Climate Change Bulletin October 14th 2011

Friday, 14 October 2011, 12:42 pm Press Release: British High Commission

This is our 17th edition and this month we will take alook at just what is nature worth to the British Economy and we have another look at the pitfalls of commuting in theNissan Electric Leaf on London’s streets.

• Sir Richard Branson says go greenor face recession

• just what is “Nature”worth

• Sainsbury’s Sustainability Plan

• and Britains Farmers delighted with theSupermarket giant

• Wondersoil and ClimateChange

• India Thinks big on Windpower

• SPECIAL FEATURE: the last in our series on the electricNissan Leaf and the commuter. This month just some of theproblems of going electric in London.

Sir Richard Branson calls for greener taxregime

Billionaire warns of “mother of allrecessions” unless investment in renewable energyincreases

Sir Richard Branson has called on world leadersto drive a green economic recovery, warning that withoutmeasures to drive greater investment in renewable energy theglobal economy is heading for “the mother of allrecessions”. reports, Branson told the third annual Six Senses SlowLife Symposium at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives thatpoliticians should undertake urgent reform of the tax systemas a means of incentivising investment in cleantechnologies.

“If we don’t have alternative fuels we aregoing to have the mother of all recessions,” he said. “Theway to kick-start the revolution is to have no tax on allclean energy while slowly increasing tax on dirtyenergy.

Branson has emerged as a leading campaigner forgreen businesses, setting up the Carbon War Room NGO tosupport new low carbon policies and technologies, warningagainst the threat presented by “peak oil”, and consistently callingfor more ambitious green measures.

However, he has alsofaced criticism from some green groups for his role as theboss of one of the world’s largest airlines and his plans tolaunch carbon-intensive space tourism flights.

Bransondefended his company’s record, detailing how “we have beendiverting our profit from airlines into developing fuel foraircraft that won’t damage the environment”.

He alsocalled on campaigners not to succumb to negativity whenfaced by environmental challenges, and instead recognise thelow carbon transition as the “biggest entrepreneurialopportunity of our lifetime”.

The Maldives’ Six SensesSlow Life Symposium is intended to highlight the islandstate’s plans to become one of the world’s first zero carboneconomies, providing a test bed for cutting-edge cleantechnologies.

Further reading

• DriveGainhails success of fuel-saving iPhone app

Source: Businessgreen

how nature is worth 50billion pounds to the UK economy

Hundreds of leadingscientists have taken part in an independent report inefforts to put “a value” on the environment, not just ina commercial sense but with the aim of showing its widerworth – to protect it.

Their conclusion is that the UKeconomy is 20 billion pounds sterling richer each year as aresult of the natural world, with an additional 30 billion(bn) pounds of value embedded in nature – if it isprotected, according to the UK National Ecosystem Assessmentreport.

The study is intended to make planning processesmore environmentally friendly.

The scientists found thatinland wetlands, which work as natural water purifiers, areworth 1.5bn pounds a year to the country’s business.Pollinators, such as bees and insects, contribute 430million pounds annually to agriculture, and rivers, coasts,and other wetlands have a value of 1.3bn pounds a year fortheir transport and amenity value. and the health benefit ofliving close to a green space is 300 pounds per person eachyear, the report found.

Researchers from the Universityof East Anglia, eastern England played a leading role inassessing the worth of the natural world. the reportstrengthens the arguments for protecting and enhancing theenvironment and will be used by the government to directpolicy in future.

Ian Bateman, professor of environmentalsciences, one of the report’s leading authors, said:“Ultimately the value of the environment is infinite. So,why would we want to put economic values on environmentalgoods and services?

“It’s very simple – it’s toensure their incorporation on equal footing with themarket-priced goods which currently dominatedecision-making. without such representation we will get apersistence of the situation where we have these servicesbeing used as if they were free and had no value.”

TheNational Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) has used newapproaches to estimate the value of the natural world bytaking account of the economic, health and social benefitsgiven by nature.

