Animal Farming Directly Linked To Environmental Catastrophe's

What comes to mind when you think of Tyson Foods? A chicken nugget? A big red logo?
How about the largest toxic dead zone in U.S. history? It turns out the meat industry—and corporate giants like Tyson Foods—are directly linked to this environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico, and many others.

Industrial-scale agriculture to support America's livestock is the number one source of water pollution in the country. But while industrial agriculture to feed animals raised for meat is currently resource-intensive and ecologically destructive, it doesn't have to be. Solutions exist which, if adopted, would allow the meat industry and agricultural corporations that sustain it to reduce their impact on water and the planet.

That's why Mighty Earth has launched the Clean It Up, Tyson campaign in order to hold this industry accountable to our communities and the environment. Corporations can and should respect the health and well-being of their customers, and the landscapes that allow them to profit. Considering America's current political climate, and the increasing severity of environmental problems across the globe, collective action and corporate-targeted campaigns like this one have never been more urgent.

In a country with five times as many livestock animals as humans, it takes a lot of land to grow feed for the meat that ends up on consumers' plates. More than a third of America's agricultural land is dedicated towards the production of corn and soy, but humans consume less than 10 percent of this, according to Mighty Earth's campaign report. The vast majority is consumed by livestock.
What many people don't realize is that this livestock feed production is controlled by a very small number of large and powerful corporations, making huge upstream profits, but creating massive downstream pollution. These companies—ADM, Bunge, Cargill (often referred to as the ABCs)—don't have much of a public reputation, as they don't sell directly to individual consumers. Under our current regulatory system, they're also not responsible for their run-off or excess fertilizer use, both of which are classified as "non-point source" pollution. In other words, soil erosion and run-off from enormous swaths of America's crop fields are washing into the waterways, and taxpayers shoulder the burden. These two factors mean that industrial agriculture companies operate with impunity while polluting the land, rivers and oceans.

A recent report by Environmental Working Group found that more than 200 million Americans—more than half of the people in our country—are exposed to contaminated drinking water due to fertilizer pollution. The estimated clean water costs to taxpayers are more than $2 billion per year. The nitrate and phosphorous in fertilizer that leaches into our drinking water are associated with various types of cancers, birth defects and other health problems. This burden disproportionately falls on rural communities, whose water treatment systems were not built to deal with the levels of chemicals they're now facing.
"The EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) ordered Pretty Prairie, Kansas, to build a new water treatment plant last year to lower nitrate levels that could cost $2.4 million—well over $3,000 for every person in town," EWG reported. "Eighty-five percent or more of the communities with elevated levels of nitrate have no treatment systems in place to remove the contaminant."
Another alarming characteristic of industrial agriculture is that because it's so intensive, fields are quickly exhausted, and the industry must continuously expand to new areas. For this reason, the American prairie and grassland ecosystems are being altered faster than the Amazon rainforest.
A recent University of Wisconsin study estimated that this loss of natural grassland "could have emitted as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as 34 coal-fired power plants operating for one year—the equivalent of 28 million more cars on the road," noted Mighty Earth. These unique landscapes are among the most threatened in the world, and are irreversibly damaged after conversion into crop fields, often to grow corn and soy. At a time in our country when public lands are being attacked from many angles, industrial-scale agriculture to support the meat industry is the biggest challenge these ecosystems face.

Luckily, there are a number of simple, cheap and effective ways in which the meat industry could adopt sustainability measures into supply chains to and protect clean water. For example, currently less than 30 percent of fertilizer applied to massive industrial-scale crop fields is actually absorbed by the plants. Instead, most of this washes off as fertilizer pollution and contaminates waterways.
This is what has caused the largest dead zone in U.S. history in the Gulf of Mexico. It is currently more than 8,000 square miles, where no marine life can survive due to toxic fertilizer pollution. By using more precise application methods, farmers could save money on fertilizer, and less of it would contaminate the water. Additionally, techniques like using cover crops, diversifying crops beyond corn and soy, and limiting tillage are proven ways to reduce soil erosion.

A few months ago, Mighty Earth conducted a comprehensive study into which areas of America are experiencing the worst water contamination from fertilizer pollution (Figure 1), and the most dramatic land conversion into livestock feed crop fields (Figure 2). This groundbreaking research also identified the agricultural and meat industry corporations most present in these areas. The clear culprit driving these destructive agricultural impacts was identified: Tyson Foods.

