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Concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 400ppm milestone
Measurements of CO2 at the monitoring station on Hawaii's volcano Mauna Loa began in 1958. The station recorded 400.03 parts per million on 9th May 2013. CO2 concentrations topped have thus 400ppm for the first time in 3 - 4 million years, when the climate was considerably warmer than it is now.
To determine CO2 levels before the introduction of modern monitoring stations, scientists use proxy measurements including studying the bubbles of ancient air trapped in Antarctic ice.
Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London, said a greater sense of urgency about tackling climate change was necessary. "Before we started influencing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, over the last million years it went between about 180 and 280 parts per million," he said. "Now, since the Industrial Revolution and more in the last 50 years, we've taken that level up by more than 40% to a level of 400 and that hasn't been seen on this planet for probably four million years.
John Sauven of Greenpeace said: "This is a landmark moment for humanking, a milestone every bit of important as when the global population passed seven billion."
Support for the uptake of plug-in vehicles in the SW
The Government's Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) is managing a £37 million funding package to benefit drivers with plug-in vehicles. The coalition government will provide 75% of the cost of installing new charge points. This can be claimed by:
The Government has also provided funding to kick-start the installation of recharging points through eight regional schemes in the UK. For example property owners and motorists in the South West can apply for a free, fully installed electric vehicle charge point, using a government subsidy for an intelligent wall-mounted charge point and its installation, which would normally cost upwards of £1,000. For example a grant, funded by OLEV, allows POD Point - www.pod-point.com to offer fully subsidised home charging units, whether or not the home owner currently owns an electric car. The home charging units will be allocated by POD Point on a first come, first served basis.
BIG Green Week (2013), Bristol, 15-23 June
The UK's festival of eco ideas, art and entertainment is back in the centre of Bristol from 15th to 23rd June. This year's speakers are scheduled to be Alice Roberts (BBC), George Clarke (Channel 4), Susan Richardson (Radio 4), and comedian Tony Hawks, as well as top environmental leaders such as Jonathon Porritt, Tony Juniper and Satish Kumar.
Full details are available from the from the BIG Green Week website: biggreenweek.com
UK's energy dependency at highest level since 1976!
The latest energy statistics from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) highlight the growing issue of energy security and the missed opportunity of North Sea oil and gas for diverting sufficient proceeds to invest in an enhanced renewable energy system thus creating more UK jobs and a low carbon, low cost energy system.
The UK's energy imports in 2012 were at a record high, with exports at their lowest level since 1989. In 2012 the UK was a net importer of energy, with a dependency level that increased from 36% in 2011 to 43%, the highest level since 1976, the year that the first Energy & Environmental Management Groups were established in response to the rising concerns then over energy supplies and rising energy prices.
The UK's electricity generation mix in 2012 was 27.5% from gas (a decrease of 13 percentage points on 2011 mainly due to high gas prices), 39.3% from coal, 19.4% from nuclear, 11.3% from renewables, 1.0% from oil, and 1.5% from other sources. Overall hydro and wind generation was 21% higher in 2012 than in 2011.
Industry agrees new energy efficiency targets
According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), the UK's energy intensive industries have agreed to commit to stretching energy efficiency improvement targets to 2020 as part of the voluntary Climate Change Agreements (CCA) scheme. This will deliver an overall 11.0% energy efficiency improvement across all industry sectors by 2020 against agreed baselines.
The new Climate Change Agreements scheme started on 1st April 2013, and shall provide an extension to the Climate Change Levy rebate for energy intensive industries until 2023 in return for meeting energy efficiency improvement targets. CCL discount for electricity under the CCA scheme will increase from 65% to 90% from 1 April 2013. The Environment Agency shall administer the new scheme, providing a simplified and streamlined approach to administration for both Government and Industry.
51 industrial sectors including steel, aerospace and farming have signed up across 9,000 sites. If all the sectors meet their targets from 2013 to 2020 against the agreed baselines, this would:
The Government announced in Budget 2011 that a simpler Climate Change Agreement scheme would run from April 2013 to 2023 providing certainty for industry and encouraging long-term investment in energy-saving strategies which are good UK competitiveness.
Sector targets are set at percentage values energy efficiency improvement. They will be reviewed in 2016, with a view to assessing the progress made by each sector.
The target setting process used evidence templates completed by industry, setting out technological potential and what was cost effective to establish challenging energy efficiency targets for sectors which were realistic to deliver by 2020.
Further information on CCAs is available from the Environment Agency's website: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/topics/pollution/140070.aspx.
Budget 2013: New Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil to look at community benefits
Community benefit from shale gas exploration will be one of the priorities for DECC's new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil (OUGO), the Chancellor George Osborne announced in the 2013 Budget on 20th March.
OUGO has been created within DECC to "promote the safe, responsible and environmentally sound recovery" of the UK's unconventional reserves of gas and oil.
Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey said: "We know that there are large shale resources in the UK, but we do not yet know how much of this unconventional energy is recoverable. This new Office will help us to ensure that we can make the most of our natural resources, whilst protecting the environment, safeguarding the public and ensuring local communities feel some benefit from hosting developments."
As previously reported on this website, environmental campaigners, who would prefer a move towards a low carbon economy through investment in more sustainable renewable energy sources, are alarmed by the prospect of fracking for shale gas in the UK. Following many reported incidents in the US in which fracking has been associated with pollution of water through the chemicals involved in the process, as well as leakage of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas as well as a local air pollutant), the potential environmental impacts are a major cause for concern especially as such problems could be very difficult or impossible to rectify.
It is likely that those promoting green energy together with environmental campaigners will be lobbying for the community investment to be in renewable energy sources to replace the unconventional gas once it runs out to avoid the same mistakes made with other hydrocarbon use and exploitation. North Sea oil and gas is the most obvious case in point, where the opportunity for diverting proceeds to investment in renewable energy infrastructure and thus jobs for a low-carbon sustainable energy system was missed.
Planning permission granted for first new nuclear power station in UK since 1995
Planning consent was given on 19th March for construction of the first new nuclear power station in the UK since 1995, at Hinkley Point, Somerset - to be known as Hinkley Point C.
If agreement can be reached between the Government and Nuclear New Build (NNB), a subsidiary of EDF Energy, on the 'strike price' (the guaranteed future electricity price) for this multi-billion pound project, then the new station will generate enough low carbon electricity to power the equivalent of 5 million households or approx. 7% of the country's needs for 60 years or more, making it one of the largest power stations in the UK.
