By Jessica Corbett
Following in the footsteps of leaders in Milan and New York City who are heeding global calls to #BuildBackBetter from the coronavirus pandemic, London Mayor Sadiq Khan on Friday unveiled plans to create "one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world" to improve local air quality and encourage more walking and cycling.
Microplastics have been found everywhere in the world, from the depths of the ocean to the pristine mountaintops of the Pyrenees mountains to Arctic snow. Now a team of researchers in the United Kingdom is testing the concentrations of microplastics in cities. Sure enough, the tiny plastic particles are raining down on urban populations, as The Guardian reported.
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It's a scary time for the world's pollinators. A study published in February warned that more than 40 percent of the world's insects could go extinct within the next 30 years. Another study published in Nature in March found that a third of wild pollinator species in the UK had declined since 1980.
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More than 100 people were arrested during ongoing climate change protests in London that brought parts of the British capital to a standstill, police said Tuesday.
A protester glued herself to the Shell building.
picture-alliance / dpa / empics / J. Brady<p>The majority of people arrested were held for breaching public order laws and blocking a highway.</p><p>The protest saw more than a thousand people block off central London's Waterloo Bridge and lay trees in pots along its length. Later, people set up camps in Hyde Park in preparation for further demonstrations throughout the week.</p>
Protesters Demand Action<p>Police have ordered protesters to confine themselves to a zone within Marble Arch, a space at the junction of Hyde Park, the Oxford Street main shopping thoroughfare and the Park Lane street of plush hotels.</p><p><br></p>
Mother and daughter climate protesters at Marble Arch in London.
picture-alliance / dpa / empics / S. Parsons<p>"The information and intelligence available at this time means that the Met (police) feels this action is necessary in order to prevent the demonstrations from causing ongoing serious disruption," the police said.</p><p>The climate protesters want governments to declare a climate and ecological emergency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2025, halt biodiversity loss and be led by new "citizens' assemblies on climate and ecological justice."</p><p>Spokesman for the protesters James Fox said the group had attempted to maintain a blockade overnight at four sites in central London before the police came to impose the new restriction.</p><p>People were arrested "mostly at Waterloo Bridge where the police came to try to stop everyone, but there were too many of us", he told AFP.</p><p>Fox said the protesters attached themselves to vehicles and to each other using bicycle locks.</p><p>"We have no intention of leaving until the government listens to us," he said. "Many of us are willing to sacrifice our liberty for the cause."</p>
On Saturday, More than 6,000 climate activists shut down five bridges in Central London. The protest, organized under the banner of Extinction Rebellion to call for urgent action on climate change, was the first to intentionally block the bridges "in living memory," the group reported.
London's busy financial capital has made a significant announcement to stop plastic waste.
London-based Pivot Power unveiled plans to build the world's first national network of grid-scale batteries and rapid-charge stations across the UK to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) adoption and to usher in low-carbon transport.
The ambitious £1.6 billion ($2.1 billion) initiative consists of 50-megawatt batteries constructed at 45 sites around the country and located near towns and major roads. The hubs will be installed at electricity sub-stations to help National Grid manage supply and demand.
By Andy Rowell
The madness surrounding Britain’s fracking frenzy reached new heights this morning when London’s Conservative Mayor argued that fracking could take place on the streets of London.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
According to the Times newspaper, the Mayor, Boris Johnson, “has said he is willing to offer up the streets of London to companies hoping to solve Britain’s energy crisis by drilling for shale gas.”
Comments like that make it easy to think that Johnson has lost sight of his senses. The fracking process requires many more wells than conventional oil and gas drilling, so it is difficult to think where these wells will go in London, apart from being placed in parks, unless Johnson is going to start ripping up homes instead.
Maybe Johnson thinks that the Olympic Park could be a great place to frack, or even the grounds of Buckingham Palace. I doubt the joggers in Hyde Park every morning would appreciate seeing a “closed for fracking” sign on the newly installed and shut gates. And the thought of polluting the valuable water aquifers below London is unthinkable for millions of people.
But Johnson is a long-term advocate of fracking. Writing in the Telegraph newspaper last December he launched an attack on renewable energy. He criticized the “white satanic mills” covering Britain’s countryside, before adding in typical literary terms that “wave power, solar power, biomass—their collective oomph wouldn’t pull the skin off a rice pudding.”
