As the realization that the marketing has jumped ahead of the technology sets in, and following an international protest day against 5G in January from South Africa to Sweden, and from Australia to America, Swiss concerns about possible health risks of this largely untested technology have brought it close to a standstill, writes Dr. Devra Davis.
The Financial Times just ran an article with the headline 'Switzerland halts rollout of 5G over health concerns'. Silicon Republic quoted Switzerland’s environmental agency, Das Bundesamt für Umwelt (Bafu), the health agency focused on the issue said: “It would not be willing to allow the use of 5G without further testing for the potential impact of radiation.”
Posed as critical to the Internet of Things, 5G has many kinks that remain unresolved. In the US, the view of the federal government has been 'let’s get this thing built and then we will figure out how to make it work'. Tom Wheeler, the enthusiastic former-telecom industry leader who led the Federal Communications Commission under President Obama and Ajit Pai, his similarly credentialed counterpart who is the current chair, share a naïve enthusiasm for 5G that bespeaks the success of the ad men in this business.
The US declared it will not be bothered with testing or performance standards. Wheeler assured enthusiasts of the technology: “We won’t wait for the standards to be first developed in the sometimes arduous standards-setting process or in a government-led activity. Instead, we will make ample spectrum available and then rely on a private sector-led process for producing technical standards best suited for those frequencies and use cases.”
Since 1996, public health concerns around wireless radiation have been denied legal consideration when it comes to the spread of wireless systems. FCC Chair Ajit Pai led a bi-partisan effort to streamline and speed up 5G, expressly ignoring requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act and other relevant government laws, arguing that the matter was too important to take the time to consider impacts on the environment.
Now Pai is one of the stars of a new paid ad campaign pushing the FCC to free spectrum for 5G ASAP. The Swiss nation is one of the most technologically advanced in the world. The Institute for Technology and Society (IT’IS), located in Zurich, Switzerland, has for years set the standards for wireless testing technology, devised innovations in applying technology to medicine and engineering, and evaluated impacts at levels from the whole body to nanometer-sized interactions at the cellular membrane.
Recent reports from IT’IS technology on honeybees and monitoring of hives close to 3G and 4G systems have expressed serious concerns about how 5G exposures could impair the ability of these critically important pollinators to function. Without bees, there can be no agriculture, Einstein is reputed to have noted.
Concerns about 5G are being led within the Swiss government by its Environment Agency, Bafu, which is calling for a time-out regarding all-new 5G antennas. European Parliament reports have explained that there are simply no accepted technical criteria for testing, monitoring or studying 5G. The industry has yet to agree on precisely what 5G entails. One thing is clear: in order for 5G to work at all in the foreseeable future, it will also need to rely on 3G and 4G signals to connect existing devices.
Moreover, there can be no 5G for voice. So-called 5G phones will download movies, games, and porn in seconds, but will still have to use 4G LTE for voice calls. And autonomous vehicle cars cannot work with 5G for movement--that already works with 4G LTE-- but only for such intricacies as allowing tires to talk to steering wheels regarding air pressure. The kicker is that because the Swiss have among the most stringent requirements to reduce wireless radiation in the world, 5G systems cannot meet those existing criteria.
5G requires beam-forming technology, where a focused radiation is directed to and from a device. This has never been evaluated in the real world. Supporting this moratorium are the voices of more than 250 medical experts and the Swiss Medical Association who have called for more research to be carried out on the potential impacts of the technology on human health. In the states, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Health Trust successfully argued in federal court that before 5G can be deployed, its impact on the environment must be fully assessed.
Adding further support to these concerns, no major secondary insurer will cover health damages from 5G, classified as “high risk” a technology which insurance authority Swiss Re has depicted as “off the leash,” comparable to those of asbestos. Recently courts have held governments and telecom companies liable for health damages in Italy. Over 150 cities in Italy have passed resolutions to halt 5G until safety is assured, joining an ever-growing number of cities and towns across Europe where thousands are protesting. Cities in the US have passed ordinances to restrict antenna installations near homes in neighborhoods.
Cities such as Kalamata Greece are reversing course and terminating relationships with telecommunications companies, no longer interested in being a 5G pilot city. Efforts are also underway in U.S. and European courts to force companies to produce safer phones. The Swiss are also considering strict liability standards for all manufacturers and providers of the technology. However the United States is full steam ahead. Switzerland is the clear model for the rest of the world and this reminds us of what Ben Franklin said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Dr. Devra Davis is the founder of EHTrust.org who shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Switzerland, a nation of four official languages, watchmakers, mountain guides, and soaring vistas, and which was among the first out of the block to embrace the promise of 5G.
Big business seeks unified, market-based approaches ahead of climate summit
Corporate executives and investors say they want world leaders at next week’s climate summit to embrace a unified and market-based approach to slashing their carbon emissions, write Ross Kerber and Simon Jessop.
