The UK Government has lost its third court case on tackling air pollution when a High Court judge today ruled its current plans as “seriously flawed” and “unlawful”.

Mr Justice Garnham said the government had not done enough to require 45 local authorities in the UK to meet legal limits to reduce air pollution in their areas.

“The environment secretary must ensure that, in each of the 45 areas, steps are taken to achieve compliance as soon as possible, by the quickest route possible and by a means that makes that outcome likely”, he said.

It is expected these areas won’t meet their legal requirements to prevent toxic air pollutants until 2021.

The case was the third win in a row from legal activists ClientEarth, which have been doggedly pursuing the government for years to address the issue. Climate Action reported on the initial proceedings of the case last month, which covers authorities in both England and Wales.

Speaking outside of the court, ClientEarth lawyer Anna Heslop said: “For the third time in the space of three years, the courts have declared that the government is failing in its obligation to clean up the air in our towns and cities.

“We are delighted that the court has today ordered the government to urgently take further action to fix the dangerous air pollution in our towns and cities.

“The problem was supposed to be cleaned up over eight years ago, and yet successive governments have failed to do enough”.

In reaction to the verdict Jenny Bates, air pollution campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “We’re seeing too little, too late from the government, and as a result people across the country will continue suffering unnecessarily. Levels of air pollution are illegally high in areas right across the country and air pollution is responsible for tens of thousands of early deaths a year in the UK".

Today’s result also means that Welsh Ministers will also have to produce a plan to comprehensive plan to combat air pollution by the end of July.

Photo: Bruno Abatti

Read more: UK Government loses latest court case on...

BP has published its yearly forecast for the global energy market this week, and the oil giant sees renewable energy playing a commanding role in the future.

By 2040, if current trends continue then renewables will grow by 400 percent of their current amount, but still only account for 14 percent of all global energy demand.

This expansion will be led by China, which could continue its dominance in the market, followed by other developing countries, including India.

BP sees this strong growth as being enabled by the steep decreases in cost seen primarily by wind and solar. As subsidies are phased-out by the mid-2020s, renewable energy will “be able to compete against other fuels”.

However, this view is not in keeping with other scenarios which show that wind and solar are already cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

Elsewhere, the Energy Outlook sees a continued increase in energy demand, led again by China and India, but that improvements in efficiency will help dampen this down.

More worryingly, the Outlook sees carbon emissions rising by 10 percent out to 2040. Although this is slower than in the past it remains insufficient to meet the goals of the Paris climate Agreement.  

Bob Dudley, the group’s chief executive commented that “We need a far more decisive break from the past” to limit warming to below 2 degrees.

“In BP, we continue to believe that carbon pricing must be a key element as it provides incentives for everyone to play their part – from consumers using energy more efficiently to producers providing more low-carbon forms of energy.”

Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, said that growing competition is helping to create “the most diverse fuels mix we have ever seen”.

“By 2040, oil, gas, coal and non-fossil fuels each account for around a quarter of the world’s energy. More than 40 percent of the overall increase in energy demand is met by renewable energy”.

“We are seeing growing competition between different energy sources, driven by abundant energy supplies, and continued improvements in energy efficiency”, he concluded.

Read more: BP predicts a 400% growth in renewable energy by...

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN has warned that hunger in Africa is being made worse by the impacts of climate change.

224 million people are now reportedly under-nourished on the continent, an increase of over 20 million in recent years. The reasons for this are complicated, but related to the increasing pressures of extreme weather events. Rising temperatures and a greater prevalence of droughts across the continent has led to repeated crop failures.

The AGF reports that at a recent conference in Sudan, Bukar Tijani, the FAO’s African representative said that: "Under-nourishment appears to have increased from about 21 percent to nearly 23 percent between 2015 and 2016,"

"Over the same period, the number of under-nourished rose from 200 million to 224 million in Africa. This is a cause of concern for all of us."

"This very strongly is related to climate change. We had floods, we had droughts and we had crop failures", he continued.

In addition, conflicts in Somalia, South Sudan and the Central African Republic have also increased hunger and food insecurity: "When you look at those conflicts, it has also brought challenges because even when food is available it is not affordable and it cannot reach those conflict areas."

