Wales announced a basic income for vulnerable young people, renewables defeated Australia’s largest coal plant, and Belgians won the right to a four-day week, plus more stories of progress
Young people leaving care face many challenges, chief among them becoming financially stable. Does Wales have a solution?
This week, its government announced plans to trial a basic income targeted at vulnerable young adults. Under the scheme, every 18-year-old leaving care within a 12-month period will be paid £1,600 a month, regardless of their employment status. The payments will continue for two years. A start date for the scheme is to be confirmed.
Social justice minister Jane Hutt said the scheme would “deliver financial stability for a generation of young people that need it most”. Critics questioned the virtues of giving large sums of money to vulnerable individuals, and said the payments would disincentivise work.
Malcolm Torry, general manager of the Basic Income Earth Network, disputed this. He told Positive News that basic income experiments in Finland, Namibia and India actually increased employment activity.
Image: Catrin Ellis
The largest coal-fired power plant in Australia will close seven years early because it can’t compete with renewables, its operator said this week.
Australia has doggedly stuck with the dirtiest fossil fuel despite the unfolding climate crisis. In 2017, the Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, then treasurer, brought a lump of coal into parliament, where he cooed about its “energy competitive advantage”.
That advantage has now gone up in smoke, according to Origin Energy, which runs the Eraring Power Station. “The economics of coal-fired power stations are being put under increasing, unsustainable pressure by cleaner and lower-cost generation, including solar, wind and batteries,” conceded CEO Frank Calabria.
Origin said that Eraring (pictured) will close in 2025, seven years ahead of schedule. In a symbolic move, the site could be used to store electricity – much of it generated from renewables.
Image: Origin Energy
Scientists have created a map of ‘whale superhighways’ to help protect the animals on key migratory routes.
Whales encounter many threats as they navigate the oceans, including container ships, seismic surveys and fishing nets. The latter alone kill around 300,000 whales, dolphins and purposes annually, according to the WWF.
The new map could help. Based on tracking data collected from 900 whales, it has identified critical migratory routes that could help inform conservation strategies.
Dr Margaret Kinnard from the WWF, which conducted the research, said: “This report presents some of the most comprehensive data to date on large scale movements of whales through the world’s oceans. The emerging picture underscores the need for swift, concerted action.”
Image: Jorge Vasconez
Belgian workers are to be given the right to request a four-day week, it was announced this week. It comes a fortnight after Belgian civil servants won the ‘right to disconnect’ from their jobs.
Employees will be able to put in a request to work longer hours during the week, in exchange for a three-day weekend. Pay would be unaffected. Though firms have the right to turn down requests, they will be required to justify their response in writing.
“The goal is to give people and companies more freedom to arrange their work time,” said Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo.
The pandemic has sparked growing interest in a shorter working week. The UK is set to trial a four-day week this summer, while firms such as Unilever have launched their own pilots.
Image: Liam Martens
In a landmark ruling, Ecuador’s highest court has stated that indigenous communities must be given more autonomy over their territory, and a greater say over extraction projects that impact their land.
The ruling means that oil and minings companies must obtain the consent of local communities before drilling or digging.
In 2021, the same court ruled that plans to mine for metal in a protected cloud forest violated the rights of nature, as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
Image: Daniel Acosta
The English countryside is crisscrossed with historic walkways, many of which have been forgotten.
Until this week, the public had a deadline of 2026 to register bygone walkways, or risk losing them forever. However, on Thursday, the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) acquiesced to campaigners and agreed to scrap the deadline.
Path users have been trawling records in recent years to find old walkways, but were unlikely to locate them all before the deadline.
“We are pleased that Defra has taken this sensible and pragmatic decision,” said Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society.
Image: Phil Hearing
Research suggests that the pandemic has had a significant impact on children’s development. One study claims that infants born during the crisis may have lower IQs. The decline is attributed to the closure of early educational facilities and parents having to balance home working with their child’s development.
Enter the Lego Foundation, the non-profit arm of the Danish toy company. It is offering a £100m prize fund to find solutions to what it describes as the “global early childhood emergency”. Organisations that have a positive impact on young children are invited to bid for a proportion of the grant.
Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the LEGO Foundation’s CEO, said: “This competition is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of the youngest children.”
Image: Senjuti Kundu
Researchers have revealed which European countries are leading the race to decarbonise transport, with some surprises in the top 10.
Coming out on top was the Netherlands – a result that apparently had nothing to do with the Dutch love of bikes.
Read the full story here.
Image: Adrien Olichon
Main image: Jeremy McKnight