Monthly Archives: December 2009

Even the suits are worried!

Natural disasters have left the world’s insurers with a $50 billion pound bill for 2009, with a $10 billion for hurricanes, flooding and rain damage in the USA alone. Although this figure is substantially less than the $200 billion bill from the year before, it is still a dramatic increase on the average over the last ten years with the number of instances of catastrophic weather hitting 850 in 2009, above the 10-year average of 770 annual for natural-hazard events and a sign for Munich Re that the rate of weather-related catastrophes continues to rise. The Company, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, said that America is bearing the brunt of weather related incidents, from hurricanes to hailstorms to wild fires, and that the increase in these natural catastrophes is down to climate change. Munich Re said that there is an urgent need for international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change which in turn cause natural disasters. A company spokesman said climate change probably already accounts for a significant share of losses adding “In the light of these facts, it is very disappointing that no breakthrough was achieved at the Copenhagen climate summit in December.”


New green schemes in UK

£200 million of new UK public money is being made available to encourage households to save energy and save money. The new schemes include a bolier ‘scrappage’ scheme to encourage homes to adopt new modern energy efficient boilers, new schemes to encourage homes to generate electricity, and ongoing money to help people insulate their homes. On top of this the government have announced a new scheme to promote electric vehicles to businesses.

The boiler scrappage scheme will provide up to £400 towards the cost of installing new condesnsing boiler. New boilers are usually energy rated as ‘A’ and could save a up to £210 each and every year at current energy tariffs. But be warned, a new boiler will cost a lot more than £400 and there may well be installation and other plumbing costs involved, and ongoing maintainance costs. See

Homes that generate power from solar (photvoltaic) panels or wind turbines will be a ble to earn tax free payments of 36p from their local energy company for every unit they produce. If homes generate more than they can use they can sell the surplus on,  again for a cash free payment of 5p for every unit sold. Other forms if sustainable energy such as ground source pumps that produce clean heating will be covered by a separate scheme from 2011.

The Warm Front scheme, which has had some critics, will get an extra £150 million to help old age pensioners , families with children aged under 16 and people with disabilities insulate their home – the cheapest and most effective way to save money, energy and reduce carbon emissions. Means tested grants can be awarded for insulation, improvements to heating systems and for a connection to the gas main. See

Electric cars and vans wil be exempt from company car tax for five years from next April and there is now a first year capital allowance equalling the total cost of the vehicle  – which makes no sense to me but my accountant said this is very attractive as the cars and vans can be treated as investments!

Humanity 0 Stupidity 1

In the end our lovely politicians just couldn’t do it. To many vested interests, to many cares about economic woes, to much hot air, too much posturing, too much talking, and now the promise of the UK’s Copenhagen climate change conference lies broken and discarded in the dust.

Those wise men and women (yes, I am a tad cynical today) did manage to come to some sort of vague agreement on committing to the broad ambition of keeping global temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius, but as there are no mechanisms in place to achieve carbon emission cuts, this is worthless: The ‘good news’: There is a promise to provide up to $30 billion to poorer nations to cope with climate change and a ‘goal’ of $100 billion per year for poorer nations to adapt to climate change and adopt clean energy technology: There is funding to enable forest nations protect  trees from loggers and farmers;  The provisions of the Kyoto Protocol are preserved.  Now the ‘bad news’: There are no targets for greenhouse gas emissions; there is no legally binding treaty and no deadline for a legally binding treaty to cut carbon emissions: and there are no guarantees of where the climate change funding will come from.  However it is hoped that a new meeting in Mexico in December 2010 will seal a legally binding treaty.  

This is what John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, had to say: “Copenhagen is a crime scene tonight, with guilty men and women fleeing to the airport. It seems there are too few politicians in the world capable of looking beyond the horizon of their own narrow self interest, let alone caring much for the millions of people facing the threat of climate change”.

Eat and drink to save the planet!

The first official recommendations for a diet that is both healthy and good for the environment are published today, and they are likely to be seen as an assault on the UK’s current food system.