This is potentially devastating for countries which remain heavily reliant on agriculture as a route out of poverty. However, the FAO commented that Africa’s economy was improving with the agricultural sector being a large contributor to its success.

Many countries are also successfully adapting to climate change through a combination of new sustainable agricultural methods. These include utilising mobile technology, crop scheduling, drip irrigation, and making infrastructure more resilient to extreme weather events.

The FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva, also spoke at a recent forum that “..with improved and climate-smart practices, we can quickly put in place more sustainable and greener livestock supply chains”, concluding that “a low-carbon livestock sector is possible to achieve”.

Photo: Feed The Future Mboga na Matunda

Read more: Food insecurity in Africa is “very strongly...

India has been announced as this year’s hosts of World Environment Day on 5th June.

The global celebrations will be used to raise awareness of plastic waste and find ways to reduce the prevalence of single-use plastics.

The news was made today by UN Environment and India’s Environment Ministry in New Dehli.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, India’s Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, commented: “India is excited to host the World Environment Day this year. Indian philosophy and lifestyle has long been rooted in the concept of co-existence with nature. We are committed to making Planet Earth a cleaner and greener place”.

World Environment Day was established by the UN in 1972 to raise environmental awareness and action. Last year’s day, led by Canada, had the theme of ‘connecting people to nature’.

As part of its duties as hosts, India will organise and lead initiatives around the country on plastic waste and clean-up. This will include activities in public spaces, national reserves, beaches and forests to help drive national interest in the issue.

Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment said at the announcement on Monday that India will be a “great global host”.

“The country has demonstrated tremendous global leadership on climate change and the need to shift to a low carbon economy, and India will now help galvanize greater action on plastics pollution”

“It’s a global emergency affecting every aspect of our lives. It’s in the water we drink and the food we eat. It’s destroying our beaches and oceans. India will now be leading the push to save our oceans and planet”, he added.

UN Environment states that India has the highest recycling rates in the world, and is well-placed to help accelerate changes to solve plastic pollution. It’s estimated that 500 billion plastic bags are used every year around the world, and that 50 percent of the plastic we use is single-use.

Photo: UNEP

Read more: India announced as hosts of World Environment...

The UK’s electricity sector is continuing to change at an astonishing rate with fossil fuels in decline, while renewable energy tops new heights.

Official National Grid statistics show that carbon emissions in the power sector fell by 12 percent in 2017, while renewable energy’s output grew by 27 percent.

All renewable technologies, consisting of biomass, hydro, solar and wind, now provide 25 percent of all Britain’s electricity. This would be sufficient to power the entire country 60 years ago.

Imperial College London, which helped compile the report with Drax Power, estimates the carbon savings are the equivalent of removing one in seven cars from the road.

Dr Iain Staffell, from Imperial College London, said that: “The share of fossil fuels on the system has fallen from 80 percent to 50 percent since 2010 and the effect that shift in the balance of power is having in terms of lowering our carbon emissions is striking”.

An increase in wind energy capacity and a decline in coal-fired power plants are largely responsible for the reversal in fortunes. Wind farms produced 45 terawatt hours (TWh) in 2017, a record 15 percent of Britain’s electricity, and more than twice the output from coal. This was helped by new giant offshore wind farms coming online off Britain’s coasts and onshore wind having a record year for deployment.

Andy Koss, Drax Power’s CEO said: “This report shows the great progress we have made in terms of decarbonising the energy sector. We can expect more days without coal on the system as we gear up to the UK coming off coal in 2025 and we are proud of the work that we have done to support this as the largest decarbonisation project in Europe”.

Luke Clark, Head of External Affairs at the trade body RenewableUK, also commented on the good news: “These figures underline that renewables are central to our changing power system…Alongside breaking multiple records for peak output, wind energy continued to cut costs”

Source: Drax Power/Imperial College London

Read more: UK carbon emissions fall as renewable energy soars

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has recently approved a loan that will help a Swedish company build an innovative battery factory.

€52.5 million ($68 million) was approved by the bank this month to help get the project off the ground; construction is expected in the next few months in the city of Västerås in central Sweden.

