ANOTHER PLANET?

princeofewalesThe Prince of Wales has called for us all to treat our planet like a sick patient. In a keynote speech, he also urged health practitioners to be bolder about highlighting the links between the effects of climate change on clean air, water and our wellbeing. Prince Charles — who for decades has used his unique position to champion action for a sustainable future — told the Royal Society in London: “Protect the health of the planet, protect our health. Actions which are good for the planet are also good for human health.  Taking a more active approach to transport by walking and cycling and adopting healthy diets reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also reduce rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer and more — saving lives and money. “Reductions in air pollution also result, with separate and additional benefits to human health. A healthy planet and healthy people are two sides of the same coin.” The future King’s strong intervention, at a joint event involving his International Sustainability Unit and the World Health Organisation, came after he and the Duchess of Cornwall made a historic visit to the London Evening Standard newsroom today. The Royal Society event brought together health ministers, senior civil servants, health professionals and civil society organisations to discuss climate change, health and the forthcoming negotiations involving the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21. More on the Evening Standard here.

The European Commission has released details of its ‘Energy Union’ vision to reboot Europe’s energy policy and proposals for the crucial UN climate change talks in December.  The Energy Union Package, announced today by Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic, includes a binding emissions reduction target of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, along with a host of commitments for the EU to become ‘the world leader in renewable energy’. The 21-page document contains a dizzying list of measures – spanning renewables and energy-efficiency, gas supplies, legislation, finance, market design, a 10% power-interconnection target, R&D, and climate policy. More on edie.net here.  And The world’s states should commit to a legally binding emissions cut of 60% by 2050, with five-yearly reviews, in a Paris Protocol to replace the moribund Kyoto agreement at a climate summit later this year, according to a leaked EU document.  But environmentalists have questioned the integrity of the headline 60% figure, and a strategy which is seen as overly-tilted towards the US. “Major economies, in particular the EU, China and the US, should show political leadership by joining the Protocol as early as possible,” says the EU’s ‘Road to Paris 2015’ communication, which the Guardian has seen. “It should enter into force as soon as countries with a share of 80% of current global emissions have ratified it.

Rush_hour_cyclists_in_the_City_of_London,_August_2013The most dangerous junctions for cyclists in London have been revealed as transport chiefs came under attack for under-spending their road safety budget by more than £50 million this year. Elephant and Castle was named as the location of 80 crashes involving cyclists and motorists between 2009 and 2013 that were serious enough to be reported to police. Trafalgar Square was second with 46, followed by Waterloo Road (45) and Lambeth Bridge/Millbank roundabout (38), insurance firm Aviva found. Elephant and Castle was the scene of a fatal crash last May when Oxo Tower porter Abdelkhalak Lahyani, 47, was killed by a HGV as he cycled to work. Cyclist Meryem Ozekman, a 27-year-old fitness instructor, was crushed to death by a lorry on the same roundabout in April 2009.  Brian Holt was killed in blackspot Mile End Road after being in collision with an HGV in 2013. The Aviva survey, based on 23,000 cyclist crashes reported to police within the M25 over five years, included 80 fatalities — 67 of them within Greater London.  Upper Tooting Road/Lessingham Avenue, Ansell Road/ Derinton Road had 34 crashes (5th), Grove Road/Mile End Road 32 (6th), Vauxhall Bridge/ Wandsworth Road 31 (7th), Monument Tube station junction 29 (8th), Camberwell New Road/Brixton Road 28 (9th) and Camberwell New Road/Kennington Road/Harleyford Street 28 (10th).

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have voted to limit the amount of food crops used in the production of biofuels, but environmental groups say the new laws don’t go far enough.  Members of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee agreed  to limit the amount of food-based biofuels in the EU’s transport energy mix to 6%. The bloc has a target to source 10% of transport energy from all biofuels by 2020. MEPs also approved proposals to account for the added emissions of indirect land use change, i.e. where trees are chopped down to grow crops for biofuels. Finally, they agreed a new target for so called ‘advanced biofuels’ – which are sourced from seaweed or certain types of waste – which must now account for at least 1.25% of energy consumption in transport by 2020.

SOLAR POWERSolar is set to become the cheapest form of electricity production in many regions of the world following massive cost reductions. That’s according to a new study published by Agora Energiewende, a leading German think-tank dedicated to the German energy transition. The report – Current and Future Cost of Photovoltaics – projects the costs of solar photovoltaic on a global scale from now to the year 2050. According to the report, the cost of producing solar power in the UK will have declined to between 4.2 and 10.3p/kWh by 2025, and by 2050 to as low as 2.0 to 7.4p/kWh. However, these reductions are highly reliant on financial and regulatory frameworks due to the high capital intensity of photovoltaic installations. Poor regulation could affect interest rates and raise the cost of solar plants by up to 50%, the report concludes.

