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Key UN IPCC report highlights urgent need to adapt to climate change
The impacts of climate change are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible" warns the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its fifth assessment report covering the likely impacts of climate change and our capacity to adapt to future climate risks.
The report, titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, from Working Group II of the IPCC, details the impacts of climate change to date, the future risks from a changing climate, and the opportunities for effective action to reduce risks. A total of 309 co-ordinating lead authors and review editors from 70 countries were selected to produce the report. They enlisted the help of 436 contributing authors, and a total of 1,729 expert and government reviewers.
Scientists and officials met in Yokohama, Japan on 31 March (2014) to launch the report. They said the document was the most comprehensive assessment yet of the impacts of climate change on the world.
Impacts of climate change include a higher risk of flooding, as sea levels rise and peak river flows increase, and changes to crop yields and water availability. Humans may be able to adapt to some of the changes, but only within limits. The UK will be impacted by global issues such as rising food prices. High levels of adaptation can significantly reduce but not remove these risks. The report concludes that there are opportunities to respond to such risks, though the risks will be difficult to manage with high levels of warming.
IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri told journalists at a news conference in Yokohama "Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change." Dr Saleemul Huq, a lead author for one of the report's chapters, said: "Before this we thought we knew this was happening, but now we have overwhelming evidence that it is happening and it is real." "We live in an era of man-made climate change," said Vicente Barros, Co-Chair of Working Group II. "In many cases, we are not prepared for the climate-related risks that we already face. Investments in better preparation can pay dividends both for the present and for the future."
Responding to the report, Edward Davey, Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said: "The science has clearly spoken. Left unchecked, climate change will impact on many aspects of our society, with far reaching consequences to human health, global food security and economic development. The recent flooding in the UK is a testament to the devastation that climate change could bring to our daily lives."
Britain's manufacturers investing in energy management to gain improved competitiveness
According to a joint survey released this month by EEF, the manufacturers' organisation, and energy supplier npower, Britain's manufacturers are increasing their investment in strategic energy management and efficiency, in order to improve their competitive position against a backdrop of rising energy costs.
Key findings from the survey were:
Gareth Stace, Head of Climate & Environment Policy at EEF, said: "Managing higher energy costs whilst maintaining international competitiveness is one of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers today. The most advanced companies are systematically addressing inefficiencies in their buildings and processes to try and mitigate rising costs that come straight off the bottom line. This must remain a focus for all manufacturers."
New action plan to protect Somerset from flooding
A new action plan was outlined by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson on 6th March. The plan was commissioned by the Environment Secretary in January after exceptional weather caused large scale flooding and aims to improve resilience against floods on the Somerset Levels.
Drawn up by local partners in the region, including the local councils, MPs, businesses and local residents, it sets out a number of initiatives that will ensure better protection against floods in the future, including:
To help deliver the plan, the government is investing an additional £10 million to support the recovery effort in Somerset to fix damaged roads and improve the network's ability to cope with tough weather conditions and flooding.
New programme of flood protection work to follow severe floods
Following the highest surge on the East Coast for 60 years and the wettest January since records began more than 100 years ago that have caused devastating floods on the Somerset levels and storm damage to large areas of the South West coast including the railway line at Dawlish, the Government announced on 6th February an additional £130 million for emergency repairs and maintenance: £30 million in the current year and £100 million next year. This will cover costs incurred during the current emergency response and recovery, as well as essential repairs to ensure that defences are maintained. By the Autumn Statement, the Government will publish a 6-year programme of work running to 2021, including a new long term investment strategy on flood defence.
Making the announcement in the House of Commons, Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Goverment (standing in for Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who was undergoing an emergency eye operation) said the programme would provide an assessment of the future need for flood and coastal defence taking account of the latest risk maps and economic analysis and look at how councils plan and mitigate flood risk.
Responsibility & Opportunity via Austerity - a sustainable approach?
Can we use our response to austerity and the need to cut costs in the private and public sectors to improve the sustainability of the way we do things? A thought piece "Responsibility & Opportunity via Austerity" by Mark Hedges and Del Redvers published in January 2014 shows how a sensible approach to cost savings can improve rather than hinder the long-term viability of an organisation. The document is aimed at those who need to achieve cost savings, but believe there is a more intelligent approach than simply swinging the axe.