The company behind the project, Northvolt, was only established in 2016 as the brainchild of former Tesla employee Peter Carlsson. Now the CEO, he sees a strong future for the technology: “Europe is moving rapidly towards electrification. Northvolt’s objective is to build the world’s greenest battery to enable the transition. With the support from the European Investment Bank and the European Union, we are now one step closer to establishing a competitive European battery manufacturing value chain", he said.

It is expected that the site will employ up to 400 people and also include a research facility. This demonstration plant will lead to the construction of a larger-scale lithium ion factory elsewhere in the country, which could produce 32 gigawatt hours (GWh) of battery capacity each year. This would be the largest battery factory in Europe, able to power hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles and provide crucial low-carbon energy storage.

Tesla has already partially opened its own ‘Gigafactory’ in the US, which aims to produce 35 GWh of capacity. It also has plans to open similar factories, including one in Europe. China is also moving ahead with a huge number of smaller factories which could produce four times this amount.

Ambroise Fayolle, vice-president of the EIB, said that the investment will help Europe compete in this increasingly global market: "With the growing momentum of clean energy and electric mobility, batteries will become ever more important. Europe is currently lagging behind when it comes to battery manufacturing and this highly innovative and strategic project deserves European backing to fill that gap".

Vice President of the European Commission in charge of the Energy Union Maroš Šefčovič also stressed the need for Europe to make advancements in the battery market, or face being left behind: "Batteries are a strategic component of our competitiveness and to capture a new European market worth €250 billion annually as of 2025, we need to act fast”

“It is important to pool all available instruments at the national and European level”, he added.

Photo: Northvolt

Read more: Sweden on course to build Europe’s largest...

Singapore has announced plans to introduce a new carbon tax from 2019.

The tax will initially be levied at $5 Singapore dollars ($3.8 US) on all facilities which produce 25,000 tonnes, or more, of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Heng Swee Keat, the country’s Minister of Finance, made the announcement on Monday in the yearly budget proposals.

Agence France-Presse reported Mr Heng saying: "Singapore produces less carbon emissions per dollar of GDP than most countries"

“We intend to further reduce our emissions intensity to make a bigger effort to combat climate change."

“In doing so, we will take into account international climate change developments, the progress of our emissions mitigation efforts and our economic competitiveness…The economically efficient way to maintain a transparent, fair and consistent carbon price across the economy to incentivise emissions reduction", he added.

It’s estimated that 30-40 companies will be impacted by the tax, which contribute up to 80 percent of Singapore’s carbon emissions, according to The Straits Times. These are taken from the petroleum refining, chemicals and semiconductor sectors.

Despite its small size, no larger than a city, Singapore ranks 32nd in the world for carbon dioxide emissions, per capita, just behind Germany, according to data from the World Bank.

The decision to tax companies emitting 25,000 tonnes follows China’s own plans to launch a carbon market on companies producing more than 26,000 tonnes. However, China’s goal is to cover more than 7,000 companies which emit a total of 3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases.

There are also government plans to help power companies and businesses to improve energy efficiency. Mr Heng announced an Energy Efficiency Fund which will prioritise funding towards projects which have greater reductions in emissions.

Photo: Sven Scheuermeier

Read more: Singapore will charge polluters a carbon tax...

IKEA has decided to enter the energy market and is claiming it can save people £300 on their energy bill.

The Swedish furniture giant is joining the ‘Big Clean Switch’ campaign, a UK initiative which helps customers source 100 percent of their electricity needs from renewable sources.    

The £300 saving is based on what the majority of UK consumers pay for a Standard Variable Tariff with a ‘Big Six’ energy supplier, compared with the current cheapest renewables tariff through the Big Clean Switch website.

Hege Sæbjørnsen, Sustainability Manager at IKEA UK, said, “By partnering with the Big Clean Switch, we hope to make switching to renewable electricity simple, accessible and affordable to everyone.”

“We want to provide our customers with innovative solutions that will help them live a more sustainable life at home and save money in the short and long-term”, he added.

IKEA will receive a commission payment for every person that switches, which is ring-fenced for local community projects.

