Tag Archives: air pollution

ANOTHER PLANET?

droughteastafrica2016 was the hottest year on record, setting a new high for the third year in a row, with scientists firmly putting the blame on human activities that drive climate change. The final data for 2016 was released on Wednesday by the three key agencies – the UK Met Office and Nasa and Noaa in the US – and showed 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century. Direct temperature measurements stretch back to 1880, but scientific research indicates the world was last this warm about 115,000 years ago and that the planet has not experienced such high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for 4m years. More on the Guardian here.

The world must not allow the Paris climate deal to be “derailed” or continue to inflict irreparable damage on the environment, Chinese president Xi Jinping has said, amid fears the rise of Donald Trump could strike a body blow to the fight against global warming. Trump, who will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, has threatened to pull out of the historic Paris agreement and dismissed climate change as a Chinese “hoax” and “expensive… bullshit”. But in an address to the United Nations in Geneva on Wednesday, which observers saw as a high-profile bid to bolster China’s image as a reliable and dedicated climate leader, Xi issued a direct challenge to those views, warning “there is only one Earth in the universe and we mankind have only one homeland”.

Radiation levels inside a damaged reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station are at their highest since the plant suffered a triple meltdown almost six years ago. The facility’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said atmospheric readings as high as 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded inside the containment vessel of reactor No 2, one of three reactors that experienced a meltdown when the plant was crippled by a huge tsunami that struck the north-east coast of Japan in March 2011.

Scotland is seeking to dramatically cut its reliance on fossil fuels for cars, energy and homes after setting a radical target to cut total climate emissions by 66% within 15 years. In one of the world’s most ambitious climate strategies, ministers in Edinburgh have unveiled far tougher targets to increase the use of ultra-low-carbon cars, green electricity and green home heating by 2032. The Scottish government has set the far higher target after its original goal of cutting Scotland’s emissions by 42% by 2020 was met six years early – partly because climate change has seen winters which are warmer than normal, cutting emissions for home heating.

babyorangMore than half of the world’s apes, monkeys, lemurs and lorises are now threatened with extinction as agriculture and industrial activities destroy forest habitats and the animals’ populations are hit by hunting and trade. In the most bleak assessment of primates to date, conservationists found that 60% of the wild species are on course to die out, with three quarters already in steady decline. The report casts doubt on the future of about 300 primate species, including gorillas, chimps, gibbons, marmosets, tarsiers, lemurs and lorises.

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore

Donald Trump by Gage Skidmore

The Trump administration is mandating that any studies or data from scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency undergo review by political appointees before they can be released to the public. The communications director for Donald Trump’s transition team at the EPA, Doug Ericksen, said the review also extends to content on the federal agency’s website, including details of scientific evidence showing that the Earth’s climate is warming and manmade carbon emissions are to blame. Former EPA staffers said on Wednesday the restrictions imposed under Trump far exceed the practices of past administrations.  And Donald Trump was sharply criticised by Native Americans and climate change activists  after he signed executive orders to allow construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. Both pipe projects had been blocked by Barack Obama’s administration, partly because of environmental concerns. But Trump has questioned the science of climate change and campaigned on a promise to expand energy infrastructure and create jobs.  The environmental movement is “the greatest threat to freedom and prosperity in the modern world”, according to an adviser to the US president Donald Trump’s administration. Myron Ebell, who has denied the dangers of climate change for many years and led Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) until the president’s recent inauguration, also said he fully expected Trump to keep his promise to withdraw the US from the global agreement to fight global warming. The Republicans have backed off bill to sell 3.3m acres of public land after an outcry. Congressman Jason Chaffetz withdraws House bill 621 as conservationists and outdoorsmen vowed to continue fight over similar legislation. Chaffetz, a representative from Utah, wrote on Instagram that he had a change of heart in the face of strong opposition from “groups I support and care about” who, he said, “fear it sends the wrong message”.

Falling costs of electric vehicles and solar panels could halt worldwide growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020, a new report has suggested. A scenario that takes into account the latest cost reduction projections for the green technologies, and countries’ pledges to cut emissions, finds that solar power and electric vehicles are “gamechangers” that could leave fossil fuels stranded. Polluting fuels could lose 10% of market share to solar power and clean cars within a decade, the report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative found.

Shell_oil_croppedBut ……. global demand for oil will still be growing in 2035 even with an enormous growth in electric cars in the next two decades, with numbers on the road rising from 1m to 100m, BP has predicted. The oil and gas giant predicted that despite electric cars spreading rapidly and renewable energy recording exceptional growth, oil demand would still rise because of rising prosperity in the developing world. BP said electric cars would not be a “gamechanger” for the oil industry. “It’s not Teslas and the US. It’s the fact that 2 billion people, much of that in Asia, are moving to middle incomes, can buy their first motor car and that drives up oil demand. It’s that stuff that really matters,” said Spencer Dale, BP group’s chief economist.

In the final week of January London was put on “very high” alert as cold and still weather, traffic, and a peak in the use of wood-burning stoves combined to send air pollution soaring in the capital – and across swaths of the UK. According to data from King’s College London, areas of London including Camden, the City of London and Westminster all reached 10 out of 10 on the air pollution index, with many other areas rated seven or higher.

ANOTHER PLANET?

cc-1-300x180EU ministers have agreed to ratify the landmark Paris climate agreement at an extraordinary summit in Brussels on Friday, all but guaranteeing that it will pass a legal threshold to take effect next week and sparing the bloc’s blushes in the process. The EU’s president, Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The EU’s member states decided to make history together and bring closer the entry into force of the first ever universally binding climate change agreement. We must and we can hand over to future generations a world that is more stable, a healthier planet, fairer societies and more prosperous economies.

September 2016 is a major milestone for the world’s climate. At a time when atmospheric carbon dioxide is usually at its minimum, the monthly value failed to drop below 400 parts per million (ppm). That all but ensures that 2016 will be the year that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 ppm mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes, according to scientists.  And global temperature has increased to a level not seen for 115,000 years, requiring daunting technological advances that will cost the coming generations hundreds of trillions of dollars, according to the scientist widely credited with bringing climate change to the public’s attention. A new paper submitted by James Hansen, a former senior Nasa climate scientist, and 11 other experts states that the 2016 temperature is likely to be 1.25C above pre-industrial times, following a warming trend where the world has heated up at a rate of 0.18C per decade over the past 45 years.

Electricity generated by solar panels on fields and homes outstripped Britain’s ageing coal power stations over the past six months in a historic first. Climate change analysts Carbon Brief found more electricity came from the sun than coal from April to the end of September, in a report that highlighted the two technologies’ changing fortunes.

