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Elon Musk’s Boring Company Lays off its Workers

Musk-led private spaceflight company SpaceX also announced that it would lay off 10 per cent of its workforce to fund other projects

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Elon Musk, spacex
Musk quotes $1 bn to build tunnel under Australian mountain range. IANS

Billionaire Elon Musk’s infrastructure and tunnel construction firm Boring Company has laid off five employees, barely a month after it unveiled its first tunnel in the US.

According to the Recode, on Friday, the company terminated five employees, at least some of whom helped construct that first underground passageway.

The spokesman said that the employees were fired for performance reasons as part of regular performance reviews, the report added.

“The Boring Company is hiring for over a dozen roles, pursuing a number of projects across the country, and planning to grow significantly in 2019,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

Musk had unveiled the prototype tunnel for his envisioned zero-emission, high-speed transit system — including a surface-to-tunnel car elevator and a Tesla modified — to run along the tunnel track, outside SpaceX’s California headquarters in mid-December 2018, according to the Fast Company.

In Chicago, the company was reportedly slated to build a “Loop” which they described on their website as: “Loop is a high-speed underground public transportation system in which passengers are transported on autonomous electric skates travelling at 125-150 miles per hour.”

In order to implement this system, the company will have to dig the tunnels and deploy the infrastructure to move the “autonomous electric skates” inside the tunnels.

“Electric skates will carry between 8 and 16 passengers, or a single passenger vehicle,” according to the Electrek.

Electric car making firm Tesla, also founded by Musk, announced last Friday it was laying off seven per cent of its full-time staffers in an attempt to reduce costs and increase profits.

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All employees at the company were informed about the development in an email.

Musk-led private spaceflight company SpaceX also announced that it would lay off 10 per cent of its workforce to fund other projects.

SpaceX, which has a contract with NASA to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), is now planning to start flying astronauts to the ISS for NASA later this year. (IANS)

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More than 1,000 United Nations Employees Calls for Global Body to Reduce its Carbon Footprint

The United Nations calls climate change the "defining issue of our time" and is hosting a New York summit on it next week

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United Nations, Employees, Global Body
Thousands of protesters, many of them school students, gather in Sydney, Sept. 20, 2019, calling for action against climate change. VOA

More than 1,000 United Nations employees have called for the global body to reduce its carbon footprint, including through curbs on their own diplomatic perks like business-class flights and travel handouts, a letter obtained by Reuters showed.

The United Nations calls climate change the “defining issue of our time” and is hosting a New York summit on it next week.

But reformers within say in the letter addressed to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that it needs more radical change to get its own house in order.

“Our commitments need to be more ambitious and at least as concrete as those of the UN Member States and non-party stakeholders attending the UN Climate Action Summit,” said the letter, signed by more than 1,000 employees. It was organized by a group called Young UN, an internal network committed to ensuring the organization embodies the principles it stands for.

United Nations, Employees, Global Body
Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg testifies at a Climate Crisis Committee joint hearing on “Voices Leading the Next Generation on the Global Climate Crisis,” on Capitol Hill, in Washington, Sept. 18, 2019. VOA

“As Greta Thunberg just sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and young people across the world continue to strike every Friday, let us look at our own impact and take bold steps to address the climate emergency,” the letter said, referring to the Swedish teenager who has inspired global climate strikes.

The United Nations, a 75-year-old institution employing 44,000 people in more than 60 countries, emitted 1.86 million tones of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2017, its own data show.

That equates to a carbon footprint larger than several of its member states, including Malta and Liberia, according to statistics from the Global Carbon Atlas for the same period.

Among 10 issues identified by Young UN are travel allowances, which the letter said needed to be cut or scrapped “in order to disincentivize travel by UN employees and UN meeting participants motivated by financial gain”.

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Allowances, or per diem as they are known internally, are intended to cover travel costs including food and accommodation, and can exceed $400 a day for some locations such as New York, according to the International Civil Service Commission website.

The letter also suggested that staff should be rewarded for downgrading from business class, where a spacious seat generates several times the emissions of an economy class ticket.

Travel accounts for nearly half the United Nations’ emissions, its data show. Last year, under pressure from member states, the head of the U.N. Environment Program, Erik Solheim, stepped down amid criticism of his travels. Other reforms recommended in the letter include a complete divestment of the more than $60 billion U.N. pension fund from fossil fuels and creating offices run entirely on renewable energy. Young UN did not respond to requests for comment.

‘UN needs to lead’

United Nations, Employees, Global Body
More than 1,000 United Nations employees have called for the global body to reduce its carbon footprint, including through curbs on their own diplomatic perks. Pixabay

Guterres is seeking to combat climate change from within in order to boost sustainability. A spokesman for his office was not immediately available for comment.

The letter welcomed Guterres’ internal strategy but said it “misses the urgency of the crisis we are facing” The United Nations has also launched a “Greening the Blue” initiative which measures the U.N. system’s greenhouse gas emissions, waste disposal, fresh-water use, and environmental management. According to its latest report, 43 of its entities or just over a third were carbon-neutral in 2017.

But the letter raises doubts about U.N. offset mechanisms, a method that works through purchases of U.N.-certified carbon credits from approved green projects and is widely used by organizations and businesses to tout their green credentials.

This echoes criticism from NGOs about the contribution of offsets to sustainable development.

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Isabella Marras, Sustainable UN Coordinator, whose team produces the Greening the Blue report and was a signatory to the letter, said she saw scope for the United Nations to give even greater attention to environmental considerations.

“What we are missing is the aggressive integration of environmental issues into our programs like the UN has done for women,” she told Reuters. But she stressed some of the pragmatic challenges in regions where environmental standards are less strong than in Western countries.

Marie-Claire Graf, a 23-year-old Swiss climate activist visiting the U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, said the number of U.N. vehicles in vast car parks overlooking the lake and mountains was surprising.

“The UN is doing some amazing things on environment but I am shocked by so many SUVs and the amount of travel,” said Graf, who was selected along with 100 young climate leaders to attend the U.N. Youth Climate Summit on 21 September.

“The UN needs to lead on this transformation.” (VOA)