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.
"This is genuinely exciting," London-based author and physicist Helen Czerski tweeted of the plans. "Yes, of course, it will be disruptive (and like any change, there will be both winners and loser at the start). But it could also make London a far more human place and a new sort of city, with huge health benefits for everyone."
Environmentalists and public health advocates also welcomed the initiative. The UK branch of the advocacy group Greenpeace declared: "This is a great first step!"
This is a great first step! Putting walking and cycling first means less toxic air pollution - we need these measur… https://t.co/0klzTm2CQt— Greenpeace UK (@Greenpeace UK)1589550650.0
Khan announced the upcoming transformation of central London streets — intended to help promote social distancing — in a joint statement with Transport for London (TfL). The government body will release more details in the weeks ahead, but the statement said roads between London Bridge and Shoreditch, Euston and Waterloo, and Old Street and Holborn may soon be limited to buses, pedestrians and cyclists.
Beginning Monday, the city will also reintroduce fee schemes for drivers that aim to cut pollution and help tackle the climate emergency: the low emission zone, the ultra low emission zone, and the congestion charge — the last of which may temporarily increase next month.
Khan has made tackling London's polluted air a top priority since taking office in 2016. The Labour Party member released figures last month showing how air quality in the UK capital has "dramatically improved" in the wake of both anti-pollution measures introduced in 2017 and the city's pandemic-related lockdown.
"Covid-19 poses the biggest challenge to London's public transport network in TfL's history," Khan said Friday. "It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased."
"That means we have to keep the number of people using public transport as low as possible," he added. "And we can't see journeys formerly taken on public transport replaced with car usage because our roads would immediately become unusably blocked and toxic air pollution would soar."
The mayor urged all of the city's 32 boroughs to support the plans and work with officials to implement similar restrictions. He encouraged all Londoners to walk and cycle more while steering clear of public transit "unless it is absolutely unavoidable."
Khan also highlighted that the plans have benefits beyond ensuring the safety of transport in London as the city lifts coronavirus restrictions. "By ensuring our city's recovery is green," he said, "we will also tackle our toxic air which is vital to make sure we don't replace one public health crisis with another."
JUST ANNOUNCED: our plans to make central London one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world… https://t.co/rK6qoThsJd— Sadiq Khan (@Sadiq Khan)1589544749.0
Theo Highland of Sustrans, a UK charity that works to make it easier for people to walk and cycle, called the initiative "a potential game-changer" and echoed Khan's call for boroughs to embrace efforts to make miles of roads across the city more walkable and cycle-friendly while reducing toxic traffic.
"TfL's bold and ambitious plans to get London moving at this critical time are exactly what's needed right now," said Highland. "All boroughs must now make the changes our streets need to give Londoners space to move around safely and build our spirited city's resilience as we begin to bounce back from this pandemic."
"Sustrans is also here to help local authorities wanting to transform their streets with new infrastructure and give their residents confidence to cycle," he added. "Taking immediate action will help tackle health inequalities, air pollution, and the climate emergency. And by making successful changes permanent we'll emerge from this pandemic as a healthier, happier, and fairer London."
The Guardian reported Friday that David Miller of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which recently has helped coordinate similar plans in metro areas around the world, congratulated Khan "for showing the world what is possible when we reimagine our cities for the benefit and health of everyone."
"These measures announced in London today, including major car-free zones, will clean the air that Londoners breathe, improve public health both during the Covid-19 pandemic and long into the future, while also helping to avert the climate crisis," Miller said. "This is the future we want."
Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.
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Britain announced that it will ban sales of new diesel and gasoline powered cars in 15 years last week. That was five years earlier than expected, but necessary for the UK to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, according to a statement from the prime minister's office, as CNN reported.
The UK's Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps, revised that number this week, when he told BBC Radio 5 Live it could happen by 2032, adding there would be consultation, as the BBC reported.
"Michael Gove announced the original 2040, the Prime Minister last week said actually we would like to do that by 2035 at the latest," Shapps said in the interview, as the Express reported. "We have said 2035 or even 2032. That's in consultation, we will say 2032-2035."
The 2032 target puts the UK in line with Scotland, which, three years ago, pledged to ban sales of new combustion engine cars by 2032. However, Scotland does not have the authority to ban new cars, so it plans to phase out the need for combustion engines, by reducing the number of gas stations and adding many more charging stations, as the BBC reported.
Glasgow, in Scotland, will host COP26 later this year, and the UK government is laying out its environmental proposals in the build-up the November UN conference, as the BBC reported.
The proposed ban also includes hybrid cars, so the only sales that will be allowed are fully electric or hydrogen cars and vans, according to the BBC.
Predictably, representatives from the automotive industry have balked against the timeline, raising concerns about whether the government would continue to subsidize sales of electric vehicles, a dearth of charging infrastructure, and potential job losses, as CNN reported.
"It's extremely concerning that government has seemingly moved the goalposts for consumers and industry on such a critical issue," Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said in a statement, as CNN reported. "With current demand for this still expensive technology still just a fraction of sales, it's clear that accelerating an already very challenging ambition will take more than industry investment."
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders's numbers show that while electric car sales rose 144 percent last year in the UK, they make up less than two percent of the total number of cars on the road, as the Express reported. In 2019, nearly 1.5 million new combustion engines cars were sold in Britain. Only 37,000 electric cars were sold.
