Edie.net reports that the Conservative Party’s low-carbon ambitions were thrown into question as one of its MPs became embroiled in a row about the science of climate change and condemned further investment in renewables. During a heated political debate which was supposed to focus on how the next Government will replace the UK’s polluting power stations with green alternatives, Peter Lilley took his time at the plinth to suggest that politicians of all parties – including his own – have “enormously exaggerated” the effects of global warming. The Hitchin and Harpenden MP said there is an “extraordinary arrogance” surrounding the true cost of developing and supporting renewable energy technology, pointing out that the potential costs of implementing the Climate Change Act could be twice the amount of the maximum financial benefits for the UK.
New limits on air pollution in Europe have been watered down because governments are allowing some of the worst polluters to help draw up the rules, according to a Greenpeace investigation. The Guardian has also learned that despite UK claims to the contrary, energy industry representatives repeatedly and forcefully pushed for weaker pollution limits at meetings in Brussels. As a result of ongoing lobbying, the proposed European Union standards on toxic emissions from coal plants will be less strict than in China, the green campaign group said. Greenpeace analysed the backgrounds of hundreds of representatives who have been appointed by governments to sit on a key official group that is formulating new limits on air pollution across Europe. It found that out of 352 members of the technical working group, 183 are either employed by the companies that are being regulated, or by lobby groups that represent those companies.
Onshore wind projects are the big winners from the Government’s first Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction, receiving more than half of the contracts. In an announcement , the Government handed CfDs to 15 onshore wind projects, five to solar, three to Advanced Conversion Technologies (energy from waste), two to CHP and two to offshore wind. The CfDs – for large scale renewable projects – guarantee a ‘strike price’ for each MWh of power produced for the next 15 years. In total, 2.1GW of capacity has been procured, at a total cost of £315m. Low-carbon energy sources supplied at least 35% of the UK’s electricity in 2014, according to figures released by Decc. That’s up by around 3% over 2013; an increase driven by an 11% uptick in wind output.
And the UK’s Green Party leader Natalie Bennett says the labelling of the coalition as the ‘Greenest Government Ever’ has become a “sick joke” after four years of mixed political messages, failed green policies and a lack of urgency on the transition to renewable energy sources. Speaking to edie on Tuesday, Bennett said the UK has a “tremendously exciting opportunity” to develop a green economy, but more stable, long-term policies will be needed from the next Government to avoid falling behind the rest of Europe.
The Duke of Cambridge has condemned the trade in illegal wildlife as a “vicious form of criminality” and said that China can be a global leader in the fight against it in a speech on the last day of his visit to China. Speaking at the Xishuangbanna Elephant Sanctuary in Yunnan Province, Prince William said: “it is appalling that elephants – and many others – may be extinct in the wild in our lifetimes”. The extinction of elephants and other animals such as rhinos and pangolins would be “an immeasurable loss to the whole of humanity,” he said.
Friends of the Earth (FoE) is calling on the next UK Government to make community energy a priority by removing the current barriers to the sector’s development. It has issued a seven point plan for action that would help community energy realise its full potential. The environmental group says that community energy has the ability to be a driving force in the UK’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Currently only half a gigawatt of energy in the UK is produced by community projects, compared to over 25 GW in Germany – almost 30% of its total energy generation mix. The current coalition Government introduced the UK’s first community energy strategy in January 2014. But the removal of financial incentives by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement is reportedly actively discouraging green energy community projects.
Europe is experiencing an explosion in health costs caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that is comparable to the cost of lead and mercury poisoning, according to the most comprehensive study of the subject yet published. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the human hormone system, and can be found in food containers, plastics, furniture, toys, carpeting and cosmetics. The new series of reports by 18 of the world’s foremost experts on endocrine science pegs the health costs of exposure to them at between €157bn-€270bn (£113bn-£195bn), or at least 1.23% of the continent’s GDP. More on the Guardian here.
