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Tech majors extend work-from-home to keep pandemic at bay

by | Aug 24, 2020 | Analysis, Productivity, UC & C

Salesforce has joined a growing list of tech majors who have announced extended work-from-home policies for their employees.
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Cloud software major Salesforce has joined the list of companies who’ve extended their work-from-home policies. Salesforce has announced an extension until July 31, 2021. Top technology companies such as Google and Facebook have already extended their work-from-home policies for employees till mid-2021. Other tech majors, such as Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, have announced remote working until January 2021.

“Over the past few months, we have been working diligently to support our employees as they navigate this difficult time. The safety of our employees and communities remains paramount. And while we continue to work on plans to re-open our offices safely, the timing of when we bring employees back will be unique to each office — and we will continue to make those decisions in a way that’s consistent with local government guidelines and the advice of our medical experts and local leadership team,” said Brent Hyder, Chief People Officer of Salesforce in the company’s blog.

The San Francisco headquartered tech-major has also announced to give an additional $250 financial support to each of its employees for buying office supplies. The company had provided similar assistance to its employees earlier this year as well. Earlier this month, consulting major EY had also announced similar financial support of US$200 to each of its employees.

Besides, Salesforce employees who are parents will be entitled to take six additional weeks of paid leave. “In all situations where schools have been closed, and students are learning remotely, parents and guardians will be allowed to work from home, even if that date extends beyond our offices re-opening,” Hyder added.

The last six months have been challenging for a majority of companies and leaders. The uncertainty brought in by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it extremely hard for both employees and employers to focus on work solely. People are dealing with issues such as social distancing, remote working, job-loss, elderly care, and ambiguity around almost everything.

As such, enterprises are finding several ways to motivate their talent and prevent burnout. Financial assistance, work-flexibility, and paid leave are some of the measures that companies are offering to support and attract employees.

The new normal is here to stay

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of the companies would offer work-from-home to a very particular set of people on a rotational basis. At that time, In India, the remote-working model was mostly viewed as pointless, with much suspicion from employers. Companies were reluctant to experiment, and employees too were not attuned to an entirely virtual work-environment. However, things changed in a short time. The pandemic has suddenly pushed people to transform their behaviors and compelled them to adopt the new normal quickly.

See also Work-from-home even after Covid-19?

Most of the enterprises and employees have successfully navigated this transition and are looking forward to remote ways of working even after the pandemic subsides. For employers, the new normal is a significant opportunity to save substantial real-estate costs and translate the cost benefits to their employees. For employees, it’s a way to be more productive by reducing travel time while staying connected with their families.

According to a recent study, Technology and the Evolving World of Work by Lenovo, the majority of those surveyed (72 percent) confirmed a shift in their daily work dynamic in the last three months. Employees feel more connected and more productive than ever before as they work from home, but the data shows financial, physical, and emotional downsides for the global workforce.

There is no doubt that the experience of the physical work environment is vital to develop strong teaming and diverse skillsets and hence cannot be completely evaded. To balance that, companies could be mulling to rotate days or weeks of in-office presence for their employees in future, especially in the services sectors.

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Annual climate finance of $100B a must: BASIC meet

Annual climate finance of $100B a must: BASIC meet

In the run-up to the United Nations Framework for Climate Change (UNFCC) Conference of Parties (COP-25) meet to be held later in the year from 2 to 13 December, the BASIC countries held its 28th Ministerial meeting on Climate Change from 14 to 16 August in São Paulo, Brazil.

India which was represented by Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar said that BASIC countries coming together and putting views together is an important aspect of UN negotiations. “Brazil, South Africa, India and China put together has one-third of world’s geographical area and nearly 40% of the world’s population and when we unitedly speak in one voice this shows our determination and the BASIC Group could play an important part in making Paris agreement accepted by all the countries in its true letter and spirit,” stressed Javadekar.

