Climate emergency

A solar panel farm

Put a green thorn in fossil site planning laws

“I take your point,” Alok Sharma replied, when asked if the approval of a new coal mine was “an embarrassment” ahead of the UK hosting the COP26 Climate Summit.

The questions to Mr Sharma, President of the UK-hosted COP26 in Glasgow in November, came from the Commons business select committee.

Even Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, told the committee there was a “slight tension” between Cumbria County Council approving the mine and national efforts to clean up – or green up – the economy.

Ministers could have reversed the decision by “calling in” the plans. But they declined to do so, saying that the coal was required for creating the heat to make steel. Otherwise coal would have to be imported, the applicant and council agreed. This would increase carbon emissions, given the travel to reach the UK.

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Sharma’s COP26 challenge: plan to follow Greta’s lead

There are signs of progress of sustainability – saving our planet – in many walks of life. However, only with a sense of history can we judge if the Climate Emergency is truly being addressed.

Those judging whether humanity is making progress don’t have to have lived through the attempts or to have been old enough to make value judgements for all that time, either.

Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist, has been pretty vocal for a number of years. Having only just turned 18, on January 3, she has started the year and her adult life being outspoken and caustic. Just as outspoken and caustic as she was when she shot to fame as the girl who skipped school to go on strike to highlight climate change.

Shouting from that modern rooftop, Twitter, she has roundly condemned political leaders. They have, she said, failed to achieve any of their ambitious Aichi biodiversity goals, set in 2010 and agreed in Japan.

Read More »Sharma’s COP26 challenge: plan to follow Greta’s lead
Bees collecting pollen

Controversial pesticide use? UK is the bees knees

Well that didn’t take long, did it? No sooner was the United Kingdom out of its European Union child reins, or however the pro-Brexiteers wish to describe it, than the Government broke a promise on a bee pesticide.

According to a report by the Guardian, a pesticide that is believed to kill bees was banned by the EU two years ago – and now it has been cleared for use in the United Kingdom.

A product containing a particular pesticide has been allowed for emergency use, after lobbying by the National Farmers’ Union and British Sugar. Wouldn’t you think these were two organisations that surely should know better? Their argument is that it will kill off the threat posed by a virus. We don’t want another one of those in 2021 to turn into a pandemic, I suppose.

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Environmentally ugly, bad and good of 2020

A few years ago, at a social function with a fish and chip dinner, I remarked to a friend of my eldest offspring about the evils of using our plastic knives and forks.

Plastic – so useful and adaptable for many things – was humanity’s scourge, I started. It never breaks down fully, I ventured, becoming microplastics. Much of it ended up in our waterways and ultimately in our seas, I added. (The statistic that the plastic in our seas could outweigh the fish by 2050 if we continue to use it at the same rate is still a well floated one. Source: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation.)

I told my captivated, shocked, listener that plastics – microplastics – end up in the very bottom of our seabed, nibbled on by plankton. If not the larger fish before that. So it could well be in our food chain already. (And last week a published study found microplastics in placentas – we’ll come to that).

Read More »Environmentally ugly, bad and good of 2020
Pomelo, artichoke, fennel and passion fruit

Unusual fruit salad and other Oddbox wonders

The joy of finding something new and environmentally beneficial at the end of a troublesome year brings hope, enlightenment and a sense of fresh beginnings. And it has been very timely indeed.

I have mentioned Oddbox before. My first delivery was fascinating. I knew this home delivered (in the dead of night no less) fruit and vegetable package to be rescuing food that would otherwise fall out of the supply chain. Items are rescued from the UK and abroad. 

I wouldn’t have bought beetroot or melon at this time of year. I was certainly pleasantly surprised by purple carrots!

Oddbox doesn’t allow you to choose what arrives. What they can deliver entirely depends on what is available – that would be going to waste. But the choices of boxes do say how many types of vegetable or fruit will be contained within.

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onshore wind

Winds of progress on horizon for onshore power

Clarity and progress. That’s a starting point for many people. Those two things have been in short supply for months, but finally a Government announcement gives both.

No, I’m not writing about the lifting of lockdown restrictions for a period including Christmas. We haven’t got clarity on that quite yet anyway. Nor am I referring to the three announcements that Covid-19 vaccines work and will be rolled out imminently. But it’s great news.

What caught my attention is the Guardian’s report that the Government will subsidise onshore wind (and solar). This, in the form of allowing renewable energy to bid for subsidy contracts in an auction. It’s the first time since 2015 they will be allowed to bid.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted offshore wind to be capable of powering all homes by 2030, it gave rise to an obvious question:

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Box of fruit and beg

Cutting carbon from food hits a purple patch

Food waste has been a theme in society in some senses for many years. UK households waste 4.5million tonnes of food per year, according to the Government’s waste advisory board. That’s even after the average household has reduced such waste by 7%.

Most residents of Reigate and Banstead have food caddies, in which we can put our left overs, one type of food waste, or for example excess fat and bones, or perhaps fish skins.

If you examine your caddies, though, there is a lot more that could be saved, if we had chosen to do so. Gone off bread, perhaps, or excesses of vegetables when we made too much. It’s not simply that we throw food away that was edible when we disposed of it. The message has to be that we should think more about how gets there: it rots because we had too much in the first place.

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An example of an oil drilling rig

Horse Hill appeal is start of climate emergency road

Just how hard is it to translate declaring a climate emergency into meaningful policy? This is one crux of a planning appeal, led by local campaigner Sarah Finch, heard this week. It is against Surrey County Council’s decision to grant planning permission for a company to drill for oil for 20 years at Horse Hill.

Some local authorities still find it hard to declare a climate emergency, as the Government did in one of Theresa May’s final acts as Prime Minister. For example, Reigate and Banstead Borough Council stopped short of joining the 1,400 authorities in 28 countries to have done so. However, they have come up with a climate action plan.

Waverley Borough Council, by contrast, declared the emergency, but only afterwards set about deciding their action plan. Their public consultation only finished in the past few weeks.

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Is nature caught between wind and fossil power?

“Keep the carbon in the ground,” is a regular chant from climate march protesters and campaigners. It is a launch pad to insisting on renewable energy sources to sustain our needs.

But with the desire from our Prime Minister to power all homes with offshore wind power by 2030, what are the trade offs for installing and relying upon sources of energy that are non-fossil fuel based?

Reports in June said that 47% of the UK’s energy in the first quarter of the year came from renewable energy. These are figures from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Add in biomass and nuclear and the figure rose to 62% of our energy.

Read More »Is nature caught between wind and fossil power?