FrackOffHorizontal fracking can go ahead, the government has said, in a landmark ruling for the UK shale gas industry. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has approved plans for fracking at Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site at Little Plumpton in Lancashire. Environmentalists and local campaign groups reacted angrily, saying it was a denial of local democracy. It means, for the first time, UK shale rock will be fracked horizontally, which is expected to yield more gas. A second site, Roseacre Wood, has not yet been given the green light amid concerns over the impact on the area.  Javid  overturned Lancashire council’s rejection of a fracking site, paving the way for shale company Cuadrilla to drill in the county next year and provoking outrage from local groups, environmentalists and politicians. The council cited visual impact and noise when it turned down the company’s two planning applications to frack on the Fylde last year, but a month later Cuadrilla submitted an appeal.

pangolinPangolins, the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal, were thrown a lifeline at a global wildlife summit on Wednesday with a total trade ban in all species. More than a million wild pangolins have been killed in the last decade, to feed the huge and rising appetite in China and Vietnam for its meat and its scales, a supposed medicine. The unique scaly anteaters are fast heading for extinction in Asia and poachers are now plundering Africa. But the 182 nations of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) unanimously agreed a total ban on international trade on all species at the summit in Johannesburg, prompting cheers and applause from delegates.  More on the Guardian website here.

air pollutionChina is the world’s deadliest country for outdoor air pollution, according to analysis by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The UN agency has previously warned that tiny particulates from cars, power plants and other sources are killing 3 million people worldwide each year. For the first time the WHO has broken down that figure to a country-by-country level. It reveals that of the worst three nations, more than 1 million people died from dirty air in China in 2012, at least 600,000 in India and more than 140,000 in Russia. At 25th out of 184 countries with data, the UK ranks worse than France, with 16,355 deaths in 2012 versus 10,954, but not as poorly as Germany at 26,160, which has more industry and 16 million more people. Australia had 94 deaths and 38,043 died in the US that year from particulate pollution.

Shoppers in England have become much more likely to take their own bags to the high street since the introduction of a plastic bag charge nearly a year ago, a study has found. More than nine in 10 people now often or always carry their own bags, up from seven in 10 before the 5p charge came into effect, and the public became much more supportive after it started. The number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets and big retailers in England has fallen by 85%.

The Labour party has strengthened its opposition to fracking, saying it would ban the controversial technique for extracting shale gas if it came to power. Speaking at the Labour conference in Liverpool, shadow energy and climate secretary Barry Gardiner is to announce the party will be going further than its previous policy of a moratorium until environment conditions are met.

Virgin_atlanticThe Guardian reports that world’s first agreement to curb aviation’s greenhouse gas pollution has been struck by 191 nations in a landmark United Nations accord, although environmental groups have warned the deal doesn’t go far enough. A meeting of 2,000 delegates at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a UN agency, in Montreal has settled upon a global emissions-reduction scheme that will apply to passenger and cargo flights that generate more than 10,000 tonnes of annual greenhouse gases. The deal, aimed at reducing the growing climate impact of plane travel, follows years of disagreement between nations on how to slow emissions from the sector. Instead of facing a cap or charge on emissions, airlines will be involved in an offsetting scheme whereby forest areas and carbon-reducing activities will be funded, costing about 2% of the industry’s annual revenues. Global aviation emissions in 2020 will be used as a benchmark, with around 80% of emissions above 2020 levels offset until 2035. A push by the shipping and oil industries for a five-year delay to curbs on toxic sulphur emissions would cause an extra 200,000 premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease, according to an unpublished International Maritime Organisation (IMO) study.

Romania has banned all trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynx and wild cats in a surprise decision that gives Europe’s largest population of large carnivores a reprieve from its most severe and immediate threat.

plasticbagThe vast patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean is far worse than previously thought, with an aerial survey finding a much larger mass of fishing nets, plastic containers and other discarded items than imagined. A reconnaissance flight taken in a modified C-130 Hercules aircraft found a vast clump of mainly plastic waste at the northern edge of what is known as the “great Pacific garbage patch”, located between Hawaii and California. The density of rubbish was several times higher than the Ocean Cleanup, a foundation part-funded by the Dutch government to rid the oceans of plastics, expected to find even at the heart of the patch, where most of the waste is concentrated.

ANOTHER PLANET?

china air pollutionOutdoor air pollution has grown 8% globally in the past five years, with billions of people around the world now exposed to dangerous air, according to new data from more than 3,000 cities compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO). While all regions are affected, fast-growing cities in the Middle East, south-east Asia and the western Pacific are the most impacted with many showing pollution levels at five to 10 times above WHO recommended levels.  New mayor of London has called air pollution ‘our biggest environmental challenge’ and plans to bring the increased ultra low emission zone into force early, unveiling plans to substantially increase the size of London’s clean air charging zone to tackle the capital’s illegal air pollution levels

Two of the world’s most widely used insecticides, imidacloprid (made by Bayer) and thiamethoxam (Syngenta) cause significant harm to bumblebee colonies, a new study has found, but a third had no effect. The study shows the distinct effects of each type of neonicotinoid pesticide, from cuts in live bees and eggs to changed sex ratios and numbers of queens. Clothianidin (Bayer) had no effect other than increasing the number of queens produced. Previously, the different types of neonicotinoids have often been treated as interchangeable. Neonicotinoids and other pesticides have been implicated in the worldwide decline in pollinators, which are vital for many food crops, although disease and loss of habitat are also important factors. There is strong evidence that neonicotinoids harm individual bees . The EU imposed a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids on flowering crops in 2013. And a second report  has found that despite farmers pleas to use the bee killing chemicals – UK crop yields have actually INCREASED since the ban. Government figures show that oilseed rape harvest increased by 6.9% in 2015 – undermining the National Farmers Union arguments that farmers were struggling without the pesticides.

Zombie-Bee_2More than a quarter of American honeybee colonies were wiped out over the winter, with deadly infestations of mites and harmful land management practices heaping mounting pressure upon the crucial pollinators and the businesses that keep them. Preliminary figures commissioned by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that 28% of bee colonies in the United States were lost over the 2015-16 winter. More than half of surveyed beekeepers said they suffered unsustainable losses during the winter.

Solar Impulse has completed the Pacific Crossing! Bertrand Piccard pierced through the night sky, gently kissing the runway with a smooth landing at Moffett Airfield, California. The transition from the gentle wonders of the sky to the shared elation of landing was quick. He descended from the cockpit where he had been sitting for the past 62 hours and greeted his solar brother, André Borschberg. He had been waiting for Bertrand at Moffett Airfield since Friday afternoon, making final preparations on the ground before his arrival.

