Tag Archives: coal

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EU1The European Union will “vastly overshoot” its Paris climate pledges unless its coal emissions are completely phased out within 15 years, a stress test of the industry has found. Coal’s use is falling by about 1% a year in Europe but still generates a quarter of the continent’s power – and a fifth of its greenhouse gas emissions. If Europe’s 300 coal plants run to the end of their natural lifespans, the EU nations will exceed their carbon budget for coal by 85%, according to a report by the respected thinktank Climate Analytics. It says the EU would need to stop using coal for electricity generation by 2030. More here.   Renewable energy sources made up nearly nine-tenths of new power added to Europe’s electricity grids last year, in a sign of the continent’s rapid shift away from fossil fuels. But industry leaders said they were worried about the lack of political support beyond 2020, when binding EU renewable energy targets end.

The Guardian reports that oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered. However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave risks of global warming but did not act accordingly. Shell’s 28-minute film, called Climate of Concern, was made for public viewing, particularly in schools and universities. It warned of extreme weather, floods, famines and climate refugees as fossil fuel burning warmed the world. The serious warning was “endorsed by a uniquely broad consensus of scientists in their report to the United Nations at the end of 1990”, the film noted.
The hamburger chain Burger King has been buying animal feed produced in soy plantations carved out by the burning of tropical forests in Brazil and Bolivia, according to a new report. Jaguars, giant anteaters and sloths have all been affected by the disappearance of around 700,000 hectares (1,729,738 acres) of forest land between 2011 and 2015. The campaign group Mighty Earth says that evidence gathered from aerial drones, satellite imaging, supply-chain mapping and field research shows a systematic pattern of forest-burning.  Photo of a sloth by G Dallorto.

The UN’s climate chief has been unable to secure a meeting with the US state department as Donald Trump’s administration mulls whether to withdraw the US from the international climate effort. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), is currently in the US and has sought a meeting with Rex Tillerson, the secretary of state, and other officials over the commitment of the new administration to global climate goals.

One in five species on Earth now faces extinction, and that will rise to 50% by the end of the century unless urgent action is taken. That is the stark view of the world’s leading biologists, ecologists and economists who will gather on Monday to determine the social and economic changes needed to save the planet’s biosphere. “The living fabric of the world is slipping through our fingers without our showing much sign of caring,” say the organisers of the Biological Extinction conference held at the Vatican this week.

An EU review has revealed multiple failings by the UK in applying environmental law, on the same day that the commission escalated its action against Britain for breaching air pollution limits. Britain has been in breach of EU nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits since 2010, with London overshooting its annual air pollution limit for the whole of 2017 in just the first five days. The Guardian understands that a “reasoned opinion” will now be sent on 15 February to the UK and four other countries: Germany, France, Italy and Spain. If a satisfactory response is not received within two months, a case at the European court could follow.

The plight of the hedgehog in Britain appears to be worsening, with a new survey revealing a further decline in garden sightings. The spiky creature was once a common sight, with the population estimated at 30 million in the 1950s. But that has plummeted to fewer than one million today, with a third of this loss thought to have taken place in the past decade. The latest survey, conducted with more than 2,600 people by BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, found that 51% of people did not see a hedgehog at all in 2016, up from 48% in 2015. Just 12% saw a hedgehog regularly.

Supplements of healthy fats could be an immediate way of cutting the harm caused to billions around the world by air pollution, according to emerging research. However, the research also shows air pollution particles can penetrate through the lungs of lab animals into many major organs, including the brain and testicles. This raises the possibility that the health damage caused by toxic air is even greater than currently known. The new research on mice showed that omega-3 fatty acids (OFAs), found in flax, hemp and fish oils, can both prevent and treat the inflammation and oxidative stress caused by air pollution, with the OFAs delivering a 30-50% reduction in harm.

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cc-1-300x180The Paris agreement on climate change has now come into force, marking the first time that governments have agreed legally binding limits to global temperature rises. However, the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) said that pledges put forward to cut emissions would see temperatures rise by 3C above pre-industrial levels, far above the the 2C of the Paris climate agreement. As the agreement came into force, a $1bn fund for cutting the climate change impact of oil and gas has been announced by 10 of the world’s biggest oil companies, aimed at keeping the firms in business and cutting the burning of coal.

reefA landmark international agreement to create the world’s largest marine park in the Southern Ocean has been brokered in Australia, after five years of compromises and failed negotiations. More than 1.5m sq km of the Ross Sea around Antarctica will be protected under the deal brokered between 24 countries and the European Union. It means 1.1m sq km of it – an area about the size of France and Spain combined – will be set aside as a no-take “general protection zone”, where no fishing will be allowed. Significantly, the protections are set to expire in 35 years. Evan Bloom from the US state department, the head of the US delegation to the meeting, told the Guardian he was “thrilled”.

