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ANOTHER PLANET?

The European Parliament has proposed changes to lorry designs that could cut the number of cyclists and pedestrians killed on roads. The new rules will ensure that blind spots are reduced, will have crumple zone and a rounded front that ensures that anyone hit by the vehicle is pushed away and not dragged under the wheels of a lorry.

Vespa_mandariniaIn the UK the House of  Commons Environmental Audit Committee is proposing tough new laws to fight back against foreign species that are invading the UK. The 292 long list of alien invaders includes Japanese Knotweed (which cost the UK economy £165 million in 2013), grey squirrels, the Caspian Sea ‘killer shrimp’ and North American Signal Crayfish that are devastating aquatic ecosystems, the oak processionary moth already found in and around London and Berkshire, and the Asian Hornet which killed six people in France last year – and is on its way here. The total cost of dealing with invading species is estimated at £1.7 billion annually. Photo of the Asian Giant Hornet:  Gary Alpert at en.wikipedia.

A former oil refinery in Essex has been granted a new lease of life as a new enterprise park developed by Vopak, Shell and Greenenergy and the 400 acre park will the world’s first facility designed to convert landfill waste into aviation fuel. The former Coryton refinery will reopen and create around 1,000 new jobs to rebuild the site and the ‘Green-Sky’ fuel facility is being developed by British Airways and Solena Fuels with plans to convert 575,000 tonnes of post recycled landfill waste into 120,000 tonnes of liquid fuels each year – worth $550 million annually.

A coalition of companies from around the globe is urging policy makers to take a number of actions in line with the science of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Welcoming the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, 90 UK, EU and international companies, including Acciona, Coca-Cola Enterprises, EDF Energy, Shell, Tesco and Unilever are demanding a proactive policy response to climate change risk through The Trillion Tonne Communiqué, set up by the Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group.  According to the IPCC report, global emissions of greenhouse gases have risen to unprecedented levels despite a growing number of policies to reduce climate change. It found that emissions grew more quickly between 2000 and 2010 than in each of the three previous decades.  The Report does say that catastrophic climate change can be averted without sacrificing living standards – concluding that the transformation required to a world of clean energy is eminently affordable. “It doesn’t cost the world to save the planet” said economist Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, who led the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) team.  The cheapest and least risky route to dealing with global warming is to abandon all dirty fossil fuels in coming decades, the report found. Gas – including that from the global fracking boom – could be important during the transition, Edenhofer said, but only if it replaced coal burning.

In related news, the European Investment Bank (EIB) has announced that more than €2bn (£1.6bn) is to be made available for new innovative renewable energy and carbon capture projects. Global ‘clean energy’ investment increased 14% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2014, according to the latest research. The research, carried out by data analyst firm Clean Energy Pipeline, showed the sector totalled $61bn (£36bn) in the first quarter of 2014, up from the $53.4bn invested in the corresponding period in 2013. And the United Nations (UN) has launched a 10-year plan, which aims to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency worldwide. The Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024) strategy plans to provide universal access to modern energy services, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and share renewable energy globally.  Announcing the launch in New York yesterday, Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative Kandeh Yumkella called on the private sector to innovate and invest in order to help reach the initiative’s three objectives by 2030. And Drax is likely to receive a E300 million grant from the European Commission for a carbon capture and storage project with the support of the British government. Drax’s White Rose project could become Europe’s first advanced CCS plant.

Giant inflatable wind turbines that float in the sky to generate electricity will be tested in Alaska next year. Altaeros Energies, a US company, has developed four prototype helium filled devices that channel wind to turn the turbine and generate power – capturing a stringer and more reliable wind source in the sky.