JB LOGOJulies Bicycle have an interesting article and opinion online about the ‘Brexit’ and how that will impact on the UK asking – what might it mean for the environment and how might that affect the arts and creative sector? And the answer?  Well you can read the article here, but here’s an extract:

We at Julie’s Bicycle are deeply concerned about the impact a ‘Leave’ vote could have from an environmental perspective.

Leaving the EU at this crucial climate change juncture could seriously destabilise the UK’s policy response and, with the prospect of at least several years of uncertainty, undermine the much-needed rapid investment in renewable energy and infrastructure that a successful low carbon transition requires. It would also jeopardise the UK’s leadership in global climate policy negotiations by isolating the country just when unprecedented international cooperation is needed.
Leaving the EU would risk the past 40 years of environmental protection legislation in the UK and the resulting benefits for habitats, wildlife, and human health and well-being. Some of these already compromised protections could be lost more or less overnight, whilst others could be weakened or rolled back entirely by UK parliament over the coming years – a risk we are particularly concerned about under the guise of ‘cutting red tape’. Some of this so-called ‘red tape’ has been instrumental at setting standards for air and water quality, stemming the loss of habitats and species, and ensuring we do not erode our vital natural heritage that is inseparable from our cultural heritage.

african-elephant2Tusks from more than 6,000 illegally killed elephants have been burned in Kenya, the biggest ever destruction of an ivory stockpile and the most striking symbol yet of the plight of one of nature’s last great beasts. The ceremonial burning in Nairobi national park at noon was attended by Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta and heads of state including Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, high-ranking United Nations and US officials, and charities. A wide network of conservation groups around the world have sent messages applauding the work.

The Guardian reports that  VW and Shell have been accused of trying to block Europe’s push for electric cars and more efficient cars, by saying biofuels should be at heart of efforts to green the industry instead. The EU is planning two new fuel efficiency targets for 2025 and 2030 to help meet promises made at the Paris climate summit last December. But executives from the two industrial giants launched a study on Wednesday night proposing greater use of biofuels, CO2 car labelling, and the EU’s emissions trading system (ETS) instead. In reality, such a package would involve the end of meaningful new regulatory action on car emissions for more than a decade, EU sources say. But Shell insisted it is not trying to block an EU push for electric cars.

gbrThe hot water temperature that drove the devastating bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef this year was made 175 times more likely by human-caused climate change, and could be normal in just 18 years, according to preliminary findings by leading climate and coral reef scientists. Great Barrier Reef tourism operators refuse media and politicians access to bleached reefs . The scientists said they took the unusual step of releasing the work prior to peer-review, because the methods used to reach the findings are now accepted in the climate science community and the alarming results needed to be released as quickly as possible. “We are confident in the results because these kind of attribution studies are well established but what we found demands urgent action if we are to preserve the reef,” said Andrew King, a lead author of the study from the University of Melbourne. More here.

Plans to build more coal-fired power plants in Asia would be a “disaster for the planet” and overwhelm the deal forged at Paris to fight climate change, the president of the World Bank said on Thursday. In an unusually stark warning, the World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, noted that countries in south and south-east Asia were on track to build hundreds more coal-fired power plants in the next 20 years – despite promises made at Paris to cut greenhouse gas emissions and pivot to a clean energy future. In the US, coal use is in sharp decline – and the country’s biggest companies are in bankruptcy. But there is still strong demand for coal in south Asia and east Asia, where tens of millions still have no access to electricity.

The leak of the text of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) might mark the beginning of the end for the hated EU-US trade deal, and a key moment in the Brexit debate. The (unelected) negotiators have kept the talks going until now by means of a fanatical level of secrecy, with threats of criminal prosecution for anyone divulging the treaty’s contents.  The texts include highly controversial subjects such as EU food safety standards, already known to be at risk from TTIP, as well as details of specific threats such as the US plan to end Europe’s ban on genetically modified foods. The documents show that US corporations will be granted unprecedented powers over any new public health or safety regulations to be introduced in future. If any European government does dare to bring in laws to raise social or environmental standards, TTIP will grant US investors the right to sue for loss of profits in their own corporate court system that is unavailable to domestic firms, governments or anyone else. More here on the Independent: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/ttip-leaks-shocking-what-are-they-eu-us-deal-a7010121.html

Fracking has triggered earthquakes from Ohio to Oklahoma, and fouled rivers in Pennsylvania to North Dakota – and now the Obama administration is being sued by environmental groups to crack down on the industry. A coalition of environmental groups has now issued legal action against the USA’s  Environmental Protection Agency to demand a strong uniform standard for the transportation, storage and disposal of frack waste. Since 1998, when the modern era of fracking began in Texas, the industry has generated hundreds of billions of gallons of frack waste – packed with toxic chemicals such as benzene and naturally occurring substances underground such as radium and arsenic – and there are almost no rules governing the process, environmental groups said. “Updated rules for oil and gas wastes are almost 30 years overdue,” said Adam Kron, senior attorney at the Environmental Integrity Project.

Wind turbine near Kendal by Ben Challis

Wind turbine near Kendal by Ben Challis

The idea that renewable energy can power the UK is an “appalling delusion”, according to the final interview given by former chief scientific adviser, the late Professor Sir David MacKay. The sensible energy and climate change plan for the UK, MacKay said, was for the country to focus on nuclear power and carbon capture storage technology, which traps the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. In that scenario, the amount of wind and solar the UK needed would be almost zero, he said. However, solar could be a very important power source in other countries, he said, where sunny summers coincided with a big demand for electricity for air conditioning. Prof MacKay also said electric cars are going to be a “massive hit” but said he was “very disappointed” by the lack of progress on CCS, after the government cancelled a pioneering £1bn programme at the last minute.  The attractions of Britain for investors in renewable energy projects are at an all-time low, an authoritative new report has found. The UK routinely topped the annual league table for attractiveness to clean energy companies, run by consultancy Ernst & Young (EY), in the mid-2000s. For the first time, however, it has slid to 13th in the global rankings.

The world is hurtling towards an era when global concentrations of carbon dioxide never again dip below the 400 parts per million (ppm) milestone, as two important measuring stations sit on the point of no return. The news comes as one important atmospheric measuring station at Cape Grim in Australia is poised on the verge of 400ppm for the first time. Sitting in a region with stable CO2 concentrations, once that happens, it will never get a reading below 400ppm. More from the Guardian here.

ANOTHER PLANET?

Leonardo_DiCaprio_2014Leonardo DiCaprio received a standing ovation as he picked up his first Oscar for his performance in the Revenant, after five acting nominations and one nomination as producer of best picture nominee Wolf of Wall Street. He thanked his director and co-star Tom Hardy for his “fierce talent on screen” and “friendship off screen” before campaigning for action to combat climate change, saying making The Revenant was “about man’s relationship to the natural world”. “Climate change is real – it is happening right now,” said DiCaprio. “It is the most urgent threat facing our species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.” He asked the audience to “support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who’ll be affected by this”. He added: “Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted.”