The number of wild animals living on Earth is set to fall by two-thirds by 2020, according to a new report, part of a mass extinction that is destroying the natural world upon which humanity depends. The analysis, the most comprehensive to date, indicates that animal populations plummeted by 58% between 1970 and 2012, with losses on track to reach 67% by 2020. Researchers from WWF and the Zoological Society of London compiled the report from scientific data and found that the destruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution were to blame.

container-ship-560789_960_720The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has agreed to set a cap on the sulphur content of marine fuels, in a move that campaigners predict will save millions of lives in the coming decades. At a meeting of the IMO’s environment protection committee this week shipping officials agreed to cap the sulphur content of marine fuels sold around the world at 0.5% by 2020, finally making good on a 2008 agreement to cap sulphur levels by 2020 or 2025. Sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions have been linked to premature deaths from lung cancer and heart disease. The current limit on sulphur content for marine fuels is 3,500 times higher than for diesel in European road vehicles, and the shipping sector is by far the biggest emitter of SO2. The move is expected to slash SO2 emissions in the shipping industry by 85% compared to today’s levels, and according to one study reduce the number of premature deaths by 200,000 every year.

Drivers of polluting diesel vehicles could soon be charged to enter many city centres across Britain, after the government accepted that its current plans to tackle the nation’s air pollution crisis were so poor they broke the law. The legal defeat in the High Court is the second in 18 months and ends years of inadequate action and delays to tackle the problem which causes 50,000 early deaths every year. Ministers are now bound to implement new measures to cut toxic air quickly and the prime minister, Theresa May, indicated the government would this time respond positively: “There is more to do and we will do it.” More here.

Bryde´s_whaleThe world’s whaling watchdog has voted to conduct stricter reviews of whales killed under an exemption to a 30-year-old moratorium which Japan’s critics say it abuses to hunt for meat. The resolution, opposed by Japan and fellow whalers Norway and Iceland, was adopted by 34 yes votes to 17 against, at the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Submitted by Australia and New Zealand, the resolution seeks to “improve” the review process for scientific whaling programmes – which Japan alone conducts, netting more than 15,000 of the marine mammals since 1986. It is not legally binding on members of the commission, which has no policing or penalty function.

UK water companies are urging a national trading standards body to help stamp out “misleading” labelling on disposable wet wipes that are marketed as flushable but clog up drains and litter oceans at huge environmental cost. They are calling on manufacturers of moist toilet tissues and other non-biodegradable cleaning cloths such as bathroom cleaning wipes – which are routinely flushed away by consumers in their toilets – to ensure that such products are prominently labelled as not flushable and are to be disposed of in a bin.

Greece appears on track to win access to a controversial EU programme that could earmark up to €1.75bn (£1.56bn) in free carbon allowances for the building of two massive coal-fired power plants. The 1100MW coal stations will cost an estimated €2.4bn, and emit around 7m tonnes of CO2 a year, casting doubt on their viability without a cash injection from an exemption under Europe’s carbon trading market. Bonkers? The Guardian explains more here.  The amount of electricity generated from UK coal power stations is on track to fall by two-thirds this year, a decline which analysts said was so steep and fast it was unprecedented globally. Climate change thinktank Sandbag said the drop was due to a doubling in the price of a carbon tax and the lower price of gas. The group has written to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, urging him not to water down the carbon floor price in this month’s autumn statement, which the steel industry has been lobbying the government to do.

african-elephant2The poaching crisis wiping out Africa’s elephants is costing the continent’s economies millions in lost tourism revenue, according to a new study. Researchers looked at visitor and elephant data across 25 countries, and modelled financial losses from fewer visitors in protected areas due to the illegal wildlife trade, which has caused elephant numbers to plummet by more than 100,000 in the last decade. They concluded that Africa was most likely losing $25m in tourism revenue a year. Around $9m of that is lost from tourists’ direct spending, such as staying at hotels and buying crafts, with the rest through indirect value in the economy such as farmers and other suppliers supporting the tourist industry.

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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

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FRACKEDPlanning decisions on the UK’s full scale fracking have been deferred for eight weeks by Lancashire county council (LCC), which was due to decide this week on two proposals from shale gas explorer Cuadrilla. But after council planning officers recommended last week that permission should be refused on the grounds of “unacceptable” noise and heavy truck traffic, Cuadrilla submitted revised proposals. LCC’s chief legal adviser said on Wednesday that these proposals were “substantive” and therefore had to go out to public consultation.