The country's largest meat company, the second largest globally and the pioneer of the industrial meat system, Tyson Foods produces one in every five pounds of meat: more than 20 percent of all chicken, beef and pork. They are therefore uniquely placed to drive solutions, incentivize their suppliers to farm more responsibly, and reduce the catastrophic effects that industrial-scale agriculture has on the environment and public health.

"Recent commitments from a growing number of food companies like Kellogg's, General Mills, Walmart, PepsiCo, and even Tyson's competitor, Smithfield, are showing the way forward," reported Mighty Earth. "These companies have committed to improve fertilizer and soil-health practices in their U.S. crop supply chains and have launched programs and practices that Tyson and other meat producers can adopt to drive improvements in their supply chains."

Tyson Foods has the power to make these changes too, and therefore to change the entire meat industry for the better—and we have the power to ask them to do it.
Tyson's prior commitments to sustainability are admirable, but don't go far enough. With the demand for meat rising, and the threats to our environment increasing, the stakes could not be higher.
This issue affects all of us. As far back as 2013, the majority of American waterways were contaminated by fertilizer pollution, according to the EPA. That's why Mighty Earth is organizing in communities across the country to ask Tyson to protect our water and our environment. By signing the petition or making a call to Tyson's corporate headquarters (you can use our calling script for pointers), you can add your voice to the rising chorus calling for cleaner meat. Tyson Foods must lead the way to a more sustainable food system and protect the one planet we have.
source alternet

CO2 Levels Hit Record High|New Report Has Raised Alarm Among Scientists

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased at record speed last year to hit a level not seen for more than three million years, the UN has warned.
The new report has raised alarm among scientists and prompted calls for nations to consider more drastic emissions reductions at the upcoming climate negotiations in Bonn.
“Globally averaged concentrations of CO2 reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400.00 ppm in 2015 because of a combination of human activities and a strong El Niño event,” according to The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin, the UN weather agency’s annual flagship report.
This acceleration occurred despite a slowdown – and perhaps even a plateauing – of emissions because El Niño intensified droughts and weakened the ability of vegetation to absorb carbon dioxide. As the planet warms, El Niños are expected to become more frequent.
The increase of 3.3 ppm is considerably higher than both the 2.3 ppm rise of the previous 12 months and the average annual increase over the past decade of 2.08ppm. It is also well above the previous big El Niño year of 1998, when the rise was 2.7 ppm.
The study, which uses monitoring ships, aircraft and stations on the land to track emissions trends since 1750, said carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now increasing 100 times faster than at the end of the last ice age due to population growth, intensive agriculture, deforestation and industrialisation.
The last time Earth experienced similar CO2 concentration rates was during the Pliocene era (three to five million years ago), when the sea level was up to 20m higher than now.
The authors urged policymakers to step up countermeasures to reduce the risk of global warming exceeding the Paris climate target of between 1.5C and 2C.
“Without rapid cuts in CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” World Meteorological Organisation chief Petteri Taalas said in a statement.
The momentum from the Paris Accord in 2015 is faltering due the failure of national governments to live up to their promises. In a report to be released on Tuesday, UN Environment will show the gap between international goals and domestic commitments leaves the world on course for warming well beyond the 2C target and probably beyond 3C. International efforts to act have also been weakened by US president Donald Trump’s decision to quit the accord.
Prof Dave Reay, professor of carbon management at the University of Edinburgh, said: “This should set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. We know that, as climate change intensifies, the ability of the land and oceans to mop up our carbon emissions will weaken. There’s still time to steer these emissions down and so keep some control, but if we wait too long humankind will become a passenger on a one-way street to dangerous climate change.”
“The numbers don’t lie. We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed,” the head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said in reaction to the new report. “What we need now is global political will and a new sense of urgency.”
The report comes amid growing concerns that Nature’s ability to deal with CO2 is weakening. Recent studies show forest regions are being cleared and degraded so rapidly that they are now emitting more carbon than they absorb.
“These large increase show it is more important than ever to reduce our emissions to zero – and as soon as possible,” said Piers Forster, Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds. “If vegetation can no longer help out absorbing our emissions in these hot years we could be in trouble.”
The World Meteorological Organisation predicted 2017 will again break records for concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane, but the growth rate will not be as fast because there is no El Niño effect.