Announcing the consent, Edward Davey, Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: "The planning decision to give consent to Hinkley Point follows a rigorous examination from the Planning Inspectorate, and detailed analysis within my Department. I am confident that the planning decision I have made is robust, evidence-based, compatible with the Energy National Policy Statements and is in the best interests of the country. It's vital to get investment in new infrastructure to get the economy moving. Low carbon energy projects will bring major investment, supporting jobs and driving growth. This planned project adds to a number of new energy projects consented since May 2010, including wind farms and biomass and gas-fired power stations. This planned new nuclear power station in Somerset will generate vast amounts of clean energy and enhance our energy security. It will benefit the local economy, through direct employment, the supply chain and the use of local services."
It is estimated the project will create 20-25,000 jobs during construction and 900 permanent jobs once in operation. The planning consent follows three years of in-depth consultation with local communities and a year long examination by the UK Planning Inspectorate and, whilst some environmental groups are against the scheme, the approval was met with wide political consensus in the House of Commons.
Hinkley C will be the third nuclear plant at the site on the Somerset coast. Hinkley A, now being decommissioned, generated eletricity between 1965 and 1999. Hinkley B, which commenced generating in 1976, is due to be closed down in 2023.
Earth heating up faster now than in the last 11,000 years
Scientists from Oregon State and Harvard University have published research findings to give a new perspective on long-term global temperatures, according to the Met Office on their "My Climate & Me" social media service at www.myclimateandme.com. Previous climate research has presented a much more condensed snapshot, stretching back no more than 1,500 years.
The team used proxy measurements based on analysis from marine fossils, ice cores, and pollen levels to create a temperature timeline going back as far as the end of the last ice age 11,300 years ago.
The research suggests temperatures experienced today are higher than those over last 1500 years. But over the last 11,300 years, the earth has at times likely experienced temperatures equivalent to those of today.
What is more important, is the speed at which global temperatures seem to be changing today. The rate of warming over the last 150 years appears to be much faster than any temperature changes over the last 11,300 years.
The Met Office have also reported on www.myclimateandme.com that scientists studying Siberian caves have found new evidence suggesting that a 1.5 deg C rise in global temperatures could trigger a substantial thaw of permafrost releasing many gigatonnes of greenhouse gases. Permafrost (permanently frozen soil) covers approximately 24% of land in the Northern Hemisphere and is extremely rich in organic carbon. As the permafrost melts, decomposition of organic matter releases carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, thus further accelerating climate change.
The www.myclimateandme.com social media service has been created for explaining climate change science as a "go-to resource" for an unbiased account of the scientific evidence around climate change, straight from the scientists themselves.
Ecosystem Markets Task Force publishes its Final Report
On 5th March 2013, the Ecosystem Markets Task Force published its Final Report. The report states the business case for why nature matters. It makes practical recommendations for both Government and business where interventions would assist in the creation and development of new markets, enhancing opportunities for growth that also benefit the environment.
The report affirms that business is often unaware of its true reliance on nature, and that a new approach is needed to maximise opportunities and manage future risks.
The Report highlights 5 'headline' or priority recommendations, as follows:
For each recommendation the Report highlights the size of the opportunity, both in terms of its economic value and its potential benefits to nature.
In arriving at these recommendations the Task Force has been looking for priorities that will deliver both opportunities to business and real gains to nature. As part of this process, a significant evidence base has been generated over the last year which has helped to inform Task Force thinking, including wide-ranging analysis of all the opportunity areas set out here.
The Government will issue its official response to the Task Force's report later this year. In the meantime Task Force members will continue to work with business leaders and organisations such as CBI, BITC and Cambridge Natural Capital Leaders Platform to get nature firmly onto business agendas. The Task Force would like to reconvene in one year's time for a discussion with Government and other business leaders to assess progress since the Task Force's report, and possible ways forward.
The report can be downloaded from this link: Realising nature's value: The Final Report of the Ecosystem Markets Task Force (pdf on external site).
World Economic Forum highlights need for better risk management
The risks we face at the national and global level are many, complex and interconnected and require long-term not short-term solutions. Politicians have often been accused of taking a short-term approach to implementing economic, social and environmental policies driven by their desire to be re-elected on a short 4 or 5 year time horizon and thus the electoral gains from short-term, but unsustainable, economic growth.
Many increasingly now believe this boom and bust approach to economic planning coupled with an over-reliance on the short-term needs of a market economy has served the world economy badly, as 'proven' by the global economic downturn and a global rising tide of unemployment since 2008.
The World Economic Forum's 'Global Risks 2013' report based on a survey of over 1,000 experts and industry leaders who were asked to review a landscape of 50 global risks was published last month (January 2013). The report warns that the world is more at risk as persistent economic weakness saps our ability to tackle environmental challenges. Following a year scarred by extreme weather, from Hurricane Sandy to flooding in China and the UK, respondents rated rising greenhouse gas emissions as the third most likely global risk overall, while the failure of climate change adaptation is seen as the environmental risk with the most knock-on effects for the next decade.
Lee Howell, the editor of the report and Managing Director at the World Economic Forum gave this warning: "These global risks are essentially a health warning regarding our most critical systems. National resilience to global risks needs to be a priority so that critical systems continue to function despite a major disturbance."
'Global Risks 2013' analyses three major risk cases of concern globally:
1. Health and hubris, the basic idea of which is that the world is complacent about threats to global health, ranging from rising resistance to antibiotics, to the way pandemics could easily spread in a hyperconnected world. In a world where genetic mutation often outpaces human innovation, it is foolhardy to be complacent, the report's authors suggest.
2. Economy and environment under stress, which focuses on how the economic and the environmental storms are colliding, essentially relating to how - during a period of widespread austerity - it is difficult to mobilise finance and other resources to mitigate risks arising from climate change, such as extreme weather events. The cost of storm and flood damages are huge and growing, and governments are finding it increasingly hard to pay. Other risks relate to socioeconomic or geopolitical fallouts from greater gaps between rich and poor, or from persistent global economic fragility. Violent anti-austerity protests in Athens might be little more than mild examples of such risks.
3. Digital wildfires are risks relating to how "the democratisation of information can have volatile and unpredicted consequences, as reflected in the riots provoked by an anti-Islam film on YouTube", the report notes. Confidence in governments and companies, newspapers and markets, can be eroded by fast-spreading information or propaganda.