Since charging infrastructure is not in place yet, many car buyers have anxiety about running out of a charge and being stuck. In his interview, Shapps sought to ease anxiety by assuring the public that additional infrastructure for electric cars was part of the government's budget.
"We have domestic car producers and we want to help them to transition so we are doing a lot of work," Shapps said in his interview, as the Express reported. "In fact tomorrow I'm meeting with the car manufacturers on this very subject. We are putting in about £1.5billion at the moment and there is more to come."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged that no driver will be more than 30 miles away from a charging station. Yet, a considerable investment is needed to make that claim a reality, according to the Express.
The commitment pairs the UK with several countries phasing out greenhouse gas emitting combustion engines, including Norway, which wants all new passenger cars and vans sold in the country to be zero-emission vehicles by 2025, and India, which has called for new cars sold there to be powered by electricity by 2030, as CNN reported.
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Each product featured here has been independently selected by the writer. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
The bright patterns and recognizable designs of Waterlust's activewear aren't just for show. In fact, they're meant to promote the conversation around sustainability and give back to the ocean science and conservation community.
Each design is paired with a research lab, nonprofit, or education organization that has high intellectual merit and the potential to move the needle in its respective field. For each product sold, Waterlust donates 10% of profits to these conservation partners.
Eye-Catching Designs Made from Recycled Plastic Bottles
waterlust.com / @abamabam
The company sells a range of eco-friendly items like leggings, rash guards, and board shorts that are made using recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. There are currently 16 causes represented by distinct marine-life patterns, from whale shark research and invasive lionfish removal to sockeye salmon monitoring and abalone restoration.
One such organization is Get Inspired, a nonprofit that specializes in ocean restoration and environmental education. Get Inspired founder, marine biologist Nancy Caruso, says supporting on-the-ground efforts is one thing that sets Waterlust apart, like their apparel line that supports Get Inspired abalone restoration programs.
"All of us [conservation partners] are doing something," Caruso said. "We're not putting up exhibits and talking about it — although that is important — we're in the field."
Waterlust not only helps its conservation partners financially so they can continue their important work. It also helps them get the word out about what they're doing, whether that's through social media spotlights, photo and video projects, or the informative note card that comes with each piece of apparel.
"They're doing their part for sure, pushing the information out across all of their channels, and I think that's what makes them so interesting," Caruso said.
And then there are the clothes, which speak for themselves.
Advocate Apparel to Start Conversations About Conservation
waterlust.com / @oceanraysphotography
Waterlust's concept of "advocate apparel" encourages people to see getting dressed every day as an opportunity to not only express their individuality and style, but also to advance the conversation around marine science. By infusing science into clothing, people can visually represent species and ecosystems in need of advocacy — something that, more often than not, leads to a teaching moment.
"When people wear Waterlust gear, it's just a matter of time before somebody asks them about the bright, funky designs," said Waterlust's CEO, Patrick Rynne. "That moment is incredibly special, because it creates an intimate opportunity for the wearer to share what they've learned with another."
The idea for the company came to Rynne when he was a Ph.D. student in marine science.
"I was surrounded by incredible people that were discovering fascinating things but noticed that often their work wasn't reaching the general public in creative and engaging ways," he said. "That seemed like a missed opportunity with big implications."
Waterlust initially focused on conventional media, like film and photography, to promote ocean science, but the team quickly realized engagement on social media didn't translate to action or even knowledge sharing offscreen.
Rynne also saw the "in one ear, out the other" issue in the classroom — if students didn't repeatedly engage with the topics they learned, they'd quickly forget them.
"We decided that if we truly wanted to achieve our goal of bringing science into people's lives and have it stick, it would need to be through a process that is frequently repeated, fun, and functional," Rynne said. "That's when we thought about clothing."
Support Marine Research and Sustainability in Style
To date, Waterlust has sold tens of thousands of pieces of apparel in over 100 countries, and the interactions its products have sparked have had clear implications for furthering science communication.
For Caruso alone, it's led to opportunities to share her abalone restoration methods with communities far and wide.
"It moves my small little world of what I'm doing here in Orange County, California, across the entire globe," she said. "That's one of the beautiful things about our partnership."
Check out all of the different eco-conscious apparel options available from Waterlust to help promote ocean conservation.
Melissa Smith is an avid writer, scuba diver, backpacker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Florida with degrees in journalism and sustainable studies. Before joining EcoWatch, Melissa worked as the managing editor of Scuba Diving magazine and the communications manager of The Ocean Agency, a non-profit that's featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Chasing Coral.
Just as the United Kingdom made its formal exit from the European Union, Boris Johnson added some turmoil to the international climate conference that Britain will host later this year in Glasgow. He fired Claire O'Neill, the former Energy minister and president of COP26, as the BBC reported.
Johnson handed the reigns for COP26 over the to the ministerial Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, known as BEIS. O'Neill was sacked just six months into her role as head of COP26, according to The Independent.
O'Neill claimed that her position had been taken away because the government is not comfortable with an independent unit organizing the summit, as The Independent reported.
In a Twitter post that has since disappeared, O'Neill under the handle of @COP26President, wrote on Friday evening: "Very sad that the role I was offered by Boris Johnson last year has now been rescinded as Whitehall 'can't cope' with an indy COP unit. A shame we haven't had one climate cabinet meeting since we formed. Wishing the COP team every blessing in the climate recovery emergency."