"Responsibility & Opportunity via Austerity" identifies four areas in which the drivers of sustainability and austerity can be easily aligned. These are:
Looking at each area in turn, Hedges and Redvers apply the lessons from the sustainability agenda to the application of spending cuts, in search of doing better.
"Responsibility & Opportunity via Austerity" includes practical examples to prove its underlying message and can be found on the Cala Sustain website at www.calasustain.com/blog-resources.html.
SustNav (formerly SSW) closing at the end of March
The sustainable development charity SustNav has announced that it will be closing by the end of March 2014. SustNav began life in 1998 as The South West Round Table for Sustainable Development, an independent regional forum for sustainability issues. In 2000 the Round Table became 'Sustainability South West' - the regional Champion Body for sustainable development. The new organisation supported an active membership of 25 individuals from a wide range of sectors (who volunteered their time for free) and a small staff team.
SSW's first task was to coordinate the production of a Regional Sustainable Development Framework (RSDF). The RSDF, based on ten sustainability principles (see below), was launched with wide endorsements in 2001. The RSDF was relaunched online in 2007 as the 'Sustainability Shaper', rebranding in 2010 as SustNav which was subsequently adopted as the name of SSW.
SSW worked with its members to map out the key sustainability issues and challenges for the South West and developed position statements on some big sustainability issues. They developed a carbon campaign 'Fair Shares, Fair Choice' (chosen by the Sustainable Development Commission as one of the 'breakthroughs of the twenty-first century') and also developed campaigns/awards around issues such as sustainable packaging and low carbon business. Through the years they partnered with a range of sectors on flagship projects including construction, education and tourism. Its high profile Chairman in its early days was Jonathon Porritt.
10 PRINCIPLES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
SSW/SustNav developed ten principles for the RSDF that were both a set of values and a framework for more joined-up planning and decision-making. These 10 principles are as follows:-
1. Develop sustainability skills
2. Improve health and well-being
3. Reduce inequalities
4. Cut resource use
5. Support low carbon economies
6. Reduce high carbon travel
7. Live local
8. Revive our life support systems
9. Be inclusive
10. Think long term
New maps from the EA to help you prepare for flooding
The maps from the Environment Agency show areas of the country at risk of flooding from rivers and the sea as well as new national scale maps of surface water flooding. Surface water flooding occurs when intense rainfall overwhelms drainage systems. Some 35,000 properties were affected by surface water flooding during the major floods of 2007. The new maps can be found from this link: EA Interactive Maps.
Assessing and managing climate risks in supply chains
A new guide 'Assessing and managing climate risks in supply chains' will help companies to consider worldwide climate risks in their supply chains. Produced by Acclimatise for the Environment Agency's Climate Ready programme, this report provides a straightforward 5-step framework, case studies and also specific advice for smaller businesses.
To download the guide click this link: external link - EA website (opens in new window)
Making the business case for climate change adaptation
Businesses are more likely to be flooded than destroyed by fire. And flooding costs money. According to the Environment Agency, in 2012, businesses saw losses of around £155 million due to floods, including £55 million in property damage and £15 million in loss of production of goods and services.
There are easy things you can do to protect your business from flooding:
For the Environment Agency's web page advice on how to prepare a flood plan for your business, including advice on how to prepare your property for flooding, click here: www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/topics/flooding/32362.aspx.
Alternatively, for the Environment Agency/Climate UK's Business Resilience Healthcheck website, click here: www.businessresiliencehealthcheck.co.uk.
Too good to be true? Bogus energy-saving products
Some energy-saving products and techniques always work: fitting a properly-sized highefficiency electric motor, for example. Some, like condensing boilers and voltage reduction, only work in the right circumstances. Some will work only if properly commissioned and operated (automatic lighting controls are a case in point). Some products, like those based on automatic control algorithms, may be perfectly good from some vendors but not others. Certain products, however, will never save energy under any circumstances because they are bogus.
