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General election 2019: Your questions on climate change and the environment

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With concerns about the environment a major theme in the election, what are the parties’ plans on green issues?

Here, we answer a selection of readers’ questions.

What is being done to stop the decline in UK wildlife? – Jet Janman, Seaford

More than a quarter of UK mammals – including the Scottish wildcat, the frosted green moth and the pine marten – are facing extinction, according to a report published in October 2019. It added that 97% of the UK’s wildflower meadows have been lost in the last 100 years.

In its environmental manifesto, Labour details how it will spend nearly £10bn over the next 10 years on restoring nature and protecting the environment. It also wants to create 10 new national parks.

The Liberal Democrats will introduce a Nature Act to restore the natural environment. This will set targets for improving water, air, soil, and wildlife and its habitat. This will cost at least £18bn over five years.

The Green Party has a raft of policies on wildlife. Among these are a new law to prevent crimes against the natural environment. The Greens would also introduce an environmental protection commission to enforce the protection of wildlife and habitat.

The Tory manifesto does not mention UK wildlife specifically, although it does pledge to work with other countries on issues such as deforestation, wildlife protection and the oceans.

What will be done about single-use plastics? – Christine, High Wycombe full name

The BBC’s Blue Planet II series sparked a debate about single-use plastics, and it’s also featured in this election campaign.

The Liberal Democrats and the Green Party would clamp down on single-use plastics, banning them outright.

The Greens would ban their production and extend the plastic bag tax to cover plastic bottles and other single-use plastics as well.

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Parties have also made promises on plastic waste. The Conservatives want to set up a £500m “Blue Planet” fund dedicated to tackling pollution in the oceans. Labour has promised to invest in the recyling and reusing of plastics. The government is set to introduce new rules on single-use plastic next year. Bars and restaurants will not be allowed to display plastic straws or automatically hand them out, and plastic stirrers will be subject to a total ban.

Several parties want to ban the export of plastic waste, including the Conservatives, the Liberal Democrats and the Brexit Party.

Plaid Cymru has committed to making Wales a single-use plastic-free nation by 2030.

How could UK industry be affected by promises to tackle climate change? – Ron Barton, Guildford

Some of the largest contributors to the UK’s emissions of greenhouse gases – in particular, carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming – include transport, energy supply and parts of industry.

So, cutting emissions from “heavy” industry – things like oil, mining, steel or machine manufacturing – is a big challenge.

The Conservatives have said they would invest £500m to help energy-intensive industries move to low-carbon techniques.

Labour and the Lib Dems say they would offer support for ways of making steel that use less carbon. Jeremy Corbyn has also promised a “windfall tax” on oil firms.

The SNP has called for a pot of money for places heavily reliant on oil, such as Falkirk or Aberdeen, to help diversify their economies as the UK looks to reduce its carbon emissions.

The Green Party has promised to invest in training to help people get new jobs in manufacturing for the renewable energy sector.

Plaid says it would start what is called a “green jobs revolution” by investing in renewable energy and transport infrastructure.

If the UK leaves the EU, will it still have to fulfil its promises on the environment and climate change? – Toni Massari, Bristol

Making sure the UK sticks to EU rules about water, air, waste and wildlife is currently monitored and enforced by institutions including the European Commission and Court of Justice.

Government ministers haven’t yet guaranteed that the UK will stick to the same standards if Brexit happens.

The government has said it would set up a new Office for Environmental Protection to make sure ministers hit their targets. But critics have pointed out this body won’t be independent, as it will answer to government and not to Parliament.

It’s also been suggested the government wouldn’t be able to issue fines, as the EU previously has.

Leaving the EU also won’t affect the UK’s commitments under the Climate Change Act. This set legally binding targets to reduce the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions by at least 80% by 2050, although since then a law has passed to reach zero-carbon emissions in the same time frame.

Why isn’t more freight being sent by rail to reduce diesel emissions? – Valerie Robertson, Wiltshire

Sending goods by rail can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 76% compared to using road transport. However, only about 9% of goods in the UK are carried by rail.

Some parties have made specific commitments about rail freight, while others are more general.

The Conservatives have pledged to invest an extra £100m in roads and rail, while Labour says it wants to find more environmentally friendly ways of running the railways.

