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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.

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ANOTHER PLANET?

Zebra_Botswana_edit02Africa’s big cats are facing a hungry future as human population pressure, hunting and habitat destruction for livestock farming needs reduce the number of their prey species. Zebras, antelopes, tapirs and giraffes are rapidly diminishing and sometimes facing extinction in grasslands, savannahs, deserts and forests according to the Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit who analysed data on the world’s largest 74 herbivores and said “without radical intervention [they] will continue to disappear from numerous regions. The Grevy’s Zebra population in the Horn of Africa has halved in the last 20 years with only 2,200 remaining in an area less than 10% of what it was, only 600 African wild ass remain on 2.5% of their natural range, the remaining 80,000 giraffe have just 11.3% of their former range and  2,500 pygmy hippos just 1.3%. Forest elephants in Africa were down 60% in the the years up to 2011 and poaching continues to decimate the elephant and rhino populations.

Edie.net reports that the pledges made by major international emitters ahead of the Paris UN conference are not strong enough to limit global warming to 2C, according to team of researchers led by Nicholas Stern.  The US is expected to offer emissions cuts of 26% to 28% by 2025 , the EU has agreed to cut its emissions by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels, while China has promised its emissions will peak by 2030. However, these proposed cuts put the trio on track to generate between 20.9 and 22.3 billion tonnes of carbon-dioxide-equivalent in 2030. Current and planned policies from the rest of the world suggest they will produce around 35 billion tonnes of CO2e, putting the global total at around 56bn tonnes CO2e.  At best, this is 12bn tonnes more than the level UNEP says would give the planet a 50-66% chance of limiting global warming to less than 2°C. “Countries should be considering opportunities to narrow this gap before and after the Paris summit,” said the paper overseen by Stern, who is chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change.

greenpeace adA few months ago Greenpeace published a newspaper ad stating: “Experts agree – [fracking] won’t cut our energy bills.” The ASA asked for evidence to back up the claim — so Greenpeace submitted statements from 22 experts and commentators including leading academics, the energy secretary Ed Davey, and even quotes from fracking firm Cuadrilla. This wasn’t enough for the ASA and they still said the ad was misleading. But the only evidence they could provide to back that up?… A quote from the prime minister. Greenpeace so pint out that the chair of the ASA, Lord Chris Smith, happens to be the head of the Task Force on Shale Gas (a group funded by the fracking industry).

 

Employment in renewable energy increased by 9% across all sectors last year, with biomass heating emerging as the best-performing sector in terms of recruitment.  The Renewable Energy Association (REA) has today (1 May) released its annual regional and national jobs analysis, revealing significant growth in the UK’s green energy labour market. The total number working in the renewables industry has risen to more than 112,000, outstripping growth in market values in many other sectors.  The UK now boasts the third largest utility-scale solar capacity in the world after a flurry of first quarter installations.  New figures from market analysts Wiki-Solar show that the UK added 1.5GW of utility-scale capacity, leapfrogging Germany and India for the third spot. And  Council recycling services in England saved 4% more greenhouse gas emissions in 2013/14 than in 2012/13, thanks mainly to increased captures of metals and plastics.  That’s according to the third annual Recycling Carbon Index Report from consultancy firm Eunomia, which shows that 64% of England’s local authorities increased their emissions savings over the past year, despite a levelling off of the country’s recycling rate performance. Wales and Northern Ireland faired even better, reducing overall emissions by an additional 6%, and 7% respectively.

airpollutionEU lawmakers have agreed to fastrack a reform to the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS), to deal with the surplus of allowances in the system.
Related articles. Representatives from the European Parliament and the European Commission decided to establish a market stability reserve (MSR) in 2019 – two years earlier than originally planned. Approximately two billion backloaded and unallocated allowances will be put into the MSR before they flood the market at the end of the decade.  The current surplus “surpresses the carbon price” and means Europe’s worst polluters are “not held to account over their emissions”, according to green groups.

Shipping owners using European ports will have to report on the CO2 emissions of their vessels, under a new proposal approved by MEPs. The new rules – intended to encourage efficiencies and cut emissions – will apply from 2018 for ships weighing over 5,000 tonnes. Warships, fishing boats and ‘wooden ships of a primitive build’ will be exempt. Maritime transport is not currently subject to any emissions reductions measures and shipping emissions have increased by approximately 70% since 1990. If that upward trend was allowed to continue, the sector would account for between 6-14% of global emissions by 2050.

The fossil fuel industry is a bigger threat to global health than tobacco and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust have a moral obligation to divest from it, an international organisation that represents 1 million medical students has said.  A letter to the charities from the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) called on the charities to drop their fossil fuel company interests, which amount to almost £1.5bn. The students said investments in coal, oil and gas companies were in direct contravention of the solemn Hippocratic 0ath, which doctors take before they begin their service.  The Church of England has pulled its money out of two of the most polluting fossil fuels as part of what it called its moral responsibility to protect the world’s poor from the impact of global warming.  In a move approved by the church’s board it divested £12m from tar sands oil and thermal coal – the first time it has ever imposed investment restrictions because of climate change.

TropicalIslandLeonardo DiCaprio has announced plans to create “the world’s most sustainable island resort” which will push the boundaries of green design, architecture and eco-tourism. The Hollywood actor and environmental activist is working with Restorative Hospitality, a subsidiary of ethical real estate firm Delos, to develop a 104-acre ‘restorative island’ at Blackadore Caye in Belize. Upon its completion in 2018, the island will feature 68 villas, 48 estate homes, three restaurants, a spa and a private clubhouse – all incorporating sustainable building techniques that will restore and regenerate the surrounding ecosystem and reverse the effects of climate change.

The Foundation for Deep Ecology and the Population Media Center have released a collection of astounding photographs that illustrate the devastating effects of out-of-control growth and waste, and it’s breathtaking. “This is an issue that people care about, and oftentimes it’s just not discussed by mainstream media,” Missie Thurston, director of marketing and communications at the Population Media Center said.  In September, world leaders will try and agree on sustainable development goals that will take us through 2030. In December, in Paris, the United Nations will attempt to finally set binding limits on pollution. 2015 will dictate “how we address our degrading planet over the next few decades”. What Humans Are Really Doing to Our Planet, in 19 Jaw-Dropping Images.

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