Commenting on the 'economy and environment under stress' risk, John Drzik, CEO of Oliver Wyman Group said:
"Two storms - environmental and economic - are on a collision course. If we don't allocate the resources needed to mitigate the rising risk from severe weather events, global prosperity for future generations could be threatened. Political leaders, business leaders and scientists need to come together to manage these complex risks."
External link: World Economic Forum
Low 2012 wheat yield highlights potential food security issue for the UK
The National Farmers Union (NFU) have reported that for 2012 UK wheat yields were the lowest since the late 1980s. Other crops suffered badly too.
This was a direct result of 2012 being one of the wettest years for the UK since records began. In 1980 the UK human population was 56 million, in 2011 it topped 63 million. With 7 million more mouths in the UK to feed since 1980, this combination of an unmanaged and relentless population growth and extreme weather highlights the future food security issue for the UK.
As reported by the Met Office earlier this month, the persistent wet weather resulted in total 2012 rainfall for the UK of 1330.7 mm, which is just 6.6 mm short of the record set in 2000. Looking at individual countries, 2012 was the wettest year on record for England, third wettest for Wales, 17th wettest for Scotland and 40th wettest for Northern Ireland.
The UK's population density is one of the world's highest at 674 persons per square mile. The effect on global food production through increasing incidents of extreme weather events brought about by climate change coupled with population growth is likely to be one of the biggest challenges facing the UK in the coming years made worse as prevously un-developed land becomes the target for housing development regardless of the future strategic value of land for agriculture, horticulture and biodiversity to this country.
Environmental campaigners are increasingly questioning the wisdom of building on green belt, green fields and agricultural land thus destroying land that could be used for food production should the need arise in the future before the "carrying capacity" of the UK now and in the future in terms of population level and food production has been established by statisticians and policy makers in Government.
An example of the increasing awareness of the importance of this issue is from one South West environmental group, Saltford Environment Group, in North East Somerset. In its recent policy statement on green belt development, Saltford Environment Group summarised its specific reasons for wishing to protect green belt from housing or other unsuitable development. One of the Saltford Environment Group's six core principles states:-
"Central and Local Government have a duty of care to take a more long term and strategic approach by first identifying the future 'carrying capacity' of the UK and local regions. This must be done against a background of world population growth that is creating an ever growing demand for food whilst the increasing episodes of extreme weather in the UK and worldwide due to climate change will reduce the UK's ability to feed itself or rely on imported food."
Climate Week is Britain's biggest climate change campaign
This year's Climate Week will be 4 - 10 March. Culminating in a week of activities, it showcases practical solutions from every sector of society. Climate Week is for everyone in every part of society wanting to do their bit to help combat climate change.
Each year, half a million people attend 3,000 events in Britain's biggest ever environmental occasion. Events are run by schools, businesses, charities, councils and many others.
A wet 2012: Is the UK getting wetter?
According to the Met office, the persistent wet weather resulted in total 2012 rainfall for the UK of 1330.7 mm, which is just 6.6 mm short of the record set in 2000. Looking at individual countries, 2012 was the wettest year on record for England, third wettest for Wales, 17th wettest for Scotland and 40th wettest for Northern Ireland.
Looking at annual rainfall for the UK, the country as a whole has been getting wetter in recent decades. Long-term averages of 30-year periods show an increase in annual rainfall of about 5% from 1961-1990 to 1981-2010.
Professor Julia Slingo, Chief Scientist at the Met Office, said: "The trend towards more extreme rainfall events is one we are seeing around the world, in countries such as India and China, and now potentially here in the UK. Much more research is needed to understand more about the causes and potential implications.
It's essential we look at how this may impact our rainfall patterns going forward over the next decade and beyond, so we can advise on the frequency of extreme weather in the future and the potential for more surface and river flooding. This will help inform decision-making about the need for future resilience both here in the UK and globally."
The Met Office confirmed that changes in sea surface temperatures due to natural cycles and reducing amounts of Arctic sea-ice could be influencing the increase in rainfall, but more research needed to be done before anyone can establish how big a role they play.
Increasing global temperatures may be another factor. A warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture and we have seen an increase of about 0.7 deg C in global temperatures since pre-industrial times. From basic physics, this would equate to about a 4% increase in moisture in the atmosphere which means there is a greater potential for heavy rain.
On its blog "Is the UK getting wetter?" the Met Office has said: "Preliminary evidence suggests we are getting slightly more rain in total and it may be falling in more intense bursts".
Climate SouthWest - building resilience to extreme weather & climate change
Controversy as Government backs fracking for shale gas
Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey announced on 13 December the go-ahead for Cuadrilla to resume controversial shale gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing (known as "fracking") in Lancashire subject to new controls to mitigate the risks of seismic activity. This process was originally stopped from after two tremors near Blackpool. Conditions have been imposed to minimise the risk of seismic activity. Mr Davey said:
"Shale gas represents a promising new potential energy resource for the UK. It could contribute significantly to our energy security, reducing our reliance on imported gas, as we move to a low carbon economy. My decision is based on the evidence. It comes after detailed study of the latest scientific research available and advice from leading experts in the field."
"We are still in the very early stages of shale gas exploration in the UK and it is likely to develop slowly. It is essential that its development should not come at the expense of local communities or the environment. Fracking must be safe and the public must be confident that it is safe. We are strengthening the stringent regime already in place with new controls around seismic risks. And as the industry develops we will remain vigilant to all emerging evidence to ensure fracking is safe and the local environment is protected. The new Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil, led by DECC, will be able to focus regulatory effort where necessary to meet the needs of future production."
Tony Grayling, Head of Climate Change and Communities at the Environment Agency, said: "The Environment Agency takes the potential risks arising from fracking for shale gas extraction very seriously and has undertaken a thorough assessment of them. We are satisfied that existing regulations are sufficient to protect people and the environment in the current exploratory phase. We have also established a Shale Gas Unit to act as a single point of contact for industry to ensure there is an effective, streamlined approach for the regulations that fall within our responsibility."
Steve Walker, the Health and Safety Executive's Head of Offshore Oil and Gas Safety, said: "HSE will be working closely alongside our partners on fracking, building on expertise gained from regulating other forms of oil and gas extraction. Over the past 16 years HSE has worked very closely with the Environment Agency on regulating a range of high hazard industries in England and Wales and we are developing our joint approach to the regulation of unconventional gas. We will play our full part in taking forward any proposals for the regulatory regime, working with the new Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil."