Freight train

GETTY IMAGES

Rail freight in numbers

United Kingdom

  • 9.1%of freight goes by rail

  • £1.7bnannual economic contribution

  • 60 HGVsequivalent carried per train

  • 76%less CO2 emissions than road

  • £30bnvalue of goods carried per year

Source: Office of Rail and Road, Rail Delivery Group

The Lib Dems say they will shift more freight transport from road to rail. They will also make the electrification of rail lines from major sea ports a priority.

The Greens have pledged to have more freight carried by rail. They say there is “enormous scope” to cut emissions.

In May 2019, the SNP-run Scottish government announced a new rail freight fund. Up to £25m will be made available to upgrade track and other areas of the rail network.

Are farmers being encouraged to move from meat to plants? – Jordan Davies, Telford

Only the Green Party has made promises in this area. It wants to change the payments made to farmers to help them move away from the intensive farming of livestock, like beef cattle. It would also introduce a tax on meat and dairy products. This would, it says, shift people towards plant-based diets, benefitting health and animal welfare, and combating global warming.

Other parties have made wider pledges about agriculture.

The Conservatives have said that – in return for funding – farmers must work in a way that protects and enhances the natural environment, with high animal welfare standards.

Labour has pledged to have net-zero carbon food production in Britain by 2040. It says it will help farmers change the way they work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The Lib Dems want farmers to focus more on restoring nature, with targets for water, air and soil quality. They would introduce a National Food Strategy, to promote healthy, sustainable and affordable food, and cut food waste.

More Your Questions Answered:

What are your questions about the general election? You can let us know by completing the form below.

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Rain halts rampant England, as Proteas continue to struggle

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Rain once again interrupted proceedings in Port Elizabeth, with South Africa and England only managing an hour of play during Day 4 of the third Test.

The hosts were in their second innings after being forced to follow on, having been skittled out for a cheap 209 in their first, 290 short of their opponents’ total of 499.

Second new ball pins South Africa back

This was thanks to some superb new-ball bowling from Stuart Broad, who claimed three of the four wickets to fall in the morning.

This was after Quinton de Kock – unbeaten on 63 – and Vernon Philander (27) resumed the innings with a mountain to climb after the Proteas had lost six wickets on the second and third day.

South Africa were 208-6 at stumps on Day 3, and added no further runs before Stuart Broad sparked a collapse, first disturbing Philander’s timber to send him packing.

De Kock also failed to add to his overnight score, with Sam Curran accounting for the big wicket as he too went past the batsman’s defences to send the stumps cartwheeling.

With all the recognised batsmen gone, next in was Keshav Maharaj, who lasted three balls without scoring before becoming the third player out bowled on the morning, Broad accounting for his scalp this time.

Kagiso Rabada and debutant Dane Paterson paired for a single run, which came off the former’s bat, but the procession was complete when he became Broad’s third victim.

England well on the front foot

Earlier in the match, off-spinner Dom Bess claimed the big wickets of Dean Elgar and South Africa captain Faf du Plessis, along with three more scalps to put England well in charge.

There was some stiff resistance from the only outsider in the hosts’ top six, in the form of nightwatchman Anrich Nortje, who had faced 136 deliveries for his 18, before being caught by Joe Root off Ben Stokes.

De Kock was the only other batsman to last over 100 deliveries, but scored more fluently as he top-scored with his 63 off 139.

South Africa now find themselves having to bat out the bulk of the remaining two days in order to have any hopes of preventing England from taking a 2-1 lead in the series.

In their follow-on innings, openers Elgar and Pieter Malan chipped off just 15 runs off the deficit, which now stands at a still-daunting 276 before the heavens opened, forcing the players off.

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WATCH | Suspended in a barrel, Dullstroom man set to break ‘pole sitting’ record

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Vernon Kruger has been sitting in a barrel suspended 25m above ground for more than two months.

Overlooking the town of Dullstroom, the 52-year old is about to break a Guinness World record… set by himself in 1997.

“Sleeping in this barrel is not very easy,” said Kruger, who usually works as a diver.

“It’s a very small place to curl up in and I have to lie in a foetal position.”

Kruger’s “home is the sky” is equipped with a drainage system for “all the waste”.

He has been washing twice a week in a small basin and surviving on food hoisted up by his team in a wicker basket.

The idea first sprung to his mind while climbing a palm tree on an island during a vacation.

“Somebody said… why don’t you break the record for sitting in a tree? First it was a joke and then I got it dare from my friends to actually do it,” said Kruger.

Vernon Kruger is about to break a Guinness World r

Vernon Kruger gestures while standing in a barrel at the top of a pole 25 metres above the ground in Dullstroom on January 16, 2020. 