New York Could Flood Every 5 Years If Nothing Is Done To Curb Climate Change

New York City could be struck by severe flooding up to every five years by 2030 to 2045 if no efforts are made to curb human-driven climate change, new research finds.
Floods that reach more than 2.25 meters (approximately 7.4 feet) in height—enough to inundate the first story of a building—could dramatically increase in frequency as a result of future sea level rise and bigger storm surges, the study suggests. Such severe floods would be expected only around once in every 25 years from 1970 to 2005.
The findings make it clear that "[flood] adaptation measures are critical to protect lives and infrastructure in a changing climate," the lead author told Carbon Brief.
Flooding threat

Like many coastal cities in the U.S., New York is vulnerable to flooding driven by storm surges from tropical cyclones, as well as sea level rise. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy overwhelmed the city with floodwater, killing 43 people and causing close to $50 billion in damages.
Storm surges occur when a storm weather system moves from the sea to the land. As the weather system moves over the sea surface, its low pressure center pulls up the surface of the water. Then, as the storm blows towards land, wind pushes the sea towards the coast, hitting the shore with large waves.

The height of these waves is dependent on the underlying sea level, the tide, and the size of the tropical cyclone. As sea levels rise, a storm surge has more chance of breaching coastal flood defenses.
During Hurricane Sandy, the combined impact of the storm surge and a high tide saw sea levels reach a record height of 3.44 meters (approximately 11.3 feet).

Storm surges
To understand how climate change could affect the future risk of coastal flooding in New York, researchers used models to simulate the behavior of future tropical storms, as well as sea level rise in its surrounding waters.
Using a collection of global climate models,, the researchers gathered information about factors that impact the behavior of tropical storms. These factors include air temperature, humidity, sea surface temperature and wind speed.
The researchers used this information to create "synthetic storms," or the storms that are likely to exist in a warmer climate, explained Dr. Andra Garner, a scientist from Rutgers University in New Jersey and lead author of the new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. She told Carbon Brief:
"Using this information, we can generate a set of storms whose behavior is consistent with a range of different climates. Each of these storms has their own unique set of characteristics, such as wind speed and pressure field."
The researchers then used a storm surge model (known as ADCIRC) to generate the expected surge that each synthetic storm could create at The Battery, a public park located at the southern tip of Manhattan Island.

The results suggest that storms are likely to become larger and more powerful in the coming decades. (Carbon Brief has previously explored the link between climate change and tropical storms.)
However, a rise in storm intensity may not necessarily affect the size of storm surges, said Garner. This is because changes in ocean conditions in a warmer climate could cause tropical storms to shift eastwards, away from New York City. She said:
"As we move from the modern time period into the future, we find that storms tend to become more intense, while simultaneously shifting somewhat eastward, away from New York City. The increase in storm intensity is compensated by the shift in storm tracks. That is, changing storm surge heights alone do not have a great impact on increasing the future flood risk for the city."
Sea level rise
However, sea level rise is likely to affect the size of future storm surges, the results suggest. Gardner said:
"The bad news is that when sea level rise is added into the picture, it becomes clear that overall flood heights will become drastically worse in New York City in coming years."
The chart below shows projected sea level rise in New York from 2010 to 2300. Yellow shows projected sea level rise under an intermediate emissions scenario (RCP4.5), while orange shows projected sea level rise under a high emissions scenario where global greenhouse gas emissions aren't curbed (RCP8.5).
In addition, the researchers used existing scenarios that considered the potential impact of changes to the Antarctic ice sheet (AIS) (red, maroon).
The latest assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated the contribution of the AIS to sea level rise could be -8 to 15cm under RCP8.5 by 2100 (pdf).
However, the authors of the new study noted that recent research using "a coupled ice sheet and climate dynamics model that includes marine ice sheet instability, ice shelf hydrofracturing, and marine ice-cliff collapse mechanisms suggests that the AIS could contribute more than 1m by 2100, and more than 10m by 2300, under RCP8.5."
Although there is "deep uncertainty" around the contributions of the Antarctic ice sheet to sea level rise, the authors wrote, "the potential for large contributions should not be neglected in risk assessments."