The line, "A shame we haven't had one climate cabinet meeting since we formed," is seen as a thinly veiled dig at Boris Johnson's environmental priorities, as the BBC reported.
In a prepared statement, Johnson's office said, "The prime minister is grateful to Claire for her work preparing for what will be a very successful and ambitious climate change summit in Glasgow in November. Preparations will continue at pace for the summit, and a replacement will be confirmed shortly. Going forward, this will be a ministerial role," as the BBC reported.
The maneuver drew a quick rebuke from Johnson's critics. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband said it left the UK's preparations "in crisis." He tweeted: "Appointed by PM 6 months ago and sacked 9 months before the COP. Total mess of the PM's making in absolutely vital and incredibly complex climate negotiations. Government have massively underestimated task. No president, no grip and clock ticking. Time for some leadership now."
However, others see the move as a sign that Johnson is taking the conference more seriously. Tomorrow, he will launch the UK's COP26 strategy at an event with Sir David Attenborough, climate expert Lord Stern, outgoing governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, and the UN's climate chief, Patricia Espinosa, along with a host of dignitaries, according to The Guardian.
"A good COP president makes all the difference between success and failure," said one former high-level diplomat and COP veteran, as The Guardian reported. "They direct the negotiations, they play the key role in determining the outcome."
To achieve a successful COP26 summit, enormous diplomatic and logistical hurdles need to be addressed. Furthermore, to strengthen commitments to the 2015 Paris agreement, the COP26 leader needs to address growing hostility to the agreement from fossil fuel rich countries like the U.S., Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Russia, according to The Guardian.
"Time is now really against us, for there are fewer than 10 months to go to COP26," said Professor Dave Reay, chair in carbon management, at Edinburgh University, to The Guardian. "Claire O'Neill rightly pointed out that the Glasgow COP was our 'last shot' at delivering on the Paris climate goals. At this rate we won't even have the gun loaded."
Johnson has been urged to hire a senior diplomat or seasoned politician to take over the role and to rescue the summit from total disarray. Sources told the BBC that cabinet ministers are busy vying for control of COP26. However, experts say that extensive political experience is a necessary ingredient for a successful outcome.
Mohamed Adow, director of the climate and energy think tank, Power Shift Africa, told the BBC: "It was always going to be a challenge to have a president who had no formal role in Government. For a successful outcome you want the person presiding over the negotiations to be someone with genuine political power, who can fully represent the UK government and 'knock heads together' to ensure real progress is made. With Claire O'Neill not even being an MP that was always going to be a challenge."
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The UK instituted the world's toughest ban on ivory last year which eliminated all sales of ivory and rankled collectors and dealers. Antique dealers sued in court to be able to continue to sell existing ivory and argued that the ban violated European law. The high court in the UK, however, struck down that argument earlier this week and said the UK's ban is fully legal, as The Guardian reported.
The ivory trade leads to illegal poaching and the slaughter of nearly 20,000 African elephants every year, according to The Sun. However, the Friends of Antique and Cultural Treasures Limited (FACT) — a group of dealers and collectors — argued that the law was unnecessarily overbearing and impinged on their rights to collect and sell cultural heritage objects, as The Art Newspaper reported.
The collectors also argued that trading cultural heritage objects does not support or influence the market for illegally poached ivory. Conservation groups countered that if the ban were watered down at all, it would breathe new life into the illegal poaching trade, as The Guardian reported.
"I welcome today's ruling by the high court which upholds the UK's commitment to ban the ivory trade," said Theresa Villiers, the UK's environment secretary, said in a government statement. "We will move forward and make sure the ban comes into operation as soon as possible to protect wildlife and the environment."
FACT argued that the European Union's decision to allow the buying and selling of ivory that was harvested prior to 1947 prohibited the UK from taking on a more stringent rule. The court, however, did not agree with that argument, as The Art Newspaper reported.
"We are, of course, disappointed with the outcome but are pleased that the judge has agreed with a number of our submissions," said Richard Pike, a lawyer representing FACT, according to The Art Newspaper.
Investigators have found that poachers disguise tusks from newly killed elephants as antiques to get around trading bans. The difficulty in discriminating antique ivory from new ivory means that the exemption for older pieces still supports illegal poaching, as The Independent reported.
The ban became a priority for the UK government last year after a 2017 report by the Environmental Investigation Agency found that the UK is the world's largest exporter of legal ivory and sells to hotspots in Asia like Hong Kong and China, according to The Independent.
Mary Rice, the chief executive of the Environmental Investigation Agency, praised the court's decision: "This is a victory for common sense and one which maintains the UK's position as a global leader when it comes to fighting the illegal ivory trade," as The Guardian reported.
Conservationists estimate that 55 African elephants are killed every day for their Ivory. Those numbers that are decimating elephant populations have caused a number of governments to follow the UK's Ivory Act. The European commission is weighing stricter regulations, while Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, have similar legislation pending, according to The Guardian.
"We are delighted to hear that the high court has rejected the antiques lobby's bid to overturn the Ivory Act," said David Cowdrey, the head of policy and campaigns at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, to The Guardian. "It is a fantastic day for elephants, and for everyone that has fought so hard to make the UK's ivory ban one of the toughest in the world."
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By Simon Evans
During the three months of July, August and September, renewables generated an estimated total of 29.5 terawatt hours (TWh), compared with just 29.1TWh from fossil fuels, the analysis shows.