After a bit a research, however, Kruger discovered that a man from Indonesia had already broken the record by sitting in a tree for 28 days.

He scrapped the idea and one of his friends suggested “pole sitting”.

“The record was 54 days then,” said Kruger, who decided to take on the challenge and sat “on pole” for 64 days.

Despite the cramps and back pains, Kruger repeated the experience more than two decades later.

“It does get a bit frustrating up here especially because I can’t do many things for myself,” he admitted. “I need to rely on other people for absolutely everything.”

By Monday, Kruger will have spent 67 days in his barrel.

And to his team’s dismay, he plans to stay longer.

“Vernon is not coming down when he breaks his record,” said organiser Fiona Jones. “He’s going to stay a little longer.”

“We’re concerned,” she added. “Because we’ve got to get him down.”

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Fintech in South Africa in 2020 – what can we expect?

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Fintech is rapidly transforming the very essence of global financial services, says Dominique Collett, a senior investment executive at Rand Merchant Investment Holdings and the head of AlphaCode.

She says that even though international investors are somewhat wary of putting money into South Africa currently, there are enough dynamic local players to fund projects – with deals certainly starting to flow through.

“Here at AlphaCode, we spend a lot of time researching and thinking about how technology, social media and a transforming consumer base is enabling new business models and changing the financial services landscape.”

AlphaCode is the Rand Merchant Investment Holdings (RMI) incubation, acceleration, and investment initiative that identifies, partners, and grows early stage financial service ventures.

Collett provides some predictions for the financial services market for 2020 based on what her team at AlphaCode has observed globally and locally with its members.


SME banking

While 2019 saw the introduction of consumer digital banks such as TymeBank and Discovery Bank; in 2020 the focus will turn towards the SME market.

Following its R3.56 billion takeover of Mercantile Bank earlier this year, Capitec Bank has shown that it views the SME and entrepreneurial sectors as providing significant growth opportunities. We expect them to do for SME banking in 2020 what they did for consumer banking over the last decade.

Bank Zero will also be launching, and it will be interesting to watch how this digital bank will put more pressure on the incumbents to innovate.

FNB has already responded to the influx of digital SME banks with the launch of its First Business Zero account. Designed for digital-savvy sole proprietors, this account provides zero-rated account fees to entrepreneurs and includes unlimited free card swipes.

Mobile point of sale (mPOS) players like Yoco and iKhokha are also making further inroads in the SME market – with more than 100 000 small businesses already part of their payment network.


Shared finances

Stokvels have become an integral part of South African society. A community of people serving as a vital savings scheme, stokvels illustrate the importance of how we relate to one another when it comes to money.

Insurers like Sanlam are working with the National Stokvel Association of South Africa (NSASA) to offer financial services products to their base.

In line with this concept, mutual services will see strong growth next year. Iemas Financial Services is a group-buying community that leverages the power of its hundreds of thousands of members for collective bargaining.

Arguably, it functions as a co-op that negotiates good deals on behalf of its members. This can include anything from discounts at a retail store to more affordable insurance products.

There is also PPS which has been around for some time. It provides financial services to professionals such as doctors, accountants, lawyers, and engineers. By segmenting its product offering and focusing on a niche, it puts professionals together in a risk pool.

This enables the members to benefit from more affordable premiums. This shared finance trend can create an opportunity to grow.

Then, the Kin app is designed to track shared expenses and get paid. Whether people are living in digs together or a few friends are planning a trip abroad; Kin lets members track shared savings goals and expenses – like a WhatsApp for money.

This secure service manages all the key elements of the payment process, and is likely to prompt quite a few discussions around the communal side of money in 2020.


Bitcoin

Bitcoin will be making a welcome return to prominence this year. We have always said that the best use case for Bitcoin is in an emerging market. Typically, such a country would have political instability, a volatile market, high exchange controls, and expensive money transfers – all areas where cryptocurrencies can deliver significant disruption.

With this in mind, 2020 will put the focus back on the decentralised money discussions that were rife when Bitcoin first appeared. Today, the major difference is that the spotlight is firmly on Africa.

We are watching Centbee – which recently launched its Minute Money remittance solution. This uses Bitcoin SV to make cross-border payments to support family easily and more affordably.

Luno has continued to cement its position as a dominant emerging market crypto-currency platform with its relaunch in Malaysia and continued expansion into other African countries.