Although in the past, people may havethought that caring for the environment meant extrafinancial burdens, Professor Bateman and his colleagues saythat there are real economic reasons for looking after thenatural world. their report also shows that the benefits weget to our health, well-being and from the enjoyment ofnature have not always been fully appreciated orvalued.

The assessment provides values for a range ofecosystem services to help us fully understand the value ofthe natural environment and how the benefits to individualsand society as a whole can be better protected and preservedfor future generations.

The UK NEA shows that the tendencyto focus only on the market value of resources that are usedand sold – such as timber, crops and fisheries – has led tothe decline of some ecosystems and habitats throughpollution, over-exploitation, and land conversion.

Thereport warns that continued population growth and climatechange are likely to put additional pressure on ecosystems,and that actions taken now will have consequences far intothe future.

It stresses the need for a more collaborativeapproach to enhancing the environment, with everyone playingtheir part to capture more of nature’s benefits in asustainable way.

Bob Watson, professor of environmentalsciences, is the chief scientist for the UK’s Departmentfor Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the co-chair ofthe UK NEA. “Roughly 30 per cent of all ecosystem servicesare still declining or degrading. we are going in the rightdirection but there’s still a long way to go,” he said.One of the big challenges is to balance production of foodand resources with sustaining the other services natureprovides.

He added: “there is an urgent need to bettermanage our ecosystems and the natural resources they provideus with. But until now there has been no clear way ofvaluing the full range of benefits they provide beyond whatwe can buy and sell. the UK NEA introduces groundbreakingapproaches to measure the value of these services and howthey will be affected in future if we do not make the rightchoices now.

“the NEA shows that we need a moreintegrated approach to ecosystem management, involvinggovernment, the private sector, voluntary groups and thepublic working together to protect the services natureprovides.”

The UK’s Environment Secretary of State,Caroline Spelman, said: ““we have, until now, takennature for granted and not understood that the services itprovides do have a cost and, if we destroy nature, there isa really significant cost.

“This is absolutelyground-breaking. we are the first country to do this and geta full understanding of what we get free from nature and tofactor that into our decision-making. It is hoped that thereport will encourage people to protect the environmentgoing forward.”

Other natural facts andfigures:• total value of fishcaught in the UK: 600m pounds sterling;

• valueof recreational fishing: 1 bn pounds;

• timber:100m pounds;

• value of biodiversity to socialwell-being: 540m pounds.

By highlightingthe value of urban parks and green spaces, it is hoped thatdevelopers will provide more natural areas in developmentsrather than simply increasing the density of housing.

Theinformation in the assessment will help inform theforthcoming Natural Environment White Paper (details ofproposed parliamentary law to be debated) that ministers saywill help revitalise towns and the countryside.

The UKNational Ecosystem Assessment Secretariat is based at theUnited Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) WorldConservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge

Source :London Press Service

Sainsbury’s launchessustainability plan

The supermarket will doublethe amount of British food it sells and boost its provisionof fairly traded products under the £1bn plan

Picture ofa Sainsbury’s shopping bag co

Photograph: ChrisYoung/AFP/Getty Images

Sainsbury’s is to double the amountof British food it sells and boost its provision of fairly traded productsunder a wide-ranging £1bn sustainability plan launched onWednesday.

The company, which has 21 million customers andalmost 1,000 stores, said it was the most ambitious andfar-reaching programme ever announced in the industry, as itset out 20 targets covering its products, community work andemployees.

Initiatives unveiled under the so-called 20 by20 sustainability plan willinclude driving down energy use in supermarkets , doubling the amount of British food sold from the current£4bn a year, increasing sales of fairly traded products to£1bn and making sure suppliers of meat, poultry, eggs anddairy goods follow higher welfare standards.

As well asbeing the the world’s largest Fairtrade retailer -accounting for £276mworth of sales last year – it is alsothe largest retailer of MSC certified fish and RSPCA FreedomFood-certified products.

The company is also pledging tocreate 50,000 new jobs by 2020, by which point it expects20,000 members of Sainsbury’s staff will have reached 20years’ service.

