Latest All Environment posts

A waste-free vision for the future

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The government’s Resource Secruity Action Plan needs a more ambitious, informed version for a resource-efficient economy write Gareth Stace, EEF’s head of climate and enviornment policy and Julian Kirby, Friends of the Earth’s resources campainger, members of the Material Security Working Group

What will a future economy constrained by access to raw materials that we now take for granted look like? It’s an issue that is moving rapidly up the business and environmental agenda. Earlier this year EEF surveyed executives across Industry to find out what they perceived as the biggest threats to growth. The eurozone crisis? Access to finance? Accessing the right skills? Surprisingly 80% of respondents said access to raw materials was a risk to growth. One in three said it was their top risk.

Material prices have since stabilised. But for how long? With rapid development in emerging economies, three billion people are expected to join the ranks of the world’s middle class within the next 20 years, putting yet more significant upward pressure on material prices in future. The government’s Resource Security Action Plan, published in March, attempts to address some of these concerns. But we think it doesn’t go far enough. (more…)

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Core business departments need to support corporate sustainability plans

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I’ve recently written a report for ENDS looking at how businesses organise for greater sustainability.

Based on a survey of UK companies, Organising for Sustainability shows how organisations are increasingly developing their approach to sustainability, but also some of the pitfalls that are preventing progress. One of the most important is a lack of support for sustainability departments from other central departments, especially finance, R&D, business management and sales and marketing. (more…)

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Knowledge Hub: the LGA’s antisocial media

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Last week, I joined the Knowledge Hub, the successor to the Local Government Group’s LACORS website. I was also persuaded to join Twitter, and am now tweeting @garethsimkins.

LACORS – once the Local Government Coordinator of Regulatory Services, then more blandly LGReg – was a source of information and guidance on the various enforcement activities performed by councils. It was consulted regularly by ENDS, but fell victim to government funding cuts. It was absorbed as a ‘regulatory support unit’ within the Local Government Association last year and the LACORS site is no longer being updated.

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Could civil sanctions have an ‘unsavoury outcome’?

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The Environment Agency has used its new civil sanctions powers for righting environmental wrongs 27 times to date (ENDS Report, January 2012). Offenders may return to compliance and repair environmental damage in return for an end to action against them.

Sanctions have so far been applied almost entirely for packaging offences. But the environmental damage associated with failing to recover or recycle packaging is intangible, and the regulator has allowed offenders to make compensatory ‘voluntary donations’ to green causes.

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We can’t risk our hard-won environmental improvements

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Environmental Protection UK recently announced that it would stop being fully funded in March. Its chief executive James Grugeon explains how government funding cuts forced the difficult decision to make staff redundant but says he hopes to continue the organisation’s work on a voluntary basis

Last week, I spoke at what could be – but I hope is not – the last national conference organised by Environmental Protection UK (EPUK). The theme of Environment 2011 was ‘Adapting to change through localism’, which has a special, if unintentional, meaning for EPUK and our members.

We are the UK’s oldest environmental charity, established as the Coal Smoke Abatement Society in 1898 and responsible for ground-breaking legislation such as the original 1956 Clean Air Act. So we have been pretty adept at adapting to change as we played our part in developing sensible regulation put in place by successive governments of different political hues to protect our environment and promote healthier local communities.

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Is your company a Skype or a Kodak?

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This was the thought-provoking question posed at a conference I went to yesterday held by Green Mondays to discuss how companies could make their businesses more sustainable.

Kodak, a household name in film photography for over hundred years, is in financial difficulty as a result of its failure to adapt to the digital age. In contrast, Skype launched in 2003 as a pioneer internet-based telephone communications company and was recently acquired by Microsoft for $8.5bn.

Companies need to adapt to a world of rising commodity prices driven by climate change and resource depletion. After falling by 1.2% per year during the past century, commodity prices have tripled since 2002. (more…)

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The cruellest month

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Environmentalists come in all varieties, from those in suits working for corporations to those dedicated to attacking those corporations. They all tend to get tarred as doomsters but there are plenty of optimists among them.

‘Are’ or ‘were’? The cause of planetary salvation has not had it easy since the credit crunch began. And here in the UK, October has proved to be the cruellest month… so far.

The plan to consult on an 80mph speed limit (ENDS Report 441, p 34) is the clearest case to date of the coalition government saying that cutting carbon is of secondary, or tertiary, importance. Never before has its Committee on Climate Change been told quite so clearly that on some things its views matter very little. (more…)

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Huhne’s great power reform lacks the local dimension

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Stephen Tindale of the Centre for European Reform, a former government environmental adviser and director of Greenpeace UK, blogs for endsreport.com on the new electricity white paper

Chris Huhne has said his electricity white paper and renewables proposals, put out this week, add up to the greatest transformation of energy since the privatisation of the energy industry.

He is right that the ambition is transformative, and includes some sensible regulatory measures which prove that the energy and climate department (DECC) does not share in the deregulatory zeal that dominates several other departments (including DEFRA).

But anyone who has followed UK energy policy over recent decades knows that political ambition does not always, or indeed often, lead to significant change.  Despite regular speeches from politicians extolling renewables, and numerous plans, the UK (windy, wet islands) is third from bottom in the European league table of energy got from renewable sources. Plans, or roadmaps to use current  jargon, require delivery. (more…)

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When the popular media makes your job harder

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Local councils and the environment department (DEFRA) have faced unhelpful criticism from the parts of the popular press who want to tell us how to manage our domestic waste. DEFRA’s waste review this week met with front page headlines in the Daily Mail decrying that every house would have to have a “slop bucket” to recycle food waste.

The Daily Express agreed that the government had given up the idea of having weekly waste collections for all households.

But how can councils lead a debate on the best way to handle waste with such overbearing criticism from parts of the media that have little appetite to discuss what’s needed or consider the major green gains from recycling more food waste? (more…)

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Ducking the news isn’t sustainable for DEFRA

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One remarkable feature of the government’s much anticipated environment white paper, out yesterday, was how unremarkable nearly all of the national media found it.

The first such document in 21 years, with some big, bold, interesting plans in it, got relatively tiny amounts of broadcast and print coverage. (Our next issue will give you four pages to chew over, in print or online.)

Why the hush? Well, it was a fairly busy news day, and the environment is not riding particularly high in the UK news agenda in 2011. Rising domestic energy prices are a much bigger story.

But there was another reason for the dearth of coverage: the environment department (DEFRA) appeared to want it that way. (more…)

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