Giant Asian logging companies that make billions from destroying rainforests use a labyrinth of secret shell companies based in a UK overseas territory, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which operate as a tax haven, according to documents seen by the Observer. The 13 companies own millions of acres in Indonesia, provide much of the world’s palm oil, timber and paper, and use complex legal and financial structures to keep their tax liabilities low. An unpublished two-year investigation by anti-corruption experts, and seen by the Observer, says Britain should launch a major investigation into the use of the BVI and other tax havens by “high-risk” sectors such as Indonesian forestry. This follows a court case in Jakarta in which one of the world’s largest palm oil companies, owned by billionaire Sukanto Tanoto, was fined US$205m after being shown to have evaded taxes by using shell companies in the BVI and elsewhere. The company has agreed to pay the fines.
The designer Sir Paul Smith is expected to be announced as a winner of a competition to design the UK pavilion at the 2015 World Fair in Milan. Smith is one of a team, led by artist Wolfgang Buttress, which has proposed a design in which the UK’s pavilion will be a virtual beehive, in order to “highlight the plight of the honeybee”. In the words of the proposal, visitors to the World Fair will walk through an orchard and a wildflower meadow before entering the hive, which will “pulsate, buzz and glow according to signals from a real hive”.
UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey has paid a visit to the UK’s first shopping bag and plastic film recycling facility in London. He visited the Woolwich-based facility with Liberal Democrat MEP for London Baroness Sarah Ludford. They were given a tour of the facility which has been developed by recycling specialists PlasRecycle. The new plant, which started operations in late 2013, uses a high tech proprietary process developed by PlasRecycle over the past four years, to reprocess up to 20,000 tonnes per annum of used shopping bags and plastic films – equivalent to one third of all of the 8 billion so-called “single-use” carrier bags handed out by supermarkets every year in the UK. And Construction work has begun on the Fraddon Biogas Plant – a new biomethane-to-grid anaerobic digestion (AD) site in Cornwall. The Plant, which is scheduled to open towards the end of the year, will convert organic materials from local agricultural and food waste into gas and electricity. It will be one of the few AD plants feeding biogas into the UK national grid, producing 1,000 cubic metres per hour and exporting it to the gas grid as renewable bio-methane.
A report by former military officers says that Climate change poses growing threat of conflict in the Arctic and says prospect of ice-free Arctic has set off scramble for shipping lanes and for access to oil. “Things are accelerating in the Arctic faster than we had looked at,” said General Paul Kern, the chairman of the Centre for Naval Analysis Corporation’s military advisory board, which produced the report. “The changes there appear to be much more radical than we envisaged.” The group of retired generals and admirals say that the prospect of an ice-free Arctic by mid-century had set off a scramble for shipping lanes by Russia and China especially, and for access to oil and other resources. “As the Arctic becomes less of an ice-contaminated area it represents a lot of opportunites for Russia,” he said. Oil companies were also moving into the Arctic. More here http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/14/climate-change-arctic-security-threat-report?CMP=EMCENVEML1631
Treehugger says that the giant candy (that is chocolate to us Brits) and pet food maker MARS Inc has taken a big step in the right direction by announcing that it will soon begin construction of a massive wind farm in Texas that will produce enough clean energy to power all of MARS’ operations in the United States (they have 37 factories and 70 offices, so it’s a pretty big deal). This is one of many steps that the company has been taking as part of its ‘sustainable in a generation’ plan: The wind farm will be erected near Lamesa, Texas, with 118 GE wind turbines (1.7MW each) producing annually about 800,000 megawatt-hours, equivalent to what it takes to power 61,000 U.S. households.
The increasingly important role that renewable energy plays in job creation and economic growth has been further highlighted by a new report which reveals that 6.5 million people were employed in the industry last year. The report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), reveals that international employment across the renewable energy sector rose by almost a million people in the space of a year, with 5.7 million people directly or indirectly employed by the industry back in 2012.
Companies like Cree and Philips have started selling LED-based T8 lights. They have the potential to save a massive amount of electricity, and thus reduce pollution. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration in 2011 about “461 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity were used for lighting by the residential and commercial sectors.” The commercial sector, which includes commercial and institutional buildings and public street and highway lighting, consumed about “275 billion kWh for lighting or 21% of commercial sector electricity consumption in 2011.” There are about 2.3 billion fluorescent sockets in the US commercial sector, and most of them are based on the T8 standard – and with 30% energy cost savings it’s time for change! More on Treehugger.