The request reflects the business world’s growing acceptance that the world needs to sharply reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, as well as its fear that doing so too quickly could lead governments to set heavy-handed or fragmented rules that choke international trade and hurt profits.
The United States is hoping to reclaim its leadership in combating climate change when it hosts the 22-23 April Leaders Summit on Climate.
Key to that effort will be pledging to cut US emissions by at least half by 2030, as well as securing agreements from allies to do the same.
“Climate change is a global problem, and what companies are looking to avoid is a fragmented approach where the US, China and the EU each does its own thing, and you wind up with a myriad of different methodologies,” said Tim Adams, chief executive of the Institute of International Finance, a Washington-based trade association.
He said he hopes U.S. President Joe Biden and the 40 other world leaders invited to the virtual summit will move toward adopting common, private-sector solutions to reaching their climate goals, such as setting up new carbon markets, or funding technologies like carbon-capture systems.
Private investors have increasingly been supportive of ambitious climate action, pouring record amounts of cash into funds that pick investments using environmental and social criteria.
That in turn has helped shift the rhetoric of industries that once minimized the risks of climate change.
The American Petroleum Institute, which represents oil companies, for example, said last month it supported steps to reduce emissions such as putting a price on carbon and accelerating the development of carbon capture and other technologies.
API Senior Vice President Frank Macchiarola said that in developing a new U.S. carbon cutting target, the United States should balance environmental goals with maintaining U.S. competitiveness.
“Over the long-term, the world is going to demand more energy, not less, and any target should reflect that reality and account for the significant technological advancements that will be required to accelerate the pace of emissions reductions,” Macchiarola said.
Labor groups like the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of U.S. labor unions, meanwhile, back steps to protect U.S. jobs like taxing goods made in countries that have less onerous emissions regulations.
AFL-CIO spokesman Tim Schlittner said the group hopes the summit will produce “a clear signal that carbon border adjustments are on the table to protect energy-intensive sectors”.
Industry wish lists
Automakers, whose vehicles make up a big chunk of global emissions, are under pressure to phase out petroleum-fueled internal combustion engines. Industry leaders General Motors Co and Volkswagen have already declared ambitious plans to move toward selling only electric vehicles.
But to ease the transition to electric vehicles, US and European automakers say they want subsidies to expand charging infrastructure and encourage sales.
The National Mining Association, the US industry trade group for miners, said it supports carbon capture technology to reduce the industry’s climate footprint. It also wants leaders to understand that lithium, copper and other metals are needed to manufacture electric vehicles.
“We hope that the summit brings new attention to the mineral supply chains that underpin the deployment of advanced energy technologies, such as electric vehicles,” said Ashley Burke, the NMA’s spokeswoman.
The agriculture industry, meanwhile, is looking for market-based programs to help it cut its emissions, which stack up to around 25% of the global total.
Industry giants such as Bayer AG and Cargill Inc have launched programs encouraging farming techniques that keep carbon in the soil.
Biden’s Department of Agriculture is looking to expand such programs, and has suggested creating a “carbon bank” that could pay farmers for carbon capture on their farms.
For their part, money managers and banks want policymakers to help standardize accounting rules for how companies report environmental and other sustainability-related risks, something that could help them avoid laggards on climate change.
“Our industry has an important role to play in supporting companies’ transition to a more sustainable future, but to do so it is vital we have clear and consistent data on the climate-related risks faced by companies,” said Chris Cummings, CEO of the Investment Association in London.
UK asks for more time to respond to EU Brexit legal action: RTE TV
Britain has asked for more time to respond to legal action taken by the European Union over its unilateral decision to ease requirements of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Ireland’s RTE television reported on Wednesday (14 April), writes Conor Humphries.
“The request came in two letters from the UK’s chief Brexit minister David Frost,” RTE correspondent Tony Connelly said in a Twitter post.
Team Europe increased Official Development Assistance to €66.8 billion as the world's leading donor in 2020
The EU and its 27 member states have significantly increased their Official Development Assistance (ODA) for partner countries to €66.8 billion in 2020. This is a 15% increase in nominal terms and equivalent to 0.50% of collective Gross National Income (GNI), up from 0.41% in 2019, according to preliminary figures published today by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC). The EU and its member states thereby confirm their position as the world's leading donor, providing 46% of global assistance from the EU and other DAC donors, and have taken a major leap forward towards meeting the commitment to provide at least 0.7% of collective GNI as ODA by 2030.
International Partnerships Commissioner Jutta Urpilainen said: “Team Europe has significantly increased its contribution of Official Development Assistance compared to last year. This is crucial at a time when so many people in our partner countries face significant health, economic and social challenges linked to the COVID-19 crisis. The latest figures show that 10 years ahead of the due date to deliver on our commitment to provide 0.7% of our collective GNI as ODA, we are more determined than ever to achieve this target.”
