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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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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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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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Politics with a small ‘p’

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Devoting nearly a tenth of the entire ENDS Report May issue to an appraisal of the coalition government’s first year (pp 36-39 and p 48) leaves an uncomfortable feeling. Ministers and civil servants have done a huge amount of work, churned out quantities of paper and new law, but our overall findings tend to the negative. Are we being too political? (more…)

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A monstering for the man from DEFRA

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Civil servants aren’t meant to do politics. So it was an uncomfortable, queasy occasion this week when Mike Anderson, the environment department’s director general for green economy, had to set out the coalition’s new vision for sustainable development at the close of the Sustainable Development Commission’s big farewell event.

His boss, DEFRA secretary of state Caroline Spelman, had already had some of the SDC’s commissioners in for breakfast that morning. She wanted to explain how the government would drive forward on sustainable development after abolishing the commission, which closes at the end of this month. (more…)

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Sometimes a tweet can say it all

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At ENDS we are used to condensing heavyweight documents and complex situations into far more digestible material. But I doubt we have ever managed to reduce anything to a mere 22 words.

Simon Birkett, who heads the Campaign for Clean Air in London, managed to do just this on 23 February, in a post on microblogging website Twitter:

Hope @JanezPotocnikEU has seen Marylebone Rd already shows 12 exceedences [sic] of PM10 daily limit value http://bit.ly/g5l38t vs 9 by now in 2010

To translate:

(more…)

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DEFRA’s screeching woodland u-turn

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Some say DEFRA was forced to make today’s screeching U-turn on its forest disposal plans  simply because it got its preparation and presentation wrong.

According to this view, its proposals for state-owned woodland in England  had merit, but were victims of scaremongering by press and campaigners. The average reader/viewer was  given the impression that all England’s woodlands were in danger of the chop, ministers complained.

In reality, under a fifth of the nation’s total woods and forests were involved. Tree planting and felling would have continued to be regulated by the government’s Forestry Commission, with no upsurge in deforestation.

And DEFRA secretary Caroline Spelman had promised that biodiversity and public access would be protected in Forestry Commission woodlands being sold or leased.

All true.  Even so this was a rotten set of proposals; rushed, poorly justified, fuelled mainly by dogma and deficit-cutting, short-term greed. They richly deserved to be scrapped, but the Forestry Commission and its state-owned forests  are now left in a kind of limbo. (more…)

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This killer bill will weaken regulation

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Fraudsters and conjurers are both skilled in the art of misdirection. They are masters at deceiving you into thinking that what you are seeing is something other than it actually is. Great thieves, like great conjurors, become very adept at doing the apparently impossible in plain view.

What has prompted these musings is the publication by the Cabinet Office of the Public Bodies Bill . In nearly 40 years of closely observing government I have never seen such an artful attempt to misdirect the public. Nor have I ever seen an effort to steal power from both Parliament and the public on such a colossal scale.

(more…)

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The ENDS All Environment blog provides expert comment, insights and information gems on the UK green agenda. The blog is part of ENDS Report .

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