Although the Government hopes shale gas will reduce the price of gas, its independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, has warned that shale gas may be unlikely to bring down energy prices much in the UK. Commenting on the Government's new gas generation strategy, David Kennedy, Chief Executive of the Committee on Climate Change said "a new dash for gas, with very limited investment in low-carbon technologies through the 2020s would not be economically sensible, and would entail unnecessary costs and price increases. Neither would it be compatible with meeting carbon budgets and the 2050 target. Early decarbonisation of the power sector should be plan A - and the dash for gas Plan Z."
In the US, the exploitation of shale gas has dramatically reduced energy prices but has raised many concerns over the contamination of drinking water supplies and other adverse effects on the health of the local population where fracking occurs.
Environmental campaigners who would prefer a move towards a low carbon economy through investment in more sustainable renewable energy sources are alarmed by the announcement. Following many reported incidents in the US in which fracking has been associated with pollution of water through the chemicals involved in the process, as well as leakage of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas as well as a local air pollutant), the potential environmental impacts are a major cause for concern especially as such problems could be very difficult or impossible to rectify. These impacts include: toxic contamination of groundwater and soil, risks to air quality, the migration of gases and hydraulic fracturing chemicals to the surface or between wells, surface contamination from spills, and flow-back or subsequent failures in the well linings.
The 18-minute on-line video "The Sky Is Pink" by Josh Fox demonstrates by using oil and gas industry data the short and long term risks associated with onshore gas wells, in particular the leaking of well linings. The film can be viewed from this link: 'The Sky is Pink' online.
Concerns over unconventional onshore gas do not stop at fracking for shale gas. Another source of unconventional gas, coal bed methane (CBM), is also being investigated. Different techniques for extraction of CBM are used compared to fracking for shale gas but there are several similarities and fracking can be introduced into later stages of the gas production process. The South West faces the prospect of having the first new CBM drilling site at Keynsham, near Bristol. UK Methane Ltd's planning application to "Drill and test the permeability of the coal and associated strata at land on the south east side of Hick's Gate, Durley Hill, Keynsham" was submitted to B&NES Council on 27 September 2012. B&NES Council is expected to make its planning decision on this application in early 2013 - a local campaign against this planning application has been orchestrated by two members of Frack Free Somerset - Transition Keynsham and Saltford Environment Group*.
*UPDATE ON HICKS GATE: UK Methane Ltd withdrew its application to drill for coal bed methane at Hick's Gate, Keynsham on 20th December 2012. In its withdrawal notification it told B&NES Council that it would re-submit a new application early in the new year for production which would include shale gas. In March 2013 UK Methane's MD Gerwyn Williams said at a public meeting in Bath that due to the slow progress in Bath & North East Somerset he was concentrating on South Wales first.
First food waste anaerobic plant at a sewage treatment works opened
A new food waste recycling facility which supports economic growth and a healthy environment was opened by Defra Minister of State David Heath on 3 December at Wessex Water's sewage treatment works in Avonmouth. This could create jobs and new business opportunities and is the first such facility in the area. Built and operated by Wessex Water subsidiary GENeco, the new anaerobic digestion plant can annually turn 40,000 tonnes of food waste into a renewable energy supply equivalent to serving 3,000 homes. It also produces a nutrient-rich organic fertiliser to help local farmers reduce their costs and reliance on non-organic chemical fertilisers.
The plant is also unique by being the first food waste anaerobic plant in Britain to be built in a sewage treatment works. Wessex Water Chairman Colin Skellett said: "GENeco provides the opportunity to extend this to food waste so that what we all produce - whether in the form of sewage or food - is being put to good use and helping to generate renewable energy."
Details can be found on the Wessex Water website from this link: http://www.wessexwater.co.uk/news/threecol.aspx?id=9342.
Energy Bill and Gas Generation Strategy published
After repeated delays, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, Ed Davey, finally introduced the Government's Energy Bill to Parliament on 29 November. The Bill sets out reforms to the design of the electricity market that to start the construction of low-carbon energy infrastructure and in low-carbon manufacturing supply-chains. Ed Davey said "The Energy Bill will attract investment to bring about a once in a generation transformation of our electricity market, moving from predominantly a fossil-fuel to a diverse low-carbon generation mix."
The Energy Bill includes provisions on electricity market reform and puts in place measures to attract the £110 billion investment which is needed to replace current generating capacity and upgrade the grid by 2020, and to cope with a rising demand for electricity. This includes transition arrangements for investments under the Renewables Obligation scheme; and Emissions Performance Standard (EPS) to limit carbon dioxide emissions from new fossil fuel power stations.
The Energy Bill also confirms plans to ensure energy companies help consumers get on the best available tariff, limiting suppliers to four "core tariffs" per fuel.
A target for reducing carbon emissions by 2030 (the fifth carbon budget) has been delayed until the Energy and Climate Change Committee has provided advice in 2016.
The Government also published its Gas Generation Strategy. New gas-fired power stations (which emit half the CO2 of coal) will need to be built over the next two decades to replace retiring coal, older gas and nuclear power stations. The Government maintains that gas will also be required to support a low-carbon electricity sector, providing the flexibility to balance out increasing amounts of wind and nuclear energy. To the alarm of environmental campaigners, it has also signalled that it sees shale gas as "potentially an exciting new prospect for diversifying our energy supplies. Any development will have to meet high standards of safety and environmental protection. A decision on whether to permit Cuadrilla to recommence fracking will be announced by the Secretary of State shortly."
The Energy Bill and its progress through Parliament: Energy Bill 2012-13
The new Gas Generation Strategy on gov.uk website: Gas Generation Strategy
Stats & facts on energy & wasted resources
The 'Low Carbon South West' and 'Low Waste South West' pages of this website have recently been archived (and can be found via this website's A-Z Site Index). The 'Stats & Facts - on energy & wasted resources' elements of those pages have been updated and moved to "Quotes Corner" on philharding.net providing a selection of thought-provoking statistics and facts about how we use energy and waste resources. The new page can be found from this link: philharding.net/quotes-corner/quotes-corner-6stats.html.
New UK Energy Efficiency Strategy
"The Energy Efficiency Strategy: The Energy Efficiency Opportunity in the UK" was launched by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) on 12 November 2012. The strategy is designed to maximise the benefits of existing policy and to realise the wider energy efficiency potential across the UK economy through connecting knowledge and technologies to finance, support energy efficiency innovation, and harnessing the power of improving energy use information.