Javadekar further added that BASIC will be united and will speak in one voice and the joint statement issued today has highlighted all the issues which are relevant today and the world must take note of what BASIC is saying ,on the eve of United Nations Session on Climate Change and the next Conference of Parties (CoP25) in Chile.

The text of the joint statement follows (Joint Statement issued at the conclusion of the 28th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change, São Paulo, Brazil, 16 August 2019):

1. The 28th BASIC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change was held in Brasília and São Paulo, Brazil, on 14 and 16 August 2019. The meeting was chaired by H.E. Mr. Ricardo Salles, Minister of the Environment of Brazil and attended by H.E. Mr. XIE Zhenhua, Special Representative for Climate Change Affairs of the People’s Republic of China, H.E. Ms. Barbara Creecy, Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries of the Republic of South Africa, and H.E. Mr. Prakash Javadekar, Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change of the Republic of India.

2. The BASIC Ministers expressed their concern for climate change and its adverse effects and reaffirmed their commitment to the successful implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), its Kyoto Protocol and its Paris Agreement, based on the recognition of the needs and special circumstances of developing countries and in accordance with the principles of Equity and Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities (CBDR-RC), in the light of different national circumstances. Ministers stated the importance of responsible, comprehensive, urgent and ambitious actions against climate change, including in the urban environment.

3. The Ministers stressed their support for the UNFCCC and its instruments, which remain the preeminent international forum for negotiating and addressing matters related to climate change. The BASIC countries reiterated their support for multilateralism, having made constructive engagements and significant contributions towards a series of milestones under the UNFCCC. They highlighted their determination to continue to work together with other Parties to further the process under the UNFCCC, which is irreversible.

4. Ministers underlined that BASIC countries are implementing ambitious climate action both in the pre-2020 period and in their proposed NDCs, having achieved substantial progress, notwithstanding the multiple challenges they face in terms of social and economic development and poverty eradication. They are committed to sharing best practices and supporting each other through south-south cooperation as they further develop their domestic climate policies and actions. They underscored that global climate action must promote climate justice by recognition of the fundamental right of all people in accessing economic growth and sustainable development.

5. Ministers took note of the synthesis report on pre-2020 implementation and ambition published by the UNFCCC Secretariat in September 2018. The Ministers highlighted the significant gaps in pre-2020 climate efforts not only in mitigation, but also in adaptation and support to developing countries. They underlined that time is of the essence for any meaningful pre-2020 action and that the implementation gaps should not present a burden to developing countries in the post-2020 period. They also urged developed countries to undertake ambitious actions to reduce emissions and fulfill their finance commitments, including in the pre-2020 period, in light of their historical responsibilities.

6. The 185 ratifications, to date, of the Paris Agreement were welcomed by BASIC Ministers. They called on all remaining Parties to UNFCCC to join the Paris Agreement as soon as possible. Ministers also welcomed the 130 ratifications, to date, of the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol and recalled that only 14 acceptance instruments are outstanding for the amendment to enter into force. They urged Parties that have not yet done so to ratify the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol as soon as possible, to ensure its prompt entry into force, given the valuable contribution it could make to global climate action leading up to 2020.

7. Ministers appreciated the role of the Polish Presidency, commending its contribution to the UNFCCC process, particularly the decisions adopted in Katowice, during COP 24, CMP 14 and CMA 1, including the bulk of the Paris Agreement Work Programme. They pledged the group’s full support to the incoming Chilean Presidency of COP 25 and emphasized the importance of moving forward and reaching concrete results in Santiago, which is a crucial opportunity for closing the action and ambition gaps before 2020.

8. Ministers reiterated their commitment to work together with all Parties in an open, transparent, inclusive and Party-driven manner to achieve a balanced and comprehensive outcome on all remaining items of the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

9. Ministers emphasized that the UNSG´s Climate Action Summit, to be held in September of this year, should be fully respectful of the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC, its Kyoto Protocol and its Paris Agreement, as well as existing aims, targets and mandates. They look forward for the Summit to send a strong political signal for global low-carbon, climate resilient and sustainable development and produce positive outcomes for pre-2020 ambition and implementation support for developing countries. The Ministers applauded the UN Secretary General’s efforts to build political momentum for enhancing climate action and support.