The new plan coincides with the roll-outin stores today of the supermarket’s new Brand Match scheme. following Tesco’s launch of its big Price Drop campaign , Sainsbury’s is pledging to save customers money by pricematching match thousands of items sold by rivals Tesco andAsda Sainsbury’s chief executive, Justin King, said: “Giventhe scale of our business, we believe these 20 commitmentsrepresent the most ambitious sustainability targets in ourindustry. If we are to meet the sustainability challengesthat lie ahead, it is important that companies such asSainsbury’s invest in the future right now. we do not seethis plan as a luxury, it is rather an essential investmentthat will ensure we can continue to provide customers withquality food at fair prices, sustainably. This representsanother step in helping our customers live well forless.”

King said the company had achieved most of itscommitments covering corporate responsibility issues and nowwanted to take a long-term view of how it conducted itsbusiness, predicting: “This will change the agenda in ourindustry.”

David Cameron welcomed the announcement, sayingit was a good example of the government scheme EveryBusiness Commits , which is encouraging businesses to help build a “bigsociety”.

Peter Kendall, president of the NationalFarmers’ Union (NFU) said: “We’re delighted to seeSainsbury’s commitment to double its sourcing of Britishfood. It recognises the high quality and standards ofproduction that British farmers meet and that consumersincreasingly expect in the food that they buy. Thisadditional demand will send a really positive signal to theindustry at a time when farmers are facing massiveinvestment pressures.”

Harriet Lamb, executive director ofthe Fairtrade Foundation, said Sainsbury’s was building onan already impressive record over the sale of fair tradegoods.

Sainsbury’s sustainability plan follows moves byTesco and M &S four years ago, when they announced major long-term greenstrategies.

Source: the Guardian

Farmers cheerSainsbury’s commitment to double sourcing of Britishfood

The NFU has said it is delighted by acommitment from Sainsbury’s to double its sourcing ofBritish food.

Launched as part of the retailer’s newSustainability Plan, the targets set also include acommitment to ensuring all meat, poultry, eggs, game anddairy products will be sourced from suppliers who adhere toindependent higher welfare standards.

NFU Director ofCorporate Affairs Tom Hind said: “the commitment fromSainsbury’s to double its sourcing of British food shouldbe commended; it is a bold and positive step for food andfarming. It recognises the high quality and standards ofproduction and environmental protection that British farmersalready meet every day; those same standards that consumersincreasingly expect in the food they buy.

“This willsend a really positive signal to our British farmers andgrowers at a time when they are facing massive investmentpressures and rising energy, fuel and feed costs across theboard.

“we will be looking to Sainsbury’s to workwith us on the detail of the plan to ensure that thecommitments have integrity and deliver economicsustainability for UK agriculture. we want to ensure thatcommitments to driving efficiency, for example, also meanworking with farmers to offer longer-term relationships withpredictable and profitable prices. These should then helpwith challenges such as terms of investments.”

Source:National Farmers Union

the “wonder soil” thatcombats climate change

Innovative methods thatturn forestry and agricultural waste into carbon-rich soilin a bid to tackle climate change are to be developed at atop facility with the latest technology.

A new processingunit will help scientists in the United Kingdom to producebiochar, a charcoal-like substance produced through the slowheating of waste matter.

Biochar is the porouscarbonaceous substance produced by the thermochemicalconversion of biomass – such as wood, leaves and manure – inan oxygen-depleted atmosphere at relatively lowtemperatures.

The biochar process converts this farmingrubbish into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boostfood security and discourage deforestation.

The processcreates a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helpssoils retain nutrients and water, potentially resulting inhigher crop yields for farmers.

Researchers at theUniversity of Edinburgh, Scotland say that biochar increasesthe carbon content in the soil, building a long-term storethat counters excess carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air andhelps to reduce other greenhouse-gas emissions.

Theproduction process also releases energy-rich gases andliquids that can be used to generate green energy, thusoffsetting the use of fossil fuels.

“Biochar is aprocess that can take carbon emissions out of theatmosphere,” said Stuart Haszeldine, who is Scottish PowerProfessor of Carbon Capture & Storage at EdinburghUniversity.