The new Strategy is aimed at changing the way energy is used in sectors such as housing, transport and manufacturing over the coming decades. It also includes immediate action to kick start a revolution in UK energy efficiency, including £39 million to fund five centres examining business and household energy demand; an energy efficiency labelling trial with John Lewis; and a drive on financing energy efficiency for business and the public sector.
The Energy Efficiency Strategy can be found on the gov.uk website: The Energy Efficiency Strategy (gov.uk).
Unique 'green' management guide reaches major milestone
The unique and highly popular managing change guide, "Resource Efficiency and Corporate Responsibility - Managing Change", continues to be in high demand nearly nine years since the first edition was launched in January 2004. Over quarter of a million (250,000) copies have been issued in electronic and printed format to a global audience of managers and Business Schools and to existing or aspiring leaders in industry, commerce and the public sector.
"original and excellent"
Recognised for its original and effective approach to the whole subject of change management in the context of improving resource efficiency and environmental performance, it is useful for assisting just about any change management process. Its change management matrix provides managers with a simple and effective diagnostic tool and route map for plotting progress on how their organisation is responding to environmental challenges at all levels of their organisation whilst the humorous approach of its "worst practice guides" shows how it is so easy to get things wrong as a matter of habit.
"as good as anything I have used"
If you have not got your own free copy yet, you can download the guide from this website using the link below.
Britain risks power shortages by 2015/16
Analysis by Ofgem (Office of the Gas and Electricity Markets) published on 5th October 2012 for the Department of Energy and Climate Change predicts a reduction in electricity generation margins from 14% today to just 4% by 2015/16. A de-rated capacity margin is used for these calculations; this takes into account the intermittent nature of wind generation and the fact that conventional generation plants may not be available at all times because of maintenance or break down.
Coal fired-generation is likely to close earlier than expected under EU environmental legislation and the risk of a shortfall in electricity is highest in 2015/16.
Ofgem's Project Discovery report in 2009 identified the combination of problems that Britain faced: the global financial crisis, tough environmental targets and the closure of ageing power stations would increase the risk to consumers' energy supplies and could lead to higher bills. This latest report shows that those problems remain.
Ofgem's Chief Executive, Alistair Buchanan said: "The unprecedented challenges facing Britain's energy industry, identified in Ofgem's Project Discovery, to attract the investment to deliver secure, sustainable and affordable energy supplies for consumers, still remain. Ofgem is working with Government on its plans to reform the electricity market to tackle these issues. Ofgem is playing its part by helping Britain to attract nearly £30 billion of network investment through its RIIO* price controls. Ofgem is also seeking sweeping reforms to the retail market to ensure a simpler, clearer and fairer energy market for consumers. This is vital as if consumers are going to be expected to pay for this investment, it is only right that they see a complete change in the way suppliers treat them. Encouragingly we are increasingly seeing evidence that suppliers have got the message and we will be publishing our next reforms proposals shortly." *(Revenue = Incentives + Innovation + Outputs)
Edward Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change responded by stating that the Government was reforming the electricity market to deliver secure, clean and affordable electricity. The Government's forthcoming Energy Bill should ensure that there was a secure supply.
Editor's note: This highlights yet again what a missed golden opportunity North Sea oil and gas has been; a proportion of that one-off windfall should have been reinvested directly into a sustainable and renewable energy system for the UK to ensure the nation had a low carbon, energy secure future. My discussion paper "Can 'unconventional' onshore gas assist the transition to a low carbon future?" makes the case for learning from that mistake so that any developments of onshore gas (shale gas and coal bed methane) can help fund renewable energy - see link below.
Can 'unconventional' onshore gas assist the transition to a low carbon future? (pdf from external site)
Sustainable legacy for London 2012 Olympic venue in the South West
The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy hosted some memorable sailing successes during the London 2012 Olympic Games; Ben Ainslie's gold medal in the Finn class for Team GB being one notable example. The sailing venue on Dorset's Jurassic Coast played its own part to ensure the Games could be seen to be the greenest ever.
Some of the ways this part of Dorset has set the standard for protecting biodiversity, building green infrastructure and promoting a sustainable approach for major events include:
The outcome from all these and other initiatives means that the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy is not just a world class sailing venue, but that with affordable housing once the sailing village is sold, a boost for tourism through the protection and promotion of nature and increased access to the coast, this part of Dorset will have a positive and sustainable legacy from London 2012.
For further related information (external site) click here: London 2012 sustainability round-up - from Defra
Preparing for flooding and water scarcity
The Government's advisers on adapting to climate change, the Adaptation Sub-Committee of the Committee on Climate Change, published their third annual progress report in July 2012 focusing on managing risks from flooding and water scarcity. The report showed that a lot is already being done to manage these risks but that more action is needed to avoid increasing costs and unnecessary damage and disruption.
Speaking at the launch of the report Lord Smith, Chairman of the Environment Agency, said: "The weather extremes which we've seen this year - with widespread floods almost immediately following a long term drought - have brought the importance of resilience into sharp focus. Climate change science tells us that these are the sort of weather patterns we are going to have to get used to, so taking action today to prepare and adapt our homes, businesses, and infrastructure is vital."
The progress report stated that current efforts to manage flood risk, if they were to continue, would not keep pace with the combined effects of climate change and economic development in the future. Stronger policies may be required to sustain a continued, but necessary, reduction in household water use. It also recommended that the Government and local authorities should ensure more robust and transparent implementation of planning policy in relation to development in areas at risk of flooding.
The report also recommended that National Adaptation Programme should take a systematic and proportionate approach to addressing priority climate risks and assess existing and proposed policies against this. An important part of this will be to examine whether current and planned actions of public agencies, local authorities, businesses and households are sufficient to address the risks of climate change, or whether changes to the policy framework are required to enable and encourage action.
If you are concerned about how climate change will affect your organisation and what you can do to adapt to these changes, the 'Climate Ready' support service from the Environment Agency helps businesses, the public sector and other organisations prepare by providing advice on assessing future risks and the steps needed to adapt.
New guidance for businesses on environmental reporting
At Rio+20, the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development that took place in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012, British companies and the Government helped secure international support to encourage businesses to include sustainability information in their annual reporting. Views are now sought by Defra on environmental reporting guidance that it published recently.
