European Commission states that its Green Deal can make the EU’s economy sustainable by “turning climate and environmental challenges into opportunities and making the transition just and inclusive for all.” The COVID-19 pandemic presented such a challenge, and according to WEF, pandemic-related investments will also work in service of creating a “climate-neutral economy,” a goal it set to achieve by 2050. 

Investors are taking note, as the European Green Deal Investment Plan, introduced in January 2020, expects sustainable investment worth a minimum of a trillion euros from public and private sources to fund the region’s transition to a climate-neutral status.

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