10. Ministers took note of the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on global warming of 1.5 °C and the Special Report on Climate Change and Land, which highlights the high vulnerability of developing countries to climate change effects, high resultant costs of adaptation and unprecedented transitions required in the development process.

11. Ministers urged developed countries to provide adequate and predictable means of implementation to developing countries to enable them to achieve their climate goals. In this respect, developed countries are called upon to enhance support to developing countries for actions related to project or programme development and implementation, including on adaptation, mitigation and transparency. This must be done through adequate provision of finance, technology transfer, and capacity building to facilitate the effective implementation of the Convention, its Kyoto Protocol and its Paris Agreement.

12. Ministers reaffirmed that adaptation is a key imperative for developing countries and requires an urgent global response. They emphasized the importance of the provision of enhanced as well as predictable support for adaptation from developed countries to developing countries, recognizing the adaptation efforts of developing country Parties.

13. Ministers stressed that the enhanced transparency framework established by the Paris Agreement should facilitate exchange of information, best practices, as well as address the needs faced by developing countries, ensuring the required flexibility. Ministers underlined the significant challenges of developing countries on transparency-related capacities and urged developed countries to provide new, additional, adequate and timely finance support in this regard.

14. Ministers noted with concern the trend of developing countries being denied their right to support in different fora, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF). They stressed in this regard that climate finance should not be a vehicle for increasing the indebtedness of developing countries.

15. The BASIC Ministers urged developed countries to fulfill their climate finance commitments of mobilizing USD 100 billion annually by 2020 for developing countries in a transparent manner and on a grant basis. This support should be new and additional, and over and above their 0.7% of GNP commitment with respect to Official Development Assistance (ODA). They noted with concern the insufficiency and inadequacy of the support provided by developed countries to date.

16. They stressed that the 2020 deliberations on the new collective quantified goal on finance should be based on the lessons drawn from experience relating to meeting the USD 100 billion pledge, informed by the needs of developing countries and adequate to meet the ambition. In this regard, they stressed the importance of establishing a structured deliberation within the UNFCCC, in order to conclude this work.

17. Ministers restated that a new collective quantified goal on finance by developed countries, with a significant publicly funded component, is one of the crucial signals that the regime under the UNFCCC must give to investors, both public and private, in order to match the urgency of climate change. Securing scaled-up, adequate and proper means and resources for developing countries is indispensable to enable them to meet their commitments and implement the Paris Agreement.

18. Ministers expressed the expectation that the first replenishment of the Green Climate Fund by the end of 2019 will double the initial resource mobilization pledge, ensuring that financial contributions by developed countries match the ambition, needs and priorities of developing countries.

19. The BASIC group underscored the importance of concluding the discussions on Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, one of the remaining issues from the Katowice package of decisions, which will assist those participating in implementing the Agreement in a cost effective manner. The Ministers recalled that decisions on other subjects should not pre-empt discussions under Article 6 and expressed their expectation of reaching a satisfactory outcome on this matter in December, at the Santiago COP. They underlined that Parties should address the Article 6 issues in a balanced and inclusive manner, including the issue of transition of projects under the Clean Development Mechanism. They highlighted that Parties have a strong foundation for future work on Article 6 and that it is important to conclude work in accordance with the mandates set out in the Paris Agreement and the accompanying decision.

20. Ministers noted the work of International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Civil Aviation (ICAO) on reduction of carbon emissions and underscored that work being undertaken by IMO and ICAO must complement the UNFCCC, its Kyoto Protocol and its Paris Agreement and conform to their key principles, in particular Equity and CBDR-RC.

21. Ministers highlighted the importance of mechanisms on loss and damage under the UNFCCC and urged developed country Parties to provide funding for loss and damage arising from climate change in developing countries.

