In the UK, collaborating with other nations to combat climate change and the release of a new Energy Bill to increase energy security in the UK were among the key announcements in the first all-Conservative Queen’s Speech since 1996. The Queen gave just two mentions of energy and the environment in her 10-minute speech, to the disappointment of green groups and sustainability professionals alike. First, she said “measures will be introduced to increase energy security,” and later she stated that the new Tory Government “will seek effective global collaboration to sustain economic recovery and to combat climate change – including at the climate change conference in Paris later this year.”
The Evening Standard reports that London is set to become Europe’s green tech capital under bold proposals being drawn up by environmental chiefs. Mayor of London Boris Johnson is backing the plan to create a clean tech hub in west London following the startling success of Tech City in the east. An outline plan will be delivered to the London Sustainable Development Commission on how to attract hundreds of start-up and larger eco-firms to Park Royal and the Old Oak Common area as it is redeveloped with the arrival of Crossrail and the HS2 rail line. Former climate change minister Greg Barker, who now chairs the LSDC, said: “Our ambition is to create the largest concentration of clean tech businesses outside of California and [become] Europe’s No 1 destination for green entrepreneurs. “Unleashing the green entrepreneurs is really going to drive this forward and take this to the next level.”
India is enduring such a severe heat wave some of its roads are actually melting. Over 1,000heat-related deaths had been reported as temperatures soar up to 47 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Farenheit.) in some parts of the country. Most of these deaths have occurred in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring Telangana. Meteorological officials have said the heat would likely last several more days – scorching crops, killing wildlife and endangering anyone laboring outdoors. More here.
Edinburgh University has announced plans to divest from coal and tar sands within the next six months, apparently reversing a recent ruling by the university’s court. On 12 May, Edinburgh rejected plans to divest from all fossil fuels, saying it would do so only where feasible alternative sources of energy existed, and where companies were not investing in low carbon technologies. The decision sparked outrage from students and campaigners, including pickets, marches on campus and a 10-day occupation of the university central management building.
And staying in Scotland, Edie.net reports that Zero Waste Scotland is offering interest-free loans up to £100,000 to help Scottish businesses improve their resource efficiency. The loans will help fund new heating systems and experiments into improving industrial processes, amongst other things, which could help save businesses up to £2.9bn in total. Resource Efficient Scotland, a programme of the Government-funded Zero Waste Scotland, will be overseeing the programme and carrying out audits on applicants. Head of Resource Efficient Scotland Marissa Lippiatt said: “Making resource efficiency a priority doesn’t just benefit the environment; it can also lead to cost savings and a real competitive advantage” adding “We know that time, money and expertise can often be perceived as a barrier, particularly for small businesses. These funds can help overcome some of these barriers, and I hope to see businesses taking this opportunity and making progress in becoming more sustainable.”
The UK can cut the cost of decarbonising its electricity supply by more than £3.5bn if it can create a grid-scale electricity storage system to balance the variable output of renewables. That’s according to a report from QBC, a company looking to build such a system. The group’s technology of choice is pump storage – pumping water uphill into large reservoirs when power is abundant and then letting it flow down again to generate power when needed.
And British consumers are being ‘kept in the dark’ about the sourcing practices of some of the UK’s largest timber users, according to a new report from WWF. The research – Do timber products in the UK stack up? – analysed 26 products from 17 different companies and found that none could provide evidence that they had carried out ‘sufficient due diligence’ in ensuring a sustainable timber supply. Only one company (Cargo) was able to provide any documentation about its product, although the information was in Chinese.
Morgan Freeman has turned his 24 acre ranch near Mississippi onto a sanctuary for bees. Freeman has said that he is especially concerned about the declining numbers in the bee population which is a big part of the reason why he decided to start keeping them. Freeman now spends his days feeding them with sugar and water. His gardener also chips in by planting acres and acres of bee-friendly plants including clover, lavender and magnolia trees and told reporters “There’s a concerted effort to bring bees back onto the planet…We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation…” And Londoners are rallying to protect the honeybee with growing numbers of residents installing hives in their gardens. The number of people in the capital hosting their own colonies has more than doubled in five years to 3,500 following high-profile campaigns to save the bees. The Co-Operative’s Plan Bee drive, launched to combat the decline in pollinating insects, says honeybee numbers have fallen by up to 30 per cent in recent years, with worldwide bee populations in similar decline. The British Beekeepers Association says an average of 9.6 colonies in every 100 perished between October 2013 and March last year — double the number that should be lost in winter. A loss of habitat and rising pollution are thought to be chiefly to blame. Barnes & Webb which installs and manage hives in London, said they are having to turn people away as demand soars. They have installed 40 hives since 2012, half of them in the past 12 months, mostly in north-east London. The honey sells in Selfridges and other London stores.