Jon Fletcher, Campaign Director at Big Clean Switch, commented: “We want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to switch to renewable electricity and our partnership with IKEA is a big step forward in helping more people achieve this. Every person who makes the switch plays a vital role in taking the necessary action to help reduce the impact of climate change”

The move forms part of IKEA’s global sustainability ambitions, which includes a pledge to produce 100 percent renewable energy across its entire operations by 2020.

Hege continued: “Last year in the UK, we generated renewable energy equivalent to 41 percent of the energy we used. We have also installed solar panels on all new stores and the majority of our existing stores as part of our investment in renewables”.

Photo Credit: IKEA

Read more: IKEA offers UK customers 100% renewable energy...

The European Union is fully capable of doubling its current renewable energy consumption within the next 12 years.

This is one of the main findings from a new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), on request from the European Commission.

As of 2016, the EU sourced 17 percent of its energy from renewable sources, and has a target to reach a minimum of 27 percent by 2030. This would make the continent a world leader in the technology.

The IRENA report claims that with the right levels of investment that can actually increase across the whole EU to 34 percent.

On average, the report states an extra 62 billion euros of investment each year would be needed, which would mean a total of 327 gigawatts of wind and 270 gigawatts of solar power.

The move would also have additional economic benefits given the energy, environmental and health cost savings associated with making the transition to clean forms of power. These savings could be as high as 113 billion euros per year by 2030.

Although the report states jobs would also increase from the current 1.2 million employed by renewables, it does not provide an analysis or precise figures.

"For decades now, through ambitious long-term targets and strong policy measures, Europe has been at the forefront of global renewable energy deployment,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “With an ambitious and achievable new renewable energy strategy, the EU can deliver market certainty to investors and developers, strengthen economic activity, grow jobs, improve health and put the EU on a stronger decarbonisation pathway in line with its climate objectives.”   

Mr. Miguel Arias Cañete, European Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action said: “The report confirms our own assessments that the costs of renewables have come down significantly in the last couple of years, and that we need to consider these new realities in our ambition levels for the upcoming negotiations to finalise Europe's renewable energy policies.”

The EU has an interim target of reaching 20 percent renewable energy by 2020

Read more: The EU can double its renewable energy use by 2030

US researchers have found that using drones instead of truck deliveries could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

The academics, led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California, flew commercial drones and modelled their energy use over distances of up to 4 kilometres within cities.

They found that drones consume less energy than delivery trucks, but that more warehouses may be needed as support.

The paper states: “Because of their small size, when solely comparing the energy use required per km of distance travelled, we find that electric drones are far more efficient than trucks, vans, larger gasoline drones, and passenger cars”.

Their results are published in the Nature Communications journal.

However, given that trucks can carry more packages and travel further distances means the results are not unanimous. Using larger drones for different sized packages could be the easiest solution to cut carbon emissions in the short term.

The issue is as pertinent as ever. Figures from the US Energy Information Administration show that transport has now overtaken the electricity sector to be the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. Cars and trucks now account for 25 percent of all such emissions.

LLNL scientist Joshua Stolaroff and lead author of the paper, commented on its findings:

“A light package -- say, a pair of sunglasses -- flown by a small drone over a few miles, saves a lot of energy and greenhouse gas emissions compared to a delivery truck. But a larger package -- say, a computer monitor -- flown by a drone large enough to carry it, probably does worse than a delivery truck”.

However, there are ways to make current drones more efficient. Stolaroff points out that “charging drones only with renewable and low-carbon electricity would be the easiest way”.

“They also might find creative ways to deliver goods from existing retail stores rather than building additional warehouses. The bottom line is to pay attention to life-cycle impacts when designing both the drone and logistics network.”
 

Source: Nature Communications

Photo: Dose Media

Read more: Using drones to deliver packages could cut...

The Dutch bank ING and the European Investment Bank (EIB) have announced a serious boost towards greening the shipping industry.

Each institution has decided to contribute €150 million to support projects with a “green innovation element” in Europe’s maritime sector.

The money will be made available for new ships or to retrofit existing vessels so that they reduce less emissions and are more fuel efficient. The EIB stated that the funds will be implemented gradually over the next three years.