22. BASIC Ministers reiterated their unequivocal commitment to support the State of Palestine, as the Chair of the Group of 77 and China, with a view to strengthening the unity of the Group of 77 and China and advancing the common interests of developing countries.

23. Ministers welcomed the offer of China to host the 29th BASIC Ministerial Meeting.

Earth’s highest ever temp recorded in July 2019

Earth’s highest ever temp recorded in July 2019

July 2019 was the warmest month ever recorded on Earth. According to report by Statista based on the NASA data, the average global temperature over the past month was 2.34°C above the average temperature calculated for the years from 1980 to 2015.

The chart shared by Statista shows the monthly temperatures of selected years since 1880. According to the data journalist Katharina Buchholz, “Winter temperature is naturally below the multiyear average of the reference period, which is a single figure showing the average temperature over a long period of time irrespective of seasons.”

The data (see chart) indicates that summer temperatures have been naturally moving above the base period multiyear average, but have also been diverging further from it.

Source, Statistia: https://www.statista.com/chart/19048/global-warming-monthly-divergence/

The statistics point out that though there has been a steady increase in monthly averages over a 20-year period, summer of 2019 was among the warmest since the beginning of recorded temperatures.

The global data for near-surface temperatures comes from onshore weather stations as well as from ship, buoys and satellite measurements of the oceans.

“According to scientific findings, the continuing global warming will lead to changes in the strength, frequency, spatial extent and duration of extreme weather events. 2019 heat also had a strong impact on polar ice conditions,” the report stated.

It also noted that the Arctic ice pack reached a historic low of 19.8% below average in July, as did the Antarctic ice pack, which reached its smallest extent for July in 41 years of observations.

MoHUA workshop on sustainable sanitation

MoHUA workshop on sustainable sanitation

The Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) will be organizing a one-day national workshop cum exhibition at Vigyan Bhawan on 19 August 2019. The workshop is being organized as part of the year-long celebration of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary.

The day long interaction among stakeholders is expected to culminate into a comprehensive roadmap for ensuring sustainable sanitation in urban areas. State/ UT and ULB level representatives, in the coming days, will organize similar workshops in their respective areas to further disseminate information and insights on this crucial subject thereby lending a new dimension to the issue of safe and sustainable sanitation.

Thawar Chand Gehlot, Union Minister, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJ&E) will be the Chief Guest of the event. The workshop which will also be graced by Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (I/C) for Housing & Urban Affairs will see participation from over 800 representatives including the Principal Secretaries (UD) and Mission Directors of AMRUT and Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (SBM-U) in States/Union Territories and Municipal Commissioners of 500 cities with population of 1 lakh and above, heads of Parastatal bodies, officials from MoHUA as well as MoSJ&E and development partners.

The focus of the workshop will be on discussing social and legal issues as well as technological and managerial interventions with regard to human entry into sewers and septic tanks. Alongside, the workshop will showcase best practices on Operation and Maintenance (O&M) of sewerage system including mechanical cleaning of sewers, faecal sludge management with mechanical cleaning of septic tanks, co-treatment of septage, and showcase the latest equipment and machinery for cleaning of sewers and septic tanks in the exhibition.

The roles and responsibilities of the Emergency Response Sanitation Unit (ERSU), a proposed unit to systematize human entry into sewer/septic tanks in a professional, well trained, motivated and appropriately equipped manner. Wastewater and stormwater management including rainwater harvesting in line with the Government’s focus on water conservation through the Jal Shakti Abhiyan will also form an important agenda of discussion at the workshop. To complement these efforts, the Ministry will release the Manual on Stormwater Drainage Systems, 2019, Advisory on ERSU and the Directory of Sewer and Septic Cleaning Equipment prepared by technical experts from the Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation (CPHEEO).