Instead, he argued, fracking was the solution to the country’s energy needs. The fracking revolution was “glorious news for humanity” and “Britain should get fracking right away,” he wrote.
It is not only millions of Londoners who face the fracking threat. The so-called influential stockbroker belt to the south of London could hold 700 million barrels of shale oil, according to some estimates.
As an article in Bloomberg reports, the advent of fracking may “shatter the idyll” of many of the influential, expensive rural villages that are located in the Wessex and Wield basins.
Again, it is difficult to see how hundreds of wells could be drilled in some of Britain’s most affluent areas, without a groundswell of opposition. What makes it more interesting for the Conservatives is that these areas are what is known as “true-blue Tory” country. They could be about to have a war with their own people.
“I have grave concerns about our water supplies,” Anne Hall, a former county councillor from Balcombe in West Sussex told Bloomberg. Across the area “No fracking” signs are posted everywhere because Cuadrilla Resources plans soon to drill an exploratory well. “The possible impact on surrounding towns and villages would be catastrophic,” she argues.
The reality is that if the Government gives the go ahead to frack in London and across the South East, millions of people in the UK may soon be living near fracking wells. And they may not like it one bit. The backlash against this government could be unpredictable and unprecedented.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
In recent months fracking has received attention as an apparent means through which the UK could reduce carbon emissions in an effort to combat climate change. Terry Hathaway takes issue with these claims, arguing that they rest on a highly select focus on the available data, with the U.S. being far from the exemplar that advocates of fracking have made it out to be.
Hydraulic fracturing is a way of producing natural gas that is trapped in underground shale formations. It has been accused of having a much higher carbon cost than conventional methods of gas extraction, causing earthquakes and contaminating local water tables. Opposition to fracking has grown as these claims have received high profile coverage. In fact, Promised Land, a movie about the impact of fracking on local U.S. farming communities, is coming out in the UK soon.
Yet recent media reports have sought to paint shale gas as one of the main ways in which the U.S. has, and the UK could, reduce their carbon emissions in an effort to combat climate change. The New York Times, for instance, ran with a headline of "Shale Gas to the Climate Rescue." Likewise, a Guardian Comment Is Free blog post called fracking “the monster we greens must embrace.” It is an argument that is catching on, with Poland claiming that its desire to exploit its shale deposits is part of a climate strategy.
The main supporting evidence in the fracking-as-green argument has been figures released by the Energy Information Administration and International Energy Administration. These figures show natural gas having displaced coal in the U.S. electricity generation market. The argument goes that the shale gas boom reduced the price of natural gas by 25 percent, which meant that cheaper natural gas displaced coal in U.S. energy generation thereby decreasing the emissions caused in the production of electricity.
This part of the story is true, but it is highly selective in its focus. In actual fact, it is nothing more than poor carbon accounting that allows this argument to be made. What is missing from the story is that losing their position in the U.S. market has not led U.S. coal producers to significantly reduce the production of coal. Instead of being used in America, exports of coal have boomed and other countries—most notably the UK—are now gobbling up the excess American coal, as the graph below shows.
While Europe has been a big market for American coal so far, developing countries are being incentivized by the reduced price of U.S. coal to use more of it. In fact, India, with its 1.25 billion people, is a rapidly growing market for coal. So, while shale gas may have improved the U.S. record on CO2 emissions, it has worsened the record elsewhere and has the potential to worsen it further.
Additionally, by focusing only on CO2 emissions in the production of electricity the carbon cost of fracking—the production of shale gas—is missed. Instead, the carbon accounting displayed in this argument is just a basic comparison of the CO2 produced when natural gas or coal combusts. In the comparison natural gas obviously wins, but fracked natural gas may not. That, of course, is also not even saying anything about earthquakes and water contamination, which clearly shouldn’t be excluded from an environmental debate.
The two oversights in the fracking argument allow shale gas to be painted green, when in reality it is anything but. Similar attempts have been made to paint the Canadian tar sands green, by the Canadian government no less. These are arguments that must be exposed for what they are: greenwashing. It seems obvious to say so, but the world’s production of carbon will not be reduced through the greater use of fossil fuels, nor will it be reduced through policies that focus only on local emissions and omit the impact of the policy on global emissions.
Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.
Terry Hathaway is a doctoral researcher in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Leeds. His thesis is an investigation of the role of business in US oil-dependency policy making. Follow Hathaway at @Terry_Hathaway.
Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the British Politics and Policy blog, nor of the London School of Economics.