ANOTHER PLANET?

GEI_Logo2015-largePNGThe leaders of the UK’s three main political parties, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg have signed a cross-party pledge to tackle climate change.  The agreement includes commitments to an internationally binding deal at the crucial COP21 summit in Paris 2015, a promise to end unabated coal power generation and a pledge to agree a Carbon Budget in accordance with the Climate Change Act.  The agreement follows the close of the first international climate summit of 2015, in Geneva, where delegates produced the first draft of a possible “Paris Agreement” which will be negotiated throughout the year, before being agreed in the French capital in December.

The UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey has given the go-ahead for the giant Dogger Bank Creyke Beck offshore wind farm in the North Sea which is being hailed as one of the most significant infrastructure projects ever undertaken by the wind industry. The Dogger Bank Creyke Beck A and B wind project is now the largest consented offshore wind project in the world. It will have a maximum capacity of 2400MW and will generate enough electricity to power almost two million homes once built. The UK Government’s Green Investment Bank (GIB) also announced a new £60m investment to fund up to 30 community-scale renewable projects across the UK. And the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Commission have joined forces to launch two financial initiatives with a €715m investment to encourage private sector involvement in schemes that reduce energy use and conserve natural capital. In the US Citi will make $100 billlion available over 10 years to help finance “activities that reduce the impact of climate change and create environmental solutions”. The New York based bank will look for investment opportunities aimed at greenhouse gas reductions and resource effcienecy – such as sustainable transport, as well as access to clean water and affordable housing.

oil rigThe UK’s fossil fuel industry was deeply “unsettled” by comments from energy secretary Ed Davey raising the prospect that their assets could be rendered worthless by global action on climate change, according to a letter of protest sent to the secretary of state . Malcolm Webb, chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, which represents the industry, wrote to Davey saying he was “perplexed” by the “conflicting and confusing messages” and accused him of making investment in the North Sea less attractive. The letter was released to the Guardian under freedom of information rules. The issue was also raised by Erik Bonino, chairman of Shell UK, at a meeting with Davey in January, at which Bonino said if Shell “knew there were to be no more fossil fuels, [it] could cash out and give shareholders their money back in four years”.

Creating biofuels from waste produced by industry, farms, and households could generate 36,000 jobs in the UK and save around 37m tonnes of oil use annually by 2030, according to a new report. Across Europe, hundreds of thousands of new jobs could be created by using these ‘advanced biofuels’, which could replace 16% of the continent’s road transport fuel by the same year, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) study said. But the gains will not come without ambitious policy to promote advanced biofuels, it warned.

Edie.net reports that supermarket chain Sainsbury’s is pioneering the use of ground-source heating technology by collecting the warmth from the back of its refrigerators to heat up its stores – cutting energy use by more than 30%. The new technology has already been installed at 30 Sainsbury’s stores across the country and the retailer is currently working with heating specialist Geoscart and British Gas to expand the roll-out to at least another 70 of its sites.    The ground-source heat pumps provide 100% of the stores’ heating needs by collecting the waste heat produced by the back of refrigerators and storing it in a heat chamber located in the ground beneath the supermarket. The subsurface rock makes for good insulation, keeping the heat for use in colder months, when the heat is pumped back up into the building as it’s needed.

harvardLawyers for Harvard University will appear in court to fight off attempts to force the world’s richest university to dump ivestments in coal, oil and gas companies from its $36bn (£23bn) endowment. A lawsuit filed late last year by seven law students and undergraduates argues the university has a duty to fight climate change by pulling out of fossil fuel companies. The university and the state of Massachusetts, which is also named in the lawsuit, are asking the judge to dismiss the case.

Orangutan3-226x300More from Edie.net: The Indonesian pulp and paper industry has once again come under fire from conservationists, this time for the legality of fibre supply. A new study from the Anti-Forest Mafia Coalition and Forest Trends analysed Indonesian Ministry of Forestry and timber industry data to assess the sustainability of the country’s booming pulp and paper industry. It revealed that more than 30% of wood used by Indonesia’s industrial forest sector stems from the unreported clear-cutting of natural forests and other illegal sources, instead of legal tree plantations and well-managed logging concessions.  The report singles out the zero-deforestation pledge made by Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) whose ‘improvements’ we recently reported on – claiming “such a commitment would be impossible for all of Indonesia’s pulp mills to meet”. The pulp sector does not have sufficient supply from plantations to meet current industrial capacity, it says.