Through a series of panel discussions through the day, the workshop will also see discussions and presentation of best practices on Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) based biomethanation under Sustainable Alternative Towards Affordable Transportation (SATAT) initiative of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoP&NG) and co­treatment of organic fraction of MSW with sludge.

It has been an endeavor of the Ministry to ensure that dangerous and illegal practices such as manual scavenging and hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks be completely eliminated. In this regard, there have been many advisories and SOPs issued by MoHUA on safe cleaning and maintenance of septic tanks, sewer networks and manholes targeted at eliminating human casualties. The workshop on sustainable sanitation is being organized in order to bring together relevant stakeholders to strategize on mitigating the risks associated with manual entry into sewers / septic tanks in a systematic manner, and help eliminate such incidents and fatalities.

BRICS resolves to fix urban environmental issues

BRICS resolves to fix urban environmental issues

Acknowledging the importance of urban environmental management for improving quality of life in cities, the Environment Ministers of BRICS countries today, agreed to work together to resolve the multifaceted environmental issues faced by BRICS cities. These discussions and announcements were made during the 5th BRICS Minister of Environment Meeting held in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This meeting was preceded by two-days meeting of BRICS Joint Working Group on Environment, said a PIB release.

Highlighting the path breaking work done by India in achieving its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that India was walking the talk on NDCs. “We have achieved reducing energy intensity by 25% and already 78GW of renewable energy has been made possible, while at the same time forest cover has increased by nearly 15,000 sq km and tree cover outside the forest is increasing rapidly,” he said.

Stressing the key role played by BRICS countries Javadekar said that BRICS is a very good platform for all five countries for co-operation and development. “All five countries are rising and have many experiences to share and these experiences will definitely help all the economies to improve further in our climate action efforts and protecting environment while ensuring growth at the same time,” he added. In a tail of ministerial meetings, the minister iterated that India has set an example in achieving its NDCs and all countries need to walk the talk.

Group photo of BRICS Ministers of Environment during the 5th Ministerial meeting in São Paulo. (Source: PIB)

The Ministerial Declaration highlighted key initiatives – Partnership on Urban Environmental Sustainability Initiative (PUESI) to share knowledge and experience on important issues as waste management, cogeneration, reverse logistics, sanitation, urban air quality, urban green areas, BRICS Environmentally Sound Technology (BEST) Cooperation Platform for innovations, knowledge sharing and capacity building, and Clean River of BRICS program for improvement of river ecology and combating marine litter. Environment Ministers agreed to establish and strengthen concrete mechanisms of implementation of the cooperation initiatives with special focus on action-oriented cooperation. The key themes of urban environmental management, contaminated areas and soil remediation, water quality, circular economy in context of sustainable consumption and production, marine litter and biodiversity were agreed to be integrated into BRICS cooperation initiatives.

Javadekar, applauded the initiatives of BRICS countries and reaffirmed India’s support to BRICS cooperation. Environment Minister highlighted key initiatives as Swachh Bharat Mission, Waste Management Rules, Nationally Determined Contributions under Paris Agreement, National Clean Air Programme, electric mobility, marine litter, urban forestry scheme, development of resource efficiency policy among others. These efforts and innovative solutions for improving urban environmental quality were well acknowledged by the BRICS countries.

With respect to biodiversity, BRICs countries stand committed to support the development of Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework and expect the prospective framework to acknowledge the sustainable use of biodiversity and Access and Benefit Sharing components.

The Ministers of BRICS countries urged developed countries to fulfill their commitment under the UNFCC and its Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement to provide means of implementation to developing countries including climate finance, technology development and transfer and capacity building support. BRICS countries reaffirmed the importance of jointly exploring new sources of financing individual, bilateral and multilateral projects, while highlighting access to financial resources as key to tackling environmental problems in the developing world.

BRICS countries appreciated the Indian Presidency of the fourteenth session of the Conference of Parties of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. Javadekar invited the BRICS Ministers delegations to join at CoP-14 during 2–13 September, 2019 and contribute to the efforts to combat desertification and land degradation.