Bryde´s_whaleConservationists are hopeful that an end to commercial whaling in Iceland has moved one step closer following media reports that no fin whales will be hunted there this summer. Kristjan Loftsson, the director of Iceland’s largest whaling company, told daily newspaper Morgunbladid on Wednesday that Hvalur HF would not be sending out vessels to slaughter the endangered whales this season because of difficulties exporting the meat to the Japanese market.

This winter will be the warmest ever for England since records began in 1659. The central England temperature figure has seen an average temperature of 7C – beating the previous high of 6.8C in 1868-69. It will also be the second wettest winter on record according to preliminary figures from the Met Office – and the wettest ever in Wales and Scotland.

Australia’s big four banks are continuing to finance fossil fuel projects despite embracing a 2C or better global warming target, according to figures from financial activists Market Forces. The Guardian says the Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and National Australia Bank signed off on loans totalling $5.5bn to coal, oil, gas and liquefied natural gas projects in 2015, a figure that is higher than three of the preceding eight years. Among the deals were eight loans for coal projects signed in Australia in 2015, with a total value of $4bn, including for struggling Whitehaven Coal, operator of the controversial Maules Creek mine. All of the projects had some financing from the big four banks, with their contributions totalling $995m.

PLEASE HELP US

PLEASE HELP US

Some of the world’s largest consumer companies are clueless as to whether palm oil they buy from Indonesia is linked to rainforest destruction, new analysis from Greenpeace shows. The environmental group surveyed 14 companies including multinationals such as PepsiCo, Mars and Unilever, and found that none could confidently claim that no Indonesian rainforest was destroyed in the making of their products. According to the report, titled Cutting Deforestation Out Of The Palm Oil Supply Chain, most companies could not say how much came from suppliers that comply with their own environmental standards. And only one company, Ferrero, could trace nearly 100% of its palm oil back to the land where it was grown.

The Guardian reports that the Nevada regulator imposed costly new rules for residential solar customers. The decision to replace economic incentives with new higher fees pulled the carpet out from under an industry that provided 8,700 jobs in the state last year, according to the Solar Foundation, and stranded some 17,000 homeowners who have already gone solar with a financial liability on their rooftops. Three companies, including SolarCity, announced they were quitting the state, laying off about 1,000 workers.

The bank set up by the government to to fund green infrastructure and cited frequently by David Cameron as evidence of the UK’s leadership on climate change will no longer be required by law to invest in green schemes, under moves put forward by ministers. Campaigners said that changes proposed on Tuesday by small business minister Anna Soubry effectively delete the clause enshrined in legislation that gives the green investment bank its green purpose. But ministers insist the bank’s green mission will still be protected through a ‘special share’. The £3.8bn bank was established in 2012 to “accelerate the UK’s transition to a greener, stronger economy” by investing in renewable energy and other “green” schemes.

The European commission plans to give a new 15-year lease to a controversial weedkiller that was deemed “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). A draft implementing law seen by the Guardian says the commission has decided it is appropriate to renew the licence for glyphosate after a lengthy review, which sparked a scientific storm. Glyphosate is a key ingredient in bestselling herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup brand and is so widely used that traces of its residues are routinely found in British breads. More on the Guardian here.

The third global coral bleaching event to be recorded is snaking its way around a warming globe, devastating reefs and now threatening the world-heritage listed Great Barrier Reef. It  was announced the bleaching event, which began in 2014, is already the longest in history and could extend well into 2017. “We may be looking at a two- to two-and-a-half-year-long event. Some areas have already seen bleaching two years in a row,” says Mark Eakin, coordinator of the Coral Reef Watch program at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Corals around Hawaii have been hit twice by the event already, with Fiji last week smacked by a gust of warm water that devastated coral and killed tonnes of fish, just before Cyclone Winston tore through the island nation. Fiji had already been hit by the same extended bleaching event last year.

air pollutionAir pollution both inside and outside the home causes at least 40,000 deaths a year in the UK, according to new report, which estimates the cost of the damage at £20bn. The major health impact of outdoor air pollution is relatively well known but the report, from the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, also highlights the less understood impact of indoor pollution, as well as the growing evidence of harm to children’s health and intelligence. Indoor air pollution is estimated to have caused or contributed to 99,000 deaths across Europe in 2012, the report states. The UK government must take steps to tackle air pollution within days or face further legal action, it has been warned. The Sureme Court had already said the Givernment needed to take action and the UK is now in breach of EU air pollution rules. Environmental law firm ClientEarth has sent a final warning letter to environment secretary, Liz Truss, giving her 10 days to act or face action in the High Court. As many as 40,000 people die each year in the UK from air pollution. And in Germany, new research has shown that increasing air pollution has had a detrimental effect on Bundesliga football. Researchers at the IZA Economics Institute in Bonn will persent research later this month showing air pollution has a significant effect on professional footballer’s performance. Their research covers the 1999-2011 seasons in Gemany’s top league. The European Environment Agency puts the cost of air pollution in Europe at E200 billlion.

And climate change could kill more than 500,000 people a year globally by 2050 by making their diets less healthy, according to new research published in the Lancet. The research is the first to assess how the impacts of global warming could affect the quality of the diets available to people and found fewer fruit and vegetables would be available as a result of climatic changes. These are vital in curbing heart disease, strokes and diet-related cancers, leading the study to conclude that the health risks of climate change are far greater than thought. Climate change is already judged by doctors as the greatest threat to health in the 21st century, due to floods, droughts and increased infectious diseases, with the potential to roll back 50 years of progress.

african-elephant2More African elephants are being killed for ivory than are being born, despite poaching levels falling for the fourth year in a row in 2015. The new data, released on UN world wildlife day on Thursday, shows about 60% of elephant deaths are at the hands of poachers, meaning the overall population is most likely to be falling. “African elephant populations continue to face an immediate threat to their survival, especially in central and west Africa where high levels of poaching are still evident,” said John Scanlon, secretary-general of the Convention on the Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which collects the data. At least 20,000 elephants were killed for ivory in 2015. But Scanlon said there were some encouraging signs, including in parts of eastern Africa, such as in Kenya, where the poaching trend has declined.