To fight climate change and tackle the growing crisis of diet-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, British consumers must cut down on meat and dairy produce, reduce their intake of processed foods and curb waste.

These are the three priorities identified in a report by the government’s independent advisory body on sustainability, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), which calls for radical changes in patterns of consumption.

The report – which will dismay many in the livestock and processed food industries – will feed into all government departments and procurement agencies. Well-placed sources say it has created tension between Whitehall departments and advisers over its potential impact.

The study acknowledges that cutting processed food and reducing consumption of intensively-produced meat and dairy foods could lead to a shrinking of the UK food and drink industry.

The UK’s retail supply system would also be affected – the SDC report recommends that people reduce energy consumption by shopping more on foot or over the internet and that they replace bottled water with tap water.

While about 18% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions are related to food and drink consumption and production, the industry is the single biggest manufacturing sector in the UK, accounting for 7% of GDP and employing 3.7m people. The recommended shift away from meat and dairy to more seasonal and field-grown (as opposed to glasshouse-grown) vegetables and fruit would also hit the UK’s already hardpressed livestock farmers.

The way that farmland is used would have to change. Grass-fed rather than grain-fed animals are a more sustainable use of resources, the report says. There should be “an increase in consumption of foods produced with respect for wildlife and the environment, eg organic,” it adds. The SDC also highlights soya and palm oil as “hotspots” of the sort of consumption that damages the environment while providing calories of low nutritional value. It estimates that 70,000 premature deaths in the UK could be avoided if diets matched healthy guidelines.

Figures released yesterday by the NHS information survey showing that almost one in four boys and more than one in five girls in England are overweight or obese at the start of their school lives added urgency to the debate. SDC commissioner Professor Tim Lang said the recommendations represented the first coherent advice on a sustainable diet. “So far we’ve had fragmented and contradictory thinking on what dietary intakes should be. Advice to consumers ought to change and stop compartmentalising issues.

“Cutting down on meat and dairy, eating only sustainably sourced fish, fruit and vegetables, would all help reduce the impact of our food system as well as improving health,” he said.

The government’s approach to addressing the priorities in the report has been “mixed”, according to the SDC. Food waste and consumers’ shopping have received high-profile attention but cutting meat and dairy and junk food has not, it argues.

Recommended diet for a warming planet

1 Cut consumption of meat and dairy products

Health benefits: Reduces incidence of cardiovascular disease, of some forms of cancer, and of animal-borne infections. Environmental benefits: Large reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, slowing of deforestation, freeing of farm land for other use, freeing of water resources, slowing loss of biodiversity, lower food prices and cheaper diets, higher employment. Negative impacts: Decline in UK and global livestock industry, potential increase in deficiencies of iron, calcium and zinc.

2 Cut consumption of processed foods and drinks, especially fatty, sugary ones and stimulant drinks

Health benefits: Reduced obesity, reduced tooth decay, likely to particularly improve health of low income groups. Environmental benefits: Cut in GHG emissions from energy-intense production of highly processed foods and bottled water. Reduced land use. Negative impacts: Cut in size of UK food manufacturing industry.

3 Reduce waste

Consume no more calories than needed, accept different standards of food quality and that some foods may not always be available in UK. Health benefits: Cut in obesity problems, cheaper diet would benefit poor particularly; less air pollution from food freight, less food poisoning. Environmental benefits: Reduced GHG emissions, reduced waste in agriculture, reduced imported food and associated emissions. Negative impacts: Cut in size of food and drink and supply industry, could increase consumption of processed fruit and vegetables of lower nutritonal quality, reduction in trade with developing countries.

Other recommended changes:

• Eat more fruit and vegetables

• Eat only fish from sustainable stocks

• Eat more foods produced with respect for wildlife and environment• Shop on foot or on internet and cook and store food in energy-saving ways

• Drink tap water, not bottled water

Source: SDC advice to government on priority elements of sustainable diets, December 2009

A message from Greenpeace


It’s all down to these last few days. World leaders have begun arriving in Copenhagen and they have until the end of the week to agree a global treaty that will save our climate.