International wind turbine manufacturers saw a record-breaking year for global installations in 2014, but this is “disguising underlying challenges facing the industry”, according global business advisory firm FTI consulting. According to Global Wind Market Update: Demand and Supply 2014, global wind capacity bounced back with more than 50GW in 2014, over 40% growth on 2013, mainly driven by a record-breaking growth in China, Germany and Brazil. All 10 of the top global wind turbine original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) reported individual record years for installation. Vesta retained its top spot with a significant margin over its competitors, while Siemens moved up two places in the rankings due to a record breaking year in its onshore wind business.

The UK Government is putting £10m towards innovation in battery design to fund the development of a new high-voltage battery pack for the next generation of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).  Innovate UK will run the competition, which will award the money to a “consortium of organisations”, expected to include a research organisation and at least one vehicle manufacturer as well as experts in battery controls, electronics and software.

comicreliefUnilever UK is seeking to promote green behaviour beyond its own operations in the form of a new recycling incentivisation partnership.  The consumer goods giant is teaming up with Greenredeem – a UK-based firm which offers people reward points for everyday green actions such as recycling. These points can now be exchanged for Unilever products – such as Lynx, PG Tips and Ben & Jerry’s – under the new partnership. (Scroll down for more information on how Greenredeem works). Unilever Project Sunlight marketing manager Anna Owen said: “We’re so excited to work with Greenredeem to drive recycling rates in the UK. It’s shocking how far the UK lags behind other nations and we see incentivising positive action as a key mechanic to move rates forward, to meet and hopefully smash 2020 target levels. As their launch campaign, Unilever and Greenredeem are inviting Greenredeem members to donate points earned through recycling efforts to Comic Relief. Headlining the campaign will be Unilever brands Persil and PG tips which are already working closely with Comic Relief with special money-raising packs in store and are now looking to drive recycling rates at the same time.

waterdropThe energy and agricultural sectors “must be held accountable” for their vast water consumption and take steps to lower it, says a new UN report.  The two industries – which account for 70% and 15% of global water use respectively – are “guzzling water” while 2.9bn people could face shortages by 2025. Water dependent companies – in these two industries in particular – will “have a key role to play in financing and implementing sound strategies” to tackle this impending water crisis, said the report. Within 10 years, researchers predict 48 countries – 25% of all nations on Earth with an expected combined population of 2.9 billion – will be classified “water-scarce” or “water-stressed”.

BARBen Ainslie Racing (BAR) has been awarded ISO 20121 certification for sustainability across all its operations this week, the first such certification for a sports team in the UK.Springwatch To achieve the goal of ISO 20121, BAR worked with a range of sustainability experts involved in Green Blue – the joint environment programme created by the Royal Yachting Association and the British Marine Federation in 2005 to promote sustainability across the UK recreational boating sector. The BAR team, which was launched by four time Olympic medallist Ben Ainslie in 2014 with the long-term aim of winning the Americas Cup, has also partnered with 11th Hour Racing to achieve its sustainability goals.

sea_ice_polar_bearPeople who continue to deny that human activity is directly impacting climate change have a new challenge to over come: Scientists have, for the first time,  provided direct observational evidence that carbon dioxide is trapping heat in the atmosphere. In a study published in the journal Nature, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used eleven years of measurements from specialized instruments at sites in Alaska and Oklahoma to analyze the source of energy fluctuations, confirming that it’s carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels that’s causing warming — and not water vapor, changes in the sun or someone tampering with the data to make it look like global warming is worse than it is, as some have claimed. “We see, for the first time in the field, the amplification of the greenhouse effect because there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere to absorb what the Earth emits in response to incoming solar radiation,” lead author Daniel Feldman explained in a statement. “Numerous studies show rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations, but our study provides the critical link between those concentrations and the addition of energy to the system, or the greenhouse effect.” More on Salon here.

Britain’s railways are ‘a scrapheap’ says the man who runs Network rail. Mark Carne said that the railways are littered with old sleepers, rails and much is covered by graffiti.

And Britain has been told it should appoint an ambassador for the Arctic. The House of Lords have suggested that the need to safeguard the environment – as well as participate in its future. With 30% of the world’s remaining recoverable gas reserves and over 13% of remaining oil reserves the Arctic is a prime target for exploitation – not least as global warming (caused by the burning of oil and gas amongst other things) melts sea ice and makes the region more accessible for extracting fossils fuels and (over) fishing. However is does seem fears about polar bears dying out as sea ice melts may not be true as bear numbers have almost doubled since the 60s when hunting left many bear populations close to collapse.

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March 5th 2015

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