Our good friend Bruce said this on Face Book about the recent fracking vote which was substantially won by David Cameron and George Osbourne’s need for greed : “Well the vote has come through in favour of Fracking! So now it is going to be financed by our taxes, profits going to the shale companies and commissions going to their corrupt MP’s, local councils will have to support shale requirements to suppliment their annual budgets and/or face being sued for lack of profit by shale companies if the don’t let fracking happen in their council!!!”. He is SO right.

scotlandnofrackBut Fergus Ewing, the Scottish minister for energy, has now told the Scottish Parliament “I’m announcing today a moratorium [open-ended ban] on the granting of planning consents for all unconventional oil and gas developments.” There’s still work to do to turn this temporary ban into an outright ban, but for now this is brilliant news! Well done safe and sensible Scotland!

shellShell, the Anglo-Dutch oil company, will cut its spending by $15 billion over the next three years – but not because of any public understanding of the problems caused by greenhouse gas emissions and climate change – just because the price of crude oil has collapsed by 60%. The group will scale back or cancel 40 planned oil and gas projects – but will spend another $1 billion on its first drilling programme in the Arctic – which has been marred by environmental fines and accidents.  Shell is also set to confront the risk that climate change may pose to its future, after backing a resolution from activist shareholders. The resolution, filed by 150 investors who control hundreds of billions of pounds, requires the oil major to test whether its business model is compatible with the pledge by the world’s nations to limit global warming to 2C. The 2C target means only a quarter of existing, exploitable fossil fuel reserves are burnable, according to a series of recent analyses. That implies trillions of dollars of oil, gas and coal held by investors could become worthless and that continuing exploration for fossil fuels may be pointless.

A new global pact on climate change, due to be signed this year in Paris, should be a “Magna Carta for the Earth”, Prince Charles has urged. He said this year marked potentially the “last chance” to save the world from the perils of global warming, with the Paris conference and the United Nations’ plan to replace the millennium development goals with a new set of sustainable development targets. “We simply cannot let this opportunity go to waste. There is just too much at stake, and has been for far too long.” He told a meeting of forestry and climate experts in London: “In the 800th anniversary year of the Magna Carta, perhaps this year’s agreement of the new sustainable development goals and a new climate agreement in Paris should be seen as a new Magna Carta for the Earth, and humanity’s relationship with it.”

The world can enjoy higher standards of living and more travel, while drastically cutting emissions to avoid dangerous climate change – but only with sweeping changes to our infrastructure, the natural world and agriculture, a new analysis has found. The UK government analysis also assumes that billions of people will remain in dire poverty at mid-century, despite efforts to lift them to greater prosperity, as the population rises to an estimated nine billion people. Dealing with greenhouse gas emissions will require a transformation of electricity generation, including an expansion of renewable energy and nuclear power, as well as more public transport and changes to the built environment, according to the key findings of the Global Calculator, an online software tool developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), with partners. DECC says the UK has reinforced its ‘leading position’ on climate change ahead of Paris 2015 with the launch of the  new tool to help businesses and governments understand the environmental impacts of energy and emissions policies.

suslive-headFor the first time, edie will be hosting an Innovation Zone at Sustainability Live 2015 to showcase the best emerging, pre-commercialised sustainability solutions.   The Innovation Zone will showcase 16 selected entries to an invited audience of potential investors and venture capitalists along with the show’s visitors from the business and public sectors.  Edie are looking for emerging products, technologies and solutions in the energy, waste, water and cleantech space which are yet to be commercialised but have reached trial or prototype stage. ENTER ONLINE HERE.

The number of monarch butterflies that reached wintering grounds in Mexico has rebounded 69% from last year’s lowest-on-record levels, but their numbers remain very low, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The impact of China’s clean air and renewable energy policies are beginning to have an impact on the country’s coal industry, according to reports suggesting domestic coal production fell last year. State media reported that coal production fell in 2014 for the first time this century, with production totalling 3.5bn tonnes between January and November representing a 2.1% fall on the same period in 2013.

australiatemprpedictionsThe Guardian reports that Australia could be on track for a temperature rise of more than 5C by the end of the century, outstripping the rate of warming experienced by the rest of the world, unless drastic action is taken to slash greenhouse gas emissions, according to the most comprehensive analysis ever produced of the country’s future climate. The national science agency CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology have released the projections based on 40 global climate models, producing what they said was the most robust picture yet of how Australia’s climate would change. The report stated there was “very high confidence” that temperatures would rise across Australia throughout the century, with the average annual temperature set to be up to 1.3C warmer in 2030 compared with the average experienced between 1986 and 2005.

The UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey has admitted that the UK is in danger of missing renewable heat and renewable transport targets for 2020. In an effort to comply with a legally binding EU target to source 15% of energy from renewables, the UK has set itself subtargets of 30% of electricity from renewables, 12% of heat, and 10% of transport fuel. While the UK is on track to hit its electricity targets, Davey said there was work to do on heat and transport.  Renewables supplied just less than 18% of electricity in the first three quarters of 2014, while biofuels accounted for around 4% of all road fuel in the same period. The most recent figures edie could find for heat (2012) suggested that just 2.3% of the UK’s heat comes from renewable source

Edie.net reports that European countries should be given binding targets for installing technology to capture and store carbon emissions, according to a new report for the European commission The UN’s climate science panel says such technology could have to account for over a fifth of the world’s carbon cuts by 2050 and the new paper, produced by consultants for the EC, says there is a “genuine and urgent” need for it in Europe.  Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is an experimental technology that traps emissions produced at power plants to reduce their contribution to climate change.

FOOD WATE2A cross-party group of MPs has urged the UK Government to provide WRAP with ‘sufficient public funding’ for it to maintain momentum in its food waste reduction programmes. The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) made the announcement in a report it published, today (22 January), entitled ‘Food security demand, consumption and waste’.  Due to the Government’s Spending Review, WRAP has seen its funding cut from £48.1m in 2010-11 to £17.6m in 2014-15. Funding for 2015-16 is anticipated to be £15.5m. However, WRAP has recently achieved charitable status, which could allow it access to wider funding such as from trusts and charities.  WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment Phase 3 has seen 80% more food being redistributed by retailers and food manufacturers, and a 4.5% reduction of the carbon impacts of packaging in its first year. The organisation released the first-year results of the Courtauld Commitment Phase 3 – a voluntary agreement supporting retail businesses to improve their overall performance and reduce their environmental impact.   Food waste prevention efforts have seen food donations rise from 21kt in 2012 to 38kt in 2013, and companies are well ahead of a 2015 target of zero increase in the carbon impact of packaging; through reductions in packaging, an increase in recycled content and the use of different materials.

UK wind energy broke new records for monthly, weekly and half-hourly generation in January, providing enough energy to power almost nine million UK homes.  New official figures from the National Grid reveal that 14% of Britain’s energy (4.1TWh) came from wind turbines last month. The weekly record was also broken with 1.119GWh generated, and the half-hourly record was exceeded on 2 January, when wind supplied 31% of the nation’s energy demands. Wind power output in Scotland got off to a “flying start” last month, generating enough energy to supply the electrical needs of 146% of Scottish households.

Sunday’s Super Bowl match, which was watched by more than 100 million people worldwide, was the first to be lit entirely by energy-efficient LED lights.  New York-based LED company Ephesus installed 312 new LED fixtures at the 72,000 seat University of Phoenix stadium, which played host to the Super Bowl XLIX between the Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots. The stadium’s new lighting system replaced 780 metal halide bulbs, saving 75-85% of power – almost a million watts. Ephesus Lighting’s president Mike Lorenz said the Super Bowl’s estimated global audience of 110 million people provided the perfect platform to showcase the LED technology.

Edie.net reports that  US President Barack Obama has released his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2016, featuring a $450m spending bump for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and a new $4bn fund to encourage states to cut emissions from power stations. More than half ($239m) of the EPA funding boost will go towards the EPA’s Clean Power Plan which also tackles power plant emissions.  On renewable energy, the plan proposes to permanently extend a tax credit for wind energy and a tax credit for solar power, which together would cost the government $31.5 billion over the next decade. The President also pledged $7.4bn for clean energy and efficiency developments at the Departments of Energy and Defence.

droughteastafricaBelief in the reality of climate change and its human causes is at its highest level amongst the British public since 2005, having significantly risen in the past year following the recent storms and flooding.  A report by Cardiff University – Public perceptions of climate change in Britain following the winter 2013/2014 flooding – focused on people’s responses to the series of exceptional flooding events that affected the UK in late 2013 and early 2014. “Our findings demonstrate that an association between last year’s winter flooding and climate change has been forming in the minds of many ordinary people in Britain, who also view these events as a sign of things to come,” Cardiff University’s School of Psychology’s Professor Nick Pidgeon told Edie.net.

