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COP21_participants_-_30_Nov_2015_(23430273715)World leaders from 175 countries signed the historic Paris climate accord Friday, using Earth Day as a backdrop for the ceremonial inking of a long-fought deal that aims to slow the rise of harmful greenhouse gases. “We are in a race against time.” U.N. secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the gathering at the United Nations headquarters in New York. “The era of consumption without consequences is over.” “The poor and most vulnerable must not suffer further from a problem they did not create,” Ban added. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry signed the document while holding his young granddaughter. She was one of 197 children at the event to represent the parties that adopted the agreement, Ban said.

OilThe oil industry’s knowledge of dangerous climate change stretches back to the 1960s, with newly unearthed documents showing that it was warned of “serious worldwide environmental changes” more than 45 years ago. The Stanford Research Institute presented a report to the American Petroleum Institute (API) in 1968 that warned the release of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels could carry an array of harmful consequences for the planet. The emergence of this stark advice follows a series of revelations that the fossil fuel industry was aware of climate change for decades, only to publicly deny its scientific basis. “Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000 and these could bring about climatic change,” the 1968 Stanford report, found and republished by the Center for International Environmental Law, states. “If the Earth’s temperature increases significantly, a number of events might be expected to occur including the melting of the Antarctic ice cap, a rise in sea levels, warming of the oceans and an increase in photosynthesis. http://www.ciel.org/

The Guardian reports that  The EU abandoned or weakened key proposals for new environmental protections after receiving a letter from a top BP executive which warned of an exodus of the oil industry from Europe if the proposals went ahead. In the 10-page letter, the company predicted in 2013 that a mass industry flight would result if laws to regulate tar sands, cut power plant pollution and accelerate the uptake of renewable energy were passed, because of the extra costs and red tape they allegedly entailed. The measures “threaten to drive energy-intensive industries, such as refining and petrochemicals, to relocate outside the EU with a correspondingly detrimental impact on security of supply, jobs [and] growth,” said the letter, which was obtained by the Guardian under access to documents laws.

The sun provided British homes and businesses with more power than coal-fired power stations for 24 hours two weekends ago. While solar power has previously beaten coal for electricity generation over a few hours in the UK, that Saturday was the first time this happened for a full day. Analysts said the symbolic milestone showed how dramatic coal’s decline had been due to carbon taxes, as solar had “exploded” across the UK in recent years. National Grid data gathered by climate analysts Carbon Brief showed that 29 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power was generated on Saturday by solar, or 4% of national demand that day, versus 21GWh from coal-fired power stations. MORE HERE.

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately owned coal producer, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US following a collapse in commodity prices. The move was blamed by financial analysts partly on a mistimed and debt-fuelled expansion into Australia, but others saw it as a sign that the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel was threatened by tightening environmental regulation.

gbrFor the first time, Australians can see on a map how rising sea levels will affect their house just by typing their address into a website. And they’ll soon be able to get an estimate of how much climate change will affect their property prices and insurance premiums, too. the website Coastal Risk Australia takes Google Maps and combines it with detailed tide and elevation data, as well as future sea level rise projections, allowing users to see whether their house or suburb will be inundated. Coinciding with that is the launch of a beta version of Climate Valuation, a website that gives users an estimate of how much climate change will impact their property value and insurance premiums over the life of their mortgage. http://coastalrisk.com.au/.

The UK government has been accused of including a large loophole in its legal definition of fracking which could enable companies to bypass safety regulations, according to a leading geologist. In rules that came into force on 6 April, fracking is defined by the amount of high-pressure fluid used to fracture shale rocks and release gas or oil. However, the only well fracked in the UK so far, which caused small earthquakes near Blackpool in 2011, would not qualify as fracking under the definition.Furthermore, according to Prof Stuart Haszeldine at the University of Edinburgh, analysis of more than 17,000 gas wells fracked in the US from 2000-10 shows 43% would not be defined as fracking under UK rules. More than 4,500 US wells were fracked to release oil in that time but 89% would not be covered by the UK definition. The safety regulations in the new rules, such as independent inspection of the integrity of the well and sealing it after use, only apply if the drilling activity is defined as fracking.

