Do you want to know about the link between those morish snack devils Doritos, the destruction of our rain forests and palm oil production? Well campaign group SumofUs have produced a rather amusing video. It IS amusing, but it doesn’t have a happy ending. Rainforests across Southeast Asia are being destroyed every day to make way for massive palm oil plantations, where workers, even children, are trapped in modern slavery to cultivate the vegetable oil. The clearing of these rainforests and peatlands are driving many species like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger to the brink of extinction, while also polluting the Earth’s atmosphere by releasing gigatons of greenhouse gases. Dorito’s parent company PepsiCo buys 427,500 tonnes of palm oil ever year – lets ask PepsiCo to act responsibly towards Palm Oil production: more at http://action.sumofus.org/a/doritos-video/?sub=fb7 and SumofUs has launched an advertising campaign which features posters on UK buses and the online video (called A Cheesy Love Story – the Ad Doritos Don’t Want You To See), backed by a ‘five figure ad-buy”. The ad is also scheduled to undermine Doritos’ high-profile ‘Crash the Superbowl’ campaign, which offers a member of the public a chance to create an advert to be aired during America’s most watched television event. “We’re calling on PepsiCo to stop using irresponsible palm oil in its products because it comes at a terrible human and environmental cost,” said SumOfUs senior campaigner Hanna Thomas. In response, PepsiCo told edie: “It is no surprise that SumofUs’ continual mischaracterizations of our palm oil commitments are patently false and run counter to the positive reception our policies have received from expert organizations in this arena. “PepsiCo has repeatedly stated that we are absolutely committed to 100% sustainable palm oil in 2015 and to zero deforestation in our activities and sourcing.
And in South America, the surge in the price of gold has led to increased deforestation of the Amazon and other South American forests, according to a new study of mining impacts. With the rewards now higher than the risks, small scale garimpeiros – artisanal miners – are flocking into protected areas to extract the precious metal from low-grade seams under the tropical forest that were previously unprofitable, says the paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
GM crops could be speedily brought to the UK market after MEPs voted to allow countries to choose whether to grow the crops . The new EU law, which comes into force this spring, will allow states to cultivate GM crops that have already been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa). According to Sarah Cundy, the UK’s head of GM policy and regulation, that could happen quickly. “We now expect to see GM maize 1507 get its final authorisation in the near future, and new applications should be approved much more quickly than has been the case until now,” she said in an email to the National Farmers Union. UK Environment Secretary Liz Truss has thrown her weight behind genetically modified (GM) food, saying the technology can have a positive environmental impact. Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference, South West Norfolk MP Truss said that GM crops – which are largely banned in the UK – have an important role to play. “If you look at what has happened in the US, crops are being grown in a more environmentally friendly way with less water usage and less pesticide usage,” she said. “I would like us to have that opportunity. Our farmers need access to technology that will help them work in world markets.”
Biofuels produced with low or no risk of indirect land use change (ILUC) could contribute significantly to achieving the European Union’s 2020 climate and energy targets in transport. That’s according to a new study published by researchers from the University of Utrecht, suggesting that ILUC can be mitigated if the right practices are put in place – especially when biofuels are produced from crops grown as a result of increasing agricultural crop yields on under-utilised land. ILUC occurs when biofuels are produced on existing agricultural land and the demand for food crops remains, leading to the production of food elsewhere. This may result in land use change by, for example, changing forest into agricultural land which causes a substantial amount of CO2 to be released into the atmosphere.
Our good friend Hannah tells us: Oh no! Apparently Leeds is earmarked for fracking! If the trespass law is changed, as the government want it to be, then they could be drilling under my bloody house! I’ve just written to tell them that I don’t want my land trespassed on and criminally damaged… If you live in leeds please do the same. And indeed the the government is trying to change the law, so big energy firms can drill for gas under our homes without asking us. But together we can stop these plans in their tracks. To change the law, they need MPs to vote for it in parliament. And the vote’s in just a few weeks. Let’s make it clear that backing dirty energy companies over constituents would be a toxic move. A huge people-powered petition against the plans – which we can hand-in to our MPs – will make sure all MPs know the way they should vote. Will you stand up for your home – and everyone elses? The government can’t be allowed to pass a law changing the trespass act for their own financial gains, and the financial gains of the oil companies, at our expense. It’s criminal! so write to your MP – and 38 Degrees have set up a petition which you can sign online telling MPs “74% of the public in Britain are against changes to trespass laws that would allow fracking companies to drill under homes without permission. I urge you to oppose government plans to change the law and vote against them when you have the chance.” Click here to sign the petition and more on the big debate about fracking in the Observer newspaper here “A county divided: is Lancashire ready for its fracking revolution?”
Let’s not forget what Nestlé’s Chairman of the Board, Peter Brabeck, said was his philosophy to the concept of a basic human right to water : “The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.” More here.
Pope Francis has waded into the global debate about climate change, saying that he believed that man was primarily responsible and that he hoped this year’s Paris conference would take a courageous stand to protect the environment. The Pope said his long-awaited encyclical on the environment was almost finished and that he hoped it would be published in June, in time provide food for thought ahead of the UN climate meeting Paris in November.
