Up to a third of workers in some areas of Britain are set for a pay rise as a result of the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW), the new legal wage floor of £7.20 an hour that comes into effect this Friday for employees aged 25 and over, according to new analysis published by the Resolution Foundation.
The Foundation’s analysis of the impact of the NLW across Britain finds that Torridge in Devon is Britain’s leading NLW hotspot. Over one in three workers (35 per cent) are set for a pay rise this year as a result of the NLW – almost double the proportion across Britain (18 percent). The NLW is set to boost pay in Torridge by around £2 million.
Other National Living Wage hotspots include Rossendale in Lancashire, where 33 per cent of employees are set to benefit from its introduction, Woking in Surrey and Castle Point in Essex (where 32 per cent of workers will get a pay rise). The top ten NLW hotspots also include Oadby and Wigston (Leicestershire), Forest Heath (Suffolk), Mansfield (Derbyshire), West Somerset, Breckland (Norfolk) and Rother in Kent.
The Foundation notes that while the NLW will lead to a particularly big pay boost in these hotspots, it will also put pressure on local employers who are more likely to see significant wage bill increases.
The analysis finds that the NLW will have far less impact in London and parts of the South East. Just 3 per cent of employees in the City of London are set to benefit from the NLW this year, followed by Camden and Tower Hamlets (6 per cent) and Southwark and South Cambridgeshire (both 7 per cent).
The Foundation says that the relative lack of employees affected by the new NLW in some areas reinforces the importance of the actual Living Wage campaign – a voluntary rate that is currently £9.40 an hour in London and £8.25 in the rest of the UK.
The analysis also finds that Sheffield is the biggest National Living Wage hotspot of the major City regions across Britain. This year, 22 per cent of employees across the Sheffield region are set to get a pay rise as a result of the NLW. This will rise to 28 per cent by 2020 – more than any other major city in Britain – when the NLW reaches its target rate.
The Foundation argues that the successful implementation of the National Living Wage should be a top priority, not just for national government, but for local leaders in areas where labour markets are heavily affected. Importantly this should include newly elected city mayors in places like Sheffield that are set for elections next year.
Around one in six employees across Britain will be affected by the NLW in 2016, with a total 4.5 employees getting a pay rise. The proportion of workers affected will increase as the NLW is ratcheted up towards its target rate of 60 per cent of typical earnings in 2020. It is projected to be around £9 an hour in that year, by which time around 6 million employees are expected to benefit.
Research published earlier this week by the Foundation showed that the introduction of the NLW will mean a 10.8 per cent pay rise for those who have been on the minimum wage over the last year. It also found that the lowest earners are set to see their pay rise 50 per cent faster than average earnings over the rest of the parliament.
Torsten Bell, Director of the Resolution Foundation, said:
“The National Living Wage is a hugely ambitious policy with the potential to transform Britain’s low pay landscape. Up to a third of workers will get a pay rise in National Living Wage hotspots, ranging from Canvey Island to Eastern Lancashire.”
“Britain’s new legal wage floor will be felt throughout the country, but its impact will be bigger in some areas than others. Relatively few employees will benefit in high-paying parts of Britain such as the City of London and Camden, reminding us of the need to see more employers sign up to pay the higher voluntary Living Wage.
“Of course pay rises don’t come free so employers in some sectors and parts of the country will feel the pressure more than others. That’s why it’s vital that businesses and national, regional and local government make the successful implementation of the new legal minimum a priority.”
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
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