ANOTHER PLANET?

labourWith the UK’s general election fast approaching on May 7th, Labour has  launched a ‘green manifesto’ outlining a wealth of agenda on environmental issues. Labour has committed to the decarbonisation of the UK energy mix, has pledged to lead increased global climate change ambition, and will improve energy efficiency in it’s Green Plan. With the plan Labour intends to separate itself from the pack of political parties whose election manifestos contained few mentions of climate change or green policy.  One area Labour is keen to differentiate itself on is a decarbonisation target for 2030 for the UK’s electricity supply, giving business ‘certainty to invest’ in green technology and infrastructure, it says. It is quick to point out that conversely both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrat parties have blocked such a target in the last Parliament, and the Conservative manifesto explicitly rules one out for the next. Labour would stick to Climate Change Act (CCA). Put climate change “at the heart of foreign policy” as the “most important thing we can do for our children”.  Five Green Laws made up the environmental heart of the Liberal Democrat’s election manifesto, launched by Nick Clegg in London.  The laws are not quite “nailed to the front of the manifesto” as Energy Secretary Ed Davey promised in March, but they do mark the strongest commitment to the green economy issued by any of the three major parties. The Lib Dems say “The successful economies of the future will be ‘circular'” and they will set a statutory target to recycle 70% of waste in England.  They plan to make Britain carbon-neutral by 2050 and have a target of 60% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030.  The Lib Dems say nuclear power stations “can play a role in building a sustainable economy”. Shale can also contribute to a low carbon economy, so a Low-carbon Transition Fund will be set up with shale profits.  The Green Party propose 90% reduction in emissions in the next 15-20 years, spend £35bn over the next parliament on renewable generation and adapting the national grid. The Greens will expand energy storage and biomass, “where sustainable” and would ban fracking and phase out nuclear in ten years. The Conservatives say they would stick to the Climate Change Act (CCA) and “cut emissions as cost-effectively as possible” and provide start-up funding for promising new renewable technologies and research, but only give significant support to those that “clearly represent value for money”. They would end support for new onshore wind farms .  The Conservatives would create a Sovereign Wealth Fund for the North of England, to reinvest shale profits. Support nuclear.  13800_10153768797716002_2061555411241677932_nUKIP would repeal the CCA – “the most expensive piece of legislation in British history”, having done “untold damage”. They support fracking and “UKIP supports and will invest in renewables where they can deliver electricity at competitive prices.” Only hydro meets this criterion, so the party will withdraw taxpayer and consumer subsidies for new wind turbines and solar PV. They say WRAP is “an unnecessary quango” – and it would be axed to apparently save the country £15.5m.  Finally on politics and politicians ….. a film consisting of promotional footage of David Cameron with a flaming seat to his trousers and set to Blondie’s 1988 hit ‘Liar Liar’ has been unveiled by green energy company Ecotricity on YouTube .  The #PantsOnFire film aims to highlight what it sees as a u-turn in Conservative ‘green’ policy by mocking the Prime Minister’s environmental record. The film includes Cameron’s various green ‘stunts’ including hugging huskies nine years ago, cycling across London and claiming to want to be the ‘greenest government ever’.  Its all here and more here. More than one in five Liberal Democrat and Labour election candidates have pledged to oppose fracking in defiance of their parties’ promises to foster the industry during the next parliament.  Seven of the Lib Dem front bench team, including spokespeople for the environment and energy, voiced their opposition to the party line. The pledge, circulated by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, asked candidates to promise: “If my constituency is at risk of fracking, I will oppose it. If my constituency is not at risk, I will oppose fracking nationwide.”

The amount of discarded electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste) globally reached 41.8 million tonnes in 2014, with the vast majority neither re-used nor disposed of in an environmentally friendly way.  A new United Nations University (UNU) report says the e-waste represents $52 billion worth of potentially reusable resources, but thinks that less than a sixth was recycled properly or made available for re-use. According to the report the United States and China together produced nearly a third of the total sum alone. In the European Union 8% of its e-waste will just be thrown into waste bins – amounting to 0.7 million tonnes.

Humpback_Whale_underwater_shotThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has proposed removing more than two-thirds of the world’s humpback whale population from the endangered species list. Humpback whales were first classified as in need of protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1970. The NOAA’s proposal would remove 10 of the 14 recognized whale populations from the endangered species list, while two would be listed as endangered and the remaining two would be classified as threatened. Critics say that the move is to appease fishermen in Hawaii.  Protection and restoration efforts have been taking place over the last 40 years after a dramatic reduction in humpback whale numbers.

whales killedUntil the International Whaling Commission gave them protection in 1966, more than 200,000 were killed by commercial whalers.  The International Whaling Commission put a stop to all commercial whaling in 1986. All the whales remain protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act, and the US is still an active member of the International Whaling Commission. Environmental groups have said North Pacific whales continue to be vulnerable to factors including increased shipping, climate change and ocean acidification, which affects the prey stock.  The world’s leading zoo organisation has suspended its Japanese member over its involvement in the controversial dolphin hunts in Taiji. The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Waza) has suspended the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (Jaza) following a unanimous vote by its council.