This is the first-ever quarter where renewables outpaced fossil fuels since the UK's first public electricity generating station opened in 1882. It is another symbolic milestone in the stunning transformation of the UK's electricity system over the past decade.
Nevertheless, a lack of progress in other parts of the economy means the UK remains far off track against its upcoming legally-binding carbon targets, let alone the recently adopted goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
At the start of this decade in 2010, the 288TWh generated from fossil fuels accounted for around three-quarters of the UK total. It was also more than 10 times as much electricity as the 26TWh that came from renewables.
Since then, electricity generation from renewable sources has more than quadrupled – and demand has fallen – leaving fossil fuels with a shrinking share of the total.
This shift is shown in the chart below, with the declining quarterly output from power stations burning coal, oil and gas in blue and rising generation from renewables in red.
(The quarterly chart also reflects the seasons, with demand higher in winter and lower in summer. Wind farm output is well matched with this cycle, as it tends to be windier in winter.)
Quarterly electricity generation in the UK between 2009 and the third quarter of 2019, in terawatt hours, with fossil-fuel output shown with a blue line (coal, oil and gas) and renewables shown in red (wind, biomass, solar and hydro). Source: BEIS Energy Trends and Carbon Brief analysis of data from BM Reports. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts
Gas now contributes the vast majority of that shrinking total, as coal plants close down ahead of a planned phaseout in 2025. These ageing power stations were mostly built in the 1960s and 70s and are increasingly uneconomic to run due to CO2 prices, market forces and pollution rules.
In the third quarter of 2019, some 39 percent of UK electricity generation was from coal, oil and gas, including 38% from gas and less than 1 percent from coal and oil combined.
Another 40 percent came from renewables, including 20 percent from wind, 12 percent from biomass and 6 percent from solar. Nuclear contributed most of the remainder, generating 19 percent of the total.
While it is unlikely that renewables will generate more electricity than fossil fuels during the full year of 2019, it is now a question of when – rather than if – this further milestone will be passed.
This summer, National Grid predicted that zero-carbon sources of electricity – wind, nuclear, solar and hydro, but not biomass – would generate more electricity than fossil fuels during 2019. Carbon Brief's analysis through to the third quarter of the year is in line with this forecast.
Over the past year, the most significant reason for rising renewable generation has been an increase in capacity as new offshore wind farms have opened. The 1,200 megawatt (MW) Hornsea One project was completed in October, becoming the world's largest offshore wind farm. The 588MW Beatrice offshore wind farm was completed in Q2 of this year.
These schemes add to the more than 2,100MW of offshore capacity that started operating during 2018. Further capacity is already being built, including the 714MW East Anglia One project that started generating electricity this year and will be completed in 2020.
In total, government contracts for offshore wind will take capacity from nearly 8,500MW today to around 20,000MW by the mid-2020s. The government and industry are jointly aiming for at least 30,000MW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, with two further contract auctions already expected.
In September, the latest auction round produced record-low deals for offshore wind farms that will generate electricity more cheaply than expected market prices – and potentially below the cost of running existing gas plants.
Other contributors to the recent increase in renewable generation include the opening of the 420MW Lynemouth biomass plant in Northumberland last year and the addition of hundreds of megawatts of new onshore wind and solar farms. (Another new 299MW biomass plant being built on Teesside, with a scheduled opening in early 2020, is facing "major delays".)
According to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the rise in renewable output during the first half of 2019 was down to these increases in capacity, with weather conditions not unusual for the time of year.
Some two-thirds of electricity generated from biomass in the UK comes from "plant biomass", primarily wood pellets burnt at Lynemouth and the Drax plant in Yorkshire. The remainder comes from an array of smaller sites based on landfill gas, sewage gas or anaerobic digestion.
The Committee on Climate Change says the UK should "move away" from large-scale biomass power plants, once existing subsidy contracts for Drax and Lynemouth expire in 2027.
Using biomass to generate electricity is not zero-carbon and in some circumstances could lead to higher emissions than from fossil fuels. Moreover, there are more valuable uses for the world's limited supply of biomass feedstock, the CCC says, including carbon sequestration and hard-to-abate sectors with few alternatives.
In terms of fossil-fuel generating capacity, the UK's remaining coal plants are rapidly closing down, well ahead of a 2025 deadline to phase out unabated burning of the fuel. By March 2020, just four coal plants will remain in the UK.
Utility firms have plans to build up to 30,000MW of new gas capacity – including 3,600MW at Drax recently given government planning approval – despite the fact that government projections suggest only around 6,000MW might be needed by 2035.
It is unlikely that all of the planned new gas capacity will get built. The schemes are generally reliant on winning contracts under the UK's capacity market, which is designed to ensure electricity supply is always sufficient to meet demand.
The rise of renewables means that gas generation is likely to continue falling in the UK, whether or not this new capacity gets built. Nevertheless, the UK is unlikely to meet its legally binding goal of cutting overall emissions to net-zero by 2050, unless progress in the electricity sector is matched by reductions in other parts of the UK economy, such as heating and transport.
Carbon Brief's electricity-sector analysis shows that renewables are also estimated to have generated more electricity than fossil fuels during the individual months of August and September, the first time there have been two consecutive such months.
Previously, renewables beat fossil fuels in September 2018 – the first-ever whole month – and then again in March 2019. This means that there have only ever been four months where renewables outpaced fossil generation, of which three have been this year and two in the last two months.