And finally but hopefully not terminally …..  The European Union climate chief Miguel Arias Canete says talks at the next major climate summit in Paris this year will not be a failure even if governments fail to keep warming below the dangerous 2C threshold. The comments, downgrading expectations for a strong outcome at Paris, suggest that the architects of a global climate deal are already resigned to the prospect that governments will fail to aim high enough when setting out their targets for cutting greenhouse gas emission in the coming months.

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OBurning wood in power stations might actually be good for trees – so says Professor Robert Malmsheimer at the State University of New York. A number of environmentalists and scientists have argued that burning wood in power stations harms forests, produces pollution and once the carbon cost of transport is added in is hardly a ‘green’ or sustainable solution. But Professor  Malmsheimer says such arguments  misunderstand the forestry industry and the type of wood used in biomass  – and that an increase in and for wood would increase forest area and productivity as land owners respond to economic stimuli.

It seems billions of pounds of UK taxpayers money will be given to ‘dirty’ coal burning power stations in the UK – to guarantee that the lights stay on in the UK when power from sustainable power – in particular wind power – fluctuate and cannot meet peak demand. Coal, gas and nuclear plants are all entitled to bid for the funding. Even the energy companies know the scheme is bonkers – back in October Sam Laidlaw the boss of Centrica said there was something wrong with government policies that tax coal plants for carbon emissions with one hand and subsidise them with another and that the paradox means that old dirty coal plants “will be paid extra to stay online for longer”.  Greenpeace – agreeing with Centrica (!) called the policy ‘counter productive’ and ‘bizarre’ and that it would be consumers who met the cost.

windturbines_300And the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that the public was “fed up” with onshore windfarms and said the country did not need any more subsidised turbines on land now that the energy source was capable of providing 10% of UK energy.  He said: “Let’s get rid of the subsidy, put them into the planning system. If they can make their case, they will make their case. I suspect they won’t and we’ll have a reasonable amount of onshore wind, we’ll have safer electricity supplies as a result but enough is enough and I’m very clear about that. Cameron’s remarks to the liaison committee of MPs are at odds with polling conducted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change that suggests onshore wind is popular and his own Climate Secretary Ed Davey. And Secretary of State Eric Pickles has been sharply criticised by the renewable energy industry for delaying the approval of many onshore wind energy developments in which he has intervened.  The criticism comes in the wake of a new report from the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Select Committee, which warns that Pickles’ recent actions risk reducing investment in the clean energy sector. However on a more positive note the UK Government has tannounced details of the National College of Wind Energy based in the Humber area.  Set to open its doors in late 2016, the college will offer students post-A-level professional qualifications; equipping young people with the engineering and technical skills required in the wind industry – particularly offshore, where ‘a large growth in skills is needed’.

Lord Stern has made broadly positive remarks about the results fron the UN Cop summit in Lima. Stern, chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change said  “This is an important step towards a new agreement at the climate change summit in Paris in December 2015, but it still leaves a number of important issues to be worked out between countries over the next 12 months” adding”It is vital that countries put forward before the Paris summit intended nationally determined contributions that are both ambitious and credible. However, it is already clear that the scale of action to control and reduce annual emissions of greenhouse gases will collectively not be consistent with a pathway that will mean a reasonable chance of avoiding dangerous global warming of more than 2C above pre-industrial level.”

Invitación Física versión editableAlso at the Lima climate summit, the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance (GRFA) restated the importance of biofuels, such as ethanol, in reducing GHG emissions in the transport sector.  Biofuels are presently one of the most commercially viable fuel alternatives to crude oil in the medium term, proven to reduce GHGs from 40% to 90% compared with fossil fuels. GRFA spokesperson Bliss Baker said: “Nearly a third of global GHGs come from the transportation sector, those GHGs need to be a priority if we are going to make a significant contribution to combating climate change. Biofuels must be an integral part of that fight.”

Many Alpine ski resorts are facing their worst season for 150 years with snowfall way below the annual norm. The glacier resort of Tignes has only 13 of its 79 lifts operating and some guests in Chamonix are being bussed to other resorts. The snowfall on Flaine’s upper pistes – just 20cm in 2014 – is less than 10% of 2012’s 240cm snowfall.

President Obama has taken  action to protect one of Alaska’s most powerful economic engines and one of America’s greatest national treasures: Bristol Bay. He signed a Presidential Memorandum that withdraws these beautiful and pristine waters from all future oil and gas drilling. “These waters are too special and too valuable to auction off to the highest bidder,” the President said.