Scotts Miracle-Gro, a major global pesticide company, just announced it will end the use of 3 dangerous bee-killing chemicals by 2017, while phasing out neonics in eight of its garden products by 2021. It is the first major pesticide company to do this, and proof that our years of dedicated campaigning is paying off.  OneMiracle-Gro’s biggest competitors, Bayer, has not been so responsive. With its annual shareholder meeting weeks away, campaigners are going to take their message right to Bayer in Germany to make sure it follows suit and protects the bees. You can donate to SumofUs’s campaign here.

RoundUpThe European Commission is planning to relicense a controversial weedkiller that the World Health Organisation believes probably causes cancer in people, despite opposition from several countries and the European Parliament. In 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer – WHO’s cancer agency – said that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the herbicide made by agriculture company Monsanto and used widely with GM crops around the world, was classified as probably carcinogenic to humans. It also said there was “limited evidence” that glyphosate was carcinogenic in humans for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. At the time Monsanto said it could not understand the decision and that the scientific data did not support the conclusion.

Waitrose has come under fire for continuing to use a weedkiller on farmland despite banning it from its stores. The grocer delighted anti-pesticide campaigners last month after deciding to remove glyphosate-based weedkillers, including Roundup, from its shelves. At the time, Waitrose told customers the decision was part of its ‘commitment to protecting the bee population’.  However The Times  revealed that the supermarket is continuing to use glyphosate to kill weeds on its retail estate and at Leckford, its showcase farm in Hampshire.

Betty, a mature ash tree in Norfolk, is offering hope that ash dieback disease will not be as destructive as first feared after scientists identified her “strong tolerance” to the disease. Researchers from a government-backed consortium of universities and research centres have developed three genetic markers to enable them to predict whether a tree is likely to be tolerant to the disease, raising the possibility of using selective breeding to develop strains of disease-resistant trees.

tigerThe number of tigers in the wild has risen for the first time in more than a century, with some 3,890 counted in the latest global census, according to wildlife conservation groups. The tally marks a turnaround from the last worldwide estimate in 2010, when the number of tigers in the wild hit an all-time low of about 3,200, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum.

Leaving the EU would threaten the UK’s air and water quality, biodiversity and the countryside, a committee of MPs has warned. The UK has benefited from an EU-wide environmental cleanup in the past four decades, and giving up membership would lead to a damaging policy vacuum and an end to influence over green regulations, the commons environmental audit select committee has said in a report. Britain was once “the dirty man of Europe”, pouring out toxic pollutants that caused acid rain, industrial pollution, poor air quality, contaminated land and sewage-filled beaches. After taking on EU membership, successive governments had to mend their ways in line with rules on the environment developed over decades.

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National trust logoI may have to re-think my membership of the National Trust. Why? Well they have always been a tad patronising (that oh So English ‘we know better than the members’ approach) but boss Dame Helen Ghosh has now said that whilst she is ‘open’ to consider fracking on the Trust’s lands, but wind farms have been ruled out. The Trust owns 600,000 acres of lands and 700 miles of coastline.

With ever rising fuel prices in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron is thinking of slashing green levies on domestic fuel bills – designed to promote a new sustainable energy and technologies – for greener – and cheaper – power, promote energy efficiency in homes, the feed-in tariff and roll out smart meters.

ash die backAsh dieback is a serious disease that has killed ash trees across northern Europe. It has now been found in the UK and could devastate the landscape in the same way as Dutch Elm Disease. Ash dieback is caused by a fungus, Chalara fraxinea. It causes leaf loss, lesions on the bark and dieback of the crown of the tree. The disease is spread by spores from the fruiting bodies of the fungus on dead leaves. Infected trees usually die. But scientists are now very interested in a Somerset plantation where ash trees have survived far longer than  had been thought possible. Only 10% of the 6,000 trees at the National Trust’s Honicote Estate (dang, they do good things too!) are showing signs of the disease, despite the site having first been infected 12 years ago – although the Trust has removed infected trees to slow the spread. The National Trust’s Simon Pryor said: “It’s important that the disease has not appeared to have spread very far at all” adding “Even the trees affected have not suffered as much as we’d have expected, and very few have died, despite apparently having had the disease for nearly a decade” and “Whilst we don’t want to be too optimistic on the basis of this one outbreak, this does confirm the view we’ve held from the outset that it is worthwhile removing infected trees in order to try to slow the spread – especially in places like this so far from the main area of the disease in the South East.” The Trust have passed on their findings to Defra.