The monetary value of the world’s oceans has been estimated at US$24tn in a new report that warns that overfishing, pollution and climate change are putting an unprecedented strain upon marine ecosystems. The report, commissioned by WWF, states the asset value of oceans is $24tn and values the annual “goods and services” it provides, such as food, at $2.5tn. This economic clout would make the oceans the seventh largest economy in the world although the report’s authors, which include the Boston Consulting Group, say this is an underestimate as it does not factor in things such as oil, wind power and intangibles, such as the ocean’s role in climate regulation. The economic value is largely comprised of fisheries, tourism, shipping lanes and the coastal protection provided by corals and mangroves. More on the Guardian here.

bpThe BP archive containing scientific knowledge on renewable energy projects collected over decades as a result of a multi-billion-pound research programme is still closed to the public despite promises to the contrary. Critics said BP’s integrity was at stake and the archive held next to the Modern Records Office at Warwick University must be opened immediately. The oil company told its shareholders at the annual general meeting last week that BP shared all the information it had held on to – unless it was particularly commercially sensitive. Carl-Henric Svanberg, the BP chairman, was specifically asked about the store of research material kept under wraps in a corporate archive at Warwick University: “Nothing is locked away. We share everything happily.” But a spokesman at the company’s headquarters later confirmed what the Guardian had already reported: that no material for the last 40 years was available to the public.

And the overwhelming majority of BP shareholders have backed a resolution forcing the company to be more transparent about its impact on climate change.  Resolution 25, tabled at the BP AGM by a £170bn coalition of investors, was passed with 98% support and the backing of BP’s chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. The company has committed to publishing more information on its resilience to climate action, including whether limits on carbon emissions will damage the value of its oil and gas. HOWEVER – while BP has agreed to transparency, Svanberg made it clear to the Guardian that it would not be setting targets for its own greenhouse gas emissions any time soon, saying such targets could be “counter-productive”.

Three-quarters of known fossil fuel reserves must be kept in the ground if humanity is to avoid the worst effects of climate change, a group of leading scientists and economists have said in a statement timed to coincide with Earth Day. The Earth League, which includes Nicholas Stern, the author of several influential reports on the economics of climate change; Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, a climate scientist and adviser to Angela Merkel; and the US economist Jeffrey Sachs, urged world leaders to follow up on their commitments to avoid dangerous global warming. Spelling out what a global deal at the UN climate summit in Paris later this year should include, in its ‘Earth Statement’ the group demanded governments adopt a goal of reducing economies’ carbon emissions to zero by mid-century, put a price on carbon and that the richest take the lead with the most aggressive cuts.

London_smog-_UKEdie.net reports that the UK Supreme Court will hear ClientEarth’s case against the UK Government over its ‘failure’ to meet deadlines for legal limits on air pollution in what will be the culmination of a four year battle.  ClientEarth, a group of activist lawyers, want the Supreme Court to order the Government to produce a new plan to deliver urgent cuts to illegal UK air pollution levels. Under current EU Directive, member states had to comply with air pollution limits for nitrogen dioxide by 2010. But the UK Government does not plan to meet these limits until after 2030 in 16 cities and regions across the country, including London, Leeds, Birmingham and Glasgow. That’s despite scientists estimating that at least 29,000 people die early in the UK from air pollution and Nitrogen Dioxide, mainly produced by diesel vehicles.

Edie.net reports that the proportion of a business’ energy bill that comes from the energy itself will drop below 50% by 2050. Currently, the cost of wholesale electricity currently makes up 65% of an energy bill but, according to Gavin McCormick, the business development manager at energy consultancy EnergyQuote, this will drop to 49% by 2050.

The National Trust has taken another step closer to reaching its ambitious renewable energy targets by installing an innovative hydro-electric scheme at one of its properties in Cheshire.  Quarry Bank, an 18th century cotton mill on the banks of the River Bollin, will switch on the new Kaplan turbine this week, generating 55% of the site’s on-site energy requirements. The National Trust – which has a target of generating half of its energy from renewable sources by 2020 – says it has taken inspiration from Quarry Bank’s past for the installation of this new energy scheme.

 

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