Millions of dicarded plastics bags pollute our oceans

Millions of dicarded plastics bags pollute our oceans

More than five trillion pieces of plastic, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes, are floating in the world’s oceans, causing damage throughout the food chain, new research has found.  Data collected by scientists from the US, France, Chile, Australia and New Zealand suggests a minimum of 5.25tn plastic particles in the oceans, most of them “micro plastics” measuring less than 5mm. The volume of plastic pieces, largely deriving from products such as food and drink packaging and clothing, was calculated from data taken from 24 expeditions over a six-year period to 2013. The research, published in the journal PLOS One, is the first study to look at plastics of all sizes in the world’s oceans.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says global governments must ‘radically accelerate the deployment of carbon capture technology’ as a new report reveals demand for coal will break the nine-billion-tonne level by 2019.   The organisation’s annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report concludes that the fate of the global coal market will be determined by China, which will continue to account for three-fifths of demand growth during the five-year outlook period.

Australian researchers have set a new world record by converting more than 40% of the sunlight hitting a solar system into electricity. The record was achieved by scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, and verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the United States.”This is the highest efficiency ever reported for sunlight conversion into electricity,” UNSW Scientia Professor Martin Green said. “The new results are based on the use of focused sunlight, and are particularly relevant to photovoltaic power towers being developed in Australia.”

Anaerobic digestion (AD) enjoyed a bumper year in the UK according to the latest sector survey published today (11 November) by WRAP, but Scotland did not contribute to the growth.  The number of AD sites in the UK has increased from 87 to 117, while capacity increased by 55% to 3.20mt. This operational growth has led to a boost to employment in the sector – up 36% to 482 full-time jobs.

schnipeldiscoThe “Schnippeldisko” (chopping disco), which is organised by Slow Food Youth,  raises awareness of the industrialisation of farming in Germany. On the 16th of January 2014 many helping hands come together at Zirkus Cabuwazi in Berlin Friedrichshain to chop about a ton of vegetables as ingredients for a “protest soup” that will warm the hearts and bellies of the thousands of “Wir haben es satt!”  participants the following day. And even better – all vegetables used for the protest soup are from the region of Brandenburg and are usually rejected by retailers as they don´t fit into the German trade standard – too big, too small or have an unusual shape, but there is literally nothing wrong with them – of course! To make cutting of all those vegetables more fun and to create a real ´disco´ feeling the organisers have invited DJs Florinn & Decent, who will pump out the best music around!

LIB1And finally from Jarno in the USA who reports that the International Music Festival conference, IMFcon, took place in Austin from the 7th until the 9th of December. An interesting conference where topics such as big data at festivals, fan loyalty, marketing & sponsorship, and the global success of EDM were discussed. One of the discussions was dedicated to sustainability with panelist such as Karen Cohen from Symbiosis Events, Melissa mcClary from Klean Kanteen and Nick Algee. Jarno says in his opinion “more time could, and should, have been dedicated to this particular subject. Sustainability is a vast area that can not possibly be discussed and explained in 45 minutes”. But its a start! And Lightning in a Bottle, awarded the Outstanding Award from A Greener Festival this year, were at IMFcon and this presented the perfect opportunity for Jarno to present Dede and Jesse Flemming, from The Do Lab, their award.  As Jarno says – Two very humble men who are passionate about their festival and about sustainability.  Congratulations!

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DRAX POWERCoal overtook gas to become the UK’s dominant fuel in 2012 as cheap US coal imports meant that 39% of UK electricity came from coal – up from 29% in 2011, and gas dropped from 40% to 28%. US coal prices have dropped in the wake of the shale gas boom. Coal is a far ‘dirtier’ fuel and produces twice the greenhouse gas emissions of gas.

Wildfires have forced the evacuation  of holidaymakers and residents from two villages on the Greek island of Serifos.

The UK’s long hot summer has meant that solar power has finally overtaken wind power as the leading source of renewable energy.

Wylie has called festival goers at CockRock in Cumbria ‘pagans’ after he was booed off stage. The grime rapper had been tweeting negative comments about the festival prior to his arrival, saying “Just the name makes me not wanna go”  and telling his agent he was a ‘yardie’ and didn’t want to play on farms – and lasted just 15 minutes on stage. The festival may sue to have the fee returned. In April Wylie (real name Richard Kylea Cowie)  tweeted that he was leaving his record label Warners, following a dispute about his new album The Ascent. Admitting he was unhappy with their choice of next single from the record, he tweeted: “My label are doing ‘Lights On’ next but I do not like that so you will not see me in the video”. Wylie had previously pulled out of Glastonbury claiming it was raining and tweeting “Please cancel me I do not want to play for you ever again… please cancel me without sueing I would like that”  and  “Fuck it life goes on but I am pissed. Glastonbury ain’t paying me enough to leave my comfort zone …tight bastards.”  That said, after weeks of glorious weather, the UK’s long hot summer came to an abrupt end at the end of July with a band of heavy rain and storms crossing the country with Womad and Kendal Calling both hit by heavy rain.

