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ANOTHER PLANET?

Lady Elliott Island, Great Barrier Reef by Jasmine ChallisAustralia’s Great Barrier Reef is likely to be listed as ‘in danger’ by Unesco’s World Heritage Committee in a few weeks- despite the fact its worth £2.6 billlion (A$5 billion) in tourism revenues each year to the Australia economy. The reef has been substantialy damaged by climate change and rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification,  the pollution from sewage and run off fertilisers from farmland, and the damage caused by the expansion of ports on the East coast of Australia, built to deliver coal to China and India. In the past 30 years half of all the coral has been lost. Coral reefs around the World also face a new threat from industrial fishing: A recent report by Brityish and Australian researchers at over 800 reefes in 64 different locations showed that 83% had lost more than half of their fish, and the removal of fish has further detroyed the thriving coral which gets smothered by algae and invertebrates which the fish eat. Image: Lady Elliott Island, Great Barrier Reef by Jasmine Challis

uk-first-natural-public-swimming-pool-537x407Londoners will soon be able to take a dip in a new chemical-free swimming pool, in Kings Cross in the new Lewis Cubitt Park. The man-made freshwater pond will be filtered and kept clear through natural processes. Designed by Rotterdam Studio Ooze architects and artist Marjetica Potrč, the “Of Soil and Water: King’s Cross Pond Club” project was commissioned as part of the public art program RELAY and the 27-hectare King’s Cross redevelopment. The 40-meter-long bathing pond which is 2m above ground level can accommodate over 100 bathers and explores the relationship between nature and the urban environment. Users will also be educated about the pond’s ever-changing landscape and how the pool operates within a small-scale, self-sustaining ecosystem. Wetland plants will be used to clean the water and provide habitat for fauna. Read more: The UK’s first natural public swimming pool will use plants, not chemicals, to stay clean | Inhabitat – Sustainable Design Innovation, Eco Architecture, Green Building.

BP pumped billions of pounds into low-carbon technology and green energy over a number of decades but gradually retired the programme to focus almost exclusively on its fossil fuel business, the Guardian has established. At one stage the company, whose annual general meeting is in London on Thursday, was spending in-house around $450m (£300m) a year on research alone – the equivalent of $830m today. The energy efficiency programme employed 4,400 research scientists and R&D support staff at bases in Sunbury, Berkshire, and Cleveland, Ohio, among other locations, while $8bn was directly invested over five years in zero- or low-carbon energy. But almost all of the technology was sold off and much of the research locked away in a private corporate archive.

Amazon burningThe recent surge in deforestation-free pledges is an exciting development, but needs definition, focus and accountability to turn the objective into reality. That’s the view being put forward by the Rainforest Alliance in a new position paper – ‘Halting Deforestation and Achieving Sustainability’.  The past few months have seen a selection of individual business pledges on deforestation from the likes of Unilever, Yum Brands and Dunkin’ Donuts; as well as collective deforestation commitments such as the New York Declaration on Forests.

And more from the Guardian – the World Bank increased its financing for fossil fuel projects in the last financial year, according to a new analysis, despite repeated calls by its president to end the global subsidies for oil, coal and gas. In a report released on Friday, Oil Change International (OCI) identified $3.4bn (£2.3bn) of loans, grants, guarantees, risk management and equity for fossil fuel-related projects in the developing world in the 2013-14 financial year. This was the highest recorded in four years and up 23% on the year before although the bank said it disagreed with lumping in both direct and indirect funding. The bank’s president Jim Yong Kim told the Guardian “we need to get rid of fossil fuel subsidies now”, echoing his previous comments on such “harmful” subsidies. The World Trade organisation’s definition of a subsidy is a “financial contribution by a government or any public body”, including loans and loan guarantees.

The Abbott government found $4m for the climate contrarian Bjørn Lomborg to establish his “consensus centre” at an Australian university, even as it struggled to impose deep spending cuts on the higher education sector. A spokesman for the education minister, Christopher Pyne, said the government was contributing $4m over four years to “bring the Copenhagen Consensus Center methodology to Australia” at a new centre in the University of Western Australia’s business school.

Solar giant Hanergy has renewed a research collaboration with Aston Martin in a bid to develop the world’s first solar-powered car for the general public.  The partnership, originally announced in June last year, will continue to develop the capabilities of the thin-film solar panels affixed to an Aston Martin GTE racing-car roof (pictured). The project will help Aston Martin maximise the performance of its racing cars and help Hanergy develop the technology for a consumer car market.