Overall, 17 Member States increased their ODA in nominal terms in 2020 compared to 2019, with the strongest nominal increases coming from Germany (+€3.310bn), France (+€1.499bn) and Sweden (+€921 million), and further increases coming from Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The EU institutions' ODA (meaning the European Commission and the EIB) increased by €3.7bn (27%) overall in 2020 in nominal terms. 15 member states improved their ODA relative to their GNI by at least 0.01 percentage points: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and Sweden. In Cyprus and Greece, ODA as a share of GNI decreased by at least 0.01 percentage points.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the EU, its member states, and the European financial institutions, together with the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, have combined their financial resources as Team Europe, mobilising over €40bn in support to partner countries in 2020. 65% of this amount was already disbursed in 2020 in support of the immediate humanitarian needs; health, water, sanitation and nutrition systems, as well as tackling the social and economic consequences of the pandemic. The unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 crisis has put a huge stress on public finances and debt sustainability of many developing countries, affecting their ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. This is why, in May 2020, President von der Leyen called for a Global Recovery Initiative, linking debt relief and investment to the SDGs to promote a green, digital, just and resilient recovery. The Global Recovery Initiative is about shifting to policy choices supporting green and digital transitions, social inclusiveness and human development while enhancing debt sustainability in partner countries.
ODA is one of the sources of financing to deliver on the SDGs, although more transparency is needed on all sources of finance for sustainable development. As an important step in that direction, data on Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD) has been collected and published for the first time, increasing transparency on all officially-supported resources for the SDGs, including South-South co-operation, support to global public goods such as vaccine research and climate mitigation as well as private finance mobilized by official interventions.
The data published today is based on preliminary information reported by the EU Member States to the OECD pending detailed final data to be published by OECD by early 2022. EU collective ODA consists of the total ODA spending of EU member states and the ODA of the EU institutions not attributed to individual member states or the UK (notably own resources of the European Investment Bank and, for the first time in 2020, special macro-financial assistance loans on a grant equivalent basis).
Despite its withdrawal from the European Union taking effect on 1 February 2020, the United Kingdom still contributed funding in the form of ODA to the EU budget and the European Development Fund in 2020. This is included in the EU institutions' ODA. However, in order to avoid double-counting between the ODA reported as EU collective ODA and the ODA reported by the United Kingdom itself, the United Kingdom's contribution to EU institutions is not included in what is reported as EU collective ODA.
Four EU member states already exceeded the 0.7% target of ODA as a share of GNI in 2020: Sweden (1.14%), Luxembourg (1.02%), Denmark (0.73%) and Germany (0.73%).
When highlighting the member states which increased or decreased their ODA as a share of GNI, only cases where the change amounts to at least 0.01 percentage points (based on exact rather than rounded values) are taken into account, while member states for which the change is smaller than 0.01 percentage points in either direction are considered to have kept their ODA as a share of GNI stable.
The EU and its member states thereby perform significantly above the average of non-EU DAC donors in terms of their ODA as a share of GNI, standing at 0.50% compared to 0.26% by the aggregate of all non-EU DAC donors.
In May 2015, the European Council reaffirmed its commitment to increase collective ODA to 0.7% of EU collective GNI by 2030. Since 2015, on a flow basis, ODA by the EU and its current 27 member states has grown by 37% (€18.7bn) in nominal terms while the ODA/GNI ratio has increased by 0.1 percentage points. The year 2020 marks a turn in the previous trend of declining ODA since the 2016 climax when the EU and its then 28 member states' ODA reached 0.52% of GNI. This turn is due partly to an absolute increase in collective ODA in nominal terms, and partly to an absolute decrease in collective GNI in nominal terms. The EU is also committed to give collectively between 0.15% and 0.20% of the EU GNI in the short term to Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and 0.20% by 2030. Since 2015, on a flow basis, ODA by the EU and its current 27 member states to LDCs has grown by 34% (€3.5bn) in nominal terms to reach €13.8bn (0.10% of GNI) in 2019, and the ODA to LDCs/GNI ratio has increased by 0.01 percentage points. Moreover, compared to 2018, the EU and its then 28 member states increased their aggregate ODA to Africa by 3.6% in nominal terms to €25.9bn in 2019. Data on ODA to LDCs, Africa and other specific recipients for 2020 are expected by early 2022.
Scaling up sustainable finance and private sector engagement in partner countries is essential, coupled with reforms to enhance business climates, as meeting the challenges of the Global Recovery Initiative cannot be achieved by ODA alone. The EU has been instrumental in bringing together aid, investment, trade, domestic resource mobilisation and policies designed to unlock the full potential of all financial flows. The European Fund for Sustainable Development guarantee in particular has played a key role in unlocking additional finance for partner countries. Over the last year alone, the EU signed €1.55bn worth of financial guarantees with our partner financial institutions, leveraging over €17bn of investments – also helping to ensure that recovery from the pandemic is green, digital, just and resilient.
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