“Materials that are currently wasteproducts could be turned into useful substances that, notonly prevent greenhouse gases from accumulating in ouratmosphere, but also help farmers produce more crops and useless fertiliser,” he added.

By being porous, biocharmaterial attracts worms and also captures nutrients thatwould otherwise run off the land, thus reducing the need forcarbon-intensive fertilisers.

Recent studies show thatbiochar may almost double plant growth in poor soils. Plantstake in CO2 during photosynthesis and this CO2 is releasedinto the atmosphere via natural decomposition andburning.

Biochar is a way to counteract this process bytransforming the biomass into a recalcitrant stable carbonform that decomposes at much slower rates than its parentfeedstock. the process traps CO2 in the char preventing itfrom being released back into the atmosphere.

The materialcan help facilitate better waste management and soilimprovement, all on a scale achievable by a town, village orfarm, the researchers found.

The new unit, at EdinburghUniversity’s UK Biochar Research Centre, is described asunique. It allows scientists to produce large quantities ofbiochar from a variety of agricultural and forestrymaterials.

The material will then be used in trials atsites across the UK. By producing different forms of biocharunder controlled conditions, researchers seek to discoverhow best to match the material to different crops and soils.

Dr Ondrej Mašek, who is a lecturer in engineeringassessment of biochar at Edinburgh, said: “Biochar ispotentially an innovative way of combating climate change ata global scale. Through the opening of this new facility,Edinburgh and Scotland are taking the lead in researchinghow, exactly, biochar might be able to help us reduce ourcarbon footprint.”

Charles Hendry, the UK Minister ofState for Energy, said: “I am delighted that theuniversity has achieved a world first with this project. Theresearch centre’s exciting work will be vital as we gaugethe full carbon-cutting potential of biochar. This work onceagain highlights the world-leading achievements being madein our universities.”

Source : Norval Scott, Press &Public Relations Office


Address: University of Edinburgh, old College, SouthBridge, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, EH8 9YL

GEploughs $50m into India’s wind energy market

GeneralElectric Financial Services and Greenko sign $115m windenergy deal

See full size imageGeneral Electric (GE)has signed a $115m deal to help build 500MW of Indian windfarms, joining the growing list of investors betting on oneof the world’s fastest-growing green energy markets.

GEEnergy Financial Services today confirmed it has signed adeal with Indian project developer Greenko to construct500MW of wind farms across the country, the first of whichwill use GE turbines.

The companies have set up a venturedubbed Greenko Wind Project Private (GWPP) Limited todevelop Greenko’s project pipeline. It will be funded by$65m from Greenko and $50m from GE.

The deal is GE’s firstgreen energy investment in India and follows hot on theheels of Goldman Sachs ‘ recent $200m acquisition of a majority stake inMumbai-based ReNew Wind Power Pv.

Raghuveer Kurada,managing director for India at GE Energy Financial Services,said the company would contribute both finance and expertise tothe new venture.

“This investment expands GE’s presence inone of the world’s fastest-growing power markets, with alocal, proven renewable energy developer,” he said.

“Inaddition to capital, GE Energy Financial Services bringsdeep wind and other renewable energy expertise gained bybuilding a $6bn portfolio of renewable energy investments worldwide.”

When completed, GWPP will own500MW of Greenko’s project pipeline, enough renewableelectricity to power 875,000 average Indian households anddisplace 700,000 tonnes a year of greenhouse gasemissions.

India is fast emerging as a major renewable energy hub, with windpower expected to play a significant role in the country’slow-carbon economy. Annual wind turbine manufacturingcapacity in India has been forecast to exceed 17GW by 2013,up from 7.5GW at the end of 2010.

However, despite itsgeneration and manufacturing potential, experts have warnedthat India’s market could face difficulties over the nextyear if proposed changes to tax laws are agreed.

Recentanalysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted installations could fall 15 per cent in the financial year starting April 2012 from the 2,600MW expectedfor this year if an incentive favouring wind powerdevelopments is allowed to lapse.