This is shown in the chart, below, which also highlights the greater month-to-month variability in electricity generation and demand, which is overlaid on top of the broader seasonal cycles.
Monthly electricity generation in the UK between 2012 and the third quarter of 2019, in terawatt hours, with fossil-fuel output shown with a blue line (coal, oil and gas) and renewables shown in red (wind, biomass, solar and hydro). Source: Carbon Brief analysis of data from BEIS Energy Trends and BM Reports. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts
In the first three quarters of 2019, renewables outpaced fossil fuels on 103 of the 273 individual days, Carbon Brief analysis suggests. This is more than one-third of the days in the year so far and includes 40 of the 91 days in the third quarter of 2019.
(Although this is not a majority of days, the aggregate output during the quarter was higher for renewables. This is because their excess over fossil fuels was large on some days.)
As expected from the monthly aggregates in the chart, above, these days with higher renewable generation are concentrated in March and the third quarter of 2019, as shown in the chart, below.
Daily electricity generation in the UK during the first three quarters of 2019, in terawatt hours, with fossil-fuel output shown with a blue line (coal, oil and gas) and renewables shown in red (wind, biomass, solar and hydro). Source: Carbon Brief analysis of data from BEIS Energy Trends and BM Reports. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.
The total of 103 days with higher renewable electricity generation than from fossil fuels in the first three quarters of the year is far in excess of the 67 such days by the same point in 2018.
This is shown in the chart, below, which also highlights the fact that there had never been any days with higher renewable generation until 2015.
Cumulative count of days each year when electricity generation from renewables was higher than that from fossil fuels. Prior to 2015 there were no days when renewables outpaced fossil fuels. Source: Carbon Brief analysis of data from BEIS Energy Trends and BM Reports. Chart by Carbon Brief using Highcharts.
There have already been nearly as many higher renewable days in the first three quarters of 2019, at 103, as there were in the whole of 2018, which saw 107 such days. There were only 58 such days in 2017, just 16 in 2016 and 12 in 2015. The first ever day when UK renewables generated more electricity than fossil fuels was 11 April 2015.
The figures in the article are from Carbon Brief analysis of data from BEIS Energy Trends chapter 5 and chapter 6, as well as from BM Reports. The figures from BM Reports are for electricity supplied to the grid in Great Britain only and are adjusted to include Northern Ireland.
In Carbon Brief's analysis, the BM Reports numbers are also adjusted to account for electricity used by power plants on site and for generation by plants not connected to the high-voltage national grid. This includes many onshore wind farms, as well as industrial gas combined heat and power plants and those burning landfill gas, waste or sewage gas.
By design, the Carbon Brief analysis is intended to align as closely as possible to the official government figures on electricity generated in the UK, reported in BEIS Energy Trends table 5.1. Briefly, the raw data for each fuel is adjusted with a multiplier, derived from the ratio between the reported BEIS numbers and unadjusted figures for previous quarters.
Carbon Brief's method of analysis has been verified against published BEIS figures using "hindcasting". This shows the estimates for total electricity generation from fossil fuels or renewables to have been within ±3% of the BEIS number in each quarter since Q4 2017. (Data before then is not sufficient to carry out the Carbon Brief analysis.)
For example, in the second quarter of 2019, a Carbon Brief hindcast estimates gas generation at 33.1TWh, whereas the published BEIS figure was 34.0TWh. Similarly, it produces an estimate of 27.4TWh for renewables, against a BEIS figure of 27.1TWh.
The Carbon Brief estimated totals for fossil fuels and renewables are very close in Q3 2019, coming within 0.5TWh of each other. This means that despite the relatively low level of uncertainty in the estimates, their relative position could be reversed in the official BEIS data.
This serves to emphasize the fact that the broader trend of decline for fossil fuels and an increase for renewables is of far greater significance than the precise figures for any individual quarter.
In contrast to Carbon Brief's analysis, figures published by consultancy EnAppSys for the third quarter of 2019 suggest that fossil fuels generated slightly more electricity than renewables. There are several reasons for this difference.
First, the company's analysis is for Great Britain only, whereas Carbon Brief's covers the UK overall. Second, it reports on electricity "supplied" in the country, including imports, whereas Carbon Brief estimates the amount of electricity "generated" within the UK only.
Third, Carbon Brief's analysis is, by design, aligned with the quarterly BEIS Energy Trends data for electricity generation, whereas EnAppSys uses its own approach.
For comparison, EnAppSys reported for the second quarter of 2019 that 28.3TWh was supplied in GB from gas, whereas BEIS reports that 34.0TWh was generated in the UK. Similarly EnAppSys reported 23.1TWh coming from renewables, against a BEIS figure of 27.1TWh.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief.
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By Dan Nosowitz
A hot-button issue in the UK focuses on something most Americans don't even know about: a particular method of disinfecting raw poultry.
In the UK, "chlorine-washed chicken" has become a shorthand for the excesses of American agribusiness; Prime Minister Boris Johnson has even used it as an insult for his political foes. Much of the U.S.' chicken is disinfected with a strong solution of chlorine, a quick and effective way of killing a lot of bacteria. Chlorine treatments have been banned in the UK since 1997, due to an European Union-wide ban on the practice, but chlorine-treated chicken is back in the news in the UK.
