ANOTHER PLANET?

DRAX POWERThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has published its Synthesis Report – the work of thousands of scientists which has been agreed after negotiations with the world’s governments. The key points are these:

– Limiting the impacts of climate change will involve phasing out fossil fuels by 2100 and growing the use of renewables from its current 30% share to 80% of the power sector by 2050.

– Warming of the climate system is “unequivocal”, and the human influence on changing it is now “clear”.

– The period from 1983 to 2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years in the Northern Hemisphere.

– Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are “unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years”.

– Delaying action will “substantially increase the challenges” to limit global warming below two degrees, relative to pre-industrial levels.

– If temperatures were to rise above four degrees, risks include “substantial species extinction” as well as global and regional food insecurity.

– Emissions can be “substantially reduced” through changes in consumption patterns and adoption of energy savings measures. 

Martin Kaiser, head of international climate politics at Greenpeace said “For scientists, there is nothing vague about how to deal with climate change. Governments need to pay attention and phase out coal and oil now or end up doing it later at a much higher cost. However, those who seize the potential of renewable energy will leap ahead to a sustainable future.”

The United States and China have unveiled a secretly negotiated deal to reduce their greenhouse gas output, with China agreeing to cap emissions for the first time and the US committing to deep reductions of between 25-28% by 2025. The pledges in an agreement struck between President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jingping, provide an important boost to international efforts to reach a global deal on reducing emissions beyond 2020 at a United Nations meeting in Paris next year.  China, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, has agreed to cap its output by 2030 or earlier if possible. Previously China had only ever pledged to reduce the rapid rate of growth in its emissions. Now it has also promised to increase its use of energy from zero-emission sources to 20% by 2030. The European Union has already endorsed a binding 40% greenhouse gas emissions reduction target by 2030. However the IPCC recommendation to phase out fossil fuels by end of century to avoid dangerous global warming is categorically rejected by Poland and other eastern European countries who have categorically rejected the target put forward by the world’s top climate scientists to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2100 to avoid dangerous global warming according to leaked documents show.

A new report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Oil Change International (OCI) says that an estimated $88bn per year is being spent by G20 governments on locating oil, gas and coal reserves, despite evidence that most existing reserves must be left alone to avoid dangerous climate change – and parallel to these findings, the cost of renewables is falling and the returns are better with every $1 in renewable energy subsidies attracting a $2.5 investment, while $1 in fossil fuels subsidies only draws $1.3 of investment.

solarOn a similar theme – investment in renewables and energy efficiency can create up to 10 times as many jobs per unit of electricity as investment in fossil fuels according to a new report from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) who analysed data from fifty studies published since 2000 on the relationship between green energy investment and job creation in the USA, Europe and China. It found that electricity from renewable projects created about one job per gigawatt-hour generated compared with 0.1 for electricity from coal or gas.

Edie.net reports that the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) has announced a £200m lending programme for community-scale renewable energy projects in the UK. GIB will partner with global investment firm KKR – each will provide £100m – and specialist investment manager Temporis Capital LLP, which will manage the lending programme. And Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd has published a letter to local authorities highlighting the potential benefits of solar PV for schools. Rudd said: “One of the ambitions in the Government’s strategy for the sector is to maximise the potential of deployment on the country’s buildings, in particular the as yet little tapped sector of mid-sized rooftops, including those of our schools.”

Power from human waste is ‘the ultimate in green energy’ that would cut the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels and dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. That’s according to British waste management and recycling firm Business Waste which has called for more power to be generated from the 20,000 tonnes of human excrement produced in the UK every day.

is it wasteThe Environment Agency (EA) has launched the IsItWaste assessment tool to help businesses in England identify whether a waste material is a by-product or holds ‘end-of-waste’ status.  And the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) and WRAP will team up to deliver a programme helping London local authorities reach the Mayor of London’s 50% recycling target by 2020. Reaching this target in London would make a major contribution towards the UK as a whole achieving its 50% household waste recycling target by the same date.

A group of European Union (EU) Member States – including the UK, Romania, Greece, Croatia and Poland – is blocking a European Parliament proposal to reduce plastic bag use by 80% by 2019, despite 92% of Europeans agreeing that measures should be taken to reduce single plastic bag use.   The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) argues that European Parliament proposals including rules to charge customers for plastic bags would mean savings and profits amounting to €650m per year between 2015 and 2020 for public authorities, manufacturers and retailers. More on edie.net here

The UK Government has rejected calls, made by the Environmental Audit Committee, to require new products to be recyclable and to ban food waste going to landfill to help stimulate the circular economy.  In its report entitled ‘Ending the Throwaway Society: Growing a Circular Economy‘, published in July, the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee called for lower VAT on recycled products, a phased-in requirement for new products to be recyclable and greater standardisation of waste collection services, including a ban on food waste being sent to landfill. In its response the Government said it agreed that it had “a role to play in developing [a circular economy]” but rejected recommendations made by the Committee to introduce greater standardisation in collection systems, to compel councils to adopt household food waste collections and to require new products to be recyclable.