Anna Friel has suffered a bit of flack recently after filming a WWF appeal for the Virunga National Park (in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) from nearby Uganda. Friel was apparently 25 miles from Africa’s oldest national park when she made her pleas – but whatever the kerfuffle – the fact remains that this natural treasure is under serious threat from planned oil exploration. So thank you Anna.

UK Universities and other institutional investors such as churches and charities are being urged to pull out of investing in fossil fuels after the success of a similar scheme in the USA. Fossil Free aims to focus attention on the £5 billion invested in oil, gas and coal by UK Universities’ endowment funds. The US campaign led to more than 40 institutions pulling out of fossil fuel investment.  Do Britain’s energy firms serve the public interest? An Observer columnist and the director at the free-market thinktank Institute of Economic Affairs, take opposing sides in a debate on the pros and cons.  Yes. The market is dysfunctional. We need to shape dynamic capitalism for the good of society, argues Will Hutton and No, far from a return to nationalisation, more liberalisation is what is required, argues Philip Booth.

And what about selling of the newly state owned and now very successful East Coast line in the UK – everyone LIKES state ownership now – and the profit goes back to the taxpayer. But the UK government seems set on selling off the franchise. More here in Up for sale: the public rail line passengers love in the Observer here.

You may well have spotted that the Co-operative Bank will be listed on the stock market next year, to raise money after its poorly timed purchase of the indebted Britannia Building Society – and now 70% of the bank is owned by bondholders and two US hedge funds after the Co-operative Society had to relinquish control. So – will the ethical investments and a social conscience be de-prioritised? The hedge funds say no – but many don’t believe them, and it is expected they will move their accounts away to greener pastures.

Dinner parties at risk! The drought in California and the Greek heatwave have affected, amongst many other things, the almond crop and supplies of olives. The Greek temperatures reduced the Halkidiki olive crop substantially. And to add to suburbia’s woes,  a major cull of fever infected goats has also reduced goats cheese supplies, with prices jumping 50%.  The cost of cocoa butter is also on the rise. What next ….. humus rationed? Quails eggs in peril?

Black_Rhinos_KenyaThe Dallas Safari Club, a really horrible sounding US hunting consortium, hopes to raise $1 million by auctioning off the prize of a permit allowing the moron who bids the highest the ‘right’ to kill a Black Rhino in Namibia.  Only about 4,800 Black rhinos remain in the world, and according to the WWF is probably extinct in many African countries now. The $1 million would go to conserve the rhino ………

In Breton in France 1,000 protesters blocked roads with burning hay bales and heaps of cauliflowers to protest against President Hollande’s carbon taxes. A carbon tax will be levied on lorries weighing more than 3.5 tonnes and a separate “climate energy” tax will push up home energy bills by 7%. Petrol will also face additional taxes.  In the UK, with prime Minister David Cameron saying he is ready to scrap green taxes to push down domestic energy bills, Labour have also said that they would support an over haul of green taxes,with energy spokesperson Caroline Flint  saying they are expensive, bureaucratic and poorly targeted.

In the UK, ministers have said that upgrading existing rail lines to meet increased demand – and that’s  if the new  HS2 project doesn’t move ahead – will mean disruption, major delays and weekend closures on all three South to North rail lines for the next 14 years.

American_bison_Plans by a group of benevolent billionaire investors to create a massive sanctuary for bison in Montana have come under fire from ranchers who say that they do a good job protecting the environment having safeguarded and nursed the prairie back to health since the ‘dust bowl’ years of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The American Prairie Reserve are hoping to assemble 3.5 million acres of private and public land to provide a home for 10,000 pure bred bison – and have 274,000 acres already – saying that buying 500,000 acres would then glue together almost 3 million more acres into a reserve.