But how is the hardpressed environmental manager, facilities manager or works engineer, who may have little grounding in the subject, going to make the judgment about something which just feels wrong? Cotswold Energy & Environmental Management Group member Vilnis Vesma has produced a useful document exploring these issues.
For your free copy, contact Vilnis Vesma by email with "BOGUS-PRODUCTS" in the subject heading: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anaerobic digestion loan scheme for farmers
Farmers will be able to obtain funding to set up small anaerobic digestion (AD) plants under a government-funded loan scheme. The technology turns waste into energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and produces a renewable source of biofertiliser.
The £3 million initiative, announced by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson this month (October 2013), will allow farmers to apply for up to £400,000 from the AD Loan Fund to help them finance on-site AD technology. The technology will save farmers money on energy costs and even boost their income if they export electricity to the grid. They will also be entitled to government incentives for producing renewable energy.
The fund, which will be administered by WRAP, is split into two phases. Farmers can apply for funding to develop a business case to find out if anaerobic digestion is the right solution for them in dealing with waste. They can then apply for a loan of up to £400,000 to fund up to 50 per cent of the overall costs of the AD plant.
Sustainable Consumption of Healthy Food
According to an announcement in October 2013 by Defra, as a follow-up to a recommendation of the Green Food Project, the Sustainable Consumption Report was published in July 2013, describing further work to investigate the principles of a healthy and sustainable diet, consumer behaviour, and sustainable consumption and growth.
The Green Food Project reported in July 2012 on its examination of the challenge of how to increase food production and enhance the environment in England. One of the recommendations called for further collaborative investigation of the roles of diet and consumption in the sustainability of the whole food system.
The latest report concludes that the need for business, government and civil society to take concerted action is urgent. It is vital to look across the whole supply chain, from field to fork, and across the whole food system, addressing production and consumption in an integrated manner. Agreement must be reached on 'what good looks like', both in terms of a healthy, sustainable diet, but also broader sustainable food consumption and how it links with food production. Economic thinking must be broadened to capture the value of ecosystems services and external environmental and social costs.
The working group behind the report, chaired by Tara Garnett of the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN) and Maureen Strong of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB), set out to produce a set of key principles for a sustainable and healthy diet. The group suggests the following principles for healthy and sustainable eating:
First decade of this century was the warmest on record - IPCC's Fifth Assessment report published
According to Professor Rajendra Pachauri, the head of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists are more certain than ever (95-100% probability) that greenhouse gases from human activities are heating the planet and the World Meteorological Organisation has stated, on the basis of observations, that the first decade of this century has been the warmest in recorded history.
The IPCC latest report on the state of the climate was launched in Stockholm, Sweden, on 27th September. Its last report was criticised after an error on glaciers unveiled other flaws, but Prof Pachauri said procedures had been reformed and strengthened.
Here are the key points made in the IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report (AR5):-
Germany's electricity price advantage on UK proves the case for renewable energy investment
As the UK Government takes steps to make it easier for gas companies to frack for onshore gas through tax incentives and a change in the planning rules, a stark reminder of the rising electricity costs we shall face due to the lack of investment in renewables has arrived from the American global business and finance news provider Bloomberg.
Some campaigners on clean energy issues are making the point that if the Government is determined to proceed with onshore gas (having first managed to prove that the exploration and production process is safe and properly under-written against catastrophic pollution of water courses etc.) then a proportion of the proceeds should be re-invested in renewable energy systems for communities so that we don't miss the opportunity as we have done so spectacularly with North sea oil and gas - unlike the Norwegians who are reaping the benefits of wise investment of their North sea oil and gas proceeds.
That point is underlined by recent data compiled by Bloomberg (14.6.2013): Electricity in the UK is poised to cost almost twice as much as in Germany within two years as Britain lags behind in building solar and wind plants. UK power will be 85% more expensive than in Europe's biggest energy market in May 2015, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
According to Bloomberg, while Germany is seeking to consolidate its status as Europe's biggest producer of wind and solar power by boosting its share of renewables-sourced energy to 35% in 2015 from 22% last year, the UK is targeting 15% from 11% over the same period.
The Bloomberg article can be found from this external link: UK power price to cost almost twice as much as in Germany.