Brazil was led by Ricardo Salles, Minister of Environment. Minister of Natural Resources and Environment. Dmitry Kobylkin led the Russian delegation, while the Chinese delegation was led by Huang Runqiu, Vice-Minister of Ecology and Environment and the South African delegation was led by Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy.

Pix Source: PIB.

Campaign to rid India of one-time-use plastics

Campaign to rid India of one-time-use plastics

Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar, who is in Sao Paulo, Brazil to attend the Ministerial meetings of BRICS and BASIC countries, said that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has renewed his appeal to the people, in his Independence Day speech, to make India free of one time use plastics, a PIB release said.

“In response to Prime Minister’s call on India’s 73rd Independence day, to make India free of single use plastics, a massive public campaign will be launched engaging all stakeholders. In this regard a series of meetings will be held with all stakeholders including state governments to chalk out a concrete plan to make it a people’s campaign to realise the ultimate target,” Javadekar said while addressing a gathering to celebrate 73rd Independence Day at a function organized by the Indian Consulate in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Earlier, in a tweet message the Minister said, “PM @narendramodi today called for a campaign to make India free of single use plastics. Let us all strive together to make it happen.”

“We have now achieved ‘One Nation, One Constitution’; we had already achieved ‘One Nation, One Grid’. Now people should debate on ‘One Nation, One election’. The Prime Minister has also announced large scale infrastructure development plans with an investment of Rs 100 lakh crore in Road, Rail, Airport, Port, Waterways and other infrastructure. While listing out achievements of the government, the Prime Minister also discussed about ever-increasing population in India and the need to check it through public participation” Javadekar said addressing the gathering comprising of Indian diaspora, NRIs and eminent citizens of Brazil.

The Minister started his day today by paying respect to Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, at Vivekanand Cultural Centre in Sao Paulo, Brazil. At the flag hosting ceremony at Vivekanand Cultural Centre, he also interacted with Indian diaspora as well as Brazilian citizens.

India’s largest rural sanitation survey launched

India’s largest rural sanitation survey launched

Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has launched the Swachh Survekshan Grameen 2019 (SSG 2019) in the capital yesterday. Instituted from August 14 to September 30, 2019, SSG 2019 will cover 17,450 villages in 698 districts across India and include 87,250 public places namely schools, anganwadi centers, public health centers, haat/bazaars/religious places, making it India’s largest rural sanitation survey. Around 2,50,000 citizens will be interviewed for their feedback as part of the survey. Citizens will also be mobilized to provide feedback on sanitation relation related issues online using an application developed for the purpose.

An independent survey agency will conduct the survey in all districts and the results will be announced based on quantitative and qualitative sanitation parameters. With over 5.8 lakh villages, 639 districts, and 32 States/UTs declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) in rural India, the country is well poised to be completely an Open Defecation Free India by October 2, 2019.

Times.Green has learnt that the survey is being carried out by a leading market research company Ipsos, as indicated by this LinkedIn post of Parijat Chakraborty, Executive Director and Business Head at Ipsos:

Speaking at the launch, Shekhawat emphasized on the huge success of the Swachh Bharat Mission in becoming the biggest behavior change program in the world. He shared that with SSG19, the Mission is being taken to the next level, by focusing on solid liquid waste management and plastic waste management.

Rattan Lal Kataria, Minister of State for Jal Shakti, further lauded the enthusiasm shown by all stakeholders towards last year’s survey and encouraged the gathering to garner even higher momentum at the grassroots level this year. Parameswaran Iyer, Secretary, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, highlighted that this year the focus is on plastic waste disposal amongst other wastes.

A detailed protocol has been developed to guide the ranking of Districts basis their performance on key quality and quantitative parameters. The Jal Shakti Minister released the SSG 2019 logo, the SSG 2019 brochure mobile app and a dashboard for citizen’s feedback. An audio-visual campaign, featuring actor Ajay Devgan was also launched at the SSG launch event.

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