Edie.net reports that Lord Smith has said that the winter floods have highlighted the danger of building on floodplains and underlines the need to continue improving flood defences to cope with extreme climate. The Environment Agency chairman told an audience at the Royal Geographical Society that there needs to be a continued commitment from Government and partners to investing in flood defence maintenance. He also told the audience that more widespread use of individual property flood protection measures and a higher priority given to flood risk in national infrastructure planning is needed.

blackfishNumbers of people attending the SeaWorld’s popular US centres between January and March have dropped, from 3.5 million in 2013 to 3.05 million this year, a decline of 13% – the reason being say woldlife campiagners is the effect the documentary film Blackfish has had.  The film tells the story of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau who was killed by Tilikum, a bull orca. The killer whale, it was also revealed, had been involved in the deaths of other individuals while in captivity. Blackfish focuses on the distress experienced by killer whales who are depicted as complex, highly intelligent creatures which are taken from their families, kept in small pools and given psychotropic drugs to calm them and help them perform tricks that include balancing human trainers on their snouts, rotating in the water to pop music, waving their flippers and tails, and floating on their backs. The film triggered widespread public outrage against marine parks in general and a petition, signed by 1.2 million people, was handed into the California state assembly calling for a ban on killer whale shows. Earlier this month, a bill legalising the ban was put on hold for the next 12 months. Campaigners are still hopeful it will be enacted next year. More on the Guardian website here http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/19/visitors-turn-backs-on-marine-parks

kiss the skyWith all the recent controversy surrounding captive orcas, Ann and Nancy Wilson decided it was high time to celebrate the wild ones. Heart –  joined by Special Guest Graham Nash – and Joan Jett and The Blackhearts headlined a historic concert in Seattle at EMP Museum’s spectacular “Sky Church” on Earth Day, April 22nd, to benefit wild orca research and advocacy. Joining Heart and Graham Nash were Joan Jett and The Blackhearts Country Joe McDonald, acoustic cellist Jami Sieber, and musician and activist Andrew Morse. Also on the bill for “Kiss the Sky! The Orca Freedom Concert” was the extraordinary up-and-coming singer/songwriter and guitar virtuoso Arielle and the Emcee was  legendary radio personality Norman B – and it was all streamed live.

orcaAnd the fate of the captive orca Morgan has been decided by the Dutch Courts with the appeal court in Den Haag saying that under the current law, the orca will not be freed. The Free Morgan Foundation said: “Despite overwhelming evidence provided by world renowned orca researchers, scientists and advocates, as members of the Free Morgan Foundation, the best interests of Morgan have not been met. It has been designated that she will be sent to a life of permanent captivity in a barren concrete tank. Realistically this is nothing short of a death sentence for Morgan as orca in captivity only live an average of 8.5 years, compared to more than 50 years in the wild. It is disgraceful that a country such as the Netherlands, known around the world for their humanitarian and animal welfare compassion, should have allowed this to happen. Clearly, ulterior motivations such as money and entertainment have presided over the welfare interests of Morgan.”

IKEA has announced its largest global renewable energy investment to date, purchasing a 98 megawatt wind farm in Illinois, US. The wind farm is expected to generate up to 380GWh of renewable energy each year – the equivalent amount of electricity to meet the needs of 34,000 average American households. However in the UK The wind industry has responded angrily to a statement from Eric Pickles, The Communities and Local Government Secretary that he will be extending his period of pulling in decisions on renewable energy projects for planning control a further 12 months.

Edie.net reports that UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s has launched a brand new scheme to let customers recycle their Easter egg packaging, in a bid to divert household waste away from landfill. The supermarket will be the first retailer in the UK to unveil a specially designed Easter recycling facility in store. Customers will be able to recycle all elements of Easter egg packaging, including plastic, film, card, foil and ribbon.

clucasCaroline Lucas, the UK’s only Green Party MP. has been cleared of obstructing a public highway and breaching an order under S14 of the Public Order Act. The MP and four co-defendants were charged after fracking protests at Cuadrilla’s drilling site in Balcombe, west Sussex, last August.  Lucas said their arrests were the result of “oppressive policing” and that protests were the “lifeblood of democracy”. The Green Party are currently polling just 2% of the national vote but have seen their share rise to 14% amongst students – the third biggest share after the Labour and Conservative parties and ahead of both UKIP and the Liberal Democrats.  (Youthsight).

“Sustainability is an engine for growth ……. and sustainability d0es not have to revolve around trade offs and sacrifices. In the political and public debate, sustainability is often presented  as a choice between prosperity today and the sustainability of tomorrow. The transformational leaders demonstrate that smart investment, targeted at the challenges of tomorrow, can be turned to an advantage today” (The Business of Environment by Peter Lacy and Rob Hayward, RSA Journal, Issue 1 2014).