The proposed new guidance aims to make it simpler and easier for UK businesses to demonstrate their sustainability performance. It shows businesses how they can measure and report on their performance in five areas: air quality and greenhouse gas emissions; water; biodiversity and ecosystem services; natural materials and waste.
Defra is seeking views on the revised voluntary guidance for how UK organisations should measure and report on their environmental impacts by 17 October 2012. This guidance is intended to replace the current guidance which was published in 2006.
Further information and the consultation document can be found from this link: https://www.gov.uk/measuring-and-reporting-environmental-impacts-guidance-for-businesses.
Businesses listed on the London Stock Exchange will have to report their levels of greenhouse gas emissions from the start of financial year 2013/14 under plans announced by the Deputy Prime Minister at the Rio+20 Summit.
Record breaking wet weather as jet stream shifts
According to the Met Office, June 2012 had double the average amount of rain, making it the wettest June for the UK as a whole since records began in 1910. Total UK rainfall was 145.3 mm, twice as much rainfall as normal and exceeded the previous record set in 2007 (136.2mm). The period from April to June was also the wettest recorded for the UK.
This unseasonal weather is a result of a change of track (south) of the North Atlantic jet stream in the upper atmosphere. When the jet stream's position moves south over the UK this affects rainfall patterns as low pressure normally over the Atlantic is held over the UK. The resulting heavy rainfall can lead to local flooding as has been the case in July with parts of the South West, especially Devon, Dorset and Somerset, experiencing severe flooding.
The warming of the Arctic and subsequent loss of Arctic summertime sea ice which can push the jet stream off its normal course, weakening it and shifting its position south over the UK, could be the cause of our wet summer. However, we cannot be completely sure that reduced Arctic sea ice is the sole or main cause for the shift south of the jet stream.
The devastating Gloucestershire floods of July 2007 that affected our region were also due to a shift south of the North Atlantic jet stream. However the jet stream shift on that occasion was due to "La Niña" - the appearance of cooler than normal water temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean ("El Niño" is the appearance of warmer than normal water in the Pacific and this too affects weather patterns across the globe).
The current wet period has followed two dry winters in Southern England. The period January to June 2010 was the second driest such period for 100 years after the coldest winter (2009/10) for over 30 years. Climate change is predicted to cause fluctuations in weather patterns, extreme weather events (floods and droughts) and also a loss of Arctic sea ice which can affect the jet stream. Clearly movement in the path of the North Atlantic jet stream has a fundamental effect on our weather and is a factor to consider alongside the effects of climate change on our future weather patterns.
England's forests to stay in public ownership
The Independent Panel on Forestry has published today (4th July) its final report on the future direction of England's forestry policy. Responding on behalf of the Government to the report, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman confirmed that forests would stay in public hands and the Government would not sell the public forest estate.
The report calls for the benefits of England's woods and forests to be re-valued for all the services they provide. These include not only areas for recreation, but also clean air, clean water, habitats for wildlife, locking up carbon, shading in cities - even helping in flood reduction. Wood is the raw material for timber frame buildings, furniture, flooring, fuel, and of course paper. The report highlights the 'triple bottom line' that forestry delivers and calls for a revival of a woodland culture that appreciates how important trees are for people, for nature and the economy. The public forest estate is the single largest provider of outdoor leisure and recreation in England and it is also the single largest timber producer, as well as being a vital habitat for wildlife. Research shows that these elements are producing returns on investment estimated at £400 million per annum.
The Woodland Trust, in its response to the report, said it was pleased to see that the report included a challenging target around creating new woodland, that there was potential to secure the restoration and better protection of ancient woodland and that the report did not advocate mass sell-off of the estate, something they and many others strongly opposed last year.
Commenting on the report to its supporters the Woodland Trust stated that 44% of Europe is covered with woodland but in England it's only 9%; 25% is irreplaceable ancient woodland and 40% of ancient woodland is covered by non-native trees (conifers produce dense, year round shade which cuts out the light to any surviving trees and the delicate plants below, with damaging effects and lose of important habitats). The Trust also said that the report indicates that the Government and society are missing a huge opportunity if we don't keep the spotlight on woods.
The Independent Panel on Forestry report can be viewed from this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/independent-panel-on-forestry-final-report. The Woodland Trust's website is at http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/
Sustainability and the London 2012 Olympics
The Commission for a Sustainable London 2012 has published Breaking the Tape, its final review of sustainability before the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. London 2012 is the first Olympic and Paralympic Games to attempt to deliver a holistic sustainability programme from construction, through Games-time and into legacy and also the first to open itself up to scrutiny by an independent commission. The review judges that, overall, this has been a great success.
The report applauds the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) for great sustainable venues and a learning legacy making profound changes to the way the construction industry views sustainability. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is praised for its meticulous plans to deliver unprecedented levels of sustainability through ground-breaking initiatives such as the sustainable sourcing code, diversity and inclusion business charter, food vision and zero waste plans.
You can find further information including the Breaking the Tape review report on the Government's sustainable development website at http://sd.defra.gov.uk/2012/06/breaking-the-tape-looking-forward-to-a-uniquely-sustainable-games/.
International standard for sustainable event management, ISO 20121, launched - SW 2012 Olympics sailing venue on board!
A new milestone in delivering more sustainable events was reached in June with the launch of the international standard for sustainable event management, ISO 20121. The development of this standard provided the opportunity for ISO 20121 to be used by the London Organising Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games (LOCOG).
BS 8901, the specification for a sustainable event management system with guidance for use, was the starting draft for ISO 20121. The ISO 20121 working group of international experts and liaison bodies have provided their input to create an international standard. BS 8901 will be withdrawn after six months (December 2012).
ISO 20121 (effective date 15 June 2012) is based on and supersedes BS 8901 and, like BS 8901, has been designed for the entire range of events from large-scale conferences and unique events such as the London 2012 Olympics, to rock festivals and amateur sporting events.
The "Greener Events" guide - found on this website from this link: greener events guide - is particularly useful for smaller, more local events (compared to large-scale national or international events) where a formal management system is not warranted or appropriate. Nevertheless it makes a useful management tool for events of all shapes and sizes and provides a (free) practical complimentary management tool to ISO 20121.
Further information on ISO 20121 from the British Standards Institution (BSI) can be found at: www.bsigroup.com/iso20121.
Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy on board!
The Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy (WPNSA) in Dorset was one of the first venues to use the greener events guide when it was launched in 2005. As a 2012 Olympics venue, WPSNA has achieved ISO 20121 certification in response to the Sustainable Sourcing Code for the 2012 Games as defined by the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG). The benefits of ISO 20121 certification for WPNSA include the following: the sailing academy has achieved estimated cost savings of approximately 15% through better waste management and electricity optimisation, gained an enhanced reputation and international recognition as a sustainable business, reduced the risk of legal breaches, and futureproofed the facility.
2012 statistics for UK biodiversity indicators published
The 2012 statistics on biodiversity indicators have been published by HM Government, for both England and the UK. The set of 24 indicators - including the status of priority species, habitats and ecosystems, expenditure on biodiversity, and the conservation volunteering - provides an insight into the health of our natural environment.
Full details can be found on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee website from this link: http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-4229.
Inspiring change at the 'BIG Green Week' festival
Bristol's 'BIG Green Week' festival programme features one hundred events over nine days, from Saturday 9th to Sunday 17th June. The purpose of Bristol's BIG Green Week is to inspire change.
Speakers at BIG Green Week events will be delving into the detail of the issues and sharing their thinking and understanding on everything from innovative forms of car sharing to the end of business usual - and how to approach behaviour change. The organisers have tried to cover the main issues from resource use and transport, food and water, through to communicating green ideas. There will be a chance to learn from the experts - and find different ways of seeing the environmental challenges we all face.
BIG Green Week is about a lot more than listening to experts. It will be taking over the centre of Bristol - with a children's playground on one of the main streets, a giant market stretching out around the floating harbour, and the Festival of Nature - a two day family-friendly celebration of wildlife on Bristol's Harbourside.
Tickets are available for inspiring comedy, music, film, poetry, art and ideas events. Around half the events are free of charge. Full information is available from this link: http://biggreenweek.com.
Note. Bristol (and the South West region) has a long track record of championing green issues and Bristol is the only UK city to have been shortlisted for European Green Capital 2014. Green jobs are already big business in the Bristol region with about 13,600 people working in environmental technologies and services. Bristol is the world capital of the wildlife and environmental film industry, and the region is the biggest silicon design cluster anywhere outside of Silicon Valley, attracting over $1.25 billion in investment.
United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) is taking place in Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. It has been named Rio+20.
Rio+20 will be attended by world leaders and has the potential to be the most significant sustainable development international event in years. It will focus on two themes: a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication; and the institutional framework for sustainable development. The preparations for Rio+20 have highlighted seven areas for priority attention. These are decent jobs, energy, sustainable cities, food security and sustainable agriculture, water, oceans and disaster readiness.
The official Rio+20 website is at http://www.uncsd2012.org/ where you can find a host of Rio+20 information, press releases, issues, themes, messages, etc.
World Environment Day: Does the Green Economy include YOU?
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has chosen "Green Economy: Does it include YOU?" as the theme for this year's World Environment Day, 5th June. To quote from UNEP, practically speaking, a Green Economy is one whose growth in income and employment is driven by public and private investments that reduce carbon emissions and pollution, enhance energy and resource efficiency, and prevent the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. These investments need to be catalyzed and supported by targeted public expenditure, policy reforms and regulation changes.
But what, according to UNEP, does all this mean for YOU? If the Green Economy is about social equity and inclusiveness then technically it is all about you! The question posed therefore asks you to find out more about the Green Economy and assess whether, in your country, you are being included in it.
The UNEP-led Green Economy Initiative, launched in late 2008, provides a comprehensive and practical working mechanism, through analysis and policy support for investing in green sectors and in greening environmental unfriendly sectors. For further information you can visit the UNEP Green Economy Initiative website from this link: http://www.unep.org/greeneconomy/.
Archive: Summaries of selected older news stories
South West is UK's first "Marine Energy Park"
The South West was named as the UK's first Marine Energy Park on 23 January 2012, firmly placing the region on the international map for leadership in marine renewable energy.
Climate Change Minister Greg Barker made the announcement on a visit to Bristol where he met with key members of the new initiative. The South West Marine Energy Park will stretch from Bristol through to Cornwall and as far as the Isles of Scilly. It will create a collaborative partnership in the region between national and local government, Local Enterprise Partnerships, the Universities of Plymouth and Exeter and industry including Cornwall's famous Wave Hub. The aim of the partnership will be to speed up the progress of marine power development.
Energy from the waves or tides has the potential to generate up to 27GW of power in the UK alone by 2050, equivalent to the power generated from 8 coal-fired power stations, as well as helping to reduce emissions to fight climate change.
The South West Marine Energy Park prospectus launched by Greg Barker has been commissioned by Cornwall Council and Plymouth City Council and is produced by Regen SW.
In the past seven years £100 million has been invested in the South West marine energy industry creating world leading research and demonstration facilities. Such investment has supported the development of the largest consented area for marine technologies in the world at Cornwall's Wave Hub, the Fab-Test nursery site at Falmouth, the new marine science building at Plymouth and globally-leading research facilities at Exeter University and the National Composites Centre at Bristol.
UK's population growing faster than ever...
The UK population increased in 2010 faster than at any time in almost half a century, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. By mid-2010 the estimated resident population was 62,262,000, an increase of 470,000 (0.8%) on the previous year.
The growth rate is the highest since the "baby boom" era of the 1960s. The annual number of births in the UK is now at its highest level since 1991, with 797,000 during the year to mid-2010. The growth in the difference between the numbers of births and deaths is the main reason behind this, accounting for 52% of the growth.
The Office for National Statistics highlights two factors as significant; the rising fertility among UK-born women and more inward migration of women of childbearing age. The UK's population increased by 3.1 million people in the 9 years from 2001 to 2010.
This unsustainable growth will be of concern for many in the UK with its ever shrinking land resource and availability of affordable housing, our desire to reduce CO2 emissions and the rate of resource depletion, rising travel congestion and the need to import more food from overseas as climate change impacts further reduce the planet's ability to feed its growing population.
Some relevant quotes to ponder:
"Can you think of anything that can get better if we crowd more people into our cities, our towns, into our state our nation or on this earth?" - Dr Albert Bartlett, former Professor of Physics, University of Colorado
" ...we owe it to the rest of the planet to stabilise our own population. Producing lots of extra Brits, whether through higher birth rates or immigration, is a selfish strategy both economically and environmentally. Not only will it increase overcrowding and congestion and put huge extra strain on resources and habitats in the UK; because British consumers have such a heavy global footprint, it will intensify our impact on the Earth's ecosystems" - David Nicholson-Lord, research associate, Optimum Population Trust
"I have no doubt that the fundamental problem the planet faces is the enormous increase in the human population" - Sir David Attenborough
Nature worth billions to UK economy
Research, funded by Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), has revealed in a major new independent report, the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA), that nature is worth billions of pounds to the UK economy. The report strengthens the arguments for protecting and enhancing the environment (as if this was necessary!) and, according to Defra, will be used by the government to direct policy in future.