The US Senate’s top environmental job is set to fall to Jim Inhofe, one of the biggest names in US climate denial, but campaigners say Barack Obama will fight to protect his global warming agenda. Oklahoma Republican Inhofe has been denying the science behind climate change for 20 years – long before it became a cause for the conservative tea party wing. Following the midterm elections which saw the Republicans take control of the Senate (along with Congress) he is now expected to become the chairman of the senate environment and public works committee.

bee-300x150Climate change is disrupting flower pollination new research shows – revealing that rising temperatures are causing bees to fly before flowers have bloomed, making pollination less likely. The work used museum records stretching back to 1848 to show that the early spider orchid and the miner bee on which it depends for reproduction have become increasingly out of sync as spring temperatures rise due to global warming. But while rising temperatures cause both the orchid and the bee to flower or fly earlier in the spring, the bees are affected much more, which leads to a mismatch. More here

The Guardian reports that China has strongly dismissed claims suggesting that a Chinese delegation accompanying Xi Jinping to Tanzania last year purchased so much illegal elephant ivory that prices spiked. According to a scathing report on the country’s illegal wildlife trade by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), business boomed when Xi’s delegation was in the capital city, Dar es Salaam, last March, doubling the market price of ivory to $700 a kilogram.

The green credentials of the UK and US economies are vastly overrated when compared to their actual performance, a recent report has found  The Global Green Economy Index (GGEI) from Dual Citizen measures how well countries perform in four key areas: leadership & climate change, efficiency sectors, markets & investment and environment & natural capital.

On that note – in the run up to the next elections in 2015, the UK Government has announced a multi million pound ‘roads revolution’ including significant improvements to roads such as the A1 and a tunnel on the A303 at Stonehenge. £15 billion will be spent up to 2020.

Sir Simon Jenkins, the departing president of the National Trust has attacked UK Prime Minister David Cameron for breaking pledges to protect the countryside – and poured scorn on Tory planning policies arguing tat a grading system is needed to protect rural sites – the highest grades would cover National Parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

An overwhelming majority of businesses want an independent body to be put in charge of UK infrastructure to encourage stable investment and a more sustainable future.  A survey from the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) of 430 senior business leaders found that respondents see the UK’s infrastructure as internationally weak, lagging behind Australasia, North America and the EU. Specifically, 96% thought political uncertainty is discouraging investment and as a result 89% favoured an independent infrastructure body.

Edie.net reports that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Justice has announced a settlement with carmakers Hyundai and Kia which will see them pay $100m civil penalty to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations.  The two car companies allegedly sold 1.2 million cars from model years 2012 and 2013 whose design specifications did not conform to those certified to EPA, leading to misstatements of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, they gave consumers inaccurate information – overstating the fuel economy by one to six miles per gallon and understating the greenhouse gas emissions of their fleets.

WRAP Cymru and the Carbon Trust have announced that they are to work in partnership to help Welsh businesses and public sector organisations to become more resource efficient. The collaboration will deliver client manager services to businesses (including third sector businesses) and public sector organisations as part of the Welsh Government’s Resource Efficient Wales service (a new resource efficiency advice service). Participating organisations will receive support to reduce their energy, water, resource use and waste, helping them take advantage of the opportunities of resource efficiency, according to WRAP Cymru. They will also be able to learn about additional sources of support from the Welsh Government.

Zero Waste Scotland has unveiled a new £90,000 capital grant fund for materials recovery facility (MRF) operators to purchase standardised testing equipment enabling them to effectively test, monitor and record their material quality. The funding comes ahead of the Scottish Government’s MRF Code of Practice which will be introduced in 2015 and will aim to improve the quality of materials processed through qualifying facilities by developing standardised testing processes and reporting mechanisms for all input materials. The funding is open to any MRF located in Scotland and processing at least 1,000 tonnes of dry mixed recyclables a year. More here.

The UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) has given its financial backing to a new waste treatment facility and anaerobic digestion (AD) plant North Yorkshire, which will process up to 320,000 tonnes of waste per year. The £320m Allerton Park plant will divert more than seven million tonnes of household, commercial and industrial waste from landfill during its lifetime and will recover value from almost every aspect North Yorkshire and City of York waste. It represents the first joint investment between GIB, which is putting in £33.1m, and the European Investment Bank, which is investing £150m.

drought2An incendiary report from a NASA scientist which warns that the world’s water supplies are rapidly dwindling has set alarm bells ringing around the globe.  Writing in the Nature Climate Change journal, Professor J.S Famiglietti warned that a global ‘free-for-all’ on underground water sources could cause mass starvation and international conflict. Groundwater – stored beneath the Earth’s surface in soil and porous rock aquifers – accounts for one third of global water use. Over two billion people rely on groundwater as their primary water source, while at least half of the irrigation water used to grow the world’s food comes from underground sources. However rapid population growth and rising quality of life, along with increasing demand for food and energy has led to far greater levels of stress on limited groundwater resources with Famiglietti writing “Groundwater is being pumped at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished, so that many of the largest aquifers on most continents are being mined, their precious contents never to be returned. More here on edie.net.

University of Strathclyde was the 100th winner of a Green Gown Award. The institution won the award for Continuous Improvement: Institutional Change for its ‘Sustainable Strathclyde’ strategy which includes a plan to be carbon neutral by 2030. Other winners this year included   Social Responsibility (Hull College); and Student Engagement (Manchester Metropolitan University and Redbridge Institute of Adult Education and the University of the Arts London picked up the Technical Innovation for Sustainability. Individual awards went to Professor Patrick Bailey, Keele University (Leadership Award ) and Roisin Lyle-Collins, University of Glasgow (Sustainability Champion Award).

 

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