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After Hurricane Sandy left  millions of New Yorkers without power and with at least 64 deaths in the USA, the Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg,  came out in support of President Obama, citing man made climate change as a major concern, saying “the devastation that Hurricane Sandy brought to New York City and much of the North East – in lost lives, lost homes and lost businesses – brought the stakes of next Tuesdays presidential election into sharp relief” adding “Our climate  is changing. And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be a result of it, the risk that it may be  … should be enough to compel all elected leaders to take immediate action” saying “one candidate sees climate change as an urgent problem that threatens our planet; one does not. I want our president to place scientific  and risk management above electoral politics”. f you missed it (!) Obama indeed scraped home to a victory.

According to Swedish officials, Sweden will begin to import waste from their neighbour Norway — about 800,000 tons of it annually, to fulfil their waste to energy incinerator programme needs. Perhaps the best part of all is that, in solving their problem, Swedes actually stand to profit from this endeavour; the Norwegians are going to pay them to take their waste, proving quite succinctly that one nation’s trash can truly be another’s treasure trove.

After the revelation that ash dieback was now in the UK and threatening the UK’s 90 million ash trees, the next UK tree identified at risk is the Scots pine  which is thought to be particularly vulnerable because two major pests that attack the tree are already established in western Europe – the pine wood nematode, a worm which causes wilt anda fungus that causes the disease pitch canker.

Some of China’s senior party officials are reading a US best seller by Jeremy Rifkin which advocates a shift from fossil fuels to green energy. The Third Industrial Revolution has been recommended by Wang Yang, party secretary in the industrialised Guangdong province, not least to avoid a future reliant on importing gas from Russia and increases in the price of crude oil.

The split in the coalition government over a future based on George Osbourne’s plans for a massive increase in the extraction and use of gas to generate power, and other ministers and MP’s views that renewable energies should be prioritised,  continues to grow with new figures showing Osbourne’s plans are advancing with a real risk of the UK breaking greenhouse gas emission targets as a result. In the US there is a similar split between republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney who wants the US to be self sufficient in energy by 2012 from the aggressive exploitation of oil, gas and coal and is sceptical about green power and climate change, and Barack Obama who  wants to promote energy efficiency,  boost green and nuclear power and create green jobs.

Campaigners have woken up to new plans to relax planning rules in National Parks and areas of outstanding beauty to allow overhead power cables and new mobile phone masts. The Lake District is thought to be particularly at risk from the plans to prioritise the expansion of broadband and 4G in to stimulate growth in rural areas. See ‘Forests, phone masts, roads – how our leaders scorn the countryside” by Henry Porter in the Observer.

Shale gas from fracking should not be encouraged in the UK until there is evidence that operations can be delivered safely and robust regulatory controls are implemented, according to the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM).

The required improvement in global carbon intensity to meet a 2°C warming target, has risen to 5.1% a year, from 2012 to 2050, says PwC. PwC’s annual Low Carbon Economy Index, which covers the rate of change of global carbon intensity, says even doubling the current rate of decarbonisation will still lead to emissions consistent with 6 degrees of warming by the end of the century.  “To give ourselves a more than 50% chance of avoiding 2 degrees will require a six-fold improvement in our rate of decarbonisation”.

A landmark decision from the Environment Agency and Defra could mean that almost 800,000 tonnes of non-recyclable material from cars will now be recovered as energy every year. The British Metals Recycling Association (BMRA) has welcomed the news, which will see waste from vehicles being diverted from landfill and converted into high quality plastics and electricity. More at edie http://www.edie.net/news/news_story.asp?src=nl&id=23501  – currently 85% of end-of-life vehicles can be recovered and recycled in the UK. However, a deposit left at the end of the shredder process once all the recyclable material has been extracted, known as auto shredder residue (ASR), cannot be recycled.

Dutch designers have developed sustainable roads that illuminate during the night and recharge during the day – the signs are set to hit Europe’s highways in 2013.

The UK’s goal of reducing transport CO2 emissions received a boost after the Government made £16.5m worth of funding available for new research and development.  The Government is also offering funding of up to £10m to innovative projects that aim to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy.

British businesses could save £500m a year in fuel costs if they fitted more fuel efficient tyres on their company vehicles, according to new research by the Energy Saving trust (EST). The research coincides with new EU legislation that comes into force today, compelling tyre manufacturers to label their car and light commercial tyres.