Solar farms in the UK are to lose government financial support. The move to cut subsidies for large-scale installations is condemned by green activists and renewable power companies who say that the move is likely to reduce the UK’s ability to generate low-carbon power and green jobs, and to increase dependency on imports of fossil fuels. It is the second major blow to renewable energy within a month, followingthe announcement that the Conservatives want to axe subsidies to new onshore windfarms if they win the next election. But the government insisted the changes were necessary in order to ensure subsidies were fair and that renewable energy targets would still be reached, while keeping down costs for consumers.
For UK Chancellor Nigel Lawson’s climate sceptic thinktank is to launch campaigning arm – but the Global Warming Policy Forum will escape scrutiny for accuracy of information it produces by becoming a non-charitable company. The new arm, to be called the Global Warming Policy Forum, will share the same website and initials and publish reports and research papers, as well as organising lectures and debates on science and policy. In particular, it will put out news articles and opinion columns through a section of its website. The Charity Commission must agree the changes. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/09/nigel-lawson-climate-sceptic-thinktank?CMP=EMCENVEML1631
The emerging circular economy agenda is overlooking the valuable role energy-from-waste (EfW) can play, a leading industry academic has warned. Professor Chris Coggins, an independent consultant, argues that the founding principles of a circular economy can be equally applied to EfW – not just through renewable power generation, but through energy efficiency relating to product design and use. As an example, he points to research that has shown the food industry in Europe could supply up to 20% of its energy requirements in the form of electricity, heating and cooling from its own food wastes. Despite this, Coggins claims that literature published on the circular economy since 2012 focuses “almost entirely on mineral and biogenic resources with virtually no mention of urban carbon and wastes as energy resources – neither source-segregated wastes nor residual wastes which compete and/or offset the use of fossil fuels”. More on Edie.net here
In the UK the Ministry of Defence has lost a battle to block radioactive waste contamination report of military sites could pose public health risk. The Report will now be published after six-month delay. But after the 75-page report was leaked to the Guardian, a decision was taken in Whitehall to publish and the Report will reveal that Comare (The 18-member Committee on Medical Aspects of Radiation in the Environment) is concerned about radium contamination from the second world war at Dalgety Bay in Fife and at least 25 other sites across the UK.
The UK Government is being urged to remain focused on the task of moving the UK to an efficient and low-carbon energy system following the release of a new report from the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee about the potential of using more shale gas. The report looks specifically at the economic impact of using shale gas, which is drilled out of rocks in a process known as ‘fracking’. But Nick Molho, head of climate and energy policy at WWF-UK, believes the Lords has overlooked the many serious analysts who have said that shale gas in the UK is unlikely to have much impact on either gas prices or the UK’s rising exposure to gas imports. In other fracking news, Celtique Energy has told residents that it will not drill horizontally under their homes and land in the South Downs national park – though it will push ahead with a vertical well at its own site.
Two winners from the Sustainability Leaders Awards 2013, organised by edie.net, have been selected as UK finalists for the European Business Awards for the Environment (EBAE). The EBAE recognise outstanding, new or innovative contributions to sustainable development. The 12 UK finalists are selected from the winners from RSA-accredited schemes, including the Sustainability Leaders Awards. Edie has said that two of its winners have been selected: Cynar, which won the Sustainability Product Innovation category; and Berendsen UK, the Sustainability Leaders Awards winner in the Water Management category.
Several of the UK’s biggest brands have signed up to a pledge to reduce litter across the country. McDonalds, KFC, Dominos Pizza, Coca-Cola and Wrigley have all joined the Litter Prevention Commitment – a new bid by Keep Britain Tidy to reduce the levels of rubbish which blow around our streets, parks and country side and cost £1 billion a year to deal with. The companies will include rubbish in their corporate social responsibility and environmental policies and seek to minimise waste through product design, labelling and by influencing the behaviour of their customers. Anecdotally I have to say Coke drinking McDonalds customers are the worst offenders – incapable to reaching a bin less than one metre away and prone to drop rubbish out of cars anywhere that suits them!
The EU has proposed a new ban on driftnets in all EU waters and on all EU boats to enforce the protection of dolphins and other sea mammals as well as turtles and the fast disappearing bluefin tuna. Driftnets can stretch for miles close to the surface and are often responsible for the incidental killing of thousands of marine creatures.