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ANOTHER PLANET

The Department for Energy and Climate Change suffered an overall annual cut in budget of 5% but announcements on the future funding for a Green Bank and Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) were not all bad with Secretary for Energy and Climate Change, Chris Huhne, succeeded in securing £1 billion for carbon capture technology and another £1 billion investment in a Green Bank. Other announcements included a £200 million funding for wind power development. New incentives were also announced, including a funded Renewable Heat Incentive to encourage home energy efficiency with no upfront cost to homeowners but this also meant a phasing out of the Warm Front programme.  Environmental groups will digest the news and reflect on what this means in the face of huge cuts for welfare, councils and the police, with a total of £81 billion cut from public spending

Caroline Spelman, the UK’s Environment Secretary, is expected to announce that the UK Government plans to sell off 150,000 hectares of forests and woodland that it owns, to property developers, large land owners and international companies. Cripes, firesales are always useless (Gordon Brown sold off all our gold on the cheap) but this one looks ridiculous. Still, only a rumour. But if it is ridiculously cheap and we imagine it will be (and probably cost almost as much to sell in ‘consultant’s fees’) – we would like to buy some please – especially at bargain basement prices – so – now we’ve said it publicly! Onwards with Festival Wood and maybe Festival Forest!

The UK Government’s efforts to cut the budget deficit mean that rail commuters on some lines will face fare rises of 11% as part of plans to reduce the annual rail budget of £5 billion. Ouch!

South Africa has announced it is making plans to shift from reliance on coal based electricity generation to solar power –by building the world’s biggest solar power plant. The Government hopes the move will dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions – South Africa is 90% dependent on coal for power.

Soaring food prices and shortages could cause instability in many poorer countries as the cost of stable food and vegetables has reached its highest level for two years. Global wheat and maize prices have jumped 30% recently whilst meat is at a 20 year high as are the price of tomatoes in Egypt, garlic in China and bread and sugar in Pakistan. Wheat prices have been forced upwards by the dramatic drought in Russia and a 5.5% reduction in global wheat production, but there is continuing concerns about the volatility in prices on the world market brought on by the economic recession, food price speculation and a reduction in food production brought on by urbanisation and turning and over to agrofuels.

“Eco guilt” is the new buzzword for gadgets as two thirds of consumers believe that the electronics industry is not doing enough to tackle the environmental damage they cause. Manufacturers are being told to do more to get green as consumers look for positive action – and also make sure consumers are aware of their environmental efforts. Research shows that 58% of shoppers look for more environmentally friendly products.