ANOTHER PLANET?

The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee  have in effect scrapped plans for the Severn Barrage, citing costs of £25 billion, possible damage to estuary’s sensitive ecosystem and effects on shipping (and a knock on effect on jobs) as reasons. The barrage would have produced 5% of the UK’s electricity. The Committee suggested smaller tidal barrage projects should be considered.

But more on the Committee: Tim Yeo, Conservative MP and chair of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, has stepped aside after undercover reporters alleged he had admitted to coaching a CEO who had appeared in front of the Committee. Yeo has referred himself to the parliamentary standards watchdog. And in the wake of the this, it seems a number of other MPs on the Commitee have links to energy companies: Peter Lilley (Conservative) has received £23,500 from Tethys since last November according to the Times; Dan Byles (Conservative) received £1,600 from Primer Group, a liquid fuel storage company; Sir Robert Smith (Lib Dem) has declared shareholdings in Rio Tinto, the mining group, and Shell and was a guest of BP’s at the 2012 Olympics and the Royal Opera House; Christopher Pincher (Conservative) is a consultant for  a vehicle and equipment disposal company; Dr Phillip Lee (Conservative) has declared donations totalling £10,000 from the owner of two local petrol stations; Yeo himself has received more than £235,000 over the last three years from two companies that develop biofuels and other alternative energies and has shares worth £583,000 in low carbon companies.  Sir Robert Smith will replace  Tim Yeo as chairman.

One of Britain’s biggest power providers, SSE, has said that Government should tear up its Energy Bill and simplify subsidies for green energy projects saying that they are concerned with the complexity of a market based approach. Current plans would provide subsidies to offshore wind farms and new nuclear power stations – funded by a levy on consumer energy bills.

Jupiter’s Green Gauge bulletin points out that whilst the  investment industry is increasingly short-termist, environmental investing remains a ‘long game’ but green business are making significant inroads into the mainstream economy as they become more economically viable choices for both businesses and consumers. The Report also says that demands of a rising population will remain a key driver for growth in environmental investing – the World’s population has risen from 5.1 billion in 1987 ti 6.5 billion in 2005 to an estimated 7.1 billion in 2013 – with the cost of staples such as wheat and oil rising from $3 a bushel and $18 a barrel to $6.87 a bushel and $ 97 a barrel in the same period. Princes for corn and soya have also increased and extreme weather is expected to play a significant part in future economic trends  – as will pollution, land degradation and water scarcity one fo the reason China has accelerated environmental investment and has become a World leader in environmental technology.

windturbines_300The Renewable Energy Association has published the results of a survey which shows that 68% of the British public support wind farms: All well and good but a number of commentators have questioned whether or not those surveyed were ‘well informed’ about the intermittent nature of energy generation from wind – and the fact that in the UK 90% of the population is urban and hardly in a position to question the day to day effects of wind farms. Noise, sleepless nights and environmental blight are all issues – both on rural communities themselves – and on our treasured landscapes.

More on wind power: The UK has a “once-in-a-generation” chance to attract major companies to build factories that will supply the fast-growing offshore wind energy sector, according to a report published today. However, the study, published by the wind power association RenewableUK and The Crown Estate, also warns that unless the UK seizes this unprecedented opportunity, the manufacturing advantage will be lost to its European competitors.

DRAX POWERThe International Energy Agency (IEA) has urged governments to adopt four policies that it claims will stop growth in energy-related emissions by 2020 at no net economic cost.  A new IEA report, Redrawing the Energy-Climate Map, presents the results of a ‘4-for-2°C scenario’, in which four energy policies that are capable of driving emissions reductions by 2020 and rely only on existing technologies. The policies have also been adopted successfully in several countries, says the IEA.

Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) will be one of the European Commission’s top priorities in its effort to reduce resource consumption and the EU’s environmental impact, says the European Commissioner for Environment. Talking to edie.net at Green Week in Brussels, Janez Potocnik said that it was essential to focus much of the European Commission’s attention on SMEs because “they are the drivers of our development”.  http://www.edie.net/news/6/EXCLUSIVE-EU-Commission-to-focus-environmental-efforts-on-SMEs-says-Potocnik/

Minister for School Education, Early Childhood & Youth and much-loved Australian rock legend Peter Garrett will give the keynote address at the inaugural event for TILT (Tomorrow’s Ideas Leading Today), an initiative of The Australian Institute of Music bringing together some of Australia’s brightest minds in entertainment to discuss the future of the industry in the face of rapidly changing technology. The event takes place on Friday July 5th at the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) in Surry Hills. http://www.aim.edu.au/

The UK Government has announced that it will put up £5m of funding for towns and cities in England to help reduce pollution from local buses. Local authorities will be given the chance to bid for grants of up to £1m from the Department for Transport’s Clean Bus Technology Fund. This will then be used to upgrade local buses with pollution-reducing technologies such as cleaner engines or exhaust after-treatment equipment.

UK MPs narrowly voted not to include an amendment in the third reading of the Energy Bill that will commit the UK to a near- carbon free power sector by 2030.  However, as the voting margin was so slim, many believe the amendment will be scrutinised rigorously at the House of Lords, as the energy bill moves to its next stage.

New dialogues need to be brokered between designers, suppliers and waste management companies to facilitate the level of collaboration required to transform thinking around end-of-life materials. This was one of the key messages to come out of a report released this week by the RSA and Technology Strategy Board that investigates the role of design within the emerging circular economy.  The document summarises the learning of the first phase of the Great Recovery project – an initiative which is bringing key stakeholder groups together to deepen understanding around eco-design and material use.  http://www.edie.net/news/5/RSA–Radical-action-waste-design-brief-circular-economy/

Local authority collected food waste was singled out as the most important feedstock to help accelerate biomethane production for the transport sector. Speaking at the UK’s first biomethane and gas vehicle conference, ADBA’s chief executive Charlotte Morton said that 60% of the potential feedstock in the future could come from food waste and 26% from crops.

The future of nappy waste recycling in the UK appears uncertain despite plans for a new treatment facility to come on-stream later in the year. Last month the UK’s only existing plant for nappy recycling, operated by Knowaste (Midlands) in West Bromwich, suddenly closed.  The Canadian-owned company claimed the closure of its 36,000-tonne facility was necessary to ensure it could meet capacity going forward, and said it was looking to set up a larger infrastructure network elsewhere.

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Recent floods in central Europe are likely to increase for several reasons including climate change, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA). In addition, the EEA says that floods, storms and other hydro-meteorological events account for around two thirds of the damage costs of natural disasters, and these costs have increased since 1980.  Recent assessments carried out by the organisation reveal that extreme weather events are mainly due to land use change, increases in population, economic wealth and human activities in hazard-prone areas and to better reporting.  However, the EEA says that in order to confirm the exact role played by climate change in flooding trends in past decades, it would be necessary to have more reliable, long-time series data for rivers with a natural flow regime.

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