It’s estimated that maritime transport contributes 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but that this could be greatly reduced by implementing existing, cost-effective technologies.

The EIB’s President, Werner Hoyer, commented: “I think it’s no secret that the shipping sector is a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions. Climate action is one of the EIB’s top priorities, and this type of financing should be seen as an incentive for ship owners to consider doing things differently”

“The facility was set up after numerous discussions with Dutch counterparts from the public and private sector and aims to help the shipping sector transition to a greener future”, he added.

The investment represents a significant opportunity for the shipping industry to accelerate its transition to a low-carbon economy. So far, the sector has lagged behind in reducing its carbon emissions and in promoting sustainable practices. There have been recent signs of change though; earlier this month two Japanese companies announced a partnership to test using solar power on ships. China also launched its first electric cargo vessel late last year, able to carry 2,200 tonnes on each haul.

Isabel Fernandez, Head of Wholesale Banking at ING, added: “Sustainability is an important strategic priority for ING and we are very proud to partner with the EIB to encourage our shipping clients to think about more green and sustainable financing options. This agreement helps us support our shipping clients into making changes to their business models by adapting for the future in increasingly sustainable way, and supports them throughout their green journey”.

Photo: Axel Ahoi

Read more: New €300 million investment to help steer green...

The UK’s Environment Agency is warning the public to prepare for a higher risk of flooding due to climate change.

The national body has launched a new Flood Action Campaign to help raise awareness of the risks and provide advice on how to respond to flooding when it happens.

It follows a pattern of severe flooding which has become more frequent and intense in recent years. The Met Office, the UK’s national weather service, has highlighted how 9 of heaviest rainfalls over the past 100 years have occurred since 2000.

These includes a series of harsh storms which have caused over 36,000 homes to be flooded across the country between 2012-2015. Coastal surges, higher sea levels and unprecedented amounts of rainfall are now becoming commonplace in different parts of the UK. December 2015, for example, was the wettest month ever recorded.

The new campaign includes a tool to search whether your home is in a high risk area and tips to reduce impacts. These include switching off your energy supply, preparing a medical bag and avoiding driving through flood water.

The agency is also offering a free warning service to alert people of dangerous floods when they occur.

Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said: “Climate change is likely to mean more frequent and intense flooding. Floods destroy – lives, livelihoods, and property.

Our flood defences reduce the risk of flooding, and our flood warnings help keep communities safe when it threatens. But we can never entirely eliminate the risk of flooding. Checking your flood risk is the first step to protecting yourself, your loved ones and your home”

The Environment Agency estimates that in England alone there are 5.2 million properties at risk of flooding. This is out of a total 27 million households across the four nations of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Photo: Rose and Trev Clough/CC

Read more: Prepare for more flooding, warns UK agency

The Church of England has marked the start of Lent by challenging Christians to use less plastic during the 40-day period.

To aid followers, the Church has created a calendar with tips for how they can cut the material out of their lives on each day of the festival.

The Lent Plastic Challenge includes suggestions such as giving up disposable cups, shopping more at local markets, using a bamboo toothbrush, and choosing natural fibres instead of synthetics.

Ruth Knight, the Church's environmental policy officer, said: "The Lent challenge is about raising our awareness of how much we rely on single-use plastics and challenging ourselves to see where we can reduce that use.

"It ties in closely with our calling as Christians to care for God's creation."

The church was partly motivated to promote the challenge on the back of the successful Blue Planet II documentary series, which detailed the scale of plastic waste in the world’s oceans. In a statement, the Diocese of London explained: “David Attenborough has recently brought to everyone’s attention the hideous damage being caused by our throwaway society to life in the oceans – where so much of our waste eventually ends up”

“Over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. That’s enough plastic to cover every inch of the UK ankle-deep more than ten times over. Just 9% was recycled”.

The Church is the latest major UK institution to advocate for using less plastic in recent months. The BBC, the Royal Family and Scottish Parliament have all made commitments to reduce their plastic intake. In addition, restaurants Wagamama, Pizza Express and J D Wetherspoons have all pledged to remove plastic straws from their outlets.

Photo: Stephen Radford

Read more: Church of England tells Christians to go plastic...

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