Thames Water will soon be 100% powered by renewable energy, after inking a five-year, £520m supply deal with Drax-subsidiary Haven Power. The deal has an option for two further five-year renewals which could increase the overall value of the contract to more than £1.5bn over 15 years. Thames Water – the UK’s largest water and sewerage company – currently sources about 20% of its electricity through self-generated renewables.
A female cyclist who was hit by a lorry in south London during a day of horror on the capital’s roads has died, police said. Esther Hartsilver, 32, was injured in the crash on Denmark Hill on Thursday morning. Ms Hartsilver, a senior physiotherapist, was taken to King’s College Hospital, where she was a member of staff but died later, police said. She is the sixth cyclist to die on London’s roads this year. All have involved HGVs. Another cyclist in her mid fifties was killed in a multi vehicle crash in Walton on Thames. A van driver was under arrest on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving. A third male unicyclist was fighting for his life is hospital after being trapped under a double decker bus in Walthamstow – he was freed after a crowd of around 100 people who were in the area lifted the bus. In April, renowned designer Moira Gemmill, 55, who was overseeing renovations at Windsor Castle, was killed in an accident near Lambeth Bridge. In February, French-born Claire Hitier-Abadie, 36, a mother of two, died after being struck by a Crossrail lorry as she rode a cycle-hire “Boris bike” through Victoria, central London.
The world’s nations have one last chance to slow climate change: “It is becoming apparent that 2015 may be a critical year for the issue of climate change, in more ways than one. The obvious way, of course, is through the United Nations Climate Change Conference (Cop21) opening in Paris in six months, where the world community will try to agree a legally binding deal to limit the carbon emissions causing the atmosphere to warm (and for which the Global Apollo Programme to lower the cost of low-carbon energy, which we report on today, might play a vital role).” The Paris conference may be the final chance the world gets to keep rising temperatures below the agreed danger threshold of 2C above the pre-industrial level. The last attempt to cut such a deal, at Copenhagen in 2009, collapsed amid fierce argument about who should do what, between the developed countries, led by the Americans, and the developing nations, led by the Chinese. More from Michael McCarthy here
A group of leading scientists have joined the campaign to end the use of coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels, within 10 years – promoting cheaper green energy in a move to abate climate change. The Global Apollo Programme aims to make the cost of clean electricity lower than that from coal-fired power stations across the world within 10 years. It calls for £15bn a year of spending on research, development and demonstration of green energy and energy storage, the same funding in today’s money that the US Apollo programme spent in putting astronauts on the moon.The plan is the brainchild of a group of eminent UK scientists, economists and businessmen including Sir David King, currently the UK’s climate change envoy, Lord Nicholas Stern, Lord Adair Turner and ex-BP chief Lord John Browne. King said green energy already had advantages over fossil fuel power in cutting deadly air pollution and reducing the carbon emissions that drive global warming. But he said making clean energy cheaper was important too: “Once we get to that point, we are winning in all the battles.”
Tesla has announced that the first of its utility-scale Powerpack battery systems will be deployed in Ireland next year, under a new deal with energy storage firm Gaelectric. The 1MW pilot system will is said to be the first in a series of battery projects designed to help integrate renewable energy sources into the Irish grid. Tesla said it will also be exploring opportunities for other Tesla Energy products in residential and commercial applications.
The UK government has pledged £50m funding to help encourage investment in renewable energy projects in developing countries. The cash – set aside from existing funding for the International Climate Fund – will go into the Climate Development Finance Facility (CDFF). The CDFF aims to stimulate funding for medium to large scale (between 25-75MW) renewable energy projects in emerging economies where finance would otherwise be hard to come by. It provides assistance from the development phase, through construction, to refinancing options after completion.
Almost 130,000 people have signed a petition calling on the UK government to force supermarkets to give unsold food to charities. The petition is calling for a law to be passed forcing retailers to donate leftover produce that is still safe to eat to food banks. It is almost two thirds of the way to its target of 200,000 signatures, just nine days after being launched. Lizzie Swarf, who started the the campaign, pointed to a new French law which passed on Tuesday, as inspiration.
An ambitious project to build the world’s first tidal lagoon for generating clean electricity off the coast of Swansea has triggered an environmental row on the south coast of Cornwall. And a second row is brewing, with a Chinese construction group in pole position to win a huge contract to undertake marine works at Swansea Bay, despite key promises by the developers to prioritise local involvement. The Cornish dispute centres on a project to reopen a quarry at Dean near St Kevergne on the Lizard Peninsula, to source at least 3m tonnes of stone for the Swansea project. Many residents in Dean and St Kevergne, some ocean scientists and all the local candidates in May’s general election oppose the quarry scheme. The Cornish stone would be used to build a six-mile long breakwater in Swansea amid hopes of generating significant shipping volumes in a newly-created marine conservation zone.