Whilst before now people may have thought that caring for the environment resulted in additional financial costs, the UK NEA shows that there are real economic reasons for looking after nature. The NEA also shows that the health benefits, well being and the enjoyment of nature itself have not always been fully appreciated or valued. Examples from the assessment include:
Welcoming publication of the report, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said "The natural world is vital to our existence, providing us with essentials such as food, water and clean air, but also other cultural and health benefits not always fully appreciated because we get them for free. The UK National Ecosystem Assessment is a vital step forward in our ability to understand the true value of nature and how to sustain the benefits it gives us. I want our children to be the first generation to leave the natural environment in a better state than it was left to them. In 50 years time I want them to be able to look back and see how much the value of nature has grown, not diminished. The findings of this assessment have played a big part in shaping our forthcoming Natural Environment White Paper that will help us revitalise our towns and countryside."
Professor Bob Watson, Chief Scientist at Defra and the co-chairman of UK NEA, said "There is an urgent need to better manage our ecosystems and the natural resources they provide us with. But until now there has been no clear way of valuing the full range of benefits they provide beyond what we can buy and sell. The UK NEA introduces groundbreaking approaches to measure the value of these services and how they will be affected in future if we do not make the right choices now. The NEA shows that we need a more integrated approach to ecosystem management, involving Government, the private sector, voluntary groups and the public working together to protect the services nature provides."
The UK NEA has brought together more than 500 experts in ecology, economics and social sciences.
Green economics for a safer, more secure future
Can the combination of the economic crisis, extreme weather events, natural disasters, and rising world food prices finally convince the majority of governments that a different kind of economic model is necessary?
According to the OECD, governments are now recognising that innovation, investing in renewable energy, and improved efficiency in the use of energy and materials is the economic approach essential for protecting the environment whilst enabling a sustainable economic recovery.
On 25 May (2011) the OECD launched its green growth strategy that seeks to provide a practical framework for governments in developed and developing countries to boost economic growth and protect the environment. The strategy makes two distinct points:
Alongside recognition of the need for a sustainable economic model, there are growing concerns about food security and rising food prices that have doubled since 1990 and are forecast to double again by 2030. These concerns were further highlighted by Oxfam's report 'Growing a Better Future' published on 31 May warning that rising food prices were having a devastating effect on the world's poorest. Food security will be made worse by the combination of continuing unrestrained growth in the world's human population (to over 9 billion by 2050) and reduced food production arising from climate change impacts.
Mr Angel Gurria, OECD Secretary-General, in launching the OECD green growth strategy summed up the solutions to the challenges we face:
"We need to make growth greener, to make our economic and environmental policies more compatible and even mutually-reinforcing. This is not just a matter of new technologies or new sources of renewable, safe energy. It is about how we all behave every day of our lives, what we eat, what we drink, what we recycle, re-use, repair, how we produce and how we consume"
William and Kate help lead the way for greener weddings
The national (and international) enthusiasm for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and the couple's wishes to source many aspects of their wedding arrangements as sustainably as possible, serves as a useful reminder that weddings can be the happiest and most important day of a couple's life without having to literally "cost the earth" in terms of environmental damage. Obviously state occasions such as royal weddings do have a large environmental impact but nevertheless steps can be taken to minimise the worst effects of events, large or small.
Wedding guests have been asked by Prince William and Kate Middleton to donate money to charity rather than buying them gifts. Westminster Abbey, decorated with seasonal flowers, shrubs and trees, mainly sourced from royal estates, includes an avenue of trees lining the aisle and leading to the altar based around growing rather than cut plants. These support the couple's desire to source the decorations as sustainably as is practicable.
Whilst aimed at conferences and seminars, the nationally recognised "Greener Events" guide on www.oursouthwest.com has a useful one-page checklist that can help wedding couples plan a "low carbon" reception for their special day with minimal environmental impact. Choosing a reception venue with a sound environmental policy and located as close as possible to the wedding itself is the starting point. The guide's checklist can be used to discuss with the venue management a range of measures to keep the environmental footprint as light as possible.
From the use of locally sourced organic seasonal food and drink, minimising energy waste (e.g. avoiding wasteful unnecessary lighting), and seeking the recycling of all waste produced, to encouraging car sharing amongst guests and offsetting unavoidable carbon emissions, there are many small steps that can be taken to help keep the day memorable for all the right reasons. The "Greener Events" guide is available from this link: greener events guide.
A final thought. Don't get too hung-up about the environmental impact of your wedding. If your guests weren't attending your wedding they would be doing something else on the day that could be just as environmentally damaging - or even more so. By making the effort to reduce impacts for your wedding day you will help reinforce the message with your guests that we all have a responsibility to care for the environment - even when celebrating the important milestones in our lives! You can put thought rather than lots of money into your wedding...
2010 gives UK driest first six months of any year since 1929
Official figures show that January to June had average rainfall of 356.8 mm, making this period the second driest for 100 years. 1929 had the driest first six months of a year, when 275.7 mm of rain was recorded. The drier conditions have been caused by a lack of Atlantic weather systems, which usually cross the UK bringing bands of rain, especially to western regions. The drier conditions have already led to pressure on water resources in some areas.
A recent (May 2010) Met Office study on how climate change could affect the frequency of extreme droughts in the UK found a range of possibilities - the majority of them showing such droughts will become more common. The study looked at how frequently extreme droughts could happen in the UK by 2100. To put the droughts in context, conditions seen in 1976 were used as a benchmark - a year which saw one of the worst droughts on record.
The Met Office climate model was used to run a number of simulations and these were then studied to determine how frequently 1976-style droughts could occur. There were 11 slightly different versions of the model, producing a range of results. At the lower end, extreme droughts would continue to be as rare as they are today - happening every 50 to 100 years. In the majority of other outcomes from the model, however, 1976-style droughts were more frequent. At the higher end, extreme droughts could happen once every decade - making them about 10 times more frequent than today.
Archive: Summaries of selected older news stories
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