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The Number of People Living in Extreme Poverty Declined in 2019

More than 15 million people escaped extreme poverty across the world this year. The number of those living on less than $1.90 a day dropped from 604,790,159 to 589,425,192, according to the World Poverty Clock, a project of the World Data Lab.

This drop shows global progress toward the U.N.’s first Sustainable Development Goal to reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty. Efforts to empower those living in such vulnerable conditions include social safety net and protection programs in the form of unemployment, disability, and maternity cash benefits, along with social protection programs for children. 

Protection against natural disasters can also be a significant help to vulnerable regions and their economies. “As of 31 March 2019, 67 countries had reported progress in such alignment [with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction], and 24 countries reported that their respective local governments had developed local strategies consistent with national strategies and plans.” according to the U.N.

UK Prime Minister Caps Energy Bills As Costs Skyrocket

Source: The Economist

The United Kingdom’s new prime minister Liz Truss is under pressure to help Britons with energy costs, as natural gas prices skyrocket and winter approaches, reports The Economist

On August 26, energy regulator Ofgem reset its energy price cap, raising the average household’s monthly energy bills from 164 pounds ($194) to 296 pounds ($340), starting in October. Forecasts from Cornwall Insight consultancy group predict that without government intervention, energy bills will rise to 449 pounds ($516) in January and 551 pounds ($633) in April. Without government support, experts estimate that energy bills will make up 14% of the poorest fifth of households’ spending — double the amount before the pandemic. Middle-income households will also face steep prices, with 9-10% of their spending consumed by energy costs.

In response, Prime Minister Truss announced that energy bills will be capped for all households at 2,500 pounds ($2,874) a year — about $240 a month — until 2024. Businesses will also benefit from the price cap, though for a shorter period of six months.

Climate Change Causes Deadly Flooding in Pakistan

Source: The Economist

A deadly monsoon season in Pakistan has led to the country’s worst flooding in a decade, as climate change causes increasingly extreme weather around the world. 

By the end of August, Pakistan had received three times its annual average rainfall. Summer monsoon rains caused the worst flooding in areas around the Indus River, with some provinces receiving up to five or six times their 30-year average rainfall. More than 33 million people have been impacted by the flooding, and at least 1,100 people have died. 

Pakistan is responsible for less than 1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, but it is the eighth-most vulnerable country to climate change. Some officials estimate that the recovery will cost $10 billion. The costs of flooding also affect the rest of the world: Flooding in 2021 destroyed more than 12 million acres of crops, contributing to the global surge in food prices. Worldwide, flooding has caused over 250,000 deaths and led to economic damage exceeding $1 trillion since 1980.

Risk of Stagflation Rises Around the World

 

The risk of stagflation is rising around the world as inflation rates hit record highs and economic growth slows, reports the World Bank. Stagflation, a period of high inflation, low economic growth, and high unemployment, is a rare occurrence, last seen during the 1970s OPEC oil embargoes. But the combination of the Ukraine crisis and the pandemic has pushed prices high, while hampering growth and limiting consumer spending.This is the “largest commodity shock we’ve experienced since the 1970s,” said Indermit Gill, the World Bank’s vice president for equitable growth, finance and institutions, in an interview with the Financial Times.

The forecast for global economic growth is down to 3.3%, while inflation is up to 6.2%. Asian forecasts have been revised down due to supply chain disruptions, China’s zero-COVID policy, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Latin American forecasts have similarly been revised, due to surging inflation. Europe and the U.K.’s energy prices and sanctions on Russian energy imports may trigger an economic crisis. High energy and food prices are also impacting Africa and the Middle East.

But the U.S. faces the highest risk of inflation, according to some experts, as the economy contracts and inflation and interest rates rise.

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.

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