Environmentalists in Florida are celebrating the failure of an oil industry-backed bill they say would have opened a pathway to fracking in the ecologically sensitive Everglades wetlands. State lawmakers unexpectedly dropped the measure in a hearing in Tallahassee on Tuesday, just as they were about to begin debate on the controversial, high-pressure drilling practice, bowing instead to a groundswell of public opinion.

ceElectricity use is one of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions globally and in the UK, and now Julie’s Bicycle are hosting a new WEBINAR – Getting to Grips with Clean Energy to update the creative industries on green energy : Care should be taken when choosing a green electricity tariff here in the UK, as some suppliers make unverified claims about where their electricity comes from and the environmental benefits. If you are feeling tested by tariffs, Julie’s Bicycle is on hand to help you navigate and make sense of your energy options. JB will be discussing clean energy sourcing with Good Energy, the UK’s first dedicated 100% renewable electricity supplier, and ensuring you are getting a genuinely clean and green tariff.  JB will be covering related topics like joint procurement, funding and investing, community energy and roof leasing, with a healthy dose of intelligence and case studies from the sector and beyond. Book your free spot by clicking the booking link here.

sscJulies Bicycle also let us know that applications are now open for the first International Summer Course on Sustainable Cultural Management, in partnership with mitos21 and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.   This takes place between the 6th – 10th June 2016 in Thessaloniki, Greece. Sustainable Cultural Management will share knowledge and experience from cultural organisations and practitioners across Europe and North America who are pioneering “green” practice. Participants will develop new knowledge, skills and perspectives. You will come away with an understanding of sustainability from creative, governance and operational perspectives, and the tools and resources to put your learning into action. The course will cover everything from managing buildings, to creating and touring productions, creating sustainable partnerships and meaningful collaborations, and engaging audiences. There is a deadline: 15th March 2016. So Apply NOW! More information here

warwickAnd finally from JB – Doing Nothing Is Not An Option is a major Tipping Point event in partnership with Warwick Arts Centre who along with Julies Bicycle will ve exploring the role of the performing arts in leading change and shaping new stories about the present and the future.  Over three days #DNNO2016 will being together 200 participants to work, play and eat together. Writers, directors, producers and others, together with climate specialists of all types – will come together to shape new ideas and develop a platform for new creative responses. We’ll also enjoy a public festival of climate related performance work. Delegates will share knowledge, experience and understanding of climate change and will leave feeling affirmed, informed and energised; their horizons broadened, their imaginations enriched and their practice developed. #DNNO2016 will also launch a round of commissions in partnership with producing organisations from across the country.  17th June 2016 (10.00 – 17.00) Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick. More information here.

Shock new figures will reveal the deadly cost of global air pollution

china air pollutionAir pollution in cities has reached toxic levels and could cost governments ‘enormous’ amounts, according to the World Health Organisation.

The warning comes ahead of a new report detailing the amount of deaths caused by poor air quality to be released next month that will show air pollution has worsened since 2014 in hundreds of already blighted urban areas, the WHO says there is now a global “public health emergency” that will have untold financial implications for governments.

The latest data, taken from 2,000 cities, will show further deterioration in many places as populations have grown, leaving large areas under clouds of smog created by a mix of transport fumes, construction dust, toxic gases from power generation and wood burning in homes.

Dr Maria Neira, the WHO’s head of public health, said the world is confronting one of the “biggest public health issues” it has faced. Dr Neira said  “We have a public health emergency in many countries from pollution. It’s dramatic, one of the biggest problems we are facing globally, with horrible future costs to society” adding “Air pollution leads to chronic diseases which require hospital space. Before, we knew that pollution was responsible for diseases like pneumonia and asthma. Now we know that it leads to bloodstream, heart and cardiovascular diseases, too – even dementia. We are storing up problems. These are chronic diseases that require hospital beds. The cost will be enormous,” said Neira.

more on ITV.COM HERE

ANOTHER PLANET?

parigi-570x350The United Nations (UN) has released a streamlined version of the negotiating text that will be used at the COP21 Paris Climate Conference in December. The new document, drawn up by two co-chairs for the talks – Algerian diplomat Ahmed Djoghlaf and US counterpart Dan Reifsnyder – has been cut down from 89 to 20 pages, in a bid to provide a more succinct starting point for final round of pre-Summit talks in Bonn, Germany, later this month. The text clarifies which elements of the Paris climate talks would be legally binding agreements and which elements will be given a more flexible approach with decisions that can evolve over time. Legally-binding elements include long-term global goals for halting and reducing global GHG emissions to a near-zero phase, which will be implemented by countries submitting carbon reduction plans every five years intensifying their efforts in the process. Crucially, the draft has removed any mention of the shipping and aviation sectors, despite ample warnings that emissions in these sectors could skyrocket by up to 250% by 2050 without tangible targets from governments. The draft also mentions climate finance, offering up the potential for any country to increase their pledge to provide $100bn a year after 2020. However, the emerging ideology of a carbon market has been largely ignored.

Virgin_atlanticEdie.net reports that twenty-eight chief executives and aviation association leaders have penned an open letter to global governments urging them to commit to a joint approach to help deliver emissions reductions across the sector. The letter, coordinated by the cross-industry Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), has been signed by executives of companies representing over 90% of the world’s air traffic with a combined revenue of nearly a trillion dollars. It calls on governments to work with aviation companies to introduce a meaningful market-based measure – which considers ‘fair and equitable solutions’ for all countries under a range of circumstances – to reduce aviation emissions.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron effectively ignored energy and climate change at the Conservative Party Conference, despite the crucial Paris climate talks being just a few weeks away. Giving his closing speech at the Conference in Manchester , Cameron reiterated that tackling climate change is “at the centre of the Conservative Party’s mission” – his only ‘green’ mention. Instead, affordable homes, social mobility and an outspoken attack on Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn took up the majority of Cameron’s hour-long speech. Chancellor George Osborne has confirmed plans to establish a new independent body to fast-track the building of new energy and transport infrastructure across the UK. The new National Infrastructure Commission will be led by Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis, Osborne said at the  Conference.