Large UK manufacturers could be forced to move their operations overseas if countries cannot agree a unilateral cap on emissions at the UN climate change conference in Paris. That’s the view of Susanne Baker, senior climate and environment policy adviser at the manufacturers’ organisation EEF. Speaking exclusively to edie, Baker said that a global agreement would have a “truly profound effect” on British manufacturers. Calling for a level playing field she said “At the moment we are competing under regulations – which other countries don’t have – which needs to be overcome if we are to be globally competitive,” she said. “For industries that rely on trade and have heavy energy use as part of their manufacturing process, the only way to meet targets in future
Around the world, animals that pollinate flowering plants are in decline. An increasing number of pollinating mammal and bird species are moving towards extinction, according to the first study of its kind. Other, so far unpublished studies, also suggest that pollinating insect species are also heading towards extinction. If these trends continue, say the studies’ authors, key species will be lost, with potentially significant impacts on how ecosystems function. The latest assessment is published in the journal Conservation Letters, by ecologist Eugenie Regan of the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, based in Cambridge, UK, and an international group of colleagues. In their research, the scientists point out that animals such as lemurs, bats and possums as well as birds such as the hummingbird and the honeyeater pollinate more than 87% of flowering plant species, and humans use many of these plants for food, livestock forage, medicine, materials and other purposes. More on the BBC here.
Google’s latest renewable energy investment will be providing almost half of a new $750m fund by SolarCity Corp to finance 25,000 residential solar projects, marking the technology giant’s largest renewable energy investment to date. And Marks & Spencer (M&S) has completed the installation of the UK’s largest single-roof-mounted solar panel array at its East Midlands distribution centre. The 24,272 PV panel system, which covers the site’s 900,000sq.ft roof, will generate over 5,000MWh of electricity per year – the equivalent amount of energy to power 1,190 homes.
Members of the indigenous Achuar tribe from the Peruvian Amazon have won an undisclosed sum from Occidental Petroleum in an out-of-court settlement after a long-running legal battle in the US courts. They sued the company in 2007, alleging it knowingly caused pollution which caused premature deaths, birth defects and damaged their habitat. It is the first time a company from the United States has been sued in a US court for pollution it caused in another country, Marco Simons, the legal director of EarthRights International, which represented the Achuar people in the lawsuit, said. It set a “precedent” which he said will be “significant for future cases and has already been cited by other courts in the United States”.
The EU could increase its carbon price tenfold without any real impact on international exports, academics have found. Researchers from the London School of Economics and the Grantham Research Institute found that increasing the EU carbon price from its current €7/tonne of CO2 to €65 would be equivalent to a 30% rise in energy prices for manufacturers. But such a cost increase would reportedly cause exports to fall by only 0.5% and imports to rise by 0.01%.
Hundreds of thousands of Europeans will suffer a premature death in the next two decades as the result of governments’ failure to act on air pollution, Europe’s environmental watchdog has warned. In 2011, the latest year for which figures have been reliably collated, more than 400,000 are estimated to have died prematurely as a result of breathing toxic fumes, despite recent improvements in some countries The UK has been one of the worst offenders, with government figures showing that European Union regulations on air quality will not be met in cities including London, Birmingham and Leeds until 2030.
Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre (NEC) has become one of the first local businesses to send its food waste to Severn Trent Green Power’s £13 million anaerobic digestion (AD) plant. The NEC expects to send 120 tonnes of food waste to Coleshill, which is only four miles away, annually.
Extending the product life of everyday foods by just one day could prevent 250,000 tonnes of food waste each year, according to the Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP). The waste charity released a report detailing five ways in which suppliers and retailers can easily extend the product life of everyday foods, including milk, chicken, and bread – without any ill-effect. Product life increases of just one day would save around 5% of the UK’s preventable food waste, with a benefit to consumers of around £500m. Retailers also stand to save £100m.
Tidal Lagoon Power has submitted an Environmental Impact Assessment scoping report for the Cardiff Tidal Lagoon, which would have a capacity of 1.8GW to 2.8GW. The project will be the UK’s first full-scale tidal lagoon power plant, representing a major step towards the delivery of full-scale tidal lagoon infrastructure in the country. Tidal Lagoon Power expects to submit a full planning application for Tidal Lagoon Cardiff, which will include 90 turbines set within a 22km breakwater, in 2017. A decision is expected in 2018. The project follows the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon which was developed as a scalable pilot for the sector and is due to receive a planning decision by June 2015. More here.
A long-anticipated El Niño has finally arrived. The US National Weather Service has now proclaimed the phenomenon is now in place. It involves a warming of a certain patch of the central Pacific that changes weather patterns worldwide, associated with flooding in some places, droughts elsewhere, a generally warmer globe, and fewer Atlantic hurricanes. El Niños are usually so important that economists even track them because of how they affect commodities although tis one appears weak and late and there may be a slight decrease in the number of Atlantic hurricanes this summer.