Due to the UK's pending exit from the European Union (EU), many of the union's laws will be reconsidered there, and either maintained or cast aside. The UK, essentially, will have the option to start importing American chicken for the first time in decades, at least at a large volume. Allowing chicken processed in this way into the UK is a very controversial topic there. The British media has been accused of being "obsessed" with the issue; British publications have run dozens of stories about what American chlorine-treated chicken is.
The U.S. has not let this go unnoticed. BuzzFeed News got ahold of a document laying out the American government's plans to get its chicken into the UK. The document proposes a $100,000 press junket for "influential" British journalists to tour American farms — presumably a carefully selected array of those farms — in order to change the dialogue about this chlorinated chicken. The document is largely focused on fighting "misconceptions" about American agribusiness, including such topics as GMOs, animal welfare and factory farming.
Using a chlorine solution to disinfect chickens is not, according to many studies, particularly unsafe. Even European agencies have found that chlorine is an effective way to kill bacteria. The EU didn't ban it because it doesn't work; they banned it because it works too well. Essentially, the EU's objection to the method is that it is a sledgehammer method used to cover up the atrocities in much of the American poultry industry: tiny spaces, wildly overbred birds that have difficulty standing up, and mass production that results in heavily soiled, contaminated birds. Chlorine, by the EU's way of thinking, encourages such bad behavior. After all, why bother to treat your birds well, when it's expensive and can all be cleaned off by a 50-parts-per-million chlorine solution?
Obviously, securing access to the UK as an export market would be a huge victory for the American poultry industry. The U.S. produced more than nine billion broiler chickens — those raised for meat consumption — in 2018, a value of more than $31 billion. Chicken is now the most popular meat in the UK, and American chicken producers would surely love to ignore their antitrust issues and sell some chicken to a huge new market.
The British concern about the provenance of American chicken, though, is unlikely to be healed with a luxury press tour for a select group of journalists.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
Europe is gearing up for another extreme heat wave that could set all-time records for several European countries.
Paris could surpass its all-time high of 40.4 degrees Celsius on Thursday, Meteo France predicted Monday, according to The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang. That record has not been broken since 1947. Overnight minimum records were already broken in Southwest France Monday night, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) tweeted.
A number of new minimum overnight temperature records were set in south-west France last night https://t.co/hQNeY4oq5Q— WMO | OMM (@WMO | OMM)1563868750.0
Across the channel in the UK, records could also fall. Britain could beat its record for July, its all-time high temperature record and its overnight record, CNN reported Monday.
Wednesday and Thursday will be the hottest days of the year so far in most of England. London and Southeast England could reach 37 degrees Celsius on Thursday, which would break the July record of 36.7 degrees Celsius, recorded at Heathrow in 2015. The record for the highest minimum temperature, currently set at 23.3 degrees Celsius for July and 23.9 degrees Celsius overall, could be exceeded Tuesday night into Wednesday morning. And the all-time hottest temperature recorded in the UK — set at 38.5 degrees Celsius in Faversham in Southern England in 2003 — could also fall.
We are expecting to break temperature records this week. Although not everywhere will see the headline numbers the… https://t.co/NXpvX9Szxz— Met Office (@Met Office)1563877945.0
"We're certainly looking at a warm week across the country—the heat is quite widespread," a Met Office spokesperson told CNN.
Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg could also all surpass their all-time high records with highs of 39 degrees Celsius, CNBC reported.
Large parts of #Europe face another #heatwave this week, and new record temperatures are predicted. This map from… https://t.co/4NgiIu5l0h— WMO | OMM (@WMO | OMM)1563867954.0
This week's heat wave follows another spell of hot temperatures that baked Europe in late June. The earlier heat wave broke an all-time record in France when the mercury hit 46 degrees Celsius in Vérargues. It was the first time in the country's modern history that a temperature over 45 degrees had been recorded, the WMO said.
Unlike the earlier heat wave, this week's hot temperatures will also reach the UK and Scandinavia, according to The Washington Post. Spain and Portugal will also be impacted, and the dry heat is expected to lead to heightened wildfire risk.
The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) warned that much of France and Spain were at the highest possible risk for wildfires, and large parts of Portugal, Italy, Belgium and Germany are also at "high" or "very high" fire risk, CNBC reported.
More extreme, frequent heat waves are a widely recognized consequence of the climate crisis.
"Every heatwave occurring in Europe today is made more likely and more intense by human-induced climate change," a World Weather Attribution study of the June 2019 heat wave, which was published quickly without peer review but by experts in the field, concluded.
2018's record-breaking summer temperatures in the UK were made 30 times more likely by the climate crisis, and summers like 2018 will be the norm by 2050, occurring around every other year, the Met Office said.
This past June was the hottest June ever recorded, If July is the hottest July on record, it could also be the hottest month humans have ever measured, climate scientist Michael Mann tweeted.
This is significant. But stay tuned for July numbers. July is the warmest month of the year globally. If this July… https://t.co/sHkZauP479— Michael E. Mann (@Michael E. Mann)1563213609.0
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Theresa May, the outgoing UK prime minister, used her final appearance at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan to urge other nations to follow her country's lead in aggressively lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
The prime minister, who led a session on the environment at the G20 summit, asked the other countries to set a target date for net zero emissions, following the UK's example of becoming a net zero emitter of all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to the BBC.
The UK is committed either to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions completely or, in rare cases, to offset them by planting trees or absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
"In recent months we have heard hundreds of thousands of young people urge us — their leaders — to act on climate change before it's too late," she said at the end of the summit, as the Guardian reported. "I am proud that the UK has now enshrined in law our world-leading net zero commitment to reduce emissions. And I have called on other countries to raise their ambition and embrace this target."