windturbines_300Onshore windpower is now the cheapest form of energy in Britain – but the Government continues to resist onshore turbines. New figures show they not only produce cheaper energy than coal, oil or gas power stations, but also remain far cheaper than offshore turbines. Onshore wind farms currently produce about 60 per cent of the UK’s wind power output. Although they are set to remain the predominant form of renewable energy in the next few years despite opposition in Westminster – which has stopped subsidies and given the final say on whether a project should go ahead to local residents – supporters of green energy say the country is missing a chance to maximise their potential. The cost of onshore wind power has fallen from $108 (£70.20) per megawatt hour (mWh) a year ago to $85 today, as they become more efficient and cheaper to build. Over the same period, coal-fired power stations have seen their costs rocket from nearly $98 mWh to $115 and gas from $100 to $114, after the EU agreed new rules that will greatly increase the amount they must pay for their carbon emissions. Offshore wind costs $175 mWh, according to the research, by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. More on the Independent here. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has given her full backing for the cutting of subsidies for onshore wind and solar, insisting that “renewable energy can stand on its own two feet”. speaking at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester Rudd said: “As we have already shown, we will be tough on subsidies. There is no magic money tree” adding “We said in our manifesto that we would halt the spread of subsidised onshore wind farms, and that’s exactly what we have done – this would have been impossible in the coalition” and “I support cutting subsidies – not because I am an anti-green Conservative, but because I am a proud green Conservative on the side of the consumer. We must be tough on subsidies. Only then can we deliver the change we need.” Ecotricity boss Dale Vince has accused the government of rigging the electricity market, by showering fossil fuels and nuclear power with huge subsidies, while taxing renewables and insisting they must ‘stand on their own two feet’. One of the pioneers of the United Kingdom’s renewable energy industry says the British government is distorting the market in an attempt to support fossil fuels and nuclear power. As news broke that two major UK solar companies, Climate Eneregy who installed solar panels, insulation and energy efficient boilers, and solar panel installer Mark Group, had gone out of business with over 1,000 jobs lost, the government subsequently confirmed it would delay the deadline for ending the wind subsidy. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) has denied that subsidy cuts were responsible for the collapse of two solar panel installers in as many days, blaming the company failures on “commercial decisions”.   http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2985752/uk_rigging_power_market_against_clean_energy.html

Wind energy drove £1.25bn of investment into Britain’s economy last year, with the industry now employing 30,500 people, according to a new report from RenewableUK. The ‘Wind Energy in the UK’ report reveals that wind power has grown to generate 10% of the UK’s electricity needs, as more than 2GW of capacity was installed in 2014/15 – a growth of 18%, bringing total UK capacity to over 13GW. The study breaks down the expenditure in the industry, with £840m spent on offshore technology and a further £402m spent on onshore. Together, the two sectors provide 15,500 direct and 15,078 indirect jobs.
Africa could generate 50% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 if they were to follow guidelines laid out in a new report from the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA). The Africa 2030 report is part of IRENA’s global REmap 2030, which outlines methods to double the share of renewables in the world’s energy mix by 2030. More here.

The BBC has apologised for airing a half-hour radio show earlier this year in which a series of high-profile climate sceptics lined up to disparage the science behind global warming. What’s the point of the Met Office, aired in August, did not make clear sceptics are a “minority voice, out of step with scientific consensus,” the corporation said in an email to climate scientist Andy Smedley. “This was an unfortunate lapse for which we apologise and we would like to assure you we remain committed to covering all aspects of the subject in the most accurate and responsible way possible.” Presented by Daily Mail columnist Quentin Letts, the show featured Peter Lilley MP, Graham Stringer MP, forecaster Piers Corbyn and Andy Silvester from the TaxPayers’ Alliance. All had previously questioned the veracity of climate science. They took the opportunity to mock the Met Office over its weather forecasting and climate modelling work.

The Mayor of Krakow has told the Guardian he will introduce a ban on coal use in households, offices, government buildings and restaurants after an amended Environmental Protection Act was signed by the country’s president, Andrzej Duda. Poland’s second largest city is as famed for the filthy smog that cakes its buildings and streets, as for its beautiful historic buildings. The European Environmental Agency has ranked it the third most polluted city in Europe and its particulate matter (PM) pollution can reach six times the safe levels.

Wildlife is abundant around the site of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, despite the presence of radiation released by the world’s most catastrophic nuclear explosion nearly three decades ago, researchers have found. The number of elk, deer and wild boar within the Belarusian half of the Chernobyl exclusion zone today are around the same as those in four nearby uncontaminated nature reserves. Wolves, which are commonly hunted in the region because of their impact on livestock, were seven times as abundant with the zone, according to a new study.

Scotland’s renewable energy sector displaced 12.3 million tonnes of carbon emissions last year – a 120% increase since 2010, new data has revealed.
The figures were published in response to a recent Parliamentary Question tabled by Callum McCaig and answered by UK Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom. They confirm that renewable energy projects – including wind, hydro and solar schemes – prevented the release of more than a million tonnes of CO2 per month in 2014. Twenty six million tonnes of carbon was displaced by the renewables industry in England, along with 2.2 million tonnes in Wales. More on edie.net here.

Last week, Poland became the fourteenth country in Europe to ban GMOs. One week later, the list of countries against genetically engineered crops has grown, with an estimated 17 EU nations in favor of boycotting GM maize and Monsanto altogether. Rebecca Evans, the Welsh Deputy Minister for Farming and Food, announced that the country of Wales will take advantage of new EU rules allowing countries to opt out of growing Eu-authorized GM crops. She says that the nation plans to ban GM corn as well as 7 other GM crops authorized by the EU. In a press release shared by Greenpeace, it is relayed that at least 17 EU countries and four regions (in two other countries) are in the process of banning the cultivation of GM crops on their territories. The cut-off for nations to join the opt-out was October 3 of this year. By October 5, thirteen EU countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, and Poland) and four regional administrations (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the UK, and Wallonia in Belgium) had formally notified the Commission of their intention to ban GM crop cultivation. Read More HERE.

african-elephant2A Chinese woman dubbed the “ivory queen” for her alleged leadership of one of Africa’s biggest ivory smuggling rings has been captured and charged. Yang Feng Glan is accused of smuggling 706 elephant tusks worth £1.62m from Tanzania to the far east. The Elephant Action League, a US-based campaign group, described her as “the most important ivory trafficker ever arrested in the country”. The 66-year-old is said to have been a crucial link between east African poaching syndicates and buyers in China, where ivory is prized for ornamental use, for over 14 years. Tanzania’s national and transnational serious crimes investigation unit had been tracking Glan for more than a year, according to the Elephant Action League.

The development of modular water sanitation infrastructure; an iron-deficiency educational programme and a water-saving shower have been announced as the three winning ideas from Unilever’s global innovation crowdsourcing campaign. The Unilever Foundry campaign, launched in June this year, encouraged peer-to-peer collaboration to create solutions to sustainability issues in the areas of sanitation, hygiene and nutrition. One hundred and fifty ideas were submitted across the three categories. “The Unilever Foundry ideas platform enables the general public to share ideas and develop solutions which help to make sustainable living commonplace,” explained Unilever’s senior vice president of sustainable business development and communications Sue Garrard. “Good ideas can come from anywhere, and we’ve been overwhelmed by the initial response to the three launch challenges. In addition to recognising and celebrating these ideas, we’re now looking at how we can support these innovators to bring these ideas to life.” The winner of Improving Access to Sanitation category was Saurabh Saraf’s, whose ‘Waterhubs’ idea involves the development of a modular water and sanitation infrastructure that will provide resource recovery, water treatment and shower and laundry services for urban slums. in the Imaging the Shower of the Future category, Yehuda Goldfisher’s winning idea involved a shower solution which incorporates two buttons: the first button wets the body before soaping, while the second button introduces a longer burst of water to wash the soap off while restricting water consumption.
Work on building the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon has been delayed to spring 2017 because the government is taking “longer than expected” to finalise a contract for difference (CfD), Tidal Lagoon Power has said. A spokesperson for the firm said it would be ready to build once the remaining permissions have been secured and financial close with investors is achieved.