It also remains to beseen if India can sufficiently upgrade its gridinfrastructure to accommodate the county’s fast-expandinggreen energy supply, amidst reports that some states arealready struggling to integrate new wind farms to thegrid.


Scottish firmsfailing to take up green energy subsidies

Greece’s recession-busting solar plan edges forward

Source : Businessgreen

A week in the Leaf –Day 3: Parking and charging

The Nissan Leaf electriccarWill Nichols finds parking can be a problem as he spendsa week with Nissan’s trail-blazing electric car

Nissanreckons you can travel about 100 miles in the Leaf beforehaving to recharge, and in the city, where the speed limitis more aspirational than achievable, that is certainlytrue.

Even so, at some point you will have to fill up thebattery. If you’re not doing it at home, the governmentwould like to see you charge up in car parks. It backed downfrom a policy of sticking charging points on every streetearlier in the year, claiming that such an infrastructurewould be “underused” and therefore “uneconomic”.

So thatleaves you with a bunch of regional charging networks, someof which have ambitions to expand nationally, but have yetto do so.

I’ve been loaned a membership card for SourceLondon, the Transport for London-backed programme, whichgives you access to 160 points across the capital for a£100 annual fee. in the longer term, 1,300 points should beavailable to members.

I’ve done my research before leavinghome, so I know that the nearest Source London point to myoffice is in an NCP car park.

If I wasn’t so highlyefficient, or was driving somewhere unfamiliar, the Leaf hasa handy function to locate the nearest point while you’redriving – but beware: it doesn’t tell you if it’s in aparticular scheme, so there’s a chance you might not be ableto charge once you get there.

Pulling into the car park,the bright green areas reserved for electric cars areimmediately obvious. however, it’s simultaneously apparentthat only one of the four spaces is available, as the otherthree are occupied by ‘conventional’ cars.

One of theoffenders is an eerily familiar black Porsche Carerra -surely not the same one that almost ploughed into me inHampstead the day before? I’ve only been in the car threedays and already I have a nemesis.

My Nissan Leaf is theonly electric car at the chargepointFrustratingly, the staffcan’t help me and seem ill-informed. They tell me that thecharge points are not yet active, when in fact they cameonline in may, while the manager eventually admits they haveonly seen around five electric cars in three months so theydon’t bother keeping the spaces clear.

A Transport forLondon spokeswoman confirms later that the bays should havebeen set aside specifically for Source London members, butthe responsibility for enforcing this policy is down to theorganisations managing the charging points.

And whileNCP’s web site claims to have 50 “electric-vehicle-onlyspaces”, a spokeswoman tells me the company is powerless tostop errant vehicles parking in reserved bays.

It seemsyou may have to fight for your right to charge EVs. Onecouncil bay near my office is often home to a MitsubihiiMiEV, but a large BMW is an equally common sight in thereserved bay. the council can issue tickets, but thisdoesn’t help if you’re running low on charge.

I don’t needto top up the Leaf after just two days of driving but, inthe interests of good journalism, I decide to try it out.many points now provide fast-chargers that can fully chargea car in two hours or so, or provide a 20-minute top up, butnot all current car models can use these, so the tricklefeed seems a fairer test.

The system comprises a plugbehind a flap that unlocks when you wave your membershipcard at the reader. Sounds simple. At least that’s the idea,but it takes several minutes of wafting and holding the cardon the screen before the flap opens.

I then need a fairfew attempts to unplug and reinsert the plug before thechargepoint springs into action, flashing a green lightwhile the blue bars on the Leaf’s dashboard light up in thedingy garage.

Although it took me a good 10 minutes toactivate the chargepoint, I’m pretty sure I can’t blame themachine for the delay. most other users I’ve spoken to havehad no problems recharging at all, while my technicalabilities are flummoxed by the toaster on a dailybasis.

Within two hours my ‘tank’ is full but, while thecharge was free, I’ve had to pay £47 for a day’sparking.

Parking on the street may provide a cheaperoption, but for now it’s off to the next challenge: a weeklyshop with my mother.

Source: Will Nichols, BusinessGreen.

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