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DAILY BRIEFING

Knocking on Elon's door

Written by Maria Julia Pieraccioni, associate 
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
11 November 2021

Good morning,

If one were asked to describe eccentric billionaire Elon Musk in a few words, not many would resort to likening him to “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner” Ebenezer Scrooge. Unlike the Dickensian anti-hero, Musk’s businesses are far removed from a Cornhill warehouse. Yet, just like Scrooge, Musk is a “man of good credit”—which may have just landed him in hot water.
 
In an interview with CNN’s Connect the World programme, David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, urged billionaires to “step up now, on a one-time basis”. His overture was clear: if billionaires donated an insignificant percentage of their wealth as a lump sum they could effectively counter world hunger. Citing specifically Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Beasley doubled down on the latter, spelling out that: “$6 billion to help 42 million people that are literally going to die if we don’t reach them”, adding, “it’s not that complicated”.
 
Musk was quick to respond on Twitter in a thread directed at the World Food Programme. In a series of tweets, Musk declared that “if WFP can describe on this Twitter thread exactly how $6B will solve world hunger, I will sell Tesla stock right now and do it”. His only caveat? “But it must be open source accounting, so the public sees precisely how the money is spent”. In the same Twitter thread, a user echoed the sentiment that the public often does not trust organisations such as the WFP because of the lack of visible outcomes. The user tweeted, “The public will see that most of the money is wasted on bureaucracy and incompetence”.
 
According to the latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index reporting, Elon Musk is currently worth more than American oil giant ExxonMobil, with a total net worth of $311 billion. Following the WFP’s logic, Musk could solve world hunger by donating less than 2% of his total net worth.
 
Beasley took to Twitter to explain how his words had been taken out of context in global headlines. The head of the World Food Programme tweeted in response that, “$6B will not solve world hunger, but it WILL prevent geopolitical instability, mass migration and save 42 million people on the brink of starvation. An unprecedented crisis and a perfect storm due to Covid/conflict/climate crises”.
 
Beasley’s punchy alliteration unwittingly cites a recent report published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The report identifies a series of devastating outcomes, showing how climate change will exacerbate mass migration, political instability and starvation. The former Republican governor turned NGO executive may also have been echoing recent accusations levelled at Musk and Bezos that billionaires should focus on solving problems on Earth rather than exploring space.
 
Whatever the case may be, addressing global hunger should remain a paramount policy agenda for global leaders, until it is solved. As certain parts of the world are at the desperate stage of “knocking on famine’s door”, the focus on solving it may increasingly be laid on the doorsteps of the world’s billionaires.

News

The Queen has urged world leaders at the Cop26 climate summit to “achieve true statesmanship” and “rise above the politics of the moment” in a pre-recorded video message. In her speech, the Queen referenced how proud she is of her late husband and other members of her family in their commitment to protect the environment.
 
Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has pledged the country will meet its net-zero emissions target by 2070. India was one of the last remaining major economies that held out on a net zero commitment, and though the target falls behind the 2050 commitment made by the US and Europe, and the 2060 commitment made by China and Saudi Arabia, global leaders welcomed the country’s confirmation after months of hesitation.
 
People are feared to be trapped in the ruins of a 22-story residential building that collapsed in Lagos, Nigeria on Monday. The building was still a construction site, and the developer was at the site meeting with prospective buyers earlier that day.

Business and economy

Ryanair is considering delisting from the London Stock Exchange, reporting substantial losses in trading volumes due to Brexit. A spokesperson for Ryanair said the airline giant’s move is not uncommon for EU corporates post-Brexit, seeing a general downward trend for trading shares. The move would also be blow to the LSE, which has seen some companies delist and others decide to list on other European markets. (£)
 
The European Commission announced on Monday that it will convene senior officials from the commission, France and the UK, as well as from Jersey and Guernsey, to try and defuse the escalating dispute over fishing rights between the two countries. The news comes shortly after UK foreign secretary Liz Truss warned that Britain “would not roll over” and concede to France. (£)
 
The United Nations announced it will launch an expert committee to develop a universal standard for measuring and analysing corporate net zero pledges. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres’ opening speech at Cop26 comes shortly after the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, said that corporate transition to net-zero will not happen overnight or at the flick of a switch.

