The Times Magazine (25th July) contains an interesting update on what’s being done at the 2012 Olympic site in East London and readers of this blog might be interested in two of the people profiled, ecologist Kim Oliver and head of sustainable development Dan Epstien. Kim’s role as the senior ecologist for construction contractor Atkins is to assess the site for ‘conservation sensitivity’ and work out how to protect and improve the local environment. The Lower Lea Valley is a ‘post industrial’ area but Kim has fond kingfishers, peregrine falcons, sand martins, five species of bats, grass snakes, foxes and (now rehomed) feral cats. Even the river yielded up newts (also rehomed), eels, perch, tench and pike. In a much watched role, the head of sustainable development at the Olympic Development Agency (ODA) is Dan Epstien, a 47 former engineer and forester who spent seven years in the Himalayas working on local solutions to engineering problems. Dan’s role is produce the ‘greenest games ever’, minimising pollution and his remit extends to reducing carbon emissions through a combined heat and power plant, treating blackwater and using concrete with a lower lime content and Dan says “if we can show that these are cost effective, commercially viable technologies then this is a huge step forward”. Indeed it is!
time is slippng away
Food waste is back on the menu with an interesting article by Tristram Stuart (“if my pigs can eat it, so can we”) highlighting just how much perfectly edible food is thrown away producing more greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, land degradation and deforestation – as well as adding to world hunger calling on supermarkets to cut down on waste and making waste reporting obligatory.
Interesting news that Munich Re, the world largest reinsurance group, have put together a consortium of companies to develop solar power generation in the Saraha – hoping to produce 15% of all of Europe’ s power by 2050. The twelve member companies have stumped up millions of pounds for a three year feasibility study of the scheme which involves concentrated solar power (CSP) – mirrors which direct sunlight to produce heat which then drives steam turbines to generate electricity. Desertec, a European network of scientists and engineers says that by covering just 1% of the World’s deserts with CSP schemes would produce all of the electricity the world needs.
In other news, a coalition of businesses have produced a report with the working title “Lessons from UK Climate Policy” criticising current government policy and calling on ministers to introduce firm prices for carbon, extra tax breaks and other incentives including better capital allowances for green technology investment.
This week’s Big Green Gathering has been cancelled. Britain’s largest green festival was due to happen from Wednesday 29th July until Sunday 2nd August in Somerset. Ticket holders and those planning on attending the Big Green Gathering are being urged to stay away from the event site.
The announcement follows threatened injunction proceedings from Mendip District Council who were supported by the Avon & Somerset Police. The Big Green Gathering was granted a licence by Mendip District Council on 30th June, 2009 and a multi-agency meeting was held on 23rd July but following serious concerns from Mendip District Council and emergency services about public safety and possible crime and disorder MDC applied to the High Court in London for an injunction to stop the event going ahead.
For the full story see http://www.efestivals.co.uk/news/09/090727a.shtml
For the Big Green Gathering website see http://www.big-green-gathering.com/ BGG Ticketholders will find details of discounts to other events including Stokes Bay, Endorse It in Dorset and The Big Chill. For more details follow this link.
The Council’s statement can be found at http://www.mendip.gov.uk/NewsArticle.asp?id=SX9452-A782D9E0
Inside the Nissan Denki Cube
The UK Government is hoping to turn the North East of England into a green employment hotspot by announcing that the area has been chosen as the UK’s econd low carbon economic zone. Peter Mandleson, the Business Secretary, outlined oplans at the Nissan Car Factory in Washington, Country Durham, which will specialise in producing electric cars for the future. Lord Mandleson has also announced plans for a new research and development facility for zero carbon vehicles which will work with five universities in the region and plans for a new green technology park designed to complement the ‘green car’ supply chain. The move is expected to secure 4500 jobs in the area and generate up to 20,000 new jobs with suppliers. The North East already has some green industries – with a giant wind turbine prototype being created at Blyth as well as a collection of bio-fuel industries in the region. This is the second low carbon economic area – the first in the South West will specialise in wave and tidal power and the Government hopes to create 1.2 million new ‘green collar’ jobs by 2020. Plans were given a boost when Toyota identified its plant in Burnaston in Derbyshire as the manufacturing heart of its new hybrid cars.
It's a gas gas gas
I can’t say I get carbon trading – I mean I understand the basic economic rationale, but I just have this feeling that it will end up as a much talked about new ‘business’ model that costs us all money, will have scant effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and will be a bureaucratic nightmare designed by modern ‘managers’ who don’t understand business – or people – or management. Now a new report from cliamte change campaign group Sandbag says that ‘hot air’ carbon credits, those which do not actually result in any carbon emission reductions, will be so easy to obtain within the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) that many companies will not have to make any cuts in emissions until 2015. The ETS scheme allows exemptions for big polluters like energy production, cement, steel and glass manufacturing and this, coupled with the recession, has substantially reduced the need for a carbon tarding scheme – and has reduced the need for businesses to act now to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with Sandbag’s Bryony Worthington, who co-authored the Report, saying “with too many rights to pollute in circulation, the scheme is in danger of being rendered irrelevant” and Sandbag have called for a tightening of caps on emissions. Tim Yeo MP, chair of the environment audir committee said “these findings confirm what many had begun to suspect. Although emissions trading remains conceptually valid, in practice EU ETS has not suceeded in driving investment in low-carbon technology.
You can find the full report on Sandbag’s site http://www.sandbag.org.uk/
Olympics minister Tessa Jowell has admitted the Government has no targets for the amount of people who will walk or use cycles to get to 2012 Olympic venues in London. Speaking at the Foreign Policy Centre’s ‘Access and Inclusion… Delivering the Green Games’ Mrs Jowell admitted no targets were in place, making it impossible to commit to other infrastructure such as cycle racks – which seems rather a missed opportunity – especially as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, is hopefully committed to plans originally announced by his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, to place 6,000 free rental bikes across London’s nine inner boroughs.
MTV has teamed up with the European Commission to raise awareness among young Europeans of the issues around climate change. The new initiative called Play To Stop will see the music network broadcast various informative TV spots and stage a number of events (including a Moby concert) in the run up to the big Copenhagen climate conference in December. Confirming the partnership, EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said “today’s young people will bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change. The Copenhagen conference is probably our last chance to tackle climate change before it spirals out of control. There is an enormous desire around the globe for agreement to be reached, and we have to sustain that momentum. Events like this are vital, because young people are a tremendously important pressure group. They will be most affected by climate change – so their voices are the most important”. MTV’s Antonio Campo Dall’Orto added: “No country will be spared the effects of climate change, and future generations will be worst affected. That’s why communicating the urgency of the problem, and fighting behaviour that aggravates climate change, are so fundamental for MTV. It’s a battle we fight step by step, day after day. The battle for a more sustainable, eco-friendly future is as much about democracy as it is about the environment, so we are proud to support the precious work the EU is doing for the environment through this Play To Stop – Europe For Climate campaign”.
You can find out more at www.mtvplay4climate.eu