The results suggest that, under the high emissions scenario, sea levels close to New York are likely to rise by 0.55 to 1.4 meters (approximately 1.8 to 4.6 feet) between 2010 and 2100. If the possible effects of Antarctic ice melt are considered, sea levels could rise by 0.88 to 2.5 meters (approximately 2.9 to 8.2 feet) by 2100.
The researchers combined their measurements of projected sea level rise and projected storm surge heights in order to estimate the total height of floods in New York in the coming decades.
The results showed that flood heights in New York from 2080 to 2100 could be 1.4 meters (approximately 4.6 feet) above the average flood heights witnessed from 1970 to 2005, when an average is taken from all the scenarios of future sea level rise.
And serious floods, which exceed more than 2.25 meters (approximately 7.4 feet) in height, could dramatically increase in frequency over the coming decades, Garner explained:
"When rising sea-levels combine with storm surge heights, flooding becomes much worse over time. For example, a 2.25 meter flood height, which occurred on average once every 500 years before 1800 in our work, and occurred once every 25 years on average from 1970 to 2005 in our study, could occur once every five years by 2030 to 2045 according to our results."
Such floods could pose a significant risk to human safety, she added.
"A flood height of 2.25 meters is a significant enough flood to potentially inundate the first story of many buildings. Post-Sandy, some infrastructure and planning is almost certainly trying to account for future flooding situations, but a flood of this magnitude in New York would certainly still have significant impacts for many aspects of the city."
Preparing the floodgates
The findings should prompt city planners to face up to the challenges posed by climate change, said Garner:
"Studies like this make it clear that adaptation measures are critical to protect lives and infrastructure in a changing climate. We can't pretend that these kinds of risks aren't growing in our changing climate, because studies such as this make it poignantly clear that they are."
The study is "very useful" said professor Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, who was not involved in the study, but it doesn't include "some things of importance" such as the added impact of high tides and the risk of mid-latitude storms.
Also, looking as far out into the future as 2300 means the study relies on uncertain assumptions about factors such as future greenhouse gas emissions, he told Carbon Brief:
"The paper assesses coastal flood risk over the next three centuries, but these risks depend hugely on scenarios as to how factors such as emissions and population size change. This makes me quite uncomfortable: the assumptions are huge and understated."
It's also worth noting that other nearby cities, such as Hoboken in New Jersey, are "every bit or more vulnerable" than New York City, Trenberth added.
source:eco watch


Drivers of the most polluting vehicles must from now on pay a daily charge of up to £21.50 to drive in to central London.
From Monday, people driving older, more polluting petrol and diesel vehicles will be liable for the £10 T-charge, on top of the congestion charge of £11.50, which has been in place since 2003.
The charge has been introduced in an effort to improve air quality in the capital, where legal pollution limits are regularly exceeded. The mayor, Sadiq Khan, said he wanted to prepare Londoners for the ultra-low emission zone being introduced in April 2019.

“As mayor, I am determined to take urgent action to help clean up London’s lethal air. The shameful scale of the public health crisis London faces, with thousands of premature deaths caused by air pollution, must be addressed,” he said.
“Today marks a major milestone in this journey with the introduction of the T-charge to encourage motorists to ditch polluting, harmful vehicles.
“London now has the world’s toughest emissions standard with older, more polluting vehicles paying up to £21.50 a day to drive in the centre of the city. This is the time to stand up and join the battle to clear the toxic air we are forced to breathe.”
The charge came into effect at 7am on Monday. It is applicable to pre-Euro 4 vehicles in the zone, which covers all of central London to the south of King’s Cross station, to the east of Hyde Park, west of the Tower of London and north of Elephant and Castle.
Pre-Euro 4 vehicles are typically those registered before 2006, but Transport for London suggests that anyone who has a vehicle registered before 2008 checks if it is liable for the charge. The total daily levy can be reduced by £1 if drivers register to pay the congestion charge automatically. People living within the zone and driving cars covered by the new charge are eligible to pay as little as £11.05 a day in total for the two.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday morning, Khan said the T-charge would cost about £7m a year, which he said was a “price worth paying”. He added that the ultra-low emission zone, once introduced, would make money that would then be ring-fenced for clean air initiatives.
And he defended the plan against claims it would do little to solve the problem because relatively few vehicles are covered by it, saying it was part of series of measures, including the forthcoming introduction of the ultra-low emission zone.
Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers, said: “Industry recognises the air quality challenge and wants to see London and other cities meet their targets.
“Investment made by the industry into new diesel and petrol technologies has resulted in the most recent cars being unaffected by this new charge in London and, indeed, exempt from any other charges across the UK.
“This new T-charge will affect a very small number of older vehicles so the impact on air quality will be marginal whereas bigger improvements could be achieved by policies which incentivise the uptake of the latest, lowest emission vehicles.”
source:the guardian