2015 could see coral bleaching on a global scale for the third time in history – and the first in the absence of an El Niño. That is the latest prediction from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), which has just launched a model to forecast threats facing the colourful reefs. Bleaching takes place when corals are stressed due to changes in light, nutrients or temperature. “It started in 2014 – we had severe bleaching from July to October in the northern Marianas, bad bleaching in Guam, really severe bleaching in the north western Hawaiian Islands, and the first ever mass bleaching in the main Hawaiian Islands,” said Mark Eakin, Noaa’s Coral Reef Watch coordinator. “It then moved south, with severe bleaching in the Marshall Islands and it has moved south into many of the areas in the western south Pacific.

BPREPORTThe chairman of the UK Parliament’s Energy and Climate Change Committee says a new global climate deal due to be agreed at the COP21 Paris meeting must allow for carbon trading between countries. MP Tim Yeo believes the crucial COP21 summit in Paris should put in place a price on carbon, which would enable emissions trading systems around the world to link-up in future and ensure the world slashes climate-changing emissions in the most-effective way possible.   “Putting a price on carbon is absolutely essential if we are to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change,” said Yeo. “But using taxes to set a carbon price does not guarantee any particular level of emissions reduction because the emitters may simply pay the tax and carry on polluting.  Oil giant BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley has joined calls for a global carbon price to counteract spiralling emissions over the next 20 years, as projected by the oil giant’s latest Energy Outlook report which predicts that emissions will rise by 1% every year from now until 2035 – far above any ‘safe’ emissions targets identified by experts. This adds up to a 25% increase, which is “materially higher” than a scenario whereby global temperature rises are limited to 2C, the company says.

The US security establishment views climate change as real and a dangerous threat to national security. But Canada takes a very different view, according to a secret intelligence memo prepared by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The memo, stamped “Canadian eyes only”, repeatedly casts doubt on the causes of climate change – the burning of fossil fuels – and its potential threat. The 44-page intelligence assessment of Canada’s environmental protest movement was prepared for the government of Stephen Harper, who is expected to roll out new anti-terror legislation. More on the Guardian here.

British food security is not being harmed by the spread of solar panels in the countryside as claimed by the UK’s environment secretary, documents from her own department reveal. Liz Truss told farmers last October that they would no longer receive agricultural subsidies for land that had solar power on, saying the “ugly” panels were “a blight on the countryside and villages” and were pushing production of meat and produce overseas. “I am committed to food production in this country and it makes my heart sink to see row upon row of solar panels where once there was a field of wheat or grassland for livestock to graze,” she was quoted as saying at the time. But environment department officials have admitted in private correspondence and documents released under freedom of information rules that they hold no data on the land covered in England by solar panels; they have no idea how much they will save in agricultural subsidies through the change; and the claim that solar power is harming food production does not stack up.

FrackOffGermany has proposed a draft law that would allow commercial shale gas fracking at depths of over 3,000 metres, overturning a de facto moratorium that has been in place since the start of the decade. A new six-person expert panel would also be empowered to allow fracks at shallower levels. Meanwhile in Australia, the Queensland government may adopt tough new regulations to tackle the amount of pollution flowing onto the Great Barrier Reef, with the state’s first ever reef minister vowing to strengthen protections to avoid the ecosystem being listed as “in danger” by the UN. The new Labor government has promised to slash the amount of nitrogen flowing on to the reef from key catchments by 80% by 2025, while also cutting total suspended sediment reaching the reef by 50% by the same year.

formulaeAnd finally, Battersa Park in South London will host the finale of the inaugural Formula-E series after planning permission was granted by Wandsworth Council. The race will feature the single seater electric racing cars launched at the first race in Beijing last September and is scheduled for June 27th and 28th on a 2.92km 15 turn circuit designed by British architect Simon Gibbons. Brazillian driver Lucas di Grassi (e-dams Renault) tops the leader board with 58 points followed by Brit Sam Bird (Virgin Racing) with 48 points and Swiss driver Sébastien Buemi (Audi Sport ABT) on 43 points.  In other e-car news from Treehugger, rumours abound that Apple is planning to go head-to-head with Tesla by going in the electric car market. Exhibit A is a Wall Street Journal piece that cites “people familiar with the matter” who claim that a project with the code name of “Titan” is underway, with a thousand-people team under Apple Vice President Steve Zadesky, a former Ford engineer who was on the teams that created the iPod and iPhone, and Johann Jungwirth, who was Mercedes Benz’s R&D chief before being hired by Apple last fall. Exhibit B is is tha Apple and Tesla are currently engaged in a talent war, poaching each other’s employees  and Exhibit C comes from the late Steve Jobs himself who apprently  told John Markoff of The New York Times that if he had more energy, he would have liked to take on Detroit with an Apple car.”

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