Columns of note

In the Financial Times, Bill Gates welcomes the leap in clean energy innovation we’ve made over the past six years and eloquently argues that the pace at which we embrace energy innovation will make or break our fight to curb climate change. The only obstacle for the climate innovation agenda is pace: while producing clean energy is possible, doing it at scale, thus lowering costs for consumers, and doing it fast, thus capitalising on public attention, are still works in progress. (£)
 
In The Guardian, David Wengrow echoes Gates’ emphasis on innovation, albeit from the point of view of mankind’s history. Wengrow ties our shared history as a story of communal innovation, one we should tap in order to move forward and find solutions to reverse the effects of climate change. Asking everyone to participate in climate action is not because of the magnitude of the crisis we face, the author purports. Instead, it’s “asking us to reclaim the spark of political creativity that gave life to the world’s first towns and cities, in the hope of discerning a future for the planet we all share.”

Cartoon source: The New Yorker

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks ended the day on a positive note, as investors digested the latest British PMI reports. The FTSE 100 finished the day up 0.71%, followed by the FTSE 250 index, which closed 0.45% firmer. Meanwhile, sterling ended the day down 0.17% on the dollar at $1.3659 and losing 0.48% against the euro at €1.1784.
 
On the continent, the pan-European Stoxx 600 index ended trading at 0.7%, extending the all-time high it had reached on Friday.
 
Meanwhile in the US, Wall Street stocks ended the day on a positive note, as investors await central banks’ responses to months of above-target inflation. The blue-chip S&P 500 rose 0.1%, though outperformed by the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite, which gained 0.5%.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Oncimmune   
Up Global       
 
Interims
First Derivatives         
 
Q3 Results
BP       .
Standard Chartered   
 
Trading Announcements
Flutter Ent   

AGMs
JPMorgan Mid Cap    
Murray Inc.tst.
 
Interim Dividend Payment Date
Banco Santander       
 
Special Ex-Dividend Date
Alternative Liq
 
Int. Economic Announcements
(08:55) PMI Manufacturing (GER)
(09:00) PMI Manufacturing (EU)
(20:30) Auto Sales (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know?

According to US government estimates, there are 23,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 centimetres in diameter in Earth’s orbit, often moving at speeds in excess of 28,000 kilometres per hour. (Source: @qikipedia)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
HM Treasury (including Topical Questions)
 
Ten Minute Rule Motion
Plastics (Wet Wipes)
 
Debate
Conclusion of the Budget Debate
 
Adjournment
Essential life line ferry services and Fergusson Marine Engineering Ltd insolvency
 
Westminster Hall debate
General debate on Kurdish political representation and equality in Turkey
Bathing water status for the river Thames in Oxford
Islamophobia Awareness Month
NHS efficiency
COP26 and the impact of air pollution on public health and wellbeing

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Percentage by which the public health grant to local authorities has increased, or decreased, since 2016
Discussions with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and the principle that asylum seekers must apply for refugee status in the first safe country they reach
Establishment of a compulsory register of overseas property owners
Impact that changes to alcohol duties announced in the Budget statement will have on alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths
 
Private Notice Question
Reassurance to the UK fishing industry following the seizure of a UK vessel by the French authorities
 
Legislation
Critical Benchmarks (References and Administrators’ Liability) Bill [HL] – third reading – Lord Agnew of Oulton
Social Security (Uprating of Benefits) Bill – report stage
Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill – second reading
Armed Forces Bill – committee stage (day 2)

Scottish parliament 

Time for Reflection
Rev David Coleman, EcoChaplian, EcoCongregation Scotland
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motions
 
Topical Questions (if selected)
 
Ministerial Statement
COVID-19 Update
 
Scottish Government Debate
A Progressive approach to a Sustainable Procurement and Fair Work Practices
 
Committee Announcements
 
Business Motions
 
Parliamentary Bureau Motion
 
Decision Time
 
Members’ Business
S6M-01534 Collette Stevenson: Improving Support and Ending the Stigma of the Menopause
 

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