Villagers in Nepal are fighting back against poachers who are threatening the tiger population with extinction.  It is estimated there are only 3500 tigers left in the world – 95% of their numbers have vanished,  and hunting and habit destruction continue to fuel the decline – and the poaching is driven by a huge demand for body parts in traditional Chinese medicine.  WWF in Nepal is working with the newly established police wildlife unit, local rangers and local people to curb the trade in wildlife – and catfood brand Whiskas has donated £500,000 to the appeal for funding.  WWF is also paying for a gun amnesty and working with villagers to run anti poaching patrols, in the hope tiger numbers will rise. Less good news for Mars: One of the food giant’s subsidiaries, Royal Canin, has been revealed by animal charity Four Paws as a sponsor of bear baiting in the Ukraine. The unspeakably cruel practice of de-clawing brown bears, chaining them  up and then attackimg them with dogs is hideous – why a dog and cat food manufacturer would want to sponsor this is beyond us, although the company says it is ‘horrified’. More in the Observer here (the video is VERY upsetting).

Following a naked mass ‘skinny dip’ on West Beach, organisers of a naked bicycle ride in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, are looking at other naked activities including a nude fun run. The bike ride was organised as a protest against the car culture and to  to highlight the environment. 36 riders made the 17km ride – 150 riders are expected nest year.

large-blueWriting in the Times Simon Barnes says “Butterflies frighten the hell out of me – especially when they are not there” explaining that the 59 species of breeding butterfly in the UK are in a state of catastrophic decline – and as they indicate ow good (or bad) the state of our environment is – their ongoing decline must be a serious worry.

The President of the National Farmers Union in the UK, Peter Kendall, has said that extreme weather caused by climate change is the biggest threat to British farming.  Dramatic switches from floods to drought and heat waves have seen many harvest decimated in the last decade, and the UK has now become a net importer of wheat in 2013.  Whilst understanding the need to reconcile the need to feed an ever increasing population with the need to protect the environment and wildlife, Mr Kendall still felt that the EC’s decision to ban the bee killing neonicotinoid pesticides was ‘political’ although added that farmers had a vested interest in making sure we don’t damage our natural resources for the long term.

EU1The global economic crisis, soaring commodity prices and growing awareness of humanity’s impact on the environment have pushed the ‘green economy’ concept into mainstream policy debate, says the European Environment Agency (EEA). According to a new report by the EEA, this increased awareness has enabled EU policy makers to successfully agree a wide range of ‘green’ policies.  However, the report, ‘Towards a green economy in Europe‘, highlights how implementing these policies is creating a barrier to future progress.

The UK Government’s flagship retrofit scheme the Green Deal will only succeed through action by the commercial sector, says the Institute for Sustainability. Head of resource efficient buildings at the Institute for Sustainability, Terry McGivern, told edie.net that in addition to allowing the Green Deal time to gain momentum, the Government’s should act as facilitator rather than leader of the movement.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has adopted new guidelines to reinforce support for investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy grids. Following a review to ensure that its energy lending criteria reflects EU energy and climate policy, as well as current investment trends, the EIB will focus on financing energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy networks, as well as related research and innovation.  According to the bank, these sectors are expected to require the most significant investment in coming years. http://www.edie.net/news/6/EIB-aligns-lending-criteria-with-EU-energy-and-climate-policy/?utm_source=weeklynewsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=news&utm_campaign=weeklynewsletter

The role that recycling incentive schemes can play in delivering more cost-effective waste services is to be explored in a new piece of research that will help inform government strategy going forward. Serco has appointed Eunomia Research & Consulting to undertake the research, which has been designed in collaboration with Defra. It is intended to compliment work that the department is carrying out separately looking at the impact of Defra-funded trials of recycling incentives. =

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christmas tree 3London Mayor Boris Johnson has called on the nation’s capital to recycle this Christmas and save £3.5m in the process. Over the festive season it is estimated that London will generate an extra 29,000 tonnes of household rubbish, mainly from glass bottles, tin foil, Christmas trees and wrapping paper.

