frackfreelancsLancashire county council has rejected a planning application by shale gas explorer Cuadrilla to frack in the county, in a major blow to what would have been the UK’s biggest round of fracking so far. Hundreds of anti-fracking campaigners outside the county hall in Preston, where the verdict was announced, reacted with delight and cheers, and people in the council chamber applauded. The surprise rejection regards a site at Preston New Road, near Little Plumpton on the Fylde, where Cuadrilla had hoped to drill four wells and undertake exploratory fracking for shale gas. Nine of the councillors on the 14-strong development control committee voted in favour of a motion to reject the application on grounds of visual impact and unacceptable noise, and also rejected a related application for an array to monitor seismic activity. It is expected that Cuadrilla will appeal the decision.  In a statement, the company said it was “surprised and disappointed” at the decision, and it remained committed to extracting shale gas in Lancashire. “We will now take time to consider our options regarding an appeal for Preston New Road, along with also considering appeals for the planning applications recently turned down, against officer advice, for monitoring and site restoration at Grange Hill, and last week’s decision to refuse the Roseacre Wood application,” the statement said.  Ken Cronin, chief executive of Ukoog, which represents the shale industry, called on the government to review the planning process. “This after 15 months of a long, drawn-out process cannot be right, and I urge the government to urgently review the process of decision-making.”  More here (and Image).

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has published its first report under the new Parliament on the UK’s progress towards meeting emissions reduction targets. The CCC found that the UK has made “good progress”, but warns that decisions made in the next five years will have an enormous impact on whether the UK successfully adapts to and limits global warming. “The most cost-effective approach to dealing with climate change requires steady progress over many years,” said the report. As a result it calls for policy clarity on issues such as the Renewable Heat Incentive and the Levy Control Framework, to encourage long-term investments in green infrastructure. The Committee also reiterates its support for a wide spectrum of low carbon technology including renewables, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear energy. More on .

Staying in the UK, the government has quietly dropped a plan to allow households to opt out of junk mail after a row between the Department of the Environment and the Direct Marketing Association – which represents the companies that produce the thousands of tonnes of waste every year. The current scheme only blocks addressed junk mail. and a new scheme was meant to start back in 2012 with then Environment Secretary hailing the scheme as a major breakthrough in the battle against the ‘mountain of unwanted, unsolicited mail, most of which is thrown out’.

People who pave over their front and back gardens should be forced to return them to lawns and vegetable and flower beds to prevent our cities getting too hot – that’s according to the UK Government’s Committee on Climate Change. Concrete absorbs heat and doesn’t absorb rainwater meaning both heat and flooding will increase with an ever increasing loss of vegetation in cities. And new research from the University of Leicester says that more than 2,000 sq km of Britain’;s countryside has been lost to development, building and resource exploitation in just six years – with forests, wetlands and farmland being cleared to make way for urban development, mineral extraction, golf courses, roads  and wind farms between 2006 and 2012.  The study said that the loss of wetlands which store carbon is particularly concerning.

Permission has been given for a £1.7 billion potash mine in the North York Moors by the Park’s planning committee in a 8-7 vote. The mineral mine, near Whitby, is one of the biggest developments in a National Park for decades. Sirius Minerals says the project will generate 1,000 jobs directly with a further 1,000 indirect jobs being created.

china - clean air needed now

china – clean air needed now

China has formally pledged to peak its carbon emissions by 2030, but says it could begin reductions ahead of time. According to a statement, China will also aim to cut its CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 60-65% compared to 2005 levels and increase its share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption by 20% by 2030. After a meeting with French President Hollande, Chinese Prime Minister Li Kepiang said: “China’s carbon dioxide emissions will peak by around 2030 and China will work hard to achieve the target at an even earlier date.” China’s commitment confirms its plans for cutting carbon emissions and comes ahead of the United Nations climate talks in Paris in December.

London_fog-_UKA new campaign plans to bring together businesses, government and local groups to solve the problem of air pollution in the UK. Deliver Change, a non-profit organisation focused on sustainable technology projects, launched the campaign in central London y at an event hosted by the Wellcome Trust. The ‘Let’s make air pollution visible’ initiative aims to bring together businesses and policy makers to tackle poor air quality in the UK. Deliver Change chief executive Jonathan Steel said: “Air pollution remains the greatest invisible threat to our health today, as well as to the economic performance of our cities. People are waking up to the problem, but we need to be able to see the ‘unseeable’.”