UN Warns of More Severe Disasters If World Leaders Do Not Heed Climate Risk

The hurricanes and wildfires that have severely damaged large areas of the U.S. in recent weeks have had no impact on President Donald Trump's determination to ignore the perils of climate change and support the coalindustry.
In a deliberate denial of mainstream science, the Trump administration has issued a strategic four-year plan for the U.S. Environment Protection Agency that does not once mention "greenhouse gas emissions," "carbon dioxide" or "climate change" in its 48 pages.
Rachel Cleetus, lead economist and climate policy manager of the Union of Concerned Scientists, described this as "stunning" in its ignorance. "This was not an oversight," she said. "This is a deliberate strategy by this administration."

Trump effect
However, President Trump's repudiation in June of the 2015 Paris agreement designed to combat global warming, and his refusal to acknowledge any connection between recent extreme weather events and climate change, seems to have made the world even more determined to tackle the issue.

The acid test will be the progress that is made in November at the annual meeting of the parties for the Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, hosted by Fiji, one of the small island states expected to be most affected by sea-level rise and more frequent storms.
Ahead of the conference, three of the UN's most senior climate change figures have issued a statement urging world leaders to see the recent spate of disasters as a "shocking sign of things to come."
In a joint statement, Achim Steiner, administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Climate Change Convention and Robert Glasser, the UN secretary-general's special representative for disaster risk reduction and head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, said the events of the last few months were a reminder that climate change threatens more frequent and severe disasters such as those just witnessed.

The three officials emphasize that there have been many more extreme weather events that have not received the publicity given to the hurricanes in the Caribbean and the U.S.
"The record floods across Bangladesh, India and Nepal have made life miserable for some 40 million people," they said. "More than 1,200 people have died and many people have lost their homes, crops have been destroyed, and many workplaces have been inundated. Meanwhile, in Africa, over the last 18 months 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, with major displacement taking place across the Horn of Africa.

"For those countries that are least developed the impact of disasters can be severe, stripping away livelihoods and progress on health and education; for developed and middle-income countries the economic losses from infrastructure alone can be massive.
"During the last two years over 40 million people, mainly in countries which contribute least to global warming, were forced either permanently or temporarily from their homes by disasters."
The three officials did not mention the Trump administration's refusal to accept basic science, but describe the rising sea levels of 85 millimeters (3.34 inches) in the last 25 years and the potential catastrophic storm damage that coastal areas face as a result.

Clear consensus
"There is clear consensus," they added. "Rising temperatures are increasing the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere, leading to more intense rainfall and flooding in some places, and drought in others.
"Rising and warming seas are contributing to the intensity of tropical storms worldwide. We will continue to live with the abnormal and often unforeseen consequences of existing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for many, many years to come."
They pointed out that the cost of adaptation to climate change will be far cheaper than the repair bill if no action is taken.

"It is critical to remember that the long-term reduction of emissions is THE most important risk reduction tactic we have, and we must deliver on that ambition," they wrote.
The three officials concluded, "The November UN Climate Conference in Bonn provides an opportunity to not only accelerate emission reductions but to also boost the serious work of ensuring that the management of climate risk is integrated into disaster risk management. Poverty, rapid urbanization, poor land use, ecosystems decline and other risk factors will amplify the impacts of climate change."

source:climate news network

Oxford's Zero Emissions Plan

Petrol and diesels vehicles will be banned from Oxford city centre under plans to bring in what officials believe would be the world’s first zero-emissions zone.
The proposals aim to slash air pollution in the historic university city, which has seen levels of the harmful pollutant nitrogen dioxide rise above legal limits in some areas.
Under the plans being put out for consultation on Monday, the ban would be introduced in phases, starting with preventing non-zero-emitting taxis, cars, light commercial vehicles and buses from using a small number of streets in 2020.
As vehicle technology develops, the zero-emissions zone will extend to cover all non-electric vehicles, including HGVs, in the whole of the city centre by 2035, according to the joint proposals by Oxford city council and Oxfordshire county council.