great barrierThe Guardian reports that cientists have confirmed the third-ever global bleaching of coral reefs is under way and warned it could see the biggest coral die-off in history. Since 2014, a massive underwater heatwave, driven by climate change, has caused corals to lose their brilliance and die in every ocean. By the end of this year 38% of the world’s reefs will have been affected. About 5% will have died forever. But with a very strong El Niño driving record global temperatures and a huge patch of hot water, known as “the Blob”, hanging obstinately in the north-western Pacific, things look far worse again for 2016. For coral scientists such as Dr Mark Eakin, the coordinator of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coral Reef Watch programme, this is the cataclysm that has been feared since the first global bleaching occurred in 1998.

babyorangFires raging across the forests and peatlands of Indonesia are on track to pump out more carbon emissions than the UK’s entire annual output, Greenpeace has warned. As well as fuelling global warming, the thick smoke choking cities in the region is likely to cause the premature deaths of more than 100,000 people in the region and is also destroying vital habitats for endangered orangutans and clouded leopards with the drifting smoke also provoking protests from neighbouring Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. The fires are mostly started deliberately and illegally to clear forest for paper and palm oil production, benefitting from recent droughts.

ANOTHER PLANET?

earth overshoot dayWe’ve Consumed More Than the Earth Can Produce This Year: Its 2015 and Thursday, August 13, is Earth Overshoot Day, when resource use is expected to outstrip the capacity for production—and it’s getting earlier every year.

A “Godzilla” El Niño may be on the way – with one of the strongest since record-keeping began in 1950. Above-normal, or very warm, temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are warmer than they were in August of 1997, when the strongest El Niño on record occurred. This is an indication that we could be rivalling the 1997-1998 record El Niño event that caused devastating flooding and mudslides across California. California is in the midst of a severe four-year record weather drought, with little relief in sight, but things may be changing in the coming months.  “This definitely has the potential of being the Godzilla El Niño,” Bill Patzert of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada Flintridge, California, said.

Scottish ministers are planning to formally ban genetically modified crops from being grown in Scotland, widening a policy divide with the Conservative government in London. Ministers in Edinburgh are to apply to use recent EU powers that allow devolved administrations to opt out of a more relaxed regime, which is expected to increase commercial use of GM crops around the EU. The move will reinforce a long-standing moratorium on planting GM crops in Scotland and allow the Scottish National party to further distance itself from the UK government.

Amber Rudd MP

Amber Rudd MP

So much for empowering local communities. Fine – as long as they don’t make decisions the UK government doesn’t want. I for one dnt want polluted water tables,the risk of earthquakes and massive environmental damage: Many many agree.  BT Shale gas (fracking) planning applications are to be fast-tracked under new government measures to crack down on councils that delay on making a decision. Councils will be told they must rule on applications within the current 16-week statutory timeframe. If they repeatedly delay, ministers might take over the power to decide all future applications in that local area.  The applications to frack in Lancashire by energy company Cuadrilla was massively opposed by local people. The proposal,  to drill and frack eight wells, were first submitted in May 2014, but Lancashire county council’s development control committee repeatedly delayed to consider more evidence. The committee finally rejected the bids in June, on the grounds of unacceptable visual impact and noise. Environmentalists say it makes a mockery of the government’s promise to give power to local people. The government says it will take local views into account, but that developing shale gas is a national priority that must not be held up. Energy Secretary Amber Rudd said: “We need more secure, home grown energy supplies – and shale gas must play a part in that” and “We can’t have a planning system that sees applications dragged out for months, or even years. We need a system that delivers timely planning decisions and works effectively for local people and developers.” More on the BBC here and the Guardian here.

Are you pro-fracking? Have a look at this article: “Shirley “Sug” McNall is leaning up against a fence staring at a natural gas well about 40 meters from a playground behind the primary school where her daughter used to teach in Aztec, New Mexico. She believes that the gas industry and the explosion of fracking in her state is responsible for serious impacts on local air quality which are affecting people’s health. Her fears were boosted last year when Nasa satellites identified a methane bubble over Aztec visible from space. The bubble suggests that during drilling and production the natural gas industry is not capturing all of the gas they unlock from deep in the ground and significant amounts of this methane and other chemicals are leaking into the sky. McNall believes that other more dangerous gasses are being released too.”  MORE HERE.

Namibian lionIn South Africa, the practice of ‘canned hunting’ has come to light after the recent killing of Cecil the Lion in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Some 1,000 lions are killed each year by mainly American recreational big-game hunter – but these are not wild lions – these are lions which have been raised on ‘farms’ – bred to be slaughtered. It seems that American tourists leaf through brochures to pick the lion they wish to ‘hunt’;. some 7.000 lions are kept in often very confined captivity (more than three times the number who live wild) – with an average price for a kill being £20,000 andf the industry is worth about £14 million each year to the South African economy. Most kills are stuffed and mounted although recently a number of airlines said they would no longer ship the kills home to the USA. Wild lions are protected by law.

food wasteThe UK is the worst-performing country in Europe when it comes to food waste, throwing away almost 6kg of food per household every week.
A new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that Europe as a whole wastes 22m tonnes of food a year. But the UK was the worst offender, wasting the equivalent in weight of one can of beans per person, every single day. Romania was the most efficient country, but still threw out the equivalent of an apple per person per day. The study found that 16% of all food that reached consumers was thrown away, with the vast majority of this waste being avoidable.

Close to 1,000 health professionals from around the world have thrown their weight behind an open letter asking the multi-billion pound health charity, the Wellcome Trust, to move its money out of fossil fuels on ethical grounds. The letter invokes one of the foremost principles of medical ethics, asking the Trust to “do no harm” because of the current and future impacts of climate change on global public health. The 946 signatories to the letter span the health profession and include nurses, academics, therapists, doctors, students, retired practitioners and dentists. While hundreds come from the UK, the US and Australia, many other countries such as Mexico, Colombia and Malaysia are also represented. Some of the largest US Catholic organisations have millions of dollars invested in energy companies, from hydraulic fracturing firms to oil sands producers, according to their own disclosures, through many portfolios intended to fund church operations and pay clergy salaries. This discrepancy between the church’s leadership and its financial activities in the US has prompted at least one significant review of investments. The Archdiocese of Chicago, America’s third largest by Catholic population, told Reuters it will re-examine its more than $100m (£64m) worth of fossil fuel investments.