Environmentalists have walked out of an influential EU shale gas group, which they say has been taken over by industry groups who are using it as a platform to promote fracking. Advice from the expert panel on unconventional hydrocarbons is expected to inform the European commission’s future decisions on the exploration of shale gas in Europe, which the UK and Polish governments have strongly backed.  The panel is led by five chairmen; two executives from the shale firms Cuadrilla and ConocoPhillips, two officials from pro-shale ministries in UK and Poland, and a director of IFP Energies Nouvelles, who is also an advisor to the Shale Gas Europe lobby group. These chairs oversee and approve the work of task forces drawn from an invite-only network. But less than 10 environmentalists were welcomed to the last meeting in February, compared to around 70 attendees who were largely from industry.

Green-Go_Logo_2-copy_Framed_faceCEEweb for Biodiversity is organizing the International Green-Go Short Film Contest for the 5th time. The Contest is awaiting creative/shocking/funny/explicit eye-opener short films in the following three categories:

  • 1. Our footprint on Earth
  • 2. Two faces of exploitation
  • 3. You are part of Nature. Live with it! (co-organisers of the category: Eurosite and ECNC)

Deadline for submissions: 15 September 2015. The category winners are awarded with 700 Euros and the public award winner with 500 Euros. More here: http://greengofest.eu/

 

UK election update: Well here’s a synopsis! The Conservatives still say they have been the “greenest government ever”  but there was actually very little mention of climate change, renewable energy or environment issues in the 82-page manifesto, which was immediately slammed by green groups as “anti-green growth” and “a recipe for higher energy bills”.  It follows the launch of Labour’s manifesto which highlighted Labour’s commitment to decarbonise the electricity supply by 2030, and for onshore ‘unconventional’ oil and gas, (read: fracking) Labour said it will establish a “robust” environmental and regulatory regime before extraction can take place. The Green Party manifesto  contains a host of bold pledges to drive the renewables revolution.  “The climate is the ultimate common good,” states the Green Party’s election manifesto, which pledges to ramp up spending on renewables, prioritise home energy efficiency and put an end the UK’s dependency on fossil fuels and the manifesto pledges an £85bn commitment towards £35bn to renewables; £5bn to flood defences and £45bn to building insulation.

Clean energy investment has slumped by 15% in the first quarter of 2015 to its lowest level in two years according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).  Global investment only managed a low of $50.5bn, down from $59.3bn in the first quarter of 2014, due to a decline in wind and utility-scale projects, BNEF said. The big fear that clean energy investment would be affected by falling oil prices has not been the case, and after currency variations and some large offshore wind investments in 2014 are taken out of the equation, investment “this year would have been pretty much level-pegging with last year” BNEF’s chairman of its advisory board Michael Liebreich said. More here.

Sheringham_Shoal_Wind_Farm_2012A windfarm in Scotland is set to provide the cheapest electricity ever produced by an offshore wind farm by using two recently launched technologies, developer Mainstream Renewable Power said.  The 448MW Neart na Gaoithe windfarm – one of only two offshore wind farms awarded a Contract for Difference (CfD) by the Government in February – will be the first to install the new Offshore Transmission Module (OTM) by Siemens, and a ‘Boom Lock’ system from High Wind.

The University of Edinburgh is expected to approve plans to divest from companies involved in coal and tar sands extraction, but campaigners said the action did not go far enough.  The university’s central management group made the partial-divestment recommendation on Tuesday and students have been informed that it is expected to be approved at the next meeting of the University Court in May. However, a separate proposal to divest from natural gas was not supported, prompting student campaigners to call for the university’s £230m endowment to move away from all fossil fuels. Investors who have dumped holdings in fossil fuel companies have outperformed those that remain invested in coal, oil and gas over the past five years according to analysis by the world’s leading stock market index company MSCI.

Ikea has taken its sustainability ethos into the food hall for the first time, offering a new vegan meatball known as GRÖNSAKSBULLAR.  The new ‘meatball’ consists of only vegetables, to avoid the vast carbon footprint associated with rearing cattle for beef.

An oil well containing up to 100 billion barrels of oil has been discovered under West Sussex, but environmental groups have warned that the oil should stay in the ground in favour of the UK’s clean energy transition.  Burning the estimated haul would produce around 37.5GtCO2 – equivalent to one year of current global emissions, although experts suggest only around 15% of the oil can actually be recovered. A recent UCL study warned that the majority of the world’s fossil fuels must not be burned if we are to stay within the 2°C global warming target.

And finally, CONGRATULATIONS to Keswick Football Club for their victory in the Westmorland Senior Cup on the 18th April 2015. Well done!