July 15, 2021

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NEED TO KNOW

EUROPEAN UNION

No Borders

Leaders at Volvo, ArcelorMittal, BASF, Daimler, Iberdrola, Orsted, Thyssenkrupp, Titan Cement, Siemens, Shell and other storied and gigantic European companies recently issued a public letter in the run-up to the European Union unveiling new measures for the bloc to reach net-zero carbon emissions in 2050.

The business leaders thought European Union officials were moving too fast with the continent’s transition to a green energy economy. The bloc needs much more renewable energy if it wants to reach the standards the politicians were proposing.

“Without a stronger European policy focus and increased investments boosting the availability of renewables for industrial use, we not only risk delaying needed greenhouse gas reductions . . . but also our overall credibility,” went the letter quoted in the Financial Times. “We are still far from the needed volumes and capacity in terms of renewable energy.”

Among the expected measures were reforms to the European Union’s carbon pricing market, stricter car emissions regulations and a tax on carbon imports. Carbon pricing and cleaner cars are well-known ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed tax is unique.

A tax on imports is a tax on consumption. The so-called “carbon border tax” would target the carbon that Europeans would consume abroad when they purchase foreign goods or services. The tax would raise the costs of “steel, cement and aluminum produced in countries with lower environmental standards,” Bloomberg explained.

Brussels expects to raise almost $12 billion from the tax annually once it’s finalized in the next two years, according to S&P Global Platts.

In an article supporting the idea in Project Syndicate, researchers at the National University of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy argued that the carbon tax is an important tool to suppress carbon emissions.

The tax captures carbon that countries often don’t calculate under the Paris climate agreement of 2015, they wrote. It also represents a fairer distribution of carbon-related costs. Emissions in the US have increased by 3 percent since 1990. But Americans’ consumption of carbon has increased by 14 percent in the same period. Americans are getting that carbon from foreign sources – that is, buying things that produce carbon abroad.

Europe’s trading partners are complaining that the tax is hardly fair, as Reuters reported. In response, the Europeans want the US, Japan and other wealthy nations to adopt their own carbon import taxes, Politico wrote.

Meanwhile, the climate keeps changing.

WANT TO KNOW

SOUTH AFRICA

Apartheid Redux

South Africa is dealing with the worst political violence it has seen since the end of apartheid three decades ago, with deadly riots and looting sparked by the arrest of former President Jacob Zuma, CBS News reported Wednesday.

Officials said that at least 72 people have died over the past week.

Meanwhile, arrests have topped 1,000 while more than 600 stores have been looted: The unrest has crippled KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Johannesburg and blockaded major supply routes, resulting in fuel and food shortages in those areas, according to the Washington Post.

The violence began when Zuma was jailed for refusing to appear before a commission investigating corruption during his nine years in office.

Zuma’s supporters took to the streets in protests, but the demonstrations soon devolved into riots fueled by ongoing poverty that has been worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Authorities, meanwhile, are probing whether former officials affiliated with the ex-president are involved in instigating the violence.

Still, political analyst Ralph Mathekga blamed South Africa’s economic woes, unemployment and inequality for the violence.

“It is simply feedback (reflecting the) discontent,” he said.

JAMAICA

Make It Right

Jamaica is seeking billions in compensation from Britain over the latter’s centuries-old slave trade in the former British colony, the New York Post reported.

Jamaican Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture Olivia Grange said the country’s African ancestors “were forcibly removed from their home and suffered unparalleled atrocities in Africa to carry out forced labor to the benefit of the British Empire.”

Centuries ago, Jamaica was the center of the slave trade with the Spanish until 1655, when the British Empire seized the island. Africans were forcibly brought to Jamaica to work on plantations of sugar cane, bananas and other crops that enriched many of their owners, according to Reuters.

The British eventually prohibited the slave trade in 1807 across the empire but did not formally abolish the practice of slavery until 1834.

Roughly 600,000 Africans were brought to Jamaica, according to the National Library of Jamaica.

For compensation, the reparations petition, which is based on a motion by a Jamaican lawmaker, is proposing payment of more than $10.5 billion – the estimated equivalent of what Britain paid slaveholders.

The petition will be filed pending advice from Jamaica’s attorney general and three legal teams. The attorney general will then send it to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who is the head of state of the Commonwealth country.

The move coincides with increasing efforts by some Jamaican leaders to break formal ties with the UK. That would include removing the British monarch as Jamaica’s head of state

The island became independent in 1962.

IRAN

Companion Finder

Iran unveiled an Islamic dating app this week aimed at encouraging young Iranians to get married, a move aimed at boosting the country’s marriage and birth rates, Agence France-Presse reported.

The “Hamdam” (companion in Farsi) app will allow users to search for and choose their future spouses. Users will have to verify themselves and complete a “psychology test” before being allowed to search.

The app’s website explained that once a match is made, Hamdam will introduce “the families together with the presence of service consultants,” who will “accompany” the couple for four years after the marriage.

The state-sanctioned platform is the only dating app that operates in Iran. Other such apps like Tinder are illegal, the Independent reported.

The app is part of the government’s efforts to tackle Iran’s changing demographics: The country’s divorce rates are rising while the birth rate has been declining at a rate of 7.67 percent annually since 2015, according to government data.

Last year, Iran’s birth rates fell to a 100-year low, prompting the conservative-dominated parliament to pass a bill addressing, “population growth and supporting families” this March.

The draft law proposes financial incentives for marriage and encourages couples to have more than two children. It also limits access to abortion.

DISCOVERIES

Venus, Alive

Mars and Venus have tremendous differences but Venus and Earth – not so much.

Scientists have discovered evidence that parts of Venus’s surface move around similar to the Earth’s continental plates, the BBC reported.

For years, astronomers believed that the second planet from the Sun had a static lithosphere – the planet’s rocky outer layer – unlike the Earth’s mobile tectonic plates.

In a new paper, a research team analyzed data gathered by NASA’s Magellan spacecraft, which mapped the surface structure of Venus between 1989 until 1994.

The team observed that Venus’ surface had some degree of mobility, although it was nothing compared to that of our planet. Computer models also showed molten rock boiling beneath the planet’s surface could create mobility and fracturing.

They said the activity is similar to the way fragments of pack ice float around in our planet’s polar regions.

“Although different from the tectonics we currently see on Earth, it is still evidence of interior motion being expressed at the planet’s surface,” said lead author Paul Byrne.

Byrne and his colleague suggested that Venus’ tectonic activity might resemble that of Earth during the Archean Eon – between four to 2.5 billion years ago – making them distant cousins.

“Venus is probably alive and its heart is beating today,” Byrne told Fox News.

COVID-19 Global Update

More than 180 nations worldwide have confirmed cases of the coronavirus. The following have the highest numbers worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*:

  1. US: 33,947,230 (+0.10%)
  2. India: 30,987,880 (+0.13%)
  3. Brazil: 19,209,729 (+0.30%)
  4. France: 5,884,395 (+0.02%)
  5. Russia: 5,785,542 (+0.40%)
  6. Turkey: 5,500,151 (+0.13%)
  7. UK: 5,252,655 (+0.81%)
  8. Argentina: 4,702,657 (+0.42%)
  9. Colombia: 4,565,372 (+0.77%)
  10. Italy: 4,275,846 (+0.05%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours