ANOTHER PLANET

The school run – parents driving their children to school in the UK – costs the economy £470 million a year – contributes a quarter of rush hour traffic – adding to congestion, pollution and accidents – and deprives children of much needed exercise from walking and exercising.  Claire Francis, the head of policy at Sustrans “Traffic congestion costs the British economy billions, impacting on on the cost of food, services and wages as well as driving up fuel consumption” adding that it should be a government imperative to make roads safe for school children to walk or cycle to school. A 10% reduction in school trips would reduce cr trips by 118 million and and the distance driven by 265 million miles each year – saving £54.4 million. An average parent spends £642 a year on the school run.

West Cumbrian Mining is planning a new coal mine at Whitehaven, close to the now closed Haig Colliery, and plans to mine under the North Sea. Offshore tests will begin next year after the firm raised £14.7 million in financial backing from an Australian private equity group.

Satao, one of the worlds biggest bull elephants, has been killed in Kenya. His magnificent tusks touch the floor and his head had been removed by poachers who killed the bull with a poisoned arrow. Poaching for ivory is pushing the elephant towards  extinction in Kenya – at least 400 bulls have been killed since the start of 2013.

Lucy Siegle has written an interesting piece in the Observer –  We’re losing faith in global change as local causes boom – saying that we’ve grown sceptical of big-picture environmentalism. A greener future lies in ‘just doing it’ at grassroots level and “Localism is all in the interpretation. So to Eric Pickles, it’s decentralising planning. In surfing culture, it’s the right, assumed by local surfers, to chase non-locals off their wave breaks. And now environmental localism is beginning to mean something too. Something big. Might it even refresh the parts other green movements can’t reach, and take them mainstream?” – lots more here.

ethicalawardsAnd the Observer Ethical Awards have been given out – topped by Queen guitarist Brian May who won Campaigner of the Year for his work fighting against the badger cull in the UK. With wildlife campaigner Anne Brummer, he set up the Save Me trust, focusing on the Hunting Act and possible changes to the hunting ban. These fears have not been realised so far, but the badger cull (first proposed in 2008 by an all party committee) famously has. May was roused into action. Overnight he became King of the Badgers! The full list of winners is:

Peter Willcox, The Greenpeace skipper gets the Lifetime Achievement Award
Mat Fraser – Arts and Culture Award
Mark Constantine, Lush – Best in Business Award
Brian May – Campaigner of the Year
Jon Soar – Community Energy Project Award sponsored by National Grid
Natalie Dean and Heather Whittle, Beyond Skin – Sustainable Fashion Award sponsored by Econyl and Eco Age
Tom Yearley and Delphine Wakes – Great Energy Race Award sponsored by B&Q
Mama Margaret’s – Ecover Young Green Champions – which has teamed students in Bolton with women from the Dagoretti slum in Nairobi make and sell a range of handmade craft items
Anne Power – Local Hero Award
Guy Watson, Riverford – Retailer of the Year
Toni Neubauer, Myths and Mountains/READ Global – Travel Award sponsored by Virgin Holidays

Millions of dicarded plastics bags pollute our oceans

Millions of dicarded plastics bags pollute our oceans

Millions of plastic bags are being given away in the UK despite plans for a 5p charge per bag – and a consensus amongst retailers that the move will reduce waste as environmental and anti-litter campaigners say the UK government has left its new scheme riddled with loopholes ignoring calls to include all retailers in the 5p plastic bag charge, which numerous experts insisting this would reduce litter, slash carbon emissions and cut down on waste. The Environmental Audit Committee’s (EAC) recent Plastic Bag Inquiry urged the Government to change the levy system so that the 5p charge on single-use bags in England – due to come into force in October 2015 – was extended to smaller shops, pointing to the success of universal schemes in Wales and Ireland.  But in response to that Inquiry, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said it wanted to ‘reduce the burden on start- up and growing businesses in England at a time when the Government is supporting new growth in our economy’ – any business employing less than 250 people is excluded – and all retailers can switch to giving away paper bags. Wales has vut the number of bags  used by 76% since introducing a 5p charge in 2011. The Association of Convenience Stores which has 33,000 members, mostly small shops, said the flawed scheme was ‘massive missed opportunity’. Image from Ecowatch here http://ecowatch.com/2013/12/11/court-upholds-san-francisco-plastic-bag-ban/ – millions of plastic bags end up causing environmental devastation in our seas. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio brought his celebrity power to the Our Ocean conference in Washington DC on Tuesday when he joined John Kerry on stage. The actor and environmental activist, announced he was pledging $7 million from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to ‘meaningful conservation projects’ in the next two years.  In a taped video message, President Barack Obama announced plans to create the largest ocean preserve in the world and protect marine life by banning drilling, fishing and other activities in a massive stretch of the Pacific Ocean.

Climate change is having a direct impact on 95% of fresh produce stocked in Asda stores, with food sourcing, processing and transportation all facing an growing threat from environmental issues. The Climate Adaptation Framework study, developed with PwC, maps out the risks that climate change poses across Asda’s entire trading operations and looks at potential obstacles that lie ahead.  And high water stress is jeopardising one-third of the world’s corn crop, sparking food and biofuel security fears within the agricultural industry and related supply chains. A report just out from sustainability think-tank Ceres highlights how US corn farmers, suppliers and investors are particularly vulnerable from water-related risks that could disrupt this $65bn industry. The US accounts for nearly 40% of global corn production.

2014-tesla-modelElectric carmaker Tesla Motors is opening up its technology patents for others to use in a bid to accelerate the development of zero-emissions vehicles across the globe. In an unprecedented move, the firm’s founder and CEO Elon Musk announced that Tesla “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology’” and “Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” Musk wrote in a blog post. “If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal.”

One of the world’s largest wind farms has been given the green light to be built off the Suffolk coast, supporting almost 3,000 jobs and bringing over £520m of investment to the UK economy.  The East Anglia One offshore wind farm has this week been given consent from the Government, marking a strong vote of confidence for the nation’s offshore wind sector.

Use of coal for power generation and other purposes grew by 3% in 2013 – faster than any other fossil fuel. Coal has reached its highest market share of global energy consumption for more than 40 years, figures reveal, despite fears that its high carbon emissions make it a prime cause of climate change.  The use of coal for power generation and other purposes grew by 3% in 2013 – faster than any other fossil fuel – while its share of the market breached 30% for the first time since 1970, the BP Statistical Review reports.

It’s time to move on from the basics of whether global warming is happening to how best to respond, says the UK’s chief science adviser, calling for researchers to speak out about the risks and benefits of strategies for tackling climate change before national policies are set by the government.  Edie.net reports that Sir Mark Walport, the government’s top science adviser, said the climate change debate had to move on from arguments over the reality of global warming to more pressing questions of what the country should do in response.

windturbines_300Which? has warned that planned green energy subsidies may not be value for money, as more cost effective options may be overlooked. The leading consumer group has warned Ed Davey that his proposed subsidy scheme will encourage the construction of more higher-cost energy projects such as offshore wind farms that might not deliver value for money. Which? has written to the secretary of state for energy and climate change saying plans for electricity market reform “could result in expensive generation projects being prioritised over cheaper, more cost-effective options”. Recebtly some campaigners noted that subsidies for anaerobic digestion meant perfectly edible food was being used to create so called “green” energy.

Car giant Ford Motor Company and food giant H.J. Heinz Company have announced that they are working together to explore the use of tomato fibres in developing bioplastic materials that can be used in vehicle manufacturing. Cool beanz!  And Coca-Cola and Danone are among a consortium of companies that are looking to scale up the next generation of bioplastics by investing in a commercial scale facility for the production of PEF (polyethylene furanoate).

Environmental Technology Verification (ETV), a new scheme to promote innovative green technologies, has been launched in the UK by the European Commission.  Defra’s Dan Rogerson, said the voluntary scheme aims to increase the uptake of green technologies and help overcome a lack of confidence still associated with some green products. ETV will become an official proof verification for companies working in the water, waste and energy sectors.

 

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