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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: email@example.com.
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.
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 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
Archive: Summaries of selected older news stories
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.
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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