While other countries did not sign on to May's target, she did push for strong wording in a communiqué from the summit. The final product was a watered down commitment to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement, which 19 of the 20 participating countries signed. The U.S. was the lone holdout. Under the Paris agreement, every nation is committed to keeping global temperature rises to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F) higher than pre-industrial times.
May said she was pleased there was a communiqué at all, according to the Guardian.
President Trump's unwillingness to commit to cutting greenhouse gas emissions forced the participating nations to add a clause that exempted the U.S. from joining in, as Sky News reported.
"The United States reiterates its decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers," the clause read.
Throughout the summit, President Trump dismissed the worldwide push for climate action and denied that any aggressive response to curb the world's greenhouse gas emissions was necessary. He also seemed not to understand the difference between climate change and air pollution.
"We have the cleanest water we have ever had. We have the cleanest air we've ever had, but I'm not willing to sacrifice the tremendous power of what we've built up over a long period of time and what I've enhanced and revived," Trump said at a news conference.
In that same news conference, he dismissed renewable and clean sources of energy as inefficient without citing evidence.
"I'm not sure that I agree with certain countries with what they are doing. They are losing a lot of power. I am talking about the powering of a plant," he said, as the Washington Post reported. "It doesn't always work with a windmill. When the wind goes off, the plant isn't working. It doesn't always work with solar because solar [is] just not strong enough, and a lot of them want to go to wind, which has caused a lot of problems."
Trump's comments and inaction raised the hackles of environmental action groups and scientists.
"While other leaders managed to hold the line on the Paris agreement, it's unfortunate that they have to continually fight this rear-guard action against Trump denialism instead of devoting their energies to scaling up global action," said Elliot Diringer, executive vice president of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, as the Washington Post reported.
"Trump is ignoring not only science but the growing demands of the U.S. public and U.S. companies for decisive action. As even the Chamber of Commerce recently declared, inaction is not an option."
Britain has a new goal to reach net zero carbon emissions, making it the first G7 country to implement such a target.
Outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May unveiled the government's plan Tuesday, which builds on a previous target set by MPs in 2008 to reduce emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The government's advisory Committee on Climate Change recommended the new target in May.
"This is a historic commitment that will reverberate right around the world," Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris Agreement, told the BBC. "All eyes will now turn on the rest of the EU to match this pledge."
For a deeper dive:
A new report from the Bumblebee Conservation Trust found that, while some rare species did well in 2018, most of the country's species of bumblebee suffered in 2018 due to both freezing weather in February and March and a summer heat wave, The Press Association reported.
How did UK #bumblebees react to the extreme weather in 2018? It was a tough year for many species, although some ra… https://t.co/2LEpkYztRZ— BBCT (@BBCT)1559113238.0
The data was based on a "BeeWalk" project in which citizen scientists walk through certain flower-rich habitats at least once a month from March to October and record the number of bees they see. In 2018, 482 people submitted data from 559 sites.
"Whilst it is great to see the four 'biggest species winners' from our latest BeeWalk data are rare bumblebees, it's concerning to see four of our seven commonest bumblebees have declined over the last nine years," Bumblebee Conservation Trust Science Manager Richard Comont said.
The bees were first harmed by the "Beast from the East" winter storm in late February and early March, which delayed the 2018 bumblebee season. Some scientists believe there is a link between the melting of Arctic sea ice due to climate change and the conditions that allow cold weather to sweep down into lower latitudes, as it did during the Beast from the East. A study published in 2018 found that warmer Arctic weather made cold winters in the Eastern U.S. and northern Europe more likely. However, the connection is not yet fully understood, as CarbonBrief explained at the time.
After the cold weather, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust found that most of the UK's 24 species of bumblebee took until July to recover and reach regular numbers. But then a summer heat wave and drought parched flowers, reducing the bees' food supply and causing their numbers to decline. Scientists calculated that climate change more than doubled the likelihood of Europe's 2018 heat wave.
The Early bumblebee (Bombus pratorum) had its worst year since 2012, which was marked by near constant rain, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust said in a press release. Other common garden bees that struggled in 2018 included the Garden bumblebee (Bombus hortorum), the Buff-tailed bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), the Heath bumblebee (Bombus jonellus) and the White-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum aggregate).
On the other hand, some rare species that emerge later in the spring and enjoy hot weather had a good year. They included the Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis), the Shrill carder bee (Bombus sylvarum) and the Large Garden Ruderal bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus).
The Trust worried that the events of 2018 could have implications for the future health of Britain's bumblebees:
The impact of the 2018 heatwave has raised concerns about the number of bumblebee queens that made it into hibernation over the 2018 to 2019 winter. 2018 was the worst year for bumblebee abundance – the number of individuals per species – recorded by BeeWalk since 2012. This could have a potential knock on effect on populations in 2019. The likelihood of long heatwaves like 2018 becoming more frequent could cause problems for Britain's bumblebee populations in the longer term.
Bumblebee Conservation Trust CEO Gill Perkins had advice for what bee lovers could do to give struggling pollinators a hand.
"We all need to make sure our gardens, parks and greenspaces are bumblebee-friendly to stop today's common species becoming tomorrow's rarities," she said.
The UK parliament became the first national legislative body in the world to declare a climate change "emergency" Wednesday. The historic move closely follows Extinction Rebellion protests that blocked traffic in key parts of central London for a week in April.