The White House has churned out about 40 new measures to fight carbon pollution just since the start of 2015, stepping up the pace ahead of critical talks for a global climate change deal. Two years after Barack Obama’s sweeping promise to fight climate change on 25 June 2013, the president has used his executive powers to spit out new climate events or announcements at a dizzying rate of one every 4.5 days this year, according to the running tally kept by the White House. Those measures are offset by furious attempts by Republicans and industry to stop the climate plan in its tracks, and other Obama policies which campaigners say would increase the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, such as opening up the Arctic, one of the world’s great “carbon bombs”, to oil drilling and expanding coal mining in Wyoming’s Powder river basin. A new free trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, could also weaken climate protections, campaigners said. But Obama is still constructing a significant record on climate change says the Guardian. US President Barack Obama recently admitted to Sir David Attenborough that the US is “not moving as fast as we need to” in its efforts to tackle climate change. In a TV interview, broadcaster and naturalist Attenborough questioned Obama’s environmental record after six and a half years in office, suggesting the US should attack climate change with the same zeal as it attacked putting a man on the moon. Attenborough said: “Supposing you said that within 10 years the US will energise the world to find a solution, to find a way of exploiting sunshine and finding ways of storing energy? Because if you did that, so many problems would be solved.” Obama replied: “That’s what we are going to be shooting for.”

doubledeckerelectricThe world’s first electric double decker bus will be on the roads in the UK this year under plans to cut emissions. Five buses will be in use in London by October – joining the eight single decker electric buses introduced in London in 2013. The 312 route between Norwood and South Croydon will be electric bus only. The buses can run for 162 miles between charges and a recharge takes about 2 hours. “The iconic red double-decker bus is about to become greener than ever,” said Mayor Boris Johnson. “I could not be more pleased that London will play host to these exciting pure electric double-deck buses, and I’m sure the lucky users of route 16 will embrace it with gusto.

Cycle networks have brought more than £7 billion in benefits according to the National Cycle Network by reducing pollution, improving health and cutting the number accidents.

Bill Gates has announced he will invest $2bn (£1.3bn) in renewable technologies initiatives, but rejected calls to divest from the fossil fuel companies that are burning carbon at a rate that ignores international agreements to limit global warming. Speaking to the Financial Times, Gates said that he would double his current investments in renewables over the next five years in a bid to “bend the curve” on tackling climate change. Gates has called for international Governments to triple R&D funding for renewable technologies in order to find a ‘magic solution’ to climate change. Gates told the Financial Times that current renewable technologies would only be able to reduce CO2 emissions at “beyond astronomical cost”. Instead, he wants Governments to support new ideas such as high altitude wind power, which uses tethered kites and gliders to capture the high-speed winds circling the atmosphere at 20,000 feet. He also highlighted the potential of ‘solar chemical’ power, which creates an artificial version of photosynthesis to produce hydrocarbons, as well as Travelling Wave Reactors, which use nuclear waste to produce energy.

Europe will likely get more than half of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of the next decade if EU countries meet their climate pledges, according to a draft commission paper.A planned overhaul of the continent’s electricity grids will now need to be sped up, says the leaked text, seen by the Guardian. “Reaching the European Union 2030 energy and climate objectives means the share of renewables is likely to reach 50% of installed electricity capacity,” says the consultation paper, due to be published on 15 July. “This means that changes to the electricity system in favour of decarbonisation will have to come even faster.” The EU has set itself a goal of cutting emissions 40% on 1990 levels by 2030, and an aspiration for a 27% share for renewables across Europe’s full energy mix, which includes sectors such as transport, agriculture and buildings that do not necessarily rely on electricity. Around a quarter of Europe’s electricity currently comes from renewable sources.

formulaEBusiness leaders have thrown their support behind renewable power as the final two races of the Formula E season took place in London. Sustainability chiefs from Formula E, IKEA, Marks and Spencer and Infosys – all partners of the Climate Group initiative RE100 – said renewable power was good for business and should be a priority for governments tackling climate change. Ahead of the weekend of racing, Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag said powering the cars cleanly was vitally important to the racing series: “We know that to reach the full potential of electric vehicle benefits we need to use renewable energy.”

A pan-European transition to a circular economy would generate around €1.8trn of benefit for European economies every year, a major new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has claimed. The Growth Within report – the subject of a nine-month study – presents a vision of how the circular economy could look for three of Europe’s most resource-intensive sectors: food, mobility and the built environment.It claims that transition would generate a primary resource benefit of €0.6trn per year, with an additional €1.2trn in non-resource and externality benefits. This would be accompanied by better societal outcomes including an increase of €3,000 in household income, a 16% reduction in congestion, and a halving of carbon dioxide emissions.

chambersbayThe US Open golf championship has been held at a course labelled “the poster child of sustainable golf”, but not all players are happy with the new water-reduced playing surface. For the first time, the US Open was held at Chambers Bay golf course in Washington – a course with a strong sustainability focus. It uses a limited amount of water compared to many other golf courses in the US, which often rely on lush but incredibility water-intensive grass and water features. Chambers Bay is a walking-only course, meaning it doesn’t allow golf carts. This has allowed the course team to plant ‘fine fescue’ grass, which is highly drought-tolerant and requires far less water to maintain than many traditional US golf courses.

And finally …. This year’s Edinburgh International Fashion Festival will feature a new focus on sustainability, thanks to a new partnership with Zero Waste Scotland. From 23-26 July, the festival will focus on the issue of sustainability, engaging businesses and consumers in improving the environmental credentials of the fashion industry. The collaboration comes as part of the UK-wide ‘Love Your Clothes’ campaign which encourages people to better value their clothes and buy longer-lasting items. Zero Waste Scotland chief executive Ian Gulland said: “We’re delighted to be part of such a prestigious event with Edinburgh International Fashion Festival, focusing on an issue which will be crucial to the industry’s future – how best to embed sustainability in its practices.”