New renewable investments trump fossil fuels in 2015

Investments in renewable energy sources including solar, wind and hydropower during 2015 were more than double the amount spent on new coal and gas-fired power plants, the BBC reports. China, Japan, India, the US and the UK added the greatest share of green power, despite the fact that fossil fuel prices have fallen significantly according to the findings of the latest Renewables Global Status Report. Notably, “with China accounting for more than one-third of the global total, the developing countries outspent the richer nations on renewables for the first time,” the BBC reports.

Apparel industry falls short of sustainable labor pledges

“Some of the world’s biggest companies continue to benefit from unfair and dangerous labor practices,” across Asia. That’s the conclusion of a series of new reports into apparel industry working conditions by the Asia Floor Wage Alliance, a coalition of trade unions and other research and advocacy groups The New York Times writes. In the wake of the 2013 Rana Plaza tragedy major brands like Walmart, H&M and Gap vowed to help improve worker safety in the factories that supply them. Major problems still persist however. In Bangladesh the reports allege that “tens of thousands of workers sew garments in buildings without proper fire exits. In Indonesia, India and elsewhere, pregnant women are vulnerable to reduced wages and discrimination. In Cambodia, workers who protested for an extra $20 a month were shot and killed,” the NYT reports.

What the Saudi oil shift means for life inside the kingdom

Saudi Arabia’s bold plans to dismantle its petrostate will create a daunting challenge - namely how to transition to a post-oil economy without its heavily-subsidized society fracturing at the seams. As the Wall Street Journal explains, Saudi citizens “enjoy deeply discounted gasoline, water and electricity.” Also their housing is subsidized and health care covered for by the government, as is education. Ultimately, “The billions of barrels of crude oil [Saudi Arabia] has pumped and sold to the world have forged its politics and economy — indeed the very essence of its society — in ways that could prove deeply painful to undo,” the WSJ writes.

Wearable Tech not so great at counting calories

Are personal fitness trackers really as accurate as manufacturers maintain? A new study from Ball State University in the US suggests not. It found that “fitness trackers are wildly inaccurate when it comes to counting calories burnt off during exercise,” the Daily Mirror reports. Certain products from brands such as Fitbit and Jawbone were up to 40 per cent wrong when monitoring strenuous work-outs. Fitbit told the Mirror: "Fitbit trackers are designed to provide meaningful data to users to help them reach their health and fitness goals and are not designed to be scientific or medical devices."

Putting the Gates Foundation investments into perspective

Finally today, everyone has heard about the Gates Foundation - founded by Bill and Melinda Gates - but few of us understand the scale or effectiveness of its operations. The foundation currently employs 1,300 people globally and funds 29 program areas via 1,400 grantees but the public doesn’t hear much about its work partly because of its “historically low-key approach to the media,” Adweek reports. To offer some transparency Adweek has created this infographic that highlights its $39.6 billion endowment and breaks down the main recipients of its aid.

 

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