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NOT the End of the World

 

Do you wake up optimistic about the world? For most people, the answer to this question has gotten more and more negative for the past couple of years.That is not even a little bit surprising given the latest events.

During the last few years, people have gotten used to waking up to the grim news about the world’s state. The economy has been on the edge of crashing, and we are waiting for one of the deepest recessions to hit us.

The world has been through 10 years of low interest rates and quickly growing economies, leading to global debt being at a record high. In addition, the great amount of government spending during the pandemic continues and fuels one of the most destructive wars on European soil in recent history. 

We see that some parts of Europe are desperately reaching back to coal in fear of the winter ahead of us. Many are concerned that climate change mitigation has been put on hold, even though we witnessed some of the most severe natural disasters in the past years - hurricanes, wildfires and floodings, costing us millions of dollars and hundreds of human lives.

Recently nuclear bomb fears have been rising, due to speculations from both sides of the front. Using a nuclear weapon 75 years after the last one has been dropped, could cause not only many deaths, but may turn one of the most fertile soils into an inhabitable land.

One of the social factors accompanying world crises is the decline in mental health. The stress from economic downturns negatively impacts whole families. It can cause anxiety, depression, PTSD and many other symptoms of distress. It is truly a challenge to find some positivity in this circle of chaos and destruction, but not all good has been killed. 

Let us take a glimpse at the positive events, breakthroughs and acts of kindness that seem to be missing from the recent news feed.

The most recent news comes from the spot market with gas prices in Europe plummeting. Major factors in the price reduction are the European stocks at 93%, while Germany has managed to fill its gas storage at 97% of full capacity. Full storage tanks together with the warm weather in October led to a moment of oversupply and contributed to the 70% drop in gas prices from the peak level. This is like a breath of fresh air for the EU economy. However, it is not enough to completely save us from the energy crisis.

Being one of the most affected countries, Germany has done the impossible to escape the danger of severe gas shortages in the winter. They have announced 5 LNG terminals, as two of them will be ready by the end of 2022 and a third is expected by the end of 2023.

Other European countries have also been trying to accelerate electricity generation from renewable energies. This has resulted in the promotion of hydrogen production. Hydrogen is seen as the main factor in the green transition and diversification of energy sources. Therefore, an important step towards fossil fuel independence was made this year. The European Commission approved the Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI), which was jointly prepared by fifteen member states. It supports the first industrial deployment in the hydrogen technology value chain. This project is an example of ambitious European cooperation for a key common objective. The project is expected to cover the generation of hydrogen, fuel cells, storage, transportation, and end-user applications. It is believed that IPCEI will contribute to important technological breakthroughs, mainly in the mobility sector.

Another ambitious green objective was also discussed on the other side of the world. Tokyo is said to require all new homes to have solar panels by April 2025. The government will be actively involved in the process by implementing a subsidy program and by collaborating with the industry and community.

Even in a time of political crisis, the United Kingdom has also got some positive news for the environment. One of the major UK banks, Lloyds Banking Group, has announced that it will not provide financing to new clients from the oil and gas sector unless it is for renewable energies and transitional technologies projects. The announcement came in response to the ex-prime minister Liz Truss, who was trying to increase fossil fuel projects.

The incoming recession has many people worried about their savings and future earnings. The lower working class will be the most vulnerable to the expected economic downturn and ongoing inflation. In response to this threat, the Council of the EU adopted a new directive on adequate minimum wages. The directive is supposed to help achieve decent working and living conditions for the employees in the European Union. From now on, member states will be obliged to place a procedural framework to set and update minimum wages by a set of clear criteria. In addition, the directive is promoting collective bargaining on wage setting and effective access to minimum wage protection.

In another effort to protect workers from exploitation, the EU has introduced a proposal to ban products made using forced labour. The idea behind this plan is to tackle modern slavery, which according to recent data, affects 28 million people worldwide. Some people are claiming that the new directive is mainly targeting China. The reason for that is the rising criticism that the Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang region are being forced into slave labour.

A different perspective on labour development was introduced by the cultural and creative sectors. According to UNESCO, this sector provides more than 48 million jobs globally and employs the largest number of young people under the age of 30.  Moreover, culture itself has a fundamental role in our societies. Therefore, UNESCO has adopted a historic declaration for culture, affirming culture as a “global public good”. The declaration defines a set of cultural rights and promotes the protection of cultural and natural heritage. 

We might think that the world around us is collapsing. However, tough times come and go, but the efforts to change the world for the better are here to stay.