National Adaptation Programme published
The climate is changing and in the future severe weather events may become more frequent and intense. This could lead to significant disruption to the economy, damage to buildings and even loss of life. It is important that we take action now to make sure that we are resilient both now and in the future.
On 1st July the government laid the first National Adaptation Programme before Parliament in line with a commitment set out in the Climate Change Act 2008. The Programme builds upon the evidence presented in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment, published in January 2012, and sets out government's objectives, policies and proposals for addressing the risks identified.
The National Adaptation Programme report is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/adapting-to-climate-change.
Bristol European Green Capital 2015
Bristol has won the European Green Capital Award for 2015. The award was presented at a ceremony in Nantes, France, which currently holds the title, on Friday 14th June 2013. Bristol received recognition for its investment plans in the areas of transport and energy, and especially for its commitment to act as a true role model for the green economy in Europe and beyond. Its communication and social media strategy were also highlighted as a real call to action for its citizens.
Eight cities applied to become European Green Capital 2015. Each entry was assessed by an international panel of 12 experts and four cities were shortlisted - Bristol, Brussels, Glasgow and Ljubljana. Representatives from the shortlisted cities were interviewed by a Jury which comprised members from the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, the European Environment Agency, ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, the Covenant of Mayors Office and the European Environmental Bureau.
The European Green Capital Award is ultimately about making cities more pleasant places in which to live and work. The award is given to a European city that has a record of achieving high environmental standards, is committed to ambitious goals for future environmental improvement and sustainable development and can act as a model to inspire other cities.
Six cities - Stockholm, Hamburg, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Nantes, Copenhagen and now Bristol - have won the award so far, from 2010 to 2015 respectively.
The Bristol Green Capital website is at: http://bristolgreencapital.org.
Energy Bill completes Commons passage
An attempt, proposed by the former Conservative minister Tim Yeo, to include a target to decarbonise the UK's electricity generation by 2030 was narrowly defeated in the House of Commons on 4th June by 290 votes to 267, to the dismay of environmental campaigners and businesses that had backed the target as a way of stimulating investment in renewables and low-carbon energy. Several potential rebels were persuaded by a promise by the coalition to allow the Secretary of State to consider a 2030 decarbonisation target in 2016.
The Energy Bill completed its Third Reading on 5th June; the next stage for the Bill is to make its way through the House of Lords.
Reacting to the 396 for versus 8 against vote on the Third Reading of the Energy Bill in the Commons, Secretary of State Edward Davey, said:
"The positive vote for the Energy Bill is one of the biggest majorities this Government has seen. This overwhelming majority is great news as the Bill now makes its way through the House of Lords. A clear message has been sent to investors that we are providing the security they need to work with us to revolutionise the energy sector and produce cleaner energy, keep the lights on and people's bills down."
He also said:
"Long term contracts for low carbon will give renewables, nuclear and CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage] the chance to compete against conventional power stations, and will be backed by a tripling in support for clean energy technologies by 2020."
World Environment Day, 5th June
The theme for this year's World Environment Day celebrations is Think.Eat.Save.
Think.Eat.Save is an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages you to reduce your foodprint. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.
While the planet is struggling to provide us with enough resources to sustain its 7 billion people (growing to 9 billion by 2050), FAO estimates that a third of global food production is either wasted or lost. Food waste is an enormous drain on natural resources and a contributor to negative environmental impacts.
If food is wasted, it means that all the resources and inputs used in the production of all the food are also lost. For example, it takes about 1,000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk and about 16,000 litres goes into a cow's food to make a hamburger. The resulting greenhouse gas emissions from the cows themselves, and throughout the food supply chain, all end up in vain when we waste food.
According to the UN's Environment Programme, global food production occupies 25% of all habitable land and is responsible for 70% of fresh water consumption, 80% of deforestation, and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. It is the largest single driver of biodiversity loss and land-use change.
Making informed decision therefore means that you purposefully select foods that have less of an environmental impact, such as organic foods that do not use chemicals in the production process. Choosing to buy locally, where possible, can also mean that foods are not flown halfway across the world and therefore limit emissions.
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.
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