The introduction of the zero-emissions zone could see levels of nitrogen dioxide, much of which comes from traffic fumes, particularly diesel engines, fall by up to three-quarters by 2035, the councils said.
Data released by the World Health Organisation last year showed that Oxford was one of 11 British cities to breach the safe limits set for toxic particles known as PM10s. It also breached the limit for PM2.5s.
The city has already won £500,000 of government funding to install charging points for electric taxis, and £800,000 to install 100 electric vehicle charging points for residents, but officials say more will be needed to support the zero-emissions zone. Other schemes being considered to support the zone include reduced parking fees for electric vehicles, electric taxi-only ranks, and electric delivery vehicle-only loading areas.
Councillor John Tanner of Oxford city council said: “Toxic and illegal air pollution in the city centre is damaging the health of Oxford’s residents. A step change is urgently needed; the zero emissions zone is that step change.
“All of us who drive or use petrol or diesel vehicles through Oxford are contributing to the city’s toxic air. Everyone needs to do their bit, from national government and local authorities, to businesses and residents, to end this public health emergency.”
Oxfordshire county council councillor Yvonne Constance said: “We want to hear from everyone who uses the city centre, including businesses, bus and taxi firms and local residents ... Pragmatism will be an important part of anything we plan, but we have set the ambition.”

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, called last month for the environment department to amend the Clean Air Act to allow for the creation of zero-emission zones.
Other cities that have tried to introduce measures to tackle vehicle emissions include Madrid, whose city council ordered half of the city’s cars to be banned in 2016, and Oslo, where the authorities eventually backtracked on a plan to ban all private cars in the Norwegian capital.
source:the guardian

Tackling Climate Change And A Prosperous Economy Go Hand In Hand

The grownups have finally won and everyone in the UK, from those in cold homes to those on polluted streets and in flooded towns, will benefit. The most important aspect of the UK government’s new clean growth strategy is its unequivocal statement that tackling climate change and a prosperous economy are one and the same thing.
This has been clear to many for some time, including Philip Hammond, if not his predecessor George Osborne. There is no long-term, high-carbon economic strategy because the impacts of unchecked climate change destroy economies, as Lord Nicholas Stern puts it.
But the Conservative party has long been swinging between the green dream and fossil-fuelled fantasies. David Cameron went from pledging the “greenest government ever” to dismissing the “green crap” in three years. Recent years have seen one green policy shredded after another, destroying confidence among the businesses we need to deliver a low-carbon economy.
The new strategy published on Thursday signals a new, if belated, beginning. It is the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel age: it is highly notable that the government plan omits any mention of fracking, having previously been its cheerleader.
The government had to produce this plan under its own climate laws to explain how it will get on track to meet the nation’s legally binding carbon targets in 2030 and beyond. But ministers have rightly made a virtue of the plan’s necessity.
The proposals themselves are ambitious but lack concrete suggestions in many areas. However, ambition always precedes action and there are plenty of groups, not least the government’s official advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, who will hold ministers to account.
If the government’s efforts to cut emissions from buildings have been slow, it is now taking seriously the need to address energy efficiency. Energy that isn’t used – negawatts – are by far the cheapest way to cut both emissions and energy bills. But as the vast failure of the green deal showed, efficiency is hard to make happen and it is here where firm plans are most urgently needed.
Along with heating, transport also needs urgent action – emissions here have been rising. There is plenty in the new plan to harness the surging market for electric vehicles, though little of it is new. Ministers have also once again failed to explain how expanding aviation with Heathrow’s third runwayfits with its climate change plan.
Electric cars will need clean power and the UK’s electricity grid is already greening fast – coal power has fallen from 40% to 2% in the last five years. The new plan rightly builds on the UK’s success in dramatically driving down the cost of offshore wind power, yet it all but ignores an even cheaper source – onshore wind. It seems that even the conviction that the green economy is the UK’s future is not enough to face down the rural Tory-voting minority who continue to tilt at windmills. Solar power also seems destined to suffer the same fate.
Despite looking these gift horses in the mouth, and ignoring tidal power, the plan promises yet more cash for those with their snouts in the nuclear trough. The hyper-expensive Hinkley Point farce has not dulled the appetite for more new nuclear power and it intends to plough by far the biggest sum of its innovation funding into the one energy technology where costs are always rising.
But the biggest worry is the very limited support for carbon capture and storage, the technology that takes emissions from fossil fuels and buries them under the ground. CCS is seen as absolutely vital by the Committee on Climate Change, the National Audit Office and the UN’s climate science panel and the UK’s emptying North Sea fields are perfectly placed carbon reservoirs. But CCS gets only about a quarter of the investment of nuclear and just a tenth of the £1bn promised in the plan so abruptly canned by Osborne in 2015.
Trees are natural carbon stores and the new plan pledges to “establish a new network of forests in England, including new woodland on farmland”, which offers a tantalising glimpse of the radical change to farm subsidies that may follow Brexit. But there is no mention of the reduction in meat consumption deemed essential in beating global warming by scientists.
However, while many of the details are missing, the clean growth strategy marks an important and vital step forward for the UK. As the prime minister Theresa May says in the plan’s foreword: “Clean growth is not an option, but a duty we owe to the next generation. Success in this mission will improve our quality of life and increase our economic prosperity.” The strategy is now crystal clear – it is time to deliver.
source:the guardian

