David Cameron seems to have won his battle to press ahead with fracking – the EU has now said that whilst they will issue ‘firm guidance’ on the controversial process, no legislation will be passed. And the UK’s Environment Minister, Owen Patterson, has said that the UK is missing out on the benefits of GM crops because of a ‘medieval’ attitude towards the technology who added that even products which pass regulatory hurdles then get stuck with politicians as ‘witchcraft is re-imposed’. he told the UK to ignore the EU and press ahead with GM, saying GM was necessary to deal with the World’s fast growing population – due to reach 9 billion by 2050. And finally on our short sighted politicians (is it all really ‘green crap’ David?), the UK Government’s £8 million consultation into creating 127 Marine Conservation Zones has resulted in just 27 being considered after 100 were dropped, as short term interests trumped long term objectives. That said, the Arctic ice cap didn’t melt as predicted – so some good news at least!
Millions of litres of green ‘bio-fuel’ sold to motorists was probably falsely labelled by suppliers trying to benefit from government incentives. The Department of Transport has discovered what looks like a large scale fuel with used ‘cooking oil’ imported from the Netherlands being noting of the sort. The DfT have noted that an ‘implausibly large amount’ of oil was imported in 2011-2012 – 229 million litres, a hundred plus times more than the previous year 2010-2011 of just 2 million litres – just as the incentives kicked in.
Water scarcity, climate change and poverty are now society’s most urgent challenges according to hundreds of sustainability experts across the world. Edie.net reports that Almost 900 sustainable development experts across more than 60 countries were asked for their views on the issues most urgent for particular industry sectors, and also which sectors were most accountable for reducing their impact on, or providing solutions for, each issue. While water scarcity is a top concern for Europeans and those in emerging markets, climate change as an urgent issue trumped all others in North America. Within government, water scarcity and food security were ranked highest suggesting that among politicians, the two are strongly interlinked.
A key committee of the European Parliament has today voted in favour of mandatory environmental and social reporting for large companies. The Legal Affairs Committee significantly strengthened the proposals put forward by the European Commission, which require all large European companies to disclose information in their annual report regarding their impacts on the environment and on human rights throughout their supply chains.
We have recently highlighted the problems of toxic electronic waste being dumped in third world countries . Now a new UN report says that the volume of end-of-life electronics is expected to increase by 33% to 65.4 million tonnes annually by 2017. Based on data compiled by Solving the E-Waste Problem (StEP) Initiative – a partnership of UN organisations, industry, governments, non-government and science organisations – global e-waste is expected to rise from 48.9 million metric tonnes in 2012 to 65.4 million tonnes by 2017. In the UK, a new initiative is set to forge greater collaboration across the UK electricals sector to maximise opportunities around reuse, redesign and product durability. The sustainable electricals action plan will be delivered and facilitated by WRAP to bring together businesses to explore and take action on the significant opportunities that could boost the UK economy. For example, encouraging trade-in of used TVs alone could grow UK GDP by around £800m a year.
Electric buses are being trialled for the first time in London today in an effort to cut emissions from the Capital’s bus fleet. According to Transport for London (TfL), routes 507 and 521 will trial the new buses as the technology is particularly suitable for busy short commuter services which operate between Victoria, Waterloo and London Bridge stations.
An alliance of chief financial officers (CFOs) working for several of Europe’s most well-known corporations have joined a Network aimed at embedding environmental and social issues into company strategy and finances. Established by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales under his Accounting for Sustainability (A4S) Project, the Chief Financial Officer Leadership Network will focus on developing and sharing successful strategies “so that these become the ‘norm’ across all businesses”. This will include improved modelling of future risk and uncertainty as well as engagement with investors and other stakeholders to increase their understanding of the commercial benefits of sustainable business models.
SSE are shutting two coal fired generating plants down in the face of environmental legislation. The plants at Ferrybridge in Yorkshire and Uskmouth in Wales will close at the end of 2013 after SSE decided not to fit technology to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The UK Government has ruled out challenging the European environmental legislation that is behind the move, despite the risk of power blackouts, with Energy Minister Michael Fallon saying that the fines for bringing polluting coal stations back online would be more expensive than building new plants to replace them. Ofgem have estimated that by 2015-2016 the UK will have just 2% of spare capacity and new emissions policies in 2016 will force more closures – and price rises for industry and consumers. The Eggbororough coal power plant in North Yorkshire that generates 4% of the UK’s electricity will also begin shutting down next year with the owners saying that whilst it has new technology to reduce emissions, increasing carbon taxes means it is uneconomic to operate.
It seems that domestic and business users will have to fund the £19.3 million green levy being handed over to the National Grid for setting up the UK Government’s new programme of awarding green subsidies to energy companies. The new scheme has been criticised by some energy industry commentators as too complex – and unworkable.
Researchers from IBM have linked up with scientists from the Singapore Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology to develop a treatment, made from plastic bottle waste, for the hospital superbug MRSA. The treatment attacks drug-resistant fungal infections as well as targeting MRSA, a bacterial infection which has developed a resistance to common antibiotics. Computing company IBM used its experience working with semiconductor materials to come up with the breakthrough. It works by melting down plastic – specifically PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is commonly found in plastic bottles and packaging – and re-forming it as a new kind of polymer which can be made into various medicine forms.
Manufacturers in the UK are launching a campaign to persuade the Chancellor to exempt them from green energy levies: the steel industry says that the extra costs will make them uncompetitive – and also wants to slow the steep increase in carbon taxes. The Industry believes that the levies, which fund sustainable energy projects, add 10% to the cost of energy. Competitors in France and Germany benefit from government subsidies.
Bois de rose – the deeply grained red wood – is back in demand, and despite being legally protected in Madagascar, unprecedented numbers of the trees that provide the wood are being chopped down to feed an insatiable thirst from countries like China who prize the wood with its coloured streaks. One of the world’s rarest trees, the wood is illegally logged in National Parks and then smuggled out of Madagascar, especially since recent presidential elections and the uplift in demand. More on Global Witness.