In this month’s instalment of our visual series on topical data themes, we look at the steep increase in deliveries, the continued deforestation of the Amazon rainforest and the rise of COVID-19 in Europe.

Does Amazon deliver more packages than FedEx?

Once upon a time, we went to the shops to buy things. However, the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns forced us to spend more time at home, accelerating an already growing trend: buying online.

This has translated to an explosion of parcel deliveries. According to the Parcel Shipping Index,1 4,160 parcels were shipped every second in 2020 – equivalent to 34 parcels per person over the year. The US generated the highest carrier revenue, with Amazon the third largest US package courier, ahead of FedEx and rivalling UPS (Figure 1).

Figure 1: US package shipments (billion packages)2
US package shipments
Source: Quartz, October 23, 2021

Amazon used to rely heavily on both companies to deliver its packages. But after an episode that saw delivery services failing to keep up with the torrent of gifts US shoppers ordered during the holiday season in 2013, the company decided to build its own shipping logistics.

Analysts also expect Amazon to launch a standalone delivery service to compete with UPS and FedEx.3

Deforestation in the Amazon

During the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, over 100 world leaders pledged to end deforestation by 2030. Brazil, home to the Amazon rainforest – the Earth’s largest tropical forest and an important carbon sink – was among the signatories.  

Deforestation hit a 12-year high in 2020

But where are we now? Figure 2 shows deforestation has picked up again in the Amazon in the past few years, hitting a 12-year high in 2020. Worse still, it is on an upward trajectory this year: so getting Brazil to follow through on its COP26 commitments will be vital.

Figure 2: Deforestation (January 2009-October 2021, sq km)4
Source: Amazon Monitoring, October 2021
Figure 3: Amazon deforestation detected in recent administrations’ first 30 months (sq km)5
Note: Deforestation registered under INPE’s DETER system for the first 30 months of three recent administrations. Rousseff’s second term is combined with Temer’s administration.
Source: Amazon Monitoring, October 2021
Deforestation has surged since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019

Figure 3 shows how deforestation has surged since Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro took office in 2019. Following international criticism, ahead of the annual burning season in June and as Europe threatened to tear up a trade deal with South America, Bolsonaro issued a 120-day ban on unauthorised outdoor fires and mobilised the military to stop deforestation.7

Such actions will be seen as token gestures, however, unless firmer measures are taken to arrest the pace of deforestation.

Is Europe once again the epicentre of the pandemic?

As European countries have lifted preventive measures that were implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19, the region once again finds itself at the centre of the pandemic, facing a dramatic increase in infections and deaths (see Figure 4). Bulgaria and Romania (the two eastern European countries with the lowest vaccination rates) recently reported their highest daily COVID-19 death tolls since the beginning of the pandemic.

 The World Health Organisation said 500,000 more deaths are forecast by February

The Dutch government decided to reintroduce tougher social restrictions from November 6, making mask-wearing obligatory in public spaces such as shops and COVID passes mandatory for museums and other public spaces.

But what does this mean for economies and markets? The World Health Organisation said 500,000 more deaths are forecast by February. Will uncertainty translate into another turbulent period for investors?

Figure 4: Daily new confirmed deaths from COVID-19 (per million people)7
Daily new confirmed deaths from COVID-19
Note: 7-day rolling average.
Source: Our World in Data, data as of November 23, 2021

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