The protest had three demands: that the UK government "tell the truth" about climate change, that it achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 and that it create a citizens' assembly to help with that process. The protesters embraced parliament's decision Wednesday as a step towards meeting their first demand.
BREAKING - UK MPs pass a motion to declare an environment & climate emergency. This has seen them start to… https://t.co/zzqk37UDWP— Extinction Rebellion (@Extinction Rebellion)1556734853.0
The emergency declaration was proposed by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.
"Today, we have the opportunity to say, 'We hear you,'" Corbyn told parliament, according to Reuters. "By becoming the first parliament in the world to declare a climate emergency, we could, and I hope we do, set off a wave of action from parliaments and governments all around the world."
The motion was approved without a vote and registers the views of the House of Commons without compelling the government to act on any particular policy proposal, BBC News explained. It also calls for the government to work towards carbon neutrality before 2050 and for ministers to draft proposals within the next six months to restore the country's environment and create a "zero waste economy."
Labour has just forced the UK Parliament to declare a #ClimateEmergency. Real politics comes from the ground up, a… https://t.co/w30ougbdFo— Jeremy Corbyn (@Jeremy Corbyn)1556737674.0
Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May had chosen not to whip party members against the motion. Her Environment Secretary Michael Gove acknowledged the threat posed by climate change, but refused to outright declare an emergency, The Independent reported. He did promise legislation shortly to tackle both climate change and "broader ecological degradation."
"Not only do I welcome the opportunity that this debate provides, I also want to make it clear that on this side of the house we recognise that the situation we face is an emergency. It is a crisis, it is a threat, that all of us have to unite to meet," Gove said during the debate, as The Guardian reported.
However, Green Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas challenged the conservative record on climate during the debate, pointing to the party's approval for a third runway at Heathrow airport. Also on Wednesday a judges ruled against green groups and local governments who had challenged the runway, partly on the grounds that it was a breach of the UK's commitment to the Paris agreement, The Guardian reported.
Climate activists were cautiously optimistic about the declaration. Greta Thunberg, who addressed the UK's parliament last week, tweeted her support.
"Now other nations must follow. And words must turn into immediate action," she wrote.
“MPs have passed a motion making the UK parliament the first in the world to declare an “environment and climate em… https://t.co/YaE31sJBG7— Greta Thunberg (@Greta Thunberg)1556740082.0
Greenpeace UK Politics head Rebecca Newsom said the declaration was a long time coming.
"The best time to declare a climate emergency was 30 years ago; the second best time is now," she said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Both Gove and Corbyn promised to challenge U.S. President Donald Trump on his climate denialism. Gove said he would raise the issue with Trump when he visits the UK in June, according to The Guardian.
"We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US President Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis," Corbyn said in his remarks Wednesday, as BBC News reported.
Regional and municipal UK governments have already declared climate emergencies, among them Wales, Scotland, Manchester and London.
One UK store's attempt to fight plastic pollution has turned out to be a smashing success.
Last year, supermarket chain Iceland became the first UK retailer to install "reverse vending machines" that allow customers to return plastic bottles purchased at the store and receive a 10 pence voucher in return. The program has proved popular, according to figures published Wednesday and reported by The Guardian. Customers had returned 311,500 bottles to date.
In 2018 we launched our reverse recycling scheme in stores across the UK, clocking up a total of 311,500 bottles du… https://t.co/fYgbdDjLJK— Iceland Foods ❄️ (@Iceland Foods ❄️)1546534800.0
"Iceland has continually led the way in the fight against the scourge of plastic since making our announcement to eliminate plastic from our own-label product packaging," Iceland Managing Director Richard Walker said, according to The Guardian. "The launch of reverse vending machine trials in our stores is one sign of this. We've gained hugely valuable insights into both consumer interest and the functionality of the schemes, and it's clear from the results that consumers want to tackle the problem of plastic head on and would be in support of a nationwide scheme."
The store found that customers had earned more than £30,000 through returning bottles so far. Iceland had installed the machines in five locations in Wolverhampton, Mold, Fulham, Musselburgh and Deeside. During the month of November, customers returned an average of 2,583 bottles a day for a daily average return of £250 in coupons.
Iceland said children were especially excited by the machines, sometimes even teaching their parents how to use them, i News reported. Iceland plans to continue the trial of the machines for another six months to assess the environmental impact of placing them in stores nationwide.
Since Iceland first installed its machines, other UK supermarkets Morrisons, the Co-op and Tesco, the nation's largest, have followed suit, but none of the others have yet announced results, The Guardian reported.
In October, UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove said he wanted to work with industry to implement a nation-wide bottle deposit program.
"The success of Iceland's reverse vending machine trial demonstrates that deposit return schemes to boost recycling and tackle plastic pollution are both popular with consumers and eminently doable," Greenpeace UK oceans head Will McCallum told The Guardian. "Michael Gove must deliver on his promise to introduce a deposit return scheme without delay, and ensure that it covers containers of all sizes and materials."
Good to see @michaelgove supporting #DepositReturnSchemes - now we need the government to introduce a UK-wide schem… https://t.co/TTtdW8nHeI— Greenpeace UK (@Greenpeace UK)1546525373.0
Thirteen billion plastic bottles are sold in the UK every year, and only 43 percent of them are recycled. Seven-hundred-thousand a day end up as litter.