An example of an oil drilling rig

Rejecting new oil drilling is slippery business

What did it mean when the Government declared a Climate Emergency and Surrey County Council – among other regional authorities followed suit? Did it give them powers to act in certain ways?

Could they use it to influence policy? To set agendas? To change historical ways of doing things, in order to be more environmentally friendly? Was it a door ajar to push for change, and only ajar rather than open? Or a truly defining moment where the door was wide open and a real crack at reducing our carbon emissions could be made?

Working towards a carbon neutral Britain by 2050 has to start now – and many say that target should be much closer.

When Extinction Rebellion held London, and other cities, to ransom in April 2019, the UK Government took notice.

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Newts just get in the way of housing

Build back better: newt very green at all

Did he say “build back better, greener, faster?” Yes, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a broad list of a £5bn plan to kick start our economy. But it left many who have called for a properly “green” recovery cold.

The banner underneath his podium said “build, build, build” – and it turned out the real emphasis was on building. Building greener was tertiary, behind the concept of “faster”. Environmentalism came across as an after thought.

Build HS2. Build links to north and south; build to sort out the transport bottle neck at Manchester; build a wider road to Scotland, he said, to make good the promise made in 1992; build homes; build 50 schools; build the election pledge of 40 new hospitals.

And, yes, he wanted 4,000 new carbon zero buses and he highlighted a “massive” investment that is underway in cycle way improvements.

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Green recovery

How would you ask your MP to tackle climate emergency?

What would you ask your MP to do to battle the Climate Emergency, if you had the chance? Today, the Climate Coalition is giving people across the UK the chance to press their MPs for action, with a designated day of action.

Last year, 12,000 people gathered outside Parliament, with many of them being granted an audience with their Member of Parliament in groups. This year, social distancing restrictions mean that gatherings can’t happen. It will all be done on Zoom, if your MP agrees to meet.

The Climate Coalition campaign aims to put constituents in an area together to meet their MP. They are calling their campaign The Time Is Now – to put people, climate and nature at the heart of the UK’s recovery from Covid-19.

If I had the chance today, I would ask my MP to: note the Government’s declaration of a Climate Emergency as a gateway to change and note the public mood; consider many of the Climate Coalition’s asks; and back a couple of existing campaigns.

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Carbon emissions

Climate Change: Bigger than ‘life and death’

Some people, the famous former Liverpool Football Club manager Bill Shankly once said, think football is a matter of life and death. “I assure you,” he commented. “It’s much more serious than that.”

As Liverpool celebrate their first top flight title in English football for 30 years, the sentiment might be borrowed to address the climate emergency.

It was in October 2018 that the United Nations warned we had just 12 years to avert irreversible climate change. The aim was to keep global warming to a minimum of 1.5C. Beyond that, a half degree increase would significantly increase the risk of floods, droughts, extreme heat and poverty as parts of the planet become uninhabitable.

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What are you doing for 30 Days Wild?

What are you doing for 30 Days Wild? Not heard of it? It’s the Wildlife Trusts campaign to encourage people to do 30 days of Random Acts of Wildness during June to help the environment.

Schools, groups and individuals are urged to do something to encourage biodiversity – as wide a variety of nature as possible – to thrive. It is to help tackle the climate emergency and particularly pollinators at this time of year.

One idea behind the campaign is that, whatever you do, it is habit forming. The campaign encourages participants to continue to do something for longer than 30 days. Or to take notice of nature for longer than 30 days at least.

One year, I interpreted the campaign not as doing something daily, but letting the “wild things grow” as it were, in a dedicated area.

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If it can’t be recycled easily, don’t sell it to me

If there is one maxim I would like sustainability professionals within food and home product brands to live by it is this: if the packaging can’t be recycled easily, don’t sell it.

By “recycled easily” I mean from the doorstep or by the consumer, if really needed, being able to take it back to the store for them or the industry to reuse.

There are seven basic types of plastic, but it seems many dozens of derivatives when it comes to the recycling process.

PVC, for example, can be used in lots of different ways, from toys to bubble wrap. The mix of plastic in cheap toys given out at fast food outlets was deemed by one official as “unrecycable” at council waste depots, on Hugh’s War on Waste, the BBC series a couple of years ago.

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Cooking up a treat with a bunch of beetroot leaves

An “early” harvest from the garden brings a lovely problem: what to do with those large beetroot leaves? It seems such a waste to discard them.

The urban jungle – or maybe just the jungle, given how they have grown in the garden – says they can be cooked. Ever since a neighbour brought his whopping baseball sized beetroots (I exaggerate, but only just) back from his allotment last year, I made a mental note to look up whether the flurry of greenery was edible. Consensus is yes, they can be used like chard – and they taste like spinach when cooked. But how?

For some reason, just a couple of beetroot (which have been big this year because of the month of May without rain) have produced enough greenery to look like flowers in a vase. Another use, in a heatwave, might seem to be as a fan. But they are not that sturdy.

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Joining some cycling dots from Salfords to Redhill

The “race” to ensure Surrey receives its potential £8.5 million Government funding for extra cycle and walking routes has provoked much chatter on Twitter.

Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council cabinet member for highways, announced on June 6 that the county had sent active travel proposals to the Department for Transport. This was to try to gain the maximum £1.696 million available in the first tranche.

Proposals for Farnham and for Reigate town centre – to widen the area for cyclists and reduce the area used by cars – have been proposed and welcomed already.

There was no link to the full proposal on his tweets about the matter, but some thoughts occurred to me about extra cycle provision that could be made around Redhill, just as Jonathan Essex, a county council and Reigate & Banstead Borough councillor, published a 12-page document collating various views from individuals and campaign groups.

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Generic picture of oil refinery

BP’s answer to climate emergency: shed staff

When BP announced on Monday that it would shed 10,000 staff by the end of the year because of a drop in demand for oil and investing more in renewable energy forms, on a drive towards being carbon neutral, it raised many more questions than it answered.

CEO Bernard Looney wrote up on LinkedIn what he had told staff in his briefing. It became listed as an “editor’s choice” story on the news feed of the business social networking site.

Commentators offered many viewpoints. One was that this shedding of staff was inevitable. It was merely delayed from March and in fact the company’s line about there being a drop in demand for oil pre-dated the Covid-19 crisis, when there was a large drop in demand for oil.

Readers might have noticed that there were far fewer aeroplanes, that far fewer people drove – including to work – and the petrol prices dipped to about £1.00 per litre at the pumps.

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