Gordon Brown in 2020 - I'm sorry

Billboards like this one appeared around Copenhagen last week. We need your help to make sure this future does not become a reality. Follow our updates online to find out what you can do to help.

We are now more than half way through the two-week UN climate summit and there are three issues that are going to make or break it:

    • Developed countries need to commit to greater emission reductions so that they are in line with what the science demands;
    • We need long term commitments of around £100billion a year to pay for climate action in the developing world and to help end deforestation by 2020;
    • We need a legally binding treaty to ensure the words become action.

This is vital for the survival of millions of people.

There is still time to do the right thing, but unfortunately it seems that some developed nations are more interested in an agreement that can be heralded as a success rather than one that has environmental integrity.

This is where you come in…

Pressure from people like you all over the world has brought the world’s leaders here, and now we need to keep the pressure on to make sure that they follow through with action to reduce green house gas emissions. We cannot allow them to fail.

So, as the summit comes to a close this week we need your help to make sure the truth is told and we hold our leaders to real action on climate change.

Please follow our Twitter, Facebook, or email updates from the summit, and be ready to spread the truth as the summit finishes. Take a minute to spread the outcome via twitter, your facebook status, by mobile – wherever you can to tell as many people as possible.

We cannot let leaders leave Copenhagen without knowing that we want them to take the action that science demands in order to protect our planet and the millions of lives threatened by climate change.

I sincerely hope we will all be celebrating on Friday night, but if not, we must act together to change the future.

Jamie Woolley
16 December 2009

PS. You can also make a vital contribution by joining Greenpeace with a direct debit or making a one-off donation by credit card. Thank you!

James Morrison goes down to the wood

James Morrison has announced he will be performing a two concerts as part of Forestry Commission Live Music where artists perform in spectacular woodland locations around the country. Forestry Commission Live Music provides valuable revenue that is reinvested in a variety of Forestry Commission environmental and social projects across the country.

James Morrison will be performing at Delamere Forest, Delamere, Cheshire, Saturday 3rd July and Westonbirt Arboretum, Nr Tetbury, Gloucestershire, Sunday 18th July.

Tickets £31.00 (subject to booking fee) go on sale at 9.00am Friday 18th December from the Forestry Commission Box Office tel 01842 814612 or buy online at  and see

Ho Ho Ho – have a very green Christmas!

Why not rent a tree this Christmas? You know really Christmas trees have roots and don’t actually live in warm front rooms in December! So now a number of companies are renting out trees, delivering trees with roots and collecting them in January. See

And why not use a microwave to cook your Christmas pud this year? Marguerite Patten, a leading microwave cookery writer, has published a pud recipe that calls for just 10 minutes cooking – using about a tenth of the energy used for a traditionally cooked pudding. See Marguerite’s recipe (and others) at

There are lots of ideas at the Energy Saving Trust’s website which is at

Or you could try Indigo Ocean – – Indigo Ocean is a family run business specialising in fair trade and ethical gifts from around the world – or ethical stall that buys from Tibetan refugees in India, a small charity in Delhi and registered Fair Trade organisations.

You could try solar powered fairy lights -steer clear of the standard ones that gobble up all your energy. Instead try a waterproof solar powered version that will make your garden sparkle with pleasure. See

And forget computer games that eat energy and can be unsociable, and try a game that will bring the family together. The Green Board Game Company makes great games from recycled card. Choose from strategy games to colouring books, board games to playing cards. See

Or you could grow your own vegetables with this kit – quick and easy to plant, this garden is ideal for those with limited space as it can be successfully grown in containers or grow bags and contains 14 types of vegetables. This and lots of other gifts can be found at|40|60|22|21|7072|7092|7170&error_message=Product%20Not%20Found!%20%20However,%20here%20are%20some%20other%20products%20you%20may%20be%20interested%20in.