Insurance

Another key trend will be around smarter insurance. Discovery and OUTsurance are using data to reward good driving behaviour with better priced premiums. This strategy is targeted at drivers under 25 who have had to deal with loaded pricing. Now, if these members drive well, the telemetry data will be used to improve and more fairly calculate their premiums.

Lumkani seeks to address the challenge of fires in informal settlements and townships with a sensor network of early warning systems. This has resulted in a partnership with Hollard to introduce affordable shack insurance for fire cover.

Taking this a step further, Sensor Networks is working with Sanlam, Nedbank, and Standard Bank to deliver smart insurance to customers. This uses smart sensors in people’s homes to provide an early fault-and-fraud detection system that allows for automated logging of faults and the easy coordination of assessment and technical repair teams.

Everything from geysers to security cameras and fire detectors are linked to the network.


Financial inclusion

Without doubt, 2020 will also see a focus on expanding financial inclusion in Africa. Companies like Selpal, Flash and Nomanini are making it easier for informal traders to sell their products. These innovators bring alternative distribution channels to informal communities that easily connect merchants to suppliers and customers.

Zande provides trade and merchant finance to spaza shops to enable stock purchases. It offers brands in bulk at a lower cost with goods delivered to spaza shops within 24 hours of being ordered.

Spoon Money is a group-based micro-working capital finance platform for female informal traders. This platform enables them to access credit to support their businesses and create more sustainable and predictable income.

Another one to watch is uKheshe. This micro-transaction platform generates a QR code for street vendors and even car guards to use. People simply use Zapper or SnapScan to pay them instead of having to worry about carrying change. It has proven to be the ideal way to digitise these micro-payments.

These solutions are having a real impact on the lower-end of the market in a commercially sustainable way. Importantly, they are African solutions to solve Africa’s specific challenges.


Proptech

A big area to watch in 2020 will be the proptech sector. For example, Jamii is creating a reward system for tenants where landlords can better incentivise their behaviour.

HouseMe provides a tech-enabled platform for better rental management. It does for rentals what Leadhome has been doing for the property sales market. However, Leadhome has pivoted and launched a rental service.

Innovators are quickly waking up to the fact that the local real estate market is highly fragmented and is one that can be improved and empowered with technology. When house prices are low and in a buyers’ market, people cannot afford to pay high commissions to agents. This is where proptechs will start dominating.

Coming to the market soon is IsiDuli. This is the AirBnB of the township market. It gives township dwellers the opportunity to create income from their land by providing financing to build a backyard room that can be rented out.


Alternative fintech partnerships

We have seen Root and Investec launching a programmable bank account for software developers. Essentially, this lets developers control their money programmatically, build their own features, and securely integrate with other services.

Lulalend and Vodacom have partnered to develop VodaLend. Designed to provide SMEs with finance through a digital portal in three steps; small businesses can apply for funding of up to R1.5 million over 12 months.

Retailers will also start coming back into the financial services space. Shoprite is looking at a number of financial services initiatives while Pick n Pay has partnered with TymeBank. Arguably, many retailers recognise that they cannot provide these kinds of services themselves and are identifying fintech specialists that they can work with.


Read: One of South Africa’s largest employers says its FinTech is making a killing

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Latest sports news and fixtures on Sunday, 19 January

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There is more quality sports action to look forward to all day this Sunday.

Latest sports news

Test cricket

South Africa vs England 3rd Test, Day 4 – Starts at 10:00 (SAST)

After a rain-soaked third day, the Proteas resume their bid to stay in the third Test against England, who are well ahead after posting a mammoth first innings total, then having the hosts on the ropes, thanks to a five-wicket haul from Dom Bess.

Quinton de Kock and Vernon Philander will resume the Proteas innings at 208-6, some 291 runs behind the visitors.

The four-Test series is currently all square at one-all, and concludes at The Wanderers this coming Friday.

Absa Premiership

Supersport United vs Mamelodi Sundowns at Lucas Moripe Stadium, kick-off at 15:30

Bradley Grobler of Supersport United challenged by Wayne Arendse of Mamelodi Sundowns during the MTN8 2019 Semi Final 2nd Leg match between Mamelodi Sundowns and Supersport United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium, Atteridgeville on the 18 September 2019 ©Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

Headlining the day’s local soccer action is the big Tshwane Derby between Supersport United and Mamelodi Sundowns.