The UK Government has hailed the progress of the renewable energy industry in the UK, describing it as a “fantastic achievement”. According to the 2012 update to the Renewable Energy Roadmap published last week by Energy Secretary Edward Davey, from July 2011 to July 2012 there was a 27% increase in overall renewable electricity generated. Now more than 10% of all electricity generated is coming from renewables. Electricity generated from renewables increased from 9.1% in the third quarter of 2011, to 11.7% in the third quarter of 2012, according to latest figures. A new survey from Consumer Focus says that consumers believe energy companies should invest their profits in renewable energy, according to new research and  the study found that expansion of renewables was supported by the majority of consumers responding.

The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) will see its budget cut by 11% next year as it undergoes a UK government review to ensure its work is delivering value for money.

Ireland’s long-awaited draft Climate Change Bill is at “an advanced stage” and set to be published in the first quarter of this year, following a series of delays. Announcing the update, Irish Environment Minister Phil Hogan said that work on developing provisions of progressive primary legislation for the document is now in its final stages and that an outline heads of a bill will be issued early in 2013.

Industry and environmental bodies in Scotland have shown support for new proposals to ensure environmental regulations are enforced. The support can be seen in a recent joint consultation by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Scottish Government published today. It reveals that 82% of respondents supported the proposals which also aim to simplify environmental regulation and create a more integrated framework for environmental regulation.

windturbines_300The economic life of onshore wind turbines is significantly lower than previously estimated and it is rarely economic to operate windfarms for more than 12 to 15 years, according to a report from the  The Renewable Energy Foundation. After allowing for variations in wind speed and site characteristics, the results show that the average load factor of wind farms declines substantially as they get older.

The era of coal consumption is far from over and by 2017 it will come close to surpassing oil as the world’s top energy source, according to a new report. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released figures set out in its annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report (MCMR) which reveal that global coal consumption by 2017 will stand at 4.32 billion tonnes of oil equivalent (btoe), versus around 4.40 btoe for oil.  According to the IEA, the only region in the world that will not see an increase in coal demand is the US where the extraction of unconventional gas is pushing out coal.

Europe needs to intensify efforts to keep sufficient quantity and quality of fresh water to maintain the regions ecosystems, according to a series of reports published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The owners of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig which caused the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010 when it exploded, killing 11 workers, have finally accepted share responsibility for the disaster.  Transocean pleaded guilty of violating the Clean Water Act and agreed to a $1.4 billion settlement with the US Department of Justice.

A leading synthetic compost manufacturer, William Sinclair, which owns the Deadfast, SuperFyba and J Arthur Bowers brands, has had a good year after the harvesting of natural peat was dramatically reduced because of the wet weather in Europe. The cost of harvesting peat rose because of summer deluges and William Sinclair dramatically increased production to meet demand – they expect to produce 250,000 cubic metres of SuperFyba in 2013 – compared to just 30,000 cubic metres in 2013.

Edie.net reports that the UK Governments chief scientist Sir John Beddington has warned that food prices will keep rising in 2013 as the world tries to feed a rising population and adapt to climate change. Owen Paterson, The Environment Secretary, has said that farmers, scientists and policy makers had a duty to turn around the image of genetically modified crops and promote the benefits of GM, but  a growing body of evidence suggests tackling food waste could help resolve many of the sustainability challenges faced by the food industry.  A number of studies are now linking food losses and waste to rises in inflation, food security, resource inputs and climate change as the global food industry experiences its third bout of inflation in five years due to poor agricultural harvests in the US, Russia and South America.  According to research firm Organic Monitor, analysts predict the average basket of food prices will rise by 15% by June 2013. Such a hike could have serious political and social repercussions for security of supplies going forward.

Air pollution is Greece is surging as citizens have moved to burning wood as a cheap source of fuel. Authorities say that illegal logging for fuel now accounts for 30% of all forest loss in Greece. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in the UK has awarded £2m worth of air quality grants to 36 local authorities across England. Funding 42 projects over the country, the grants have been awarded to those authorities who have demonstrated innovative plans to tackle air pollution in urban areas.

Climate Change might mean the end of the traditional British lawn as prolonged periods of floods and drought brought on by climate change become the norm.

RIt has been confirmed that 2012 was the second wettest year in the recorded history of the UK, with causes put down as yet unconfirmed factors including to melting Arctic sea ice, a rise in the temperatures of the Oceans and global warming.

10 Tech Resolutions You Can Make for 2013: Get a Nest thermostat, Learn the energy efficiency settings for your TV and use them, Minimize gadgets, Dare to repair and Commit to e-waste recycling are just some of the great ideas here http://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/10-tech-resolutions-for-2013.html