Local Councils Could Save £35m A Year With Deposit Return Scheme

Councils across England could save up to £35m every year if the government introduces a deposit-return scheme [DRS] for plastic bottles and other drinks containers, according to a new report.
Earlier this month environment secretary Michael Gove told the Conservative party conference that he would work with the industry to see how the scheme might be implemented in England.
Campaigners say it would reduce litter and help tackle plastic pollution which experts say risks “near permanent contamination of the natural environment” with potentially devastating consequences.
However, some cash-strapped local authorities have expressed concern that they would lose money as people would use the scheme rather than recycle through local authorities’ kerbside systems.
But Wednesday’s report, based on an analysis of data across eight local authorities including some with high and low recycling rates, found that rather than losing income individual authorities could make savings of between £60,000 and £500,000 each, due to reduced littering and landfill charges as well as there being fewer recycling bins to process.
Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, one of the groups behind the report, said: “There is no doubt that introducing a deposit refund system would reduce littering in this country but, until now, there has been a concern that it would have a negative impact on cash-strapped councils. This report shows that in fact a DRS would create savings for local government.”
Over eight million tonnes of plastic enter the oceans every year, with 80% coming from land. Plastic bottles are a major contributor; in June the Guardian revealed that a million are made every minute and the rate is rising quickly, with annual consumption forecast to top half a trillion by 2021.
At least a dozen nations already have a DRS, in which a small deposit is paid when purchasing the bottle, which is then returned when the empty bottle is brought back.
In Germany and Denmark, which have DRS schemes, more than 90% of bottles are returned. In England, just 57% of plastic bottles are recycled, mostly through streetside collection schemes.
Gove was pressured this summer by opposition parties and NGOs to introduce a DRS in England, and Nicola Sturgeon announced in September that Scotland would introduce a DRS.
In response he announced a four-week call for views to inform how the scheme would be designed. The government’s working group on the issue will also consider DRS for metal and glass containers.
Today’s report was commissioned by Keep Britain Tidy, the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, Campaign to Protect Rural England and Reloop. It was carried out by environmental research group Eunomia.
It found that local authorities would lose some income as there would be a reduced number of cans and plastic bottles in the kerbside collections to sell to recyclers. However, the savings made from having fewer containers to collect and sort, as well as reduced levels of littering and reduced landfill charges would outweigh the loss of revenue.
Samantha Harding, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “There are no longer any valid arguments that DRS doesn’t work and the environmental case is crystal clear. For our coasts and countryside, the cost of not taking action will be far greater than any incurred by the parts of industry that are trying to block this. Michael Gove can now build on the success of the government’s bag charge and the ban on microbeads by confirming England will have a deposit system.”
Hugo Tagholm, from Surfers Against Sewage, said: “Deposit refund schemes are a tried-and-tested way of dramatically increasing recycling rates while reducing plastic bottle and other container pollution on our beaches, in our streets and across the countryside.
“This report now clearly shows that introducing a DRS for England would also benefit local economies and communities, saving councils money that could be redirected to vital frontline services.”
source:the guardian