Major “shocks” to global food production will be three times more likely within 25 years because of an increase in extreme weather brought about by global warming, warns a new report. The likelihood of such a shock, where production of the world’s four major commodity crops – maize, soybean, wheat and rice – falls by 5-7%, is currently once-in-a-century. But such an event will occur every 30 years or more by 2040, according to the study by the UK-US Taskforce on Extreme Weather and Global Food System Resilience. Such a shortfall in production could leave people in developing countries in “an almost untenable position”, with the US and the UK “very much exposed” to the resulting instability and conflict, said co-author Rob Bailey, research director for energy, environment and resources at Chatham House. More on edie.net here.

china air pollutionAir pollution kills an average of 4,000 people every day in China, according to a new study by researchers at Berkeley Earth. The California-based climate-science group found air pollution resulted in up to 17% of all China’s deaths, with 38% of the country’s population of 1.3bn breathing air that would be considered ‘unhealthy’ by US standards. The results of Berkeley Earth’s report estimated around 1.6 million Chinese are killed each year as a result of air pollution, particularly from PM2.5 particulate matter which damages lungs, causes heart attacks, cancer and asthma. The researchers argue most of the air pollution comes from China’s coal consumption and say switching from dirty coal to nuclear power, natural gas and renewable energy could bring down emissions.

Leaked documents show the UK is pushing for watered-down EU air pollution laws to be weakened further, arguing they would cause pit closures leading to substantial job losses and the need to import coal. The EU rules could help curb toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions, although campaigners criticised them following revelations that they were partly drafted by the same companies they were meant to regulate. But a confidential government submission to Brussels, seen by the Guardian, says that the UK would have to import coal from Russia, Colombia and South Africa to meet the new standards, because British coal has such a high sulphur content.

One of the UK’s largest banks, Standard Chartered, has announced it is pulling out of a major coal mining project in Australia. The announcement follows an extended campaign by environmental groups. Standard Chartered is the second financial institutional to walk away from the proposed Carmichael coal mine in Queensland in the last few days. Last week the Commonwealth Bank of Australia also announced it was abandoning the venture after the federal court of Australia overturned the government approval for the mine.

Shell_oil_croppedShell is set to restart its controversial hunt for Arctic oil, three years after the company’s last ill-fated venture north. The Polar Pioneer rig began drilling on 30 July, but US safety standards have prevented the company from sinking a well deep enough to hit oil until a key safety vessel, an icebreaker called the Fennica, was in the Chukchi Sea. Shell said that the vessel was now in the area and it had informed the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement that it was ready to go for oil. A spokeswoman for the company said: “Fennica is in the Chukchi Sea, drilling continues, and we have requested the permit to drill deeper in this exploration well.”  More here.

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has called for the EU to drop import tariffs on Chinese solar modules, claiming the cheaper equipment could help the industry overcome subsidy cuts. Since December 2013, Chinese imports to Europe have been subject to anti-dumping tariffs, which enforce a minimum price of €0.56 per watt and annual import quota of 7GW. The rules are intended to protect European manufacturers who cannot produce important equipment at the same price as Chinese firms – who are supported by substantial Government subsidies. However the REA says the tariffs, known minimum import pricing (MIP), have prevented module costs from coming down in the UK over the past few years.

decc-figuresRenewable electricity generation outpaced natural gas this month to become the second largest source of electricity worldwide, according to the International Energy Agency. Globally, coal remained king with 9,613TWh of electricity produced, around 41% of global electricity production compared to 5,130TWh (22%) from renewable energy sources. In OECD economic zone countries, electricity production fell slightly by 0.8% from 2013-14, with massive decreases in coal electricity production offset by increases in non-hydro renewable energy production from wind and solar power. The report also found in OECD countries that solar power had overtaken solid biofuels, used in biomass plants, to become the second largest non-hydro renewable source after wind power.

A new contender for Britain’s greenest home has been unveiled in North Yorkshire. The four-bed house, known as Furrows, will have a unique renewable energy system, allowing it to generate more than 13,000 kWh of electricity and heat a year. Around 5,000 kWh will be used by Furrow’s homeowners with the remaining 8,000 kWh exported to the grid – enough electricity to run two further houses. Furrows features a combination of 64 solar PV and solar thermal panels, with all spare energy diverted to an on-site storage system for evening use outside of sunlight hours. More here.

German energy company E.ON has started constructing the world’s first modular large-scale battery in the German town of Aachen. The modular aspect of the design means that various battery technologies can be ‘plugged in’ to the system – a world-first for a battery of this size. The system, known as M5BAT, will be housed in a former office building that is being converted specially for the installation. In total, the batteries and other components of the storage system will stretch over two floors and the roof, covering around 500 m² of floor space. M5BAT is backed by a €6.7 million grant from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy as part of its “Energy Storage Funding Initiative”.
Football_iu_1996This year for the first time, fans across the entire football league are being encouraged to cut emissions by car-sharing their way to away games, while Premier League giants Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal have all embraced ambitious sustainability strategies. As the football seasons kicks off, the greenest football club in the UK doesn’t feature in the Premier League. In fact, it plays in a division four tiers below the top flight. Forest Green Rovers have taken up the cause their name proclaims, aiming to become the most sustainable football club in Britain and “probably the world”. Chaired by Dale Vince, CEO of green energy company Ecotricity, who told reporters “The pitch is organic, we recycle all the water that lands on the pitch and reuse it, we’ve got solar panels on the roof of the stand, electric pumps to charge electric cars and we have a fully vegan from the start of this season.”  The club says it is aiming to irrigate the pitch using only collected rain water and runoff to make it independent from the mains. It has also received national and international coverage of its sustainability work, including for its meat free, fully Vegan menu – another first for UK football clubs.  The club is planning further sustainability developments with Ecotricity releasing concept designs last month for a new Eco Park, a 100-acre sports complex and green technology centre near Stroud.  In the top flight,  Chelsea have strong Green credentials. The club became the first football team to join the Green 500 Campaign, with pledges to reduce carbon emissions by 10%. Chelsea has also installed energy efficient lighting systems and recycles 100% of its waste, much of which is used for renewable energy generation.  Arsenal’s move to the Emirates Stadium saw a raft of new sustainability measures implemented which makes the ground one of the greenest in the country. As well as watching its spending following the multi-million pound move, the club has introduced a number of green initiatives, such as the use of voltage optimisation equipment and LED lights which have reduced power use by up to 20%. The stadium’s recycling policy sees waste minimisation across the club as well as the recycling of plastic and glass for fans on match days. The club says it recycles an average of 10 tonnes of cardboard and plastic and month as well as diverting 1.5 tonnes of glass per match from landfill. More here.

I am not