The two teams from the country’s capital are separated by a single point in the league standings, with the Brazilians in second place, after playing one less match than their opponents.

The reigning league champions will be eager to return to winning ways, having failed to do so in their last two outings, while Kaitano Tembo’s men will be aiming to add to their midweek victory.

Polokwane City vs Golden Arrows at Peter Mokaba Stadium, kick-off at 15:30

League strugglers Polokwane City will be look to climb up from the bottom of the table, but face a tricky task in the form of Golden Arrows.

Rise and Shine have only bagged five wins so far, losing a staggering 12 matches, and come up against a side some seven points ahead of them in the standings.

Bloemfontein Celtic vs Chippa United at Dr Molemela Stadium, kick-off at 15:30

The day’s other fixture sees Bloemfontein Celtic play host to Chippa United at Dr Molemela Stadium.

The home side suffered defeat to Bidvest Wits in midweek, but remain in the top half of the table, while Chippa have shaken off a tough start to the season to escape the relegation zone.

Superhero Sunday

Sharks vs Stormers at FNB Stadium, kick-off at 13:30

FNB Stadium hosts a double-header, as the country’s top teams prepare for the upcoming Super Rugby season.

First on display, it’s a coastal battle between the Sharks and the Stormers.

Lions vs Bulls at FNB Stadium, kick-off at 15:00

The Lions and the Bulls then round up the action as they renew their rivalry later on in the day.

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Motlanthe pays tribute to ANC stalwart Ben Turok – SABC News

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Former President Kgalema Motlanthe says the life and death of ANC MP, Ben Turok is a reminder of how one should live for your beliefs.

Speaking at Turok’s memorial service in Cape Town on Saturday, Motlanthe said he remained a role model and a constant ethical leader.

Turok died last month at the age of 92.

The family had requested a private burial.

Motlanthe called on others to be like Turok and remain on the right side of history.

He says: “Today’s memorial meeting and the moving tributes are attributes of a man who proved to be nothing less than a great role model, a consistent moral leader of our time.”

“This memorial service offers us a chance to become like Turok and be on the right side of history.”

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Eskom drops electricity price bombshell

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Eskom and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) recently squared off in the North Gauteng High Court over the power utility’s plan to significantly increase electricity prices.

Eskom has asked the court to allow it to increase electricity prices by 16.6% on 1 April 2020 and by another 16.72% on 1 April 2021.

This is more than double the tariff increases which Nersa has awarded – 8.1% in 2020/2021 and 5.2% in 2021/2022.

Eskom argued that these higher electricity tariffs are needed to claw back the R69 billion bailout which it received from the government recently.

Nersa, in turn, said incompetence and maladministration at Eskom means that the public must now pay more for electricity.

The energy regulator added that its approved tariff increases balanced what consumers can afford, the impact on the economy, and Eskom’s sustainability.

The much bigger issue – Nersa’s power

Experts are warning that the immediate price increases linked to this legal battle is nearly insignificant when compared to the true impact – Nersa’s power.

Should Eskom win this case and a legal precedent is set, it will limit Nersa’s ability to protect consumers against drastic electricity price increases in future.

Rapport reported that Nersa currently relies heavily on the fairness of Eskom’s proposed electricity tariff increases to establish if it is affordable and fair towards the public.

Eskom, however, argues that Nersa is applying the law incorrectly by focussing in fairness and affordability.

Instead, Eskom said, Nersa should allow the power utility to increase prices to recover all its costs and make a fair profit, independent of whether the pricing is fair or not.

Eskom looking at new “critical peak” billing

Eskom is also looking at testing a new critical peak day tariff to deal with increased electricity demand.

The power utility said it previously applied to Nersa to have the tariff approved, but was turned down.

It now intends to revive the tariff and pilot it further as a voluntary customer option to assist with demand management on electricity-constrained days.

“Critical Peak Day pricing is a tariff option that has been internationally proven to reduce load on specific days when the system is extremely constrained,” it said.

“This is achieved by increasing the electricity price on these system-constrained days (critical peak days) and lowering the prices (compared to the normal tariff) on non-constrained days.”

Eskom said it will notify customers ahead of time about critical peak days.

“The Critical Peak Day tariff option provides customers with the flexibility to partner with Eskom in a win-win situation for both,” Eskom said.

“If customers choose to reduce their electricity consumption on critical peak days, the customers can save on the electricity bill”.

Now read: Eskom CEOs from 1985 to 2020 – The problem is clear

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