Clean energy investment bounced back strongly in 2014, totalling $310bn, the highest amount since 2011 and a year-on-year growth of 16%. The figure – which represents a 500% increase on 2004 – was boosted by newly competitive large-scale and rooftop solar PV, and a record number of offshore wind projects, according to the report from London-based analyst Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). Solar accounted for almost half of total clean energy investment in 2014, its highest share ever. Last year, solar attracted funding worth $149.6bn, up 25% on 2013. But the recent collapse in the price of oil may change that: On 20 June 2014, the price of crude oil stood at $115 a barrel. On 12 January 2015, the price has crashed to $48 a barrel, leading commentators – including Sir Richard Branson – to suggest clean energy will be damaged as suppliers abandon renewables in favour of cheap oil. However, Edie.net reports that industry analysts have responded by saying that oil price fluctuations, at worst, will have a minimal effect on renewables and, at best, could benefit the industry, which is bigger and more resilient than ever before. Indeed, an overlooked storyline is that the mushrooming renewable energy industry is actually contributing to oil’s price plunge. Along with efficiency measures and shale gas, renewables have helped dampen demand for oil by about half a million barrels in the US alone since 2006.
Large-scale wave energy is comparatively more reliable, consistent and potentially cheaper than other forms of energy generation, including wind power. That’s according to a new report, published in the journal Renewable Energy, which claims that wave energy in high-resource areas such as the Pacific Northwest will have fewer problems with variability than other energy sources. Moreover, the short-term generation capacity of wave energy can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy, and any potential variability could be further reduced if its implementation was balanced over a larger geographic area, according to the report. More here.
Humans are “eating away at our own life support systems” at a rate unseen in the past 10,000 years by degrading land and freshwater systems, emitting greenhouse gases and releasing vast amounts of agricultural chemicals into the environment, new research has found. Two major new studies by an international team of researchers have pinpointed the key factors that ensure a livable planet for humans, with stark results. Of nine worldwide processes that underpin life on Earth, four have exceeded “safe” levels – human-driven climate change, loss of biosphere integrity, land system change and the high level of phosphorus and nitrogen flowing into the oceans due to fertiliser use. More on the Guardian here.
We may be seriously underestimating the true cost of climate change. A new study says that the economic cost of each tonne of carbon emissions may be six times higher than the value the USA government uses as a a guide to its energy regulations. The Stamford University study says the economic cost of each tonne of carbon is $220, not $37 as previously thought.
Harvard has newly invested tens of millions of dollars in oil and gas companies, rebuffing campaigners’ demands to sever the wealthy university’s ties to the companies that cause climate change. The university’s refusal to withdraw an $32.7bn endowment from fossil fuels has frustrated campaigners and resulted in a law suit brought by seven Harvard students. The university – the world’s richest – is due to appear in court next month.
Billions of pounds of public money is to be spent supporting ‘green’ boilers, despite evidence from the government’s own experts and industry that they will do little to help the UK meet its clean energy targets. A study by the Department of Energy and Climate Change found that biomass boilers in the non-domestic sector were around 10-20% less efficient than expected. Those boilers account for 90% of payments under the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI), the government’s flagship scheme to encourage a shift to low carbon heating.
Also in the UK, the first battery-powered train to run on Britain’s rail network in more than 50 years will carry its first passengers this week. The modified Class 379 Electrostar train – also known as an Independently Powered Electric Multiple Unit (IPEMU) – is part of a project to roll out a fleet of quieter, more efficient battery-powered trains. The project, co-funded by the Department for Transport (DfT), contributes to Network Rail’s commitment to improve sustainability, reduce its environmental impact and reduce the cost of running the railway by 20% over the next five years.
And the UK waste and resources industry has condemned a ‘disappointing’ Government response to a report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee (EFRA) which criticised Defra for ‘stepping back’ from waste. The original Waste Management report from EFRA, released in October, expressed concern that the 2020 EU target of 50% household recycling will not be met in England without clear Government leadership, renewed policy drivers and support from Defra, to which the Department replied that it would “respond to the report in due course”.
European water companies could soon benefit from a new circular economy innovation which will enable them to recover humic acid – a valuable fertiliser Humic acid is currently discharged as a waste product during the drinking-water blanching process, but Dutch water firm Vitens has developed a way to recover it in its pure fertilising form, and wants to bring the circular process to the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia. Ms Lieve Declercq, chair of the Vitens executive board said: “Thanks to the sustainable usage of humic acid, we are able to reduce the use of artificial fertiliser and phosphates in agriculture and horticulture.
And finally, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett has responded furiously to the decision by Ofcom to exclude the Greens from its list of ‘major parties’ (and the televised TV debates) ahead of the General Election in May, claiming that it ‘risks doing damage to British democracy.’ In its consultation, the media industry regulator said: “The
Sydney image: Cash for Containers Campaign